Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Pajamas

This year I made homemade pajamas for the boys to open and wear on Christmas Eve just like I've done the past two years. I ordered the Michael Miller mitten flannel a few months ago, but of course, waited until a few days before Christmas to actually make the pajama pants. They really don't take very long. I think it took me less than 2 hours to make both sets of pants. I had a heck of a time finding plain colored long sleeve t-shirts in any of my local craft stores this year. So I ended up ordering shirts online from Jiffy Shirts. They were pretty reasonably priced even with shipping and arrived VERY quickly, within two days of my online order. I freezer-paper-stenciled the mittens on the shirt to match the mitten flannel of the pants. I bought enough extra flannel to make myself a matching pair of pj pants, but haven't sewn those yet. I will also have to order myself a t-shirt from Jiffy shirts to match. While I'm at it, I'll probably order a few shirts to paint for Valentine's Day. I'm thinking of doing homemade pjs for that as a surprise. We'll see...........

Below are photos of the pajamas. My boys knew they were getting these, but didn't know the "theme" this year. My little boy had fun guessing what he thought they would be............his main guess was "presents", but he was WRONG!

In case you are interested............I just ordered THIS FABRIC for next year's pajamas and I'm headed over to Jiffy Shirts to order the t-shirts for Valentine's and next Christmas too!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Storybook Christmas Tree

This year the boys and I decorated a tree for our local county historical museum's Festival of Trees. Last year for Advent, we read several Christmas story books and made ornaments to go with them. You can see the posts about the books and links to the ornament directions by clicking on "Christmas book activities 2009" on the sidebar of the blog. Since we already had the ornaments made, it was pretty easy to decorate the tree. I bought a white tree at Dollar General for $20, which I thought was a great price. I had also bought some red and tree ornaments from my favorite local thrift store. I made a chain garland with alternating red and green pipe cleaner circles. And I sewed some little Christmas bunting garland too. I used green tulle and red pipe cleaners for the topper. To illustrate the fact that our ornaments correlate with stories, I scanned the covers of all the books and made laminated ornaments out of the scanned images. Then I hung the "book" ornaments next to the ones we made to go with each book.

The full-length tree is shown below.

Close-up of the topper............
Cinnamon gingerbread ornaments............

Green pinecone trees.............

Pipe-cleaner trees...........

Popsicle stick snowmen (these are my favorite ornaments)............

Craft foam Rudolphs............

Felt poinsettias on juice can lids.............

Craft foam "J" is for Jesus candy canes.........

Felt Santa hats............

Glittery gold popsicle stars..........

Clear "snowflake" ornaments..........

We placed the actual storybooks around the bottom of the tree.

I'm not sure if we'll decorate a tree every year, but it sure was fun this year. I already have an idea for next year's tree brewing though! I need to start working on ornaments now because the ones I have in mind are hand-sewn from felt. They are REALLY cute!
We have been to the museum twice to see all the other trees and to vote for our favorites. You can vote for your favorite in the Youth and Adult categories. It cracked me up that my sons picked other favorite trees in the Youth category instead of voting for their own tree! (I totally voted for our tree both times, in case you were wondering!)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Turkey Handprint Trivets

Today I decided to try an idea that was brewing in my head. I cleaned my craft room yesterday because there has been some craftiness taking place in that space and it was a mess. When I was cleaning I discovered two white ceramic tiles that I had bought a few months back. I originally had a hand-print Christmas tree trivet in mind. However, when I tried it with acrylic paint on the ceramic tile (from Home Depot) the paint didn't adhere well. So I washed the tile clean and it ended up piled under a bunch of other stuff until yesterday. I needed an idea for my MOPS group blog post, so I decided to do hand-print turkeys using scrapbook paper and Mod Podge. I think they turned out really, really cute.

Below you can see most of the supplies used. I traced the boys' hands on the wrong side of some scrapbook paper and cut them out. Instead of doing each "feather" in a different paper, I decided to use a brown plaid paper I really liked for the whole tail. I used my star punch to make feet and a beak (I cut off a star point for the beak) and my heart punch (cut in half) for the wattle. I used a regular size hole punch to punch out an eye. The photo shows everything laid out on the tile before I Mod-Podged it. That's why it looks kind of crooked.

