Monthly Archives: February 2010

Piggy Banks

Last night at SHYM we finished the piggy-banks. We only have an hour each session so the whole thing took a long time. Working on something for several weeks did mean at times they got a bit tired of it, but on the positive side they had a sense of accomplishment when the pigs were finally done. Confidence, especially with this kind of thing, is not high, so I’m really pleased we got some nice finished pieces from the project.  It was not the most artsy of projects but did involve various creative elements. With this group I find my goal is to get them to participate in a creative process, and to enjoy at least the majority of it, so I think this was successful.

On our first evening of papier-mache, the girls had a light-hearted conversation about putting money in their children’s piggy-banks only to take it out again when they needed money for the bus or a coffee, and how guilty that made them feel. Most of the women at SHYM have babies under 1, and I was intrigued to hear that they all had piggy banks. I suppose I always thought piggy banks were for slightly older children. Last night I was thinking about this again. As we cut the money slots in the pigs one girl asked me to make sure it was a very small slot, so she could get money in but wouldn’t be able to shake it out! Then I began to understand. These are teenage single mothers, and spare cash has got to be an extremely rare thing. These moms put money in the piggy bank in the same way that others put money in bank accounts for their child’s future.  I admire their determined effort, in perhaps a slightly difficult situation, to start putting money aside for the babies. And without wishing to sound patronizing, I was quite touched.

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The Weekly Soup: Easy Peasy

Ok, so I actually call this Pea Soup, but it is very simple and very easy and so I thought “Easy Peasy” was a clever name.

Easy Peasy Soup

1 onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 large potato, chopped

2 gloves garlic, chopped

Put vegetables in a pot with a knob of butter and a bit of olive oil. Cover and “sweat” on low heat for 1o minutes, shaking pan occasionally to avoid sticking. (“Sweating” is my favourite way of starting any soup.)


8 cups stock/water

1 bay leaf

454g split peas

Salt and pepper

Simmer for an hour or so until soup has reached its desired consistency. I think you can reduce the cooking time if you have soaked the split peas before for a few hours before hand but I can’t say I’ve tried it. Seems just as easy to get the soup going early.

Wasn’t that easy? And at the end of it you have a very healthy and filling soup, perfect with some good bread. (The soup does turn to “peas porridge” when it has cooled but is fine if you heat it up again with  a little extra water.)

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More Stop-Motion Animation

More stop-motion animation! I am doing other things, honest! But I got so obsessed that I snatched a few minutes to have another go. I love when something is so new that you are learning at every turn and at every step you start to figure things out, or at least realize the gaps in understanding.

In this one I started experimenting with the cut and paste possibilities, inserting photos in different spots. As my mouse scrolled over the clips I noticed the opening and closing of my hand was a little like the flapping of a wing, which seemed fitting, so I played with that idea. Please don’t judge – this is just for the record!

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Another Saturday Morning

Autism Art Class this morning. It was a busy one! This time I stuck to offering only two activities to begin with to try to increase focus. It worked pretty well and they stayed pretty engaged for the first 45 minutes. And even after that they were content to work on their own things. They move fast, this lot, so it can be tricky to find a second to sneak in a photo! No time for good composition, I’m lucky if I can just document what was going on!

Most popular was the pendant painting – “N” is determined that these should be for sale next week and each pendant has been given a name and a price. I’m not sure about the money thing, but this idea does seem to have them interested and gives the project a bit of shape. We were brainstorming presentation/packaging ideas as that might be something we could explore next week. Fingers crossed I will get a nice shot of all the finished pendants.

They also worked on their canvasses. We started these canvasses because I wanted them to have a chance to work on a piece for a while, adding things here and there. Especially since at least for some of them, there is a tendency to create something in three seconds flat. They painted the ground  a few weeks ago and today they added collage elements, or painted according to their choice.

This is something from “C” that isn’t about dinosaurs!  I’m really pleased with his work on this one, and am only sad he is missing the last class so won’t be able to continue to work on it.

