Fine art for kids: Overlapping with Hofmann

 - by Sarah Lipoff

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Hans Hofmann loved bright and exciting rectangles and squares and transformed them into vibrant compositions. Many of his paintings include repeated shapes in their own spaces, but sometime they overlapped and blended into each other.

But who the heck is Hans Hofmann? Along with being a celebrated American artist, he was a big player in the world of Abstract Expressionism. And he was also a teacher to many students, furthering the exploration and development of art in the mid 1900′s. His loose brush strokes contrasted with sharp edges and forms creating somewhat simple and even childish paintings that are so interesting.

Perfect for kids as inspiration for making art!

Take a closer look at examples of Hans Hofmann’s art and notice how he wasn’t always an abstract painter. He began his career creating realistic paintings and eventually evolved into his shape paintings, which made him quite famous. Invite your child to name the colors she sees in Hofmann’s paintings as well as the shapes. This is an excellent opportunity to hone color and shape recognition!

Some of Hofmann’s paintings showcase shapes shining on their own while others show shapes overlapping, or placed on top of each other, cutting the forms or blending them together. This created texture and movement within his paintings.

Offer your child a collection of colors of tissue paper and a scissors. If your child is a bit young to yield scissors, you can help by doing this step. But, if you’ve got a scissors-happy kiddo, she can cut lots and lots of squares and rectangles from various colors of tissue. Cutting is great exercise for all those itty-bitty hand muscles in your child’s hands, which benefits handwriting skills and hand-eye coordination.

Next create a glue and water wash by inviting your child to squeeze about 1 tablespoon of glue into a small container and then adding about the same amount of water.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Now your child can begin layering on the tissue paper squares and rectangles, securing them to the paper with the water-downed glue. While creating, the tissue paper will blend together, creating a textured look, just like in Hofmann’s paintings!

Encourage your child to continue working and overlapping the tissue until her whole paper is covered.

Once the artwork is dry, pop it on the fridge for the whole family to enjoy!

 

Francis Drake Eyewear

 - by Sarah Lipoff

francisdrakeeyewear

I have been squinting through super-scratched sunglasses for way too long so was on the hunt for some new shades that would stand the test of time. I happened upon Francis Drake Eyewear and was offered the opportunity to test out their one-stop website to order sunglasses and prescription glasses. The selection is filled with stylish and trending frames — and the price is so right. For $95 you get your prescription fit in any frame and delivered to your door in just about a week. But are they really such a good deal?

The Italian-made sunglasses have a unique five-barrel hinge design that creates a really comfortable feel. Based in the Bay Area, all prescription glasses are hand cut in house and finished with sturdy stainless steel spring hinges, ensuring a great fit. I really liked the weight of the both frames and everything came packaged with cases, cleaning cloths, and a nice little thank you note. And they don’t look or feel cheap in any way — the quality is really high-end.

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If you’re looking for distinctive frames at a great price, Francis Drake Eyewear is the right online store for you. They even have smart tips for fitting the perfect frames with your face shape and a virtual try on feature, which is so helpful.

francisdrakeeyewear3

I love my new sunglasses and frames!

*I was not paid or asked to write this review in any way. I wrote this post because I’m so happy with my new frames and was nicely compensated with free sunglasses and prescription glasses.

 

Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors

 - by Sarah Lipoff

Tinkerlab

My child loves to invent, explore, and create and we’ve been doing fun activities together since she was just a wee tot. Now that she’s a little older, she is starting to experiment on her own. I love watching her make connections and try new things — and then taking pride in the results. But we sometimes get a bit stuck, searching for new adventures and activities to explore together.

If you’re not sure where to start or how to get the creative juices flowing (because it can totally be a challenge!), I have the book for you. Rachelle Doorley, the smart and super-talented mama over at Tinkerlab, shares everything you need in her new book, Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors. And what I love about Doorley’s book is it’s so easy to read, motivating you to start creating right away.

