ElleSee Paints: The Follow-Up to Self-Portraits for a Year

March 29, 2020

So for my 35th birthday year I planned on painting self-portraits each month as an art project where I would challenge myself to paint over the previous artwork and try new techniques an approaches to painting that I had not done before (find out why here).

While there were several months where I did not complete a portrait (I always forgot about it until the last hour before the beginning of the next month), and I have yet to paint the last self-portrait (the canvas is prepped with white paint), and I didn't really try any new techniques or styles in my painting (in most of the paintings the brush strokes look pretty much the same), but I did try to draw myself in different ways: closer, smaller mouth and bigger eyes, non-human...etc. That helped me to have a different approach to each self-portrait.

Would I do this again? Yes. I think I would. Though I forgot about it until the last minute every time, it was a lot of fun to get outside of my painting box (trees and landscapes) to try something new. What have you done lately that was outside of your regular box?


Behind the Art: Tetrahedron

March 21, 2020

While I was making Christmas gifts one year, I had some extra air-dry clay available that I decided to use to make some brooches for the shop that were a more affordable price point than the hand-drawn brooches set in a wooden bezel (see them here). I came up with a few shapes and designs, but decided I wanted to do something in a triangle shape without it being just a triangle that I cut out. So I looked-up three-dimensional triangles and found the tetrahedron

The Tetrahedron is one of my most favourite brooches that I have made, and, in true fashion of favourite-things-a-maker-has-made, it is one of the last to still be in the shop. If I'm being honest, all of my favourites are still in the shop. One of the hardest things as a maker is to think that you are coming up with the coolest ideas and creating the most amazing things only for them to not sell at all (or very rarely at a handmade market), but all you can do is keep moving along and hope that the next idea sticks better.


Our Favourite Children's Books and Toys

March 18, 2020

Favourite Books for Preschoolers

The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak is a fan favourite with both my preschoolers at work, and my son at home. It is soooo silly that there is absolutely no way that a child would simply not love it.

I just discovered The Button Book by Sally Nicholls, and the children are loving it!! Not only is it a beautifully illustrated book (thank you Bethan Woollvin), but it is also very silly (are you sensing a theme here? Silly is good!) and the children love doing the activities prompted by the buttons (especially the green button...).

Favourite Books & Series for Older Kids

If your child is a fan of the Geronimo Stilton books, then the Kingdom of Fantasy series is a good one to check out. My son cannot get enough of it, and asks for a new book every birthday and Christmas. Even if you've never read any of the Geronimo Stilton books before, you don't need to worry about it as this series stands on it's own.

My son read The Wild Robot by Peter Brown with his class and absolutely loved it. He brought home the second book in the series called The Wild Robot Escapes from the school library, and when I read the back of the book I was instantly taken with the story and how much it reminded me of the dystopian fiction that I read in university. It is very well written.

Favourite Toys for Preschoolers

Right now, the absolute favourite, top-used, could-play-for-hours toy for my preschoolers at work is Duplo. This open-ended STEAM toy has so many possibilities, and creates so many opportunities for learning co-operative play.

Another incredibly popular toy at work is the blocks. Every child currently in my room enjoys playing with the blocks (regardless of gender). These blocks would be a good starting kit if you don't already have access to some.

Honestly, preschoolers are happy with any kind of open-ended toys: toys that they can build with, toys that they can dress-up with, toys that they can explore water and sand with. Loose parts are also amazing and they use their imaginations to come up with so many different ideas and ways to use them. The beauty of loose parts is that you can use anything from around your house (buttons, nuts and bolts, pinecones...the list goes on!).

Favourite Toys for Older Kids

GraviTrax are like a marble works for older children that provide lots of STEAM opportunities, while also giving them something fun to do. You can find the starter kit here, as well as multiple expansion packs (including a magnetic cannon!). 

Nothings beats a solid collection of art supplies (great for younger kids too!). Getting crafty and creative is also a great way to use some of the recycling and materials that might note be recyclable in your area.


