Monday, December 31, 2012

From my home to yours...

 Wishing  you a sparkly shimmery New Year!
 I had a few other shots I wanted to share, but since Blogger insists on rotating my verticals horizontally, I chose not to include them.  I didn't want you to start your new year with a crick in your neck!

Meanwhile, thanks everyone for the camera advice.  I haven't made a decision yet, but you've given me a lot to think about.  I'll keep you posted on what I eventually select!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Wanted: Camera Advice! NOW!

I've been mulling purchasing a digital SLR for some time now.  My son got his Nikon D90 about 3 years back, and I've been a bit jealous. But I felt it was too heavy a camera for me.

My photo history: from 1976-1984 I taught a high school photo class. This was, of course, long before digital photography. When my beloved Minolta XG7 died, I bought a Canon Rebel. While I liked it, I was never 'in love'.

Fast forward to the digital camera takeover.  In the past couple of years I've been using a Canon PowerShot, co-owned by me and hubby. It has good picture quality (you've seen my photos on the blog) but we SHARE the camera, and anyhow, I'm a little frustrated that this former photo teacher (me) now runs around taking snapshots with a camera set on 'automatic' or 'portrait' etc without knowing what those settings actually mean or do. So I've been wanting something I can really sink my teeth into.

My hubby must have noticed. He surprised me (seriously, I was REALLY SURPRISED) with a gift certificate to the local camera store, with enough $$ on it to make a fair dent in the cost of a new camera. So off to the store I went, to look at the options.

Here's the camera I am considering, and I intend to make the purchase FAST, so if you can offer any advice, please do it now. My son was suggesting I buy a Nikon, but on the top of my list is the SONY a57 with an 28-55mm lens. For an additional $100, I could instead opt for the 18-135mm lens, though I'm not prone to want to make the camera bigger/heavier.  As a little bonus surprise, I was told that SONY had bought out Minolta, which makes me feel like I'm sort of returning to an old friend if I purchase the SONY. 

I am also considering an additional lens for macro (I love macro pics) - the choice would be a 30mm f2.8 macro; but @ almost $200 on top of the camera purchase, I will probably have to put that off for the future. By the time I pay for the camera, a memory card, a case, and a polarizing filter (a personal favorite), and the extra warranty, I will have plunked down a sizable chunk of money well beyond my gift certificate. Plus the store offers a getting to know your digital camera class that I will pay for and take, because I am terrible at figuring things out for myself, and I want to really understand the new camera.

Anyhow, advice? Is this camera a good choice for me? I trust your opinions!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Premio Dardos Award!

The Premio Dardos Award
I've been granted an award!  Twice!  It is the Premio Dardos award, and I've been given it by both Gretchen at Gretchen's Art Blog and by Rina at  K-6 Art. Thank you ladies!  It is always such an honor to be recognized by your peers, so I really appreciate that you both included me.  I'm a big fan of both of your blogs as well! 

The Premio Dardos award  is a virtual award sent as a ‘gift’ from one blogger to another as “recognition for the creativity, effort and dedication” we each put  into our blog. The award originated in Spain around 2008-2009 and has been sent from blogger to blogger ever since.

If anyone can tell me what the name of this award means, please let me know!

To accept the award, you simply:
  1. Link back to the person who nominated you (which I already did above)
  2. Display the award icon (also above), and
  3. Nominate others whose blogs you admire for these qualities.
For my nominations, I tried to choose some blogs that I have not seen nominated, since we know that these awards get passed around and around and frequently arrive back in the same mailboxes over and over again.  So if you are one of my long-standing blog friends and your name is not on my list below, don't take it personally; I'm trying to spread around the good cheer a bit! So here are my choices:

 Jodi at The Small Art Teacher Blog - You won't often find complicated projects using fancy materials here, but instead, you'll frequently find incredibly charming drawings by children, with terrific captions by Jodi.  We should all spend more time doing what Jodi does with her students - giving them a simple prompt and encouraging them to think and express themselves creatively through drawing.  How empowering!!  Thank you Jodi for reminding me what is really important in art class!  Scroll through her older posts, and I guarantee you will find yourself smiling uncontrollably.

