FantastiCats collage activity

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So, this was my last lesson teaching the young learners at Language in Totnes a two hour Yoga & Art session. I wanted to base the lesson round animals so the yoga lesson was all about Bunny & elephant breath and it was more like a guided moving meditation to calm them down after a game of rounders. By chance I stumbled upon the artist Laurel Burch and she creates these incredible funky cat illustrations, apparently she was big in the 80’s but I have never heard of her, so glad I found her though, I fricken love her art!

I discovered a simple tutorial on an arts blog that breaks down how to teach a Laurel Burch inspired art workshop to kiddies and it involved collage making and lots of colour! These two things go well with kids, collage making is very sensory because of the texture and tactile nature of it and ALL kids love vibrant colours!
This is also a great art therapy exercise for both kids and adults because collage making is very therapeutic and encourages those who feel they can’t be artistic because they can’t draw, realize that that is simply not true, creativity is for everyone so it’s a great confidence booster.

If you have a good hour with your kiddies, this could be done all at once, as long as they don’t get the wiggles too bad.

Materials for session:
• Colored 9×12 card paper (we used pink, brown, blue and yellow).
• Sharpie markers, or something similar…the regular thickness.
• Colored pencils and/or felt tips.
• Pritstick glue & kid friendly scissors.

Step One:
– Introduce Laurel Burch to the kids – show a slideshow of her art (I printed off examples for them to hold)
– Lead a step-by-step drawing of a cat sitting down. (Kids work on the colored papers, with pencil first). Start with a big letter “D”, then add a cat’s head with ears overlapping the top of the big “D”. Add nose, eyes, whiskers. Show how to make the back leg, then draw a short vertical line down for the front feet. Add a tail. The kids in this group intuitively did their own thing, some followed my direction when drawing a cat, others kinda just independantly drew their idea of what a cat looks like and that’s OK too!
– Talk about PATTERN, and what exactly makes a pattern a pattern. Ask, “Is one circle a pattern?” No, it must be a REPEATING shape to be a pattern. Have the kids draw patterns on their cats’ backs.
– Tell the kids to “Go Crazy” the more colour the better! The kids I taught this to were from Japan and Saudi Arabia and were all 7 years old so their English was reasonably limited, I kept saying “Rainbow Cats” to emphasize that their cats NEED to be as colourful, weird and wonderful as possible. I made sure they didn’t use dark earthy colours on their cats…. bright only!

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Step Two:
– On another peice of coloured card paper, have kids make a border to frame their cats, and draw patterns in the borders.
– Make a “hill” on the bottom, inside the border so the cat has a place to sit. Some decided they wanted their cats to float as though in space.
– Make a starry night sky with a moon and planets if they want, in the background above the hill.
– Cut out and glue the cats down!

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These cats are super funky, you can really see the Kid’s personalities through their final pieces. One boy decided to include two foxes to his collage, I wonder what that means to him? Another boy drew a heart right where the solar plexus would be, what does that mean to him? And a little girl drew a very traditional looking cat with small amounts of vibrant yellow on the eyes, ears and feet, what does that mean to her? Some of the kids named their cats as well which I thought was a cute ending to the lesson. Check them all out below!

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This is the original lesson: Talking walls Murals_Laurel Burch Cats.
I changed my lesson slightly to fit with the resources I had at hand as I had limited black card paper so instead I encouraged the kids to choose a coloured card of their choice, whilst using black card may have been better in fitting with the Laurel Burch aesthetic, allowing the kids to chose a colour they wish to use is great as it makes them feel a part of the project, instead of being told what to do. I did not use Sharpies with these kids either, their English language is limited and two of these kids were known to be badly behaved, I dread to think what would happen if they got their hands on a sharpie! And because this was being taught to a bunch of 7 year olds at a summer language school I had to keep the direction simple and allow for an intuitive process by allowing the kids to see they need to draw a colourful cat but not expecting them to follow exact instructions on form, shape and pattern. I literally just let them go with the flow whilst I guided them through the session.

