Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Snowman Garland Thingy

I finished my snowman project last night. I am calling it a "garland thingy" because I haven't yet decided if it is going to be merely decorative or also functional like my stocking advent calendar. I had lots of ideas in my head about how this was going to turn out and I am pretty happy with it. Originally, I wanted something similar to the stocking advent calendar but using snowmen to "reveal" some seasonal activities for January. I had planned to design the snowmen with a little pocket on the back where I could insert a folded up piece of paper stating the activity. However, I didn't have as much white wool blend felt as I wanted, so I didn't put the pockets on. Instead, I sewed a strip of ribbon on the back so they would each have a loop that I could use to string them onto their hanging ribbon. I didn't want to hang them using clothespins; I thought that would have looked strange. If I decide to use this to present activities, I will paperclip a folded piece of paper onto the ribbon loop on the back. Otherwise, I may just put all the papers with our activities into a container and we can draw out one at a time. Regardless of what I do, the little snowmen look festive and bright.

Here's a close-up. I made 10 snowman heads in all. I just traced around the bottom of a mug for the pattern. For each "head" I used two circles of white felt. I hand-stitched a piece of orange felt to one of the circles. I also sewed on button eyes and used embroidery floss to stitch a mouth. Then I sewed the two white circles together on the sewing machine; on the backside I sewed a piece of ribbon for hanging. The final step was hot gluing pipe cleaners and pom-poms on so they would have "earmuffs". I liked the color this added, but they would be cute without the earmuffs too. I used some extra blue ribbons I had to tie a little "spacer" onto the hanging ribbon between each of the snowmen. This added color and also kept them from sliding into each other.

Here is what the garland looks like hanging up. I hung it in the same place as the stocking advent calendar. As I was hanging it my oldest son asked when I was going to put numbers on the snowmen. I explained that they wouldn't have numbers. Of course he wanted to know why. I told him that way we can just do the activities whenever we feel like it and have time instead of trying to do one every day. Luckily, this explanation satisfied him.

This shows the back of one of the "heads". You can see the transparent ribbon "loop" that is sewn onto the back and the white "hanging" ribbon strung through it.

Tonight after I post this I am going to try to go downstairs and cut out all the pieces for my big quilt project of 2009. I kind of have a headache and my kids are still up, so I am not really motivated to do it. But I know I'll be really happy with myself if I get that part done. We'll see. I told myself from the get-go that I wasn't going to put pressure on myself about the quilt. That would definitely kill the joy. So we'll see. No matter what, it's all good here.

I hope you have a wonderful New Year. We are just staying home as a family tonight which is what we always do. I wouldn't have it any other way. There are no other people on this earth with whom I would rather spend the last moments of 2008 (or any other year).

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sneak Peek!

The photos below will give you a little inkling of what I've been working on the last few evenings. Now I have to head downstairs to try to finish this project up so I actually have something complete to show you soon! Stay tuned.........


..........are those precious little moments where all is good with the world, your children are home, safe, and snuggled up next to you. I have been blessed to have many of those moments over my break from work, and I'm so grateful. I became really conscious of it this afternoon. My little boy woke up from his nap and crawled into my lap to cuddle. He remained there for a LONG time, much longer than usual. As I bent over to kiss his sleepy little head, I was reminded of his babyhood and that of his older brother's. I remembered suddenly and with clarity how it felt to have an infant snuggled against my chest in full-out slumber. The weight of their little bodies completely relaxed and pressed tightly into mine. And I realized, sadly, how fleeting these little moments really are. When they were babies and snuggled against me as I've described, I often thought about how quickly those days would pass, and they did pass quickly. I am trying very hard to not get caught up in worrying about how fast these years fly by, but instead to treasure every moment like those I had this afternoon. They are truly among God's greatest blessings in my life.

Thanks, Alice!!

