Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Inspiration - In Like a Lion

That's right, on Friday it will be March 1st, supposedly the most Lion-ish part of the month.  Why not celebrate this lion-like month by making a kite?  Youtube shows how to make many styles, but here is an easy one.

I just had an inservice in school that said that children now spend on the average of 7.5 hours in front of some sort of screen each day.  Kite flying is a wonderful way to get outside and feel the wind and watch it in action.  Try making different styles of kites and see which flies the best.

I have been in the mood to celebrate recently.  In the past week we had over 300 people come to meet lambs at our farm on Lamb Celebration Day and Lamb Celebration Day (the sequel).  This week we got to 200 "Likes" on Facebook and over 1,400 people have viewed the pictures from that day.  I do like a good celebration, so why not celebrate March and have a kite party?  Here is a great site that did just that.

Do kids even do this anymore?  What fun!
And a cake to keep the celebration going!
My very good friend Barbi Harris made a quilt for my youngest daughter, Robin, when I was pregnant with her.   Because she was supposed to be born in March, Barbi meticulously appliqued a kite on the quilt.  Robin decided to be born in April instead, but the quilt commemorates that Robin always does things when she is ready, and we have a beautiful quilt to prove it.  

Whether you have a kite party, make a kite quilt, cake, or just remember to celebrate each day for what it is, even try to enjoy the "lion" part of March.

P.S.  Robin's working on a really fun project that took a little longer than expected, so she'll share her how-to on Saturday!  

Monday, February 25, 2013

Traditions - In Like a Lion

March is right around the corner, and we want to celebrate this crazy month (which, by the way, holds St. Patrick's Day, Day Light Savings Time, and Easter this year, as well as some crazy weather patterns) by starting with the old adage, "March comes in like a lion, and out like a lamb."  

Lions at the Columbia Zoo
Although I am thoroughly enjoying this "lion-like" blustery, wet, cold-then-hot-then-cold-again weather, I can't help longing for the more lamb-like conditions where we can start planting our vegetable garden.  

I love to play in our garden!  We have a postage-stamp-sized back yard, but I've always wanted to grow my own veggies, so four years ago, my husband and neighbor built me a little raised bed garden.  (You can find similar plans to build your own here.)  Ever since then, we have trying our best to make our little plot of earth produce as much fresh produce as possible.  

For us, gardening is a family affair.  It is a great excuse to let the kids get dirty, learn about plants and growing, sizes, shapes and colors, and create an incentive for them to eat their veggies.  (Kids are much more likely to try a vegetable that they had a hand in growing.)

2 year-old Jesse playing in the dirt
Showing the size difference in the tomato and pumpkin seeds
3 year-old Jesse showing off his first (over-ripe) cucumber.
Hooray for cucumbers!
Every year they boys get more involved.  At 4 years-old Jesse helped plant the herbs, while Micah sat watching in the stroller.  (Notice the chubby baby legs sticking out in the upper left corner.)

We try new vegetables every year, too, although we've had the most luck with tomatoes and herbs.  Sometimes we use mature plants, but mostly we plant from seed.

Last year, I skipped the store-bought seeds starters and made some out of newspaper instead.
Jesse helped pick out and plant all of the vegetable seeds last year, too.

Watering is very important!
Micah (1 year-old), checking out the growing cucumbers and tomatoes.
Jesse stealing snow peas

Gardening has become so much more than a way to provide fresh produce for us, though.  It's a way to connect with my kids, and it's a tradition I hope they continue when they have their own gardens.  

I just ordered all of our seeds for this year's garden - green beans, shelling peas, snow peas, big boy tomatoes, grape tomatoes, green peppers, strawberries, carrots, cucumbers, shallots, and spinach...and I can't wait to get started!!


Friday, February 22, 2013

A Pep Talk from Kid President to You

We hope you've enjoyed all the inspiration, recipes, and fun facts about presidents this week!  I've deviating from our usual Friday post of a kid-themed craft or activity.  Instead, I wanted to introduce you to perhaps one of the most awesome kids on the the internet:  Kid President.   If you haven't seen this yet, I recommend you take a few minutes and watch.

