Fireflies: January 2013         

Jan 28, 2013

January Moments

Have you ever taken one of those personality type tests?  If you have, you know we are all a mixture of characteristics, some of which are more prominent than others, but each making us unique. I've taken my share over the years and suffice it to say, I don't have a type-A cell in my body. I love to let the day take me where it leads. I love to spend time with people. I love spontaneity and I struggle with schedules and check lists. One look in my closets and cabinets would tell you organization doesn't come naturally to me.  

But that doesn’t keep me from trying…

When I was a new mom and my son was about one and half I went through a season of searching to find meaning in the repetitiveness of my daily routine. I would find myself thinking, "Really?  I have to figure out 3 meals and 2 healthy snacks every day?" And, "How are there 8 loads of laundry to do when I just did the laundry last week?" It would often take everything in me to get up after dinner to do the dishes, all the while grumbling to myself about how not fun it was.  

One day when I was cleaning the bathroom with a grumbling spirit I heard the Lord speak to my heart. He said, “Turn your work into times of praise.”  Simple, yet so profound and for me life changing.  I soon found myself tearing up with gratitude and a humbled heart as I would scrub stains from my son’s jeans and thank the Lord for a healthy toddler who loved to play outside. I would make dinner and it would turn into times of thanking God for His provision for my family. I would turn up the praise music and dance while cleaning my home, letting the music spill out the open windows to my neighbors. I began to realize the great joy of what it meant to be a mom, a wife and a homemaker.

Whether you are a master organizer or more like me, we are all given a choice in how we respond to the demands of each day. It’s often about our perspective and I don’t know of any better way to get our perspective right than through thanksgiving and praise to God.

Have a blessed day and enjoy your “Moments” with your family.

Lanise Santala

Colossians 5:15-17

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.


Jan 25, 2013

CLIP Review: Over and Under the Snow

Author: Kate Messner
Illustrator: Christopher Silas Neal

     "Under the snow is a whole secret kingdom,
      where the smallest forest animals stay safe
      and warm.  You're skiing over them now."

As the young girl and her father enjoy a  day of gliding through the quiet woods on skiis, she is unaware of the world beneath her.  Deep in tunnels, holes and caves, hibernating animals lie cuddled up against the frigid cold in nests of feathers, leaves and fur.   Together they notice tracks of animals still hunting for prey that might be found. 

You'll see the winter home of deer mice, voles and bumblebees, and learn where squirrels store their food. They have an interesting way of finding it later when they're hungry! And did you know that a Red Fox can actually hear a mouse moving under the snow? That is not good news for the mouse!

Along with the interesting pictures, you will learn a lot about winter animals in this book. Even though YOU live over, it's sure fun to find out what is under!
Mary Byrne Kline

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Jan 23, 2013

Masterpiece of the Month - "The Magpie" by Claude Monet

"The Magpie" by Claude Monet, 1868.

When we think of Claude Monet we think of impressionism, but does this look like Monet's typical impressionism to you?  It looks perhaps like a beautiful snow scene many contemporary artists might even paint today.  In this painting created in 1868, the "Father of Impressionism," Claude Monet, shows us his more realistic side.  "The Magpie" was painted before his famous "Impression Sunrise" painting, below, which first exhibited in 1874 in Paris in what became known as the First Impressionist Exhibition,

Notice the difference in the color palettes of these two paintings.  "Impression Sunrise" is mainly a warm color palette, reflecting the warmth of the sun with its colors.  "The Magpie" is mainly a cool color palette, displaying icy cold blues, violets, greys, and white.  Monet was living off the coast of Normandy with his family in Etretat at the time he painted this beautiful snow scene of "The Magpie" in 1868 plein air (French, meaning "in the open air.")  My fingers are cold just thinking about painting this outdoors!  

The cool blue-violet shadows in "The Magpie" angling downward to the right instead of cutting straight across the picture plane, give us something to lean into and chew on for a bit, happily digesting its truth.   The pie-sliced sunlit snow in the front or foreground shows us footprints in the snow that stop just before the ladder the raven sits on.  Your little students will giggle if you ask them this question:  "I wonder what happened to the person whose footprints we see?"  They will probably come up with all sorts of funny stories you can write down in your teacher's journal or parent/grandparent diary!

