Winter Cousins Camp

In case you were wondering why our posting has slowed down in recent weeks, we really do have a wonderful excuse–we were busy making family memories. For the past month all six grandkids and our two daughters have been together at our house and joined part of the time by our son and two son-in-laws.

Remember our summer Grandkids (Cousins) Camp? It takes a little more creativity to spend a month together in the winter when you are confined more inside the house, but we did it and had a great time together. The weather for the month ranged from a few very warm spring-like days to lots of snowy cold days.

The three year old “twin” cousins picked up right where they left off last June and were inseparable.

Grocery Store Kids carts

The baby boy cousin “twins” were constantly in motion with one perfecting crawling and the other learning to walk and climb and move barricades. Hard to believe it’s already been a year since we were awaiting the arrival of Songbird’s little brother. (The babies will have blog names one of these days!)Cousin "Twins" and Mommies

Pa and the boys

They love their Pa

With so many mouths to feed it’s a good thing my girls love to cook, and we ate some amazing meals. Since our freezer was stocked with venison my husband brought home last fall, we came up with many meals using our free range, grass-fed meat. Actually, you can substitute venison in just about any recipe for beef. My favorite way to cook it is in a crockpot with chopped onions, chicken broth, and some herbs. It can be eaten like roast or chopped up for chili, stroganoff, soups, barbecue pizza, sandwiches, tacos, enchiladas and the list could go on. Those are just some of the ways we used it.

Kara brought her sourdough starter and taught us to make delicious sourdough bread. Now Melinda and I each have a starter to feed and make our own sourdough bread. If you want to make some, this is where Kara got started.

Melinda taught us how to make homemade tortillas. She uses this recipe. Of course, we also had homemade waffles a few times as well as biscuits with chocolate gravy. Homemade pizza has taken first place over store or restaurant pizza for our clan. This is an easy recipe for crust and you can freeze the dough for later use.

Kara also decided to tackle making Kringle. Kringle is a Danish pastry that has been a favorite of our family from years ago- only we bought it already made because it is a several day process to make. Hers turned out wonderfully tasty, and we have decided to add it to our list of items that we make for the family at least once a year.


So what did we do besides eat and wash lots of dishes?

Helping load dishes

Here’s some pictures to give you a hint.

Auntie and the girls

Melinda and the girls– lots of cuddles!

Anna and Elsa

Almost daily Frozen performances

lost tooth

Ninja Boy finally pulled his tooth after threats Auntie was going to do it for him!

Library Story Time

Story time at the library

Painting on easel

Many hours of painting, drawing, coloring, cutting, pasting…

Ready for Dance Class

Miss Tickles was excited to have Songbird join her dance classes

Yardwork as play

Kids loved helping in the yard on one beautiful day

Butterfly Palace

Explorers at the Butterfly Palace


Snow much fun!

Birthday Tea Party

Happy Great Grandma Birthday Tea Party! The kids had so much fun making all of the decorations.

Baby and Grandma

Toy Story Play

So long, Partner!


My First Mixed Media Canvases

I wanted to share with you my very first attempt at creating mixed media canvases. I did these two and a half years ago before we started I really did not know much about mixed media at that point, but I sure had fun. I’m still learning. I painted the canvases with acrylic paint, glued on a doily and then cut out letters for my words and some of the other embellishments from scrapbooking paper. I used marking pens to add a little more detail to the letters.

My Princess had just started taking ballet classes and loved it. I wanted to make something for her to hang on her bedroom wall. She was only two and loved watching ballet movies.

This first one with the phrase, “Dance like no one is watching” fit her so well. She danced all over the house completely oblivious to anyone else.

Dance Like No One is Watching Mixed Media

One morning she came to her mommy and said, “God wants to dance with me!” Melinda replied with tears, “Yes, He does.”

