Fine art for kids: Mondrian art activity for toddlers

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

The days are getting shorter, but the afternoons sure seem to be getting longer. Those hours after the wee tot wakes up from nap are sometimes super challenging, with crying, wailing, foot stomping, and plain boredom (and I’m not just talking the babe). Time to get out the paints!

Young kids might not seem like they can do much more than scribble, but that’s what they are supposed to do. During a child’s first creative marks, she is figuring out how to hold a crayon or paint brush and learning what she can do with it. That doesn’t mean she’s too young to try new things, learn more about art – or look at famous art! Repetition is key, and doing the same thing over and over sure helps hone skills (such as holding a mark making implement) but can get boring for parent and child. So, why not mix things up with the help of a famous artist – Mondrian!

Piet Mondrian was an interesting artist who painted in a way no one had done before. At first he painted in a realistic manner, but later began exploring cubism, a movement in art where things were a bit more abstract and angled. This is when he discovered the wonders of squares and painted some of his most famous artworks such as Composition with Yellow, Blue, and Red. This is a simple painting focusing on geometric shapes and the primary colors, which is great inspiration for an artwork your wee tot can totally master!

Help your child get started by using some black plumbing or electrical tape. You probably have some hiding in your junk drawer or the garage or basement. Cut lengths of the tape and create a geometric design on a sheet of 9 by 12-inch white construction or drawing paper for your child to enjoy painting. Older kids can cut and position the strips of tape on their own, creating a Mondrian inspired design.

Share with your child examples of Mondrian’s artwork. Encourage her color recognition skills by pointing to each color and seeing if she can tell you what it is. For the really wee tots, this is a wonderful opportunity to build language development! And, don’t forget discussing the shapes she sees in the painting. This introduces shapes and math concepts to your child. Older kids can see if they can count all the shapes in the painting!

Now your child can use red, yellow, and blue tempera or watercolor paint to fill in the squares. Don’t worry if she’s not into staying in the lines – younger kids don’t always get that concept. Older kids can concentrate on staying in the lines and not having the same color square positioned next to each other – just like Mondrian!

Once your child’s Mondrian inspired creation is dry, it can be placed in a frame and displayed somewhere in your home showing your child how much her artwork means to you!

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

Chocolate crackers



© Sarah Lipoff 2011

The other night I was in a bad way. I needed chocolate something fierce and all that was hanging about in my pantry were a few dusty items, including some super tasty cocoa. But, sadly, you just can’t eat good Dutch cocoa straight from the fancy box. It has to be masterfully combined to create a torte or soufflé or something. And it was way too late to go down that route. I munched on a couple old and super pathetic crackers and pretended they were coated in dark chocolate.

In the morning I still had a hankering for something chocolate and those lame-0 saltines had me thinking. With some super basic ingredients, couldn’t I make chocolate crackers? It couldn’t be that hard, could it? So, I did some research and didn’t really come up with much. The closest recipe I found was for chocolate graham crackers.


I just wanted CHOCOLATE crackers.

So, I did some experimenting and came up with a recipe that even got my husband-who-doesn’t-like-sweets chowing these like they were the best things ever. He even claimed they were better than the tops to Oreo cookies.

And, I can’t say I disagree.


1 1/4 cup white flour (you could use whole wheat, too – or half white flour and half whole wheat)

1/2-teaspoon salt

1/2-cup good cocoa

1 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1-teaspoon baking powder

1/2-teaspoon vanilla

1/2-cup cold butter cubed

1 Tablespoon milk  – or you could use cold coffee or espresso

How to make the tastiness

Measure all the dry ingredients into your trusty food processor and pulse. Then add the cubed cold butter, vanilla, and milk and pulse until it forms a ball. Remove the goodness from your food processor (I dare you NOT to taste it) and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the fridge to cool for at least 30 minutes. Cold dough will roll easier.

If you don’t have a food processor, place the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Then, slowly cut in the cold cubed butter. Yes, I know, you are already getting tired, but it WILL be worth it. Slowly add the vanilla and milk until it forms a smooth dough. If you can still feel your arms, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge.

