Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Repurposing Contest

A little while ago, I learned about the Blue Yonder First Monday Contest. The challenge is to tell her about your creative repurposing. When I first read it, I thought that it was a great idea but didn't think I had anything to enter. The other day when I made my dress into a skirt, I thought, "hmmm, I could enter that." The more I looked around my house, the more I realized that our house if full of repurposed items. From our front door with the antique church pew that we shortened to be an entrance bench to the antique humidor that holds toilet paper in our bathroom, we have quite a few repurposed items. I wasn't going to enter but today I thought, "What the heck, I'll give it a go!" So, this post is my entry in the contest. There are tons of other really great ideas in the contest. Go to Blue Yonder and check out the great things others have repurposed. It will get your creative gears turning!

Here's what we've repurposed:

First of all, the dress. It was unusable as a dress due to armpit holes and not being the right size for me. So, I made it into a skirt.

My husband and I made this play kitchen for our daughter. The sink is a dog bowl and the faucet is a soap dispenser. All the dark wood is scraps discarded from a local woodworker.

This bag began it's life as a pillow sham. I got my hands on it and turned it into my first bag.

These thrifted plates are repurposed as artwork with silhouettes of both of my children. The mirror between them is repurposed from an old, broken vanity that was being thrown out.

Thrifted molds embellished with fabric statements of love below our wedding picture.

A clear plastic mailing tube repurposed with cat toys placed inside to be a toy for my baby.

Left-over fabric scraps make an Eye-Spy mini quilt for a toddler.

I love working with broken pieces of glass and pottery to make mosaic pieces. My glass is all from a local art school's stained glass class. Their broken pieces are too small for making stained glass but perfect for mosaics. The following are some of my repurposed mosaic pieces.

A thrifted pitcher with thrifted china and glass.

Left-over glass brick block window made into a mosaic night light with left over maple flooring for the base and push pins for feet.

Toddler chair embellished with pieces of a thrifted Candy Land game.

China repurposed on a picture frame.

China repurposed on a thrifted heart cake pan.

Glass repurposed on a thrifted tree cake pan.

So, that's some of what I've repurposed around here. Thanks Blue Yonder for hosting such a fun contest. I've really enjoyed reading about all the other repurposing projects.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Chili Weather...Chili in Our Tummies

Tonight I tried a new recipe for dinner. It has been a lot cooler here. This is hard since we got spoiled by unseasonably warm weather last week. So, I thought I would make soup. I tried the recipe that I found on the back of a box of barley. You can find the recipe here. I didn't have all the ingredients, so I improvised. I didn't have diced tomatoes, so I skipped them. I didn't have salsa so I used tomato sauce. I didn't have black beans, so I used kidney beans instead. I didn't have chicken broth, so I used bullion cubes. We didn't have sour cream either, so we skipped it. To cook the chicken, I boiled a couple chicken breasts. I made cornbread muffins to go with the Chili. The recipe made a lot of chili and it was really yummy! Our daughter, who doesn't like soup, even ate it!!! We will definitely make this recipe again.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Textured Nature Prints

I saw an idea for a toddler nature craft over on Write, Mama, Write some time ago. It's been in the back of my mind as an activity to do with my kiddos. Apparently, I either didn't fully read the entry in her blog or I forgot the details. Whatever the reason, we used a different medium. She suggests using Sculpey but I used Model Magic.

It was a very simple craft that my daughter just loved. She had fun choosing items out of her nature tray and then pressing them into the Model Magic. I'm happy that I used the model magic because they are very light weight. In fact, they are so light that I think we might make these as gifts for Christmas with a piece of evergreen stamped into it and a hole poked into it for hanging. I think that they would make great ornaments for a Christmas tree. Now I just have to remember this idea in 6 months!!!

Here's a list of the nature items that we used:

  1. pine cone
  2. evergreen
  3. lava rock stolen from friend's front yard's landscaping
  4. sea shell
  5. freshwater shell
  6. half of a walnut...we stamped the inside half showing the chambers.
  7. Acorn
  8. "Helicopter" seed pods fallen from the tree.

I've used Model Magic before but never for an activity like this. Here's a few tips that we learned through the process:

  1. Roll the Model Magic into a fairly smooth ball first.
  2. Place the ball on a flat surface under a flat plate and smoosh it a bit so you have a flat surface for placing the item to be imprinted.
  3. Place the nature item on the Model Magic.
  4. Place the plate on top of the item and smoosh some more.
  5. The flat items were easiest.
  6. The rounded items took several attempts to get it just right.
  7. If you don't want dirt in the imprint, wash and dry the item first. (I kinda like the detail and dimension that the dirt gives the imprint.).
  8. Porous items such as lava rock are hard to pull away from the Model Magic. (That's our punishment for stealing it!)
After the baby awoke from his nap, We got my him involved by stamping his foot into the Model Magic which he thought was pretty funny. My-oh-my, does he have a wide foot! I see wide-sized shoes in our future!