I love a blog post title that draws the reader in with its complete obscurity. Tonight after the DH got home, I headed out to run a few errands, the most notable being a trip to Hobby Lobby to pick out fabric for my quilt!! It took me quite a while to choose. One problem was that Hobby Lobby doesn't have an extensive selection of fabric. But I wanted to just get it and get going, you know what I mean? A very kind saleslady in the fabric department named ALICE spent quite a bit of time with me helping me decide on which fabrics looked best together. We probably pulled out about 15 or 20 bolts before narrowing it down to the final 5. She would think of something and go grab a bolt, then I would, etc. I am REALLY REALLY happy with the ones I picked out. In the photo below you can see them all stacked up just before I pre-washed them. They're in the dryer as I am typing this. In case you were curious as to the whereabouts of my if you had nothing better to think about! :0)

I started by picking out the paisley fabric at the bottom of the stack. Then I made my other selections using it as a guide. The polka-dot and diagonal stripe were made by the same manufacturer as the paisley, so they match up perfectly. The stripe is going to be the border between the quilt blocks as well as making up two other borders around the outside of the quilt. I think this quilt is going to totally rock!! I am planning to cut all the pieces out tomorrow night after the boys are in bed. Then I will be all set to start sewing as soon as 2009 rolls around. YAY!!

Here's a funny sidestory: Alice (the Hobby Lobby saleslady) told me to bring in a photo of the quilt when it's finished. I told her I would if she could wait a few years. Seriously! I knew I would be blogging about it, however, so I briefly considered giving her the blog address so she could see the progress of my quilt. Then I realized how totally weird that would have been not to mention overly familiar and inappropriate. I just wanted to confess to y'all that the thought DID cross my mind. But I restrained myself. I realize the whole world isn't as into blogging as I am. They don't know what they're missing, do they?

Monday, December 29, 2008

I picked a quilt pattern!!

I picked out a quilt pattern that I found on the internet (where else??). I know it may be a little ambitious since I want to do the whole thing by hand and I haven't ever made a quilt by hand. Still, I'm not a novice seamstress, so I think I can do it. I found it on Block Central which is a VERY cool quilting website I stumbled onto. It is set up as a block-a-month project. This is the quilt from their 2006 Block of the Month series. Each individual block looks like it will be fairly straightforward to sew since there are mostly just straight seams. Getting all the corners to match up may be challenging, however. I am hoping to buy the fabric sometime within the next few days. Then I'll really be committed. The website has charts for everything such as how much of each fabric to buy, coloring pages so you can design your own color scheme, cutting charts so you can cut all the pieces ahead of time, as well as detailed patterns and directions for each block AND for finishing the quilt with borders and sashing. I am setting a goal to finish 2 blocks per month from January until June. If I stay on track, I'll have the blocks finished before summer. Then I can use the summer to sew it all together with the borders and all and be ready to start quilting it in the fall. Maybe for my 40th birthday this year I'll ask for a quilting hoop. Then I can leave it set up and quilt when I feel the urge. The quilting will take the longest amount of time. I am thinking it may take up to 2 years to finish, and I'm okay with that, although I usually like shorter term projects. I'm sure I'll find many shorter, easier projects to finish in the meantime.

January activities

I loved doing our Advent stocking activities this year so much that I decided a week or so ago to surf the web for some fun winter ideas to do with my boys at home in January. I also have a very cool idea for how I'm going to present this to the boys. I'm hoping to have something to actually show you tomorrow. Until then, here is a list of the activities we MAY do in January. I've tried to cite the sources for these ideas in case you'd like to check them out in more detail.

1. Using old Christmas cards as a base, we will "frost" the pictures by painting over them with a mixture of 1 part Epson salt to 1 part boiling water. Supposedly this forms a sparkly "frost" when dry. I got this idea from Preschool Express.

NOTE: ALL the following activities are ideas I got from Perpetual Preschool. This is a website that is new to me. It has lots of good ideas, but I am not in love with the way they are organized. It takes quite a while to read through them as they are listed as emails that have been sent in.'s worth taking a look at.

2. Make a torn paper snow scene by tearing pieces of white paper and gluing them to a dark blue or black background paper.

3. Make snowflakes using pasta that has been colored white and gluing it together to form snowflakes. The website recommends putting the dry pasta in a bag with white paint and shaking it until coated then letting it dry. Sounds easy if it works.

4. Glue fake snow to a polar bear cut-out to make him furry. My oldest son got some of that Insta-sno in a science kit, so we already have that. I think I'll have the boys pin-punch the polar bears then tape them to a stick and insert it into a styrofoam ball to look like a snowhill.

