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A Glorious Mess Revisited

This after Thanksgiving craft bears repeating! Thanks Tracey…


I am the Martha Stewart generation—a young mom before the days of DIY, blogs, Handmade Nation, and Etsy (and email and cell phones for that matter). Crafting in those days was mostly the realm of groovy-hippie-types or country-calico-quilters. And although I had a certain appreciation for both asthetics, I didn't quite fit in anywhere on the maker's spectrum. All that changed when I first laid eyes on the premier issue of Living magazine. Everything about it ignited my graphic-designer-modernist tendencies; the sophisticated color palettes, the charmingly smart photo styling, the graphic play of patterns and materials, everything seemed perfect. And I wanted to make stuff like that!

I credit Martha for inspiring me to make things that I liked and that felt like "me". She brought both class and wit into handmade objects and she creating things with one's hands. making things with my hands is both a soul-nourishing and using my hands for more than just clicking and typing makes me feel human, creative, like I'm both giving and receiving. 


So let's get to making:

These popsicle stick stars are my favorite—well suited for mass production, quick to put together, and infinitely customizable.

All you need are:
– popsicle sticks
– glue gun
– paint

The possibilities are limitless. 


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Pumpkin Pancakes for the Last Week of November

Who says there is no time in the morning for a cozy breakfast?

What is a fall morning without the scent of pumpkin pancakes tickling the kitchen? 

Pancakes are quick breads and quick breads are great recipes to introduce little ones to cooking. With a little preparation before hand—pre-measured ingredients in portion bowls makes cooking with kids a very Montessori experience—cooking with little ones is quite academic.

First, assemble all the dry ingredients in a one bowl and the wet ingredients in another—a perfect task for little hands. Whisk the ingredients in each bowl (they are gonna love this part). Next, have them fold the wet into the dry, counting how many strokes it takes to just blend the ingredients. When it comes time to cook the pancakes, best for mom or dad to be in charge, but  when it come to clean-up, by all means let them wash some dishes the old fashioned way in a sink of sudsy water!

– Sara

Pumpkin Pancakes
Dry Ingredients:
– 2 cups flour (I use part whole wheat or nine grain flour)
– 3 T brown sugar
– 2 t baking powder
– 1 t soda
– 1 t allspice
– 1 t cinnamon
– ½ t ground ginger
– ½ t salt

Wet Ingredients:
– 1 ½ c milk
– 1 cup canned pumpkin
– 1 egg
– 2 T vegetable oil
– 2 T apple cider vinegar

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Haiku of Thanksgiving


These pumpkins don’t grow on vines but they have something in common with fortune cookies and piñatas.

The Recipe:
1. Take a lunch-sized paper bag and fill the bottom with torn paper.
2. Before twisting closed, insert a handcrafted thanksgiving haiku or two.
3. Twist the top of the bag tight.
4. Paint using pumpkin colors.
5. After the paint is dry, use ribbon and raffia to decoratively seal the stem.

Display during the Thanksgiving season and tear open when it’s time to celebrate gratitude.



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Stitching Leaves


Last fall, Sara collected leaves to trace for this stitchery project. You can too.

She found some beautiful hand-dyed felt on Etsy. You can too.

She traced her leaf shapes onto the felt and cut out the shapes. You can too.

Then she sent the felt leaves to me and I had my students stitch the veins. And look what our little ones made!

Your little ones can too!

Here are some tips for stitching with little ones:

1. Demonstrate – Make one yourself! Children learn so much more this way. Think SHOW vs. tell!

2. Thread needles in advance. Always have an extra ready.

3. Have each student work on two at once so that when knots happen (and they will), they can keep busy on the second leaf.

4. Go slow! Teach stitchers to “go down through the top”  s l o w l y,  then “up through the bottom”  s l o w l y.

5. Use the internet if you need help with stitching.



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The Art of Crafting a Letter

The potential of the letter is expansive. Its form is deftly suited for all occasions.

Letters bridge.

Letters are common ground.

Letters are a gift.

But our slapdash digitalized pace has fashioned handcrafted letters out of style.