This little boy does is not interested in much more than drawing, so for him to have worked this much on his canvas is an accomplishment.

“R” kept coming back to the mirror with her work as if she was trying to see how they looked together.

Overall, a great class. To get photos in this class though, you almost need a dedicated photographer!

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First Foray into Stop-Motion Animation!

Sometimes what you need to do has nothing at all to do with what you SHOULD be doing. This was the case yesterday when I suddenly found myself totally enamoured with the stop-motion animation. My initial investigation probably began at least borderline legitimately as I was considering possible project extensions for kids art projects, but very quickly became just about me having fun. Once I had looked at an unhealthy amount of YouTube videos I was determined to have a go! I used a digital camera, iPhoto and iMovie. This was done incredibly quickly (well, as quickly as you can shoot 59 photos) and I didn’t spend much time on set up. I was so eager I apparently didn’t bother to check it the camera was even level! The process was pretty simple although I am unfamiliar with iMovie so that part took me a little longer. So, without further ado, I give you my very first stop-motion animation: The Shy Hippo!

I think I’m hooked. It is going to take a massive effort to focus on anything else today!


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The Weekly Soup: Improvised Black Bean

This week I bring “Improvised Black Bean Soup”, which as the name suggest, I just invented. I suppose a lot of my cooking is like this anyway. Normally my soup is just whatever I have to put in it but  for this “feature” I’ve been trying to broaden my experience by trying a few recipes. Yesterday I had some black beans but found myself lacking the ingredients that most recipes required for a black bean soup, so I just struck out on my own. Unfortunately, I was using dried black beans that I soaked and cooked before adding to the soup, and completely forgot to take any sort of measurement! I would say I used about a mug full of dried beans which probably amounted to the same as a standard can (at least around here!) of black beans. I know I may not be helping much! But the good thing with soup is that you can fudge the measurements so just use as many beans as you want/have, and adjust the liquid accordingly. Same thing goes for the rest of the ingredients. We loved this soup, if I do say so myself, so I know I’ll be making it again, and I’ll try to remember to take better notes!

Improvised Black Bean Soup

–  1 1/2 large onions, chopped (I had a half kicking around….1 would do)

– 2 cloves garlic, chopped

– 1 carrot, chopped

– 1 potato, chopped

– 2 tbsp olive oil

Mix olive oil and veggies in large pot and cover. “Sweat” on low heat for ten minutes, shaking pot occasionally to prevent sticking.


– Black beans , cooked

– 1 796 ml can of chopped tomatoes

– 2 tbsp cumin

– 5 slices of pickled jalapeno peppers, chopped.

– approx. 4 cups vegetable stock, or mixture of vegetable stock and water.

– salt and pepper

Simmer this for about 25 minutes or until potato and carrot are cooked, then blend if desired. Serve topped with yogurt/sour cream and grated cheese. The soup is comfortingly thick and the spicy kick is very warming!

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Texture Pendants

Our “Texture Pendants” from a few weeks ago at the autism art class. The initial set up was a collection of different objects with interesting textures and clay. Building object out of clay to dry can be tricky for very young children, or in a situation like this one where I may not be able to get the attention to demonstrate joining techniques. Introducing texture possibilities allows for clay manipulation and experimentation without the inevitable “snow men” constructions. To be fair, this lot would probably catch on how to join pieces quite quickly but I felt this was a good first experience to gauge their interest. I had originally planned for them to make large textured slabs. This they did, in about 3 minutes, and then rolled them up and started again and again. Lovely clay experimentation. (We also had a mastodon tusk.)

Then the smaller pieces began and so together we created a whole plate of textured “pendants”. They really look quite beautiful all together.

We’ve had various things on the go so we haven’t got around to painting them yet, but it’s my hope that we can get them all painted, and perhaps hung up in some kind of a display. But you never know with these guys – they could be terribly enthusiastic or not at all interested. We shall see. I’ve got some metallic paint which, like sequins and glitter, can be a draw!

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