Saturday, May 31

Traveling felt boards

Hello from Texas! The first leg of our trip is over. We have visited family in various parts of Texas and now my husband has returned to lone it in Chicago while the kids and I enjoy an extended visit down here in the DFW area. I do have access to a computer now and plan to update the blog when I can. Starting with one of our successful last-minute airplane activities.
The night before our trip I realized I hadn't put any thought into what travel activities I'd be packing for the kids. Oops. So, I pulled out my trusty Preschooler's Busy Book (book of choice for this season of our lives). I found a suggestion for a boxed felt board and adapted it to suit our circumstances. Instead of lining a box lid with felt and storing cut pieces within, I lined two sturdy cracker box sides with felt, adhered the cut pieces to the board and stuck it in a gallon-sized ziploc. Perfect for plane travel! This was prepared late the night before we left, so I didn't put a lot of thought into it, but it turned out to be a satistfying activity for my 4-year old. I plan to make a couple more for the return trip with different themes or generic geometric shapes.

Monday, May 19

Partly sunny day

I love the smell of lilac. I love spring. (Have I mentioned that before?) I love a baby-sitter and a Starbucks giftcard. I love a sunny day.
Chicago averages 84 sunny days a year. That's 23 percent of the year. No wonder summer always feels like barely three months and never longer. This is why you see people on the beach in their bikinis in 65 degree heat (this does not include me) when the sun is still just coming and going between the sprinkling clouds (above). Because we want more! And we'll take whatever glimpses of the sun we can get. I don't know how you all in the Pacific Northwest and parts of Alaska do it. (Cold Bay, Alaska averages 10! That's days, not percent.)
We'll be getting our share of sun in the next few weeks as we travel tomorrow to visit family in Texas, where my parents average 135 sunny days a year. Yay! I'm looking forward to seeing my newly oversunned sister, as well, who has recently relocated to the 160-sunny-days-a-year San Francisco. To see how your hometown averages, see here.
I'm not sure how much access I'll have to blogging in the next week or two, but I may try that new-fangled scheduled-post feature to share some recipes and vintage goodies and things I have stored up on here. Or I may be so active with the kids and on the computer every day that I have new things to post about. Or I may be nowhere near a computer. Whatever happens, I'll be back!
Here are a few pics from my walk outside on Friday.

Friday, May 16

Yarn ball

I was reminded of this activity by The Crafty Crow yesterday and thought it looked like fun to try with my kids. Hmm. It didn't work as well as I'd hoped. First of all, the yarn wouldn't really stick to the balloon so it was frustrating for the kids. They would drape the strings on, then the strings would fall right off. I increased the amount of glue and tried to really soak the yarn. The kids just couldn't get into it and quickly quit, but I stuck with it and did eventually get the ball covered. I dumped some of the remaining glue solution over the ball when I was finished for good measure. I let it dry overnight. Some of the strings felt pretty stiff (where I strung the line through to hang it), but most of them still felt pretty yarn-like, soft, and shapeless (the photo is a little deceiving). I'm not sure what I could have done to make this work better. More soaking?

Wednesday, May 14

Wet chalk and Beep!

This morning (rainy) we tried a couple quick, no-fuss activities that I thought were worth sharing. I found both of these in The Preschooler's Busy Book.

Wet Chalk Drawings
6 Tbs sugar
1/4 c water
colored chalk
paper, white
Mix together sugar and water and pour over chalk; let soak for ten minutes. Use the wet chalk to draw on white paper. If you use white chalk, draw on colored paper.

What we learned: Rinse the chalks and pat dry after soaking. Creates a smooth, no-smudge line with more saturated color. We only had sidewalk chalk; regular chalk would be better for small-scale drawing. Above photo compares dry and wet chalk drawings.

Choose a familiar story, song, or rhyme that your child has heard often. Read or recite the story, song, or rhyme, but substitute wrong words or names in obvious places. For example: "Old MacDonald had a car" or "Mary had a little dog." Have your child listen for the incorrect words and say "Beep!" when he hears one.
(This is listed in the Out and About section of the book. Great for car rides.)

