Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Eco Twig House

The magic folk at Syrendell have long been advocates of sustainable building design. When us humans were experimenting with straw bale homes, rammed earth, cob, FSC-certified lumber, or the more eco-luxurious materials such as soapstone, quartz, concrete, or Vetrazzo, the Syrendell Sprites were living in mushrooms and other natural shelters. The black and white picture is of pioneer syrendell sprites from over 1000 years ago!

The Eco Twig House exemplifies Syrendell's commitment to resource conservation and natural materials. We can't create Nature's habitats like mushrooms, but the sprites are nevertheless appreciative of our eco-awareness! The base of the house is made from a reclaimed fence plank that had aged over time and fallen in a recent storm. The posts, trusses, and beams are made from dried branches and twigs. Non-toxic wood glue and natural fiber yarn secure the pieces together. To finish the surfaces, after light sanding, we used a natural beeswax and organic jojoba oil polish.

Making the house takes a bit of time, but it is a rewarding project. We are selling the Eco Twig House in our Etsy shop (the one pictured in this blog is sold), but we encourage you to try to make your own from found materials around your yard. Enjoy the pictures of our Eco Twig House, and it might inspire your next building project to be eco-friendly and sustainable.

Thanks to all our blog friends for all the nice comments on our Twig House!
Here are two:
Jimana Diaz said: I want to live in that house!!!
Joy said: That's excellent! I just showed my 8 year old who thinks she might build one today.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Form Drawing & Science

In a previous blog post, we showed how we incorporate form drawing with social studies. This past week, we did form drawing that related to our science learning. It's a lot of fun to tell science stories as we draw our forms!
Biome Study: Wetlands
(creek, ponds)

(we tried making the creek's wavy edges symmetrical, moving from one corner to the diagonal corner-- a wonderful challenge!)

Astronomy Study: Heliocentrism, Gravity, Copernicus, Galileo
(sun, orbits)
(keeping concentric circles evenly-spaced without a compass was tricky, but it brought up great conversations about the shape of elliptical orbits vs. circular orbits of actual planets)

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Making of Syrendell Sprites

As the maker of the syrendell sprites, I have mixed feelings about posting this blog. We would want you to continue believing that the sprites simply exist in a magical place, appearing to us spontaneously whenever they want to spread happiness all over the world. So, by showing you how they emerge from a piece of poplar, I am risking the magic from waning.

Yet, for me, I believe that part of their magic is in how they emerge from a piece of poplar! The steps are simple: cut, drill, carve, sand. I marvel at how carving and sanding a piece of lumber really transforms the wood. And there is an emotional response for me as I gradually remove the hard, rough edges and bring out the smooth, gentle curves of the sprites. My mind actually shifts in thinking of the piece as being wood to a wondrous creature of earth. Perhaps the sprites were living in the wood all this time and all I did was release them!

I am happy to live in the land of Syrendell. And I am thankful for our friends as far away as the Netherlands who have opened their homes to our sprites. Please continue sharing your wonderful family stories with us, and continue to believe the magic of the syrendell sprites!

Rick Tan

Monday, March 23, 2009

Block Crayons

We love our wax, block crayons! Following the book Coloring with Block Crayons (and a DVD of the author), we have been exploring how to use the different parts of the crayons, and how to blend the three primary colors to make other colors.

This week, we made a circle, starting with a cloud of yellow, blue and red, and then creating the other colors of the rainbow when the colors met and blended. Wilson kept his drawing in a circle. Joey decided to bring her colors inward and create a brown center. Ricky moved his colors inward and outward to form a rounded triangle.
We keep our crayons in a beautiful case that Joey and Mommy made from naturally dyed alpaca felt. We created an e-pattern with instructions and pictures so that others can make their own! Joey embroidered a pretty leaf on the front, and added silk ribbons that we dyed with blueberries and onion skins as ties. We are also selling them as custom orders to people who request one through our Etsy shop.

Here is a poem that Mommy read while we made our rainbow circles (from A Child's Seasonal Treasury, by Betty Jones):

Rainbow Fairies
Two little clouds one spring day,
Went flying through the sky;
They went so fast they bumped their heads,
And both began to cry.
Old Father Sun came out and said:
"Oh, never mind my dears,
I'll send my little fairy folk
To dry your falling tears."
One fairy came in violet, and one in indigo;
In blue, green, yellow; orange and red,
They made a pretty row.
They wiped the cloud tears all away
And then from out the sky,
Upon a line a sunbeam made,
They hung their gowns to dry.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Form Drawing and Balance

We really enjoy form drawing every week! This week, we worked on balancing the right and left sides of our bodies. One of the exercises we did was form drawing.

We started with a large spiral on our chalkboard with our dominant hand, beginning on the right, moving from the outside of the spiral in towards the center. Then, we started at the center and traced the spiral back to the beginning.

Next, we drew the spiral in the opposite direction, starting on the left, first outside in, then inside to out.

Then, we switched hands and repeated the above spirals, first starting on the left, then a spiral starting on the right.

Each time we drew, we talked about how it felt. Using the non-dominant hand brought up feelings of awkwardness and hesitation. Then, as we practiced, the spiral drawing felt really good using either hand (yes, Mommy did this too)!

Finally, we did a curlique drawing to a story about water nymphs in the ocean. We did the form one way, then the other way. Finally, we did both curliques with the non-dominant hand in both directions.