Remove your chilled dough from the fridge and dust your work surface with flour. Preheat your oven to 325 Fahrenheit and get ready to roll! Pinch off half the dough and generously dust with flour. Gently roll the dough until it is about 1/2 inch thick.

Get out a fun cookie cutter, or just use your pizza roller to cut the dough. Place the lovely bits onto a sheet pan that has either been lightly greased or, if you’re fancy and have some, covered with parchment paper.

Before placing in the oven, use a fork to gently prick the top of your wee crackers. Then bake for 7 to 10 minutes.

This recipe made lots and lots of little round crackers that totally took care of my chocolate craving. You could place a lovely filling inside the crackers to make fun treats or enjoy them on their own.

(I ate half the batch straight from the hot oven.)

Oh, and these would be great little treats for the kiddies. You could totally create a healthy after school snack by dipping these little chocolate tasties in plain yogurt or giving a couple a coating of peanut butter. And, kids love rolling and cutting out dough – so they could totally help out making lots and lots of these tasty goodies!



© Sarah Lipoff 2010

The truth is I got so caught up with the babe’s fever that my plans for creating a fun and absolutely fabulous Halloween costume have totally disappeared. As always, I had some pretty grandiose plans earlier in the month. That was before I got a couple of writing assignments, got caught up watching baseball (really, I did), and busy dealing with sick baby. I finally took a quick peak at the calendar today and realized – gasp – that Halloween is but a days few away!

This made me even less motivated to try to get my creative juices flowing or even go near the sewing machine. The thing is, little kids could care less about dressing up. We, as parents, do it so we can snap thousands of pictures of the adorable moment and then laugh amongst ourselves while watching the wee tot pull desperately at the darn costume doing anything they can to tear it off. Finally, we end the torture and let them walk around with half the costume on, which is still pretty cute.

My child is WAY too young for trick or treating. But, we have some wonderful friends that invited us over to help pass out candy and then maybe parade our dressed-up children up and down the street for fun. So, of course, I need to have something absolutely fabulous to toss her into for the special occasion. And, it’s Halloween after all.

But, I refuse to buy a costume. In all the years I dressed up, I don’t remember mom tucking me into a pre-purchased Cinderella outfit or plopping me into a zip-up-the-front Elmo. I’m not saying buying your own costume is a bad thing – I’m just not into it. Earlier in the month, I had visions of creating a flower head-piece and a green shirt with felt leaves attached. I’m now leaning toward her hippie-print pajamas I picked up two weeks ago and lots of beads and bracelets.

So, crafty mammas and daddies out there, what’s your favorite homemade costume? Anyone want to share?

Healthful Mondays: The temperature

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

Friday was a pretty innocent day. I did some work in the morning, my husband stayed home to play with our daughter, and we had an all around good day. That is until the evening rolled around. It always seems craziness happens after things are closed. Bedtime for our daughter was coming close and we noticed she seemed a bit sluggish. In fact, she was being down-right cuddly, which is somewhat unusual for our always-in-action babe.

We’ve been super lucky and haven’t had a trip to the hospital with out daughter, or the doctor (even after the fall down the stairs), and would like to keep it that way. She’s had her basic runny nose and stuff, but definitely nothing major. So, when I reached for the ear thermometer and it gave me a reading of 102 I just about freaked! Do I load her into the car for a trip to the emergency room? Do I fill the tub with ice?

I gave her a cold bottle of milk, put her in a onsie, cozzied her up in her crib, and did some research. It turns out that running a temperature is a pretty normal thing for wee tots, and unless there are other symptoms along with the temperature, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or has a rash somewhere on her body, she’s just fighting an infection. Dr. Sears told me to give her some baby medication and to stop freaking out.


Hiding in the back of the cupboard was some baby Tylenol that told me how much to administer on the package, which my babe sucked up, and then I sat down to try to calm down and wait at least 30 minutes before shoving the ear thermometer back into her now tender-from-being-checked-too-often ear. My husband told me to calm down, too, which got him a not-so-great look from me.

