Monday, September 26, 2016


The art room is a pretty messy place sometimes (glue, glitter, paint....and more glitter), but we can learn a lot from making messes and have fun at the same time! I tell students often to avoid wearing their favorite clothes on art day, but especially on paint day. Even with an art shirt accidents can happen, so save your favorite outfits for non-art days. Trust me on this. I have several permanently painted articles of clothing. But I'm the art teacher. So I wear 'em anyway. It's how I roll. 

The very first student art to grace the walls this year was created by our PreK! Wahoo! What a way to start the year! They're BIG, they're colorful, and folks have been stopping in their tracks to check 'em out! Can you blame them?! It's gallery quality work! So let's talk about it...

To get started we pushed up our long sleeves and donned a paint shirt. Safety first! The tables were covered with bulletin board paper and each student had a piece of large white watercolor paper at their seat. I placed newspaper in the middle of the table (I collect newspaper), globbed some black acrylic on it (acrylic doesn't wash out of your clothes and dries waterproof), and placed tubes of various sizes within reach of the kiddos for printing. Some thought this was brave, others thought it was crazy. I call it adventurous

We listened to music. Everyone was focused on their work. Students dipped the tubes into the paint and printed circles, often overlapping, all over their paper. Some made several, some only a few, but they were thoughtful in their choices. Even though they were given the same materials, each work is unique. I love watching that happen in art.

Clean up on days like this can be more than a little cray-cray, needless to say. We are so fortunate to have Natalie Taylor, our PreK teacher aide, swirling around the room. She's amazing! She's great with kids! And she swoops in like a superwoman to help out! 

The next big step was to add some color! This is my favorite!!! Students were given the primary colors (red, yellow, and blue). They're pretty important colors. You can't just mix them, we have to buy those, BUT... you can use them to make a bunch of other colors! Like green, my favorite! The best of all!...If you think about it, artists are kinda like mad scientist magicians. What happens if you mix a little yellow with a little red?.....What?! I can make orange?!?!

Or a little red with a little blue?... Purple?!?! I LOVE PURPLE!!! They were so excited to mix and discover new colors. It gets really exciting when we mix our favorite colors! Then we have to show our friends what we made, and they share what they've made. It's awesome. 

We learned about how to treat paint brushes and watercolor paints. We shared paints and water with the person next to us. We helped each other clean up. We learned where to put supplies when we were finished. We're working on being a team! 

When their paintings were finished and dry, I set to work making frames for each one! Time consuming, but worth it! Their names are displayed, as they would be in a gallery, and each frame is unique. They were so proud when they walked in today and saw their work on the wall. They saw other people stopping to look at it. They heard other people saying positive things about what they made. What a fantastic way to start a Monday! 

Check out those colors! Of course people were talking about it!

To add a bit of whimsy I hung them at a tilt! That might drive a few folks crazy, but they're taped pretty well, so don't try to straighten them out! 

These paintings are so bright and cheerful I'd hang them on the walls of my home! Really, I would! And I'm not the only one who feels that way. Seriously! Coworkers have said they'd hang them in their homes too! Some pretty lucky families out there will have that opportunity very soon, but we needed to jazz up our school so I'm borrowing them for awhile. Thanks for sharing and for  understanding! 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Not enough weeks in the day!

To say this weekend was busy would be GROSSLY understated. BUT, it was the kind of busy that leaves you feeling accomplished and fulfilled. It was the Thanksgiving dinner of weekends. We went to a football game and lost our voices cheering, we tackled some home projects that needed attention (does landscaping ever end?!), we hung out with fun folks with food in fallish weather (isn't alliteration FUN?!), and the list goes on and on! It was the kind of weekend that should have had another whole week attached to it, there was so much fun to be had!

I attended Mansfield University as a young woman, and even met my super cool husband there. It's a small state school in Mansfield, Pennsylvania nestled in the hills on the edge of town. So many stairs! But there's nothing better than Mansfield in the fall. The coolness in the air, the colorful leaves, and the sound of the marching band practicing makes me want to carve pumpkins and use newly sharpened pencils. Each year it's home to the fabulous 1890's weekend, and it truly is FABULOUS! It's something my family looks forward to each year. The tradition started with just my grandmother and I while I was a college student, and I haven't missed a year since. We go early in the morning while the chill in the air has a bit of a bite, there's a foggy mist on the drive there, and you finish waking up on the 30 minute drive with your roader coffee. Why so early? THE BOOK SALE..... 