*click here to watch*

Have a great weekend everyone, and don't forget to give the world a reason to dance! 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Presidential Reflections

Do you notice that you never see George's teeth in any picture?
     As I was sitting here thinking about what a president is, and what an overwhelming privilege it must be to be able to actually change the course of history, I stumbled across some facts about some of our past presidents.  Here they are:

George Washington-Teeth were made from elephant and walrus tusks, not wood.
John Adams- First to live in the White House
Thomas Jefferson- Spoke 6 different languages
James Madison- Smallest President at 5' 4", under 100 lbs.
Andrew Jackson-First President to ride in a train
William Henry Harrison- President for only 31 days, died of pneumonia
John Tyler - Loved kids, had 15 children
Zachary Taylor- Never voted for a President
Millard Fillmore- First President to have a stove and running water in the White House
Abraham Lincoln- Tallest President, First President to be assassinated
James Buchanan- Never married, his niece was White House hostess
Ulysses S. Grant- Was fined $20 for speeding with his horse and carriage
Chester A. Arthur- Changed his pants several times a day - he owned 80 pairs of pants.
William H. Taft- Heaviest President - 332 pounds.
Warren G. Harding- Gambled away a set of White House china.
Gerald R. Ford- Held his daughter's High School prom in the White House.
Jimmy Carter- First President born in a hospital.
George Bush -Survived 4 planes crashes during World War II. 
William J. Clinton -Played the saxophone on national TV.
George W. Bush -Has a collection of over 250 signed baseballs.
      I am not sure if I would like to be remembered for having teeth made from elephant and walrus tusks, or owning 80 pairs of pants, or for being fined for speeding with my horse and carriage, or for playing my saxophone on national TV.    
     I think that what I would like to be most remembered for, is that I loved God and was able to show that to others.  Each one of us has a circle of people that we come in contact with at work, school, at the grocery store, at church, or even on Facebook that we have the privilege of influencing  in some way.    There is no coincidence that we have them in our lives.  
     On Monday, we had Lamb Celebration Day at our farm.  Over 200 people came to meet our lambs, especially our bottle fed lamb, Moses.  As I was putting a lamb on a little girl's lap, her Mom said to me, "Are you Niki Giberson?"  I looked up at her and realized that I had met her 25 years ago when she was a teenage camper at Delanco Camp, (which is a Christian camp in South Jersey) where I was a counselor for the first time.  She is now a home schooling mom, with three children of her own, who was scoping out my place for a field trip for her home schooling group, and did not know that the farm was mine.  It made me think, 25 years ago, I was put into a position to influence her life.  It is a little scary to think that I was a new, but very willing Christian and was being trusted with these teenagers' lives.  I know that it made a difference in her life in a good way.
     In 1 John 4:11 it says "Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."  There are people in your circle that do not know this, and you might be the only one to give them this message.
     What do you want to be remembered for? Who is in your circle of influence?  Who needs to hear the message of God's love and hope?  You may never be president but you still have the potential of helping to change someone's course of history.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Presidential Inspiration

The week of Presidential celebration continues with some inspiration for education, entertainment, and snacks.  First off...

Something to learn:
I came to the realization today that I don't know all that much about our nation's Presidents.  I can't list half of their names let alone when they served, what they stood for, or what they did.  Well, this set wouldn't get me all the way there, but it would be a start:
Uncle Goose Presidential Blocks
This beautiful set of wooden blocks contains 45 blocks: one for each President and one with the Oath of Office.  Each Presidential block contains the President's face, name, years in office, when and where he was born and died, and what party he ran with.  The blocks fit together to depict the American flag.  Although the set is a little pricey ($87.95 on Amazon), I can assure you that this is a top quality product.  My mother-in-law got the Uncle Goose classic alphabet blocks set for Judah for Christmas.  They are beautifully crafted and are sure to be an heirloom for generations to come.  They even offer replacement blocks on their website in case you lose one.  And they are made in the USA.

Something to Watch:
Here are two of my favorite Presidential movies, conveniently offered in a two-pack on Amazon.
The American President was written by Aaron Sorkin, the same man who wrote the West Wing series.  It follows the President (Micheal Douglas) through his re-election campaign, which gets messy when he begins a relationship with environmental lobbyist, Annette Bening.  Its excellent supporting cast (including Martin Sheen and Michael J. Fox) and witty banter make it a highly entertaining experience.