As I paced about (and my daughter snored away in her crib) I did a bit more research on this temperature thing. It turns out that a low-grade or common temperature is under 103. Parents only need to really seek out medical attention when a child’s temp soars over 103 and they have odd symptoms such as diarrhea, bumpy things on their body, or seriously lethargy – or the inability to wake up. Then it’s time to head to the emergency room! Really, it’s called go with your gut. If you feel something isn’t right, it’s time to dig out the home/cell phone number of your pediatrician or head to the closest hospital!

Within the hour my daughter’s temperature returned to normal, and even though she seemed a bit off for the rest of the weekend, her temperature totally went away after a day or so.

She’s back to her normal self opening all the kitchen cabinets and banging the pots and pans together.


© Sarah Lipoff 2010

My daughter has a few words she has mastered – cheese, baba, and shoes. Shoes is her favorite of the moment, and it’s largely due to her NEW shoes. Her last pair of shoes were pretty cool, but these new ones have her screaming SHOOOOOOOOOES the moment she wakes up in the morning.


A couple of months ago I stumbled upon ShooShoos while looking for baby shoes for my newly-walking-just-turned-one-year-old. I wanted a step up from those baby baby shoes because she was stomping all over the place and needed something that would be easy on her feet, and easy for her to get on and off (because in my silly head I assumed she’d figure out how to put them on herself).

Anyway, I found the ShooShoos website just in time. They were having a sale so I ordered a pair for her to use right away and a pair for later. They are soft rubber soled shoes with an upper made out of leather and a wonderful velcro strap. Yeah- no strings! It doesn’t hurt that the shoes have adorable flower embellishments, either.

The price was right – really right! Kid shoes are expensive, and when you realize how quickly they grow out of things, spending more on shoes for your tot than you do for yourself is a bit frustrating. So, I placed my order and happily strapped her new walking shoes on when they arrived.

Well, that was just about a year ago. Those wee shoes were worn well (and still in great shape – just way too small), and we’ve even gone through a pair of sandals. So, when the weather turned cooler and those sandals had to make a disappearance, I dug out the other pair of ShooShoos and popped them on.

And they haven’t come off since.

Yesterday she even napped with them on.

Thanks, ShooShoos!

(I think)


Fall leaf painting

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

Well, fall has definitely made its presence known at my house in more ways than one. We all are a bit stuffy in the nose, causing a whirl-wind wipe-down extravaganza. Cleaning really isn’t my thing, but it sure is beneficial when you have a child that puts everything in her mouth. Everything.

So, the other day after spending a couple of hours sanitizing the bathrooms and most of the other areas of our home, I noticed some really beautiful fall colors peaking through my newly washed windows. Living in California, you don’t get much of a big change of seasons, but we have a monster of an oak tree,which makes our little corner of the world seem full of fall.

I headed outside,  while the babe was still napping, and collected a few of those fallen leaves and a couple that were still barely hanging on. I figured we could enjoy a fun fall art project once she awoke from her beauty sleep.

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

My daughter is still a bit young to get the hang of doing leaf rubbings, but she sure knows her way around a paintbrush. I decided to help her out with this festive fall project by starting the first part myself. I picked out the red, yellow, and orange crayons and positioned a few leaves under a sheet of white paper, then gave the whole thing a good rub down using the side of the crayon. The wonderful pattern of the leaves colorfully shined through. Your child could also use a white or black crayon to see how his artwork would be different. Hey, he can use whatever colors he wants – as long as he’s having a good time! Using the side of the crayon to rub against the paper encourages your child’s fine motor skills, and helps develop all those itty-bitty muscles in his hands.

Once the babe was awake, I strapped her in her trusty high chair (that’s pretty much only used for art projects these days) and got her ready for some painting. You see, crayons are oil based, which repel water. When your wee tot paints over that crayon rubbed paper, those details from the fall leaves will pop right through! You can encourage your child to pick colors to paint over the leaves that he sees around him, such as red, yellow, or orange. This way his finished leaf painting will really look like those fall leaves out in the yard.