Joyful Things 13

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Moby gives away music for yoga or meditation all for FREE!
A touching art project to remember a grandfather who passed away.
Funny article about a guy making hilarious room requests in hotels abroad.
A wonderful interview with Winona Ryder, she is a favourite actress of mine.
Interesting short documentary about our unwanted clothes ending up in India.
A sweet Meghan Currie yoga time-lapse video with her cat, makes me think of the film Amelie.
I’ve just discovered the amazing artwork of Laurel Burch, I adore her FantastiCats!
Incredible new technology helping people with paralysis.
Cute story book about a woman & her 16 cats, illustrated by the talented Emma Block.
I’m researching what TEFL training to do soon!

I have officially finished my contract with the language summer school, it’s been a great two months full of challenges and rewarding moments. I do hope to be asked back for next summer as I have more confidence about the job role and what is expected of me so that next year it won’t be such a surprise.

I have started the first module of the dance therapy theory diploma, there are only six modules in the entire course and because I’ve been researching dance movement therapy in my free time for a number of years I feel like it won’t take me long to complete this diploma, I reckon in six to eight weeks I’ll be finished. It teaches you a simple class structure to incorporate into your community classes and it’s a very similar framework to what I was taught at my kids yoga-dance teacher training so I feel confident about studying this diploma.

As stated above I am on the search for a TEFL training that works for me. There is one that starts in October with a 20 hour weekend practical intensive (+120hour online learning) which I may sign up to do as the dates are so close to my birthday and it would feel special turning 31 and training to be an English teacher to foreign students! Eventually I will study advanced courses in “Teaching English Online” and “Teaching Young Learners” too. As I think teaching from the comfort of my home would be great (especially if one day I have a family) and teaching young learners will work really well with being a kids yoga & dance teacher.

Right now though for this week I am taking time out for myself to write two yogi approved articles and make dream catchers. Happy Hump Day everyone!

*Photo of my mini alter in our bedroom, consisting of: My Tibetan singing bowl, Ganesh & Lakshmi deities, oil burner and a cute elephant couple that represents love & partnership.

Dance Therapy Study

Dance Therapy Diploma
As a newly qualified & practicing kids yoga-dance teacher, belly dancer & art tutor, I fancied learning a bit more about dance movement therapy so I have enrolled on a 12 week, foundation diploma.

This dance movement diploma is at community level, meaning I can teach therapeutic dance in my local community but it does not qualify me as a dance psychotherapist (I’d need a Masters degree for that), this means a dance therapist can (if they want) refer clients onto my community classes after sessions with them have ended yet the individual wants to keep dancing in a safe place with a teacher who understands their struggles. Because I want to make fusion yoga, art and dance workshops to adults and children plus I already have a degree in Fine art and foundation diploma in Art as therapy, it makes sense to have a good, solid foundation to build my freelance business on. I now have excellent knowledge in mental health, how the body works, how creativity can be a tool to heal and how it all relates to the subtle body and how the subtle body reacts to stress, trauma and then in turn develops dis-ease like anxiety, depression and body dysmorphia.

There is a second half to this diploma which I may do in a year’s time. The second half is more practical with the main focus in developing & running 12 one hour classes to underprivileged children out in the community. I think once I have fully set up my Kids yoga classes with regulars and I’ve been teaching for a year, I will do it alongside a Level 2 in Counseling skills and I also fancy attending an evening class to learn a language as a hobby, perhaps Spanish or Japanese or both would be fun!

This dance therapy diploma is my third to last training course I both wanted and needed to do to make sure I have all the credentials I need to look, feel and be professional as a practicing freelance creative workshop facilitator who focuses on wellness and I will set up both group classes and take on individual clients. I see creativity as vital to our well-being, it is not just a hobby, being creative is good for the heart and settles the mind. So wish me luck everyone, I am nearly on the verge of being a freelancer!
The second to last training course on my “To-do” list is a TEFL course and I am enrolling on that very soon, I will blog about that shortly as to the reasons why I want to also be an English teacher to Foreign students alongside working as a freelancer.

