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Adventures in Art, Design, Education and Parenting

Easy Things To Make For Your Kids

May 18, 2015


Mini 'Paris in a box' kits

I spend so much time making things for Noctiluna, things to sell, things for other people’s kids and homes, and I love what I do. However, I have an admission to make; I rarely craft things for my own kids, I never seem to have the time. We do a lot of crafty projects, but I don’t really make them things. This reminds me of the old saying “the carpenter’s children have no shoes”. My kids often wear Noctiluna shirts, but more often than not, they are the shirts that I can’t sell, the ones with the little smudges on the collars, or the wonky labels. Once, I specifically designed and printed a unicorn shirt for my daughter, and I did print a rocket on my son’s school bag last year, but more often than not, I just buy them things made by other people. They both have their birthdays in May, and this year I have been making things for them. Easy, foolproof things, nothing complex, because, well, I don’t have much time, and I can be a bit of a scatterbrain.


My nine year old daughter is obsessed with two things: the new Cinderella film, and Paris. She is learning French at school, and is fascinated by French culture.She likes nothing better than sitting outside a cafe with a croissant, and practicing her French on very confused friends (poser).  Well, the stars just happened to align in her favor this year, and during my summer camp research sessions, I kept bumping into things that she would love.

I have blogged about the website before, it is an amazing resource for parents and educators alike. I found a great printable “mini Paris kit” on the site. Easy as pie, print, cut, and fold, find a tin of Altoids, empty the contents (don’t eat them all at once), jazz the tin up a bit, et voila! There are loads of other free printables on the site as well – I printed out some cityscapes for my son and his friends to color in and play with at his birthday party as well – they are a great party give away.

My daughter is still into dolls, and she fell in love with Maileg’s knitted mice in match boxes – they look so vintage and cute. I cannot knit to save my life, but I just happened to be researching paper dolls for a camp. So I drew a family of mice on some paper, stuck the drawings onto card (empty cereal boxes work well), and cut them out with little flaps to stand on. I used fabric scraps to sew a little mattress to fit into a matchbox (unsure what to do with all the matches, though), and put the whole family into one box.  Matchboxes aren’t very pretty any more, so I decorated the box as well. I got so into this that I foolishly made a family of animals for my four year old son as well, knowing full well that they will be destroyed in a matter of minutes.

Finally, have a look at this EASY knotting method for making tutus that a friend found for me on Pinterest. I have been using it to make tutus to sell with baby onesies, and decided to make my daughter a Cinderella tutu. You can buy beautiful long Cinderella tutus at Kohls, but again, they are so, so, pricey. Just use longer strips of tulle (the glittery tulle really put a smile on my daughter’s face), and pop a few fabric butterflies into the skirt.

Also, I found the BEST skin markers for drawing tattoos on the kids. The colors are so bright and glittery that It doesn’t matter that they get rubbed off in minutes. I want to use them again and again, and the kids are very pleased.

Now if I could only come up with a project that involves using up large quantities of Altoids and matches. Hmmmm…..

Montessori, Murals, and Mayhem!

May 12, 2015


My family room

I never managed to blog last week; May is always the busiest month of the year for me. I had my babies in May and, weirdly enough, so did many of my friends, so there are birthdays to plan and attend, and many, many presents to buy and give. May is also a month of festivals – this year I am selling at the MoCo Strawberry Fest, and ViVA Vienna.
Aah May, bringer of annual pediatric check ups, school orientations, end of year exams, and end of school mayhem (Sorry, I pun like an idiot when tired), and the Noctiluna Summer Camps loom ever nearer.
Long story short, May is a busy month.

I was going to blog about the stress, but you don’t need to hear any more about that.

Instead, I’ll tell you about something lovely:

A friend of mine is opening a new Montessori preschool in Vienna. This is wonderful, because my friend is wonderful. She is a wonderful educator, who has helped my 4 year old son immensely, and there aren’t nearly enough good full-day preschools in Vienna (I should know!).

I visited the site last week, and I’m beyond excited. The building is full of big, bright windows, and has great outdoor work/play areas. I’m also excited because in all probability I will be running the Noctiluna camps from this awesome place next year.

As if all that was not exciting enough, my friend has asked me to paint a mural at the entrance of her school. Of course, I squealed in delight, and made the builders knock things over.