Along with sharing ideas for exciting activities you can do with your child, Rachelle shares tips for starting the process, creating the right space for your child’s tinkering, and ideas for getting kids involved — even with the clean-up process. Doorley also includes interviews with experts, such as education professors and nursery school directors, sharing personal stories and experiences that add just the right touch of guidance and coaching throughout the book.

tinkerlab2

This book? It’s awesome. It’s motivating. It’s encouraging, smart, exciting, fun, silly, and also simple. Make your own paste and mix with paint for creating textured designs? Yes. Construct structures with gumdrops and toothpicks? Of course. Take apart an old computer? Sure! You don’t have to be an expert to do these activities with your child — just a willing participant in the journey of discovery. You might find yourself learning something new too.

Buy your copy here.

Just so you know, I wasn’t asked by anyone or compensated in any way to write this post. I purchased the book all on my own because I knew it would be beneficial — and read from cover to cover. OH and I knew I would USE the information in the book with my child. (And I have.)

Painting with pipe cleaners

 - by Sarah Lipoff

pipecleaner prints

Instead of offering your tot the same paintbrush, hand her a pipe cleaner for a neat twist. Along with using it to create basic line paintings, your child can experiment with bending and forming unique shapes to press into paint and then stamp on her paper. While being creative, she’s also honing her fine-motor skills. And this easy art activity is totally appropriate for kids of all ages — and adults too.

All you need are a few pipe cleaners, some paint, paper, paper plates, and lots of patience and creativity.

Select a few colors of paint to use with your child and squirt on paper plates. I chose to use the primary colors for this project so we could do a bit of color theory exploration while creating. Now offer your child a pipe cleaner and invite her to bend and shape it, making sure to leave a short length of straight pipe cleaner for grasping while stamping.

pipecleaner

Now invite your child to press the formed pipe cleaner in the paint and press on white paper, creating neat organic shapes. Your child can even use the pipe cleaner to create funky lines. Older kids can create patters or designs, while the younger set can simply stamp away.

pipecleaners

I couldn’t resist getting in on the pipe cleaner action and had to experiment making my own unique shapes to stamp into the pant and on my own paper, which enticed my daughter to give my twisted pipe cleaners a try too.

pipecleaner01

Along with creating fun shapes with the pipe cleaners, we noticed how the paint colors changed when mixed together, making this a great project for introducing and exploring color theory. We found red, yellow, ogarange (or orange), purple, blue, geen (or green), and brown in my daughter’s artwork.

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And older kids can really put their fine motor skills to the test by bending and forming really fun shapes to press in paint and then stamp. Here’s my finished creation…

pipecleaner02

 

 

Easy grilled pizza

 - by Sarah Lipoff

grilled pizza

Summer entertaining shouldn’t be about spending hours in the kitchen tossing together elaborate meals when guests come over to play. Nope. Dinner should be effortless, preferably served on paper plates, and cooked on the grill creating hardly any cleanup. When kids are involved, finding a dish that keeps both adults and tots happy can be challenging, but not with this seriously easy dish.

Grilled pizza.

Sure, you can cornmeal your crust and slide your tasty pie directly on the grill, but I erased the worry that yours won’t with my cheap pizza-grilling secret – pizza pie tins from the grocery store, making this my no-fail way to make summer entertaining fun and easy. And you know how much I love pizza (herehere, and here…).

Make things even easier by using a store purchased pizza crust and you are good to go. This is so fun for the kiddies as well as the adults. Each child can create their own pie, and the adults can create gourmet pizzas to kick things up a notch.

So crank the grill and get cooking!

Directions

Heat your grill to medium high heat. You want things to be hot, but not too hot. I’ve got a gas grill, but you can also make your pizza over coals.

Lightly grease one of the aluminum pie pans. I picked up a set of three for about $2 at the grocery store and can usually gets two uses from each before it starts falling apart.