Our Home: Before, during & after the Renovation

We’ve been living comfortably in our lovely home for two years after the renovation was completed but never had the time to photograph the final results, until now. I remember moving in and sleeping on an old mattress in the living room, possessions in boxes, no internet for ages & wearing many layers of clothing because the entire house needed central heating, partial double glazing, plumbing & damp proofing. The owner before us did a quick, shoddy paint job to make it look reasonably livable and then rented it out to students before selling it. So we also had to rebuild and plaster walls, used a wall steamer to help us peel off the years of old wallpaper and layers of paint on the walls & period features.

I remember the time when Jon managed to sand all floorboards in the house by himself, over an entire week with a hired industrial sanding machine. I remember sanding down the banister by hand and feeling my finger tips going numb from the cold and I remember it being a time of financial strain and barely affording to buy decent food because everything Jon earned went into this renovation project and I was looking for employment (I eventually got a part time retail job which covered food costs); but we were happy. This was Jon’s big art project so to speak and he did most of the work you see in these photos (with the exception of getting in professionals to do work we were unqualified to do) and I assisted in many late night wall paper pasting, stripping walls & sanding down skirting boards. This renovation project was hard work but we’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Living room:
This room was outdated, had a damp problem and needed a wall rebuilt. We sanded and varnished the floor boards,had the walls plastered and added classic, soothing grey & white tones to the space. Making the room feel airy, modern and cosy. Most of the furnishings were either brought with us, given to us for free or bought cheaply off gumtree. If you want to learn how Jon built the new fire place on a cheap budget, click here.
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Dining room:
This room didn’t need too much doing to it. This was also completely stripped and plastered and the space has been left as a multi use room. It currently acts as an unused dining room or potential rental room if we decided to bring in another lodger but now Jon is considering clearing the space to turn it into an office/storage room for his photography equipment plus floor space for my yoga & dance practice.
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Hallway:
Probably one of the darkest areas of the house because there are no windows in the enclosed space, we decided to lighten it up by painting it completely white with only a blue toned striped carpet runner which adds a touch of colour and leads the eyes to the open kitchen and the light streaming in from the new back door. A new front door was also added, again to bring in more light and now this area feels more open and fresh.
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Kitchen:
The kitchen was originally going to be left as it was but Jon decided to go ahead with renovating it. We moved the backdoor from just outside the kitchen (at the side of the house) to the back of the kitchen so it leads straight out into the garden, we had to knock down an exterior wall to do this and we had a little toilet built where the old backdoor used to be so that space didn’t go unused. The new backdoor leading out into the garden, lets even more light flood into the house and it is my favourite part of our home and I love sitting on the floor in a sun spot just watching the bees play with the flowers whilst I sip my tea. We also have a downstairs shower where an old pantry cupboard used to be but it’s a difficult space to photograph. Most of the original kitchen cupboards and counter tops were kept and reused to keep costs low and we bought a few more cupboards to make sure the entire space was utilized well. The entire kitchen now looks and feels both elegant and practical.
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Third Bedroom:
This was originally a very small box room situated next to the bathroom with a good sized separate landing shared between the two. Bringing in professionals we had the bathroom door frame moved and a new wall built which turned the mini landing into more floor space for this bedroom, making it feel and look adequate. There was also a mysterious leak coming through the wall from the bathroom and even our plumber was confused, we did find out where it came from in the end and it was quickly fixed. Floorboards in this room were bleached to make the room look lighter and feel spacious. A turquoise blue hue was painted on one wall to be a feature colour and soft baby blue tones were added to feel breezy with a light feeling when entering the space.
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Second Bedroom:
This room sits on top of the dining room and is pretty much the same so we continued using the same biscuit colourings for a warm atmosphere but added red furnishings for a bit of a pop. This room was pretty easy to renovate, other than the damp problem it had around the window. It is the quietest and receives a good amount of light in the early mornings and is now occupied by our lodger.
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Master Bedroom:
We decided early on that we wanted a white bedroom with a light green, botanical features. We will be adding more house plants and green cushions and other accessories to give it that fresh spring feeling. This room was one of the first rooms we began to work on and I remember stripping the wall paper until 2am! The only issue with this room were the floorboards, the lead stain was original to the house, back from when it was built & first lived in during the Victorian period. They were a nightmare to sand down because the friction of the sand machine would only melt the lead paint and made it tacky like treacle, Jon very nearly gave up to re-stain it mahogany.
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Upstairs Bathroom:
I chose the new bathroom layout and Jon agreed it was the best use of space, now the room is easier to maneuver round and doesn’t feel claustrophobic and narrow. The size of the bath, coupled with the angle of the door meant you had to swivel your entire body between door frame and corner of the bath before you could shut the door. Now with no overtly large bath in the way and nothing underneath the window, gives the illusion that the bathroom is bigger than it actually is. This is one tip I learned from my mum (who is a retired manager of a furniture store and loves renovating properties): Never put furniture under a window area, it makes a room feel smaller. People have this weird habit of unnecessarily NEEDING to fill every single wall space and sometimes it’s best to leave a wall free to just be a wall, it really does add space to a room and prevents clutter.
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Over all not bad for first time buyers! We’ve got bundles of style (if I do say so myself) and we did it all on such a small budget. The trick to making a house look classy & classic is to paint all rooms muted tones (avoid magnolia at all costs) and then add furnishings and accessories to heighten a feature colour. This makes it easier to change your mind at a later date, instead of having to re-paint entire walls because you don’t like the colour anymore, all you have to do is change the colour of your furnishings! I am pretty proud of what we achieved and now we are thinking about what we’d like to do next, either another property in Devon or an abode abroad!