It’s a little known fact, but I have actually painted a public mural before. It was a long time ago, when I was a twenty-something, on Cable Street in East London (no, no, not the famous one, the other one). I’m not sure if it is still there, it’s possibly covered in graffiti, or a fresh coat of paint, which is fine. I painted it to publicize a new youth IT training center opening nearby. I have  been wanting to paint another one for a while now.

To celebrate, I tried out my skills on a small wall in my family room, and now I just want to paint on everything!! My kids are delighted, the house may look very different by the Summer.  I’ll keep you posted. :)

The Good, the Bad, and the Grumpy

April 30, 2015


Model meltdown at the photo shoot.Very similar to my own meltdown.


I’m a pretty optimistic person, but like anyone else I have my low, mean, grouchy days, today is one of those days.

I have forced myself to write this post today, because writing a blog post often puts things in perspective for me, and I can stop being so self absorbed, move on, and smile again.
Grumpy Me says “Forget about that ******* blog! Forget about everything, and just eat chocolate, wear sweatpants and sulk all day”. Luckily, I  remember the last time I took advice from Grumpy Me – didn’t turn out too well.

Anyway, here is a round up of what I have been doing so far this week. For your convenience, I have color coded the good and bad stuff. Pink for good, green for bad, it’s that simple.


Writer’s block: I had to move all the furniture around in my living room, in order to get comfortable while writing. Everything faces the windows now, and my family is very confused. I need to work somewhere else.
It worked! I managed to finish writing all the curriculum for my Summer camp, and it is going to be awesome.

I had a major panic session because my venue fell through for the Summer camp.
I finally found another, slightly better venue nearby. So there!
Booking the new venue requires a long stint in insurance/tax ID/online-form-filling Hell.
All that time waiting for things to process online helped me to discover, a heavenly website full of ideas and resources for parents and teachers.
Still in in insurance/tax ID/online-form-filling Hell.
It will be over soon
Both my kids fell sick, and took days off school. Both need to be pinned down daily to take eye drops/nose drops/cough syrup every few hours. Both sleep less than four hours a night.
The sick days gave me some time to read Printmaking + Mixed Media by Dorit Elisha, which has helped me hugely with a summer camp project. I now realize how little I actually know about printmaking. Very inspiring.
As usual, my Summer childcare arrangements for my youngest child fell through at the eleventh hour.
Surprisingly, I managed to find a great alternative childcare solution for him….
…despite this, I still can’t stop worrying if he will be okay.
Both my kids’ birthdays are around the corner. The planning has started.
Both my kids’ birthdays are around the corner. The planning has started.
I have a new YouTube channel for Noctiluna
I have lots of video footage waiting to be edited for my new YouTube Channel.
The T-shirts and onesies are sewn and done, and they are beeyootiful, even if I say so myself.
I have no idea where I am going to sell them. I haven’t had time to contact any shops.
Another sick day advantage – I finally went through the mess of fabrics in my work room, and organized them into neatly cut swatches to use for my upcoming projects.
I threw a major tantrum this morning, because “my plate is too full!” and “I don’t know where I’m going with this!!”
Tantrum over; time to regroup.
I received encouragement from all the way across the Atlantic, and realized just how wonderful my friends and family are. Thank you. xx

Well, I feel much better after that, how about you?
See? Even if nobody ever reads this, it worked. Time for a cup of tea.





Art, Books, Kids, and Ideas

April 20, 2015


The two books I bought

Yet another post about books. This time it’s Art books.

I’ve been thinking about my upcoming Summer Camps, and which artists I would like to introduce the kids to this year. This is my favorite, most dreamy (and short), world-is-my-oyster stage of lesson planning.  This is the sweet spot, when I go to galleries, and libraries, trawl the internet, get obsessed with Pinterest projects, and inspired by everything and anything, before the mundane reality of putting pen to paper (or rather, finger to keyboard) takes place. Everything I look at has possibilities; chopping peppers makes me think of a printing project, visiting my pediatrician’s office makes me think of kids painting murals.

Two weeks ago, I took my kids to the National Gallery of Art. They love visiting museums and galleries, and I  was looking for some inspiration to hit me. Our favorite thing to do at the NGA is to visit the kid’s book shop in the East Wing, words cannot describe the deliciousness of that place. We found a lot of cool things. The eight year old found an architecture sticker book, and knitted mice in matchboxes. The four year old found a pop-up castle, dragon puppets, and a half sucked lollipop under a table.