Cassie at Cassie Stephens - I have a girl-crush on Cassie.  She is the art teacher we should all aspire to be.  She dresses like Miss Frizzle (from the Magic Schoolbus books), which means that her fashion coordinates with artists and geographical locations being studied, with the holidays, the weather, etc.  You name it, she has an outfit for it, often thrifted and sewn or embellished by her.  Her students must look forward to seeing her outfits each day.  But it doesn't stop there.  She is incredibly knowledgeable, and her art lessons are fabulous, and her student work shines.  I would want to be a student in her class.  I can't imagine she'd ever have a discipline problem, because she is so incredibly engaging.  Who wouldn't want to participate?  If you haven't happened upon her blog yet, go there.  NOW.

Mrs. Impey at Art Room 104  is a newer blogger.  She has been working really hard to meet the demands of new regulations associated with NY's adaptation of the Common Core and new evaluation and assessments etc., and has shared much of her hard work on the blog.  Her posts are very thorough, thoughtful, and informative, and I was glad to have the opportunity to meet her in person at our state conference in November. 

Christie at Fine Lines - I feel a certain kinship with Christie.  I like the thought process that goes into the planning of her lessons.  Everything is done for a reason; no frivolous lessons here!  I seem to find myself frequently pinning her art lessons on my Pinterest boards.

Mr. R at My Messy Art Room  My bloggy friend Mr. R. doesn't write long complicated posts, but he's got charm and humor that shine through in a few brief words. When he posts student artwork, it is always exemplary.  Plus he likes to cook!  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Today's Art Project

It's an annual ritual in our house. My husband got the recipe from his mom, long before I ever met him.  So, over the last couple of days, we made the batter, rolled the dough, and baked the cookies.  (Truthfully, I did most of the actual cooking, and my husband was chief dishwasher and cleaner-upper.  Today, while you readers were in your classrooms teaching, I decorated all the little buggers, for hours and hours.  And now they are done, and ready to pack little boxes and mail to special relatives!

For a lesson parallel, I used to make gingerbread 'cookies' each year with my 1st graders. It was a rare time when I actually provided the kids with pre-cut shapes. The point was the decorating. Some older kids, who had finished work early, would cut out gingerbread boys, girls, and houses from brown Kraft paper. The 1st graders selected which they wanted to paint, and I would let the older kids, who had done all the cutting, decorate the leftover 'cookies' with leftover 'icing' (tempera paint).  I would premix frosting colors with tempera paint, using lots of white: I would provide pastel blue, pink, yellow, and green, as well as white, red, and brown. When the kids put their cookies in the drying rack at the end of art class,we would instead call it the oven. We would put them in there to bake!
I wish I had photos to share but I don't. But I guarantee, the cookies were always so cute & unique, with bow ties, mustaches, eyeglasses, aprons, hair bows, shoes, socks, suspenders, and more, all from the minds of 1st graders. And the nicest thing for this little Jewish art teacher is that anybody can decorate and enjoy gingerbread without worrying about what holiday they celebrate.
Two left feet!
A few crazy extras!  Have a hand.. or a foot!
My kitchen, overrun with gingerbread!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Moving sculptures, powered by wind

This is one of the coolest things I have ever seen.  Check it out!  
Here's the description of the video:  Dutch artist Theo Jansen has created what he calls Strandbeests - ambulatory contraptions that walk across the beach powered by nothing but the wind."

And here's another one: "Reuben Margolin creates techno-kinetic wave sculptures, using everything from wood to cardboard to found and salvaged objects"

I changed my mind

I guess I lied.  I said I wasn't going to use my blog as a place to talk about the terrible tragedy in Connecticut.  But this morning I heard something on the radio that has irked me all day, and I feel the need to speak my mind.  As you know, I do not have trouble expressing my opinions.  Because of the radio show, I want to talk about guns.  I'll explain about exactly what I heard on the radio after I give you a bit of background.

So - here's the background:
 I was listening to a talk call-in show on NPR, and they were discussing guns.  I've already expressed my opinion, in my prior post, that I don't think citizens should own or have access to assault weapons.  But I think I've been a realist about other guns.  I live in a part of NY state where guns are prevalent, primarily for hunting.  My former neighbor, after a successful hunt, used to hang his deer outside where I could see the carcass from my porch.  I found it very disturbing.  The truth is, I will still cry every time I watch Bambi, and even the mention of that scene, with the snow falling, where Bambi finds out that his mother is not returning, will bring tears to my eyes.
 Most of my former students, even the youngest, and not just the boys, have been hunting with a parent or uncle.  I found it very unnerving, but I usually kept my opinions to myself, knowing I couldn't change the culture of the region on my own.  Anyhow, I am not a vegetarian, so I cannot criticize anyone who hunts to put food on their family's plates.

