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Adventures in Art, Design, Education and Parenting

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.


Snow, Baked Goods and my Printing Schedule

February 24, 2015


Silly photo with glasses #2

So, my resolve to blog at least once a week broke, last week. It just broke apart like a large, warm, flaky, soft, buttery croissant does… mmmmmmmmmm…but I digress, let me tell you more about last week.

Last Week

Last week it got very cold and snowy, and the kids had just one day of school. Then the weekend happened, and lo and behold – more cold and snow. Long story short, I didn’t get much work done. I did, however, eat more baked goods than I normally would (snow does that to me), play Animal Charades with my kids (proud inventors of said game), and perfect my piggyback techniques under the strict guidance of the four year old. So all is not lost.

While the Polar vortex had sucked the will to work out of me, my husband had been sucked into a very different type of vortex not often encountered in this part of the world. The Cricket World Cup Vortex. Well that’s that then. Bye bye husband, hello to posing for silly photos wearing valentines glasses with the kids……and more baked goods.

This Week

I’m treating this week as a fresh start. I love fresh starts, which is why I love Spring so much. Everything about Spring makes me happy – Spring cleaning, Spring sunshine, cherry blossom, hot cross buns, what’s not to like? Where are you, Spring???? Rumor has it, you have been frolicking around Europe for a while. I need you!!

Anyway, this week I will print my Spring/Summer collection of tees and onesies, so that I can hopefully get them into local shops in March. I will post pictures to show you the fruits of my labor in a couple of days. Basically, this whole post has been a very long winded way of saying- I’m back working, the T-shirts are coming! Thank you for listening!


5 Good Things to Love

February 14, 2015


Happy Things

‘Macarons, trampoline, notebooks, unicorn, dancing, bike, box’

The above is a ‘list of good things‘ I found in my work room this morning. It was written by my daughter when she was about six years old, her likes have not changed much over the past two years. In fact, I like all the things on her list too, that last item is especially intriguing (What kind of box? What’s in it?? Can I open it?). If she grows up to be a big kid like me, that list will be valid for the rest of her life.

Taking the lead from my wise daughter, especially since it is Valentines Day, a day of gooey happiness and sparkle, I would like to focus today’s post on good things. I’ll go back to being a grump next week, but for now – Happy Valentines day, I hope you enjoy the following list of things that brighten my day.


  1. Magical BooksI love fairy tales with a twist (again: big kid syndrome). I have become somewhat obsessed with the Grimm brothers, and their dark Household Tales. Polly Shulman’s The Grimm Legacy kept me very happy for a few days, until I finished the book and was left with that empty feeling you get when you finish a great book. It’s a Young Adult book, but that doesn’t bother me. If you are a fairy tale geek, read it. Apparently, there is a film version in the works.
  2. Surprises in the Mailbox 

    Hardly anyone sends letters anymore. I for one, still love receiving snail mail surprises, the kind that don’t involve medical bills, or Home Owner’s Association notices. Today I opened my mail box and found the cutest valentines card, made by my four year old and posted by his preschool teacher. Also, a copy of Amy Poehler’s new book Yes Please, left by a friend who’s timing is impeccable – no more empty feeling! I want other people to feel this way. I’m going to mail my own surprises next week.

  3. Art with my honeys This week was the week of the Great Pizza Project, googly eyes, and the discovery of window crayons.
    Being an art teacher, I have always felt a bit bummed that my four year old never wants to paint/draw/sculpt anything with me. He has a fine motor skill delay, and has always avoided those types of activities. However, this week was different. What a breakthrough! We made pizza’s with paper plates, paint, and felt; we drew on windows and mirrors with gel crayons; we made valentines cards with googly eyes. Everything looks better with googly eyes.  Needless to say, while we were doing this the eight year old whipped up her own portfolio of art work. Smarty pants.
  4. Having an excuse to stay in It is bloody freeeezing out there, but it is also the weekend! No need for frigid walks to the bus stop. I stocked up on groceries last night, and am getting ready to spend the weekend embracing my family, and the sofa for some warmth. There’s something to be said for a good movie, a warm blanket, chocolate, and huggable companions. I’ll brave the elements some other time.
  5. Random Acts of Love 

    My eight year old is the best at this. Sometimes I find notes on my pillow/laptop/mirror that say things like “I love you mommy. You are the best”, or “You smell lovely”, or “thank you for helping me with my boo boo. I love you”. It doesn’t really take much to make someone feel good. I sat up last night and drew her a picture of her favorite things to give her today. It’s not the greatest picture I have drawn, but it makes her happy.
    It also doesn’t take much to make someone feel bad. So the next time you feel like snapping at the person in front of you at the grocery store – don’t. Go home and mail something nice to a friend.

