Back to our roots

January 27, 2013 § 1 Comment

We went back to our messy roots today. We called in at the DiY store on our way home from church and made the quickest colour selection EVER for interior decorating (sky blue, for the bathroom walls – 5 minute discussion, agreed, bought!) and Bean begged for his own pot of paint, in the same colour. He wanted to paint too. So we brought both big and little pots home, and after discussing why or why not we could paint the living room ceiling with his little pot, we agreed to try and get the Bear to sleep on the sofa so that we could do some big painting together.

Mercifully the Bear did eventually let us go, and we got sweeping and clearing up and preparing! It makes me smile that Bean looks forward to painting so much that he doesn’t get bored with all the preparation that needs doing before we can paint any more.

We set up two canvases side by side in the kitchen. Look how gloriously blank and inviting they look!!

One was for me, and one was for Bean. Not often I get to paint like this 🙂 Bean chose green, and his blue pot. I wanted oranges and reds!

We got to work. Bean chose brushes to start with but they were quickly discarded when he announced he could use his feet too. I enjoyed using my hands to mix the paint around 🙂 It’s pretty obvious why he loves this so much!

We got both pictures finished, all hands and feet cleaned up, and one painting taped to the wall to dry before baby Bear woke up.

I think it’s quite amazing that although we both did our paintings individually, once we looked at them they appear to be colour opposites of each other! Quite beautiful.

Bean says his is for one of his friends. I’m to help him draw her name on it!!

Painting (youtube clip from today)


Handmade Recycled Paper

January 24, 2013 § Leave a comment

I have wanted to try to make handmade paper for a looong time and for some reason decided now was as good a time as any, so while we were up in Manchester I started collecting used brown parcel paper to use as my base. I like brown paper. This week I finally got round to tearing it all up! I’d link to the blog post that I took my original recipe idea from except it appears to not exist any more, but the gist of it was to keep the water you boil your rice up in to use in the paper mulch. Rice starch, I discovered, helps not particularly by glueing it together but by giving the paper fibres a coating which makes it easier to write on afterwards, instead of the ink bleeding into the paper. Which I like the idea of! I also liked the idea that I could use stuff I have in the house already, rather than buying any specialist bits – we have next to no money to spend on crafts (or anything really) at the moment so anything I can re-use or recycle or make do with is a bonus.


So here’s how you do it.

First tear up your paper. Don’t use a paper shredder unless you want confetti-type bits in your finished paper: blenders don’t mulch it up very well. I think the smallest bits of mine were maybe a half-inch square. Ish. In my mix I had a lot of brown paper, some orange paper with gold glitter, some gold tissue paper, and some gold paper crowns from Christmas crackers!


Tip it into a bowl. I roughly measured how much paper I had by stuffing it into a cup measure first. I had about a cupful of torn up paper. I added about 3 cups of hot water from the tap, gave it a good mix up, and left it. I should have really only left it overnight but life got in the way and it was left a couple of days until I got out a hand blender to mulch it up! It mulched up pretty well, my Bean thought it looked pretty nasty though 😉 I added about a half a cupful of my rice starch water and blended it in.


I’d been umming and ahhing about how to actually make the paper. A lot of tutorials show how to make a mesh screen, to make sure it fits into a basin so you can “pan” your paper mulch into it to get it nice and smooth and even; but I wanted to make small individual bits. As it’s nearly Valentines day I thought I’d make heart shaped pieces so I am using a large heart shaped cookie cutter, and my mesh screen is the fine gauge part of my gardening sieve! It fits just nicely over one of my shallow trays, which will be useful for catching all the liquid as it’s squeezed out of the paper pulp.


Dollop a large spoonful of paper pulp into the cookie cutter.


Spread it out roughly with a smaller spoon.


Take a piece of felt (or microfibre fleece, as that’s all I have around – and I do have a lot of it from chopped up blankets) and press it over the top, and start gently squashing the liquid out of the pulp.


Gently remove the cutter and the fleece. This is how my heart looked after its first press!


I took a second piece of fleece and gave the paper a second pressing.


Then turned it over and eased it off the mesh.


The paper got its third pressing by putting it between two more fresh pieces of fleece, using a rolling pin to squash yet more liquid out, and to flatten the paper a little more.


I put my hearts on the radiator to dry out – be warned this makes them curl up!! I’ve had to flatten them out, separated by pieces of fleece, under a weighted down mat!


Here they are in various stages of drying out. You can see the driest one is curling… I love the specks of gold in it. Once this is used up I’ll make another batch with a lot more reds and pinks in, and make smaller hearts to put in the middle 🙂


Didn’t expect it to be so easy, or therapeutic, or enjoyable! Will be making a lot more handmade paper in the future I think 😀

Rainbow Playdough

January 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

Kind of unexpectedly a little while ago on a Friday I found myself child-free and did what any rational mama would do and made a break for freedom, to wander round the shops alone for ten minutes! Ten minutes turned into a little over half an hour and the little Bear was decidedly awake and had just started wailing for me when I returned, but in the meantime I managed to wander around the supermarket completely aimlessly, sure there was something I ought to be buying.

I got home with all the bits I’d need to make a batch of playdough, and fingerpaints! Good old brain, lets me down in the best possible ways sometimes!