Once, many years ago, I had an opportunity to be a guest reader in a second grade classroom.  They let me choose my own book to read, and I picked this one, which was a favorite of my son's at the time:
 Below is the author's dedication inside the book:
 It is a charmingly written story about the animals in the forest, who decide to defend themselves at the start of hunting season.  The gnats end up swarming the hunters who, in a panic, run out of the woods. I adore the book.  The kids at school didn't 'get' it; too many of them lived in households filled with hunters to understand the animals' viewpoint.  I never tried to read it at school again.  (By the way, author/illustrator Bill Peet was one of my son's all-time favorites as a child, and I concur.  The stories are rich and wonderful, and Mr. Peet's illustrations are fabulous.  If you've never read a book by Bill Peet, check them out. (If you like trains, try Smokey or The Caboose Who Got Loose; or perhaps you will enjoy Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent, or many of the other stories about animals real or imaginary; or maybe you'll read Wump World, which may remind you of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax.)

Anyhow, back to my background re: guns - I grew up in a home where my dad was a marksman.  He spent time as a pistol instructor for the local Sheriff's Association, and he frequented the rifle range.  He received many awards and honors for his marksmanship.  However as far as I know, he never shot anything other than a target.  He wanted me to learn to shoot but I refused.  I don't remember disagreeing with my dad about anything much other than the easy accessibility of guns. He was so honest, and gentle, and cautious, that he couldn't fathom that anyone would misuse a gun.

Today's conversation on the radio was sincere; a really good discussion. Callers expressed many opinions, but everyone was being respectful and caring.  Then one caller, who was also being sincere, said something like this:  He said that  'all teachers should be armed; then things like this wouldn't happen.'

I thought back to a time in my life when someone had said something similar to me.  After college, and before I began teaching, I had lived through a harrowing personal incident.  I'd rather not share the details, but for the purpose of this post, I can tell you that I was home alone during a violent break-in.  My coworkers at the time (I was living in Albuquerque, waitressing in a supper club) told me that I should get a gun.  They all had them.  I replied "But when he broke in, I was at the kitchen sink, washing dishes.  Are you saying I should be packing a pistol when I'm doing the dishes?!  Or should I say to the intruder 'can you wait a minute please while I go to the bedroom to fetch my gun?'".

So, then, does today's caller think that I should be doing a demonstration of papier-mache with a pistol in my apron pocket? He has GOT to be kidding.  Or maybe he thought the gun should be ready and available in my desk drawer?  In that case, do I say to the armed intruder to "please wait, I need to get something from my desk before you begin shooting!"?  Yeah, that's going to work just fine...

Please tell me, what possible kind of solution is it to arm every teacher?  I know he meant well, but what was this caller thinking?!  I can understand increased security; I can understand practicing lock-down drills; I can understand being as prepared as you are able.  I do not understand the benefit to arming everyone.  To me it sounds like a recipe for disaster.  Is there something I am missing?

Guns are not the answer.  We need to make societal and cultural changes so that grabbing for a gun is never perceived as an adequate or appropriate solution to a problem.  

OK, I've gotten it off my chest.  Please forgive me.  My next post will be something nice and different, I promise.  (I can say this because I already know what it will be.)  Thanks for listening.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


The sadness is overwhelming.

I feel it, just like you do. But forgive me, I'm not going to 'like' the heartbreaking photo or story you have posted on Facebook, or add my comment to the thousands of comments already posted to that post, and I'm not going to 'share' that photo or story on my page. It doesn't mean I care less, or that I am callous or heartless. It's just not my way. Don't tell me that if I don't repost your prayers that something bad will happen to me. If something bad does happen to me, it won't be because of a post on Facebook. I know better than that. The sadness is overwhelming.

I'm not going to write about it again on the blog. I just don't feel this silly little blog (where I have shared wacky art projects, quirky nature photos, sometimes controversial opinions, and my peculiar sense of humor) is an appropriate venue for serious discussion. And anyhow, I just don't feel like discussing.

I'd rather be quiet, and simply tell those closest to me that I love them. Which I have already done, and will do again. And again.

But I will say this: I don't know why anyone should have access to an assault weapon. Hunters don't need them. There is simply no good reason for an assault weapon to be in the hands of any ordinary citizen. NOBODY should have one.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A proper snowflake!

