Winter Storm

posted in: Photo Essay | 0

I love winter.  …the cold, crisp, air… the snow… the whole thing.  And so I was just about as exited as our boys were to get our first big storm of the season.  We got a lot of snow. The boys begged to go out and build a snowman, and so we bundled up and went out — but the snow was a little too crumbly.  We made a baby snowman, and then moved onto bigger and better things — a snow fort!  Steven shoveled some snow from the yard into piles during a driveway-shoveling-break, and then Toby and I built a knee-high (or waist-high, depending on who you ask) horseshoe fort.  Toby kept kicking holes in it to make space for a refrigerator.  Then, after a brief snowball fight, it was time to go inside — frostbite prevention!

We didn’t get back out in the snow that day, to play, that is.  We did take a drive that evening (as an aside, I’m really thankful we now have a truck).  The next morning, we awoke to a winter wonderland (okay, it was there the night before too, but give me a break here).  The boys were super excited when they woke up.  But, before they did, I was able to sneak out for a brief walk through our woods on my own (Steven was great, he saw the eager look in my eyes and said “go.”).

So, here are some photographs of my morning excursion.  I love the predawn quiet and stillness.  I got to see a deer, and tracks from several animals who’ve been using the path I made in our woods this summer.

But best of all, I got to see the sun rise and kiss the treetops with warmth and light.

snow on our bradford pear tree -- still with leaves
snow on our bradford pear tree — still with leaves
our house in the moments before the sun rose
our house in the moments before the sun rose
a quiet entrance into our woods
a quiet entrance into our woods
I wasn't the first one to use the path through our woods...
I wasn’t the first one to use the path through our woods…
waiting for the sun to rise over the horizon, I looked back at the way I had come through the woods.
waiting for the sun to rise over the horizon, I looked back at the way I had come through the woods.
Our playground collected a "modest" amount of snow...
Our playground collected a “modest” amount of snow…
I love how the monkey bars held onto snow!
I love how the monkey bars held onto snow!
My recently-hung windchime collected some snow too.
My recently-hung windchime collected some snow too.
The sun starting to rise and cast light on the trees in our woods.
The sun starting to rise and cast light on the trees in our woods.
As the sun rose higher the woods became awash with warmth
As the sun rose higher the woods became awash with warmth
I always love to look at how the snow coats one side of a tree during winter storms
I always love to look at how the snow coats one side of a tree during winter storms
Loving the warm rays on our snow-laden trees.
Loving the warm rays on our snow-laden trees.
A juxtaposition of near and far, shadow and sun.
A juxtaposition of near and far, shadow and sun.
I can't get enough of this tree. Loved looking up it!
I can’t get enough of this tree. Loved looking up it!
As the sun finished rising over the horizon, I enjoyed watching the steam rise across the lake (barely visible in this shot)
As the sun finished rising over the horizon, I enjoyed watching the steam rise across the lake (barely visible in this shot)
Another crooked tree that piqued my interest.
Another crooked tree that piqued my interest.
Another one of the path through the woods, now that the sun had risen.
Another one of the path through the woods, now that the sun had risen.
I love trekking through snow. This snowfall wasn't quite deep enough for me to pull out snowshoes.
I love trekking through snow. This snowfall wasn’t quite deep enough for me to pull out snowshoes.
An abstract shot of the sunrise through my tracks in the snow.
An abstract shot of the sunrise through my tracks in the snow.
As I headed back to the garage to go inside, I enjoyed one last peek at the sunrise, our woods, our house, and the horseshoe fort we'd made the day before. I love winter.
As I headed back to the garage to go inside, I enjoyed one last peek at the sunrise, our woods, our house, and the horseshoe fort we’d made the day before. I love winter.

Thanks for indulging me.  I know some of you aren’t fond of winter (*gasp!*).  But I really love all four seasons — except that constant state of flux where it freezes then thaws, freezes then thaws, etc.   Snow is gorgeous.  As Toby observed, it is “all sparkly.”  The snow shimmers, reflects light, casts a whole new wonder about the world. It makes the ordinary and the mundane seem surreal and magical.  It makes us take a pause from our daily routine to admire the wonders of creation around us.

At least at the start of winter, right? 🙂

Dwarf Lake Iris – Michigan’s Official Wildflower (A Craft!)

posted in: Learning | 5

Iris Lacustris - Michigan's State Wildflower - Dwarf Lake Iris - CraftLately I’ve become interested in adding native plants to our gardens and wooded area.  Sure, non-native flowers can be gorgeous, but there are so many native options to choose from that are better suited for the environment (and therefore easier to grow).