The Shop is 9

March 08, 2020

This month is the shop's 9th birthday! It's unbelievable that we have reached this point, that so much time has passed and we have seen the shop grow and develop into what it is today. I still have so many dreams for the shop, so there's a long way to go on this winding road that Little Shop of ElleSee is taking, but I am so glad that you have been walking along with me (see the journey so far here). Whether you have been with me since the beginning, or have just joined in on the adventure, I have loved having you with me. You've made excellent company!


Thoughts: Kindness at Home

February 28, 2020

I've had these thoughts spinning around in my head for the past few days about how we spend the first few years of our children's lives keeping them hidden from the world, protecting them from all of the things that hurt us as children or continue to hurt us as adults, but we eventually reach a point where we have to send them out into the world and realise that there is nothing that we can do to stop people from hurting them. They are no longer in our protective bubbles, and aside from talking to teachers, etc, there are not many other options, making you feel so helpless.

But let me tell you, I've started to recognise that how I treat my child and what I do in my home matters during all of those school years where my son is trying to find his footing in the world. If I mock my child, or belittle my child, I am not setting him up for success, I am showing him that I am just as volatile as the world around him. I am no longer a safe place, and I am only making him feel even more alone. 

We may think that we are toughening our children up, getting them ready for the world out there, but of all the people in our children's lives, we should be the people that consistently show them kindness and lift them up, so that they know that home is a soft place to land at the end of a very long day.


Behind the Art: Love You Infinity

February 15, 2020

This card was inspired by those late night conversation good-byes that we have all had with our loved ones at some point in our relationship:

Back in the day, when my husband and I were still dating (this year was our 20 year dating anniversary!), we would tell each other "I love you", "I love you plus a thousand" etc. until we got to "I love you infinity" and the other person would say "I love you infinity plus one" and so on until we decided it was time to hang up the phone. Then we got smart and started saying "plus one to whatever you say" and that ended the back-and-forth for each conversation (though it was fun while it happened). 


6 Fun Valentine's Day Recipes and Activities to Do With Kids

February 13, 2020

This recipe for two-ingredient watermelon gelato would be a perfectly simple (and easy to make) treat for Valentine's Day.

If you'd like to make an entire meal for you and your little Valentine, I also found a recipe for the cutest heart-shaped pizzas and these yummy fruit skewers

These hearts are absolutely adorable and look so simple to make that I would have absolutely no problem making them (you don't even need a sewing machine!). They would also make a super cute DIY Valentine that would last forever.

If you're feeling extra crafty, check out this tutorial for an sweet little felt heart garland, and if you're not DIY inclined, this super fun activity that involves STEM is really fun to do with kids (and it works).


What We Love: Winter 2020

February 03, 2020

I have loved the work of Carole Epp since I first bought a small cup from her for my son when he was a very little boy. The cup didn't last long (as most things end up being dropped at that age), but I  repaired it as best I could, and bought another small mug for him when he was a little bit older. Then I asked for a mug for myself for Christmas, and it is one of my most favourite mugs to use for tea. 

The artwork on Carole's ceramic pieces for every day use is simple (yet speaks volumes) and you can tell that the work that she does for her community (not only as an artist, but as an activist as well) comes from the heart. She isn't afraid to say what is on her mind, and often talks about how art is political. She is an inspiration to me, and I love supporting her work.

When I heard Alicia Keys perform this song at the Grammys, and I have listened to it every day since. Not only does she have an amazing voice and message in this new song, but she is an inspiration to so many people. What a beautiful way to lift people up!

This letterboard that is big enough for an entire wall from Little w Studio is on my purchase list for my home. Not only are the letters and pieces of wood that hold the letters so well done and beautiful, but it would make a great focal point in any room. Plus, they have a really fun Instagram account that provides a lot of laughs and inspiration. You can find them here.


Eating Healthy for Picky Eaters: A Simple Salad

January 30, 2020

If you're trying to get on track with eating healthy, it can be quite difficult if you are not a huge fan of different kinds of foods (picky). So as I am finding my way along this winding path of taking care of my body, I want to share with you some foods that I eat as a picky eater myself, and how I am working towards getting the nutrients that my body needs as well as enjoying eating food (because not everyone wants to force themselves to eat cooked peas or quinoa).