For comparison, the above picture is of both of my kiddos feet in Model Magic at approximately the same age. The boy's is on the left and the girls is on the right. Look at how wide his toes are!!!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Memory Journals

I have a horrible memory. If I don't write something down, I will never remember it. Even if I do write it down, I often forget where I put the note that I wrote it on.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about remembering things. My grandfather's struggle with Alzheimer's weighs heavily on my heart...hoping that it is not in my genes. A Soulemama post brought this to the forefront of my thinking. My kids do the cutest things (they all do, don't they?) and I don't want to forget these little things. The cute little sayings, the sweet nothings that they share with us, the ways that they interact with their playmates, grandparents, or complete strangers while out and about. These are the things that I don't want to forget.

After being encouraged by a friend to start a journal that I have wanted to start for quite some time, I finally got started. I picked up two journals for $1 each at Michael's and I think they are quite cute. Orange for the girl and green for the boy. (Orange is her favorite color and we decorated his room with frogs, so green it is.)

I wrote a note on the first page to each of them. This is the most "Mommy" writing that I will do in these journals. I want the entries to be short and to the point...documenting what they say and do. Then, I can go back and read it and be reminded of these little things that they do.

Here's what I wrote to each of them:

Dear (son),

You are growing up so fast. You are almost one year old already! I can hardly believe it. I am starting this journal to record memories that I don't want to forget. I will record the "big" events elsewhere (like your first word and your first step). This journal is not for recording those events. It is for recording the little daily things that are easy to forget. Those are the ones that are helping to form your unique personality. Those are the things that will make you - you! I'm not going to add much commentary. I'm just going to jot down the basic information of that happened so that we can read it later and remember. Your big sister has shown me that time flies by too quickly. Before we know it, you'll be a big boy! I pray that these memories would be a source of joy for our family as we remember the little things you do!



Dear (Daughter),

This is a journal that I have wanted to start for quite some time. I want to use it to record memories of you that I don't want to forget. I know that it will be easy to remember the big events like all the huge milestones that you already have met and those that are still to come. This journal is for recording all the small things you do on a daily basis that are so cute and are the things that make up you fabulous developing personality. I'm not going to write much commentary, I am just going to jot down the details so I don't forget. As i remember past events, I will write them but mostly it will be memories as they happen. You bring such joy to my life and I never want to forget that!



I feel so good having those journals setting beside my bed. Seriously, I have wanted to do this since my daughter started babbling. My lesson that I learned today is to stop thinking about doing something and just do it. Stop coming up with reasons why something can't be done and just do it. Stop feeling inadequate for not starting something and start it is better than never.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Origami Girl

Today, my daughter decided that she was going to make a birthday present and birthday card for her daddy. Nevermind the fact that his birthday is not until 2009! She worked diligently on a card for him...writing out all the letters (with help) to say "Happy Birthday, Dad!"

She got some strips of colored paper and worked on a surprise for him. When she finished, she had made this...

...a present for Daddy. My little girl is doing her own origami. She was so proud of this! Daddy and I were too!

Happy Birthday, Daddy! Here's to the longest birthday you've ever had!

I love origami and what a pleasant surprise to learn that my my daughter has a similar interest and is beginning to create things out of paper. I'd like to see if I can find some simple origami projects that we could work on together. That would be fun!

Here are some more pictures of her handiwork...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Repurposed Dress

I've had this dress around for a long time. I picked it up at a sale a long time ago. I love the look of it and I really like the structure of the sleeves. However, it's former owner ripped the armpits out and to repair them would make it too small for me. So, I only wear it around the house because it's very comfy even with armpit holes.

Then, I had kids and my chest size changed and now it no longer fits me. So, it has sat in my closet for almost 3 years waiting for my chest to shrink back to "normal" or for me to think of something to re purpose it as. Today, I made it into a skirt. I cut off the sleeves, shoulder and neck. Then, I sewed in an elastic waistband inserted in a casing. I didn't even know what a casing was until yesterday. My dad, a former dry cleaner, helped me by offering suggestions of how I could make this work without ruining the end product.