My daughter so enjoyed painting over the fall leaf crayon rubbing with her paintbrush that she even used some of the leaves, too! Hey, why not, right?

And, you just KNOW how much I love to make cards! This was a perfect creation to be the front of a fall card to fill with pictures and send off to great-grandma.

Totally perfect!

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

Healthful Mondays: The eyes have it

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

I wear contacts, which means each year I am supposed to get my eyes checked to update my prescription and ensure my eyes are healthy. I’ll be honest, I haven’t been so good about doing this (money was tight, I’m lazy), but had some extra cash at the end of last month and figured it was time to see the optometrist.

You see, it’s not just paying for the eye exam, then there are contacts to be ordered and also glasses to be purchased. The whole shebang can add up – and I’m not the most excited shopper in general. So, spending time looking at myself and picking out glasses frames isn’t my favorite way to spend the day.

The eyes are the window to the soul. Your eyes are bigger than your stomach. The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend. There are many famous sayings about the eyes, but the real deal is that they truly are an essential part of the body making up one of the five senses – sight. Eye health is important to me and I try to give them a good workout daily – along with feeding them lots of vitamin A and antioxidants. And, having an up-to-date prescription is super helpful for eye health, too.

After getting my eye exam, being pronounced eye-happy, and handed a new prescription, the contacts were ordered and the hunt was on for new frames. The husband and I just discovered the Alameda Point Antiques Faire and KNEW I would find some fun frames there. While walking through the faire last month we had seen a wondrous selection of vintage frames from Allyn Scura Eyewear, and I was determined to find the right pair.

The Alameda Point Antiques Faire is held on the first Sunday of each month, so earlier this month, we headed out with prescription in hand, and I gathered my (very small) powers of patience to battle the crowd to find the best glasses frames possible. When we came upon the spot, it was full – as always. This guy has a huge selection – and the biggest amount of calm I’ve ever seen. There were people shoving frames at him left and right, and every question and inquiry was given polite attention along with a smile.

After spending a good 20 to 30-minutes searching I found the frames. Yes, the child was not excited about being waylaid nor was the husband much help, but when I made my way to the front of the line to get my glasses, I was not only amazed with the reasonable price but the personal service provided. Everything was tucked away and I was told my glasses would arrive in a couple of weeks.

Within two-weeks my new glasses arrived – and they are awesome – along with a lovely case AND a hand-written thank you note.

Totally kick-ass.


© Sarah Lipoff 2010

Well, it’s official. Our cat is deaf. It’s a little sad – and a bit entertaining at the same time. I really didn’t figure it out until a couple of days ago when I noticed she wasn’t awaiting our arrival at the door to yowl for food, which is her normal behavior. In fact, she was sleeping so soundly I actually nudged her to make sure she was okay.

The cat was still breathing – but what I didn’t realize was that she couldn’t hear us coming up the stairs to alert her of our arrival to then stand at the top of the stairs and begin her ritual yowling.

After a few days, I asked the hubs about it. He clapped around her, stomped his feet, said her name… She eventually (with total disdain) turned her head to him. He declared her perfectly fit.

I did some research with my trusty computer and was told to do the vacuum test. Basically, turn your vacuum on when your cat’s back is turned and see if they bolt – unless you have a cat that loves the vacuum, but I’m not really sure if I’ve ever heard of a cat that LIKES the vacuum.

The other day, Delilah was happily lick-licking away at her long black fur so I picked up the handy-vac and turned it on. Nothing. I even went so far as to vacuum her. Nothing. She didn’t even turn her head. If fact, she meowed.

Either we have a cat that totally doesn’t care anymore or a cat that is totally deaf.

I’m leaning toward the deaf thing.