So today we’re going to learn about Michigan’s official wildflower.  And a brief summary of how it came to be the Dwarf Lake Iris.

Long story short, the popular vote was for Trillium (another native wildflower) to be named Michigan’s state wildflower.  Politicians decided to proceed with the second place wildflower, the Dwarf Lake Iris, due to its threatened status.  Maybe they thought the additional awareness about the unique and threatened habitat of the Dwarf Lake Iris could help preserve the species.

I’ve never seen one of these beauties in person.  But thanks to the internet, I was able to find a number of blog posts and photos featuring the Dwarf Lake Iris.

Here’s one that was taken by Joshua Mayer in Wisconsin (see below).  The Dwarf Lake Iris may look familiar, but that’s because it’s part of the Iris family.  This particular flower is miniature — about 1.5″ flowers, with 2″ stems and 6″ leaves.

The Dwarf Lake Iris is unique to the Great Lakes; its scientific name, Iris Lacustris, means “rainbow of the lakes.”

Dwarf Lake Iris (Iris lacustris)
Photo by Joshua Mayer

Online Learning

Here are some resources I found if you want to learn more about the Dwarf Lake Iris:

  • Iris Lacustris – Center For Plant Conservation – I learned that 95% of the existing Dwarf Lake Iris plants exist in Michigan, and that its primary threats include loss of habitat, increasing human disturbance, and Iris Lacustris is very similar to the related (and more common) Iris Cristata.
  • Iris Lacustris – Michigan DNR – this has a nice map depicting where the Dwarf Lake Iris is distributed in Michigan.  There are some interesting tidbits, including that “of the lakes” meaning I mentioned earlier.
  • Iris Lacustris – Flora of Wisconsin – here’s a brief summary of the plant and how to identify it (including pictures).
  • Iris Lacustris – Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center – another brief summary of the Dwarf Lake Iris and pictures of the flowers, including a rare white blossom.
  • Michigan State Wildflower – Netstate – If you’re interested in how the Michigan Wildflower Association sponsored an informal public poll for the state wildflower, and how the runner up was nominated in 1997 by House Representative Liz Brater (supported by the Michigan Botanical Club, the Michigan Nature Association, the Michigan Natural Areas Council, the Michigan Environmental Council, and the University of Michigan Herbarium)…. this site has the political aspect covered.
  • Dwarf Lake Iris – Michigan Sea Grant – another brief summary of the Dwarf Lake Iris’ habitat, characteristics, the fact that its scientific name means “rainbow of the lakes” …plus more pictures
  • Dwarf Lake Iris – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services Endangered Species – facts about the Dwarf Lake Iris (including printable fact sheet), why it is listed as a threatened species, what is being done to protect it, and how to hopefully prevent its extinction.

Books + Activities

I found some additional craft and activity resources for learning about state flowers and native plants, which you might enjoy (Amazon #afflinks used below):

Dwarf Lake Iris Craft

orchidNow for a fun craft to help facilitate discussion about Michigan’s official wildflower.  I kept this pretty simple, as I wanted to go with an artistic abstraction that would encourage my son, Toby, to think and visualize pictures of the Dwarf Lake Iris in terms of simplified shapes.

For this activity, we used some origami paper that I received for review purposes (Orchid Origami Paper – 500 sheet pack #afflink).  I have to say, the paper totally lives up to my standards so far as origami paper goes.  The surface of the paper is smooth, they are easy to fold and get sharply creased, and the colors are really bright.

And before you say anything, yes, I know… cutting is kind of a no-no when forming origami creations.  But, I couldn’t help but be drawn to all the bright colors when I was trying to decide on a craft to go along with our discussion of Michigan’s official wildflower.

I gathered up some origami paper and some art paper, plus a pair of scissors.
I gathered up some origami paper and some art paper, plus a pair of scissors.
I cut the different colors of paper into different simplified shapes - petals (blue and yellow) and leaves (green).
I cut the different colors of paper into different simplified shapes – petals (blue and yellow) and leaves (green).
Here's my take on the Dwarf Lake Iris - some leaves, the stem, and the base color of the leaves have been laid out on the white paper.
Here’s my take on the Dwarf Lake Iris – some leaves, the stem, and the base color of the leaves have been laid out on the white paper.