Kids really are the smartest. Have a lovely day, and pass it on!


Post-Disney State of Mind

February 6, 2015



“It was a cold and wet December day, when I touched the ground at JFK…” I know how you felt, Bono, I know how you felt.

We (me, my husband, and the kids) have been in Disney World (and Universal Studios) for the last six days. It was golden, t-shirt weather. When we got off the plane in DC, a sharp cold wind slapped us hard in the face, and the four year old actually tried to run back onto the plane.
It is always difficult getting back into a work routine after a vacation, but even more so when you are a parent, who works from home. Mixed in with the pile-up of emails, phone messages,  and forms to be sent out, are lunches to be packed, bags to be unpacked, and of course,  groceries to be bought – I had to put Horizon vanilla milk in my tea today. Revolting!

Aaaah Disney.

First of all let me tell you this, I have never really had a hankering to go to any Disney theme park. I’m just not such a theme park kind of girl. I’d rather be hiking to Macchu Picchu, or exploring Marrakech. As a child I never visited any Disney Park, I never actually went through a princess phase (I recently took a Which Princess Are You? test, and got Maleficent – says it all), and when I turned fifteen, I got heavily into the Grunge scene and left-wing politics – not really a Disney state of mind. However, my daughter has been dropping hints about Disney World for sometime, so I thought “why not”, and I have to admit……… it was a blast!! The best thing about Disney World? Seeing the perpetually enormous smiles on your kids’ faces every single day. Here are some high(and low)lights from the trip:


  • The people who work at Disney are truly the nicest, happiest, most helpful people on earth, with no exceptions. No one was ever grumpy or snappy with us (except for Grumpy the dwarf, of course).
  • We kept encountering a massive group of Brazilian teenagers, who would spontaneously break into song every ten minutes. It felt like we were on a Glee set.
  • The kids amazed me with their stamina. We did not use a stroller because, the four year old has not sat down since he was two. Sitting down is not his thing. Those kids must have walked at least ten miles a day. Strong kids. By the way, what’s up with all the people pushing seven year-olds around in strollers at Disney?? Car culture is making us weak.
  • Every single ride exits through a gift shop. Every single product is Ammaaaazing!!! Really!!! You have to stay strong, my friend – leave the gift shop, and keep walking, don’t look back.
  • The Ghirardelli store in downtown Disney gives you free chocolate. Yes, free chocolate. By the way the Cheapskate Princess blog is an invaluable source of information about that kind of thing.
  • The four year old (who looks and acts like a three year old) kept screaming “I want to be first!”, “I don’t want to wait in line”, and also, “I don’t like the people!!!!” because he felt that he ought to be allowed on all rides first. He also looked terrified and crumpled during every ride, but always asked to go again. ???
  • HARRY POTTER WORLD. Hogsmeade, Butterbeer, Hippogriffs, Honeydukes, Ollivanders, Diagon Alley, the Knight bus. I think I enjoyed that part more than the kids. Once a geek…
  • I felt homesick at Harry Potter World when we walked through Kings Cross Station, and I don’t even like Kings Cross Station!
  •  I gained disproportionate pleasure from the fact that they labeled sprinkles as ‘hundreds and thousands’ at Florian Fortescue’s Ice Cream Shop, at Diagon Alley. Nice attention to detail.
  • The eight year old is better at keeping the four year old happily occupied on planes than I am. On our way back, we were stuck on a stationary plane for hours, waiting for our pilots to arrive from some storm afflicted destination – not a single whine, whimper, or complaint. I see babysitting in her future.


All in all, a pretty fantastic trip. Time to get back to reality now (while wearing socks with ‘hundreds and thousands’ on them of course).





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