The library hosts a book sale that my grandmother and I loved. She always had a small list in her purse of books she was hunting for. I never go with a list, I just love the hunt. When my children were smaller I'd carefully comb through the children's books in search of little treasures for them to enjoy on my lap at bedtime. In recent years they've searched for their own treasures. They love the thrill of the hunt and the find as much as I do! I search along with them, adding to their piles, choosing books I enjoyed when I was their age, hoping they like them too. I found a Nancy Drew Mystery to add to my collection! We even scored a couple Calvin and Hobbes books we didn't have yet!!! If you love to read and you missed it, mark your calendars for next year. You won't be sorry. 

All that book huntin' works up quite an appetite! A breakfast stop at Night and Day Coffee Cafe is just what the doctor ordered! The wall colors have changed a few times over the years but the service and quality is just as awesome as ever! Specialty caffeinated drinks, homemade baked goods, local honey, and artsy benches and tables make for a fun atmosphere hungry and thirsty folks of all ages are sure to enjoy. One of my favorite things about this place is that while I sip my delicious coffee and nibble my artfully prepared bagel sandwich, my eyeballs can feast on artwork by local artist Paul Bozzo! We have a (small but growing) collection of his work hanging in our home, and you should too! Seriously, check it out...

After searching through books and feeding our faces, we ventured toward the center of town and rested on the curb for the parade! Sarah Knight, second grade teacher at my school, joined us for the 1890's adventure! It was her first time, and I think she liked it. She really liked it! Books, breakfast, parade! Who could resist?! There's candy! My grandmother loved the parade too, especially the bagpipers. I think of her every year at this time and know she'd love these adventures with my kids!

To add to the fun, my lovely friend and posse pal Betsy was planning a 17th birthday party for her darling daughter, Hannah! She asked if I'd be willing to do a Wine and Design kind of guided painting thing, minus the wine, of course, and I happily agreed! Her home is adorable, the company was hilarious, the music had toes tappin', and the cherry on top was that her boyfriend was cooking!!! His food is amazing. I chewed slowly to make it last longer. Then I went for seconds. Don't judge. It was that good. Yummo! Delish! Really super tasty! 

After stuffing myself, it was birthday paint time! Several of Hannah's friends gathered in the living room around a table, a few sat on the stairs, a couple of much younger guests (who also happen to be students of mine from school) sat at the coffee table, and we rolled up our sleeves to get started! The birthday girl chose a picture for us to paint and everyone chose background colors.

I'm not used to hanging with teenagers, I teach Pre-K through 6th grade, but this group was talented! I asked all of them if they were taking art classes in high school. I encouraged them to sign up! We talked about ceramics class and making clay whistles. They chatted, they laughed, there were some insecurities, but I think they had fun. At least I hope they did!

These painting parties are a fantastic example of how different we all are, even when given the same task. Each painting was slightly different and I love that about art. Hoping Hannah had a Happy Birthday weekend!!! There were no birthdays in our household, but the weekend was packed with adventures and fun! Fortunate folks....

Sunday, September 18, 2016

It was a dark and stormy night...

Do you remember the show "Lambchops Play Along"? I can remember it occasionally being on our TV when I was a child. Shari Lewis, puppeteer, had little adventures with her puppets, the most popular being Lambchop, of course. If you're not sure what I'm talking about, check it out. It might bring back memories and you'll have the song stuck in your head all day. You can thank me for that later (wink!). Anyway, the credits song was 5 or 6 lines that continued in a loop "This is the song that doesn't end.....". It's true. It really doesn't. Things like that are great when you're a kid. They're easy to remember, they're super catchy, it makes you giggle, but they can drive adults a little crazy after awhile. After about a minute really. Well, my husband likes to tell a "spooky" campfire story that works the same way. It's a loop story that begins with "It was a dark and stormy night and a band of gypsies gathered around a campfire....". When our kids ask for a story around a campfire it's his go-to tale. Understandably, it's lost is appeal, so my kids REALLY really look forward to campfire stories and adventures with our framily (friends soooo close they become your family) pal Karen Vasco! She tells THE BEST campfire stories! No bands of gypsies or dark and stormy nights with her! Just spooky, edge of your camp chair, chills down your spine stories that'll keep you up all night! She never tells the same story twice. She's truly the hostess with the mostest! Her campfire gatherings also include fun and tasty campfire foods, like mountain pies (who doesn't love a good ol' mountain pie?!), hot dogs roasted over a fire, and smores! No real campfire is complete without smores, just sayin'. 

Karen usually plans an exciting night adventure, a hike or treasure hunt, requiring a change of shoes and flashlights. The kind of adventure you'd be nervous about going on alone, but with a group it's the most thrilling hike EVER! She talked with my daughter, Clare, about how the rocky terrain was a bit like hiking the Appalachian Trail. My daughter instantly felt like a true mountain woman and could've hiked all night long! She hunted for salamanders with my kids near the trickle of a stream at the bottom of the ravine. She fearlessly led the way through the dark, braving slippery rocks and spider webs, clearing the trail for the rest of us. She's seriously the coolest lady ever! 