Let’s face it. Letters are a gift we scarcely know how to handle.

As a writing mentor I’m at odds with the pervasive mechanistic approach to writing that cultivates dread and squelches the writer’s voice.

The work of writing is first and foremost an art form. I want my apprentices to marvel at the potential of language to transcend communication.

Words, crafted well, echo in the heart.

I am always seeking new ways to engage young writers with the finer of art of crafting words, making every effort to inspire through writing meaningful exercises. My goal is to cultivate curiosity and motivate young writers to engage in the complex process of writing that will produce something that echoes their heart. When young writers are empowered that their ideas are meaningful, they raise an authentic voice. Grammar and mechanics are secondary to voice.

I’ve come to discover in my own process as a writer and, after twenty years of mentoring, that writers who value their voice will not only focus on the difficult work of unpacking the rules of writing—grammar and mechanics—but will also integrate and apply that work. 

Might the art of letter writing be revived?

This said and the Thanksgiving season upon us, I’m giving my writing apprentices a gift that I want to share with you, a gift in the form of a challenge:

This week, craft a letter of Thanksgiving. This week give words.

Here are some tips that will help your writing apprentices get started: 

1. Riff on another writer’s work.

To begin the Thanksgiving letter, encourage writers to begin by listing some facts about Thanksgiving. Next, read Abe Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation. Think about these words being written in the midst of Civil War. How are these words relevant in 21st Century America? Now have them read Lincoln’s first sentence closely. Instruct writers to use Lincoln’s quote at the start of the letter and to do the work of translating the sentence, “I think Abe Lincoln meant ___________.”  Finally, challenge the writers to use the phrases “blessings of the fruitful fields” and “healthful skies” to create a personal metaphor of thanksgiving. What might they represent in the apprentice’s world? Riffing on the work of a master mentor such as Abe Lincoln promotes specificity of language, here, the fruit will take the form of gratitude. 

“The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.” – Abe Lincoln

2. Utilize parallel writing.

Begin with an interesting quote:

“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.” – Henry David Thoreau

Find a pattern and craft a sentence of your own your own:

I would rather _________________________ than _________________.

I would rather consider the diversity in a pile of freshly raked fall leaves than wander aimlessly in a grumble of boredom.

3. Make your letter beautiful.

Writing is a process that begins with an idea.

Ideas must be forged to words on a page.

Never skip steps.

Rough drafts matter!

But once your drafting is done, once every word is as it should be, then (and only then) dive into the work of making your words shine on the page. Writing is gift and a gift is never wrapped until it is complete.

Once upon a time writers were apprenticed in the art of handwriting, were compelled to practice the basic shapes and orientation of letterforms. Once, writers were required to master a script, establish a hand—slant and flourish—one that was both legible and lovely. Now, there is not much value placed on this work.

Must the art of handwriting become yet another artisanal extracurricular? Engaging in the process of beautifying forces the young writer slow down to focus on words and phrases in a way that typing can’t, promotes the self-edit to a whole new level. I ask my apprentices often, “Isn’t a handwritten document more precious than a computer generated one?”

– Kim

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The Yarn Bombed Pumpkin


Yarn-bombing is a thing. 

Look it up.

This pumpkin is a project that I worked on with my family during the month of October a few years back. Let me tell you, bringing shape to this silly little idea afforded our family with a fun collaborative activity in the busy weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. It was peaceful work. We discovered it was work that taught us about the organic lines of the pumpkin. But most surprisingly, well, this project was scientifically thought provoking. This white pumpkin mummified in orange yarn did not begin rotting until July of the following year. And when it did, it only molded a bit at the bottom. In fact, only when I set it back into the garden at the beginning of the following October did it move well on it's way to dirt.  We enjoyed our pumpkin art for an entire year. And I imagine the dirt it eventually contributed to is not only nutritious, but rich with creative fodder.


Yarn bombing a pumpkin is super easy. Here's how:

1. Choose a pumpkin. 

2. Choose a yarn color. I chose orange to cover a white pumpkin but any color will do. 

3. Paint a small section with glue and cut lengths of yarn to cover the pumpkin from stem to base and begin covering the pumpkin.