So when we started being struck down by the horrid winter vomiting bug the next day I was glad I’d been out and got these supplies. I made up a batch of regular cooked playdough, this time though to make things easier on myself I mixed it up in a bowl and ladled out portions into the pan to cook my red, yellow and blue separately, adding the colour before cooking. Ohhhhh I love the feel of freshly cooked playdough!! I made twice as much yellow as I did blue and red, as I planned to put the dough into pots like this, ready for play:


The plain blue, red and yellow pots had piles of glitter ready to mix into them, and there were two other pots ready to mix together to make secondary colours of orange and greeen. Every opportunity I get I try and reinforce the idea of mixing colours to make other ones, one day I’m sure the Bean will remember!!

By Monday everyone had been through it and we were exhausted but needed something to do so out came the playdough. My Bean was super happy, I forget (and I think he does too) how much he enjoys playdough. He loved mixing in the glitter, and was excited about the glitter being the same colour as the dough, and then needing to share the glitter with the other colours too! He really got the hang of cutting out shapes this time as well, squashing the dough down flat and cutting out stars.



Even little Bear got involved, even if he is still obsessed with trying to eat the stuff.


The colour-mixing pots were a success too, although they came out so early on in our playtime that Bean hadn’t really got the hang of squashing and squishing so he handed it over to me to finish mixing, once we’d seen what colour it was making.


He made LOTS of stars. The star cutters were a brilliant idea!


(A couple of days later I made a batch of chocolate biscuit dough and his obsession with stars didn’t let me down – these are all his handiwork!)


Then he surprised us and asked for some scissors, to snip the ends of the stars off, to make “diamonds”. Very very diligently he started cutting all the points off his stars until my heart couldn’t cope any longer, and we substituted the scissors for a wooden knife! I know he’s good with scissors, but for some reason I was more twitchy than I usually am. Baby Bear watched intently, and added finger poked holes into the row of stars.. I’m sure he would have loved to have had a go with the scissors.


This is the invitation to play that was set up ready for the following day – small balls of coloured dough, with the star cutters, some mini cake cases, and foil wrappers. I live in hope!


This however is what I actually came home to, after taking the Bear out for a walk to get him to sleep. ALL the playdough was out and Bean and Grandma were having a whale of a time!! I think Grandma was having as much fun as Bean, she was doing the dough modelling as Bean was weaving a fantastic story, using her models and asking for others, weaving the mall into his story, The models evolved with the story, ducks laying eggs, eggs hatching, ducklings having sleepovers and visiting friends, crocodiles making friends, ponds and nests and grass – it was amazing. They were both delighted when I produced a pack of playdough tools!!



Bean was keen to show his baby brother what he’d been doing.


And keen to tell me some of the story too!


We had to clear up for dinner sadly, so the story scene was decanted into a one of these fab foil roasting trays, and Grandma made a clay soldier to keep watch over the story while we ate.



I made that dough in the hope it would be played with – never imagined the scope of the Bean’s imagination! His storytelling is hugely engaging and imaginative and he LOVES doing it!

Painting and storytelling

January 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

Bean decided today that he wanted to do some painting. We started off painting with some cheap watercolours but it was soon pretty evident that they were simply not providing the sensory experience that Bean was after! SO we cooked up a batch of fingerpaint and had fun mixing in the colours before getting paper ready. I only make primary colours (red, yellow and blue) when getting paints out because we can then work on how to make the different colours we need as we go along.

First off we explored the colours, to see how rich they were and to see how well the mixed to make our secondary colours of orange, green and purple. Purple didn’t work so well but the green was rather gorgeous!

We started to explore using different tools for mark-making, using the playdough tools I bought last week (promise I’ll blog our latest playdough adventures soon!) and we decided we needed a fresh canvas to continue this.

Bean chose blue and green for his base so we put dollops of blue and yellow on the paper after remembering they would make green together. Then he started his adventure by using his hands to cover the paper with paint.

Then he asked for the squiggle cutter, and began his story….. The ice is breaking, it’s breaking up! It’s cracking, mum, look, it’s cracking… We’ve been watching a lot of Ice Age while we’ve been up here in Manchester, and most of Bean’s storytelling was based on what he’s been watching. We’ve also been watching the BBC’s Operation Iceberg a lot so some of the things he’s learnt from there snuck into the story!

The ice did a LOT of breaking up and cracking. Then the squiggle cutter was retired and he used a different tool to make BIG cracks in the paint for a while. Now the ice was more than just cracking, it was seriously breaking up….

And once the ice had all broken up and Manny (the mammoth) had fallen in the water, and the big boat had come along and broken in half, the ice all melted and he smoothed the paint out all over the paper : )

We had a lot of fun while the Bear slept on my back! Here’s the first painting we did:

Once they’re all dry I’ll coat them with some watered-down PVA, and Bean has given me permission to draw on them ; ) I might draw his story onto the green one, about the ice all cracking and breaking and melting! I’m seriously amazed at his storytelling, it’s really quite fantastic. His narrative draws you in, and he’s so completely involved in his story. I said I’ll blog about last week’s playdough adventures and I will, but I had forgotten that his storytelling ability came out with paints too, not just playdough! It has been a pretty fab afternoon : )

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