Symmetrical art with leaves

This week we created symmetrical art with leaves instead of repeating our regular form drawing.

Our form drawing lessons have been all about creating symmetrical shapes recently, where I draw one side and D,9, reproduces it as closely as he can. One day he was bouncing along on our nature walk and talking a mile a minute as usual and it struck us: why not take home some leaves and try for symmetrical art with nature?!

M,15, and K, 24, joined in since they were out walking with us anyway, but have asked me not to share their final images since neither was pleased with how they turned out (I thought they looked great, but I understand how frustrating it is when it doesn’t come out the way you’d pictured it!).

We each chose a different leaf that we thought would be interesting to explore further.  When we got home, we cut them in half with scissors and glued half the leaf into our nature study journals. We used the stem side rather than trying to cut the stem in half evenly.

symmetrical art with leaves 1

I encouraged them to observe closely as we do when we’re doing our regular nature study.

symmetrical art with leaves 2

symmetrical art with leaves 3

D,9, has been resistant to this but that particular day he got right into it and spent a good half hour really trying to create and refine his image.

symmetrical art with leaves 4

symmetrical art with leaves 5

He even wanted to color it in, and probably spent another 15 minutes just trying to find exactly the right color match before he declared himself satisfied.  I think  his final symmetrical art creation really shows the effort put in. I joined in because I wanted an excuse to play with a new tray of watercolor paints we’d bought.

Our two final creations:

symmetrical art with leaves 6

symmetrical art with leaves 7

Did you know I’ve got an Instagram page too? I share all sorts of images from our everyday life there that don’t make it onto the blog.  I’d love to chat with you over there and share ideas if we aren’t already, so if you do follow me please leave me your IG link in the comments!



Paper Craft: Origami fall window leaf

I came up with this fun paper craft while messing around with some leftover scraps of kite paper this week. Read on to learn how we made these origami fall window leaves – so easy that you could fill a window in no time if you were so inclined.

The only things you need for this kids’ craft are:

  • 7 equal-sized squares of kite paper (I buy mine from Happy Hedgehog Post’s store)
  • A long, thin rectangle of kite paper for your “stem”
  • a glue stick
  • a window to stick it to

Start by folding a square in half diagonally.

paper craft origami fall window leaf 1

Now open it up and fold two sides to the center, like this:

paper craft origami fall window leaf 2

Fold the other end up into their center like this (it will overlap the ones you did first a little bit):

paper craft origami fall window leaf 3

Do both sides. Repeat until you have all 7 made.


Now you’re going to glue them. Glue the bottom half of one point and stick two more onto it like this:

paper craft origami fall window leaf 4

paper craft origami fall window leaf 5

Now glue just along the very edges of those side pieces and add the next ones like this:

paper craft origami fall window leaf 6


And finish with these two:

paper craft origami fall window leaf 7

It doesn’t have to be exact…..we’re not aiming for a perfect reproduction here! Now fold your “stem” piece into thirds longwise so there aren’t any open edges and glue it behind your “leaf”. It’ll help hold some of the pieces together at their tips and make it stable enough to get it to your window.

paper craft origami fall window leaf 8

Use the glue stick to attach it to your window. It’ll wash off when you’re ready to remove it. I placed my leaf like it was falling and we’re in the process of filling the window with falling/fallen leaves!

paper craft origami fall window leaf finished



How to sew a tea cozy or French press cozy that actually keeps drinks hot!

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to sew a tea cozy (or, for us coffee lovers, a french press cozy). Doesn’t it drive you crazy when you make a pot of tea or press some coffee, only to have it go cold before you finish it?!

This was from a fun sewing day with myself and my good friends J and N – Moms need to play too! I made ours for our house, but along with a new teapot/french press this would be a great Christmas or birthday gift for a tea of coffee lover.

You’ll need:

  • Outer fabric, 1/3 metre  (It goes without saying that you’ve pre-shrunk and ironed it already)
  • Flannel or other lining fabric (ditto)
  • Thermal lining, silver, 1/4 metre
  • Thermal batting, 1/4 metre
  • the teapot you want to cover
  • a measuring tape
  • paper with squares for drafting your pattern
  • a sewing machine and some thread

Start by measuring your teapot. You need to measure from handle to spout tip, from base to top of lid, and up and over the teapot from the base on one side to the base on the other.




For the french press, you just need the distance around it including the handle, and the height including the push-down bit on the lid.



Now you’ll make your pattern. The paper with the 1 inch squares that you can get at office supply stores is amazing for this kind of project and it’s under $15 for a big pad, plenty for all sorts of things. You will add 1/2 inch to each measurement to allow for your seams.

You will also add the difference between the up-and-over measurement you juts did (from base to base over the teapot) and the height from base to lid, because otherwise it’ll be too narrow to slide the cozy onto your teapot. (So, if my base-to-lid measurement was 6″, and my up-and-over measurement was 14″, I’d need to add an extra 2″ to the height. Feel free to email me at theusualmayhematgmaildotcom if this explanation isn’t making sense.)


