Monday, January 30, 2012

Panda Party-Magda turns 7!!

Our daughter turned 7 this weekend 
and after she agonized for days and days about what kind of party to have...

Inspiration finally struck.  

In a moment of clarity--(or maybe it was because
is her favorite breakfast cereal....)

Magda knew exactly what she wanted to do...She wanted to have a party for PANDAS!
Greg got on it immediately and googled panda parties and what we found was:

Pandas International is a non profit dedicated to the preservation and the propagation of the Giant Panda by, among other things, raising awareness and education. After a quick swing thru their website, we learned some sad, hard facts about this incredible and adorable animal...

There are approximately 1600 Giant Pandas left in the wild.  300 more of them are in zoos around the world.

The Giant Panda has lived for centuries in coniferous forests with dense undergrowth of bamboo at elevations of 5,000 to 11,000 feet. Rain or dense mist throughout the year shrouds these remote forests in heavy clouds. In the winter snow is common.  Today, these forests are under attack by dramatic increases in human population. Agriculture, ranching, logging, trapping, and human settlement dramatically threaten their habitat. Previously, they lived at lower elevations but farming and clearing of the forest have pushed them higher into the mountains.

The Giant Panda's primary food source, bamboo, is decreasing. Bamboo grows under the shade cover of the large fir trees. Logging and clearing the land for agricultural uses is a major factor in the reduction of bamboo.  The impact of rapid population growth has seen the destruction of significant Giant Panda habitat. In an effort to defend the Giant Panda, the Chinese government enforces a logging ban in the Giant Panda reserves.

The 8.0 earthquake of 2008 was in Sichuan Province, home to the Giant Pandas. The quake buried much of the Giant Pandas' bamboo under tons and tons of rock and mud.

Since the Giant Pandas' digestive system is not very efficient, they must consume large quantities of bamboo every day in order to obtain the nutrition they need.  They eat 25-40 lbs of bamboo a day.

Pandas eat for up to 14 hours a day. Their unique paws make it possible for them to hold the bamboo and bite the stalks. They generally eat in a sitting position but also like to snack lying on their backs.

 Giant Pandas tend to have a low reproductive rate, partly because the females only ovulate two or three days a year.

As you can see, the Giant Panda could use a little help and it was unanimous...
our family thought the SAVE THE PANDA party was an AWESOME IDEA!! 

Greg and I were thrilled and so proud and impressed
with our daughter...Magdalena was super excited to start thinking about fun ideas.
I was DEE-lighted with the prospect of a
BLACK, WHITE and a bright light GREEN color theme!

Miss Margaret, our wonderful friend and neighbor started rounding up all
manner of stuffed panda bears 

and I started going into my usual OVER THE TOP craft mode...

I made panda masks for all the girls (and Luca!)

The Panda Round Up.
courtesy of Miss Margaret

Panda photos decorated the house and the front door.

The best part of the decorations came because Miss Margaret put
us in touch with a neighbor that has bamboo in their back yard.
Greg ran over right before the party, hacked a bunch down and he tied
it up around the front door to greet the guests as they arrived.  This
photo does not do it justice at was very fun, dramatic and it was free!

Huge thank you to you Margaret for all your help!!

Some of the fun decorations I came up with along with the wonderful spread of food.

Extra special loving thanks to Grandmom Chrystie, 
who as usual, swept in and saved the day...

and brought home-made PANDA COOKIES!!  

This banner was fun and easy to make.
I got the idea from House of Smith.

Once all our guests arrived, 
we drew some panda pictures and watched a bit of Ultimate Pandas.  
This great documentary dvd that captures pandas playing and having fun...

Got a ton of ooohs and ahhs from the girls!!

After  that, we had pizza and fruit salad.
Then we dawned our panda masks and went for a
walk in the woods...pretending to guessed it--PANDAS!

We finished off with panda cupcakes--chocolate cake batter with a butter creme frosting to which I added a dash of peppermint extract...then used junior mints and chocolate chips to make little faces.

Finally, each guest was treated to a goodie bag full of panda stickers, panda pencils, panda erasers,
panda pins, panda bookmarks, panda get the idea...

After it was all over, Magda raised more than $90 for Pandas International--so impressive! 
She and her friends had a really great time.
We raised some awareness and the whole affair felt both fun and meaningful.

I cannot recommend this idea enough. 
(Or a variation of it--Save the Elephants, the Tigers, the Whales!)   