I found these beauties:

Both of the books I bought are great for kids, and interactive (although the Calder one is pretty fragile, so the 4 year old will not be playing alone with it). The book on Alexander Calder makes my thoughts go: Hmmm….. mobiles, paper sculptures, pop up books, balance, working with wire, drawing with wire, using found objects, ooh, toy making!! Galimotos.
The Keith Haring line of thought is more: Old Sesame Street animations, Mr Men books, Street Art, Basquiat, Banksy, Warhol, marker pens, poetry, fingerprints, symbols, street signs, color symbolism, emotions. Twister contests!

My brain is doing a happy dance, and my face is kind of dazed. I’m definitely getting that book on Mythological Beasts as well, can you imagine my line of thought on that one? I see Minotaurs, maps, and mazes in a future camp, I’ll get back to you on that one.




A Sparkly Book Review

April 14, 2015


photo (1)

“You should read this book” my eight year old told me “I think you will really like it”

The book in question is Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately The Milkand she was right, I loved it.
I’m not above reading kids’ books, in fact I love kids’ books. Actually I love all types of books, but lately I’ve been adding a healthy dose of  fantasy and magical stuff to my reading diet, preferably with a pinch of goofiness thrown in – what my daughter and I fondly refer to as ‘sparkly fiction’. She is an expert in sparkly fiction, and recommends some great books to me.
Interestingly, I have actually been wanting to read a Neil Gaiman book for a while, I had no idea that he wrote books for kids as well.

Here is my 8 year old’s review of Fortunately The Milk:

The book is really funny, and kind of realistic, but is still a fantasy story. It had lots of science facts in it, so I learnt a lot. My favorite part is all the funny names that Professor Steg uses for things. For example, he says “Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier” for a hot air balloon. Also the illustrations are scribble-y and funky. 

The whole time she was reading the book, I kept hearing giggles and snorts from her. The only other author that made her grin so much was Roald Dahl, another kooky British author, who doesn’t talk down to kids, and likes to make up silly words. Another author who writes great books for adults as well.

If you like the idea of time-travelling dino-professors, intergalactic breakfast chasing, and dads who tell tall stories, read the book. It’s hilarious, and the illustrations are really beautiful.

I have just started reading The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, also by Neil Gaiman (but for adults), and am already hook, line, and sinker-ed.
One of my favorite things is discovering a new author to love.


What Happened at Spring Camp ?…

April 7, 2015


making our own paper cuts

And so, the Spring break is over, it blew past me like a brisk April gale force wind (yes, Mother Nature, I am taking a dig at your weather).  I thought I would be conscientious, and write my review of the Spring camp on the Saturday after the camp, but it was sunny and beautiful, and there were far too many chocolate bunnies in the universe, so I went ahead and had myself a (long) weekend of pure pleasure. It did me a world of good, and now I’m ready to spill the (jelly)beans about the week.

The theme of the camp was Color and Nature, which meant a LOT of color theory, which tied in nicely with looking at work by Alma Thomas, and Henri Matisse. Pretty much all the work was big, bright, and happy, and the kids oohed and aahed over all the lovely colors they mixed up. As usual, we kept things as messy as possible (I have never been so happy to not be making art at home – the new venue worked beautifully) and did some painting, some printmaking, and some Matisse inspired paper cuts.
The kids particularly enjoyed a big group project inspired by Alma Thomas. I particularly enjoyed the fact that each kid actually managed to carve a printing block, and print successfully with it – a major feat for their age group (7-9 years old). I’m seriously impressed by those kids, they really explored each project fully. And guess what, the weather was nice enough to play outdoors almost every day, pretty pleased with that.

Here are some thoughts/memories from the week:

  • Seven, eight and nine year olds ALL want to be the boss. There is a constant, low key, Machiavellian power struggle in the classroom. It kept me on my toes for the whole week.
  • The playground was just as important as the classroom for learning. Watching a bunch of kids organize themselves when playing a game is fascinating. Creative thinking, problem solving, teamwork, conflict resolution are all learnt in the playground. Shorten a recess at your own peril.
  • I managed to teach the kids to play ‘What’s the Time Mr Wolf?’, and ‘Sticky, Sticky Grapes’, and they taught me to play ‘Museum’ and ‘Pac Man tag’. I realized that they NEVER get tired.
  • When two kids meet for the first time, the first question they ask is “how old are you?, often followed by “How much do you weigh?”. The answers to these questions will decide the nature of their relationship for a very long time.
  • After telling the kids over and over again to be very careful around smaller children at the playground , I heard a piercing wail from the play set. Running to the rescue, I discovered an eight year old crying “a baby stepped on my hand!”. Hmmmm.
  • Elementary school kids LOVE white boards – writing on them, erasing them, pretending to be the teacher; as far as they are concerned, it’s the best thing about my new room!
  • Most overheard statements during the week: “I’m telling on you!”, “that’s unfair”, “I loooove this piece, it’s the BEST!!”, “I’m the master  of the playground!”, “You’re my best friend now”.

