Category Archives: DIY

Summer Schedule Sanity

I don’t like to over schedule the summer, but I do schedule a couple things for the kids. We love town swim lessons at the local pool, library visits, and the imagination station for crafts.

This year I signed up my oldest for a couple extra activities and she completely panicked. The thought of something on her summer agenda was overwhelming to her, especially since she misunderstood her teacher’s instructions on how long to practice math everyday. The thought of all three of my children at home all day long with no scheduled interruptions where they won’t be asking me what to do made ME completely panic too.

The teacher said ten minutes of math iXL a day; Savannah thought she said ten HOURS a day. Plus of course, she needed to practice reading and writing everyday.

How could she possibly complete her school work and participate in a sports camp?

Once I talked her off that ledge I tried to come up with a few visual things that would help her understand that she has LOTS of free play time and LOTS of opportunity to choose what to fill it with.

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I repurposed my Silhouette Advent Calendar frame and cut up some Project Life cards to make our Summer Fun board. We listed all the fun things we hope to do and put them all on cards. I even included the days and hours the activity was open for ease of reference. Savannah was happy to see all of these ideas on the board.

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I took a couple empty jars and put some washi tape on them to make Media Ticket Jars for each child. I cut up more project life cards (such a versatile product!) to make the tickets and put them all in a little basket by their chore pack hooks.

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Only problem is Savannah is now binge working on her workbook to bank up media tickets. I may have to rethink some of this, but hey, at least she is doing schoolwork without any prompting!

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The local library has a summer reading contest where you get entries based on the number of books you review. A brief two to four sentence review was all that was required. I have a journal for Savannah and Luke to write their reviews in and then I submit them on the library website. I’d prefer them to write out their reviews as opposed to typing because they are still developing their handwriting skills and learning to communicate via the written word. To throw in “learn to type” too didn’t seem like a great use of time! One book review equals one media ticket too. I’m grateful our kids enjoy reading.

I still need to hang up a book log for easy record keeping somewhere.

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I keep our schedules on my phone and on our wall calendar. It’s two months at a time and is dry erase and each person has a designated color. Yes, it’s double work, but Savannah and Luke are old enough to be able to read the calendar and they enjoy having a little knowledge and control over our commitments. It also helps them understand why I may say “no” to an activity when they see we have a prior commitment. The only thing that bugs me about this set up is when, for example, July is on the left of June, but I don’t feel like moving the boards! I have a couple frames underneath that we use for lists, memory verses and my favorite, the #1000 gifts board- a place to write things we are thankful to God for- things big and small.

All that said, I am not very good at scheduling time with friends. Or date nights, because we have yet to put babysitting as a budget line item and freebies are pretty rare for us. I am typically a last minute person with our free time, and it doesn’t always work out to get together with friends, unless they are spontaneous people with an open schedule that day. Maybe I should work on those this summer!

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Filed under crafts, DIY, home life, Household Helps, Kids Activities, organization, parenthood, Silhouette Projects

Magic Tree House Reading Chart

My daughter’s school had a cute “No TV Tuesdays” reading campaign last month. Several teachers volunteered to call random students on Tuesday evenings to see if they could catch them reading!

After dinner we usually spread out around the house finishing different activities before bedtime but for No TV Tuesday we just hung out together in the family room reading. The campaign really kick started independent reading with our kids.

I wanted to encourage Savannah and Luke to keep reading and somehow praise their efforts without it turning into a bribe so I decided to make a book chart on the door in the kitchen. They have come to enjoy the Magic Tree House Books quite a bit and I was having trouble keeping track of which books they had read, and which ones I needed to get for them from the library. Having a central chart has been helpful to me in that regard!

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I used some brown wrapping paper from Dollar Tree for the background and card stock for the leaves of the tree. I wrapped a small box in the same wrapping paper to make the tree house and drew lines on it to make it look (sort of) like the tree house in the book. The ladder is made of Popsicle sticks and washi tape.

I wrote the names of the first 28 books on different pieces of card stock; they’re supposed to look like stacks of books, not sure if I hit the mark with that part or not. I make a little mark next to each book when they have finished reading it. Savannah also started making mini-books and gluing them to the tree.

It’s not Pinterest worthy, but my kids like it and they have a visual goal for reading through this series! Plus it only took me less than a half hour to make. Yay for quick crafts.

How do you encourage and reward reading at your house?

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Forcing Spring Indoors

It’s hitting the forties this week! Very exciting! One of the things I like to do in March to make it feel more spring-like is to find some forsythia branches and force them to flower indoors.