Our cute Mediterranean court yard garden is our next project, we have ideas already, take a peak at this blog post and Pinterest Board.
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Ancestry DNA Kit

ancestry DNA Kit
This arrived in the mail yesterday! This is an early birthday treat to myself in the hope that if I sent off my tube of saliva now, then by early October my results should arrive just in time for my birthday on the 11th.

I mentioned a while back that I wanted to do the ancestry DNA test for numerous reasons. Even though I am technically “English” I must have very strong genetics that make me look “Foreign” because so many people approach me to ask where I am from and are utterly shocked when I tell them “Erm…I’m English”. I’ve been told I look Eastern European, Greek, Iranian, Spanish, Turkish, Armenian and much more. One person asked me if I was French whilst I was walking out of yoga class, a Nepalese lady called me “Spanish beauty” whilst backpacking in Nepal, two Spanish group leaders at the summer language school said “You definitely have Latin blood!” and a middle aged gentleman working in the stockroom at the company I work at thought I was Polish. Everyone I meet are puzzled over my facial features and I like to play the guessing game to add any new ethnicity to the ever growing list, so now is the time to find out who I really am.

We know I have Celtic blood (Irish & Scottish) and we know I am also part Romany Gypsy and I think it is that part which is shrouded in mystery and gives me my “foreign” look. The Romany tribes originated from Rajasthani India and eventually integrated with Mediterranean and European cultures throughout history and I think this is what this test will pick up. This has been a huge part of me that has been bullied and criticized for being “different” all my life, it is now celebrated by those who find it unusual and intriguing. Also another reason why I wanted to do this test is because I am fed up of racist and judgmental comments made towards those who are different when we are all essentially the same and come from the same tree of life. Leave a comment below to guess my ancestors ethnicity, where do you think I look like I am from?
Results shall be filmed and uploaded to youtube within the next two months so stay tuned, until then watch this wonderful video below.