5. Make and eat blue jello (ocean) cups with whipped cream (snow) on top.

6. Paint snowmen using large marshmallows to print the balls of snow and Q-tips to paint falling snowflakes.

7. Make 3D snowmen by sticking cotton balls and other decorations to a piece of clear Contact paper cut into the shape of a snowman.

8. Grate white soap with a cheese grater and use it to form snowmen. We'll use toothpicks and I'm not sure what else to decorate the snowmen.

9. Make and eat a rice cake snowman face using a rice cake spread with white cream cheese and decorated with veggie bits to make a face.

10. Paint "knitted" mittens by first painting on a piece of shelf liner, then placing the cut-out mitten shape on top. This is supposed to result in a knitted mitten look. I am going to try this in my classroom too if I can figure out how to set it up for the children to do independently.

11. Make patchwork mittens by gluing pieces of printed scrapbook paper to large mitten cut-outs.

12. Lace together two "knitted" or "patchwork" mittens with yarn. After reading Jan Brett's The Mitten, see how many animal cracker animals will fit inside our laced mittens.

13. Use a mitten cookie cutter to cut out bread in the shape of a mitten. Use milk paint (milk with food coloring) to paint the mittens. Sprinkle with sugar and bake in the oven until toasted.

14. Make snowflakes by gluing 3 popsicle sticks together in the center and painting white with glitter sprinkled on top before paint is dry.

I purposely didn't plan 31 activities. I realized after the Advent activities that it's just not feasible to do an activity every day. This way we will have lots of flexibility and can do the activities when and if we feel like it. I also love that for the most part I won't have to purchase anything to prepare for any of these activities. Good for the pocketbook, yet also great for making some family memories.

My first award on the new blog!

Today I was blessed and happy to open my email and find that Nino's Mum had nominated me for the Proximity Award. I have been truly blessed by the connections and friendships that I've made in the "blogosphere." It truly has made me realize how much we all have in common and what a small world we live in. Thanks so much for the award. I am humbled that someone on the other side of the world has found their way to my little corner and been touched by what they found. So amazing! Thanks again!!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

What I've been up to

The camera battery is dead, so this is a sans photo post. I finished the Shutterfly photo book of our "Christmas Memories 2008" and ordered it today! I am so excited to get it in the mail soon. (Not to mention VERY excited that I already got it done!) I have a Christmas Memories "old-fashioned" scrapbook that I update every year with a 2-page spread of our Christmas highlights. It is really fun to go back and look at, so I will continue to add to it over the years. However, if I am pleased with the Shutterfly book, I can see myself also doing the "digital scrapbook" thing. It was so easy to complete. I also like that I can go back and order more copies of it or even order copies in a 12X12 size if I want to. I may start doing a yearly highlights book for the boys as part of their birthday gift every year.

Another thing I've done today is to start going through our "old" toys and books and choosing some to donate so we can make room for our new things. So far I have several piles downstairs waiting to be donated next week. I am going to work on more weeding out over the next few days. It makes me very happy to purge some of our material items, though I am sad to say no one would walk into our home right now and notice that anything was gone. I have to accept that it's an on-going process and just keep plugging away I guess.

Oh, we also went to a teacher supply store so I could laminate a bunch of the stuff I've been printing off for our learning shelf at home. The learning shelf that hasn't been set up yet, that is. Even though I am a Montessori teacher (and have another whole blog devoted to that), I have yet to set up a "Montessori" shelf for my boys at home. That is on my to-do list for SOON. Now I've blogged it, so it must be done, right? Be prepared for some photos and posts about this soon. Until later..........take care, relax, and be well.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Memories Book

My oldest son became quite nostalgic last night about Christmas coming to an end. He can be very sweetly sentimental about things. This morning I asked him if he would like to make his own Christmas Memories book to draw and write about his favorite parts of our Christmas. He definitely wanted to do it. So, I took 2 sheets of white printer paper and folded them in half. I then took a 12X12 sheet of scrapbook paper and trimmed it down for the cover. Then I just stitched down the side using a zig-zag stitch. He used some of my scrapbooking alphabet stickers to make a title for the book.

After doing the title, he immediately got to work on his first page, drawing and writing about his favorite gift, the Mousetrap game. This will be such a great keepsake for him and for our family.

I worked for quite a while this afternoon uploading our Christmas/December photos to Shutterfly into an 8X8 Photo book. I have most of the photos in and just need to add text and order the book. I'm excited to get that done so we can pull it out next year and reminisce about Christmas 2008.