I still think she’s an awesome cat and love the fact that she lets our daughter sit on her, pull her tail, and squeeze her around the neck. I realize now that part of the deal is Delilah can’t hear her coming, so is potentially more tolerant to the babe because of it. But, she also gets loads of affection out of the deal – along with lots of leftovers from the daughter’s dinners.

Salmon patties

© So says Sarah...

The babe – and the rest of us – aren’t eating enough fish. In fact, we are eating NO fish. Partially due to salmon being so expensive, and the husband’s refusal to eat farm-raised, there hasn’t been much fish going on. I’ve tried lots of other options such as cod, tilapia, snapper….. It seems the fish my husband is really in love with is salmon. Fresh. Non-farm raised. Salmon.

Well, I can’t have us missing out on all that healthful omega-3 fatty acid, so the other day I found a cheaper option, and also satisfied a craving I’d been having. My mom used to make salmon loaf with canned salmon and crushed crackers. It may not sound like yummy vittles to you, but I have fond memories of that salty squishiness. I figured why not make tasty and toasty salmon patties? Really, it seemed like the best option.

At the local fancy-shmancy grocery store I found a can of well-priced canned salmon that stated it wasn’t farm-raised (although I had my doubts) and happily toted it home to make my salmon patties. All I can say is there aren’t any left….


1 14.75-ounce can of salmon

2 eggs

1 Tablespoon milk

1/4 teaspoon mustard

1 small green onion chopped

1/4 cup shredded parmesan

1 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Dash of salt and pepper

2 Tablespoon vegetable oil for toasting (well, frying actually – but calling it “toasting” makes it seem better)

How you make the loveliness

Open and drain the can of salmon and plop it in a medium bowl. This isn’t the most appetizing stuff, but you ARE going to make it better! Mix in the eggs, milk, and mustard.

Sprinkle the salt, pepper, and baking soda over the mixture along with half the flour. Once the flour has been thoroughly mixed, fold in the rest of the flour, the parmesan cheese, and the green onion.

Coat a large frying pan with the oil and heat over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, you can add heaping spoonfuls of the mixture to the pan, gently pressing them into oval shapes – or circles, whichever you like.

Allow the salmon patties to toast for a couple of minutes on each side, about 3-4, and then flip revealing toasty brown goodness. Once both sides are evenly browned, drain the patties on a paper towel and allow to cool.

Serve the salmon patties with tartar sauce, place a couple between some slices of toasted bread smeared with mayo and some spinach leaves, or roll in a whole-wheat tortilla along with some sour cream and salsa.

My daughter couldn’t get enough of these salmon patties dipped in plain Greek-style yogurt.



© Sarah Lipoff 2010

I would love to share with you a wonderous recipe or exciting fall art activity, but the honest truth is that I’ve been super lazy these last couple days. The babe’s been fighting a dripping nose, it’s been hot (like in the 90’s), and I’m totally not motivated. After being a human tissue for a couple of hours, battling with the babe over naps, and then getting a couple of bits of work in, I’m so not feeling the crafty vibe.

Oh well.

There’s nothing wrong with being lazy – in fact I think sometimes we are all trying to get too much done and then everything is over super fast. The other day, I enjoyed a long walk (in this heat) with the babe and we just strolled, and strolled, and strolled. We didn’t really have a destination or reason to rush back. I wasn’t expecting any important emails or phone calls, so we just meandered about pointing at leaves and waving at cars. I even caught myself thinking about nothing. NOTHING.

It was pretty nice.

Then, yesterday, instead of doing our usual afternoon routine of washing dishes, cleaning, laundry (blah, blah, blah) we decided to sit and watch a movie – and eat grapes. My daughter was wanting some cuddles, so instead of rushing her out of her lazy nap mode, we snuggled in our big bed and watched a cheesy movie, which I don’t even remember, but we sure had a great time singing, pointing, and jabbering.

When my husband arrived home after his long day and made comment about the state of affairs the house was in, I didn’t even get nasty with him. I simply told him that I was lazy and didn’t get to it. I was having far too much fun relaxing and sharing some wonderful bonding time with the wee tot.

Really – what could he say to that?