Press the pizza dough into a round on the greased pan into an even crust. You can make your own pizza dough or use store bought, either works just fine. You want the dough nice and thin, otherwise it won’t grill evenly.

Top your pie with whatever you like and then pop directly on the grill – aluminum pan and all!

Cover and let sizzle for 10 to 15-minutes, or until you see the edges just starting to brown and the top to bubble.

Serve with a big salad and you’ve got dinner!

Dying to toss that dough directly onto the grill? Try this suggestion from my friend.

Happy grilling!

Garlic anchovy pasta with kale and cherry tomatoes

 - by Sarah Lipoff

Some nights we feed the tot and then I make second dinner for us. We cozy up after she’s snoozing for a light dinner and maybe a glass of wine (or two) and chat about our days. And who doesn’t love a bowl of noodles? It’s wonderfully comforting and seriously quick and easy.

Garlic anchovy pasta.

Don’t be afraid, the anchovy adds a really rich and salty flavor, and isn’t fishy at all. Browning the garlic in butter creates a beautiful flavor that pairs well with the kale and cherry tomatoes. Or add some browned Italian sausage, slivers of fresh prosciutto, fresh spinach, black olives…. You get the idea. And this pasta dish for two is ready to eat in less than 20-minutes.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter

3 cloves garlic

1/4 teaspoon anchovy paste

1 teaspoon flour

1/4 cup hot pasta water

1/2 cup chopped kale

1/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes

8 ounces cooked spaghetti

Dash of pepper

Directions

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the spaghetti. Let simmer away while making the quick sauce

Place the butter in a small sauté pan and warm over medium heat. Chop the garlic and add to the butter. Keep an eye on that garlic while you devein the kale and give it a chop.

Once the garlic starts to brown, add the anchovy paste and flour, giving the ingredients a stir. Once the flour has incorporated, add the hot pasta water and the kale. Let the sauce simmer until the kale has cooked through, which takes just a few minutes. Add more pasta water as needed

Drain the cooked pasta and toss with the sauce. Add the halved cherry tomatoes, sprinkle with pepper, and dinner is served.

 

Tips for talking with your child about art

 - by Sarah Lipoff

talking with kids about art

Creating art with your child should be a fun experience even if you’re not arty yourself. Keeping in mind that your child is making marks simply for the pure pleasure of it, and not worrying about the result, is an important part of sharing the experience with your tot. And understanding that things are going to get seriously messy is essential too. Along with remembering not to admonish kids for getting smeared while exploring art (which can result in concerns about getting dirty later in life), knowing how to talk with your kids about art is a great way to encourage creativity and the exploration of talents.

And you don’t need to know anything about art to pull off a creative conversation. Here’s what to keep in mind:

Keep it simple: Yeah, that’s right. Keep is seriously simple. Start by looking through art books with your child. You can find ones geared for kids or pick up big and colorful art books from the library to explore. You might be surprised at what your child is interested in. No need to start discussions about color theory or historical details, simply sit with your child and look at the art and let the conversation flow.

Ask basic questions: Initiate some discussion when your child finds an image she’s interested in, which also boosts basic skills. Does she see any shapes in the artwork? What colors did the artist use? What is the artwork depicting? What do you see? How does the artwork make you feel? This way your child relates to the artwork and feels comfortable looking at it from her perspective without being lead by an adult to think or see in a certain way.

Introduce beginning concepts: Now is not the time to discuss whether the painting falls into the category of Op art or Minimalism. Focus on introducing simple concepts, like if the painting is a portrait (of a person) or a landscape (of an outdoor scene). Is it a still-life or an abstract (non-representational). Introduce words to your child and encourage her to repeat them while looking at the artwork. Kids retain so much, which means she might remember later and totally surprise you.

