Thursday, February 27, 2014

How a Geeky Hippie Throws a Royal Tea Party

Happy Birthday, A Jie!
Today is my beloved sisterfriend Ling's birthday. Ling and I have been friends since 1996. She is the big sister I have always wanted, the calm in the eye of many of my storms. We started off as student and advisor during ECASU96, became roommates when we both moved to San Francisco in the early 2000s, got married within two weeks of each other in 2003, sadly moved away from each other for a few years, then reconnected in the Seattle area in 2010. Now our children are growing up together. 

Our individual Venn diagrams awesomely intersect in arts/crafts, geekiness, hippie activism, and food, glorious food. Our mutual favorite is Indian food; Ling bought me my first cup of masala chai in the Inner Richmond neighborhood of SF almost 15 years ago. (If you have enjoyed my Mahinakama Masala Chai concoction, then you should thank Ling for getting me hooked on the stuff.) We are both sad, oh so sad, that our children do not share our fondness for this yummalicious cuisine. So every once in a while, we sneak off together for Indian food and leave the daddies to eat macaroni and cheese with the wee ones.

Luckily, there is one meal that all the ladies can agree on: TEA PARTY! We all love little sandwiches and treats and tea. Well, the girls like "light tea", which is milk with a couple tablespoons of tea mixed in. Ling and I had talked about having a real tea party with our girls for so long--since Ling's 2013 birthday, in fact--and finally, five months later, I got it together.

This is how a geeky hippie throws a royal tea party, y'all.

A couple of weeks before the party, I sent this postcard to Lady Ling and her daughters, Duchess Nadiya and Countess Kalani, inviting them to tea. 
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Astute Lord of The Rings fans will note that I named our tea party after a favorite hobbit meal. Ling and I love us some LoTR! Back in The Time Before Kids, we sat in line for every midnight premiere of the trilogy with our hubbies. I still remember sitting on blankets out in the chilly Bay Area winter air, knitting to pass the time until we could gaze upon our beloved Legolas. Good geeky times.

Anyway, on the Elevensies Tea menu, we had:
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- Mahinakama Masala Chai for Lady and Baroness
- rooibos chai for the wee royals
cucumber sandwiches
- baked animal-shaped quesadillas
- baked brie w/ strawberry jam on top
- crackers w/ goat cheese & ikura
- mini-vanilla cupcakes with vanilla, chocolate, and mango (OH YES) icing 
- Trader Joe's scones (ran out of time to make them from scratch)
- strawberries & fresh whipped cream

On the morning of the party, I made the food and teas, then set the table, placing a few sprigs of fresh-cut lavender in a glass bottle. I used my "bitter divorcee" teacup and saucer set and fancy glass tea plates, all from thrift shops because I'm a big ol' hippie.

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Hippie Hula Mama Tip: Always use thrift shop dishes for kiddie royal tea parties. They look and feel fancy, so the girls feel like they are having tea like real grownups, but if the dishes happened to go crashing to the floor, Baroness Cookie would not be put out. 

Finally, the Lady, Duchess, and Countess arrived. All the wee royals were dressed in their finest princess dress-ups; tiaras optional. We all sat around the table and feasted. We drank our tea with our pinkies raised, of course, and used our very best manners.

Cutest royal highnesses ever
After the wee royals were done with their tea, they retreated to the basement playroom where they unleashed the energy they had been holding back during the tea party. Ling and I poured each other another cuppa, put up our feet, and filled up our plates again. We ate and chatted and ate and laughed. For such a tiny person, Ling has an enormous laugh. I am able to hear her laugh from across seven aisles at Target. 

It was a lovely royal tea party. Bust out your calendar, A Jie! Let's make this an annual event!

"And we'll never be roooyals (roooyals!)" We'll just have royal tea parties.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Art is Awesome!: Calder Jungle Animal Mini-Stabiles

As promised, here is Tala's class project. They happened to be learning about the jungle during the first week of February, so her teacher asked me to design a jungle-themed "Art is Awesome!" project. Mission accepted! 

Part of the lesson on Alexander Calder was an excellent artist biography for kids called Sandy's Circus that I read to both Diana and Tala's classes. Although my Powerpoint presentations about the artists we study are short, sweet, and (I'd like to think) engaging, nothing fires up a kid's imagination quite like a good story. 

Here's one of my favorite pages, which talks about how little Sandy Calder built cool things for his sister and friends out of what other people might consider junk. Awesome!

Now let's talk about Calder Jungle Animal Mini-Stabiles. What's a stabile (STAY-bill)? It's an abstract sculpture, usually made out of wire or metal, that looks like a mobile but doesn't have any moving parts. Calder's stabiles are massive; one of his most famous stabiles is in Chicago's Daley Plaza. Our stabiles are mighty but mini.

As I've mentioned, I tend to design a project for Diana's kindergarten class and just scale it down for Tala's preschool class. I found that previous projects weren't scaled down nearly enough; either the preschoolers needed a lot of help and guidance from the grownups in the room to complete the project or they lost interest and the projects ended up half- or hastily-completed. So, with this project, I scaled WAY down. 

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  1. felt animal stickers
  2. beads o' many shapes in the colors of the rainbow
  3. letter beads (Thanks again, Betsy!)
  4. pipe cleaners in the approximate colors of the animals' tails (I cut these in half, making roughly 6"-long tails.)
  5. clothespins (which are apparently only sold in the art aisle, not the laundry aisle)
  6. Pencil (not shown)
  7. Scissors/X-acto knife (not shown) 
  8. Elmer's glue (not shown)
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Prep Instructions
  1. Look at how adorable these felt animal stickers are!
  2. Cut off the felt animal's cute little tail. 
  3. Trace the outline of the clothespin on the back of the animal sticker.
  4. With an X-acto knife, cut the paper off just the bit you traced.
  5. Dot the surface of the exposed sticker with Elmer's glue. The stickers are sticky, but not sticky enough to securely hold a clothespin.
  6. Attach the clothespin to the sticker. Press firmly for a few seconds. Let dry.
  7. Attach the pipe cleaner by threading it through the hole of the clothespin and twisting twice. This will be the animal's new tail.
  8. Look below for the class instructions.
Class Instructions
  1. Pick one bead of each of the colors of the rainbow. You can substitute pink for purple.
  2. Thread each bead onto the animal's tail.
  3. Find the first letter of your first name in the letter bead tray.
  4. Place that letter bead onto the end of your animal's tail.
  5. (Grownup) Twist the end of the pipe cleaner around the letter bead twice so it's "sealed".
  6. Bend the pipe cleaner in different directions so your animal tail displays a colorful beaded rainbow!
Hello, Zebra. You are supercute and functional as a bookmark or memo-holder.
There you have it! If you want to scale it up a notch, maybe for kindergarten or first- to second-grade, consider making the tails out of 24-gauge jewelry wire. Also consider attaching a thin magnetic strip onto the back of the clothespin so you can hang your stabile on the fridge as a memo holder. 

Hello, Magneto Memo Lion. I want to hug you and pet you and love you and call you George.
Finally, it seems crafting naturally leads to hoarding. This is now taking up space in my craft supply box:

That's right. It's a tiny bag of tiny felt animal tails.
Anyone have ideas on how I can use these? 

Ooh! Ooh! I should start a web series called Craft Chopped! "Can you create an objet d'art using the wacky craft supplies hidden in your baskets before time runs out? You have 30 minutes to make something beautiful and/or useful with... tiny felt animal tails, a hot glue gun, a plastic headband, and duct tape. Time starts now!"