You can draw the curved top in freehand.

drafting-teapot-cozy-pattern-1 drafting-teapot-cozy-pattern-1b

The french press pattern will look more like a tall rectangle:


Cut out your paper pattern. Then cut out two from each of your fabrics.

Ok, here’s where you really have to focus, but don’t worry! I’ll talk you through it.

Lay your outer fabric pieces (the patterned ones) good side DOWN. Behind each piece, add a layer of thermal batting:


Now add the silver thermal layer on top of that, shiny side out:


Pin those layers together around the top curve, so it doesn’t slide around.

If you want a handle on your cozy, now’s the time to make it. Take a piece of your patterned fabric about 6″ by 4″ and iron it in half lengthwise. Open it up and iron the inside flaps in to meet it so no rough edges show. Fold it in half again. Topstitch it lengthwise a few times.


Once these two sides are ironed, you’ll fold it in half again and there won’t be any thready edges showing.

Now flip it all over, and  take your lining fabric – I used cream flannel – and pin it facing the patterned side of your fabric ONLY ALONG THE BOTTOM EDGE. Do this for both of the “sandwiches” that you made. Sew with a 1/4 seam allowance along that bottom edge on each of the two sandwiched pieces.


It makes waaaay more sense when you see a photo, doesn’t it?!

Press the seams open.


Now, take those two ironed pieces and pin them with right sides facing (flannel lining to flannel lining, patterned sides to patterned sides). Leave a gap of about 2 inches at the end so you can turn it right side out afterwards.




Sew around all the sides, using a 1/4″ seam allowance, except for the area between the pins.

Flip the tea cozy right side out.


Stitch the open part of the lining shut. Stuff the lining inside the outside, place on your teapot or french press, and admire your tea cozy.



21+ Sunflower learning activities and crafts

Here’s a fun collection of sunflower learning activities and crafts from all over the web! I had a lot of fun looking through all of these posts (especially since they coincided with some sunflowers ripening in our yard.)

I’ve tried to include activities appropriate for lots of different age groups, so hopefully everyone will find something that appeals to them. I mentioned at the end of the post as well……if you have a sunflower learning activity or craft that I didn’t include here, please share the link in the comments so I can add it and pin it!




  1. Lessons from Sunflowers from Share It Science
  2. How to Build a Sunflower House from Lasso the Moon
  3. Read. Explore. Learn: Sunflowers from JDaniel4s Mom
  4. How To Grow Sunflowers with Children from Nurturestore
  5. Painting Sunflowers Like Van Gogh from Chasing Cheerios
  6. Sunflowers: A Journey Through Sustainability and Creativity from The Empowered Educator
  7. Free Sunflower Playdough Mats for Numbers 1-10 from Life Over Cs
  8. Sunflower granny square free crochet pattern from Top Inspired
  9. 5 Math Lessons Using Sunflowers from The Happy Housewife
  10. Symmetry in Flowers from Enki Village
  11. Sunflowers Lesson Plan from Cottonridge Homeschool
  12. Sunflower playdough recipe and printable playdough mat from FSPDT
  13. Greater Than/Less Than file folder game from The Curriculum Corner
  14. Sunflower notebooking examples from The Chaos and the Clutter
  15. Kids Sunflowers Activity Book from B-Inspired Mama
  16. Adding Tens and Hundreds with a sunflower theme from Elementary Matters on TPT
  17. Paper Plate Sunflower Craft from Happy Hooligans
  18. Sensory Fun: Corn Cobs and Sunflowers from Happy Hooligans
  19. Sunflower Sensory Bin from Rubber Boots and Elf Shoes
  20. Sunflower Craft in 1st grade from Artsy Mama
  21. Van Gogh Inspired Sunflowers Art Project from Preschool Powol  Packets
  22. Leaf Print and Natural Sunflower Dye from Sun  Hats and Wellie Boots

Do you have a sunflower learning activity or craft to share? Please leave the link in the comments below so I can add it and pin it!


Scary Sweet Potato Side Dish

Here’s a fun scary sweet potato side dish that your kids can make in 5 minutes! Healthy, hauntingly delicious and loads of fun to make!

I like this one because one of my kids has been on a picky streak for the last couple of years. Not that I let him dictate his meals – everyone has to try at least a taste of something new- but he is more likely to find it tasty if he’s had a hand in making it. Sweet potato is full of goodness and it’s delicious; a hit with every family member.

