Category Archives: Art


I grew up in a small town in upstate NY which had a surprising number of Indian families given the population and diversity of the town. My family was friends with all the other Indian families and we got together often. As a community our biggest celebration was for Diwali. We would rent out a church basement or town hall somewhere and throw a big bash with lots of food and fun and all the kids could just run around like crazy way past our bedtime. Someone would always make a trip across the border into Canada and buy a mountain of sparklers to add to the festivities. Since fireworks were out of the questions we had to make do with sparklers.

Some families were more religious than others, but there was always a Pooja at some point during the night. I didn’t really understand it (we were one of the non-religious families) but I did love to gather around the deity and hear the singing and feel the reverence of the moment and bask in the tradition of it.

Sometimes the kids did a talent show or put on a play. We weren’t terribly organized but one year we rehearsed and rehearsed a play about Akbar and Birbal. I don’t recall now which story we were acting out, but I do remember that my part was that of a very strict palace guard. My older brother was Birbal and was to try to gain access to the palace I was guarding. I mentioned that we weren’t terribly organized. My brother only told my mom a few minutes before we were leaving that he needed a beard for the play. The best my mom could do was to cut up a piece of fake fur she had used for doll hair and tie a rubber band around it to keep it on. Considering the time and materials she had available,  she did a pretty amazing job. However when my brother came around the corner with this piece of fake fur on his face I just about wet my pants. I forgot all of my lines and just stood there laughing hysterically.

Needless to say, those Diwali celebrations of decades ago had a big influence on me. I try to celebrate Diwali with my family in whatever small way we can. Sometimes we just cook an Indian meal and light a few candles, sometimes we have friends over, and sometimes it just goes by unnoticed. This year I wanted to do something special but Diwali was so close to Ulka’s birthday and I just couldn’t do it all. So on Diwali itself we didn’t do anything, but when we went to my parents for Thanksgiving we celebrated with my parents and my sister-in-law and my nephews. Unfortunately my brother (aka bearded Birbal) had to go back home for work.

I have always loved the idea of doing a Rangoli for Diwali. I had never done one before but they are so beautiful and I have always thought it would be fun to try. It is an interesting idea- spending so much time creating a lovely piece of art work that will just blow away or wash away in the next rain. Rangoli is made with powdered chalk and I was able to buy it in wonderful colors in the Indian grocery store near us.


When I told my dad about it he seemed very excited. He had never done it before either, but as a boy people would come to his house in India and make beautiful Rangoli designs outside the door.

We started in the afternoon and by the time we finished up it was just getting dark. Andy and I looked at hundreds of patterns and examples on-line and Andy sketched out something similar to what we had seen online.


The outside lines are all done in white chalk and then filled in with color. It was pretty amazing watching Andy let the chalk dust slip through his fingers making an incredible pattern as if he had been doing it all his life.



Once he had outlined the whole pattern in white we all filled in with color. We decided which colors would go where before we started. All the kids helped and everyone had a great time.




We finished up just as it got dark. It was right outside the dining room window so we could see the candles flickering all through the amazing meal we all helped to prepare.



After dinner we lit sparklers which the kids thought were pretty amazing, especially the little ones. All in all it was a wonderful Diwali celebration- one that will be remembered for a long time.


Autumn Crafts

This is going to be just a quick post, hopefully getting me back into posting.  It’s been a busy fall and looks like it might even be getting busier as we start big new projects, but more on that another time. We are off to a good school year and have started the fall yard clean up and garden bedding-down.  There is always time for crafting though, and we have made some fun things.

Last winter I made a heart garland for some Valentine’s Day fun which got me all excited about seasonal garlands and I made a flower one in the spring. I planned on doing a sweet butterfly garland for summer but that didn’t happen. There’s always next summer though.  I found several nice patterns for autumn leaves and set out to make a leaf garland using yarn leftovers.  I settled on this pattern for oak leaves. As I have mentioned before I am not much of a crochet-er so it took a little while to get the hang of this pattern but once I did I could whip them off fairly quickly. They are great when you just have a few minutes here are there. I decided to felt my leaves to make them a bit more solid feeling (and to hide my mistakes!).

Once I had a nice pile of autumn leaves for my garland, I decided not to make a garland. On Andy’s excellent suggestion we went out and found a branch and I hung all the leaves from the branch. Then Andy helped me hang the whole thing from the ceiling. I love it!

The girls have been working on a sweet little fall craft also. Last year my friend Sarah shared a lovely idea for a children’s seasonal craft. You can check it out here on her blog. Unfortunately, as crafts sometimes go, my girls didn’t finish them properly so we never got to display our cute jack-o-lanterns.  I decided to do that project again this year, but instead of jack-o-lanterns I made acorn and leaf templates and they are making fall decorations. Ila finished hers the day we started and Ulka is still working on them.

