Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Quiet Little Experiment

Here in our little corner of the world, the weather this time of year is cold and wet - very wet!!!  This means we spend a lot of time indoors.  It seems not only are the days becoming shorter but our fuses as well.  I find the kids tend to bicker with each other more and  that my husband and I are raising our voices much more than we would like.  

So here is a little quiet experiment we are going to try.  Each of us has been assigned a small jar of marbles.  Each time one of us yells, we will remove a marble from that person's jar.  If a person's jar becomes empty, they must do something nice for the rest of the family.  They are completely free to choose what the nice thing is - bake something, cook a meal, sing a song, read a book out loud, do an extra chore - anything goes.

I am very curious to see how this works out and must admit that I am slightly worried that my jar may be the first empty one.  I will keep you all posted ;)

Monday, August 27, 2012

How to make a doll bike helmet

Our family loves to take bike rides together.  Even before our children could walk, we had them on bikes, either in a special bike seat or sitting in a bike trailer.  We are lucky to live in a country with a very well developed bike lane system.  We also take our bicycle safety very seriously.  None of us, child nor adult, gets on a bike without a helmet.  While we always insisted the kids wear helmets, my husband and I were often a bit lax on this when it came to our own use of helmets. When our oldest daughter had a serious bike accident four years ago, that all changed.  I shudder to think what would have happened had she not been wearing her bike helmet.  The force of the impact when she fell cracked her helmet in two.  She sustained only minor injuries and I know we have her helmet to thank that it wasn't far worse.

When our youngest daughter came along, we continued our regular bike rides with her safely tucked in the bike trailer.  Her beloved doll was always by her side.  At a certain point my daughter asked why Esther, her doll, didn't have a helmet.  We tried using a crocheted hat but that didn't convince our precocious child.  We had to come up with something more helmet-like.   

What follows is a little tutorial for how to make papier-mache helmets for your favorite doll or stuffed animal.

Materials needed:
Measuring tape
Newspaper (cut into small pieces)
Paint/paint brush
Exacto knife
Pen or Marker
Hole punch

The first step is to determine what size helmet you will need.  Measure around your doll's head. 

Now inflate a balloon until it is  the same circumference as the doll's head plus an extra half inch.  Tie the balloon off.  Next you need to make your glue.  I use a 2 parts flour to one part water mixture.  Any papier-mache glue will work so if you have one you have liked and used in the past feel free to go with that.  Since I always have flour on hand, I find this an inexpensive and relatively easy clean-up glue to work with.

Begin by dipping the small pieces of newspaper in the glue mixture.  Use your fingers to squeeze off any excess.  Place the glue-soaked pieces of newspaper onto the balloon.  Continue until the entire surface of the balloon is covered.  Set aside and let dry.  Once dry repeat this step until you have at least three layers of newspaper on your balloon.  Be sure to let each layer dry completely before adding another.  If you are making a helmet for a larger doll or stuffed animal, you may need to add another layer to make the helmet more durable.

Once all of the layers are dry, you need to determine the shape of your helmet.  Use a pen or marker to draw the shape on the paper-covered balloon.  If you are trying to draw straight lines around your balloon, I find it helpful to place a rubber band around it and then draw a line so the ends match up perfectly.  Once you have the desired shape, carefully use an exacto knife to cut out the helmet.

Now it is time to decorate.  We painted ours with regular poster paint we already had.  We sealed the helmet with a coat of clear varnish.  Use the hole punch on each side of the helmet and thread the ribbon through so you can secure the helmet to your doll's head.

 You are now ready to take your beloved friend on a bike ride knowing their heads are well protected.

Ride safely!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Simple String Art

Cork trivets (These came in inexpensive three-packs from Ikea)
Paint (optional)
Varnish (optional)
Paint brush
Tack hammer (optional)
Embroidery floss
Small nails

This project can also be done using a wooden board in place of the cork.  With the cork, we found the kids (ages 9 & 10) could push the nails in with their fingers instead of using the hammer (though they seemed to like tapping with the hammer anyway) but then there is an increased chance of little smashed fingers.  This was as an activity during my daughter's birthday party so we opted for the safer cork.

In order to see the string design better we chose to use a black background.   Since we already had a big bottle of black poster paint we used that.  We used water-soluable craft varnish to finish it off and give it a slight shine.  The poster paint alone looked very dull.  

After the paint was dry, my daughter picked out a design (in this case the letter "h" from her name).  She copied the design with nails.  Once she was happy with the placement of the nails she began winding different colored embroidery floss around the nails.  There really is no right or wrong way to do this and it is great for experimenting with different patterns.

My 10 year old was able to do this entire project by herself.  The most challenging part was tying the knots of string around the nails.  A younger child  may need help with tying off of string.  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Photo Fun

While the concept of a photo treasure hunt isn’t new, don’t save it just for a special occasion. This is a fun indoor/outdoor activity that you can do any time. All you need is a pencil & paper, a little imagination and a digital camera (we had bought the children inexpensive digital cameras for them to use on our last vacation).

