Ephemeral Art

Have you heard of ephemeral art? It describes art that is non-permanent, short-lived and transient.

Some ephemeral artists use mainly natural materials:-

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Others use man-made materials in a temporary way:-

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Because of its emphasis on the process over the finished product, it is a perfect art style for young children to explore. Think of chalk drawings on the footpath, sand castles at the beach, pictures drawn with a finger on a steamy rainy-day window. Children love these activities, even though (or because?) there is nothing to hang on the wall when they have finished. If they are not happy with what they have made, a quick swipe of the hand and it is gone!

Here are a few examples that my children made last year. I love how they used the things they found in ways I never would have thought of.

Have a lovely weekend!

Moments in Time

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Happy Easter everyone!!

We have been having such a relaxing time of it these school holidays. After a few days away at Kangaroo Valley, we are now home again and have been very busy doing nothing much at all.

There has already been much chocolate eaten (I keep promising myself that after Easter I will start eating better!) and I suspect there will be lots more consumed before the weekend is over.

We went for a walk yesterday, to get out of the house and enjoy the beautiful weather. The kids and Barry kicked the soccer ball, while Molly the dog and I kept a more leisurely pace, and watched the birds diving for fish in the water.

Every now and then, one small, warm hand would find it’s way into mine, and a little person would chat away to me about this and that.  I drink up these moments, realising how fleeting these early years are. When they were very little, it seemed that we would never emerge from baby/ toddlerhood. I was so consumed in the day-to-day, that it didn’t occur to me that one day we would leave this stage, never to return. I now make a point of savouring the little things- tying shoelaces, brushing hair, listening to rambling tales about their day, tucking them into bed, because what seems permanent now, is merely just a moment in time.

While walking, we were also looking for ‘the perfect branch’. One that had fallen from the tree, just the right size, spreading twigs- perfect for our Easter tree. Just when I was about to give up, I saw it, and it now stands on my kitchen dresser, festooned with ribbons, tiny birds, and coloured eggs. It makes my heart sing every time I look at it. It is just so pretty!!

Do you decorate an Easter tree?

Do you sometimes wish that you could slow down time?

Are you planning on eating too much chocolate this weekend?

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One person’s trash….

Exciting times are upon us folks….it’s council clean up week!! I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this concept, but in our city, twice a year, households have the opportunity to place their unwanted goods out the front of their house to be picked up by the council. The sort of stuff that you can’t throw out in your weekly rubbish eg. mattresses, fridges, broken toys etc etc. In amongst the genuine ‘rubbish’ are lots of perfectly good things that people no longer want or need. Hence, the treasure!!

When we were kids, ‘throw out day’ was the highlight of our year. One time my friends and I discovered a whole box of high heels. We immediately put them on (of course!) and teetered all the way home, feeling ever so glamorous. On another occasion, a discarded pram provided hours of entertainment, as we pushed each other up and down the steep hill where we lived.

I am not ashamed to say that clean up week gives me the same thrill now as it did when I was a child. I love going for a quick stickybeak around my local area to see what gems I can uncover.

Speaking of gems……

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Can you believe it?! They’re old, and gorgeous and look perfect on my dresser. I am in love! Especially with this wee fellow..

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My other find was this lantern below. Swoon!! When we (I took my kids along with me for moral support) walked around the corner, I spotted it, in the hands of a man who looked suspiciously like a second-hand dealer. He was holding it, turning it over, this way and that, while I silently willed him to put it down. Luckily my telepathy worked, and as soon as he had put it back and driven off, we swooped over and grabbed it. I gave it a wipe down and put a chunky white candle inside, and it now looks tres elegant on the table on our back verandah. Happy days!

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Over the course of the weekend, we also managed to acquire: two basketball hoops, a hot pink office chair, numerous brand new board games, a wooden garden bench, a set of vintage Christmas decorations, a Pyrex pie dish, three boogie boards, and a hand-knitted blanket. I have meticulously washed and cleaned all of these things; some I’ll keep, others I’ll donate to our local charity shop. I just hate to see waste, and I would much rather these things be given a second chance, rather than end up as landfill. It also gives me a bit of retail therapy without actually parting with any cash!