Did they disappear into the snow or perhaps take a leap of faith off of the ladder into the snow and then wander off the page?  I am sure Monet added them for visual interest and did not expect such us to wonder such things!

The lone raven on the ladder is assuredly our focal point.  His singular black figure against the white snow in the position of authority falls directly in one of the golden sections or sweet spots of our composition.

Contrast "The Magpie" painting to one of Monet's snow paintings completed five years later in 1873 entitled "Train in the Snow:"

Here are a few more questions for you to engage with your student(s):

  • In the painting "The Magpie," what colors do you see?  How about the colors in the "Train in the Snow" painting?  (Note both use similar colors, but the values, or how dark and light the colors are, remain different. ) 
  • Do you think "The Magpie" painting was painted on a sunny day or a cloudy day? 
  • How about the "Train in the Snow," painting?  Was it painted on a sunny day or cloudy day? 
  • "Which painting, "The Magpie" or "Train in the Snow," do you like better?"  "Why?"
Enjoy sharing these paintings with your student(s) and learning more about the Father of Impressionism, Claude Monet!



Laura Bird Miller, artist/art instructor

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Jan 21, 2013

Best App: Little Fox Music Box

If you have been following Fireflies for awhile, you know that one of my favorite apps for young children is Nighty, Night.  By the way - I'm still crazy about it and have even paid to add extra animals.  Love everything about that app - the visuals, the narration, the tone - the interaction, (What child doesn't love turning off or on a light?)- everything!

I was delighted when I downloaded Little Fox Music Box to review and discovered it was created by Goodbean, the same group that created my beloved Nighty, Night!   
The app is illustrated in great detail and the various screens are simply beautiful.  After choosing a song from the opening screen, the child can sing along with the song while interacting with several characters in the scene.    Between the three songs and the composing room included in Little Fox Music Box, there are over 100 interactive elements incorporated into this app.
While singing along with Old MacDonald, children can make dancing chickens do acrobatics; wake up farmer MacDonald, give a bathing pig a shower, grow tulips and help a cow pick flowers for a friend.  You can change the seasons by touching the icon in the upper left corner which also changes the reactions of the animals.  For instance, the cow begins to ice skate instead of picking daisies.
My only complaint is that there are only three songs (hopefully they will be adding more), however, it is still worth the money with all of its interactive choices.   The three songs included are: London Bridge, Evening Song, and Old MacDonald.   Along with songs is a karaoke version for each scene as well as a music studio. Tap the tree on the main screen to visit Fox Studio where children are encouraged to make music with Fox and his friends.  Every object in the studio makes a different noise and is sure to delight young children.
I played Little Fox Music Box on my iPhone - but am looking forward to seeing it on the larger iPad screen and enjoying even more of this beautifully illustrated musical app.
Deni Corbett


Jan 18, 2013

CLIP Review: No Two Alike

Author - Keith Baker

How clearly I recall the elementary art project of folding a circular piece of paper in half, then thirds, then cutting small knicks and slices out of the edges and folds. Do you remember how exciting it was to unfold your paper and find that you had created a snowflake unlike any other in your class? My teacher would then hang them from the ceiling and we would gaze in wonder at how we all could have possibly come up with so many different patterns!

What a revelation it was to soon realize that each and every snowflake was truly unique, that in fact everything everywhere in nature was one of a kind. As hard as I tried to capture identical snowflakes, they either melted too quickly or I couldn't compare them because they were all smushed together.  

This is a simply, yet sweetly written book for children to understand how wonderful it is to be unique - to be themselves. How boring our world would be if everyone looked, acted, walked, talked the same way.  In our own way we are all special.  "No two friends, large or small, no two alike...among you all!"