What we learned: Using a Taboo buzzer (which is typically hidden away in grown-up game land) instead of saying "Beep!" was fun for the kids and because they enjoyed listening for the silly words, they actually restricted it's use to beeping in the appropriate places. We enjoyed singing familiar songs and reading a familiar book for this game. Lots of giggles. My daughter wants to play it again after naptime and "show Daddy" when he gets home.

Tuesday, May 13

Shirt shorts

So I did squeeze in a little craft time last night.
I'm excited about making the kids some clothes for summer and got a head start last night with these shirt-shorts. That's a shirt I got in high school (the old baggy boy's shirt days) and I cut it into a pair of shorts for my son. I think they turned out pretty well considering the number of mistakes I make when working on a new project.
I found tutorials for this at Sew, Mama, Sew! and in Amanda Soule's book The Creative Family.

P.S. If you notice my son's shirt, you'll see my daughter's face drawing that we iron-transferred onto t-shirts for Christmas. This picture below makes the shorts look a bit scrunchy in the crotch for some reason and there's a sticker behind him that looks like it's stuck on him, but you may be able to see the face a little better.

P.P.S. Cassi has featured our play-doh cookies on The Crafty Crow today (previous features here and here) so I've gone back and updated my old post with a few tips and photos.

Monday, May 12

Country Church of the City

Things are slow on the craft-front around here as we are quickly approaching departure for a month-long family visit in Texas. So many ordinary and time-consuming things to get done that it doesn't leave much time for the creative stuff.
But since we've hit spring here, I've spent more time recognizing and remembering all the beautiful things outdoors, anyway, instead of trying to make beauty within the confines of our apartment. Here is a little church within walking distance of our place that I've always loved and finally took a picture of. I love the cute little "country" pockets you find when driving or walking through the city. Makes it feel not quite as cold here.

We're growing something!

I am not a gardener. I have no experience growing anything besides a cup of grass. Which I can do well, but I think that's because it's like the easiest thing to grow ever. That being said, I'm thrilled that the kids' little plants here are shooting up. I don't even know what this is, but it's green and cheery and alive! I almost want to make terrariums now that I've been reading about them on every blog under the sun, but I need to work up some nerve yet.

Friday, May 9

Chicago does Spring

These are a few pics of lovely blooms in our neighborhood. Just a sample. And this is nowhere near any areas that have been specially landscaped and beautified for the city. Ahhh...such a welcome relief after a long winter.

Wednesday, May 7

Grocery list (or I need peanut butter, purple wiggly cheese, a camera, cucumbers, a shirt... wiggly cheese, a calendar, bread, milk, trains, red hot marshmallow squirters....)
I recently saw grocery list activities at Angry Chicken and Make and Takes and thought some variation of these would be great for us.
For our project, I spent some time in the evening cutting out a zillion food/household pictures from those horrible sales ads that end up all over the entryway downstairs. Then, together, we separated the cut-outs into categories: produce, meat, dairy, grains, dessert/snacks, household supplies (with a couple cell phones and toy cars thrown in). I gave the kids glue sticks and let them decide what they wanted on their grocery lists. After completing his list, my son had me label a few of his items. My daughter didn't have much space for writing on hers so she started another page where she practiced writing some of the food names.
This was a really good activity for my kids. I was impressed with how well they worked together and how engaged they were in the activity.
I have some leftover cut-outs and would be willing to spend more time cutting to repeat this project. As it is, I try to avoid doing very much grocery shopping with all 3 kids in tow, so we probably won't use these in public, but they can use them here with their grocery cart and play kitchen. It's got to be more fun than their normal routine which is dictating to me the crazy things they want on their shopping lists and watching me write for them. Next time, maybe we'll glue pics of the real items and write/illustrate the crazy ones.