Ila of course got a lot more help. I cut out the shapes for her and I made little dots on the felt to help her know where to poke her needle, but I think she did a great job.

Ila’s acorn

Ila’s leaf.

Ulka was left on her own to cut out the leaves and sew them on. Her’s are coming out great too!

Ulka’s leaves

Happy Autumn Everyone! I would love to know what projects you all are working on too!

Reading Rut

School has been going well for both kids and for me, but lately I’ve been feeling like Ulka needs a bit of a change. Her reading is progressing well using the method I described in an earlier post, and she has been generally happy with the way we have been doing her reading/writing lessons. Recently though, she has been complaining a bit so I decided to try something new for a while and take a step back to give her a little break.

I am a huge fan of the children’s author Elisa Kleven and I think her illustrations are wonderful.  She makes beautiful collages and uses lots of different materials.








I also love the Barefoot Books and Kairav has been enjoying this one at bedtime. It is full of bright illustrations that remind me a little bit of Elisa Kleven’s art. I used these books as inspiration for a fresh approach for Ulka. I cut out lots of shapes from colored paper at let her use them to create her own paper cut pictures.

paper cut picture


Then I gave her a list of words for her to read and use to label her picture. Then next day she told me a story about her illustration and I helped her to write it down.

I think she is really enjoying this break from our reading routine and I am too. When  school lessons slow down for Christmas preparation, I am going to have her choose her favorite paper cut picture and I will help her make a appliqué replication of it using wool felt, bits of wool roving, buttons, and other things. We will look at lots of Elisa Kleven books for ideas and inspiration. Then she can give it away as a gift!

Next week we go back to the Burgess Animal Book for Children and learn more about Peter and Jumper and all their friends and neighbors in the Green Forest.

School Planning

My school planning is all done, finally. It’s a good thing too since we started school this week.  I finished up on Friday, and while I am sure it will be a constant adjusting and tweaking process, the whole year is laid out. Planning school is such an overwhelming task for me.  I think this year  having to plan in 15-20 minute chunks over the whole summer was good for me. It gave me a chance to really think about ideas, mull them over, talk to people, and finally decide what I wanted to do with the children.

I went through so many different ideas and methods in my head.  Charlotte Mason inspired, Waldorf inspired, my own mish-mash of things, 4th grade or 3rd grade for Ishaan, 2nd grade or 1st grade for Ulka? So many questions to work out. In the end, I came back to what always feels right and what resonates best with the children and our family life, and that is a pretty straight up Waldorf style home school.  We all love the rhythm, pace and beauty of it. I haven’t read a ton of Steiner and sometimes I think he’s kind of wacko, but a lot of what I’ve read makes a lot of sense for us and I like how it plays out in the way we do school.

Technically Ishaan is in 4th grade and Ulka is in 2nd grade. By technically I mean that according to their age those are the grades they would be in if they went to traditional school and that is what they are registered as with the school system.  However we believe in “delayed” academics, or letting the kids be kids and just play for as long as possible, so we wait an extra year before starting “real school”.  The whole grade level thing seems arbitrary to me anyway. If I teach Ishaan about Native Americans and shelters around the world instead of Norse mythology and map making,  his year is he not learning what he should be? So in the end, Ishaan is doing 3rd grade and Ulka is doing 1st grade, for whatever that even means.

Making Math Meaningful 







For Ishaan I’ve broken down the year into 4-week blocks with a few 1 or 2-week blocks thrown in to break things up a bit. We are going to focus on Hebrew stories, Native Americans, Fibers and Textiles, Shelters and homes, and Farming and Gardening.  Math and poetry are ongoing and don’t get dedicated blocks. Our main focus will be on hands on projects done outside as much as possible and writing fluency.  This seems reasonable since the projects bit is what Ishaan loves best and is good at and the writing bit is what he hates, struggles with and needs to work on most.

Last year Ulka sat down and the table with us for a short time in the morning  and did some work, but mostly just to get into the routine and rhythm of doing school. When Ishaan first started we found the transition to school a bit difficult so I wanted Ulka to get a taste of it before she really had to. So since it is her first real school year and it is hard to know what will work best for her, Ulka’s blocks are much more loosely planned and will be solidified as we go along.  What I do know is that it will entail lots of fairy tales and animal stories including the Burgess Animal Book for Children which I love for this age. Our focus for her this year is definitely reading and she is super excited about it.

Burgess Animal Book for Children 




The trickiest part of school for me really, is figuring out what to do with the little guys. Kairav naps in the morning so I just have Ila to keep busy. Our afternoon session is fairly short and mostly handwork and art so it is easy for them to participate and for me to be with them. I think it will actually be easier when they are all  in school doing their own work, but that is a long time from now- and it will probably be Ishaan teaching Kairav to read!