My paper snowflakes, made today; altered photo
Everyone else is posting about their nominations for the 2012 Art Ed Blogger of the Year, but since I wasn't nominated (sniff, sniff... sour grapes...) I'm going to post about something completely different - SNOWFLAKES!  (But I did take some time out first and vote for a few of you.)

Anyhow, I have a personal pet peeve: 8-pointed snowflakes. (Disclaimer: if you have recently posted a lesson or project with an 8-pointed snowflake, you are not alone; there have been many such posts recently.  It is not the intent of this post to criticize or belittle you.  Rather, my intent is to share information and raise awareness.)  Disclaimer done, now on to the lovely little snowflake!

The crystalline structure of snow is 6-pointed, so, while all snowflakes are unique, starting with a six sided radially symmetrical shape will make a world of difference in making a 'real' snowflake.  But you can't fold a square paper into six points, can you?  So instead we will begin with a circle. My students always made their circles by tracing the bottoms or tops of buckets, etc.  Thin paper, like computer paper works best for detailed cutting.

Fold the circles in 1/2, as shown in the photo above.  We call this the 'taco fold'. (But do not insert meat and cheese.)
 Find the center by gently folding in 1/2 again, but do not crease.  Pinch the center, and mark with a pencil.

Next you will need to fold the the taco shell into three equal triangles.  To be nice and perfect about this, you can put the center of a protractor on the center that you just marked on the folded paper, and then mark off at 60 and 120 degrees (photos below).  If you want, draw a pencil line from the center through the marks, as shown in the photo.  Or, you can just fold from the center, through your marks, and crease without the pencil lines.  If you don't  have a protractor, just 'eyeball it' to get equal triangles.  Once you've done it a few times you won't need the protractor at all.  I used it on only one of my snowflakes today.  I like to fold one triangle forward, and one back, to make for a nice crisp fold.  Press down well to crease. (Note: if you open it up, it should look like a 6-slice pizza.  If it doesn't, you've done something wrong.)
 You are ready to start cutting!  Make sure you have a nice pointy sharp scissors, not too big.  Blunt scissors will not work well.
By the way, blogger is not cooperating tonight, so please forgive the crazy formatting of the photos and text in this post.  It was important to get them into sequence, but it seems that blogger had something a little different in mind.  Hopefully you'll understand...

 The following photos are pairs of snowflakes, before and after unfolding.
Note the scoops cut on either side of the center point on the snowflake above (as indicated by my fingers).  They will form a lovely flower shape as you can see in the open snowflake. Also note that I cut the top edge so that it is no longer a circle.  It's important to change the upper edge shape or your snowflakes will all look like gears.
 In the snowflake above, you can see I have cut a little triangle out of the point at the center of the folded snowflake.  In the open snowflake, you can see (where I am pointing) that it will form a star.  I've done a much bigger version of the same thing on the snowflake below.  I've also made a lot of dramatic cuts down from the upper curved edge of the circle and in from the sides.
 Check out how I cut the point on the snowflake below.  Also note how much of the top of the triangle I removed. 
 The more paper you remove, and the less thick areas of paper you leave, the more lacy and delicate it will look, and it will look more like a 'real' snowflake. Cut away from all sides leaving narrow lines of paper.  I recommend cutting symmetrically from both sides of the folded triangle.
If you want, draw an object (preferably symmetrical)  that touches the sides and cut it out.  Great ideas for this could be the shape of a bell, an angel, a tree, or, as in my cuts below, a star and a snowman.
Below are a couple more interesting cuts.  Feel free to print any of these photos to help you get started.  I'm not worried about my snowflakes getting copied. 
 I thought I'd end with my attempt at a menorah (above).  It was too small a circle to be cut effectively, but you get the idea!  Happy Chanukah!

Oh - one more thing (there's always something else, isn't there?).  You may notice from my demo photos that I am left-handed.   I struggled with cutting as a child, and my mom got me paper dolls to encourage me to cut more.  (And of course I designed all my own clothes for them.)  My point is, don't give up on your lefty students, and please, reconsider those lefty scissors.  It is, sadly for us lefties, a right-handed world, from the soup ladle (we have to pour out of them backwards) to the  hand mixer and the iron (the cord comes from the wrong side), we need to adapt.  Leftie scissors didn't exist when I was a kid, and frankly, I'm still not sure they should.  There's some weird flaw about the way we hold leftie scissors; they just don't cut as well.  If you can get your lefties to cut with their right hand, they'll be better off.  After all, they will use the computer mouse with the right, shift their car with their right, and cut their meat with their right hand, so why not also use a scissors right-handed?   Plus, if we lefties ever find ourselves without the use of our left hand (due to injury, stroke, etc), we generally will function better with our right hand that a right-handed person will do with their left.  We lefties are very ambidextrous!  Left on!!!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The View from the Other Side -or- Preparing for a Sub

Please read this post.  If you are employed as an art teacher, it is important.