Don’t be afraid: Here’s the thing — a lot of Renaissance art depicts naked ladies. They’re lounging, hanging out in totally absurd locations, and flocked by others. Your child may flip right past that page, or like mine, decided it’s the most fascinating thing she’s ever seen. Don’t be afraid. Ask your child about what she sees in the picture and you might be surprised at her thoughts. Mine told me it was the most beautiful picture of a princess and then decided she wanted to paint a picture of her. Don’t feel the need to explain everything. Really.

art with kids

Be silly: No one enjoys a stuffy lecture (really, they don’t). Art is awesome, so have fun while you’re exploring it with your child. Try to see things from your tot’s perspective, which might change how you see things too. Point out areas that are interesting in artworks, take your child on a field trip to look at art in real life, keep it loose and make learning about art a fun experience.

Talk about it: Use unique words, like gigantic, colorful, swirling, dark, crazy, or amazing when talking about artwork instead of opting for “pretty” or “neat”. Along with looking at art together, you’re encouraging her vocabulary, which is pretty cool too.

Just do it: Really. Instead of sitting here reading this, you should be sitting with your tot and a fun art book. Art is everywhere, even in nature. Go on a hunt for patterns, walk through town pointing out everything that’s blue, or take your child to an art opening.

We’re going to finish my tot’s beautiful princess painting with some glitter glue.

Fine art for kids: Messy with Cy Twombly

 - by Sarah Lipoff

Cy Twombly

Now that the weather is so lovely, the tot and I are having a great time finding fun outdoor art activities to enjoy. It’s also reminded of some of the wonderfully talented modern artists that explored shape, line, and color and how they simply played against each other. Some of our past friends, like Rothko and Frankenthaler, also created fine art showcasing the beauty of simplicity. However, one painting kept coming to mind while hanging outdoors the other day with the tot.

Cy Twombly was mostly known for his child-like scribbles, almost resembling looping lines of chalk on a faded chalkboard. During the mid 1900′s art boom, when artists were exploring minimalism and abstract expressionism, Twombly went his own way and was basically ignored. One of his most recent paintings, Untitled, 2007, has a vibrancy to it along with a contained messiness. It also is full of repeated red flower shapes, dripping color onto a vibrant yellow background.

Red is my tot’s favorite color.

After taking a closer look at the painting, we gathered a few materials to create our own messy Twombly inspired creation. To make that bright yellow background, I taped a sheet of drawing paper to a plastic place mat and dropped a big spoonful of yellow finger paint in the middle, encouraging my daughter to squish and squiggle the paint all over the paper. Older kids can create loops and lines for a more interesting background.

Cy Twombly

While the paper is drying, we created our flower stamp with the help of some cardboard, a plastic cap, and a hot glue gun. If your child is scissor-friendly, she can draw the outline of the flower with a pencil and then cut on her own. Mine’s a bit young, so I helped with this step.

Hot glue the cap, open side down, to the cardboard flower and you’re ready to go. Fold a sheet of paper towel in half and then add a good squirt of red paint. This is the stamp pad for the cardboard flower.

Invite your child to press the flower stamp into the red paint and then on the yellow paper, lifting to reveal a red flower. Continue stamping flowers until your child is happy with the arrangement.

Cy Twombly

Now for the mess! Fill an empty spray bottle with a bit of water, grab the artwork, and head outdoors. Place the creation on a flat surface that’s okay for mess, like the driveway. Invite your child to stand over the artwork and spritz with water. Lift the artwork and watch as the red paint drips and drips, just like in Twombly’s painting.

Once your child is happy with the drippy mess, lay the paper flat until dry.

We had so much fun creating our Twombly inspired messy artwork that we made a few more using different color combinations!

 

Spring vegetable quinoa pilaf

 - by Sarah Lipoff

Spring-veggie-quinoa-pilaf

The other day we hit our local farmers market to load up on all the amazing goodness that’s been growing. Spring has sprung and we’re seeing our first green veggies of the season. From asparagus to green beans, I had a hard time holding back while loading my bags. This recipe makes a great light lunch or a dinner side with grilled chicken or pork chops. And using quinoa instead of rice creates a really hearty and healthy pilaf that’s seriously delicious.

