Ocean Batik

July 31, 2011

Take a look at the sea creatures we made at the beach this year! Aren't they wonderful? I have been wanting to give glue batik a try for quite awhile. The beach house was the perfect place because we could do all of the work outside in a shaded spot with a big wooden picnic table, easy access to a hose, and multiple clotheslines for drying. Remember our painted fish shirts and the tie-dye ones? This year my mom had a stash of plain white pillowcases which was perfect for the kids. This project also worked well at the beach because it is a multi-day/multi-stage process and by the end of the week each kid had a very special beach souvenir.
There are plenty of good tutorials out there on the web for the glue batik method (this one is my favorite), but here are a couple of things we learned along the way. The blue gel glue bottles were way too hard for the kids to squeeze. Only one of the older kids was able to squeeze out her own design (way to go, Isabella!). I'd love to do this project again in the future, but I think I would experiment with transferring the glue to easier to squeeze bottles (like those self-fill ketchup/mustard containers perhaps?) or pour the glue into small bowls and let the kids use q-tips. This meant that my mom and I did most of the "drawings" with each kid by having them guide our hands or just telling us what they wanted and letting them add details to the larger design. Not quite as fun as having the kids draw the creatures all by themselves, but it worked. After all of the glue drawings were complete, we let them dry outside overnight.

The next day we started the second stage: painting. We opted to go the cheaper route by purchasing small bottles of acryllic craft paints. We watered down the paint and found that it worked just as well as fabric paint and perhaps even better since there was such a wide variety of colors. The original instructions called for cardboard and wax paper between the fabric to prevent the paint from bleeding through to the other side. I can see how this would be a good idea especially when working on t-shirts, but we ended up skipping this step because it was too windy and I actually think it made the pillowcases a bit more interesting with color on both sides.
The painting stage was the messiest, but most enjoyable part of the process. It was fun to see what colors the kids used and also their various approaches to painting.Since the paint is watered down, some of the older kids struggled with wanting to control the paint and keep it within the lines. It helped to explain that the glue formed boundaries that would be revealed later in the process and to emphasize that there truly is beauty in the watery mix of colors. After the pillowcases were painted, we hung them up to dry overnight.
On the third day, my cousin and I  hand washed all of the pillowcases in warm water. It was exciting to see the drawings emerge even more clearly as the glue washed away and left the white outlines of each creature. We hung them up to dry for a third time. Luckily, we had plenty of sun and wind during our week at the beach. I can see how this project would not work nearly as well if we had had to contend with rainy weather and/or a small indoor work space. It was also good to have some additional adults helping out since we had so many kids of different ages and abilities. I loved how the pillowcases turned out and it makes me happy to think about my kids and their cousins falling asleep with their very own keepsakes and memories of such a special place and time together.

Navarre Beach 2011

July 29, 2011

Rewinding a bit to highlight some of our favorite adventures while in the States earlier this summer. Our annual family trip to Navarre Beach, Florida was filled with big waves, lots of shells, card games (Rat -a-Tat Cat, Spades), Banagrams, puzzles, fancy desserts made by Emee, Beyblades, a treasure hunt courtesy of Uncle Ron and Joseph, beach walks, and a very sunny family photo session (my apologies to everyone...we should have waited just a bit longer for the sun to set. I promise to do better next year).


July 28, 2011

I know, I know, I know I promised to begin posting more regularly once we returned to Sicily, but the days of visiting and sightseeing with my sister and my cousins just flew by in a big sweaty blur. A good blur, but also a bit of an exhausting one and so after an intense month of day trips, weekend trips, and countless hours in the car, the kids cheered when I informed them that our new "schedule" would be home, pool,home.It feels good to just hunker down at home for a bit. Swimming lessons each morning and lazy afternoons filled with popsicles, playdough, occasional library visits, Adam's soccer games, and hanging out with friends. 

Returning to the domestic realm means I have high hopes for finally sitting down to go through photos from the past few months, catching up on blogging, and weeding out kids' clothes and toys that are no longer in use. It also means I will have to return to my dreaded task of laundry (my cousin,Adie, spoiled us by doing the laundry while she was here). In a moment of spectacular domestic dumbness, this morning I melted my new Northface hiking shorts. Note to self: ironing nylon is never a good thing. Second note to self: just stick to your usual lazy method of removing wrinkles by tossing clothes in the dryer or pretending not to notice them at all. I had to laugh out loud and think about my dad when I quickly realized what I had done...still working on those "domestic skills" of mine.

Camille keeps begging to bake cookies and perhaps we will get to that one of these days, but to be honest I think her playdough cookies are the best way to bake cookies in the summer. Just feels too darn hot to even think about turning on the oven. I may not be the most "domestic" person, but Camille does seem to have all of the patience and precision for baking that I lack. I can only hope that she will follow in her aunts' flour encrusted footsteps and grow up to bake us all sort of delicious treats, but for now I am very content to sit in a little, wooden chair eating her play dough cookies while reveling in the miracle of air conditioning and enjoying this time at home.

The Perfect Sunset

July 13, 2011

Small fishing boats bobbing near the pier, the Egadi islands purple and hazy in the distance, paddling in a bright green kayak, watching that glowing, orange orb disappear on the horizon and wanting to make it all last just a little bit longer.

Stagnone Lagoon, Mozia, Sicily

The Perfect Summer Breakfast

July 7, 2011

Almond and Gelsi (Mulberry) Granita, Catania, Sicily

We have returned to Sicily with all of her summer goodness...sunny beach days, cool nights, and granita (with or without a brioche) for breakfast. We are also happy to have several different family members visiting us this month which means we'll have many opportunities to indulge in all of our favorite Sicilian treats and hopefully discover some new favorites, too. Although it really will be hard to beat a good granita on a summery Sicilian morning. Are you finding some good ways to stay cool and savor summer? Hope to get back to posting on a more regular basis now that we are back home.

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