Continue in this manner until the pumpkin is mummified with yarn.



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How’s the Weather?


Have you read Tornado by Betsy Byars? On this first day of winter, what a wonderful time to explore the mysteries of the weather! And "tornados" are a great place to begin. This story touches down at the cross section of pure fiction and science. Your 2nd and 3rd grade readers/writers will love the adventure.

When a tornado appears in the distance, Pete, the farmhand, gathers everyone into the storm cellar. How best to pass the time in this worried time? Tell a story! While they wait for the storm to pass, Pete tells the family about the dog dropped down by a tornado when he was a boy. Tornado, Pete's pet was no ordinary dog. Tornado played card tricks, saved a turtle's life, and had a rivalry with the family cat. By the time Pete tells all of Tornado's lively stories, the storm has passed, and a very special dog has entertained another family.

PS … Don't forget to CREATE your idea after exploring the story!


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Butterflies of Winter


When the cold of winter nips at your toes, remember summer with its warm, sunny days. While you are remembering, think butterfly. Remember how they come fluttering aglow with complex design—longings and swallowtails, and of course monarchs flitting through our blossoming gardens. Of course there is butterfly activity in every season, but when the rush of flitting color slows in the cold of winter, make a butterfly garden of paper and chalk pastel. 

Here's how:

For this project we began with a goodly weighted bristol, with a bit of a tooth. Pastel paper is best, but costly. Drawing paper will do just fine too. Begin by looking closely at a real butterfly. Next, study the anatomy of a butterfly. Pay attention to the symmetry and the complexity of these wonderful creatures.





You will need to draw the shape of two forewings and two hindwings onto the paper you have selected. After drawing, you will need to cut out the wings and fold them horizontally in accordion folds. Unfold the wings. Using chalk pastel, decorate the shapes with butterfly details. Smudge some of the color, but leave some sketch marks. Be creative, but try to keep your creativity tied to the butterfly motif.

Next, cut a thin, very long triangle shape of paper and roll it up like a croissant. This will be the head, thorax, and abdomen of the butterfly. Use a hot glue gun to attach the forewings and hindwings to the body. Finish the butterfly by blending the wing colors to the body using similar colors of chalk pastel. Attach a bit of wire for the antenna. Cut a length of the wire depending on the size of the butterfly you created, bend to a V, add some beads to both ends, and attach to the head of the butterfly with a drop of hot glue. 

Continue this process to create a rabble of butterflies. You will be amazed how wonderful these creatures akin to the real thing will brighten a winter garden window.





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Make a Plan: Preparing for Section 5


Don't wait until week 5 to begin thinking about your Section 5 idea. Make a plan. Keep all your ideas in one place. A spiral sketchbook will do just fine.

During Section 2, begin brainstorming. Write down your ideas and, if your Section 5 will include a visual component, create small sketches demonstrating what you imagine your idea will look like and what materials you might utilize. 

During Section 3, choose the idea you like best and make a full-page sketch with labels that will help you prepare.

During Section 4, gather all the materials you will need to complete your project build. 

After all this, when week 5 rolls around, you will be prepared to focus on creating a meaningful project. A project that you will surely be proud of for years to come.






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Forget the Flashcards: Bake a Cake


One of the best ways to learn to think is to learn about the tools available! empowering your students to learn about the parts and functions of their brain will inspire them to tap into the vast potential of this amazing frontier. We are not left-brained or right-brained; we are “whole-brained.” Get to know how this happens by doing some research and and you will be awestruck.

Your brain weighs about 3.3 lbs and is 73% water.

Your brain contains roughly 86 billion brain cells.

All the messages sent by all phones in the world taken together number less than those sent by your brain.

Your brain information travels up to 268 miles per hour.

Your brain works faster than the fastest computer in the world.

 So don't delay… learn about the parts and functions of your brain so you can tap into your potential!

And after you do, bake a cake to celebrate what you learned. You will be surprised what you learn in the process!