Also today, I printed out a bunch of stuff for projects I want to do with the boys in January. I enjoyed doing the Advent stockings so much that I am already thinking about making and doing something similar for January. I hope to get started on that soon so I can share it here.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Mumps Quilt

I have a GREAT story about this quilt that I blogged about a few days ago. If you remember, my aunt gave this to my mom to give to me. It was a completely unexpected gift, but a very welcome one since I love quilts. I did not know much about the quilt when I received it other than that it was made by my paternal grandmother. Today after our Christmas meal, I asked my aunt about it, and this is what she told me. I LOVE this story!

When my dad and my aunt were young, they both contracted mumps at the same time. Since they weren't allowed to be in school, they were home and needed to be occupied with something. (NOTE: My dad is 87 years old and my aunt is a few years this was before you could plunk your sick children in front of the TV or DVD player.) So, my grandma rounded up all the scraps of blue fabric she could find and had my dad and my aunt keep busy by cutting them into little squares. She then used the squares to make a simple 9-patch quilt, the very one that is now on the back of a rocking chair in my living room right now. Isn't that the greatest story? So now I'm calling it the "Mumps" quilt, and thinking about what quilt I'm going to make in 2009.

A late Merry Christmas, Blog Friends!!

I would like to wish everyone a blessed Christmas. I realize the holiday is almost over. I've had a hectic past 48 hours. We've had a wonderful Christmas together and have made many special memories. I just wanted to take a quick second to thank all of you for reading this blog and blessing my life with your comments and thoughts. I am so enjoying writing this new blog and have lots of thoughts and ideas and projects to share with you in the future. I hope you have all had a fun-filled and relaxing day and wish the best to each of you in the coming new year! Here are a few little glimpses of our day.

Here are the gingerbread men my little boys left out for Santa last night. He left them a note saying he enjoyed them very much!! :0)

Here are the cupcakes I made for Jesus' birthday. I actually made these this morning while the boys were playing with their new Christmas toys. Grandma Donna (my fantastic mother-in-law who is visiting us) had the great idea of decorating these with M&Ms after my original idea for decorating them didn't pan out. They looked very festive.

I didn't get very many photos without faces today. However, this photo shows the absolute hit of the day. My oldest son received the game MouseTrap from us today and played with it ALL DAY!!! He claims it is hands-down his favorite gift. I have my husband to thank for this one because he saw it and realized how much our son would enjoy it. I am more of a catalog/educational/book type gift-giver when it comes to my sons. I am so thankful that they have a daddy who can think of the best most funnest (I know that's not a word, but it sounds good here, OK?) toys to give them. We are all so very blessed that he is our daddy (and hubby)!
Signing off now to put the boys to bed (and to rapidly collapse there myself)! Take care!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Advent Activity--Day 21--Snowy Trail Mix

For our 21st Advent activity, we made Snowy Trail mix for a snack. We've actually been skipping a few activities these last days before Christmas, which is odd since we are all home all day and should have plenty of time, but it hasn't worked out that way. I saw this recipe in a Family Fun magazine, but hadn't tried it until now. It is SOOOOOOO good. I'm already thinking this would be a great gift mix for Christmas next year.

First we put all the dry ingredients in a big bowl: pretzel sticks, Chex cereal, pecan halves, dried cranberries, and cashews.

Then we melted a bag of white chocolate chips in the microwave and poured it over the dry mixture.

My oldest son helped mix it all together. You can see his fingers in the photo as he couldn't resist sampling it right away! Me neither!!

