Starting off With a Bang!

What could motivate kids to spend four weeks on the same drawing? A big contest! I have the kids doing a local contest in which their artwork would be hung up in our bank, published in a calendar, and could win $100 for both the child in the school!

The contest is through the teachers credit union. The kids have to draw what makes them happy. I have added that whatever makes them happy cannot be something trademarked or with a logo.

During the first two weeks on a project my students work on the in pencil. Now they’re trying to add color with crayons and markers. I really pushed the idea of adding details by introducing MC Escher’s work. I also require that the stains out of background, foreground, and middle ground. I shared with my students my rubric to make my directions clear.

I’m really excited about how the project is going! It’s a great way for me to learn more about my students and their interests. Especially as a new teacher coming to a new school, these personal projects really help us start to build a rapport.

Van Gogh Sunflowers

For the beginning of the school year I like to choose a project that is communal, and small for each child to participate in. This leaves a lot of time for them to learn all of my procedures and rules during the class period. any good teacher and as of the first two weeks of school it’s all about rules and procedures so that the rest of the school year can run smoothly. This year I created a new lesson based on Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Each child was responsible for creating a sunflower in two class periods. Also, during these two class periods we would go over all of my procedures, safety, and rules for the art room. We also reviewed the fire drill.

To start the project I presented the students the Sunflowers painting. We talked about what they saw. They told me about circles, I taught them by geometric shapes. They told me about cylinders and the shape of the vase. We talked about warm colors, analogous colors, I showed them the color wheel. I asked them What the subject of the paining wise: self portrait, portrait, landscape, or still life? I was actually pleasantly surprised to find that all of my kids knew that it was a still life! This is one of my school districts objectives: to teach the subjects in art. Kids should learn the four subjects in art upfront, so that way they are familiar with them throughout the school year.

The students also mentioned to me that there was blue in the background of the painting, this was a cool color. This also gave me a moment to explain to them that I expect to always see a background in their artwork. I don’t want them just to draw the main idea of their project and leave a lot of empty white space.

I passed out 6″ x 6″ white sheets of paper to each student and a pencil on the first day. Each student to their sunflower. On the second day we read Camille and the Sunflowers, to get a better idea about the artist life, and his intent and painting this work of art. This is a really great book to introduce students to life and art of Vincent van Gogh, however it keeps out some of the darker parts of his life. At the very end of the book if your students are older there is a very straightforward biography about him. However with my students being kindergarten through fifth grade I want to keep it a little bit lighter.

On the second day of class we also colored in and cut out our sunflowers. Kindergarten needed some assistance, however I was pleasantly surprised most of them could cut out your sunflowers relatively well. I did remind students of the work of art is a pretty realistic work of art, therefore I expected them to use the warm colors we talked about in class. Afterwards, I used butcher paper to create the background and vases for each of my five murals in the hallway of our school. All together there are 800 sunflowers in these murals. I spent one prep every day for a week stapling up my sunflowers. Luckily they were up in time for open house!

My other lucky little bit during all of this was that our school’s brand new community garden had two large blooming sunflowers while we were creating our works of art! They definitely inspired my students!

Welcome Back!

Welcome back to a new school year! I took off the whole summer to focus on the renovation in my home and transitioning my kids into their new preschool. I also spent some time setting up my new classroom and getting ready for the new school year. I am back to being a full-time art teacher at an elementary school in Las Vegas. The blog is gonna take a little bit of a different turn now, it’s gonna be directed towards what I’m doing in my classroom and less what I’m doing in my personal life. My Petite Picassos are going to be my students, and there’ll be a lot less about my own children.

My classroom is pretty large and we have a computer, laptop, a smart projector, a kiln, and a storage room. The kiln has its own separate storage area. I have lots of storage in my classroom with cabinets under my two sinks and two cabinets that roll.

I found this idea of dripping paint on Pinterest for my bulletin board. Took about an hour to cut it out perfectly, but I’m really pleased with the results. I have one bulletin board set up to be the one that I present our new lesson plans on. The other bulletin board I’m using for our art vocabulary word wall. With the art vocabulary word wall I simply printed out the vocabulary words such as diagonal, bright, photography, portrait, etc. on computer paper and cut them out and laminated them. They’re stuck to the word wall with sticky tack so I can easily remove them from the word wall and attach them to a reproduction that we are learning about.

I also like the way I set up all of our tables this year. I continued the drippy paint idea and cut out blobs of paint from construction paper in different colors and tape them to each table to signify each table, and better organize the kids. I also have the tables set up in sort of a C-shape. This allows for a lot of community discussion, however I can going to the center and pass out materials or teach from the center of the C.