As Lucie said yesterday…”Mummy, this has been the BEST day!”

The homework station.

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If homework at our house was a book, it’s title would be ‘100 ways to procrastinate – the ultimate guide to putting things off’.

The conversations go something like this – “I need the scissors”, “I can’t find a pencil”, “Where’s my homework book?” and “I left my pencil case at school”.

In an attempt to eliminate this daily struggle, I have created a homework station, which contains everything a little person could possibly need to complete their dreaded homework. I used this trolley, as it is bright, has three levels, and is on wheels. We keep it next to the kitchen bench, which is where the children do their homework. I like being able to keep an eye on them, and be close enough to help when needed.

Pencils, textas, crayons, scissors, eraser, sharpener, ruler and glue sticks live on the top level; homework books are in the middle; and spare paper is kept at the bottom. I try to keep it looking tidy so that the children can get straight into their work, without having to hunt around for what they need.

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I use silver plant pots to hold the pencils, so the children can move them to where they are needed. These pots also help to keep everything organised. I find that the easier it is for children to put things away, the more inclined they are to do so.

I deliberately made the area as inviting as possible as I want homework to be a pleasurable experience, not something to avoid. (hmm..we’re still working on this!) I know that when my office desk is neat, clear and organised, I do feel more motivated to begin work. We also try to stick to a routine when it comes to homework. After the children have unpacked their bags, changed out of their uniforms and had something to eat, they do half an hour of homework. I like to get it out of the way, so they then have the rest of the afternoon to relax and play.

Having all of the drawing materials in the one place also means that quite often, the children will just grab some paper and the coloured pencils, and sit up at the kitchen bench to draw a picture while I am making dinner. I love chatting to them about their day as they draw and colour and create.

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What tips do you have for getting children to do their homework?

Are you a procrastinator, or do you just get stuck in?

Do your creative juices flow when you see a row of perfectly sharpened, coloured pencils?

What’s for dinner?…..ask the menu board!

Are you the type of person who plans your meals a month in advance? Or do you find yourself at five o’clock standing in the kitchen wondering what on earth you can put together for dinner?   I tend to have phases of extreme organisation, which are then followed by weeks of unplanned mayhem. I think my problem so far has been the lack of an easy, simple meal-planning system. WELL…..until now, that is!

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This menu board has been an absolute sanity-saver for me. It took me about an hour to put together, and has saved me many hours since then. I used a cork board which I happened to have already mounted behind the kitchen door, and covered it with four sheets of pretty scrapbooking paper.

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The laminated menu cards sit in their little box (a recycled couscous carton) until it is their turn to be displayed on the board.

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Wooden pegs hot-glued onto the side of the corkboard hold the cards perfectly.

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On the back of each card, I have listed the ingredients needed for each meal, which makes writing my shopping list a breeze.

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As I shop weekly, this layout suits me perfectly. However, you could vary the number of pegs according to how far ahead you wish to plan.

The cards are an easy way of keeping all my regular meal ideas in the one place. As I remember past favourites, or discover new ones, I just make up a new card. They are also a good way of getting the family involved in planning the dinners for the week.

Do you use a meal planner? Or do you decide on the run? What is your family’s favourite dinner? My kids always request burritos!!

Back in the saddle again

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Well, hello again! I’ve decided to get back in the blogging saddle after a long break. It was actually this article that motivated my return, as it reminded me of why I started blogging in the first place:-

I love writing.

There are so many amazingly talented writers out there and it is easy to get discouraged. I had started a few drafts over the past few months, but they just never seemed ‘good enough’. I had forgotten about the pure joy of writing for the sake of writing.

In my work as an early childhood teacher, we are always emphasising the importance of the “process, not the product”.   When a child is doing a painting, for example, we are more interested in the skills the child is learning, and the enjoyment of the experience, rather than the finished product.