In Dave, a look-alike (Kevin Kline) is hired to take over for the President when he gets sick.  The movie shows how he turns out to be a better President than the real one and falls for the first lady (Sigourney Weaver).  It's a feel-good story about a genuinely good guy doing the right thing and getting the girl.  You can't go wrong with that.

Something to Do:
Did you think making little edible houses was an exclusively Christmasy activity?  Think again.  Martha Stewart offers us these adorable pretzel log cabins in celebration of Lincoln's birthday.
You can find complete instructions here.

Something to Eat:
If pretzels and peanut butter aren't your jam, maybe a little taste of George Washington's cherry tree is more up your alley.  This is a recipe that has become a Giberson girl standard.  It's one of my favorite desserts to make and to eat.  Unfortunately, I don't have a picture, so you'll just have to use your imagination.  They're a shortbread-like cookie bar-ish type treat with sweet cherry pie filling centers.  Hard to explain because I've never had anything else quite like them, but they are oh so good!

Cherry Tarts
1 cup crisco
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 can cherry pie filling*
confectioner's sugar
*They've been filling these cans with less cherries and more goop in recent years, so you may want to get 2 cans to make sure you have enough cherries.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 13 pan.
  2. Combine crisco and sugar.  Add 4 eggs, one at a time.  Add vanilla and flour.
  3. Pour batter into pan.  Score batter into 24 squares.  Drop 3 cherries onto the center of each square.
  4. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean (about 30-40 minutes).  Dust with confectioner's sugar, cut, and serve.
The cherries settle into the tarts forming a little heart in the center of each.  So not only are they delicious; they are also pretty adorable.

I hope these little inspirations spark your own Presidential traditions.  How have you been celebrating our nation's Presidents?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Week of Presidents - How to Make a Presidential Flour Sack Towel

I hope everyone who came to Lamb Celebration Day at Swan Bay Folk Art Center had a good time with our lambs!  Thank you for making the day so special for us!  If you missed it, or just want to visit with our lambs again, we will offering another day to celebrate with our sheep on Sunday, February 24th, from 2:00-4:00 PM.  

While y'all were braving the New Jersey winter, my little family had the awesome opportunity last weekend to go to Walt Disney World for a couple of days.  Ever since Jesse found out we were going, he's been asking if we could go to the Hall of Presidents.

(Photo of The Hall of Presidents found here.)
This was taken as we were waiting for the show to start.  My little monkeys were already getting restless. 
Jesse is six years-old, with an extremely short attention span, so I thought he would hate it.  I couldn't have been more wrong!  Jesse LOVED it!  It turns out that my funny, energetic boy loves history.

I hadn't been to see the presidents since I was very little.  It's one that we usually skip over in the interest of more "entertaining" attractions.  Watching it as an adult, I found my non-political heart stirred in pride for my country.  So, when we got home, I busted out a crafty tribute to Jesse's two favorite presidents - George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

The finished towel
Flour sack towels are thin, and dry quickly after drying your dishes or hands.  Here's what you need to make a presidential flour sack towel, too!

The Supplies:
White flour sack towel (I bought mine in bulk here.)
Freezer paper
Presidential silhouette pattern
Exacto knife
Cutting mat
Black screen printing paint
Paint brush
Plain white paper (such as printer paper)
Red and blue embroidery floss and needle

The Process:
If you have never used freezer paper for printing before, you are missing out!  It's a simple process that usually produces awesome results.  First, prepare the flour sack towel by washing, drying, and ironing it.

Then, print out the presidential silhouettes from the file at the bottom of this post. 

Place squares of freezer paper (which are slightly larger than the silhouettes) shiny-side down on top of the printed presidents.  Trace the presidents on pieces of freezer paper using a light box to help you see the shapes, or hold papers up to a sunny window.
Using your Exacto knife and cutting mat, cut around your traced lines, starting with the most delicate parts of the face first.

Using a very hot iron, place stencil silhouettes shiny side down where you'd like them and press into place.  (I folded my towel in thirds, and placed the freezer paper on the middle third.)

Place a piece of plain paper under the fabric towel and paint in the stencil using the fabric paint.

Paint slightly over the edges of the stencil to ensure that the edges are covered.

When the paint is dry (I usually let mine set overnight.)  peel off the stencils.  Heat set using the paint manufacturer's instructions.
Tie an overhand knot in the red thread and thread it through your needle.  

Starting in the back of the fabric, insert your needle and pull the thread through to the front. 