I am quite happy with how it turned out. In fact, I wish that I would have done it sooner!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Going Sale-ing

Today I got to go garage sale-ing. A nearby city had a neighborhood garage sale and I just happened to see the sign while I was out and about yesterday. I worked this morning, so I took the round-a-bout way of going home and swung by for the first day of the sale. Shhh, don't tell Grandma!

It is so much easier to garage sale sans children. With kids around, we only see junky toy after junky toy and stuffed animals. Drooled on, unwashable stuffed animals...yuck! My answer to, "Mommy, please?" is generally "no." Thus starting the whining which leads to a full blown disaster of a time. Today I was able to look past the toys and stuffed animals and find a few gems.

Instead of garage sale-ing and bringing home a grouchy kid, I went to garage sales and came home to two kids who were both very pleased with my finds...we all win!

Here's what I found...

Books and lots of them. A couple of these were duplicates but at less that 50 cents apiece, how could I resist. We'll just pass them on to other little book fans we know. Take a look at the 3D butterfly book...

Rick rack. There was a little old man and lady that had lots of old, outdated technological equipment. Their sale was a mess with wires and knobs and who know what else. But in the corner, there was a stash of rick rack. 10 cents apiece. Yippee for me!

ABC Flash cards. They are ALL there. All the capital letters and all the lower case. Amazing. Great pictures. A good find for the kiddos.

Ceramic whatnots. I'm not sure if these are supposed to be juice glasses or what. But we're gonna use them for planting. I think they'll make great little pots for growing some seeds.

A sweater. 100% lambs wool. It was my plan to felt it and use it for a pillow on my bed but it actually fits me. I'd hate to ruin a sweater that is in such great shape that I can actually use. Here's the dilemma. I already have more than enough sweaters. I need a new throw pillow to match my new bedspread. The sweater matches the bed. Seems like the decision would be easy but I've never felted before and if I mess it up, there is no sweater and no pillow. Hmmm...what to do?!?!?

Ya, going to a garage sale sure is a lot easier without children. I love them to pieces but the in and out of the car seats and the begging sure do make garage sales difficult. I learned that this is one activity that is more efficient solo.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Creative Family

I've wanted a particular book for quite a while. One of the blogs that I check out daily is the Soulemama blog. I find it's author, Amanda Soule, very inspiring. Her simple, creative, and heart-warming approach to parenting is brilliant. When I read her blog, I am reminded of the things that are close to my heart. She embodies much of what I believe my personal approach to parenting to be. So, reading her blog inspires me to develop those believes and ideals within myself and my family.

From reading her blog, I knew all about the book. I knew that I could pre-order it and as much as I wanted to, I couldn't do it. I have a hard time spending money on myself, so I thought that I would wait and ask for it for my birthday (more that 6 months after the release of the book). I thought, I'll be patient. Then a friend read a review of the book and asked me about it. She suggested I ask for it for Mother's Day. I have never made a request for Mother's Day but I was considering it.

Here I must interject that my hubby recently set aside some money for me and insisted that I spend it on me. Whatever I want. Just for me. Ya, that's hard for me, so the money just sat there.

Well, today I worked. I generally only work one day a week and that is usually only for a few hours. This week is different due to Earth Day presentation requests. Grandma was staying with the kids and I actually had a break in presentations. The break was too short to go home but just long enough to browse the bookstore and grab lunch. I decided to check to see if the book was in stock. The computer inventory said, "Likely on shelf." Hmmm, likely. I decided to try to find it. A store employee joined me in my search and determined that it was not in stock. Bummer. I was actually there. at the store. I could almost taste it. (figuratively, of course.) I was determined at this point and didn't want to leave one book unturned. I scoured shelf after shelf long after the store employee abandoned the search. Finally, shelves away from where it was supposed to be, The Creative Family appeared! I exclaimed with glee, "I found it!" The store employee who was aisles away heard my exclamation and came over to me and said, "Now that's determination!" Yep, I got determination and even better, I got the book. The Creative Family is now a part of my personal library. Yippee!!!

I then went to Einstein's Bagels - one of my favorite chain restaurants. I was all by myself. I sat uninterrupted with my bagel sandwich and The Creative Family. I devoured the book. It was so hard... Do I look at the fabulous photography? Do I check out the activities? Do I start with Chapter 1 or should I read the introduction? I started at the index and just kept reading. When I had to leave to go back for more presentations, I finally put the book down. It was that good.

My initial impression of the book it that I love it! I would say that as you read it, you cannot compare yourself with the author. The book is a snapshot of their family life and one that we can strive to attain but the reader must keep in mind that everyday is not going to be a perfect, creative, inspiring day.