For our first project back to school I like to do something very small, easy, and communal. At our school we have a community garden that I’m tying into a Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflower’s art project. I’ll be posting more about that next month.

Also in the beginning two weeks of school I really like to lay out all of my procedures, rules, and expectations for the students. I use CHAMPS in my classroom for laying out my expectations as we move through transitions. I only have three rules in my classroom which is to respect me, each other, and the materials in the art room. I go through what that means, as I walk around the classroom and show the students how to safely use the art room. We practice drills, we practice passing out materials, we practice cleanup.

I’ll be posting every two weeks during the school year. You can also follow my classroom on Instagram @mypetitepicassos. Happy New School Year!

Break

I’ve decided to take a break from blogging for a little while. I’m going through a transition from working at home to working outside the home and over the summer back to teaching. Once I go back to teaching I’m sure I’ll start the blog in a little bit of a different direction focusing more on teaching art from the art teacher’s perspective along with some parenting articles. If you have been following this blog for some time I just wanted to give you a heads up and let you know what’s going on with me and the blog. Thank you so much for following and see you in the summer!

Vegan Shakshuka

I have been vegetarian since I was 13 years old. I’ve always eaten eggs and dairy with brief moments of being a vegan. As I got older I am more interested in becoming a vegan as it has become more accessible and more of a health concern for me. My egg eating has become a concern for me with my classroom and my digestion. So I’m giving veganism another shot.

I’m really enjoying all of the new vegan restaurants in my town and vegan options that are out there including vegan donuts. My oldest son and I stop at Whole Foods and grab one every Sunday on the way home from swim class. I have switched out the margarine, butter, creamer’s for my coffee, to vegan options. My youngest son likes the chocolate almond milk, however my oldest son only likes the chocolate soy milk. They are both lacto-ovo vegetarians , however with me introducing some dairy free options I’m hoping that their colds will be easier to manage. They say that cutting back on dairy will loosen up any mucus causing illnesses. With both of my boys in daycare we’ve had a lot of colds this year.

My husband is a flexitarian. He still eats meat and fish from time to time, however he does enjoy my vegan and vegetarian options. As the cook in the house I only prepare vegan or vegetarian food so he only eats vegan or vegetarian food 75% to 80% of the time.

So one of the challenges lately is that he wanted something different for Shabbat dinner. I had been cooking a lot of quiches prior to going vegan, with my new dietary restrictions comes new recipes and challenges. Last week I looked on YouTube for some good ideas on how to cook an Israeli food favorite: Shakshuka vegan style. I came across a video featuring an actual Israeli woman named or Ori Shavit who is a vegan activist and cook in Israel. She uses sweet corn meal to replace the eggs in the shop sugar. She mentions that polenta is made from a technique that she’s using. You can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/jrfiaIizzns. With it being Shabbat, for which I cook several dishes and being short on time I decide to go straight to the polenta.

I have never been a fan of polenta, I never really knew so much how to use it. After watching a few episodes of Rachael Ray, however I did learn that it should be creamy and it can even be cheesy tasting! So I took a store brand Trader Joe’s log of polenta, crumbled it in my hands, put in a pot with some coconut milk and nutritional yeast cooked until it became a grits-like consistency. It was delicious on its own. I was so pleased with how it came out. It was so easy and quick to put together as well!

The final test came at the dinner table. I was already really happy with how the shocks you collect, have a tomato sauce tasted, but the final decision had to come to my Israeli husband. He absolutely loved it and we even had the leftovers last night!

Ingredients:

4 large-medium sized heirloom tomatoes (I used red mainly, but also green and yellow)

1 log of store bought polenta

1 tbsp. nutritional yeast

1 tbsp. Smoked Paprika

1 small can of tomato paste

1 tbsp. minced garlic

1 orange and 1 red bell pepper, washed and diced

1/2 c. coconut milk

1 c. water

2 spring onions

7 white mushrooms, chopped

1 tbsp. Olive Oil

1 chili pepper-use only the bottom, sweeter half and chop

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a pan over med-high heat. Add garlic, peppers, and mushrooms to sauté until softened. Chop tomatoes into medium sized cubes and add to the pan along with water, paprika, and tomato paste. Lower the heat to simmer, partly covered on medium heat. Allow the tomato’s to soften, the water to evaporate, and sauce to thicken until there are no more bubbles around the edge of the pan.

While that is happening, into a saucepot crumble your log of store-bought polenta. Add your half a cup of coconut oil and tablespoon of nutritional yeast. Cook on medium high, using a potato masher to further mash the polenta and coconut milk together into a thickened, grits- like consistency

Once there are no longer any bubbles in your tomato sauce, spoon the polenta into the tomato sauce in oval shapes around the pan. It should be mimicking what an egg would look like if you were using eggs. One of the key components to Shakshuka is it’s red and yellow look. You can eat it with pieces of sliced up bread, warmed pita, Challah, or on its own. It’s a delicious and warm salad entrée.