The first step was to spread a thin layer of Mod Podge all over the clean, dry tile with a foam brush. Then I laid out the paper pieces and brushed another layer of Mod Podge over the top. After that coat was dry I added stickers to spell each boy's name and the year. Then I put another 2 coats of Mod Podge over the top again to really adhere the stickers. The photo below shows one tile which is mostly dry and the other one still wet. If you try this and have never used Mod Podge, don't worry, it dries clear.

I think these turned out SOOOOO cute. I am so happy with them. I will add little felt circles (like the kind you put under furniture) to the back corners. I think I'll also pick up some little plate easels at Hobby Lobby and display these on a shelf in an upright position. They will be fun to pull out each year. I was barely able to fit my 9 year olds' hand on one, so I'm glad I did it this year. He might be too big next year to do this!

The photo below shows last year's Thanksgiving hand-print craft. I used fabric paint to do "hand turkeys" of each boy and freezer paper stencilled the words in the middle. The pillow is made out of burlap. CLICK HERE for a link to the post describing this project.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cute Turkey Candleholders

Hello! If any of you are still reading this blog, I apologize for being AWOL for so long. This has been a really hectic fall for our family and for me especially. I took on some extra commitments that are filling a lot of my time. I was just thinking recently that I miss making stuff and posting about it. Today I am sharing a turkey craft that I did with my youngest son on Sunday. I found the idea for this craft on the Family Fun website. CLICK HERE for a link to the actual craft. I changed a few things from the one on FF. I did not have wooden beads so I used brown pom-poms for the head of the turkey. I used yellow cardstock for the beaks and red felt for the wattles and googly eyes for the eyes.

My little 5 year old took the photo below of me cutting some tissue paper into squares. I thought he did a great job, so I wanted to include it.

Here are the supplies needed. I bought the clear glass votive holders at Dollar Tree for $1 each. We made five turkeys so we can give them to a few people at our family Thanksgiving dinner. We will keep one for our family, of course! You also need Mod Podge, a foam brush, and tissue paper in fall colors. If you are a local reader of the blog, I found a package of fall-colored tissue paper at Kally's General Store. LOVE that store!

I spread a layer of Mod Podge onto the sides and bottom of the votive holder using the foam brush and then my little guy adhered the tissue squares all over it.

Then I covered the whole thing with another layer of Mod Podge and let it dry.

The final step was adding a pom-pom head, cardstock beak, googly eyes, and a felt wattle using a hot glue gun. Tissue paper strips folded in half and twisted at the bottom were then hot-glued to the back of the votive holder to make a tail. It is hard to tell in the photo, but I put a battery-operated candle inside. It looks really pretty when it's glowing. These are so fun and easy to make. Wouldn't Grandma love to receive one of these on Thanksgiving day........especially if it was handmade by her precious grandchidlren? Of course she would! So go do it!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fall Craft Idea: String a Leaf Garland

I can't believe I haven't posted here for over a month. Needless to say, the beginning of the new school year has been VERY busy for me. Today I wanted to write a quick post to share an idea to do with your children this fall.

First, go to Dollar General (or your local dollar store) and buy a package or two of fall silk leaves. Unless you are planning to make a HUGE garland, one package should be plenty.

Now get some pretty fall ribbon and cut it to the length you want for your garland. If you are doing this with young children, I would recommend using only a 2-3 foot length. If you are making a garland that you will hang up you can skip the next step. However, I wanted to make one as a stringing activity to put in my Montessori classroom. Since it would be used over and over by many children, I folded over the ends of my ribbon and sewed a button over the fold. This will make it sturdier for little hands to string and will prevent the end of the ribbon from fraying.

Next, fold your leaves in half and cut a slit in the middle as shown below.

Give your child the ribbon and a pile of leaves and let them string the leaves onto the ribbon. This is great for developing their fine motor skills.

My five-year-old loved stringing the leaves onto the ribbon. He wanted to hang it up right away. The one in the photos is the one I'll use in my preschool classroom. However, we have a TON of leaves left over so I will have him make another one that we can hang up to decorate our home for fall.

This gives you an idea of what the garland looks like with the leaves on it. So pretty for fall!