After coating the mix, we spread it out on a waxed paper covered cookie sheet until it cooled slightly. Then it was ready to enjoy. Very easy and VERY VERY good! I can't stop eating it! This is definitely a recipe we'll be making again.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Today my mom stopped by to pick up my oldest son to take him to a playdate at her house. When she arrived, I was in the midst of the cleaning/de-cluttering frenzy I wrote about in the previous post. Therefore, when she informed me that she had brought me a "few things", I was not in the frame of mind to warmly welcome anyTHING else into my home. I think I even said something like, "It better not be any more CRAP to clutter up my house." Sorry, Mom! (I'm sure you're used to me by now.) Anyway, she told me that the "things" included a quilt that my aunt gave her to give me. A quilt that my OWN grandma made!! (Sidenote: I only got to know one of my grandmas, my father's mother. My mother's mother died a month before I was born. It's one of my life's regrets that I did not ever get to meet her.) I LOVED the grandma that I knew. I have so many memories of her, even though she died before I reached high school. Anyway, I was quickly remorseful when I realized that my mom had unexpectedly brought me such a treasure. I own another quilt she made for me and gave me when she was alive. It is one of my most prized posessions. It was on my childhood bed for many years and is now on a quilt rack in my bedroom. My dad made the quilt rack, so it's special too. Below is a photo of the quilt. It is so pretty, and is hand-quilted by my grandma. I am not sure whether it is hand-pieced or machine-pieced. I'll have to ask my aunt or my mom.

The reason I titled this post "Serendipity" is because it was very serendipitous that this quilt arrived when it did. (NOTE: I just looked up the meaning of serendipity to make sure I'm using it correctly in this context. Webster's defines it as: "the faculty of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for." Definitely the case here.) I have just finished reading another Elm Creek Quilt novel by Jennifer Chiaverini. The one I read is pictured below and is called Circle of Quilters. I love these novels. They are easy to read, well-written, and have a lot of quilt info thrown in. After I read the book, I was thinking that I would enjoy making a quilt. I've made a few quilts before, but not since I had children. My mom has gotten into quilting in her retirement and does them completely by hand, the piecing and everything. I'd like to make one totally by hand. I may just make a wall-hanging; we'll see. The arrival of this new and treasured quilt gives me the motivation I need to try a quilt of my own in the new year. So look for some posts about that sometime in 2009.

If you are a quilter reading this post, I'd love to have you write me a comment. I am wondering what would be a good pattern to try for my first hand-pieced quilt. Let me know if you have any ideas.

Could God be the ultimate Magic Eraser?

Photo courtesy of

If this post makes no sense, forgive me. I have been in a cleaning FRENZY today. We are having company tomorrow (my mother-in-law) and are VERY excited for her to visit. On Thursday, we will have Christmas dinner for 14 in our home. I know this is fewer than many of you host over the holidays, but it's a full 10 people more than what WE'RE used to. I have written before about my dislike for cleaning and my HATE for clutter. I do, however, like to have a neat and clean house when people are visiting us. So..........I emailed DH today at work and asked him to pick up some Magic Erasers on the way home. I wanted to tackle the smudges in the stairwell (as well as many, many other cleaning tasks, lest you think those were the biggest of my cleaning woes).

When he got home, I immediately asked for the package, ripped it open and got to work. I ended up totally using up a whole Magic Eraser just on our stairwell. There were only flimsy little pieces left when I was done. I am also going to admit that I haven't been in a very good mood today. Cleaning and clutter make me grumpy. I know I need an attitude adjustment about it; however, that hasn't happened yet (unfortunately). So even though I was determined to Magic Erase the stairwell, I was less than happy about doing it. And then as I was about halfway up the stairs and thus 3/4 of the way finished, it hit me.......HARD! God's mercy and love are just like the Magic Eraser. God is able to swoop in and clean up the subtle, yet insidious mess that is our spiritual selves and make it clean again. I say subtle mess because I fully realize that outwardly people don't always show their hidden "dirt". That is the dirt that instead rears its ugly head around the people who know us best....our families and closest friends. (In my case, my dirt is that I sometimes have less patience than I should, I snap at the people I love instead of speaking gently, and the list could truly go on and on, but I'll spare you. I usually hide these ugly behaviors when I am in public, however.) Similarly, I am pretty sure that anyone walking up my stairwell prior to the Magic Erasing may not have seen all the little dings and drips and stains. Yet they were there in plain sight. I was also struck by the fact that just as the Magic Eraser leaves behind little bits of itself in the cleaning process (thus the disintegration), so does God leave bits of Himself behind when he cleans us up. All this revelation didn't necessarily make me enjoy the cleaning more, but it humbled me tremendously. I am certainly in need of some good Magic Eraser power today as well as any other day on the calendar. So my wish for today is that I learn to appreciate the cleaning powers of God and that I try to create less of a mess for Him to clean up!!