We practiced our Sasquatch calls, watching and listening for a squatch while we hiked through the darkness. Did you hear that knocking? I'll bet that was a squatch... I was fortunate to capture this rare Claresquatch sighting! Careful, they spit! They're also prone to giggling while attempting to look menacing. Beware when walking the woods at night!

At the end of our adventure our feet were soaked, it'd rained a bit, and we probably had bugs in our hair, but we laughed A LOT and reminisced about past night hiking adventures. We are already looking forward to the next!!!  

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Play it, Sam...

Growing up the only time I watched cartoons was Saturday morning. Shocked? It was normal. We had 13 channels and when my father got home from work he chose what to watch, usually news. Sometimes, though, we got lucky. Sometimes he'd watch old movies. At first I'd grumble inside, knowing that grumbling outside wouldn't change anything, but I learned to appreciate and love old movies. Little things in life stir up the coolest quotes from old movies. Do yourself a favor and watch some, you won't regret it. 

Without old movie knowledge you'd totally miss my Casablanca reference! If that's you, go watch it. Don't walk to the couch, run! No one can resist the dark coolness of movie icon Humphrey Bogart. I'll bet he'd love this new-to-our-town piano gracing the front of NAPA for the community to enjoy! He might even ask Sam to play it again...

How did Westfield get so lucky? Well, over the summer I took my kids to a movie in Wellsboro. We walked by a man dressed as normal as we were. He looked average. Nothing about him indicated any hidden talents. Minutes after passing him I stopped in my tracks. I heard music. I heard someone playing a piano and it was the average guy! But he wasn't average at all! My children and I listened to him play. It was lovely. Wellsboro has at least 3 pianos spread out along their Main Street and it's an awesome idea! Then I wondered why more towns don't do this. Nice shops and tourism certainly help to make towns nicer, but you can do nice things for the people that already live in towns to make it special. Like a piano. For everyone to play. Anytime they want. Unless it's raining. If it's raining it'll be covered up, but any other time should be fine. I thought yeah, we could do this. YEAH! WE CAN DO THIS! 

How do we do this? Hmm...I contacted the mayor, Dick Vargeson. It's like having your very own Wizard of Oz! I shared my idea and he tracked down a piano! Really, it was just that fast! The Yeager family kindly donated one, and I asked their daughter and my former student, Rebekah, to help paint it. Then I asked her friend, another former student, Lauren Foulkrod, to help too. We were like a piano painting posse!

See?! But before we could dive in, it needed a base coat. Jason at NAPA kindly donated a bucket of NAPA blue paint, and my husband helped me paint it! 

Then the real work could begin. We decided to meet after school a few nights for a week, but it all hinged on weather. A few rainy days and possible showers really threw a wrench in our plans. That's ok! Slowly but surely we plugged along!

The folks at NAPA were awesome, checking on us each evening before they closed at 6 to see if we needed anything. They've taken great care of this piano, and it's so appreciated! 

As we painted folks stopped to ask about what we were doing. I chatted with students about it at school. Cars would beep, folks would shout out encouraging words from cars while stopped at the light in town, kids at school would excitedly tell me they saw me painting and give their stamp of approval on the progress. Even before we were finished it was stirring up community pride and spirit. 

The girls and I had SO MUCH FUN painting together! We laughed, joked, talked about school, shared our mission with folks that asked, and I learned that Lauren had the coolest shoes in the world. How perfect is it that we wear the same size?! She KNOWS I love sugar skulls and that I LOVE teaching Day of the Dead before introducing Frida Kahlo....I also LOVE converse sneakers!!! If we truly were in Oz I'd go Wicked Witch of the West over those shoes!

Others helped as well. Sarah Knight, 2nd grade teacher at WAES, stopped by to say a big hello and to check out the piano up close. She added her own touch by artfully painting "Play Me" on the front, along with a few other special little details. 

I put a clear coat on the piano that evening, and took the bench with me to clear coat over my lunch. I told my students that I was dropping the bench off after school and that it would be the signal that it was open to the public for playing. When I dropped it off I stepped inside to thank the folks at NAPA for their kindness and support. When I walked out there was a student playing it already! It was the BEST!!! Warm fuzzies and good feelings...Since then, several have tickled the ivories. Westfield hosted its very first "First Friday" event. Though small, it was successful and I hope to see it grow. 

Folks sold things they made, others played music and taught guitar, my family enjoyed the chalk drawing on the sidewalk, and others played piano!

More pianos will be added soon, so be watching and listening! If you have pictures playing our piano, share them with our mayor, Dick Vargeson, on facebook!