God wants to dance with me Mixed Media

Words With Friends

The fourth week of the Documented Life Project issued the art challenge of using writing within the theme for the month of “The blank page and how to face it.” The journal prompt was “Words with Friends.” Here’s how we each interpreted that challenge:

My first thoughts in this challenge immediately jumped to books. Books have been my friends all my life. I never left the library as a kid without a huge stack of books checked out. My little sister got frustrated with me when I decided to read rather than play with her (trust me, we did play a lot), and she would try to hide the book I was reading if I left the room. If I couldn’t find it right away when I came back, I’d start a new book. I blame her for my habits as an adult of having several books going at the same time! For this challenge, I drew a bookshelf with colored pencils and then in the grain lines of the wood, I wrote words. The books on the shelves were cut from book paper and colored with colored pencils. For the quotes, I tore paper and printed the words in ink with a quill pen. When that dried, I lightly rubbed over the top and edges of the paper with a brown watercolor pencil and then brushed water over it to give it a slightly aged look.

Words with Friends art challenge DLP 2015


As I pondered this prompt, I thought of some good friends of mine and how I would want to communicate “words with friends.” I typed out a letter and printed it. I folded, opened, closed, smudged some chocolate, “spilled coffee,” and let it “accidentally” get drawn on by a kid to make it look well-read. I used a couple ads from a magazine to look like a living room for the background that the letter would be sitting in.

Words with Friends DLP 2015

Ninja Boy:
I showed the kids the post about word doodles to give them some ideas for their journals. Ninja Boy wrote the word fruit with banana shapes and added the store setting.

Kids Art Writing

My Princess:

Kids Writing

Miss Tickles:
She found a package of letter stickers for her page.

Kids Writing


Wooden Candles for Pretend Birthday Parties

Our daughter sent my husband a text last month asking, “Can you whittle a few birthday candles for Songbird? She loves playing birthday parties and I let her use candles but they break.”

play cake broken candle

So Pa found a piece of scrap dowel rod and sat down to carve some candles. Starting at the top, he cut a spiral groove the length of the dowel. Then he filled in the rest of the candle with two more spiral grooves to simulate a fancy candle design.

Carving wood candles

Carving wooden candles from dowel rod

After carving the rod and a little sanding, he sawed off candle lengths and drilled a small hole in the top of each candle for the wick. Then it was my turn to paint. wooden candles

I painted a base coat and then used a sponge to add paint to the raised edges of the spirals on each candle.

Painting wood candles

I coated a length of cotton string with mod podge, let it dry and then cut small sections for wicks. I glued the wicks into the small holes drilled in the top of the candles. To finish them off I hung the candles by their wicks with clothespins to a clothes hanger and painted a coat of polyurethane.

painted wooden candles

Now Songbird has candles that beg, “Let the birthday tea parties continue!” Thanks Pa!

The Color Wheel

Week 3 of the Documented Life Project challenge was” The Color Wheel” and the journal prompt was “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way…” by Georgia O’Keeffe.

When my kids were young we did a project with the color wheel that involved cutting out pieces of magazine pictures to make a color wheel. I don’t remember what they thought of it, but I knew I had a good time. I decided to use that same process again for this challenge. I cut pie wedge shape pieces from magazine pictures in the colors I needed for my color wheel. In the process I also found a picture of some very colorful tiny umbrellas which I cut into circles. For the first layer on my page, I lightly drew several circles with pencil. Then I painted each circle one at a time with plain water and added two primary colors of watercolor to each circle for the colors to blend. When that dried, I glued my wedge shaped pieces into a color wheel pie and added the umbrella circles. I also cut and glued some text words from magazines and then added black and white doodle lines.

Color Wheel  Multimedia Collage DLP


I cut out color from magazines and arranged them to represent my “color wheel.” Then I drew my letters on white card stock with colored pencils and cut and glued them to the page.

Color Wheel DLP


My Princess:
Grandma helped the kids learn how to mix the primary colors together to make a color wheel. They colored each circle separately with acrylics and after the circles were dry had to remember what they mixed together to put the color wheel in the correct order to glue in place.