You know forsythia- that shrub that blooms bright yellow as the first signs of spring?

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It looks like this in late winter:

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They look like most other shrubs and bushes at this time of year, mostly dead, but they have a slightly yellow-green hue on the new growth. Snap off some branches, or if you’re fancy and can find your pruning shears, use those. I grabbed some from the edge of a parking lot (I asked first!) and used my kitchen shears.

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Take those branches, stick them in some water and the warmth from your home and the indirect sunlight will cause those little buds to flower anywhere from one to three weeks. I’m hoping for an Easter bloom! The flowers last a week or two, and then they turn into little green leaves.2015/03/img_3076.jpg

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If you don’t have anywhere to be a secret-ninja-garden-pruner like me, you can head down to Maureen’s Wholesale Florist in downtown Buffalo. They have some forsythia branches in stock but most local florists that I have contacted will not have branches until April. Maureen’s also anticipates having cherry and dogwood branches later in the spring. I’ve never tried those, but I think I may this year!

If you have forsythia in your yard, give this a try! It’s not hard to do, just keep water in the vase and you’ll have signs of spring inside as we await the great thaw. Give me a shout if you have some too- I’ll come and prune your shrub for free 🙂 The more you trim, the more it’ll grow back!

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Filed under DIY, gardening, home decor

A practice run

I saw this great “post yoga” wrap at a boutique that I loved.

I didn’t love the $142 price tag.

I figured I could make it myself. So I did.

Except I made a mistake with my fabric choice and I have to make it all over again.

Sigh.

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For a practice run I think it looks great! I used a favorite cardigan from Loft as a starting point and made adjustments from there to create my initial muslin piece. I wanted it to be long, drapey, no hood, and I am still undecided on pockets and edge finishing. I was so nervous to cut the sweatshirt fabric, but as I was pinning and cutting, something felt awry. Turns out I failed to buy STRETCH sweatshirt fabric. Which is kind of important when you are making a garment that you want to stretch . I couldn’t get my arms in the sleeves!

It looks like I won’t be wrapping up warm in this wrap anytime this week. However, now that I have effectively made two practice pieces, one, my muslin draft and now this one made from non stretch fabric, once I get the right fabric in my hands it should be a snap to complete the project.

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Filed under DIY, sewing

A finished pair of socks

How long does it take to knit a pair of socks? Mmmm anywhere between a couple weeks and several years, especially if you are a serial project starter like me. 2015/03/img_3042.jpg This pair? They took about two and a half months from cast on to blocking. I don’t knit everyday, but I knit a ton on vacation over Christmas (helloooo that’s what vacations are for!) and then continued here and there since January. You know. In the waiting room at the doctors office. In the preschool pick up line. In the car when Keith was driving. I love these! The shell pattern, the color, the length, everything. They are the perfect amount of woolly warmth and the airy pattern means you won’t sweat to death. Important, considering I finished these in the month of March and would still like to wear them despite the warm weather. Oh, wait, no warm weather here yet. 2015/03/img_3041.jpg I was a bit nervous as I finished knitting these up that they would be too small.2015/03/img_3029.jpg Thankfully after a good soak and blocking on my DIY sock blockers they were the perfect size.2015/03/img_3040.jpg 2015/03/img_3038.jpg 2015/03/img_3039.jpg Time to put my feet up! For about twenty seconds until parenthood calls. Child’s First Sock in Shell Pattern from “Knitting Vintage Socks” by Nancy Bush. Ravelry Link.

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Filed under crafts, DIY, Knitting

We have a Jedi, we call him Luke

We always knew that we’d have a Star Wars themed birthday party at some point in our house, especially after that ultrasound in 2009 when the technician said “It’s a boy!”

Star Wars is, hands down, Keith’s favorite movie series (saga? trilogy? double trilogy?) in the history of ever. And yes, I think he said “Luke, I am your Father” in the delivery room. Keith has successfully passed down that love of all things Jedi to our son Luke and this year was the perfect opportunity to execute the Star Wars birthday plan.

We actually bought a Star Wars themed birthday basket from a charity auction when we were pregnant with Savannah (I know, very nerdy of us) and it’s sat in the basement for seven years, and even moved to two different houses with us. The kit had goodie bags, papergoods, tablecloth and some dangly decor.

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I found a couple invitation ideas on pinterest and downloaded a Jedi font from dafont to make them.