Happy Fall, Y'all! (I know it isn't officially fall yet, but fall is in the air here in the Midwest and I LOVE IT!!)
I'll try to drop in here again soon and update everyone on what we've been up to.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Buzzin' About Bees

This past Saturday the boys and I went to a local nature center that we belong to for a special program all about honeybees. We were able to take a little hike in the prairie and one of the bee-keepers came out to show us a frame from one of the hives. It was covered with bees! I have long wanted to convince DH to let us get a hive for our property so we could harvest the honey. So far he has not given me the thumbs up. One cool thing is that the nature center has started a bee conservation program where people can call them up if they have honeybees in their wall or in a tree on their property and the bee conservation guy (like the guy fact it probably IS the guy below!) will come and rescue the bees. Then they are taken back to the hives at the nature center and (hopefully) they will start up a new hive. Isn't that cool? We learned a lot about honeybees and how important they are and how their numbers are declining. I do think our family is pretty busy this fall, but maybe I can learn more over the winter and talk DH into adding bees to the "farmstead" next summer. After all, they can't be more work than chickens and we added chickens last year.

Here's a close-up of the honey frame. The bees had been "smoked" before he took the frame out so they were calm and not being aggressive.

Here are some pretty black-eyed Susan flowers that were in the prairie.

If any of you reading this raise honeybees, I would LOVE to hear from you about your experience so leave me a comment, 'kay?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Meet my new BFF........

.........the Eureka Enviro Steamer. I am officially in LOVE.

Let me tell you how this relationship began. A few weeks ago I was running on the treadmill and watching an infomercial (I know........) about the Shark Vac & Steam (or Steam & Vac). I was instantly intrigued by the idea of cleaning my hard-surface floors using only water and not chemicals. I have wood laminate floors over the majority of our main living space and vinyl tile in a large area downstairs. I had previously cleaned my hard surfaces using a Swiffer with an old washcloth and spraying all-purpose cleaner on the floor. While that system was working okay I never felt the floors were truly clean. So......after my little informercial incident I did a little steam experiment. I boiled some water in a glass measuring cup in my microwave. Then I poured it into a plastic spray bottle and squirted it onto my floor and wiped it up with my Swiffer and washcloth. It worked brilliantly.........even my youngest son commented that the floor felt very smooth under his cute little bare feet. There was a problem, however. I did not anticipate how beastly HOT a plastic spray bottle is with boiling water in it. I had to hold it with a hot pad to be able to squirt it and it eventually caused the spray bottle (which obviously was not designed to spray BOILING WATER) to malfunction. Still, this little experiment convinced me to take the plunge and buy a steam mop. I did quite a bit of research on Amazon before deciding on the Eureka Enviro Steam. I just got it today and immediately ripped the box open and cleaned my whole upstairs and, later, the downstairs. This baby even gets the gunk up. If you come to a sticky spot you just hold the mop over that spot less than 8 and no more than 15 seconds.....and the gunk pretty much comes right up. I can't say enough for this product. It is probably one of the best investments I've made in cleaning supplies. And now I don't have to buy floor cleaner anymore which will also save a ton of money.

Do you see how the camera flash reflected on the GLEAMING tile in the photo below?

Oh, I love you, Eureka Enviro Steamer!

This is what the pad looked like after cleaning the vinyl tile in my basement. Yuck! These can be tossed in the wash but have to be air-dried so they don't shrink. I would love to hear from you if you have had good luck with a steam mop.

Monday, August 2, 2010

County Fair 2010

This year the boys made some projects to take to our county fair. The fair, like most fairs, is a 4-H fair but also has an Open Class division where anyone can enter exhibits. I was a 4-Her from 8th grade through 12th grade and I can honestly say that of all the things I participated in as a young person, 4-H was the most life-changing and positive. I cannot say enough about how awesome 4-H is. And it's not just for kids on farms or kids who have livestock. There is SO much more. Anyway..........I definitely hope my two boys want to be involved in 4-H. You can't join until 4th grade and my oldest son is just starting third this fall. I wanted the boys to get a feel for what the fair is all about and entering projects in Open Class was a great introduction.

Both boys worked on an embroidery project which I turned into pillows. My youngest son embroidered a football on a square of burlap. I just drew a football shape with a pencil and he followed the line, going up and down with his needle and thread. He just turned 5 a few months ago and I didn't think he would be ready yet for a traditional backstitch. Below you can see two photos of his pillow.

Up close............he did a really good job considering I didn't help him at all and it was his first sewing project ever.