You’ll need:

  • Sweet potatoes, sliced about 1/4 inch thick -try for bigger ones to give you more cutting space and assume that you’ll get about 5 out of each.
  • Halloween-themed cookie cutters (the metal ones work, the plastic ones break with this)
  • Olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • (optional) real maple syrup for dipping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

On a cutting board, hand the child their slices and the cookie cutters and let them cut out the shapes.

scary sweet potato cat

Meanwhile, mix 1/4 cup olive oil and 1 tsp kosher salt in a bowl big enough to toss the slices in after they’re cut out. Toss to coat both sides and lay them on an ungreased baking sheet.


Cook for 30 minutes, then check for doneness (soft, lightly browned). If they need a few more minutes, check them every 3 minutes or so because sweet potatoes, in my experience, go from uncooked to scorched in a very short space of time! Let them cool for a few minutes and serve with real maple syrup as a dipping sauce.


Do you have a healthy Halloween recipe to share? Put it in the comments so I can pin it!

Pumpkin fairy house



We made a pumpkin fairy house this weekend. We had such a good time doing it that I think we just may be making a few more this autumn! D,8, picked the pumpkin at the farmers’ market on Friday and carried it to the car himself, staggering all the way but insisting that it didn’t weigh much at all. I wish I’d had my camera with me.

First we decided what sort of look we wanted and I sketched a rough shape with a pen.  I cut out the pieces and we all scooped the pumpkin seeds. The chickens and ducks were delighted to get all the pumpkin gloop and pieces of the shell.

pumpkin fairy house 1

pumpkin fairy house 2

My husband used pushpins to attach tiny LED lights on a string around the inside of the rim. This was the hardest part because they kept falling back out!

pumpkin fairy house 3

D poked guide holes into each window with a toothpick. He then used twigs to make window frames, pushing them into the guide holes. I cut a sheer mesh bag I had in half and we used pushpins to attach them as “curtains” in the lower windows.

pumpkin fairy house 4

pumpkin fairy house 5

D hot glued the lid of the pumpkin and pushed dried moss all over it for a roof.

pumpkin fairy house 6

The boys found a milkweed pod and split in in half, then D glued the halves under the lower windows as garden boxes. He hot glued some moss on, and we glued in some tiny fake flowers donated by my lovely friend J when she heard about our project.


We worked together to make a popsicle stick door, then D hot glued moss on and glued the door in place. We tried to leave some small gaps in the door for the lights to shine through.

The finished house in daylight:

pumpkin fairy house 8

And at night:

pumpkin fairy house 9

The last couple of days, the pumpkin fairy house keeps moving mysteriously to different locations around our property. D is having a great time locating it each time and reporting back with glee. We may just have to make this an annual tradition!

pumpkin fairy house 10



25 Math Activities Using Natural Materials

Math activities using natural materials just feel nicer! I really don’t like cutesy plastic bear pieces and similar items as manipulatives……they just don’t offer the same tactile experiences that reinforce math for hands-on learners, in my opinion. If you feel the same, then you’re going to love this collection of ideas.

There are so many great ways to use materials found in nature that I could do a post that went on for hundreds of choices……but instead, I have narrowed it down to the 25 math activities using natural materials that I thought were the best of the best (well, 24 of the best plus my own modest contribution!), arranged in no particular order. Hopefully you’ll agree! I’ve tried to include ideas for varied age groups.

You’ll also notice that there are only a couple of ideas with stones; that’s because there are so many that I’m going to make a whole separate post about them!


  1. Finding Symmetry in Nature at Buggy and Buddy
  2. Nature Numbers Made by Children at Everyday Smilestones
  3. Pine Cone Math Station at Nurturestore
  4. Autumn Estimating Jars at Science Spark
  5. Rock Number Sums at Creative Family Fun
  6. Skip Counting Number Wheel – Waldorf Math at How The Sun Rose
  7. Counting and Grouping with Sticks at Learn With Play at Home
  8. Outdoor Maths: Creating 3D Shapes from Sticks at Creative Star Learning
  9. Symmetrical Pattern Making with Natural Materials at The Imagination Tree
  10. Telling Time: Make an Outdoor Clock with Natural Materials at Sunhats and Wellie Boots
  11. Acorn Math Activities at JDaniel4’s Mom
  12. Boost Your Child’s Math Skills with Nature Patterns at One Time Through
  13. Leaf Math Games for Preschool at Nurturestore
  14. Fine Motor Counting Activity [using leaves] at The Mud Kitchen
  15. Sunflower Seed Counting Activity from 123Homeschool4Me
  16. Mini Pumpkin Math at PreKinders
  17. Hands-on Pumpkin Math: The Geo Pumpkin! from Fun-A-Day
  18. How Old is That Tree? Activity at
  19. Reggio-Inspired Math at Fairy Dust Teaching
  20. Leaf Pile Number Challenge at I Can Teach My Child
  21. Make a simple sundial at Otherwise Educating
  22. Seed and Spice Mandala at Twig and Toadstool
  23. Sticks and Stones Math Game at NCTM
  24. Rock Shapes and Other Shape Games at Mamas Like Me
  25. Outdoor Challenge Cards freebie at The Usual Mayhem

If you have a any fun math activities using natural materials that isn’t on this list, please share the link in the comments so I can pin it!

