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Category Archives: Crafts

Extending Christmas: For the Birds

We had a real Christmas tree this year. We debated much about what was most “green,” and I read several accounts that said a real tree, when recycled after use, is still “greener” than artificial options. Something many people don’t consider is the amount of energy that goes into producing and transporting (usually overseas) artificial trees. Added to that, most people only keep artificial trees for 5-6 years (average), which means the used trees simply end in landfills. Christmas tree farms plant a new tree for the one you cut, and, natural trees can be recycled into mulch when you’re finished. Most of all, we simply love the experience of making a day, as a family, to go out and choose a tree on a farm.

This year, we found another way to extend the life of our tree. Jenna was very upset to see the tree go, but my allergies were flaring up, and we suspected the tree (mold? pine?). In an effort to compromise, I suggested that we set the tree outside the French doors on our patio. Then, inspiration hit, and I suggested that we decorate the tree for the birds with peanut butter and birdseed ornaments. Jenna was sold.

Here’s how our project went:

First, we tied dental floss (any string/yarn would work) through the holes in Saltine crackers to make a loop. (We also decorated one cardboard toilet paper tube that we poked a hole in for hanging. I preferred the crackers because the whole ornament was edible.)

Second, I pulsed chunky peanut butter in my food processor with a little sesame oil to make it thinner and easier to dip. Those lucky critters got some organic peanut butter (Yikes! $$) because that’s all I had on hand. We poured the peanut butter in a glass for dipping.

Next, we dipped the crackers. We pushed them down in with a spoon and sometimes scooped the peanut butter up over the crackers to cover completely. We laid them out on wax paper to wait for the next step.

Then, we dredged the peanut butter crackers through the birdseed. We pushed the seeds in, to make sure they were stuck more securely. This was an EXCELLENT sensory exercise for Jenna, who did NOT like the way the peanut butter and seeds felt on her hands. She wanted to get them done to hang on the tree, so she stuck with it.

The finished product waiting on wax paper.

Next, we strung popcorn on dental floss. This was good fine motor therapy for Jenna, but she didn’t do it long. My needle-phobic girl (too many bad blood work experiences) was too terrified of the threading needle. Especially after this happened to Mommy’s thumb:

Finally, we decorated the tree:

Ta-Da!!

Now, to sit back and wait for the birds to come.  ……..

By that evening, our guests arrived.

They didn’t have wings, but they were still fun to watch. Within a day, we had six at a time climbing all over the tree and trying to pull the popcorn strings out! Within three days, the tree was bare. That’s OK! We can do it all over again. Christmas can last as long as the tree does. Then we’ll recycle it to mulch.

Next year, we’re considering finding a tree at a nursery that we can decorate for a couple weeks and then move outside for planting.

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Fine Motor Home Therapy Activity

A quick, fun & easy fine motor activity for home is simply threading beads onto craft wires/pipe cleaners (whatever you choose to call them). We stood the wires in the holes of a basic salt shaker (99¢ at Target) and then threaded the beads from the top. You wouldn’t have to use the salt shaker, though. Simply crimp one end of the wire so the beads don’t fall off, and thread to your heart’s content. You can bend the finished product into bracelets, or you can simply take the beads back off and start again. We did this at Christmas and shaped the beaded wires into teardrop shapes for colorful, homemade ornaments.

Happy beading!

 

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Easy Gift Idea

This year, we decided to try to simplify Christmas as much as possible.  We decided to not only work to save money, but also to (hopefully) be a little more “eco-responsible” than we have been in the past.  We decided to try to think of ways to give of ourselves and our talents in the form of services or products that can be consumed/used up instead of simply cluttering up space (and eventually landfills).  Today, I mixed up a batch of my homemade bath salts and thought I’d share the idea here, because it’s so easy, and always well-received!  They’re simply made from Epsom salts and organic essential oils.  That’s it!  Epsom salts are great for soothing tired, stressed muscles, and you can customize the scents for each individual.  My favorite essential oils are grapefruit (refreshing) or vanilla (soothing/calming).  You may prefer lavender, rose, tea tree, or many others. One small bottle of essential oil will go a LONG way!