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I went a little crazy with the cake and created R2D2 out of 3 cake mixes, using an 8 inch cake pan several times and a metal bowl that I sprayed the heck out of to make the R2’s domed top. 2015/01/img_2452.jpg2015/01/img_2454.jpg

R2’s legs were made out of a pan of rice krispie treats and the whole thing was smothered in several batches of buttercream frosting. The legs were attached to the main body with shishkabob skewers.2015/01/img_2458.jpg

The birthday banner was made with the Jedi font on my Silhouette, and I am starting to wonder if I should start selling these? They are fun(though time consuming) to make and a cute custom addition to birthday parties.

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I couldn’t find a Star Wars-ish pinata locally, so I purchased a soccer ball pinata and spray painted it silver. After it dried and I filled it, I painted geometric shapes and used electical tape to make it look like the Death Star.

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I nixed the idea of actual goodie bags, since my house gets easily cluttered with goodie bag stuff from parties, and we made custom t-shirts for all of the guests that said “Jedi Master ____” in gold paint. I cut the stencils out of freezer paper on my Silhouette and the big kids had an opportunity to help paint the shirts.

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We live around the block from a children’s gym/ tumbling place and we were able to utilize their open play time for an hour before coming back to our house for pizza, pinata and cake.

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The foam pit was a favorite location for my kids as they acted out the trash compactor scene from one of the Star Wars movies.

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While I am a little anti- pull string pinata, I have to admit that the pinata part of the party went from tame…

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To “Careful guys, stand back please!”

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And then “BACK UP GUYS!!!!”

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Culminating in my Matrix-like backbend to save the children when one of Luke’s friends swung like Babe Ruth.

Despite the challenges, we are still a Pro-Legit-Pinata family. I will just set up barricades next time. Haha.

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Hope you had the happiest of birthdays Luke! You are a joy to see grow up into a little man!

And friends… we are still working on those thank you notes… not a strong point of ours for punctual mail. eeek!

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Filed under crafts, DIY, home life, Kids Activities, Silhouette Projects

Ultimate Girls Spy Party

A few months back, we had an amazingly fun Spy themed birthday party for our daughter. I found bits and pieces of ideas from the interwebs and put this together.

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We went with a “007” theme since she was turning 7, and I found some images that I was able to import and trace in my Silhouette Studio software for the invitation and party extras. After some deliberating with fellow mom-friends and my cousin, who’s a second grade teacher, we decided to drop the gun part of the 007 bond logo. I didn’t want to make waves on the playground. But, FYI, if you include it in yours I am totally not offended.

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The invitations turned out really cute. We included a tiny envelope that said “Your Secret Mission” that included the URL for the flipagram we created. It was set to the James Bond theme song. Obviously.

 

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And a birthday isn’t a birthday around these parts without a custom banner and accessories.

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The girls were greeted at the front door with a sign, which was, admittedly, the most lame thing I created. I ran outta steam.

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After the girls came in, they came to our dining table where each person had a pink file folder and materials to make their own badge. We had washable pink ink pads for the girls to put their fingerprint on their badge too. I had intended to print a tiny picture of each girl and have it on their badge, but I’m no pinterest show, so I let that one slide.

 

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Inside each of the folders was a letter explaining what the girls had to do to complete their 007 Spy training.

We had a yarn/ laser bean obstacle course:

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An exercise in “hiding in plain sight” a.k.a dress up:/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/ee5/28020644/files/2015/01/img_2507.jpg

 

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And my favorite- cracking the cipher code. We printed up the alphabet in a Wingdings type font on cardstock, cut each letter match out, and carefully put them inside black ballons. We dropped 26 balloons on the girls and they needed to “diffuse” the bombs to get the code.

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After cracking the code, we broke for lunch, after which a new mission mysteriously appeared in an envelope. It seemed Dr. No stole the “loot bags” and hid them somewhere.

The new mission directed each of the girls to look for a clue on the underside of their lunch plate. The clues led each of them to a random place in the house (freezer, laundry room, piano bench, etc) where they each found an envelope containing a word written in cipher code.

The girls worked together to decode each of the words and then figured out the order of the sentence. They discovered that the loot bags were inside a locked cedar chest, and where to find the key. After they found the loot bags we celebrated by having cake and presents.

For those of you who like lists, the party flow was about 2 hours and went as follows:

  1. Guests arrive- badge craft
  2. Game time
    1. yarn/laser obstacle course
    2. dress up/ hiding in plain sight
    3. cracking the cipher code
  3. Lunch
  4. New Mission
    1. find new clues
    2. decode clues
    3. find loot bags
  5. Cake & Presents

All of my silhouette files are available on my google drive. Hope you can use some of these ideas to have a fun party for your children too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under crafts, DIY, home life, Kids Activities, Silhouette Projects