Ingredients

1 cup dry quinoa

2 cups water

1/3 cup raw slivered almonds

1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil

2 cups rough-chopped spring vegetables

1/2 tablespoon butter

1 lemon, juiced

1/2 teaspoon grainy mustard

1 clove garlic, chopped

Salt

Pepper

Directions

Select your favorite spring veggies for creating the pilaf. I had farm fresh asparagus, green beans, and zucchini, which pair perfectly together for this pilaf. If you’ve never cooked with quinoa before, have no fear — it’s easier than you think.

spring veg

Place the water in a small sauce pan and bring it to a simmer. Liberally salt the water and then add the quinoa. Let it simmer uncovered while you prep the rest of the pilaf.
making quinoa

Preheat your oven to 350˚F and place the almonds on a sheet pan. Drizzle with a bit of vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Give the nuts a bit of a stir to evenly coat and then pop in the oven. They’ll be nice and toasty in no time, so set the timer for 5-minutes, which ensures you won’t forget about them.

toasting almonds

Make the dressing for the pilaf by adding the chopped garlic to a sauté pan along with the butter. Once the garlic is sizzling, and slightly browned, turn off the heat and whisk in the mustard and lemon juice.

sauce

 

Take out the almonds, they’re done!

toasted almonds

Now rough chop your spring veggies and steam until cooked al dente.

chopped veg

By this time the quinoa is ready, so give a quick fluff and turn off the heat.

cooked quinoa

Toss everything together and gently stir to incorporate the dressing. Season to taste and the dig in!

quinoa-pilaf

Not a fan of asparagus, green beans, or zucchini? What about fresh spring fava beans, artichokes, or baby spinach? For an extra kick of flavor, top with chopped scallion and a sprinkling of torn basil leaves. I couldn’t resist drizzling our finished pilaf with a bit more lemon and freshly cracked black pepper.

Yum.

Crock pot lasagna

 - by Sarah Lipoff

While hanging out on Pinterest the other day, I got a bit of inspiration. Everyone seems to be using their crock pots to make these amazing things – even lasagna.

Yeah, lasagna.

So I had to try it. I love lasagna and make it often. I like to mix up the ingredients to keep it fun, like using cubed and roasted chicken with a cream sauce or ground turkey with thin strips of butternut squash. I figured for my crock pot lasagna experiment I’d keep things pretty basic – you know, the good stuff. Italian sausage, a big jar of sauce, and lots and lots of cheese.

This is really easy, and you can’t mess it up.

Really.

All you need is a box of no-need-to-boil lasagna noodles, a large jar of your favorite pasta sauce, about 1/2 lbs of italian sausage browned, and 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese. Go ahead and gather whatever else you like in your lasagna. I always toss in some fresh spinach – and I happened to have some of my fresh homemade ricotta in the fridge.

Now get your crock pot cranking on high heat and coat the bottom with a good layer of sauce. I added about 1/4 cup of water to the crock pot, too. This way the bottom of your lasagna won’t get burnt. Cover that sauce with a few of your lasagna noodles. You can break them up to fit in the crock pot.

Sprinkle on a bit of the sausage, and any other ingredients you like, such as chopped mushrooms, olives, spinach, along with a sprinkling of shredded mozzarella. Pour on a bit more sauce and then repeat. Yup, that’s right. Repeat and then repeat, and repeat again. Leave about 1/2 cup of that shredded mozzarella for later.

It’s that simple.

I kept layering until my sauce and sausage were gone and then called it quits. I gave the top a final coating of sauce, along with 1/2 cup of water, and then put the lid on the crock pot and left it to do its thing for about 4 hours.

About a half hour before eating, I dotted the top of the lasagna with 1/2 cup of my fresh ricotta and that leftover 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella. I put the lid on tight and within minutes, my crock pot lasagna was ready to serve.

And it was good.