Tag Archive | paint

Summer plans

Rana’s last day of first grade was on the 12th. It always changes the dynamic around the house when she is home all day. She is a forceful little personality with lots of creative energy. If we don’t deliberately channel it in positive directions things quickly dissolve into chaos and my blood pressure shoots through the roof. I learned early on that I have to be proactive about it. The year before last, I had a theme for each day of the week during the summer. I went with a similar idea this summer, but because of Mr. Gren’s  rotating schedule I decided to make up a little calendar to help the kids know what to expect.

One package of craft felt later and I had a week’s calendar with little medallions to represent the different activities. The felt sticks to itself like those old Sunday school flannelgraphs, so no fastening necessary. I can move them around to different days and the kids will know at a glance what’s on the docket for that day. Well, more or less.

  • The cross: Pretty much is always going to be on Sunday to represent church.
  • Portrait of Papa: Mr. Gren’s day off, so we’ll do something together as a family like go to the park or the zoo.
  • Bowl with a spoon: Each child will get to help me in the kitchen for one meal. Konik will help with breakfast; Granota with lunch and Rana with dinner. I’m hoping that by each kid having an assigned meal, the other two will stay out of the kitchen and let us work!
  • Broom: Chore day! We’ll all work together to get the house cleaned up.
  • Music notes: Music day. It might be learning a new song together, making instruments, or maybe even a music video (Granota is getting pretty good at “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”)
  • Castle: Build a fort! The kids always love sitting in a fort and I figured it would reduce my stress level if we just had a specific day set aside for it.
  • Question mark: Mystery day! It will only be a mystery for the kids. It’s kind of my “uncategorized” activities. Maybe a craft or play-doh or a walk in the woods. That kind of thing. It gives them something to anticipate.

My summer ingeniousness didn’t stop there!  Granota is a little movie fiend. She starts pestering me from the instant she has finished breakfast to let her watch a movie. (I don’t let my kids watch TV, but we do have videotapes that they can watch). And once she starts, it’s hard to get her focused on something else. I didn’t want to have the same conversation 500 times everyday for the rest of the summer, so I came up with a plan. I made the kids movie tickets that they can cash in whenever they want to watch a movie. Three for “short” movies and two for “long” movies, plus an extra “long” one that they can earn by being helpful around the house.

They are pretty excited about using them. As of Sunday evening they have already used one of each ticket. I figured that would happen. But hopefully they’ll learn to ration them and they’ll realize it’s more fun to have one movie each day rather than five all at once and then nothing for the rest of the week. I’m curious to see how long it takes for them to catch on.

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Also, in other fun news, I made a fancy little button that will link you straight to my new blog “There’s A Lot Goin’ On.” See it up there on the right? I mentioned this last week, but in case anyone missed it, this blog focuses on setting straight some common misconceptions about Axl Rose. Why Axl? You’ll have to read to find out. hee hee

Little Saints

In France, the nativity scene or crèche is the most important feature of a home’s Christmas decorations. The tradition of terra cotta figurines was particularly strong in Provence, where each year a new character is added to the traditional nativity scene. There are an assortment of townspeople, animals, and buildings for the people who really get into it. We thought it would be fun to begin our own collection of these santons.

We bought ours at a Christmas market in Paris while we lived there. They are available painted or unfinished. We liked the unfinished ones, with the idea that I would paint them up how we liked. You can see the stamp of the workshop that made the pieces on the bottom of each one.

Le Moulin à Huile

For some reason, as seems to happen with several of my crafty good intentions, I never got around to it. When we unpacked our Christmas decorations after Thanksgiving this year, I pulled out the little sack of santons and vowed that this would be the year that I’d paint them.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had painted one sheep and a donkey already. Hey, that’s a start.

I don’t know why I waited so long to do this. It really didn’t take that long and I really enjoyed it.

The clay really soaked up the paint, so I could give each piece multiple coats back-to-back. Once the color covered well enough, there was still something not quite right about them. I decided the color looked flat. So, for each piece, I dipped my brush into a darker color and then a lot of water, making a wash, and painted over the whole thing. The darker color settled into the crevices, while the water kept it thin enough not to obscure the original color. I think it worked out pretty well!

Now I need to make my santons a little stable to live in. We’ve got some nice flat pieces of bark around here that I think would work well! If I ever get it done this year, I’ll put up photos.

In French tradition, Baby Jesus is removable. He is not placed in the manger until late on Christmas Eve (after the kids have gone to sleep) or first thing Christmas morning. I kind of like that idea!

If you can’t afford it, fake it

For almost as far back as I can remember, my dad has sold paint and because of that, paint has always had some influence on my life. On road trips, my brothers and sister and I would flip through the paint decks that always lived in the car and laugh at the silly names. My first set of blocks were actually 4″ x 1″ x 1/2″ paint samples that my dad had painted and no longer needed. I thought they were great — there were all different colors! We always got to choose the paint colors for our bedrooms and my parents weren’t afraid to try out new paint techniques in theirs. There are a lot of really cool things you can do with just paint. And, if you don’t like it, it’s just paint! No permanent damage done.

When Mr. Gren and I moved to France, our church, Emmanuel International, was in need of some redecorating help. The main building had been a house and the sanctuary was in an attached carpenter’s workshop. These had been converted into church use decades before, but still weren’t quite as fresh and inviting as they could have been. We spent several of our first days in France with paintbrushes in our hands. Paint dries pretty quickly in 100F weather.

Emmanuel International Church in Rueil-Malmaison

At some point in the church’s history, someone had decided that “emerald isle” (Thank you, Benjamin Moore color deck) would be a fabulous color for the carpet. No matter that that particular shade of green doesn’t really go with anything else. But, that’s what we were stuck with. On the far end of the sanctuary was the baptistry where someone else had done their best to fancy it up with faux columns supporting a gothic-inspired window.

Not bad as far as architectural interest goes

This photo is from a later renovation. At the time that Mr. Gren and I arrived, the ceiling beams and the gothic baptismal window were trimmed in a hideous yellow akin to that ladder in the corner. Now, maybe you like yellow. Maybe you think yellow’s not all that bad. Have you already forgotten the emerald green carpet? It was kind of a stomach-turning color combination. I was fairly certain I could improve the look.

Once upon a time I had seen on TV or read online or in one of my dad’s brochures a faux finish painting technique that mimics the look of marble. If anything needed a faux marble finish it was those sad little faux columns. I did a quick search and this page has a very good step-by-step instructions on how to DIY: How-To Faux Finish. I found a couple different shades of green paint, plus some white and black, and a glazing medium. I won’t explain the whole process since the above website does it better than I will anyway. The only real difference is that I used a feather for painting on the veins.

On the way to marble

Doesn’t look so hot, does it? But now, check it out from a little bit farther away once I had finished the whole process.

Already looking more believable

Touching up the green around the column really made a difference, too.

All done

The green on the trim is unfortunate, but you work with what you’ve got. Just try to ignore that part! My little pseudo columns turned out pretty well. So well, in fact, that people who had attended the church for years didn’t even bat an eye; the marble sold itself! A couple of years later, the sanctuary required extensive renovations, and, in that process, the offensive green carpet was ripped out and replaced with a more palatable beige. All of a sudden, the green trim and marble didn’t make sense anymore. So I repainted it all white and replaced our serpentine with travertine. After all, it’s just paint.