Color Wheel

Ninja Boy:

Color Wheel


Lots of Freezing Going on Around Here

Before Christmas, I shared with you the Elsa and Anna Aprons and accessories I made for my granddaughters to play dress-up. In case you were wondering, they love them. My Princess and Miss Tickles got theirs at Christmas…

Frozen Girls Dressup

Songbird had to wait until she came to visit Grandma and Pa to receive hers.

Elsa Dressup

And she can even be found sleeping and eating as Elsa…

Elsa Dressup

Since she doesn’t have a little sister to trade outfits with, I made her an Anna Apron and Cloak dress-up as well. This time I used the bottom of a shirt for the skirt fabric.

Anna Dressup Apron

Wooden Princess Carriage

Today, we are happy to have Jan’s husband, Tom Johnson, share a guest post. He is a wonderful husband, dad, accomplished entertainer, actor, singer, and musician, all around fix-it guy, remodeler, furniture builder, biker, and most of all–his grandkids adore him! You can find out more about the group he performs with here.

And You Want That Pink and Purple?

Phone call: “Dad, do you think you could make a Princess Carriage for Songbird? She really wants one for her ‘Little People.’”

My response: “I could do that. Any ideas as to what exactly she wants?”

Phone call: “Just something made by Pa would be exactly what she would want.”

My response: “O-k-a-y.” (Drawn out to sound like the gears are actually turning in my brain when actually I am scrambling around up there trying to even get a clue to what I could make that would qualify as a “Princess Carriage.”)

After what seems like a short eternity, I respond: “Well, give me a chance to think about it, and I’ll see what I can come up with.”

Phone call: “Thanks, Dad. I know she’ll love it.”


We hang up, and I immediately begin an Internet search for “Princess Carriages.”

Follow-up text the next day: “Oh, yeah. She would really like it to be pink and purple.”

My inside “texter” responded, “Not my department, talk to your Mom.”

I actually return texted, “No problem!”

Yeah, right! Pink and purple what exactly? I continue my extensive search for pictures of P/Cs (Princess Carriage).

Oh, there were tons of pictures of P/Cs on the Internet, spanning the designs of pink plastic ones with white stallions at the front, all decked out with filigree and accoutrements to simple, hand carved, hand painted two-wheeled oxcart ones. The plaguing thought kept dive-bombing my spinning gray matter, “Maybe this one would be better bought than crafted.” But then that one little phrase fought back: “Just something made by Pa would be exactly what she would want.”

Friends, this should be the Paul Revere cry of creative people around the world! Yes, we could throw a couple of bucks at a store clerk (or a lot of bucks, after my discoveries searching the Internet) and get something that would be enjoyed for a relatively short time or we can throw ourselves into the creative whirlwind where the sky is the limit to make and give something that will be a treasure for a lifetime.

Ok, I’m climbing off my soapbox now to continue the story.

I stood in my workshop/garage for quite a while before the light bulb came on in my cranium. You know, usually that’s what real creativity takes: Slow down, take a deep breath and let your imagination run for a while. On the shelf below my drill press I saw a 4X4x6 block of old basswood, too aged and hard to whittle but too valuable to throw out. It was curved on one side where I had cut some carving blanks years ago and that was where my inspiration leaped into action. The curve of the cut became the curve of the top of the carriage. I took the block over to the band saw and cut a ½ inch wide piece along the shape of the curve. From there, a cabin out of ¼ inch plywood was pretty easy to shape, using the band saw to cut the top to match the curve of the roof.Wooden pieces for carriage

The under-carriage of the P/C was a little more challenging because of the wheel structure. I wanted to use a dowel for the axle because I remembered I had some hand-lathed oak doorknob backs a friend had made for me years ago during a fall festival where I work. They had such character that I knew they would make great carriage wheels and the hole in the center was perfect 3/8 inch dowel diameter. So the undercarriage design took a little more sitting and thinking. After a little trial and error, sanding and drilling, the undercarriage took form. The basic carriage was on its way to design completion.Wooden pieces for carriage

Wooden Carriage Wheels

Since the P/C was for her “Little People” (see the Sailboat design from February 27, 2014), I needed to make seating for the princess and the prince inside the P/C. Then the driver needed his seat, of course, so that came next. And, everyone knows the princess doesn’t travel without many changes of clothes and her other important things, so a trunk had to be added to the rear of the P/C.