30 Fall Craft Ideas for Kids

With autumn almost upon us, I wanted to share the these (amazing) 30 fall craft ideas for kids!

Whether you’re looking for ideas using natural materials that are found on the ground, or you just want to tie in a fun craft to your study of apples,  pumpkins,  sunflowers, pine cones, acorns, leaves……..well, whatever it is you have in mind, you’re sure to find something in these fun fall crafts that grabs your interest.

I love the variety of ideas and styles within it all. I’m particularly smitten with Red Ted Art’s Pine cone people, but I can see at least 10 others that I want to make right now! I’ll have to pace myself.  Without further ado, here are 30 fall craft ideas for kids:

 fall craft ideas for kids

  1. Fall Tree Luminaries | Where Imagination Grows
  2. Cinnamon Salt Dough Leaf Ornaments | The Imagination Tree
  3. Cheerio Corn on the Cob | Glued to My Crafts
  4. Caramel Apple Popsicle Stick Craft | The Classy Chapter
  5. Sunflower Gift Card |
  6. Apple Decorations from Recycled Bottles | Joyful Jewish
  7. Pine Cone People | Red Ted Art
  8. Acorn Toadstools | Twig and Toadstool
  9. Pretzel Trees | Tippytoe Crafts
  10. Fall Leaf Potato Stamping | How Wee Learn
  11. Autumn Leaf Suncatchers | Crafts on Sea
  12. Melted Crayon Pumpkin Decorating | Crafty Morning
  13. Easy Marbled Fall Leaves | I Heart Arts n Crafts
  14. How to Paint Acorns | Home Stories
  15. Fall Sensory Bags | Kids Play Box
  16. Watercolor Leaves | Sew Liberated
  17. Fig Leaf Windchime | Creative Jewish Mom
  18. Sunflower Egg Carton Craft | Buggy and Buddy
  19. Painted Pinecone Flowers | Emma Owl
  20. Bark Owls | Fireflies and Mudpies
  21. Pumpkin Seed Discovery Bottles | Fun-a-Day
  22. Owl Pinecone Craft | Meaningful Mama
  23. Painting with Nature | Kids Craft Room
  24. Nature Painting | How Wee Learn
  25. Simple Origami Owl | Easy Peasy and Fun
  26. Puffy Paint Window Clings | Think Crafts!
  27. Yarn Apple Craft | Hands On as We Grow
  28. Pinecone Hedgehogs | Easy Peasy and Fun
  29. Fall Paper Lace | Krokotak
  30. Acorn Bells | Fireflies and Mudpies

Happy crafting!


Savory cheese and ham muffins

Despite back-to-school advertisers’ best efforts, we still have a few weeks of summer left. The evenings are getting cool, though, so salads and fruit just aren’t cutting it for a take-outside supper. Hence: my savory muffin recipe with ham and cheese!

savory muffin recipe image 2

It’s the perfect go-along for a picnic, beach evening with blankets, or just as a side for your soup where you’re disguising using up yet another of the 8 zillion zucchini in your garden.  It even makes a decent breakfast if you have to get out of the house early, since it only takes 25 minutes including baking time.


3 cups flour (I like unbleached all-purpose for this, but you could probably do half wheat, half white)

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 to 2 tsp chopped or dried rosemary

1/4 cup sugar or 2 tsp honey

2 eggs

1/2 cup cooking oil (grapeseed, canola, olive….anything not too strong tasting)

1 1/2 cups milk (I’ve also made this with soy milk, goat milk, and with water)

1 to 1 1/2 cups grated cheese (I use Ivanhoe sharp cheddar for this, because it packs a lot more flavor than the regular bricks in the grocery store so I can use less. They also offer Nothing But Cheese Cheddar, Nothing But Cheese Monterey Jack, Smoked Gouda, Old Sharpe, Horseradish Cheddar, Colby, Marble, any of which would be delicious in this!)

3/4 cups chopped cooked ham, or bacon

Ivanhoe Old Sharpe aged cheddar

To make the muffins:

Mix the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and rosemary together with a fork. Now add in your milk, oil and eggs and stir until moistened (batter will be a little bit lumpy). Stir in your grated cheese and your ham.

Grease muffin tins and fill them 3/4 of the way full. This will make between 12 and 24 muffins, depending on your filling level and/or the enthusiasm of your small kitchen helpers.

Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes or until springy on top and lightly browned. Let cool 5 minutes while you hunt for lost shoes, grab picnic blankets, and dig out hoodies. Take along and eat!

savory muffin recipe cover image

Disclosure: I am part of the Gay Lea Ambassador Campaign and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

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