Monday, January 30, 2012

Book Nook - In Defense of Food

In Defense of Food written by Michael Pollan:

I recently read this book and liked it so much that as soon as I had finished it, I started it all over again.  This is a really well written, well researched book about the food we eat and the impact it has on our health.  I found it to be extremely motivating and just the thing to help encourage you to put down the bag of chips and pick up an apple instead!

The real focus of the book is the Western Diet: a diet of lots of processed food, lots of meat, lots of dairy, lots of everything, as the author explains, except fresh fruit and vegetables.  The book looks at how the Western Diet has changed over time and how those changes have made a big impact on the health of our nation.  For instance, there has been a shift in the history of man from eating mostly plants to mostly seeds.  Seeds serve a very different purpose in nature than plants do, storing energy while plants are busy with photosynthesis.  Another example occurred in the late 1970s, when the FDA started allowing the food industry to forgo putting the word "imitation" on imitation foods, as long as that food is the same nutritionally as the real thing.  This encouraged food manufacturers to put all sorts of crazy chemicals, additives and preservatives in food and not have to label it as such (a really funny example used in the book is a loaf of bread from Sarah Lee.  Pollan lists out all the ingredients in the bread - 39 or so - and one can't help but compare that list with a loaf of homemade bread, which has about 4 or 5 ingredients that you can easily pronounce).

This "nutitionalizing" has gotten us into a lot of trouble, because Americans are so concerned with various components of their diet (Omega 3's are everywhere, it seems) that they are not stopping to look at the bigger picture.  Scientists are so determined to find the culprit in the Western Diet (like trans fats) that they have the same problem.  We need to look at the forest from the trees, and see that Western Diet (and the way we eat, in addition to what we eat) is making us sick, contends the author.  He has come up with a very simple slogan, if you will, on how to eat:

Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.

These ideas are explained further in the book.  "Eat food" just means to choose whole foods over processed foods.  "Not too much" is about the way we eat.  It's ok to be hungry - it's a natural state, like sleep.  Americans fight being hungry by constant snacking, mostly on junk food.  We need to take some lessons from the French in how to eat: the French don't snack between meals, they take small portions and do not get second helpings, and they spend their leisurely meals in the company of others.  Another reason to love France!

"Mostly plants" is pretty self-explanatory & as I've already mentioned, the author tells us of the shift from plants to seeds.  Interestingly, in the 1970s, Americans were going to be advised to cut back on their meat & dairy intakes (sorry, I can't remember the organization that was doing this).  Anyway, the meat & dairy industries got word of this and wouldn't allow it.  Because of their influence, Americans were told to cut back on their saturated fats, thus leading to the low-fat craze (which many Americans just compensated for less fats by eating more refined carbs) and the beginning of nutritionalism.

You get the picture - lots of great data & facts about the food we eat, why we eat it & what's good for us, what's bad for us & why, as well as the food industry and its agenda to push processed foods.  Pollan has also written a tiny little companion book to this one:

(The one I read was not the illustrated version as shown here - it was a text-only version.)  Food Rules is like a very, very shortened version of In Defense of Food.  You could read it in about 20 minutes probably.  Each page is a guideline on how you should eat, and there are entries like "if it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't" (entry #19).  Or entry #59, "don't get your fuel from the same place your car does."

In both books, Pollan gives the reader compelling reasons to give up the Western Diet and eat healthy, whole foods (preferably locally grown, maybe even in your own backyard).  When we eat whole foods straight from nature, we never have to stop and count carbs or check if it has trans fats.  We just know that it is wholesome and nutritious - a wonderful meal, indeed.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Whole foods for a whole week

"Every decision we make about food is a vote for the kind of world we want to live in."
-Frances Moore Lappe
I really love the above quote (first saw it in Edible Columbus Magazine - which if you are in Central Ohio, you must check out - it's awesome).  It makes me think about living in a world where my kids eat and enjoy healthy food and can see where food comes from and understand how lucky we are to have it in abundance.  I'd like to live in a world where food is environmentally friendly, cruel-free and chemical-free.  I'd like to live in a world where Moms and Dads have ample time to make homemade meals for their family, and everyone sits down to enjoy those meals together (and wouldn't it also be great if everyone in the family helped clean up after the meal, too!).  And finally, wouldn't it be great if all the food we ate was wholesome and nourishing?