Some background:  Today I was a substitute teacher, for the first time in 37 years.  I am signed up on a regional substitute teacher registry, specifying that I only want to sub elementary art.  (The last time I worked as a sub was when I was fresh out of college, searching for my 1st teaching job.)  During my 36 years in the classroom, I rarely took days off, but there were those unavoidable occasions: a death in the family, attendance at a conference, a sick child, or rarely, a sick ME.  I was always worried about the sub; if I knew I was going to be out (a planned conference for example) I spent HOURS in my classroom prepping materials, and writing specific plans, because I did not like to have my kids' time wasted.  It paid off; people who subbed for me liked to come back.

But there are those unexpected days: the death, the child who throws up at 3:00am, when you do not have the time for that sort of preparation. You should be prepared for those inevitable days.

In my school district, we were told to create a 'Sub Folder', including all pertinent information: class lists, seating, health alerts (allergies etc), fire drill and lockdown procedures, a map of the school, names of who to go to for assistance; also various classroom procedures, some 'emergency lessons'.  These were kept filed in the office, ready for the secretary to hand to a sub when they came to work.  But if your school does not have such a procedure (such as in the school where I subbed today), you should prepare a sub folder anyhow, and leave it prominently on your desk for an emergency sub to locate.

In the case of the art teacher, the classroom procedures should include everything from what materials can be used or should not be used, to bathroom policies, cleanup procedures, end-of-day procedures, behavior policies, school Code of Conduct, etc.

Emergency plans should:
  • be something that can be completed hopefully in one session, in lieu of work-in-progress that is not easily continued by a sub, 
  • require minimal setup - the sub may arrive with only minutes to prep for their first class.  They don't want to be pouring paint, cutting paper, covering tables, and so on. 
  • use materials requiring minimal cleanup - no unplanned painting, perhaps something tied to a book that is easily located in the classroom. 
  • be written keeping in mind that the sub may NOT be an art teacher.  Don't expect the sub to have any art expertise at all.  On the other hand, you may have an art sub (like me) and you want them to enjoy teaching the lesson.  Please don't just leave coloring book pages.  UGH.  
  • include information about location of materials to use for these emergency lessons.  There's nothing much worse than having no paper and 25 kids walking in.
Some ideas - my emergency plans usually involved things that could be done simply with a motivating brainstorming activity - drawing a keyhole or door and imagining what might be on the other side; imagining a rock-and-roll band made entirely of insects or vegetables as musicians; drawing a landscape and dividing it into parts to be each altered for seasons or for times of day; you get the idea.  I usually had a variety of different choices for various grade levels.  What worked for grade 6 doesn't work for kindergarten!

 So, how was my day?  Mostly good.  The absence was an emergency; there were class lists, but not much else.  No sub handbook, no posted procedures, nothing.  I could not find lesson plans, nothing about procedures at all.  Another teacher stopped in and said she was supposed to help me find some videos I could show.  UGH again.  I asked if it would be OK if I taught a lesson of my own creation instead, and she said she was sure the absent teacher would be thrilled. These are the times when that sub handbook or folder, created in the first week or two of school, would really come in handy. (By the way, technophobe that I am, I really didn't want to have to deal with an unfamiliar DVD player anyhow.)

It was a primary school, and I had 2 classes of 1st graders and 3 classes of 2nd graders.  For the 1st graders, I prepped by cutting some 4" squares of faded brown paper that I had found in the room.  We read the book Not a Box (I had brought it with me).  We brainstormed for ideas, and the kids each glued their square on a larger piece of paper and used crayons to transform the box.  The kids did a great job (though the after-lunch class was a little rambunctious), and it was a good quickie lesson.  The class periods were 50 minutes long, so the gluing step helped keep the work from getting done too quickly.