When the weather is nice I like to create a list that will get the kids outdoors and exploring nature. When the days are cold, dark and rainy like they are now, I try to make a list that will get their creativity flowing. Below is a sample of our latest photo treasure hunt. I like to sneak in a little healthy snacking (see #’s 13 & 14). And if you are doing the indoor version, I highly suggest including #17 (substitute whichever room is most applicable).

And, just in case you aren’t familiar with the concept, the idea is to take one photo with all of the items listed. In this example the child should come back with 17 individual photos.

Sometimes I have the kids work together and sometimes I give them separate lists. We have done this a few times now and it is definitely a favorite activity.

1. A white-bearded dragon prince

2. Your full name spelled with blocks

3. Frog from a storybook

4. A hippo wearing a hat and looking out the window

5. Harry & Sally (our puppets) playing ping pong

6. A drawing of a robot on vacation

7. A robot, a bunny and a monkey having a tea party

8. A Lego car

9. You in disguise

10. A list of three things you want to do this year

11. A fairy riding a train

12. You in your favorite outfit

13. A half eaten piece of fruit

14. An empty plate after you finish the other half of the piece of fruit

15. A drawer full of matched socks

16. The first page of your favorite story

17. A cleaned-up living room

We managed to capture a photo of the elusive creature this afternoon.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

What can I doooooo?

Yes, the spelling of the title is correct. When my children ask me that question they always draw out the "do" with a long whiny voice. I made the mistake of asking my father that very same question with the very same whiny voice. His answer always involved yard work or cleaning the garage. Since we don't have a garage I thought I would make a jar where they can randomly pick a card with some fun ideas that will prompt them to spend some extra time reading or jumpstart their creative thinking a bit. There are some fun games, cooking and craft activities too.

So the next time they ask me "what can I doooooooo?" I know exactly what I am going to say.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Wonders of Wool

When I took up cloth diapering with my third child I discovered some of the interesting properties of wool:

1. Wool is naturally antibacterial

2. Wool absorbs moisture while remaining dry (one of the reasons why wool makes amazing diaper covers)

3. Helps regulate temperature (especially Merino wool which works with your body’s natural heating and cooling system – I had to explain this to many people when they questioned why my baby was still wearing wool in the warmer months)

I thought I knew pretty much all there was to know about wool until I started researching ways to use it for crafting. Knitting and crocheting wool yarn were obvious choices but I soon learned there are countless other possibilities for this wonderful material.

What sparked my initial interest was a tutorial I found here. The wooden play food we had for my oldest two children left many a dent in our hardwood floors and I was looking for a softer alternative. The technique used in making the wooly tarts is called needle felting. Felting is the term used to describe the matting of the wool fibers using heat, moisture and/or agitation. If you have ever accidentally put a favorite wool sweater through a regular washing machine cycle then you know what felting is.

In needle felting, the wool fibers are compacted by repeatedly stabbing the wool with a sharp, barbed needle. The only tools you need are: felting needle, foam pad, and some wool roving in your desired colors. For my first project I picked up a needle felting kit from a wonderful etsy seller which contained all of the needed materials.

Following the Fig and Me tutorial I created this yummy looking tart:

Needle felting is a surprisingly soothing activity. I found I couldn’t stop with one tart and went on to make a few macaroons as well.

While searching the web for felt food inspiration, I came across several sites with examples of felted soaps. Most were in bright cheery colors and they immediately caught my eye but I was confused as to how it actually worked. Was the soap still useable or just decorative? Turns out they are both decorative AND practical - and very easy to make!

The process used in making the soaps is called wet felting. By using hot water and rubbing (agitation) you shrink and compact the wool around the soap. This YouTube video serves as a great how-to. It is not only fun to make but so easy even my kids (including the 2 year old) were able to make their own soaps.

Here are some of the little hand soaps we made:

While I don’t have photos of them, we went on to make bath bar sized felted soaps. It is like having a permanent washcloth attached to your soap. Simply get the wool felted soap wet, rub to lather it up and you are good to go. Unlike normal soaps, the felted variety doesn’t slip so easily out of little hands. While my children love to play in the bath, I think this is the first time they actually enjoyed the “getting clean” part of it.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


I don’t consider myself to be a particularly creative person but I do love to create; whether it is following a recipe to bake a delicious chocolate cake, finding that perfect online tutorial to make a playhouse out of a cardboard box or putting together a fun birthday party. With this blog, I want to create a collection of our favorite projects to share with you.

I am so happy that my children share my love of crafting. I treasure those moments together with them when we are covered in paint and glue, glitter strewn across the kitchen floor. I enjoy watching their little hands at work and the thought and love that goes into so many of their projects. And, I especially love the sense of pride I can see in their eyes when they create something on their own.

So roll up your sleeves, get out the paint, scissors and glue and join us in some good messy fun.