I guess it is time to start planning the Summer camps now!



Preparing For An Art Camp My Way

March 26, 2015


Art supplies inventory

Spring break is next week, and so is the Noctiluna Spring Camp! As you can imagine, this is a busy week for me.

As with most jobs I do, preparing for a camp has it’s own pattern, so here is an insider’s view of what I normally do in the week before I run a camp:

Transcendental Lesson Planning Marathon

I always leave the lesson planning until the last week (a habit I picked up in college).  This is a tried and tested format that has it’s own wisdom to it. I decide on a day to plan lessons, then on that day I shut myself in my work room with a cup of tea and background music, get into research mode, and write shiny new curriculum in a trance-like state for hours without a break. I’m so absorbed that I can’t even hear the phone ringing until I’m done. Trust me, it just works better this way.

Turning My House Upside Down

Gathering supplies for an Art camp is no small feat! Things have moved since the last camp, sometimes they can migrate right out of my house! Also, Art camps aren’t just about art supplies, you also need cleaning supplies, medical supplies, books, games, snacks and protective clothing (yes). This is normally the time when you will be able to hear me shriek “I need an empty milk carton, a beach ball, talcum powder and a dust mask!!” across my driveway, while dragging an old bed sheet and tennis rackets to my car. My neighbors have given up trying to guess what I’m doing.

Clean Out My Local Library

Yet another reason to visit my local library. During my planning-trance I also put every possible book related to my projects on hold at the library. Right now, I need to pick up a stack of books on butterflies, color, and Fauvism, and let the librarians eyeball me suspiciously. Did I mention how much I love libraries?

Major Weather Freak Out

Two words that strike terror into every teacher’s heart: INDOOR RECESS. Aaaaaghhh!
Summer camps are great because of the fact that they take place in the Summer when sunshine and good weather are usually a given. Not so with Spring camps, no, no, no; Spring is a time of great stress and uncertainty. Right now, it looks as if next week will be wet and chilly, which means less outdoor breaks, which means incredibly wriggly children, and the need to find different ways for them to expend energy, which leads to….

The Last Minute Target Run

There is always something I need at the last minute for my camps; sometimes it is art related, but more often it is Band-Aids, or tissues. Right now, I’m thinking that I need to buy some indoor sports equipment: skipping ropes, hula hoops, a basketball etc, because of the impending sogginess. There is ALWAYS a reason for a last minute run to the stores.

Have THE Talk with my daughter

“Honey, when you are in my camp, you have to remember that I’m your teacher. Behave the way you would with your school teachers…blah, blah, blah” Hopefully it will sink in this time.

Deal With a Babysitting Crisis

Why do I always have a childcare crisis just before each camp? Why? The four year old’s spot at preschool/kiddie camp/babysitter always falls through right at the last minute for some reason. Anyone interested in babysitting on Monday morning?

Plan Lunches like a Robo-mom

I make a very obsessive, color coded chart with lunch and three snacks for each member of my family (including myself) for each day of the week, so that I’m not expending valuable, groggy, morning minutes figuring out what goes in who’s box. Just look at the damn chart, and stop thinking!!

Take on one Extra Task That I Couldn’t Possibly Finish

Yep. I did plan on printing shirts for the Spring campers, but it isn’t looking likely right now. Hmmm, maybe I can just squeeze it into the next three days?? We’ll see.

The Luxury of a Full Work Week

March 19, 2015



The  last two weeks have been pretty productive, thanks in part to the lovely Spring-like weather. With no sudden, unexpected snow days, I managed to finish screen-printing all 1 million of my products (Well, it certainly felt like 1 million!). I have also almost finished ironing them all as well. My right bicep is now impressively larger than the left one, leaving me rather lopsided, but proud nonetheless. I’m right on target to finish tomorrow, and be free to spend all of next week getting organised for my Spring break camp.

Oh, and of course, I finally managed to film an intro to my YouTube channel (see below). Don’t expect too much, I’m no Martin Scorsese. I’m hoping to film the next video tomorrow, which will be a tour of my ‘work space’ (hopefully, I will have cleaned the house up a bit by then).

