November 20, 2010

Horse Chestnut Wreath

Our neighbor has a tree, and every fall it drops horse chestnuts in our yard. They are poisonous, you can't eat them. This year I came up with a plan to use them. A wreath, well two of them actually!

The second one is bigger so I spray painted it, and it's going on the front door!

November 18, 2010

Christmas Coutdown- Activity Advent

I love Advent calendars. There are so very many to choose from out there- from simple to overboard complicated. In our house, I try to keep it simple.
Each day of December, we do an activity. I make a master list of all the things we have to do, add in the things we always do, and fill in the gaps with things we could do. Then I pull out my calendar and write things in.
On Sunday and Monday we do church-based lessons for the Sabbath and for family night. Other days, I work around dance lessons and school concerts and community events. The first three weeks I try to keep it to already scheduled things or simple home activities like stories, crafts, or treats I can make ahead of time because the older kids are in school. When the real vacation starts I pull out the more involved activities because I can be more flexible with bed time or go on outings during the day.
The week before Christmas, I use a church-published advent calendar from the Friend magazine that usually includes scripture stories, service, and songs. I also like to stretch our Advent out the week after Christmas to include New Year's resolutions, post-holiday thank you cards, and even a night to take down the tree.
Each year I try to think of a new way to display our countdown. Usually it consists of some sort of envelope to hold a slip of paper that tells the activity and a small treat (think a Hershey kiss or sticker) with a number stuck on. I would love to someday make something permanent like stitched felt envelopes, decoupage match boxes, or tiny handmade stockings that we pull out every year but I haven't got to the point where that has made it to the top of my to-do list. Until then, I go with simple, kid-made, or ready bought.
This year I am going to try to fold some origami envelopes or boxes and string them on a simple garland with my 9 yr old's help. If I don't get around to it before December 1st, I will just pull out leftover envelopes from last year's Christmas cards and use those. I am all about being resourceful. Here are my favorite links for foldable boxes:

Here is our family's list of activities for the year. Maybe you can use it to create your own based on what is happening in your community.
And always leave yourself an out for those days when it is just not possible to drive to the zoo or go shopping or bake plates of cookies for the neighbors. My back-up plan is to read a favorite Christmas book under the tree while eating a simple treat like Oreos and milk or warm apple cider and cinnamon toast. After all, the whole reason we do it is to spend time together and enjoy the Christmas season, not torture each other on a nightmare trip to the mall or having to listen to a cranky toddler cry all the way to the zoo and back! Do a quick switch before the kids open it and insert the bigger activity back in later if it is really important to you.

Activity Advent List of Ideas

Watch the First Presidency Christmas Devotional
Watch the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Special on PBS
Go to the county tree lighting ceremony
Visit Lights of the South (a local walk and drive through light display)
Decorate the Christmas tree
Leave shoes by the door for Saint Nicholas
Set up Nativity scenes
Go to pajama story time at the bookstore
Go breakfast with Santa at the school
Visit Santa at the Mall
Make and deliver treats for friends
Make a gift for your teachers
Watch a favorite Christmas movie and eat red and green popcorn balls
Visit Lights Before Christmas at the Zoo
Write a letter to Santa Claus
Drive through the neighborhood and look at lights while eating popcorn and hot chocolate
Make Saint Lucia Day rolls for breakfast
Watch Christmas specials on TV
Do a secret act of service
Earn some money and donate it to the Angel Tree at school
Buy a toy for Toys 4 Tots
Decorate the outside of the house
Make something yummy and invite a family over to share it with
Go to the church Christmas party
Visit the gingerbread house village at the museum
Make a gingerbread house
Watch the Christmas parade
Go to the school Christmas concert
Have a sleepover under the Christmas tree
Make cookies for Santa
Watch the Nativity on DVD
Read the Christmas story from the Bible and act it out
Make a birthday cake for Jesus
Write thank you notes for gifts
Take down the Christmas tree
Donate three items of clothing or toys to Goodwill
Write down five things you learned to do in 2010
Make a New Year's Resolution
Call out of town relatives at midnight to shout Happy New Year

November 17, 2010

Tween Room Makeover

Over the summer my 8 yr old daughter started watching "Trading Spaces Kids." We have now blocked tat channel, for my sanity sake. Ever since, she has been begging me to give her room a make over. In a day, so she can be suprised. She was so enthusiastic for the project, she asked her only birthday presents this year be the ones that would go towards her big room makeover. She told me what she wanted, and I spent a few months preparing and making a few accessories. Then I locked her out for a weekend and went to work. She now a happy 9 yr old with a fairy garden room that she actually wants to keep clean!

Her requirements: fairies, but not the baby kind or Disney kind; colors, especially purple; a bulletin board; a writing desk; a chair for reading in; vines and floweres hanging from the ceiling and on the walls so it feels like a garden.
My requirements: cheap, easy, sibling-proof.

Flower garden bedding set and purple curtains- $0.00 snagged from a friend who was moving 
Desk- $0.00 handed down by a friend who was moving
Dish chair- $30.00, but jointly gifted by a friend bring my cost to $15.00
Purple bean bag chair- $2.00 from goodwill
Memo board- $2.00 for ribbon, $1.00 for fabric, made by me here
Mobiles- $2.00 for 10 pieces of cardstock, $4.00 for butterflies and flowers, made by me here
Canopy- $6.00 for ribbons, made by me here
Wallies flower fairies stickers- $14.00
Paint- $6.00 for assorted colors of acrylic paints
Total Cost: $52.00, plus about 10 hours of labor. You might be faster if you don't have 2 yr old to help!



