Friday, April 29, 2011

Mochi Time

This week I spent time with my cousin Jacqueline, who is a bit of a Japan-o-phile. She had the brilliant idea of hand-making mochi balls. This is not a tutorial, because honestly, I she did most of the making and it was way too messy for me to even pick up my camera. Also... ours looked... not like mochi should look.

Mochi is a Japanese dessert made from rice flour, water, sugar and potato starch. It is a sticky, glutinous, sweet dumpling that can be filled with fruit (daifuku), flavoured, coloured or plain. And it is devlishly hard to make properly. Jacqueline found instructions on YouTube from a user called 'cookingwithdog'.

...Yes. Cooking with Dog.

In short, make sure you have a lot of potato flour and you are deft with your hands. And you shouldn't be afraid of mess. The woman in that video was a professional.

The ones that Jac and I made look like... doughy blue rocks. But they were soft. We did make it properly, but it took a good 2 hours if not more. And they didn't look great. We filled them with peaches instead and flavoured some with vanilla extract. Fresh mochi is so good! But clearly, requires practice.

Jacqueline about to enjoy Vanilla Peach Mochi!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Easter Egg Mosaics

A challenge was scheduled for this week, buuuut I have an Easter craft I wanted to post, so the challenge will be postponed until next week.  Anyway, this craft is very simple and requires minimal materials, so I think you will find it easy to do with your own children (or students…or nieces, nephews, etc).
I teach in a Pre-K classroom at a Catholic school, and this week we were teaching a unit on the 5 senses.  So, we wanted all of our activities (including art) to incorporate the five senses.  Also, because we are swiftly approaching Easter, we wanted to add in an Easter component.

So, if you take the traditional route to celebrating Easter, you might dye eggs and have an egg hunt.  Well, what to do with all of those eggs after you have found them?  Crush them up into little tiny pieces and make tile mosaic art out of them (duh).  

We are having our Easter egg hunt next week, so we had all the kids paint the eggs in Easter friendly colors.


Then, crush up the egg shells into little pieces (have the kids do it if age appropriate). 


Then, we divided the eggs into cups for each student.  (Preventing any unnecessary, “He got more than me!” fights)


Brush a thin layer of Elmer’s glue onto a piece of paper (we used a thicker cardstock).  


And press the pieces of eggshell onto the glue.  We used this as a teachable moment to talk about the sense of touch and how the eggshells feel and how sometimes you have to break them so they will be flat against the glue.  The kids did much better with this than I actually anticipated, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to develop fine gross motor skills.


And here are the final products drying.  When I get back to school on Monday, I will use the rectangles to make a cross on our class bulletin board.  This will be a nice bridge between Easter traditions (egg dying) and the true importance of Easter for believers. 

Love this activity because it’s (1) great way to recycle dyed eggshells instead of throwing them away (2) easily integrated with other ideas and concepts and (3) the kids really enjoyed it.  Happy (early) Easter!  Hope it’s family filled and beautiful.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Student Base Camp

In times of chaos, I need order. And there is no time more chaotic (in my experience) than final exams. This are the two weeks where I shut my social life right down, arm myself with provisions of snacks and tea and camp out in front of my laptop, a veritable base fortified with textbooks, writing utensils and mountains of paper.

In the foray, you can imagine that important documents get shuffled around, highlighters suffer mass casualties and the only sounds that can be heard are the rapid firing of keys.

Not this year. This year I decided to take the bull by the horns and go down in style. Though these crafts aren’t super fancy, they are also not very labor-intensive and more practical. So I present 2 crafts I  did that help to lessen the mental meltdown that invariably occurs with the approach of each exam.

With laptops, I find it increasingly necessary to bring mine to my bed just so that I can do that last bit of work before I fall asleep. I was also finding that it wasn’t just me on the edge of a meltdown—my laptop was overheating due to resting on my blankets and pillows. To remedy this, I decided to make a simple laptop tray. Nothing fancy, but so functional that it’s almost become a part of my laptop.