We are all trying to raise thoughtful,
conscientious kids, so, seriously when our (then) six year old came up with this idea, we were
just floored--We thought: Wow!  Such a good idea and it was so wonderful that 
this is what she wanted to do..

We are so proud of her BUT! more than anything else...

We can't believe we have a SEVEN year old on our hands now!

Magdalena, we love you so, so much and you are just the best, Sweetheart
and we couldn't more proud of you--if we tried!!

Happy Birthday!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Flowers as Still Life

This weekend, we had some friends over for a little brunch get-together...
both couples have lovely manners
and they each came bearing beautiful bouquets of flowers.

I had bought a bunch after they left, I was so happy to
be surrounded by all this fresh cut beauty.  

I have been thinking a lot, lately, about...

Still Life

Simple compositions...deep, lush
colors...striking, compelling objects of beauty
all arranged and captured forever...

And, how at some point in my life, I would like to learn to paint with oils--
like in the Dutch tradition of the 16th & 17th centuries...

But in the mean time, 
I can start exploring this whole process and 
create something close with photography--

This is what I made this weekend...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Felt Flowers II

Last year--about this time, I made a felt flower can see it here.
I made it for my daughter's 6th birthday party and it was fun & whimsical.

Ever since, I have been thinking about wanting to do another round of felt flowers.  
I love felt and I have a stash of several really good quality pieces in deep earthy fall colors.

In these kind of gray days of winter, I kept wanting to see a pop of color, here and there...
I thought what better place than on me!--pinned to the lapel of my gray wool coat...But I wanted to do something a little more sophisticated than what I did last year and spent some time poking around the internet, trying to find some new ways to make new forms.  

Some of the ideas I came across were a little too time/work intensive for me 
(i.e. cut and glue out many, many petals...uh-uh...) 
I decided to stick with the overall concept that I had done last time, 
but with a change of color palette and the way I cut them, 
I feel that I was pretty successful in trying to achieve a slight more elegant look...
I did some variations, but this is where I got the main idea.

The main idea is to cut a strip of felt approx. 30 inches long by 2 inches wide.  
You make a series of cuts to about 1/4 inch of the base line all the way down the strip.
You can then gather with a garter stitch or roll strip around itself--hot gluing as you go to secure.

You can round the ends or cut them at angles...or leave them as it.  

I hot glue a pin back to the back of the flower and 
then cover it up with a little heart cut out of a contrasting color.

Not at all difficult to make, 

and they add that exact pop of color I was looking for!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Making Honey Whole Wheat Bread

At some point, in my life, I heard or read a quote that went something like this...

"Making bread, by hand, is the sign of a civilized society."

I don't know where or when I read/heard this, 
but for some reason this concept
 has always stayed with me, making a deep impression.

And this weekend, Magda & I made a loaf of honey whole wheat bread.  
We make pizza dough, by hand, actually quite often, 
but there is something about making a loaf of whole wheat bread that feels quite serious.

Its a commitment....a commitment of time, of patience...of energy.  
I think its a wonderful lesson for children and 
I have been wanting to make a loaf with Magda for a long time.

So, this was the weekend...we gathered our ingredients.
And this is what we did...

We let the yeast get foamy in 110 degree water 
for 10 minutes and added honey.

We mixed together the flours: 
whole wheat and bread flour and added salt. 
Making a well in the center of the dry ingredients, 
we carefully added the yeast mixture and stirred until combined.

Got hands ready for kneading by getting them covered with flour.

Floured our work surface.

And kneaded dough, by hand, about 10-15 minutes.

Until our elastic ball formed.

We let our dough rise, covered and in a warm spot, until doubled in size--about 1 1/2 hours.

We then returned the dough to a lightly floured surface, and punched it down.  
Flattening the dough into an oval, we rolled it up lengthwise. 
Placed the roll, seam-side down, into a prepared pan.  
Covered and place the loaf in a warm place, 
and let rise again until doubled in size, 30 to 45 minutes.

We then cut a slit down center of loaf and 
brushed top with a bit of cream mixed with an egg yolk..
Baked in 400 degree oven for 50 minutes. Let it cool slightly.

Removed from pan, sliced...

Added a little butter...

and enjoyed!!

complete recipe from here.

It is very important to me that my kids learn--not only how to make good food, 
but to truly appreciate and respect what they eat.

And it's true: 
making good bread is an art form...
but its really not that hard (or expensive!) and
 if you've ever consider making a loaf but felt intimidated, 

just try it...

You might be surprised at how well it turns out and how civilized you will feel!

: )