Unpainted Wooden Carriage Pieces

After sanding and dry-fitting the pieces, Grandma took over the “pink and purple” part of the project. She even found a crown to adorn the roof of the carriage so that everyone would know it was the carriage of the princess. Pink and purple paints, fabric designs and filigree, and wheel spokes, all painstakingly applied, were exactly what the pieces needed so that when they were all assembled, the P/C was complete.

Handmade Wooden Doll Carriage Crown

A little glue and some air nailing brought the whole project together: A pink and purple Princess Carriage.

Handmade Wooden Doll Carriage

Handmade Wooden Doll Carriage Front Seat

Handmade Wooden Doll Carriage Trunk

Handmade Wooden Doll Carriage Inside

Handmade Wooden Doll Carriage Inside

This is what Songbird thought of her new Princess Carriage…

New Doll Carriage


Using Gesso With Stencils and Gelatos

The art challenge for the second week of the Documented Life Project was to use gesso in conquering the blank page (which is the theme for the month of January.) The journal prompt was, “The beginning is always today.” -Mary Shelley

We have seldom used gesso and decided to use it with stencils for this challenge. We first covered our pages with a layer of gesso and let it dry. Then using a palette knife we scraped gesso across the top of our stencils creating a slightly raised surface with the stencil design and let that dry.

Gesso through stencil

We each used Gelatos to add color to our pages. The grandkids had a wonderful time using these techniques because they were allowed to use tools new to them. Here are the results of our challenge:


Gesso in Stencil DLP J

Gesso with Stencil and GelatosGesso with stencil and gelatos


Gesso in Stencil DLP M

Ninja Boy:

Kids Gesso Stencil

My Princess:

Kids Gesso Stencil

Miss Tickles:

Kids Gesso Stencil 

Clay Tools for Kids

Last week we were invited to share a clay workshop with a group of pre-teen girls and their teachers at church. They all had a great time learning how to work with polymer clay to make some pendants. Since our desire is to inspire others to try creative activities, we wanted to send with each of the girls a bag of tools they could use at home with clay. Sometimes it is easier to not try something new because we think we have to have a bunch of expensive tools and equipment in order to get started. The bags of tools we put together were filled with various items we had around the house but they can do the job quite well.

Clay Tool Bags


My Creative Clay Tools:

•Roller (my husband cut 7 inch sections from a one inch PVC pipe we had left over)
•Several pins with different size heads
•Popsicle stick
•Cutters made from plastic lids and index tabs
•Wooden skewer
•Plastic bead (for texture)
•Foil (for texture)
•Bubble wrap (for texture)

We also brought along a box of texture tools from household items for them to use in the class.

Here is a closeup of the cutters made from an index tab. The flat sides can be used to cut the clay like a blade and the end of the spine can be used to make texture shapes.

Index Tab Clay Cutters

With simple tools like this and waxed paper for a base to work on (we put wax paper on top of smooth placemats) all you need is some clay and you can get started. When baking the clay to harden you need to follow the manufacturers instructions. You can place the clay on top of card stock or parchment paper over a cookie sheet or tray or place on a ceramic tile for baking. Caution: do not use kitchen items with food after they have come into contact with clay- keep them dedicated for clay use only.