Now do a simple running stitch all the way around the perimeter of the silhouette.

When you get to the end, tie several knots to keep the thread from coming undone.

The finished knot.  Continue in the same way with the blue thread, following the line around the red running stitches.

The finished stitches
Happy crafting!!!


Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Message From the Queen

A few summers ago, I joined my mom's jam business.  I squashed and squished the berries, measured out goopey globs of fruity deliciousness and pounds and pounds of sugar, and my mom would turn it into something magical.  I highly treasure those days sitting around the kitchen counter, watching colorful glass jars get lifted from steamy hot baths and celebrating with jubilation every time we would hear each metal lid pop into place.  She loved to see how much she could produce with her hands and her time.  I loved the dreaming and scheming we would do as the fruit was being transformed.  We made over two thousand jars together that first summer.  But the most important thing that happened (for me) was she let me redesign her jam label.

I'm an artist, and I want things to be pretty.  I loved sitting at the computer and designing each individual label's color to reflect the taste of what was inside.  My mom loved not having to fiddle with such tediousness when she was trying to be productive.  She gave me the title of "Vice President of Marketing."  When I helped her hold events at the farm, she promoted me to "President of Marketing," and after I helped her make a facebook page and redesigned her website I have since become the "Queen of Marketing."

Over the next few years, my kids were born, and I found myself in too many other sticky messes to get back into jamming, but I loved keeping my hands in the marketing of the business.  I wanted my mom to be successful, and as amazing and talented and productive as she is, she is not that great in letting people know about it.  She ran a business for over twenty years with the mantra of "word of mouth is the best marketing tool."  While this may be so, letting other people to do the marketing for you in this day in age, is just not good enough.  Swan Bay Folk Art Center needed to step it up a notch, in my opinion.

I wanted to let people know what was going on here.  They needed to see it for themselves.  That's when we created Lamb Celebration Day.  Every lamb season, we would invite people to the farm to meet our baby lambs, get to take a picture with them, and (my mom's favorite thing) feed people home made cookies.  The first year, she insisted we not put out anything to sell, saying that she didn't want people to think she brought them here to sell them something.  *psh* Pa-lease, Mother!  (Again, super talented - not great at marketing.)

The thing about what we make is that I feel people need to see the process behind it.  Sure, a wool-felted snowman is adorable, but when you meet the sheep that it came from and realize that sheep needed to be fed and watered daily, its babies birthed and cared for, their fleece shorn, the wool washed, the wool dyed, and then it was tediously felted with the process using a sharp barbed needle, it becomes more than a decoration.  It has a story.  And a history.  And it came from the hands of someone who loved the long process it took to make it.  And that artist hoped it would make its way into the hands of someone who loved it just as much as she did.  That's what makes the crafts that come from Swan Bay Folk Art Center special.  People don't buy things from our shop just because they like it.  They love this place, and they want to take a piece of its history home with them.

ALL that to the "Queen of Marketing" it is my pleasure to inform you that....
   We will be having our third annual LAMB CELEBRATION DAY this MONDAY!!!  And if you missed the event listing on facebook, here's the info....

10:00-2:00 Monday, February 18th at Swan Bay Folk Art Center in Port Republic, NJ

It is our favorite time of year at Swan Bay Farm... Lamb season! Come celebrate our new arrivals and get a great photo op holding a lamb. (Make sure to bring your cameras!) We'll have free cookies and hot chocolate for you to enjoy. We know this is short notice...but we've been keeping an eye on the weather, and it looks like we're finally going to have a sunny day on Monday.

We will also have our shop set up with lots of goodies- homemade Jersey fresh jam, baskets, and wool felted and knit creations made from our sheep. We have beautiful roving and yarn available from last year's wool crop as well.

We have debuted a new kind of class at Swan Bay Folk Art Center- a Women's One Day Retreat! We will have lots of samples for our upcoming classes to show you, and a sign-up sheet available on Monday if you would like to come to any of these events.

Please feel free to share this event and invite others!

Hope to see you on Monday....and so do our Little ShEEEEEEEp!!!!

 To get updates on future events at Swan Bay Folk Art Center and Farm, please like our page on facebook.  And take a minute to look over our new website!!!  I think you'll agree with me- my mother is awesome and what she does at this place is amazing.   

Love to you all,
The Queen :)