Tuesday, May 6

Recycled toy storage and creepy masks

My initial goal this morning was to make these milk jug toy holders. Talk about fast! It takes like two minutes to cut one of these open, string a fabric scrap through the handle, fill with toys and hang on the shelf. I love this storage solution compared to purchasing buckets or such. I'm sure you could decorate these to make them more attractive, but I was so pleased with the initial outcome that I haven't bothered.
So, while I was cutting these, I realized the leftover part was sort of mask-shaped. I did a little cutting and came up with these really creepy Phantom-meets-pigman masks. (Well, one is a little more raccoonish). The model is a friend of ours since my kids don't like anything (with the occasional exception of face paint, but even that's iffy) touching their faces.
I was glad to find a use for the entire milk carton. Very fast and satisfying! But, really, what do you think about the gas-, I mean, dress-up or creepy?

P.S. Pay no attention to the thick layer of dust on the shelf. Unless it's encouraging to you as a mom, in which case, pay close attention.

Monday, May 5

Cardboard-Button-Felt Flowers

I've been meaning to make something with a cut-up paper towel roll since I saw this tealight decoration by Patricia of A Little Hut. I had my chance on Saturday morning while the kids were finishing breakfast, so I grabbed an empty roll from the recycle bin, the scissors and glue and started working while continuing to carry on a conversation with my kids' spoons (if you have small children, you have to know what I'm talking about). These button flowers were also fresh in my mind (you can find variations on these just about everywhere), so I married the two projects and created these flowers. Really fun!
After making them, I got totally carried away photographing them. As you can see. But, as usual, I did not take pictures while in the middle of the project, thus making it impossible for me to share one of those great step-by-step tutorials. I will share a pictureless description of how I made these flowers:
I painted part of my paper towel roll red with acrylic paint and a little sponge. It worked well and dried quickly.
I cut the roll into 1/2" rings (approximately).
I glued the bottom sides of 5 rings together. (Fabri-Tac dries pretty quickly).
I threaded a couple buttons through the end of a pipe cleaner and twisted it right underneath the buttons. You could also thread them through to the middle of the stem, but I didn't want the stem too thick for threading on the blossom and leaves.
With craft felt, I cut leaves and colorful little embellishments to sit right under the buttons and over the leaves.
I cut a little-bitty slit in the base of my felt pieces in order to slide them up the pipe cleaner without having to glue them in place.
I slid the blossom on through the little hole in it's center, then added the leaves.
Finally, I slid up a little matching bead to hold the leaves in place (see photo below).

By the way, after I made these, I got my Kids Craft Weekly newsletter, which happens to feature flower crafts. I especially like the patty pan flowers. I have never seen brightly colored baking cups around here, but I'll have to keep my eyes open. I'm not too into those boring pastel ones.
I plan on coming up with some other little projects with the paper towel roll, too. I'll be sure to post about them when I get around to it.
Happy spring!

Thursday, May 1

The wonderful land of blog

Find me here today: The Crafty Crow and The Recipe Box Swap.
Cassi at The Crafty Crow has featured our puppet theater today. If you haven't looked through her site, you should. Her blog is dedicated to children's crafts and activities, and she posts multiple ideas from various bloggers every day. It's a great resource.
Randi at I have to say... is hosting a cookies/bars recipe swap today. We made granola bars recently and posted the recipe, so that's where I'm steering her readers. See her swap list for other cookie recipes.

Thoughts (or confessions) on crafting with children:
I visit a few blogs by other crafty moms who seem to always be working on really creative, unique projects with their kids, or seem to have a well-thought-out philosophy on creating with kids and appear to be indefatigable when it comes to seeing it through. It's easy to start thinking they're superhuman and I'm less-than-human and then get all depressed about the amazing things I'm not teaching my kids. I recently read a blog entry where the author tried to dispel any myths about her lifestyle by admitting to dirt and disorder in her home. It was refreshing to read. I would love it if there was some day or week when all crafty-genius-bloggers had to post pics of their messes and describe in detail the things they let go around the house, the fights they have with their kids, etc. (assuming, of course, that everyone has these issues).
So, anyway, back to kids...I love the idea of growing creativity in the brains of my little ones. I love the idea of building a strong relationship by engaging with them on their level. I love the idea of teaching them valuable skills and concepts (of so many different natures) through playing and creating together. But, the reality in the day-to-day is that one of my primary motivations for playing/crafting with my kids is keeping my sanity and keeping them from killing each other. I am not alone in this, RIGHT?