Handmade Christmas--Part 3

For my three cousins who are in their 20s, I usually give gift cards. I wanted a clever way to package the gift cards this year, so I decided to whip up some little stockings using the same pattern I used for my Stocking Advent Calendar. When browsing the ribbon drawer in my craft room recently I saw this groovy red pom-pom trim and thought it would look great on a white stocking. Luckily, I had also just bought a couple of sheets of white glitter felt at Hobby Lobby. The photo below shows the finished stockings.

One little problem: I'm not sure the opening at the top of the stockings is wide enough for the gift cards!! I haven't tried it yet.

I also decided this year to give tins of Homemade Granola to a few family members. I learned that it actually often pays to wait until the last minute, because you can get some great deals. I found some really cute Christmas tins for 60% off that I used to package the granola. This granola is SOOOOO yummy and it makes a really big batch. I love it stirred into Yoplait Thick 'n Creamy vanilla yogurt or just plain for a snack. My oldest son loves it with milk. The recipe I use is in this post on my other blog.

Here is one cookie sheet of granola ready for the oven. This recipe makes two full cookie sheets of granola. It is SOOOO good. I used whole pecans, dried cranberries, maple syrup, and vanilla extract for my recipe. You can vary it a lot according to your tastes.

Here is one of the tins filled with granola. I cut waxed paper to cover the inside of the tin and I also put another round piece on top and tucked it in to keep in the freshness.

Here are the four bargain tins filled with granola. I like the idea of giving a gift in a container that can be reused instead of tossed out.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Handmade Christmas--Part 2

Just the other day I decided I wanted to make new pajamas for the boys to wear on Christmas Eve night. I'm psycho like that, coming up with involved projects at the last minute when my house is a complete disaster, mother-in-law is flying in to visit in two days, and I'm hosting Christmas dinner for 14 at our house.'s nuts. Anyway, I stayed up late last night working on some more handmade Christmas gifts. This is the girl who was going to be ALL DONE by the end of November. Sadly, even as I set that goal I feared I wouldn't attain it. Oh well........on with the show and tell.

This is what the PJs look like. These are my little boys pajamas. I had to buy a pretty large t-shirt at Hobby Lobby so the shirt will be kind of huge. And the photo makes the pants look like doll pants. I just wanted to show the whole ensemble. I freezer paper stencilled the stocking on the front of the t-shirts. I wrote a post/tutorial about this on my other blog, so click here if you would like to read it. It is SOOOOO easy with great results. And you could even pull it off before Christmas.

I LOVE the white stocking on the red. I chose the stocking after finding the flannel with a stocking print.

And for two boys, I love the blue background on the flannel. I think these will be so cute and cozy. They are all wrapped up and under the tree right now with a label saying "Open on Dec. 24".

The next two photos show some patchwork dish towels I made for my cousin and aunt. I used this tutorial. They stitched up really easily. I would like to do more of these and want to find the waffle-weave towels next time. Target didn't have those when I bought the ones I ended up using.

These didn't photograph as pretty as they are in real life. Oh well.........I'm not a great photographer OR I have a stinky camera OR BOTH!!

Advent Activity--Day 20--Sugar Cone trees

For our 20th Advent activity we made sugar cone Christmas trees. I just saw that they made these over at Flipflops and Applesauce and posted about it today too! We just bought the sugar ice cream cones and added green food coloring to plain white frosting in a can. The boys were both really careful about spreading the frosting to cover the cones. And we all found out how yummy sugar cones are just plain!

Kind of a blurry photo. I swear some days I hate my digital camera. It is such a clunker. Oh well, this is my older son frosting his cone.

And the little guy working on his cone.

We just used M&Ms to decorate the tree, but red licorice laces would make great "tinsel".

After they were done we put them in the frig for a while to harden them up some as the frosting was very soft and gooey.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Handmade Christmas--Part 1

I LOVE to make gifts for people at Christmas. Hopefully they love receiving these gifts as well! :0) I wanted to share what I made to give my sons' teachers this year. We also gave one of these to our daycare provider.
First, I chose 4 photos I've taken around our home this past year. These were nature photos, not kid photos. I uploaded them to Shutterfly and had them made into greeting cards. I was very impressed with the quality of the cards when I received them in the mail. The photo below shows the 4 cards I had made up.