For the 2nd graders, I did a warm and cool color activity, drawing an object with Sharpie (a fish, a boat, a house, a flower, a frog...), breaking the paper up with lines, and then coloring the object with warm colors and the negative space with cool, kind of patchwork quilt looking.  Some kids did great, and some didn't finish. Hopefully it will all be OK with the teacher. We used small paper and markers, and once we got moving, we discovered the markers were almost all dead.  There wasn't a red or blue in sight.  Very sad.  For the first class I added in some crayons just so they could finish.  Afterward, I looked around and discovered several unopened classpacks of markers, enough to last a LONG time, so I opened one and made up a tray for each table so that they would all have access to both warm and cool.  I used these for the next two classes.  There was no color wheel hanging anywhere in the room. (The room was actually a little disappointing - it had a lot of potential but seemed lackluster.  There were no cute bulletin boards or reward charts or job charts or any of the things I see regularly posted on the blogs.  Oh, what I could do with that room...)

Anyhow, to finish my day, I had a duty listed on the schedule (I think it said 'child supervision') with absolutely no instructions.  I had to ask someone, and found out it involved dismissal of students to the parents who pick up their kids (the ones who don't ride a bus); it was basically mayhem and chaos in the cafeteria.  I hope nobody went missing, since I was given no procedures, and the cafeteria had multiple doors to the outside being used by parents and kids.  Yikes.

OK, so perhaps YOU are not absent from school and YOU don't need a sub:  What should you do when you see an unfamiliar face on your hall?  Be welcoming!  Ask them who they are subbing for, poke your head into the classroom where they are subbing sometime during the day and ask how it's going or if they need anything.  I did not have ONE person do that today, and it would have made a huge difference.  At the end of the day I wrote the teacher a note, cleaned up, and closed the door and left.  Nobody checked on me, and I did not need to sign out (I asked).  I ate lunch in the staff room, and a few ladies came and went and totally ignored me rather than saying hello.  Perhaps I was invisible to anyone older than a second grader?  I do know, at the end of the day, 1st and 2nd graders were all saying "Hi Mrs. Brown!" to me when they saw me in the hall, and that felt nice.  The sub isn't making that much money for the time/energy spent (I'd make more spending a day waitressing, I think) so do what you can to make that person welcome in your school.  It may not be your job, but it is the nice thing to do.

Will I go back to that school if called?  Yes, absolutely; I liked the kids.  But I again will come prepared with my own lesson, and expect to eat lunch alone. The kids were great, and it was fun getting them to think 'outside the box'.

How do you prep for a sub in your art room?  Any advice you'd like to add?  Please chime in!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Got any good ideas?

So, I was cleaning house today, and I opened an canister I thought was empty, and came across these inside (which tells you something about my housecleaning skills, I suppose).  They are tops for tea mugs.  Along with them, as you'll see in the photos at the end of the post, are tea strainers that fit on the top of the mugs.  I've got six of them as well.  They were a grand idea for brewing fresh tea in your mug.  We got them (the mug set) as a wedding present almost 25 years ago (yup, my 25th is coming this February) from someone who knew I loved to drink tea.

But...  The mugs were very small, and I like a big cup of tea; ditto for my husband's coffee.  So after the novelty of having a mug with a cover and strainer wore off, we stopped using them and packed them up.  In our cabinets instead are more than a dozen mostly mismatched mugs.  There's the dragon mug and handmade pottery mug, both with big volume, that I favor for my nighttime cups of tea (gifts from art teachers, both!).  There's the public radio mug that is perfect for a hot cup of cider, the mug that I use for tea in the morning, and another mug that I call the 'cocoa mug'.  And my husband has his own batch of mugs with old cars on them, that he uses for coffee.  And there's the Christmas mug, the Chanukah mug... you get the idea.

So when I came across this stuff today, my husband hunted in the basement for the mugs they match, and realized we must have handed them over to a rummage sale many years ago, totally neglecting to remember to include the matching tops.

Which leaves me with what I now have: pretty covers too small for any mug and mini ceramic strainers.  I'm looking for some ideas.  The covers, I thought, might look nice mounted somehow on some sort of surface, in a shadow-box frame perhaps?  I don't know.  I thought maybe I could inlay them in plaster, but my husband thinks they won't stay put.  Or perhaps I could glue them to cork to make coasters, but they'd be rather slippery I suppose.  Got any ideas?

And the strainers - I don't have a single idea yet, but I'd hate to throw them out.  Please, when you make suggestions, remember I'm no longer teaching, so I don't necessarily need art class ideas.  But I'm open-minded.  I'll be curious to see what you come up with!