My older son embroidered a monkey. I showed him an Ed Emberly drawing book and had him choose an animal to draw on paper. I then transferred his drawing onto a piece of burlap and taught him to embroider on the lines. I helped a little bit on the corners and tight curves, but he did most of it independently. His pillow received a Purple Ribbon in its class which was a fun surprise.

He also did an art project...........a crayon drawing of a hen and chicks. I got the idea for this project from a blog I have grown to LOVE so much...........Art Projects for Kids. Be sure to go check out this blog. It is written by an art teacher and has great projects that you could do with your children at home. I am thinking about choosing a few projects to do with the boys for them to give as Christmas gifts. Truly great stuff over there.

In addition to these projects the boys entered their fireworks t-shirts that we made for Fourth of July. They also each entered a plate of 10 green beans from our garden and a marigold flower from our gardens. AND..........they each entered a dozen eggs from our ribbon eggs I might add. :0) They were so excited to see their ribbons and to bring them home on the last day of the fair. Each ribbon also has a premium associated with it so they each got a check to cash as well. We will definitely be doing this again next year. If you think your child would love doing this, consider saving some of their art projects from school this year and contact your local county extension office to find out about the Open Class division in your county. In our fair the Open Class division has classes for collections and even Lego constructions, something that my little guy was TOTALLY into looking at this year. He is already talking about what lego sculpture he wants to take next year. All good country fun!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Fourth of July fun

To make up for the absence of any fun mommy-inspired creativity in June I tried to make up for it by pulling together a few projects for the Fourth of July. We invited a few friends over on Friday, July 2nd for a little swimming party. Before the kids swam they made firecracker crowns. I forgot to take a finished photo but below you can see how they are made. The directions and idea were from Family Fun. CLICK HERE. Basically you just need tape, straws and pipe-cleaners. They turned out so cute!

I also got creative in the kitchen and made red, white and blue cupcakes. I found the flag picks at my fave thrift store, of course! To do the cupcakes you just divide your white cake batter into 3 bowls and color one bowl blue and one red. Then you glop the batter into the cupcake liners, color on top of color. Once they are baked they are red, white and blue inside. Totally easy and also fun to bite into! Again, I forgot to take a picture of one cut apart, but in the photo below you can see the layers of color pretty well. We also had strawberries dipped in white candy melts on the bottom with the ends dipped in blue sugar. You can just barely see them in the bottom right corner of the photo.

The most visually stunning part of our feast, however, was the layered Jell-O I made. These turned out SO awesome. I didn't know if I could actually make something that looks this fancy but it was very easy. It takes several hours since you have to let the layers set before adding the next layer. But if you have time and plan ahead it's very easy to do. CLICK HERE for the recipe I used.

Each year for the past few years I have helped the boys make special Fourth of July t-shirts. This year we made fireworks shirts. The idea and directions can be found on the Family Fun website. CLICK HERE. easy with a great result.

Our friend, Bob, visited us for the Fourth of July. DH grilled out burgers and brats and my parents came over. Grandma brought a pump-action rocket set which was a real hit with everyone. It was especially exciting when Bob launched a rocket across our lawn with a lit sparkler stuck into the end of it! We won't forget that anytime soon. Luckily we did not have reason to call the fire department. We also had our annual baseball game on the front lawn. It was a good way to spend a special day.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Big Ol' Bugs

Earlier this summer the boys and I took advantage of a special event at a local Nature Center. My parents had bought us a membership this year and we have enjoyed attending some special members-only events. This event was all about insects. There is a temporary exhibit of huge wooden insect sculptures in the woods. On the day we went the boys each got a map and we hiked out and found all the insects. They also got backpacks and were able to fill them with tons of buggy goodies. There was also a great spread of catered food, much of it "bug"-themed. It was wonderful to spend some time together outside. We are excited for another members-only event in August about bees.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Father's Day Surprise

For Father's Day I surprised DH (and the boys) by planning a 30 minute plane ride. A nearby airport had a special deal going on that made it pretty reasonable. DH only knew he had to set aside a few hours but didn't have any idea what we were doing. He and the boys had a great time. The pilot flew over our house and hometown. The boys were excited to see their pool in the backyard with a raft still floating in it. My little guy also thought he saw our chickens out in the yard. I am glad they had fun. I would have joined them but the plane would only take 3 passengers. Maybe next time.............