Want to make your own snowflakes? CLICK HERE to learn how.
Mary Byrne Kline

Mary Byrne Kline

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Jan 16, 2013

In the kitchen, we can build a snowman

Powdered Doughnut Snowmen

Doesn't this face make you smile?  As soon as I saw this idea on Pinterest,
I knew I needed to make these with my little men.  One look at that little chocolate dotted face and knew that our family needed this snowy man in our life....and that he needed to have rosy cheeks.  If you were standing outside all day long and make of snow, I'm 100 percent positive that YOU would have rosy cheeks as well.

Look at them all clustered together on a pretty pedestal. Personally, I can't help but giggle when I see them.  On a side note, for that snowman hat in the middle of the pedestal, I used the same chocolate dipped marshmallow on an Oreo idea that I shared in Thanksgiving post, just leave off the buckle for a plain top hat.

The base ingredients for this food project are these little guys:

One bag of powdered doughnuts was more than enough to make my boys their own snowmen and a little igloo (not shown - long story).
Other ingredients you need are: 
  • White chocolate
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Shish kebab sticks
  • An orange candy of some sort.  I used an orange dot on the snowman above just cut one end into a tip and worked the cut end into a smooth point by rubbing it between my fingers.  Master Chef Noah opted to just plop an orange Skittle in there.
  • Optional: Candies for "buttons" (as shown in the above snowmen) and petal dust if you too think that rosy cheeks are a must.  
  • A dull knife

Melt your white chocolate candy coating according to the directions on the package until a smooth consistency is achieved.

Joining us today for our foodie project is my oldest chef, Noah who will be instructing you all today on the fine art of making a powdered sugar doughnut snowman.  

As you see, Chef Noah has cleaned his hands and has gathered his ingredients on a sheet of wax paper so any mess will be contained.  

The first thing Noah needs to do is pick out the three best powdered sugar doughnuts from the pile.  He doesn't approve of any cracked doughnuts for this project.

Noah does a trial run of what his snowman will look like by laying them vertically on his workspace.  He wants to be sure that these doughnuts are up to par.  

After they have undergone his scrutiny and passed his final testing, Noah then slides each doughnut onto the shish kebab stick.

You will be using the white chocolate candy coating as glue, so get a tiny bit on the end of your dull knife and fill the top doughnut hole with white chocolate.  Before it sets up, place the orange candy into the white chocolate.  

Continue adding small amounts of white chocolate where the eyes and mouth will be placed or as Chef Noah has illustrated, just dump a bunch of white chocolate all over the top doughnut.  Place two mini chips for the eyes above the orange nose and form a smile with the mini chips under his nose.

Such concentration displayed by my little chef during this delicate procedure.

Continue to add buttons down the "snowman's" front, let it set up and there you have it!

Banana Snowman

My little overachiever decided to make up his own snowman project to be included in this month's post.  

The ingredients list:
  • Banana
  • Raisins
  • Pretzel Rods (though sticks would have been easier to use and would have been a better size)

First step:  Peel the banana and immediately start acting like a monkey.

After Mom finally calms you down and gets you back in your seat again, use your dull knife to cut the banana.

Look at these sweet fingers.  

Line up three banana slices.

Stick mini chocolate chips in place for his eyes and mouth, raisins for his buttons and rods for his arms.

Two fun recipes for you to share with your little ones this month.

Rachel Skvaril, Sugar Artist
And don't forget to visit Fondant Flinger's Etsy shop to order your Valentine's Day cupcake toppers; the perfect addition to your cupcakes for those class parties!  

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Jan 14, 2013

Personal Snow Globes

Personalized Snow Globes!
There's nothing like a snow globe to thrill young minds.  It's like magic!  Shake it up and the swirling snow flies all around.  Especially fun is to have a photo of yourself in the scene as if you were there!  This snow globe project was inspired by Sarah Jones and Kate Wells at Our Best Bites.  We included a photo of each child right in the globe to personalize the experience.  Above is one of my 8 students that participated in a January art workshop for 6-9 year olds, with her finished snow globe.  

We used Mason (canning) jars (which you can buy at any grocery store or Walmart) because I wanted all the jars to be the same size.  You could use glass jars from your recycle bin but I did not have enough of the same-size recycled jars for each of the 8 students.  The Mason jars were hard to see through because of the pattern on the glass.  I would recommend using recycled jars if you can gather enough for however many children you have. 