Feeling rather pleased with myself, I decided to go for a walk today, and bought a bunch of cool books at my local library’s used book sale. Then my phone rang, it was my four year old’s preschool: “Ms Sharma, your son is running a temperature, could you come and pick him up? That will teach me to get too smug!

So I’m at home with my little honey right now, typing this as he snuggles up to my side and watches Sesame Street. Apparently, it might snow tomorrow. Hmmmm, fingers crossed for that photo-shoot. Well, at least I have an understanding boss!

Compassion For The Unmotivated

March 9, 2015



It is 9am, and my younger child just left for preschool with his dad. The house is empty, I have limited time before I need to leave to do the midday pick up/drop off (it’s complicated, my younger child has a strange schedule), but I just can’t motivate myself to start printing. I am a bear with a sore head today. So I filled the kettle, and wrote this list:


No, it is not written on fancy stationary, because I can’t find any fancy stationary anywhere today. Yes, I do realize that this is not the first time that I have used writing my blog as a form of therapy.
I guess we all have these types of lists in our heads, so I should really stop wallowing and get to it. But before I do, one last thing:

Working from home is not easy, especially when you are combining it with being a parent, and working for yourself. So from me to those of you who are currently at home, struggling to change gears and motivate yourselves to work/get changed/tackle that big project, here is a big virtual hug. You are not alone and, yes, it is tough, bloody tough, so it’s okay to feel despondent from time to time, and write a ridiculous blog about it.

Give yourself a break (well, obviously a mental break, because if you are a parent, there is no such thing as an actual break), insert cheeky, eye winking emoji here.

There, got it out of my system (sort of), time to tackle one of those tasks.

Why routine is my frenemy

March 5, 2015


The tea routine has been passed down to my daughter

I had a baaaad printing day yesterday. I made so many silly mistakes, messed up so many shirts. My head was fuzzy, and my heart was just not in my work. It was a thoroughly unproductive day.
I think all the many, many snow days have thrown me off. Last week was like this: one day of work, two days with the kids, one day of work, the weekend – maddening! I understand why my four year old cried so much when he had to leave for school yesterday, it’s difficult to get used to anything with so much stopping and starting. When it comes to work, routine is all.
Wait, did I just say that??

Routine is supposed to be the enemy.
I have been known to say on more than one occasion that I dislike routine. I get stuck in a rut easily, and thrive on being spontaneous. I go out of my way to keep having new experiences, and avoid a repetitive, homogeneous life. I know this keeps my brain on the edge, it keeps me creating. In fact, I’ll wager pretty much all of my friends in the Arts feel this way.

One of my heroes, Debbie Harry, said it so well when she  talked about getting older in the Telegraph recently:

“If you stay creative, interested and open to new things, you won’t stagnate. “You have to look around, keep new influences coming in. A lot of people sort of pick a world to live in, and they’re comfortable in that – which can be disastrous.”

I don’t want to pick a world, or a routine, to live in.
However, over the past few weeks I have realized that I actually do rely an alarming amount on routine. The nitty-gritty of my life hangs on routine, I need it in order to do all the unpredictable things that I do. I call it (somewhat predictably) The Routine Paradox, ie: if you keep a strict dinner/bed/bath routine with your kids, they go to bed earlier. Then, once they are asleep, you have time to work on that crazy huge canvas in your bedroom (supposedly).

Routine has been my friend, my ally, in my quest to not be so routine:

– My tea routine.
I make myself tea every day, yet I do not always drink it. The actual act of making the tea is a way of signifying the start or end of an activity to me. I make a mug of tea to tell myself that it is time to start my work day. I make tea in the afternoon to signify that it is time to take a break and do something else.

– Exercise.
Without a gym routine, I would just melt into mush on my sofa and do nothing. It’s a cliche, I know, but the more I stick to my work out routine, the more motivated I am to actually get things done in other parts of my life.

It’s pretty hard being a parent without embracing routine with both arms. You try getting two kids through homework, dinner, bath, and bedtime without turning into a drill sergeant. Routine, routine, ROUTINE! I’m shouting it from the rooftops here.

As for screen printing, I’m taking a break from it today in order to do some lesson planning for the camps. I’ll get back to it once the lesson planning begins to get tiresome. In between, I think I’ll try starting a You-tube channel, and learn to Samba. As long as it all gets done in time, who cares.



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