When I got home the family was in the living room together listening to Daddy play his guitar. It was a glorious day outside, so I suggested moving the activities outside. Ahh, I love beautiful Spring days.

Then, we put the kids down for their nap. They both went at the same time. (I love it when it works out that way!) My hubby had to do some work from home. So, we sat on the deck...him working from his laptop and me reading my new book sipping raspberry Italian Sodas.

I worked more today than I have any day since the baby was born. I also had a meeting this evening. This could have been a really stressful day. Amazingly, it wasn't. I'm so thankful for a beautiful day and a beautiful family.

Here's the big thing I have learned from The Creative Family:

First, a quote from the Introduction..."Given the creative nature of children, it is no coincidence that so many of us are led to seek a more creative life in their presence...Being around even the youngest children - and the purity of their rich creative energy - brings out our need for that same innovative spirit. They inspire us not only to nurture and embrace all of who they are, but to nurture and embrace our own creative selves as well."

During my first year of teaching, I started taking dance lessons. Everyone around me thought that this was, well, weird. Why hadn't I started as a kid? Why would an adult want to start dancing? I didn't really have any answers to these questions except that I had the desire. I think that being around the creative spirit of the students in my classroom inspired me to pursue a creative outlet. Until I read the above quote, I never thought of it that way. This also explains my desire to start knitting again and my desire for a sewing machine last year and my desire to give homemade gifts. I learned today that I have been creatively inspired by children in my life without even realizing the effect that they have had on me. That thought, in and of itself, is inspiring. Thanks, Amanda.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Grow Your Name

Today we celebrated Earth Day by planting a little grass seed Ag in the Classroom style. With a pencil, I wrote the letters of each of our names on sheets of construction paper. My daughter then used glue to trace over the penciled letters.

Then came the fun part. She took grass seed and dumped it over the paper covering all of the glue.

Then she shook the grass seed off of the paper and wha-lah...a grass seed name! Now we just have to plant them. I can't wait to see our little family of names growing in grass!

Also, the daffodils made their grand appearance today! I think they knew it was Earth Day and wanted to provide me with a teachable moment for my kiddos. It's so nice to finally have some color in the yard!

By the way, looking at those pictures, our lawn looks pretty bad. Will the green ever return?!?!? Looks like a side benefit of this little project today is that all the seed we spilled will add a little green to our poor lawn.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Scissors and Letters

Have you heard about Kid's Craft Weekly yet? If you haven't, stop reading now and run over to their site and sign up for their free newsletter. It is loaded with really fun and totally do-able crafts for kids. Each newsletter is on a theme which makes it even more fun to do each craft. We have done numerous crafts from these newsletters but never as fast as we did today. This issue is all alphabet crafts...a hit in this home currently! I read the newsletter when it arrived in my inbox this morning and by 9:00AM we had already completed one craft. We grabbed some construction paper, a pencil, a glue stick and the recycle bin. We had so much fun digging through the old newspapers for the letters of my little one's name.

In the Kid's Craft Weekly, the craft is called, Magazine Alphabet Game. Knowing that finding all the letters would be a bit cumbersome for a 3 year old and also knowing that she would want to do all the cutting herself, we modified the craft a bit. Instead of finding all the letters of the alphabet, she found and cut out all the letters of her name. She loved it and even moved on the the letters of her brother's name. A really helpful tip that the issue suggests is writing the letter on the paper first and then encouraging the child to glue the cut out letter over the written letter. This helped my daughter see which letters she already had and which ones she still needed. Such a simple tip but it sure did help out enormously. It was a great craft and we plan to do more of the crafts listed in this issue. Honestly, I can't wait to do more!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Book Review: The Busy Mon's Guide to Bible Study

Today at church, the message was on studying the Bible. Not just reading it...studying it. The pastor made some very good points and the sermon reminded me a lot of a book that I have been reading. It was a gift for Christmas from a friend. It's called The Busy Mom's Guide to Bible Study by Lisa Whelchel. I have really enjoyed it. Her website describes the book as "1 Busy Mom, 15 Minutes a Day, A 3-Month Plan, 20 Days a Month, An Infinity of Blessings." I've learned a lot from this little book. Probably the most important thing that I have learned from it is that Bible Study doesn't need to be overcomplicated. I've often done just that and overcomplicated my study of the Bible and in the end, I feel very frustrated. I set up my study of the Bible within a time frame with a certain number of chapters to read looking for insight on a specific topic. Studying in this way has set me up to never accomplish what I set out to do and I end up feeling like a failure. Obviously, that isn't what I want to get out of my time studying the Bible.
I would definitely recommend this book. It is easy to understand and isn't too deep and doctrinal. It simply gives you the tools to dive into the scripture and study it. And, after you're done reading it, the book serves as a guide for 20 different tools for further study of the scripture.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Creativity and Education

Today I read a post on a friend's blog about a video clip on creativity and education. The clip is 20 minutes but it is definitely well worth every second of it. The speaker, Ken Robinson, speaks of how educational systems around the world are set in a hierarchy that diminishes a child's creativity. It is very thought provoking. Here is the link...