So, I'm doing a little experiment this week - partly due to a great, motivating book that I just finished reading (more about that in tomorrow's Book Nook) and also due to the fact that the Bachs just need an overhaul on our eating habits.  So, I'm eschewing the Western Diet this week, and all that it entails.  There will be all homemade foods & whole foods, nothing processed.  No refined flour or sugars.  No snacking (that's going to be the tough part).  Smaller portions.  And meals enjoyed in the company of loved ones.

Whole foods for a whole week..........won't you join me?


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Some Christmas knitting - better late than never - part 1

As I mentioned last Fall, I had the brilliant idea (rolls eyes) of knitting each of the Bachsters Christmas presents.  This idea of mine came to me around mid-September.  There are three Bachsters.  Oh, and just for the heck of it, I decided to add knitted presents for my parents and two of my Aunts.  Did I mention mid-September?  (Completely delusional post can be found here.) 

Yes, well, in mid-September this seemed like a very nice & quaint idea - knitted handmade goodness under the tree, wrapped with handmade paper and these cute little Christmas tags I had purchased.  I'm sad to say that there was no handmade paper, no little Christmas tags and no handmade goodness waiting under the tree on Christmas morning.  No, I had completely finished two out of three Bachster gifts by Christmas, but didn't feel it was fair to give my oldest DD her unfinished, still-on-the-needles, ends-to-weave-in-everywhere present.  So, the Christmas presents have morphed into 2012 presents, to be given, I'm really really hoping, sometime next week.

However, those last minute additions to the knitting gift schedule, the presents for my parents and aunts, were given on time, and I wanted to share pics of them...finally!  Remember this yarn?

I used it, along with some Red Heart Eco-Cotton yarn, to make knitted hand towels.  The pattern is from Mason Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines, which was a birthday gift I received in the Fall from my parents, so I especially wanted to knit them something from the book!

The two towels on the left are the Seedling and the one on the right is the Eco-Cotton.  I was really pleased with how they all turned out, and loved that the pattern seemed to pick up speed as you go along.  (Ravelry notes here.)

I finished the last towel on the day after Christmas, which was the day we celebrated the holiday with my family.  I had just enough time to do a quickie photo shoot with all three towels before I had to wrap them up & head out the door!

I made special tags for them, wrapping a little extra yarn around the tag & handwriting the care instructions.  I saw this idea in More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson & really wanted to make them.  It's a sweet touch, I think:

I had some of the Eco-Cotton yarn left over, so I've been making another towel for us to keep.  It's a great portable project, & one that I can work on when the kids are awake & I don't want them to see the covert project I'm working on for DD.

It's my hope that next week, the Bachsters and I will have a little 2012 celebration, complete with all sorts of handmade goodness.  Better late than never, right!?


Monday, January 23, 2012

Book Nook - The Tale of Desperaux / Velveteen Rabbit

The Tale of Desperaux, written by Kate DiCamillo:

I read this book last summer and enjoyed it, but wasn't sure the Bachsters were quite ready for it.  So, I tucked it away in the "one of these days" pile and recently saw it at the library.  We were in need of a longer chapter book, so I thought we'd give it a try.