I have always enjoyed simple salads that don't contain a lot of strange vegetables, but I have been expanding my palette and even tried kale at a restaurant recently (it was done well, and it was delicious). I am a raw vegetables kind of person, but I don't enjoy much more than cucumbers, carrots, radishes, and lettuce (pretty much any kind, but recently I've been eating something called a living lettuce). I've been adding dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds (a good fat) for some different textures (like I said...expanding my palette) and extra flavour. I do not use salad dressing.

If you're not a fan of some of these items, swap them out for a vegetable that you do enjoy. Don't make eating healthy something that's painful, because you won't be inspired to continue. If you don't want the pumpkin seeds, but like salad dressing, make yourself a vinaigrette out of a healthy oil so that you're still getting a good fat (the cranberries are just a flavour bonus for me).


Behind the Art: Tall Bird Loves Small Bird

January 26, 2020

This drawing was originally part of an anniversary card that I drew for my parents several years ago. Originally, I made a drawing of my mom (small bird) and my dad (tall bird) on a small piece of paper that I attached to a card (find the history of shop art here to see how I used to make cards), but before I gave it away, I scanned the art and made it into a little art print for the shop, and eventually into an anniversary card when I started purchasing the higher quality of paper. 

The card is very specific in it's purpose, but I like that the art print can be seen not only as spouses or partners, but as a parent and child relationship as well.


Child Development: The Importance of Teachable Moments

January 20, 2020

Teachable Moments are key instances throughout the life of your child when important social emotional concepts (see the five categories of social emotional learning) can be taught to your child. The trick is that they must be taught at that very moment, as waiting to talk about it until later loses the connection to the situation. 

It's important to understand that children live in the moment, in the now. If you wait to talk, your child's memory of the moment is less clear, and they aren't able to see how the lecture you're giving them relates to something that happened two hours ago that they've clearly already moved on from.

Let's say your child hits another child while at the park. You don't say anything about it until you get home about an hour later after your child has played in the sand, gone down the slide at least 30 times, you have pushed your child on the swing twice, and splashed in the puddles on the way home. Once home, your child has eaten a snack, and the two of you are now playing a game when you remember and you start talking about that time your child hit someone at the park. Your child has lived through multiple other moments since they hit the child and they are not going to be able to recall the moment  at the park properly.

As awkward as it may feel, use that moment right after your child has hit the other child to sit/squat/kneel at your child's level to talk them through what they have just done and why it's important to act differently next time, or not engage in the behaviour at all. If your child hits another child because a toy was taken away from them, take this opportunity to give them the words ("Hey! Give me back my toy!") to use next time instead of their hands. If your child randomly hits another child, use the moment to talk to them about how our hands are not for hitting, that hitting hurts, and give some examples of what they could do with their hands instead (build a sand castle, throw a ball, etc).

As your child gets older, the teachable moments you may be working with will become more complex. While a two-year-old might hit, bite, or take toys, a five-year-old might be telling another child that they are ugly or that they are going to go to their friend's house and hurt their friend's family. Where your child gets these ideas from is not important in the moment, what is important is that you step in and talk to them about empathy and what it means to be kind and care for others, and consider what it would feel like if someone said those things to them. Take the Teachable Moment by the hand and lead your child in the direction you would like them to go. You an dive into where the comments come from later on, or address it during the Teachable Moment.

If your child's behaviour reaches a point where you feel that you cannot properly help your child through it, do not hesitate to ask someone for support (including a mental health professional). As children get older and the social emotional moments that they encounter get increasingly more complicated, it can be difficult to figure out what to do to support them. There is no shame in asking for help.


Shop Update: Valentine's Day 2020

January 12, 2020

Valentine's Day is creeping closer (hopefully not like a creeper), and it's time for the shop to start thinking about all those cards and gifts that you'd like to give to the ones you love (because this is totally different from Christmas). While all of your favourites are still available (find them here), there are a couple of new cards in town: one that was inspired by Sharon, Lois and Bram (hello Canadian childhood!), and one that popped into my mind after my husband helped me find something that I was searching for for 10 minutes and he found within a few seconds after I started having a meltdown.

Love You Because interactive card

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