 

Next I added the color contrast on the leaves -- yellow and white (the white was the backside of the yellow paper).
Next I added the color contrast on the leaves — yellow and white (the white was the backside of the yellow paper).

 

And here's the final craft.
And here’s the final craft.

 

Be forewarned, the paper bits can make a big mess.  We had to put baby brother in the exersaucer during this craft.
Be forewarned, the paper bits can make a big mess. We had to put baby brother in the exersaucer during this craft.

So that’s all there is to it!  This could be more of a sensory experience, if you let the paper pieces be loose and transient like we did, or you could use a glue stick to permanently adhere the abstracted pieces to the paper.  Your call. I went with simpler and more experimental.  Because that’s what works for us!


tour-the-world-by-flowerTour the World By Flower

This post is part of the Tour the World By Flower blog hop.   Every state and country (and as we’ve discovered, province, county or territory) has an official flower. A number of bloggers have collaborated to Tour the World by Flower with crafts to learn about various official flowers!  Make sure to check out Suzy Homeschooler’s Michigan Apple Blossom craft, which is the official state flower for Michigan.

Disclaimer: I received one or more products gratis in exchange for an honest evaluation — the opinions expressed are 100% my own.

Learn About Jaggies (Graph Paper Coloring Activity)

posted in: Notes | 35

bphotoart-learn-about-jaggiesFor Today’s ABCs of Photography, we’re learning about a slang term for pixelization: “jaggies.”  The term refers to how a computer uses square pixels to create diagonal and curved lines.

The more pixels there are in a line, the smoother the line will appear.

And the opposite is true too.

The fewer pixels there are, the more the jagged the line will appear.

Jagged.

Jaggies.

See where the term comes from?

Now, for practical applications.  Color by numbers are a good way to understand this concept!

So we’re going to get out a piece of graph paper, and a plain piece of paper.

First, have your child draw a design with curved lines on the plain piece of paper.

Next, put the graph paper over top. If you can’t see the design through the graph paper, tape both sheets up on the window.

Now it’s time for the fun part.  Have your child trace the design onto the graph paper, but with one rule —

They have to follow the straight lines of the graph paper.

Easier said than done, I know.  But just give it a shot.  You may find the end result to be more recognizable than you’d think.

Here’s an example of how this shows up in a digital image that has been resaved at a very low resolution:

Learn About Jaggies With this Graph Paper  Coloring Activity!
Image by Liselotte Brunner from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

 

 

Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter K. You might also enjoy revisiting last week’s activity where we learned about hue.


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

Metallic Intersections

posted in: Fine Art | 7

Sometimes words escape me. Poetry seems to better convey the nuances of art, but still falls short. As adults, we look at the world through defined terms, we compartmentalize and limit our understanding of the world around us. Children on the other hand, are free from preconception, and don’t have to think inside the box. They create order and define the world around them in terms of what they know, the vocabulary they have on hand.

My son recently had his first vision test, and got to identify shapes: square, circle, apple/heart(?), house. His version: Knox, letter “o”, heart, house. Once he understood the nurse wanted him to say square, he refined his answer to fit the mold. But honestly, I enjoyed the creativity in his first answer. Knox is the name of the church we attend — and a church is a building. Hence, a square.

And what of these photographs I’m about to share? Trying to think like a toddler, I imagined these lines to be intersections, roads for cars to travel, a way to get where you’re going. And finally I was able to gather some words to creatively describe these metallic intersections:

Like little roads,
metallic highways
intersect haphazardly.
Circling, crisscrossing,
the lines travel ever onward.

What is it? I’ll let you know at the end of the post (along with some related kid activity resources). But for now, take a peek at this series of images.

fine art abstraction curved lines

fine art abstraction - curved lines

So, what is this macro photograph of? It’s something you’ve probably used on many occasions. Found in most homes. In the kitchen, to be precise.

Any last guesses?

fine art abstraction - curved lines

It’s a common kitchen whisk.

(Kid-Friendly) Resources On Using Kitchen Utensils

My son loves to help in the kitchen! When working on a puzzle the other day, he corrected my mother: “That’s not a chef, that’s a cook!” Whether he’s pretending to help or actually contributing, I hope to continue cultivating our son’s love of the culinary arts as he grows. As promised, here are some resources on using whisks and other kitchen utensils in creative non-traditional ways… and some more typical ways as well. The links will open in a new window for your convenience.

fine art abstraction - curved lines

Want to see other Fine Art Abstractions?