To summarize the story, Desperaux is a very small mouse who lives in a castle.  He is a little different from the other mice: he reads the books instead of nibbling on their pages, he refuses to scurry and he is especially drawn to light (light and darkness are big themes throughout the book).  One day Desperaux finds himself in the same room as the king and the Princess (whose name happens to be Pea).  He sits at the foot of the king and listens to the beautiful song he is singing.  Once discovered, he talks to the king and Princess, and finds himself falling in love with the kind Princess.  The other mice are enraged at his behavior, and the Mouse Council, including Desperaux's father, sends him to the dungeon.  The dungeon is sure death for any mouse, because there are evil, mouse-eating rats who live there.  The story also introduces us to Roscuro, a scheming rat who only wants revenge for a mean look the Princess once gave him; also, Miggery Sow, a poor servant girl who has had a rough life of losing her mother, being sold into slavery by her father and getting a clout on the ear by most people of authority.  All of these characters come together in an elaborate plot, with Desperaux taking the lead of an unlikely hero.

The story is well crafted.  I especially like the role of the narrator, who stops the action sometimes to ask the reader questions or to point out something especially noteworthy ("reader, do you know what "perfidy" means?  I have a feeling you do, based on the little scene that has just unfolded here," page 45).  The pace is quick, but not too fast, the different aspects of the story all come together in a very natural way and the ending is a satisfying one.

However, I have a 4 year old who had many nights of troubled sleep while we were reading this story.  Lights were left on at bedtime, and a little someone would ask to hop into bed with us in the middle of the night.  So, I would definitely not recommend this book to any little one under age 5 or 6.  The description of the dungeon and the blood-thirsty rats is just too much for little ones, I'm afraid.  It's really a testament to DiCamillo's excellent writing that it all seems so real.  And there are darker themes in the book that are frightening to younger kids - the dungeon, as I've mentioned, but also murder (jailer Gregory gets murdered - sorry for the spoiler), kidnapping with murderous intent, child abuse, and revenge.

So yes, this one's definitely more appropriate for older kids!  I know it sounds like an awful story (yes, I read my kids a book with a murder - albeit offstage - in it).  But it really is an excellent, rich story experience.  Perhaps that is why it won the Newbery Medal.  My 6-year-old did fine with the story, but I wouldn't read it to kids under that age, and even with older kids, plan on doing a lot of chatting and explaining about some of the more complex themes.

So, after we finished Desperaux, I felt like we could all use something a little less heavy.  When I spotted The Velveteen Rabbit on the shelves at the library, I thought that was just what we all needed.  Something sweet and innocent and simple.  Longer than a picture book and engaging for everyone.  Something that would not induce nightmares.

The Velveteen Rabbit is a classic children's story written by Margery Williams (who published her first book at age 17) and was published in 1922.  It's the story of the toys that live in the Boy's nursery.  One of the toys, the Skin Horse, explains to the Velveteen Rabbit how he can become real - if he's real in the eyes of a child, it will happen.  The Velveteen Rabbit enjoys his days with the Boy, playing outside or in the play-burrows the boy makes out of his sheets.  One day, the Boy gets very sick, and the Velveteen Rabbit is there to comfort him.  After the illness has passed, the grown ups talk of burning all the toys that the Boy slept with to be sure he won't get sick again.  It is then that the nursery magic happens and the Velveteen Rabbit can realize his dream.

It's a sweet story, but it didn't hold the attention of our 8-year-old as much as the younger ones (she started reading another book as we were all reading this one).  So, I'm on a quest to find the perfect chapter book for an 8, 6 and 4-year old.  Roald Dahl always fits the bill nicely, but we've read almost all of his books at this point!

Anyway, The Tale of Desperaux and The Velveteen Rabbit are both wonderful books.  I think they would be best enjoyed by children at an appropriate age.  As for adults, any age will do!


Friday, January 20, 2012


It's January.  It's cold.  It seems like the perfect time to make some homemade pretzels, don't you think?  Which is exactly what we did the other day!

I don't make this recipe very often because there is some time involved (mostly waiting for the dough to rise).  But what I love about it is that it's pretty easy to do, and you only need two main ingredients: flour and a packet of dry yeast.  Well, those two things and mustard.  I must have mustard with my homemade pretzels!