Ten Ways I Show My Kids I Love Them

With Valentine’s Day around the corner we are thinking of showing our loved ones we care. Prior to having kids my husband and I went BIG on Valentine’s Day with special dates, dinners, and surprises. We agreed we had to, after all our last name is Amor.

Now with two little boys we try everyday to show we care and love them. As an attachment parent I truly believe in building a strong relationship and foundation of family is the essence of building self-esteem in kids. I want my boys to know that I have their back no matter what, and that I truly have their best interests at heart. Home should be a safe, nurturing space where my boys can relax and put their cares away.

1. I try to make one on one time with each boy. For my oldest it’s swim lessons every week, for my little guy it’s cuddling at bedtime.

2. I have dinner with them every day. We sit down at eat together.

3. I ask them about their day and listen to their answers.

4. I try to make time to do activities every day after school with them-time at the park or Gymboree, cooking together, cuddle and read a story before bed.

5. I tell them how much I love them and how special they are to me.

6. I give them small treats-a donut after swim, a printed coloring sheet I brought from work.

7. I apologize-if I lose my temper or make a mistake I say I’m sorry and talk to them about it.

8. I let them make choices:jeans or sweatpants; hotdogs or pizza for dinner-it shoes I respect their decisions and value them.

9. I start my day with a cuddle. When we first wake up we put on a cartoon and cuddle for 20 minutes. It’s the best way to start the day.

10. I try to challenge them at their own pace. Kids need to grow and develop but I don’t want my boys to have anxiety about new experiences. I recently weaned my youngest-it took 9 months. It felt like it never would happen! My oldest weaned in a matter of weeks! Different strokes for different folks.

Hug your littles and let them know they’re special this Valentine’s Day! Share how you make your kiddos feel loved in the comments below.

Healthy Rice Crispy Treats, Rich in Omega-3 Fats!

When I first became a vegan in high school one of our favorite snacks amongst my friends and I was to make rice crispy treats with peanut butter. It’s a really easy and simple recipe, my boys even helped me with it! I have updated my peanut butter-based rest crispy treats to be even healthier by using puffed brown rice, organic creamy peanut butter, and organic coconut oil.


Omega-3 fats- which are great for your brain are tough to come by when you’re vegan or vegetarian. A lot of people get their omega-3 fatty acid’s from fish. As a vegetarian I get mine from nuts and oil’s. Avocados are another great source. Neither one of my boys right now like avocados, so I’m focusing on healthy oil’s and nuts. A simple way to get my boys to eat more omega-3 fatty acid’s is to use a seeded or nutty bread such as Dave’s Killer Bread which has 440 mg of omega-3 fatty acid’s along with some organic peanut butter. That’s a pretty typical lunchbox lunch for my boys.

Ingredients:

5 c. puffed brown rice cereal 

6 tbsp. coconut oil

6 tbsp. organic, creamy peanut butter

3 tbsp. maple or agave syrup

1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips or carob chips 

Directions:

Combined 4 tablespoons of coconut oil, 6 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter, and 3 tablespoons of maple or agave syrup in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for two minutes, the coconut oil and peanut butter should be melted.  Stir all ingredients together to create a batter- like consistency.  Combine with 5 cups of puffed brown rice in a large mixing bowl. Pour into a parchment lined 9″ x 12″ baking pan. Spread the rice crispy batter evenly throughout the pan. To create the chocolate topping: combine 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and half a cup of chocolate or carob chips. Microwave for 2 minutes on high-stir chips and melted coconut oil together and drizzle over the rice crispy batter.  

Place the pan in the refrigerator for at least three hours.  Cut the rice crispy treats into squares, serve and enjoy!

Warm Riced Cauliflower and Garlicky Greens Salad with Crispy Chickpeas

I don’t know about you, but between all of the holiday weight that I’ve gained and the illness that my family has had with a rough couple months of flus and colds I am definitely looking for a health boost. So in my attempt to eat healthier, lose weight, have more energy, have less aches and pains, and promote healthy eating within my family I am trying to move towards a more plant-based diet. I’m trying to cut back on dairy, eggs, processed foods, adding more fruits vegetables nuts and seeds.

So one of my simple swaps is to use ricedcauliflower instead of rice in my vegetarian dishes. You can find it in just about any supermarket now! I saw it at my local Kroger Smith’s, I’ve ordered it through Amazon Prime Now, and Trader Joe’s has had it for well over a year. Using it instead of white rice or even brown rice in my dishes will save me hundreds of unwanted calories, and add folic acid to my meal.