We talked about the things that we like to do with our dominant hand (writing, eating), our non-dominant hand (everyone had a different example), and with both hands (playing piano). A discussion arose about how Wilson is left-handed and the rest of us are right-handed, but our dominant feet did not match our dominant hands.

Next week, we are going to do games with bean bags and walking to work on balancing and coordinating our right and left sides!

Vernal Equinox

vernal: of or pertaining to spring, from the Latin vernalis (www.dictionary.com)

vernal pools: Vernal pools are seasonally flooded depressions found on ancient soils with an impermeable layer such as a hardpan, claypan, or volcanic basalt. The impermeable layer allows the pools to retain water much longer then the surrounding uplands; nonetheless, the pools are shallow enough to dry up each season. Vernal pools often fill and empty several times during the rainy season. Only plants and animals that are adapted to this cycle of wetting and drying can survive in vernal pools over time. (www.vernalpools.org).

vernal equinox: The word “equinox” derives from the Latin words meaning “equal night” and refers to the time when the sun crosses the equator. At such times, day and night are everywhere of nearly equal length everywhere in the world. It is important to note that while the March equinox marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere, it is the start of autumn in many parts of the southern hemisphere. (www.timeanddate.com)

To celebrate the coming of spring, we took a vernal equinox hike at some beautiful, vernal pools at Phoenix Park in Fair Oaks, CA. We saw geese flying, insects hopping on top of the pools, and beautiful flowers. We couldn't get close enough to the edge of the pools to see any fairy shrimp or frogs. We started sketching flowers in our botany books, but then it started to rain. We'll have to return and sketch some more!

We've been to vernal pools in Yolo County (near Davis, CA) and at the Santa Rosa Plateau (near Murrieta, CA) in the past. Each one has interesting flowers and wildlife. Here is a great website with lessons and information about vernal pools: http://www.sacsplash.org/mather.htm.

Short Video of our Vernal Equinox Hike

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Poetry Night!

Welcome to our first Syrendell Cafe Poetry Night!

We ate homemade beignets, drank hot chocolate, chai tea, coffee and cucumber water, read our own poems on the microphone, and listened to music. It was a fun way to incorporate poetry writing, speaking and event planning. We are planning on hosting another poetry night and inviting our cousins, aunts and uncles to join us!


Joey: "Butterfly" acrostic verse poem
Ricky: "Opposite Sides of the World" diamante poem
Wilson: "Little Bulbs" song to Frere Jacques
Mommy: "Blissful Path" free verse poem (see original poem above)
Daddy: "Monsters Have Mommies, Too" abaab
Lolo and Lola (grandparents): A poem in Tagalog

Announcer: Joey
Cook: Ricky
Server: Wilson
Set Decoration and Menu: Joey
Video Clips from Poetry Night

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Form Drawing and Social Studies

Form drawing is something that we look forward to doing every week. We draw forms during circle time on Friday mornings first on chalkboards, and then with crayons on paper. We draw as we tell stories.

Sometimes, our form drawings relate to our social studies learning. For example, when we were learning about Medieval castles, we drew a line that looked like parapets and told a story about a king and queen.

The picture at the top was drawn while telling stories about Africa in the Middle Ages. We drew the picture below this past week as we told a story about the Aztecs.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Leprechauns Came!

We were thrilled to see that not only was our shamrock soup eaten up today, but the leprechauns left us a thank you note! The beautiful mushroom table has begun to curl up around the edges.

We enjoyed using block wax crayons to make rainbows (using only primary colors and blending) and displayed them on the window. Wilson also played a bit o' the Irish harp for us!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Leprechauns in our Yard

Now that the weather is improving, we are spending time daily in the back yard. Inspired by The Magic Onions post on her gnome feast, Wilson decided to create a little home for leprechauns and fairies.

Wilson laughed with glee when he found the perfect mushroom. "I think that they would like to play hopscotch," he exclaimed as he busily found items to decorate the fairy home. Creating a ring around the mushroom with stones, we added leaves for beds, acorn caps for soup bowls and drew a hopscotch game in the dirt leading into the circle. The acorn caps fit snugly into the natural splits in the mushroom top.

"I'm making soup for the leprechauns!" said Wilson as he loaded up each little acorn bowl with tiny clovers, always searching for that special shamrock.

We are going to check on the fairy home on St. Patrick's Day to see if the leprechauns visited to eat their meal and rest on the leaves....

Friday, March 13, 2009


Our backyard is filled with lovely mushrooms. As the seasons change, so do the colors and shapes of our fungi friends! We have found mushrooms that are white, orange, brown, green/white, tan, purple and black. The plant kingdom never ceases to amaze us with it's diversity and beauty....

On our way to art lessons earlier this month, we saw a tree stump with the most beautiful fungus growing from it.

Joey found an interesting piece of wood that came from an old planter. Taking the tops of mushrooms that had already fallen and some acorn caps, she made a fairy home, complete with a bedroom below and a dining area on top!

We collected the tops from a bunch of larger, deep orange/purple mushrooms that had ruffle edges that were starting to decompose. Adding some organic coffee grounds, copper granules and water, we boiled up a batch of natural dye. A lovely color resulted on the play silks that we left in the pot for a couple of days. Truly, magical mushrooms!