This video has really gotten me thinking. I will post later with a summary of my thoughts on it and what I learned from it. Currently, my mind is still processing the information.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Extravagant Birthday Parties

Both of my kiddo's birthdays are on the horizon. The one year old birthday is slowly approaching...yikes! I LOVE planning for their parties. I LOVE finding the thing that they are most interested in at the time and planning a party around that theme. We are doing a ball theme for the baby's 1st birthday because he loves balls. My daughter's parties were based on her interests each, swimming at the beach, and firetrucks. This year, it looks like she will have a trolley themed party.

While I find it fun to plan around a theme and make it a memorable time for the birthday kiddo and the guests, I don't feel I go over the top. I read this article today and WOWZA! Can you believe it?!?!? $10,000 for a child's birthday party! I'm sorry, I have never heard of anything so ridiculous in my life!

Anyways, while reading that article, it had a link to A pretty interesting site. I found this article and I think that there are quite a few things for me to learn in it. It has "168 frugal tips on how to make your dollar stretch." Now, I might not be able to do all the tips (like rear your own chickens) but there are certainly many that I could implement quite easily into our family routine.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Rough Day

Today was one of those days. It was a very rough day. We are all feeling better but we are not yet 100%. The kids were both grouchy. Nothing would make the baby happy. He was just in an irritable mood. This put our daughter in a grouchy place because she couldn't make it better for her brother no matter how hard she tried. This was frustrating for her which in turn put her in an irritable mood, too. The two of them being irritable put me in the same place. So, there we were, the three of us, all in irritable moods. I had wanted to get some things accomplished. Being sick put us behind on so many daily things that need to get done to make home life go smoothly. These things were not being accomplished because of the irritable little ones. At this point, I threw up my hands and said, "Forget the housework, let's go for a picnic." We dropped everything, packed a lunch and met Daddy at the park by his work for an impromptu picnic and romp on the playground. Ahhh, it didn't fix the day but it certainly made it more manageable.

Lesson for the day...It is futile to try to fight against the flow of a bad day. Love the kids despite their grouchiness and look for way to have fun as a family instead of being irritable with each other.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dr. Seuss

I just love Dr. Seuss! I loved his books as a kid, I loved them as a teacher, and now I love sharing them with my children. Today I learned how to add a gadget to my blog. I chose a Dr. Seuss gadget that gives random quotes from this great and silly man.

Isn't it great that the first quote that it generated is perfect for a blog about learning things...

"Young cat, if you keep your eyes open enough, oh, the stuff you would learn! The most wonderful stuff! "

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Feeling Better

Aaahhh! Deep breath...fresh air...a lovely day! We are feeling better here in our home. Not completely well, but we are on the mends. Hallelujah! That sickness was awful. Yesterday was one of the longest days/nights of my life. I have slept on the floor in one or the other of the kiddos rooms for the past several nights. Tonight I get to sleep in my own bed...Yippee!!! I will post pictures of this wonderful day after I have had a restful night. (fingers crossed)

Here are the pictures from our wonderful day of recovery...

  1. Watching the neighbor's trees get cut down. (Sad for Mommy but exciting for the kiddos. I hate to see huge, glorious trees chopped down.)

Daddy and daughter watching the man in the bucket.

She got to learn how wood chips are made.

Baby just had to see too. Her jacket works as an improvised baby carrier.

Here are the tree's last moments standing.


Aren't they cute?!?!?

2. Going for two with each kiddo. Their napping schedules are definately off. Instead of trying to fight it, we embraced it. Daddy got some alone time while one kiddo napped and I got some one-on-one time with the awake child. Boy, did we notice Spring emerging.

3. Finding beauty in our own yard.

4. Listening to Daddy play his new guitar.

5. Enjoying the flowers that Daddy brought us...isn't he a great Daddy?!?!?
(Mine are the ones at the start of this post...the rose was for Daddy's little girl.)

Today's lesson: Nothing beats a Spring day for recovering from a nasty flu bug!