I think this approach is just as important for adults. We need to remember to go for a walk because it feels good, not because we want to lose weight. Or to play an instrument because it relaxes us, not because we expect to make a career out of it.

I love that state of flow that writing produces, where you become so immersed in the words and thoughts, that time seems to disappear.

So I’m going to make room for blogging, and concentrate on the journey, rather than the destination.

ps. How amazing is that sunset?! We were driving Lucie to ballet this afternoon, and just had to pull over to admire it. Breathtaking!

What I have learnt from Milly Molly Mandy.

We have, once again,  just finished reading Milly Molly Mandy, the children’s book about a little girl and her family, which was first published in 1925. I love reading these books to my children, as I get as much pleasure as they do (maybe more?) hearing about life in the English countryside in the 1920’s, learning about how they lived their lives, what was important to them, how they grew their own food and sewed their own clothes.

When I am feeling particularly stressed at the end of the day, I like reading about how Mother baked apple turnovers and made jam from the blackberries that Milly Molly Mandy collected. I find it soothing. It seems a long way away from paying the phone bill, updating policy manuals and doing my tax return.

I have also learnt a thing or two from these books:-

Children do not need much to be happy.

Milly Molly Mandy and her friends spend long days fishing for tadpoles, planting pumpkin seeds, making dolls, and picking blackberries.  Their parents are too busy running their farms and shops to be setting up guided play experiences for them.  They do not get driven to ballet lessons and soccer practice; they don’t have playrooms full of the latest toys or wardrobes bursting with fashionable clothes.

When they are not helping with chores or at school, they are free to explore, to learn from and to be entertained by the world around them.

They are also given a lot more responsibilities than children are nowadays. While I am not advocating a return to the work-houses, I do know that children relish being given ‘grown-up’ jobs to do. The children in Milly Molly Mandy cook onions, paint  fences, and polish the brass. These tasks all present challenges, adventures and good deal of fun.

Different generations can live quite happily and productively together.

Milly Molly Mandy lives with her Mother, Father, Uncle, Auntie, Grandmother and Grandfather in their nice white cottage with the thatched roof and “everybody…had some particular job to do-even Milly Molly Mandy”. For example, Mother cooked the dinners and washed the clothes, Grandma did the knitting, Grandpa took the vegetables to market in his pony-cart and Milly Molly Many ran errands.

While I know that this is an exaggerated version of family life in the 1920’s, it was certainly more common then than it is now. Indeed, there are many cultures today where nursing homes are unheard of, and the elderly live with their families, contributing where they can to the running of the household.

Although this is often not a viable or preferable option for many people, it would be nice to see it being encouraged and facilitated by governments through programs such as home visits by healthcare professionals and adequate carer allowances for family members.

‘Make do and mend’ is a sensible and sustainable approach to living.

In the chapter where Milly Molly Mandy is given her own bedroom, her mother and father do not drive to the nearest Ikea and pick up a brand-new, cheaply made and imported bedroom suite that is likely to fall apart within the next five years.

Instead, she keeps the bed she already has, and her Mother dyes the bedspread green “so she has a nice new bedspread”. She also dyes the curtains while she is at it. Grandpa buys a little chest of drawers from the second-hand market, which Uncle paints apple-green. He also paints the frame of an old mirror, to hang on the wall. Finally, Grandma embroiders little birds onto a linen cloth to go on top of the dresser.

Milly Molly Mandy’s bedroom is made all the more special by the love and care that has gone into creating it. Now that it is so cheap and easy to buy everything brand-new, we seem to have lost this ability to repair and refurbish. This book reminds me to think twice before I throw something away and replace it with something new – Can it be fixed? Do I already have something that I can use instead? Do I really need to replace it? If so, can I find one second-hand?

I love being able to share the stories of Milly Molly Mandy with my children, just as my own mother did with me when I was a child. Even she read them when she was young! The stories are as entertaining and relevant today as they were nearly 90 years ago.

Did you read these stories when you were young? Are there any children’s books that have taught you important life lessons? What was your favourite book as a child?