If you have been reading my blog of the years you know my oldest son is a very picky eater. One way that I can get some veggies in him is by putting about half a cup of the riced cauliflower in with a cup of brown rice and mixing that together. If you cook them together in your rice cooker with some water, olive oil, salt, and pepper it is almost indistinguishable from the brown rice.  I typically make that for him one night a week.

To make a simple, plain riced  cauliflower I will give you my recipe and steps below. It comes out having a very similar texture to rice, it looks like white rice, and if you add some olive oil and salt it doesn’t have that strong, cauliflower taste anymore.

Simple Riced Cauliflower

1 packaged frozen or refrigerated riced cauliflower

water to cover

1 tbsp olive or coconut oil

1 tsp salt

Directions

In a deep pan pour your riced cauliflower, cover with water, add olive oil and salt.  Cook, uncovered on your stovetop, on high until the water boils.  Reduce heat to medium and cook covered for 10 minutes until the water is absorbed.  Fluff with a fork.

Garlicky Greens

4 c. Greens of your choice (collared, arugula, spinach, kale-I used a 50/50 salad greens mix)

2 tbsp minced garlic

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt to taste

Directions

In a deep pan add olive oil and turn your stove’s heat up to high.  Add 4 cups of greens in bunch, by bunch , sautéing with a wooden spoon. Add 1 tbsp of garlic after about 2 cups of greens have been sautéed in the oil and wilted, then continue adding greens.  Sauté the greens with the last tbsp of garlic and then turn off the heat.  Salt to taste.  Enjoy!

***For this recipe I made the riced cauliflower while heating up my oven for the chickpeas.  Then I divided my cooked riced cauliflower into two bowls, used the same pan for the greens to cut down on dishes.  While the greens were being sautéed , the chick peas were in the oven crisping.

Before adding the chickpeas, I added sunflower seeds to my husband's salad

Crispy Garlicky Chickpeas

1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 tbsp olive oil

salt to taste

1 tbsp garlic 

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 375 F.  On a baking sheet pour your chickpeas, olive oil, and garlic.  Mix together with your hands and spread evenly across the baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and place in the oven for 30 minutes. When they come out they will be crispy and warm.

To layer the salad-I placed the riced cauliflower in the bottom of our dish, then I topped it with the garlicky greens and crispy chickpeas. For my husband, who doesn’t eat much during the day, I wanted to add some more protein and crunch to the salad so I sprinkled sunflower seeds on top as well.

To accompany this salad with a simple vegetable soup with chickpea noodles.  It’s a very nutritious, healthy kick start to the New Year!

These are the chickpea noodles I picked up at Smith's.

Neon Trees for Tu B’Shevat Using Art Materials From Around the Home

One of my favorite art subjects to paint are trees. I love Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt and I used that curvy, linear tree he depicted to influence these three simple trees my two year old and I made this morning using materials found around the home.

For these trees I used Crayola neon tempera paint, cotton balls, white card stock, a toilet paper roll, a Sharpie marker, and a household sponge.

To start I drew simple curvy, linear trees using Sharpie marker on 9″ x 11″ card stock. I copied the tree 3 times. Permanent marker is a must as it won’t smear when paint is applied on top.

For the first tree I used a cardboard toilet paper roll and cut slits all the way around using scissors, folding the ends outward to create a brush. Then my son dipped his brush into the paint which I laid out on a plastic lid. Then he stamped the tree with it.

For the next painting he used cotton balls to “dot” paint onto the trees and for the third a piece I cut from household sponge. It’s important to dampen the sponge before painting with it.

We did these paintings in conjunction with the Jewish birthday of the trees-Tu B’Shevat. The boys have been learning about this holiday in school. I like to support their learning with books and crafts at home.

Tu B’Shevat is January 30th this year, and it’s the first of several Jewish springtime holidays. In Israel it is celebrated as also a day of ecological awareness.

Going along with that theme of caring for our planet, incorporating the concept of recycling in art, we used simple household materials for these projects. Whether you’re a mom on a budget or an art teacher trying to create an art program on limited funds-art can be an affordable, meaningful activity. You don’t need expensive materials to have fun and be creative!

Holiday Break

Hi there!  If you’re following and keeping up with the blog you may have noticed I didn’t post last week.  Ben was home sick on top of the eight crazy nights of Hanukkah.  So I’ve had my hands full!  In the upcoming weeks we have December holiday break, family visiting and Adam turning two on New Year’s Day.  So I’m going to take a much needed break from blogging and resume next year.  Happy Holidays!!!