I bought the Bell® jars in the picture above at Meijer as a package of 4 for $5.  These were a little fancier than you would have to use, and there are cheaper options in canning or jelly jars available.  I try to reuse glass jars and lids whenever possible, and am always on the lookout for unique jars at resale shops, garage sales and Goodwill.  Just make sure they have a lid, or some way to close.  I found a great bottle with a unique shape at a resale shop with a cork in it that was one of my favorites.  Epsom salts are readily available at any pharmacy, and are very cheap.

I love this project for several reasons.  First of all, there’s no exact science.  Simply fill your container with Epsom salts and add drops of essential oil until you are happy with the scent.  Remember that it’s always easier to add more!  You can’t really remove the oil once you’ve added it, but you CAN add more salts to tame the smell.  I also love it because Jenna can help!  She helped scoop the salts, add the drops (Careful with this one – toddlers tend to go a little crazy.  Stay close!), and then LOVED shaking and shaking the containers once the lids were firmly screwed on.  Finally, I love how pleased people are when they receive their gift.  I think you will too.

Today, I bottled four jars like you see pictured above.  Total time for the project?  Twenty minutes!  And that’s with a toddler helping.  It could go a little faster even, if you’re doing it without pint-sized helpers, but it’s a great opportunity for them to get to help.  What a wonderful way to teach about the spirit of giving (instead of simply the spirit of shopping).

Happy giving!

P.S. This makes a great gift for year-round giving, too!

 

Make Your Own Shopping Bag

You’ve all switched to reusable shopping bags now, right??  I have, but I’m always a little sad that the “chic factor” is blatently missing from some of the bags that I purchased through my local grocery.  And then I get a little sadder when I look online for chic options and note the price tag.  Yikes!  Here’s a way to make your own from a a pretty pillowcase, courtesy of another one of my favorite magazines, Body + Soul.  If you don’t have an old pillowcase to repurpose, Goodwill, resale and thrift shops are a great place to look for cheap ones.  You might even find some cool vintage or “retro” looks!  Intimidated by a sewing project??  If I’m even considering taking this on, it’s simple enough for ANYONE to try, trust me.  If you make one, I’d love to see pics of the finished product!  Email them to me (see the “Contact Me” tab above), or if you have a blog and post about it, give me the link in the comments (below).

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2008 in Crafts, Going Green, Random Fun

 

DIY Solar System Mobile

Here’s a fun project for a rainy summer day with your budding astronomer.  Or a fun end-of-summer project for those kids complaining of boredom.  The Discovery Science Center Solar System Mobile-Making Kit ($20) looks fantastic.  No glue required and it glows in the dark.  Suggested for ages 8 and up.  I’d love to do Jenna’s room in a solar system theme and accessorize with this.  Also a great project to supplement home-school lessons about planets and the solar system.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2008 in Crafts, Product Reviews

 

Art for babies

I came across these cards from Wee Gallery and I just had to share. They call them flash cards for baby, but I call them art. I think they’d be gorgeous as decoration in a nursery or kids room.  Frame them or simply prop them on a shelf or ledge.  Kids will certainly be attracted by the graphic black and white designs – I know Jenna would love them.  I love that they’re charming, clean and modern looking, with the standard “baby” colors happily absent. The set is a little pricey at $12.99 for 6 if you’re considering them as flashcards, but if you’re thinking of calling them art, $12.99 is a steal. The garden set (above) is my favorite, but I also love the jungle collection.  Or, maybe you’d prefer the sea or farm collections. Available online at Oompa Toys.

If you’re the crafty-type, try your hand at creating your own black and white nursery art with the free graphics here.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2008 in Crafts, Decorating, Product Reviews

 

Summertime craft: Pinwheels

Ohdeedoh has a fun, beautiful, inexpensive and EASY craft for the summer!  What little boy or girl doesn’t love a pinwheel?  Jenna adores them, but they seem to get beat up pretty fast during two-year-old play.  This is a fantastic way to make our own.  We’re going to try making them with leftover scrapbooking paper.  Happy crafting!

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2008 in Crafts, Random Fun