You may be wondering if a photo would hold up in water.  Good news!  If they are laminated well, they actually stand up for quite some time in water!

Here's how we made them.

1.  Take a photo of the child pretending to be standing in snow.  I asked each child, "What would you do if all of a sudden it started snowing?" 

2.  Print the photo on 4 X 6 photo paper.  Trim around the shape.

3.  Laminate.  Trim again around the shape.

4.  Use permanent glue dots (easy for a group of young students to use themselves) or hot -glue (if your student is younger and you wish to do the gluing.) You will want to glue the photo to a popsicle stick and then to the bottom of the jar lid.  Then add any miniature "props" you want - something you would also find in a snowy scene: a piece of a pine tree, a penguin, a red bird, a sled...

We made sure the laminated photo would fit into the jar.

Finally we added fake snow (we used Buffalo Snow brand from Michael's.  See photos below.)  Then we filled the jar with water.  Instead of Buffalo Snow, you could use glitter.  Slowly, we lowered the lid with photo and props into the water and tightly screwed on the lid.

Swirling snow and the pattern of the Mason jar made it more challenging to see inside the globe, but as the snow started to settle, there, peaking out of the glass was our little student!  Surprise!

Success!  Our snow globes were a big hit!  The children loved having their own photo in their snow globe.  What fun!

Have a blast making your own personalized snow globes!  Send us pictures of your finished globes so we can see them!

And don't forget to sign up to receive notice when the free download of "S is for Snow" is available!  

Love and blessings,
Laura Bird Miller, Artist/Art Instructor

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Jan 11, 2013

CLIP Reveiw: The Mitten

Author & Illustrator:  Jan Brett
(A Ukrainian Folktale)
Anyone who has ever played in the snow knows how easy it is to lose a mitten. But what happens to Nicki's lost mitten will have you laughing with delight. 

A tired mole burrows inside to get cozy and warm.  It isn't long before a snowshoe rabbit comes hopping along, and yes, he decides to wiggle in.  Things get quite prickly when a large hedgehog shuffles by and wants to get out of the cold, wet weather. WELL, you can easily see where the story is headed... The pages are intricately illustrated along the edges also, which give the reader a hint as to what might be happening next. 

How Nicki's problem is solved is one that is sure to "tickle" you, just as it tickled someone else! Oh my! Will Nicki's mittens ever look the same again?! 

Mary Byrne Kline


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Jan 10, 2013

CLIP Review: Stopping by Woods

Poem by Robert Frost
Illustrator:  Susan Jeffers

This is a beautiful book for your home library.  It is based on the poem we used for our Verbal Comm activity this month. 

One of my Christmas decoration boxes is filled with Christmas and winter themed books.   (Living in Florida, I have to force the idea of a "White Christmas".)   Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is a perfect book to share with your children on a winter night, no matter the temperature outside.  This poem is a classic and worthy of reading and memorizing; Susan Jeffers' illustrations bring the poem to life. 

Each page has only a line or two which makes this book just right for early readers.  The driver of the sleigh has a beard, a little round belly, and is dressed in clothes Santa might wear on his day off.  Your child will enjoy finding the animals hidden in the woods.  (Several are white and hiding in the snow.)   This is the perfect book to give as a hostess gift, especially to other parents who will enjoy sharing it with their children!

From Susan Jeffers:

The first part of my work is to find a story that inspires pictures in me.  It is like being a dancer and having to wait for the music to move your feet.  Everything comes from this.

I enjoy researching books like Hiawatha so much that I have trouble extricating myself from old photos and first person diaries of being captured by Indians, which are of course more stories.  

For the most part I work in pen and ink and gauche, an opaque watercolor.  I make thousands of little lines with a fine pen to describe the forms.  This looks hard, but it is actually the easiest part and is very relaxing.  The most difficult part for me is telling the story with the right relationship of composition and characters to convey the emotion of the story.  This requires making many little drawings, called thumbnail sketches, until the drawing says what you want it to say, hopefully. 

Go to her "How to Draw a Horse" activity page.   
Deni Corbett

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