I was so happy to have a little helper in the kitchen when I made them.  She was so excited to roll the dough and make it into pretzel shapes:

Roll them, shape them, let them rise about 15 minutes more, bake them & then you're set.  Warm, straight-from-the-oven pretzel goodness, topped with coarse salt or cinnamon sugar (it's a toss up in our house which is best).

Pass me the mustard, please!


Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Nook - Craft Activism

Craft Activism:  People, Ideas, and Projects from the New Community of Handmade and How You Can Join In, written by Joan Tapper:

I found this book recently because I came across an article about Ruth Marshall and her knitted pelts of endangered big cats (see the article I read in Twist Collective, here).  I've been working on a little idea for knitting for the greater good myself, so I was especially interested in checking it out.

There are lots of articles in the book about different crafters and how they are crafting for a bigger cause.  Ruth Marshall wants to help draw attention to the plight of endangered cats.  Lisa Anne Auerbach knits sweaters with political messages on them to get people talking.  Virginia Fleck creates art with plastic bags to push back on "consumer culture."  And there are many more amazing crafters profiled.  Following each article is a craft project created by that person that exemplifies their craft and their cause.  Some examples are a bench warmer, from Yellow Springs, Ohio (not far from here at all) yarn bombers, The Jafagirls.  There is a peace quilt project, created by Carolyn Mazloomi, a quilter with a message.  There is an easy red scarf pattern, perfect for knitting for the Red Scarf Project, a group that gives red scarves to young adults who have aged out of the foster care system.  Can you tell I was especially drawn to the knitting projects?

On a personal note, I especially like this book because my picture was almost in it!  In the Crafting a Community section, there is an article about Ravelry and its founders, Jessica and Casey Forbes, along with various pictures of them at Ravelry events.  Well, I was at one of the events pictured in the book:

See the guy in the green shirt?  That's Casey, and I was standing on the other side of him when this photo from the book was taken.  Maybe if you squint really hard, you can see through Casey, and see me, wondering why Ravelry brought a photographer along with them.  The squinting didn't work?  I guess I'll have to catch my 15 minutes of fame another time!  By the way, here is the link to my post about the party, way back in June 2010.  Check out the middle picture - it's like the picture in the book, just in reverse!

Anyway, this is a great book that I highly recommend to anyone who loves crafting and would like to craft for a cause.  There are so many inspirational artists featured, and great craft ideas that just might serve as a springboard for your own crafting-for-a-cause.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Winter weekend

It hasn't been a very snowy Winter in the Midwest, so it was very exciting when we finally got hit with some snow on Thursday night.  It's been snowing off & on since then.  I thought I would share a few pictures from our recent snowy adventures.

The Bachsters couldn't wait to go outside and play in the snow on Friday morning.  They only had a one-hour delay at school, but that was enough time to get bundled up and explore:

Of course, Ranger has to get in on the action.  This morning the whole Bach family was outside in the backyard playing and that dog just went berserk!  It must be cabin fever.... or maybe puppy fever.

The Bachsters really wanted to go to a local sledding hill.  Here's a shot of all 3 of them, going down the hill (sideways!):

DD really wanted to try out the snowboard she got from Santa.  And after some practice, she was snowboarding down the hill like a pro:

When we got home & everyone was warming up and all the boots & mittens were drying, I went back outside to explore the backyard with my macro lens:

I made homemade pumpkin bread last night, thinking it would be a yummy treat to munch on over the cold weekend.  And I was right - we devoured the first of two loaves right away.  It's one of my favorite recipes, found in the Baking Handbook by Martha Stewart.  (you can click here to read the Book Nook post about this cookbook):

Homemade pumpkin bread and hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows.....what a perfect way to end a cold, snowy day.  Maybe we'll do it all over again tomorrow!