I had planned to sew them each a Gratitude Wrap using Amanda Soule's free pattern. However, I guess my sewing skills weren't up to par because I couldn't get it to come out looking very good. So I scrapped it and made up my own pattern using the pieces I had already pre-cut for the Gratitude Wraps.
Basically I just came up with a little pouch lined with cream colored linen with ribbons to tie it closed. In the above photo you can see the inside of the pouch.
Here is what the pouches look like when they are tied closed. Into each pouch I placed the four greeting cards tied with a cream ribbon along with a card my son hand-drew for each of his teachers and a personal note from me. I was pleased with how these turned out and I wish I had bought more of the outer fabric. I got it on discount at Wal-Mart this summer.

Advent Activity--Day 19--Paper Garland

For our Day 19 Advent Activity (done on Day 20), my oldest son and I made a cut paper garland to decorate our Christmas tree. I saw this activity in the Crafting Fun book I bought a few months ago. I was drawn to it for its simplicity, but knew my boys would enjoy the "magic" of seeing what could be created from a single piece of paper.

I purchased a few sheets of Christmasy scrapbook paper at Hobby Lobby. I had to buy the 12X12 inch size, but I cut it down to 8 1/2 by 11-inch since that is the size called for in the directions.

After you have the 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper, you fold it into thirds lengthwise. I have tried to show that in the photo below.

Then you make alternating cuts along the folds of each side as shown in the photo below. I drew the lines with a pencil to help my son know where to cut, but when I made one by myself, I just did it without the lines and it turned out fine. The key is to cut close to the fold (about 1/2 inch from it) but not through the fold.

Below you can see my son cutting on the lines. I had him cut all the lines from one side first, then we turned the paper and he cut the other side. Afterwards, I cut a few of the lines a little longer where he didn't cut all the way to the end of the line.

Next is the fun part. Unfold your paper carefully. At first it will just look like a piece of paper with lots of slits in it!

But when you pull gently on the ends, you can stretch it out like a spring and see the pretty pattern. We looped one end to a branch near the top of our tree and stretched it out, then looped the bottom end onto a lower branch.

Although my youngest son hasn't made one of these yet, I think he does have the cutting skills needed to do it. So, I think you could try this with children as young as 3, depending upon how well they can cut. I would probably help him hold the paper as he cuts. Also, go ahead and try this even if you don't have "fancy" paper. I think this garland would look just as pretty with plain white printer paper.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Advent Activity--Day 18--Handprint Santa Cards

We actually didn't do our Day 18 activity on the 18th day for various reasons. To be honest, the boys' excitement about our daily Advent activity has diminished somewhat recently. My oldest son used to wake up every morning really excited to check the stocking and now he sometimes doesn't remember to check!! Still, they are usually interested in doing the activity once I initiate it. And we're having fun doing projects together. I am rethinking next year, however. I'm wondering if we'll just do a 12 days of Advent starting on December 12th instead of December 1st. We'll see.

For this activity we made Handprint Santa cards. I first saw this idea on the FamilyFun website. My mom just subscribed to this magazine for me and I'm so excited. I had a subscription several years ago and let it expire. So it will be fun to look forward to again. And now since the boys are older, we will probably try even more of the activities than before.

My youngest son, in particular, enjoys having his hands (or feet) painted. We made a really cute Halloween wreath in October with the boys' hand and footprints. So now whenever I say I'm going to paint his hand, he is totally all over it. We also made some really cute handprint trees recently in my Montessori preschool class. To see how we did it, click here.

Here my little boy is getting ready to use his fingertip to paint pom-poms and trim on the Santa hat.

This is my older son's hand covered with paint.

And here he is pressing it onto the card. I can't believe his hands will be so big soon that they will hardly fit onto a card this size!! WAHHH!!! He's growing up too fast, but I love seeing him grow and change with every age. I remember when I was little asking my mom fairly often whether or not she wished I was still a baby. I think I realized somehow that older children come with annoying challenges, and I was always afraid she would prefer me as a baby over me at my current childhood age. I also remember that she always answered me in the same way. She would say something like, "Every age has its' joys and I have loved being your mom at every age." Now that I am a mom, I agree. I am sometimes wistful for those cuddly baby days, but I also really love seeing my boys grow and change.

Here are a few of our finished cards. Each boy painted 3 cards. I think both of these are my older son's cards. We will give these cards to our family members who spend Christmas day here at our home with us.