We were busy working with the girls and almost forgot to take pictures, but here are a few…

Teaching Girls Clay WorkshopClay WorkshopClay WorkshopClay WorkshopClay WorkshopGirls class Clay WorkshopKids Polymer Clay Creations

Using Book Paper in Mixed Media

A new year has begun for the Documented Life Project and we are excited to stretch our creative brains with more challenges. You can join Melinda and I on this journey and participate in any way you want. It’s still free and you can share what you do with the rest of the DLP (Documented Life Project) community or just do it for your own enjoyment.

Roben-Marie SmithThis year the original artists who put together the project are incorporating more teaching in various art techniques as well as bringing in guest artists to share. It’s a great opportunity to learn new creative skills and we challenge you to give it a try as you document this year with an art journal. Melinda and I will be sharing with you what we do as a way of encouraging you to try something new as well as helping us to stay committed to keeping up with the challenges. (Disclaimer: We won’t always get the challenges done on the week issued– because life happens. But we will catch up eventually. So just because you think you might not be able to do all of the challenges on time, don’t be afraid to start even if you miss a few. The whole idea is for you to create and learn new skills.)

For the month of January, the theme is: The Blank Page and How to Face It! A blank piece of paper can sometimes be intimidating making it hard to know how to get started. The first week’s art challenge for the blank page was to use book paper, which could be pages from a book, magazine, letters, basically anything that already has something printed on it. The journal prompt for the week was: Be Your Own Goal Keeper.

Instead of using the suggested journal, I decided to use a book cover I purchased at a yard sale. I took out the book pages (easy to do because they were tied in) and will add my own pages as they are completed. I will eventually make the cover pretty but have not yet decided what I want to do to it.

Book for Art Journal

I covered my blank page with book paper– from a book, magazine, and coloring book.

Page covered in book paper

I thought I had some wonderful book paper, parts of which I planned to have showing through in the end. I spread a light coating of gesso over the whole page letting much of the print underneath still show and let it dry. Using my finger I began smearing some acrylic paints around on the page. Still not sure what direction I was going to take this I pulled out my gelli plate and began adding various textured designs to the page. By the time I was done with gelli printing on my background I had completely covered all the book text underneath. I still wanted book text to be a part of the visible design so I gelli printed on more book paper and from it cut out the letters for the word “GOALS” as well as various circles and petals which I glued to the page.


I used a black sharpie to draw numbers on the small circles and a silver pen to embellish the number circles. I tore paper from the border of a gelli printed book page for writing the goals.

Goals DLP Mixed Media

My goals were inspired by the verse in John 10:10– “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Abundant LifeGelli Print Mixed MediaGelli Print FlowerGelli Print Letters


This year I am doing the pages with my kids as part of their homeschooling. It’s going to be fun to do it together and teach them new artistic techniques.

I tried doing my own book-binding with not the best results, but I think it will hold up for this project (I hope). I used an old sketch book and took out the blank pages and folded them for my new book. I sewed the binding then cut down a file folder as my cover. I will eventually decorate the cover, but I haven’t decided what to do yet.


I tried hard to follow some of the techniques from the Documented Life Project ladies because I know it will help stretch my abilities and help me think outside of my box more. I used old book paper, a scrap of notebook paper that my Grandma had written on, and some old magazines. I glued them down and then water colored over the top. I have a hard time with layering, so that is something I am trying to improve. Then I made some white circles with acrylic paint, and after they dried, doodled on top with pen. I didn’t like one of them so I covered it with my GOALS paper. Under the paper that says 2015, I wrote what my goals are for the year and taped it so I can see them. It’s not my favorite page, but I am proud of myself for trying new things (which happens to be one of my goals).


My Princess used a coloring book and a piece from the paper I had used as her book paper. Then she taped on her paper with her goals for the year. At first the picture she colored what too big to fit on her small book (the dog was on the other side of the present), but she used her creativity to find a solution and cut the dog out to glue onto Strawberry’s lap so it would fit!

DLP 2015-Week-1-Kids

Ninja Boy used a coloring book for his book paper too. He also taped on his goals for the year.

DLP 2015-Week-1-Kids