Hope you are having a great winter weekend!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Homemade ice cream - a sad tale of longing

For the holidays, I had the brilliant idea of making my parents & brothers homemade ice cream as Christmas gifts.  I had a brand new ice cream maker that I received for my birthday, and I always love making homemade gifts.  Of course, I figured this venture would take lots and lots of experimentation, which I couldn't wait to start!

The first recipes I tried made some of the best ice cream I've ever had - they are from an old article in Fine Cooking Magazine (August/September 1995, recipes and article by Andrew Hingston).  My first attempt at ice cream greatness was the caramel ice cream with toasted almonds.  You cook an ice cream base, add homemade caramel sauce, cool it, churn it in your ice cream maker and add toasted blanched almonds.  Here is the concoction in the early stages of the process - you must use a candy thermometer because it's very temperature-specific:

This recipe was outstanding!  I think next time I make it, I might try it without the almonds, although their toasted flavor really added a lot to overall experience.  Maybe I'll omit the almonds and add some more salt, for a sweet & salty ice cream.  But it really is just perfect as is!

Well, as I mentioned, experimentation was key here, because I would surely hate to give my family sub-par homemade ice cream for holiday gifts!  So, I figured now that I had one winner, I needed to get a few more for variety (for the sake of my family, of course)!

The next recipe I tried from the article was the hazelnut-mocha ice cream.  But I made some changes right from the start.  I didn't make it with the hazelnuts because I wanted to try to re-create my favorite store-bought ice cream: Ben & Jerry's Phish Food (=chocolate ice cream, marshmallow swirls, caramel swirls & little chocolate fish....yum).  So, I made the mocha ice cream (although Phish Food is not mocha, it's chocolate - I'm not sure how I missed that detail), found a great recipe for the marshmallow swirly stuff from Martha, of course and made another batch of the caramel sauce, which is so yummy you could just sit there & eat it straight out of the bowl (please don't ask me how I know this).  I also chopped up chunks of milk chocolate & swirled them in as the ice cream was churning.  Here are the all the flavors and sauces, awaiting their late-night assembly:

It really made a truly delicious ice cream.  But, just as with the caramel ice cream, I learned some things along the way & vowed to make a few changes.  I decided to make chocolate ice cream, not mocha, for an authentic Phish Food taste.  Also, I wasn't crazy about the milk chocolate chunks....I think next time I'll try it with semisweet or bittersweet chocolate for some distinction.  Otherwise, it was divine and it did not last long in the Bach house!

At this point, you might be wondering why I have titled this post a sad tale of longing.  So far, everything's good, right?  Well, I am sad to say that it all went downhill right from this point.  See, I realized that I needed a chocolate ice cream.  So, instead of tweaking the absolutely perfect mocha recipe I had, I decided to try a different cookbook, one that seemed very promising.  So, I tried a new recipe for a milk chocolate ice cream and it was....terrible!  It never actually froze and was sort of like eating dense, cold chocolate pudding or cold hot fudge.  It was the strangest ice cream ever, and I was so grateful that I had only borrowed this cookbook from the library and not purchased it without trying any of the recipes.

However, in my excitement over this new cookbook, and my absolute determination to make the best ice cream for my family for their gifts (this is what I kept telling myself, at least), I had already purchased the ingredients to make a homemade lemon frozen yogurt from the cookbook.  Not wanting to waste all the yogurt, cream, lemons, cheesecloth, etc. that I had invested in, and hoping that the food-like-substance that was the chocolate ice cream recipe was merely a fluke, I plodded on. 

And, sadly, the container to the ice cream maker decided to not freeze.  So the lemon yogurt, which was a very lengthy recipe, never actually froze properly because the canister wasn't thoroughly frozen (but we did eat it all anyway, after just letting the recipe sit in the freezer for a day - it became an icy yogurty lemony thingy).  You know that saying about Hell freezing over? It's been replaced by my ice cream canister freezing's never going to happen!

My ice cream maker left me hanging, with a couple of delicious recipes that I would love to make again and again.  It taunts me every time I open my freezer - I see the canister just sitting there in its sloshy state, surrounded by frozen peas and bags of ice. 