To make this, I bought a tray from the dollar store. I also picked up dinner placemats at the dollar store—the kind that is a bit grippy to prevent dishes from sliding. I cut out a size appropriate for the bottom and used regular glue to stick it. After letting it dry fully, I tested it out. Let me tell you, marvelous. My laptop fans never go off anymore. Just having that little sheet of plastic underneath helps immensely and the placemat is good for grip as well as preventing scratches to any surface.

Simple, I know. Come on, it’s finals week.

The second craft was just for fun. I bought some cute bulldog clips to keep all of my papers and handouts together but because they are so small, it is inevitable that some will go missing. So I made a small little container for them out of a teabag container, sheet music and Mod Podge. Decoupage anyone?

                                    And now it’s time to hit the books again.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Home(made) for the Holidays + Give away

Upon seeing the title to this post, I imagine you are thinking, “Holiday…?  Uh…  Easter, maybe?.”  Well, read on.  This post has been in the making for over six months now, so I am very, very, very excited to finally present it to the masses! 

Before I get ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning.  This entire craft was made possible by my great grandma.  She passed away several years ago, and my great grandpa contacted my mom in September to see if she wanted great grandma’s sewing machine.  Which, of course, she didn’t, because she already has one (and a fairly new and fancy one at that).  But my mom, being the lovely human that she is, told great grandpa that I would want it.  Thus began my love affair with sewing.  

It is a Singer from 1985.  It had to go to the sewing machine doctor, because it’s plastic gears deteriorated into small, itty bitty pieces.  And it certainly spent a lot of time at the doctor, but that was ok because during that time my mom pretty much taught me everything any beginner sewer needs to know about sewing machines.  Our first project was an apron from Simplicity 2492 pattern (which you could buy online, or at Hobby Lobby or other fabric stores, I imagine).  It was great.  And it inspired me to take on a time consuming, challenging endeavor.  Make an apron for 12 of my closest and greatest friends in the world for Christmas gifts.  And I came to this conclusion around early November so I didn’t leave a whole lot of time for myself.

At first, I considered picking all of the colors and patterns for my friends.  But then I decided that maybe they would want to have some kind of say of their aprons, so I sent out a slightly enigmatic text to all of them asking them to pick a color.  I then picked fabrics based on their color request.  

I took some pictures of the “during” process, but unfortunately my hard drive died between then and now, so I no longer have those photos.  But oh well.  To make up for my lack of photos, I asked all of my friends to send a picture of themselves wearing the apron, so I could compile them all here.  Below, you will find most of the aprons, with their color request (haven’t received photos from all of the ladies yet, so that’s why all 12 aren’t accounted for!). 
Burnt Orange.
Gold or Cream.
Blue or Green.

I genuinely enjoyed making and giving these so much that I decided to make this The Golden Mean’s very first give-away post!  So if you are interested, please leave your email address, plus a color or two.  I’m not asking for followers, or for other random things, you don’t have to profess your love for me all over facebook or shamelessly advertise this all over your own blog.  Just a simple comment with your email address and colors (if you like something about a specific apron above you can leave that info too so I can try to make an apron that a perfect stranger might enjoy).  I will do a random selection later and if you win, I will notify you via email address.  The only thing I ask is to be understanding in regards to time to find suitable fabric, make the apron and to mail it out!!  

Disclaimer: I am in no way, shape or form claiming to have any ownership of the Simplicity pattern.  I simply used it and would recommend it to anyone else who is looking for a beginner or project or great gift!!

I’m going to keep this open for a few days, notify the winner, and post a new blog post about it in two weeks.  So, let’s say all entries must be submitted by Friday, April 22, 2011. Good luck :) And if you find yourself in need of some great inspiration, please check out all of these wonderful places.  They are incredible and constantly filled with incredible people, things and ideas.
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