I practiced the painting with water first.

 Flower garden mural:
 Stick on Fairies with glitter paint pixie dust:
 New desk and chair:
 Painted the tree:

Added mobiles, memo board, curtains, and bedding:
 Hung the canopy, tested out by lil' sis:
 A few more wall fairies:
 Memo board and fairy headress:

Bed Canopy from Hula Hoop

I was in Bed Bath and Beyond last week and saw a sheer bed canopy for $39. I was shopping for my daughter, who wanted her room decorated like a fairy garden for her birthday. I loved the canopy, but knew I could do better than $39. I went home and did some scrounging, and came up with this:
For a total cost of $6.00.

Here is how I did it:
1. Gather supplies- I used a small hula hoop that had been abandoned behind the dresser, 4 sheer curtain panels from the living room window that had been replaced by drapes, and 6 rolls of sheer ribbon from the clearance rack at the craft store. You will also need a needle and thread, scissors, and a ceiling hook to hang it up.

2. Break the hula hoop. Don't worry, it goes back together. Find the seam (mine was hiding under the upc sticker) and pull it apart.
3. Thread on the curtain panels. You could also use a bolt of tulle, a couple of bed sheets, or lightweight fabric of your choice. Just sew a pocket at the top to thread the hoop through. When you are done, put the hoop back together and secure with a piece of packing tape.
4. Well, technically you could be done here, but that would be boring. Here is where you personalize it. Add ribbons, flowers, strings of beads, whatever you want!  I used ribbons in green, pink, blue, and purple. Just eyeball the length to make it as long as you want, cut it up, and space it evenly around the hoop. Mine went on every 6 inches or so. I tried to cheat and use my handy liquid stitch fabric glue, but the sheer curtains with the sheer ribbons was just too much sheer for the glue and it wouldn't stick. So I had to sew it by hand.
5. Next, tie two lengths of ribbon, string, yarn, fishing line, wire- whatever you want, across the top of the hoop in cross shape. This is your hanger.

6. Put in your ceiling hook. Make sure you anchor it in properly- find a stud, use the little plastic cover for your screw, etc. Then hang your canopy and pull on it to make sure it isn't going to fall down. It took me three tries! In the end, I'm not too worried because it isn't heavy. if it falls on her during the night it won't hurt, and all that sheer won't suffocate her. if you use a different fabric, be extra sure it isn't going to fall down when rolled over, tugged on, pulled for peek a boo, or whatever.

7. Hang and admire!

Pajama Jam

When I was growing up my  mom sewed a lot of our clothes. I could pretty much count on a new spring dress and a pair of new pajamas every year. Although I am not nearly as proficient with the sewing machine as she was, I have tried to continue that tradition with my own kids.
My theme for the handmade Christmas gifts I making this year is "stuff I've already got in the stash." What is the fancy name for that? Upcycled? Thrifty? I am good with "free."
Anyway, I pulled out all my flannel scraps and played with the patterns until I had a few prints I could make each child a pair of pajama pants with. I used my trusty simplicity pattern for the two big kids pants, and just traced a pair of pj pants that I knew already fit for my toddler.
I only made pants, because we live in the south, where fleecy, long sleeved, flannel pjs would only get used about three times all year. We do better with bare feet, t-shirt tops, and pants that can be cropped into shorts as soon as summer hits. So these pants were destined to be topped with a comfy t-shirt. I couldn't make myself wrap up a package of plain white tees to put under the tree, so I decided to spruce them up a little.
I tried my hand at reverse applique. It turned out OK, but I was unprepared with how hard it is to sew all those tiny curves and details with my plain straight line sewing machine with no quilting attachments. It took a lot longer than I thought it would, and I was pretty much done with sewing for about two weeks afterward. It took a while for me to gain my confidence back. After all that though, here are the results and tiny tutorial for you.

1. Grab a package of plain t-shirts, or use a few you already have. Wash and dry and iron (I never iron, but I did this time. it helped).

2.Turn them inside out and pin on your contrasting fabric. I cut out prints for the pajama pants scraps and outlined in pencil the lines I wanted to sew. Be careful not to pin the fabric through both layers of the t-shirt!

3. Sew over the lines you drew. If you are skilled at applique, go all out. If you are a beginner like yours truly, go for something simple!

4. Next, turn your shirt inside out and cut away the t-shirt material that is inside the shape you sewed. Your design should show through.

 5. All done! Check to make sure you like the way it looks. Add to it if you need to. Turn inside out and trim off any extra fabric or threads.

 Ta-da! Three kids pj sets, all ready for St Nicholas to deliver on Dec 6th!

November 15, 2010

Upcycled Dress second time around

Here is the second one I made. This time I used lace off of the bottom of a tank top that was in the DI pile. Love it!

Ladies Skirt into Girls Dress Upcycle Tutorial

 I bought this and it's just a smidge to short so I never wear it, so here's what I did with it!

measure you daughter right under her arms, then add an inch for seam allowace. If the zipper is on the side just cut one side. If it's on the back you'll want to cut both sides.

Sew with right sides in.

Take the left over fabric and cut into a rectangle. I just eye balled it. you will need 2 of these. they will become the sleeves.

Now pin sides over and make sure your elastic will fit though it.

Measure how long your elastic needs to be by trying the dress on your daughter. going from one side of her sholder to the other. (front to back). Feed you elastic through, ancor on one end, and then the other.

It will create a ruffle effect on the sleeve.

Pin in place on both sleeves.

This picture is not the best, but you sew all the way around the top of the dress.

And then let here wear it!