And as for my homemade gifts for my family?  Gift certificates for everyone!

A sad tale, indeed!


Monday, January 9, 2012

Book Nook - The Orchid Thief

The Orchid Thief written by Susan Orlean:

On New Year's Eve, DH, two of his sisters, our brother-in-law, and myself all sat around our kitchen table to play a game of Monopoly while the Bachsters watched a movie.  Somewhere in the corners of my brain, I remembered hearing an interesting fact about the creator of the game, Charles Darrow - that he did something interesting with the fortune he had made.  All evening, I tried to remember just what it was, but maybe I was too distracted by the spread of munchies and sweets, or the fact that my thimble was loosing big time or maybe it was the fact that I had one glass too many of champagne (hey, it was New's Year's!), I didn't remember the elusive information until the next day.  He spent his fortune on orchids!

And I got this little bit of trivia from The Orchid Thief, written by Susan Orlean.  I thought this was going to be a very different kind of book, just based on what I gathered from reading the back cover.  The book says it's about this guy named John Laroche, who is inexplicably handsome despite the fact that he is missing his front teeth and has terrible posture.  Laroche is going through a trial for being caught (along with a couple of Seminole Indian accomplices) trying to steal rare wild orchids from Southern Florida's Fakahatchee Strand.  I was expecting a story about Laroche, who this unusual character is, and the circumstances that led up to his situation.

And the book does go there, but it also takes us to very unexpected places, like some faraway jungle with competing orchid hunters; a Seminole tribe pow-wow, getting lost in the Fakahatchee while searching for the evasive ghost orchid; driving with Laroche, who sometimes only steers with one knee; inside the story of Chief Osceola and his missing head; the Victorians and their love for orchids and insistence that they are not appropriate for women; and numerous characters and personalities in the plant world, including John Laroche, who are absolutely obsessed.

And that's pretty much what the book is - lots of stories and unusual facts about plants and orchids and the people that love them.  On the periphery is the story of John Laroche, his trial and his fickle obsessions.  All keenly observed and written with wit and intelligence by Orlean.

Interestingly, the movie Adaptation is based on the screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, played by Nicolas Cage, who tried to bring this story to the big screen.  Orlean is played by Meryl Streep.  I haven't seen the movie, but I wonder if it's as quirky as the book.  That's a good word to describe it, because it's all about quirky plants and the quirky people who love them.  People like John Laroche.  Or Charles Darrow.

I'll have to remember that the next time I play Monopoly.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Art week - art class exhibit

This Fall, our oldest DD took a 10-week Saturday morning art class at the Columbus College of Art and Design (DH joked that she should get college credit for the class.....she's 8).  I ended up waiting for her in an adjacent room for most of her classes, so I got to listen in, too.  I have only positive things to say about it - the teachers were great, the instruction perfect for 2nd graders, the projects all were varied and fun.  I loved that in each class, a different art technique was discussed, and they taught the students about a famous artist who used that particular style.  DD really enjoyed the class and she has given me the ok to share some of her artwork with you!

I think this watercolor painting is my favorite.  That week, they discussed Grant Wood and his stylistic way of painting.  And here is a picture of the artist herself with her masterpiece:

The focus of the next project was drawing with Sharpies, combined with watercolors.  This painting has been sold to her Aunt - DD is happy to tell everyone that she's now a professional artist!

One week, the class discussed The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.  This torn-paper collage is meant to invoke the same look as the story.  DD said she made her person with a dollar bill, because they are going shopping:

DD especially loves to draw, so I think she really enjoyed the class on drawing a cartoon-lion:

At the last class of the semester, the kids learned about kinetic art.  DD was thrilled to show her brother & sister and classmates at school how to create a pecking crow out of a square of black construction paper.  In addition, they also made these cool birds with movement, thanks to the pennies on the wings:

Now, I think we need to invest in some frames for all this amazing art!


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Art Week - a visit to the Columbus Museum of Art

When the Bachsters were on break from school for the holidays, we all went to the Columbus Museum of Art for an afternoon of artsy-entertainment.  We've been meaning to check out the museum all Fall, and I'm so glad that we finally had a good excuse to go!

The first thing we did is have a long discussion that you are to only look at the art - no touching!  And if there are any ropes keeping you a certain distance from the wall - stay behind them.  And remember don't touch anything!

 Fortunately, our Bachsters are good listeners and didn't touch anything, but we spotted a little boy touching one of the paintings for a few moments before his Dad caught sight of him!  Touching anything in this exhibit might have had disastrous consequences:

They wavy-shapes were made of glass and were supposed to represent gondolas from the artist's home city of Venice, Italy.  The effect was more like gentle waves, I thought.

We had some chats about portrait art before the advent of photography, and discussed why there's nudity in art (to some giggles and pointing).  We also tried to point out the age of some of the work ("this painting is over 400 years old!").  And as much as the Bachsters liked perusing through the different galleries, they really enjoyed the creative space just for kids, where they ran around, making their own forts out of cloth, snakes with clay and assembling crazy wooden animals:

I hope we can visit CMA again soon for more creative inspiration!


Monday, January 2, 2012

Book Nook - Let's Make Some Great Art

Let's Make Some Great Art by Marion Deuchar:

This is one of the gifts our DD received for Christmas from us - we thought she would like it because she loves to draw and she's taking an art class, so it's just her thing.  Over her holiday break from school, she complained of being bored, so I suggested she get out her art book, which kept her busy for hours!

I know coloring books can be fun for kids, but I've always disliked that there is no real creativity involved.  The kids pick the color, are usually praised for staying in the lines, and that's all there is to it.  I don't buy these kinds of books for our kids, but rather give them plain, white copy paper whenever they want - a clean, empty slate for them to decide what to make.  I love the open-ended nature of plain white paper and so do they, because we go through a lot.

This book, Let's Make Some Great Art, is also a very open-ended approach to creating art.  The author gives you some ideas and starting points, but that's it.  The rest is up to the artist.  Our DD loves drawing her own comics, so it's no surprise that she found the "make up your own comic strip" spread and did that first.  Only the title is provided by the author ("The Missing Leg") and then 13 big boxes of different shapes follow, for your own comic.  Our DD did a story about a zombie!

There's a lot of different types of art projects in the book, besides just drawing.  One page gives you instructions on how to do a color experiment (involving a mirror, a glass bowl, paper, scissors, tape & a flashlight).  Another page shows you how to make a cool paper mobile.  There are a few pages with creative art using your fingerprints.  There are lots of activities using shapes and lines in unique ways.

I also love that the author incorporates some art history into the book.  There's a page on Jackson Pollock, for instance - some facts about the artist and an example of his style of work.  Then, there's a project on how to "make your own Jackson Pollock."  Some other artists (and projects inspired by) featured are Piet Mondrian, Paul Klee & Henri Matisse, to name a few.  There's a page on how the ancient Egyptians produced the color purple (many, many snails were crushed).  There's a few pages instructing the artist to draw on a plinth (draw something modern on this plinth, draw something made of glass, etc.).  What's a plinth?  This might be the first time a young artist is introduced to the item/word, all in a fun way.

And that's how the book goes - tons of fun projects (and facts) about art.  Anyone, adult or child, who loves to make art would enjoy this book.  In fact, our other DD already wants this book for herself, so I think we'll be purchasing it again (and then probably again for Little Dude). 

Stop back later this week to see some art projects that DD did in her art class this Fall!


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

It's New Year's Day and that can mean only one thing in the Bach household......creme brulee!  Oh yes, it's a little tradition (or maybe better stated, excuse) to have creme brulee on New Year's Day (here's last year's post on the topic). 

Wishing you a very Happy 2012!  I think this is going to be a great year!