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Thanks and Giving as We Enter the Long Holiday Season

For parts of the month of November, I will be reposting some of my favorite posts from the past years.  I am working on a few other writing projects, and I want to devote some clear time to them.  That being said, I think all of these posts are worth a second (or for many of you a first) look.  There will be NEW posts sprinkled throughout as well.  Hope you enjoy some of my blasts from the past.

This was originally posted the Fall of 2013.  I am adjusting the time frames to fit this year and update how we are changing some things this year.

A few years ago, we decided our kiddo needed a healthy dose of thanks and thoughtfulness (something that seems to be necessary more than once in a lifetime for all of us–not just kids).  It is easy for kids to get wrapped up in the “I want” mentality of having new toys, games, etc. this time of year.  The toy ads for Target and Toys R Us have already landed in our mailbox and thankfully we can avoid commercials most of the time as we do not subscribe to cable TV.  It can be difficult for kids to really understand and appreciate what they do have and realize that giving back to others can be just as rewarding.

This all started two years ago when my daughter and I created our very own 25 days of giving for the month of December.  I made a list of ways we could give back to others, and we did one every day leading up to and including Christmas.  I tried my best to make it cute and wrote out the activities in the form of a pine tree instead of a list and included a fun holiday border around the outside.  I then placed the list in a class fronted frame, and we were able to check off our activities every day.  This past year the kiddo got super into crossing the items off our list, because she could use various colors of dry erase marker which made it look festive.  Some of our items were scheduled for certain days/times and some were done randomly.  It was really rewarding for both of us, I think.  My daughter got really into some of the ideas, and some of them changed a bit throughout the month.  For example, our trip to the local Humane Society to drop off food and old towels led to us adopting a kitten the next day.  We gave an animal in need a new home!  I think that was her favorite act of giving over all.

This is this kitty we rescued last year during our Days of Giving.  He's not really kitten sized anymore.

This is this kitty we rescued last year during our Days of Giving. He’s not really kitten sized anymore.

Last year, I wanted to go one step further.  Our kiddo is really thoughtful when it comes to other people, but she sometimes forgets to be thankful for what she already has or for the people/experiences in her life.  To help with this, I also decided we needed to do days of thanks.  The past couple of years, I have seen people post what they are thankful for on social media like Facebook each day leading up to Thanksgiving.  While that doesn’t really work so great for a young one, I love the concept.  We just needed to change the way it was shared.  My kiddo loves crafts and colorful crafts especially, so I thought we could make something festive together that would easily include our messages of thanks.

Starting November 1st, we will begin our 28 days of thanks.  Every day, she tells me one thing she is thankful for–and every day has to be different.  To display her items, I thought it would be fun to use a turkey and write the thankful items on its feathers.  To do so, I used a turkey cut out from brown construction paper and cut out four feathers each from seven different colors of paper.  I wrote, “I am thankful for” on the turkey’s belly and each feather will say “what she is thankful for.”  Last year she picked out the feather color and item of thanks each day, and then after I wrote it down, we glued it on the turkey.  We did have a bit of trouble fitting all 28 large feathers on the turkey last year.  This year, I think we will do a double row with smaller feathers.  I am also going to have her write down the item she is thankful for on the front to practice her writing, and I will write the because on the back.  The “because” is the important part as it makes her really think about why that item is important to her.

In a moment of inspiration last year, I decided it would be more fun if our turkey stood up on a table or counter instead of being attached to a wall or the refrigerator.  I used two toilet paper rolls I had been about to recycle as a stand for the turkey by gluing them to the back.  This wasn’t terribly sturdy, so I am going to try and do something a little stronger this year.  In the picture below you can see where we added the first two feathers last year.  Coming up with 28 items (we’re going to do the day after Thanksgiving this year too) to be thankful for with no repeats sounds daunting, but she did a great job (with a little coaching).  She picked some items that were present all the time (like our family members or cats) and some things that happened to go on that day or week.  I cannot wait to see what she chooses every day and see our turkey proudly displayed for Thanksgiving dinner.

Here is our turkey on day two!

2013 Turkey

Turkey 2.0.  I took a lid to a shoebox and covered it in wrapping paper. I am hoping the lid gives the turkey a bit more stability and we can either lean it up against the wall in the kitchen or hang it up without too much fuss.  After the lid was covered, I taped the turkey to the box. We also gave him a beak, waddle, and eye this year by gluing scraps of paper left over from the feathers either on top of or behind the turkey. The feathers are the same shape as last year, just a bit smaller. We will make two rows of 14 when all is said and done. Not sure why the color came out weird, but it’s the same construction paper as the picture above.

2014 Turkey

2014 Turkey

Since Thanksgiving is so late this year, we might take the last few days of November off to prep ourselves for our 25 days of giving.  Each year I have tried to adjust the list to reflect our lives for the current year–for example we had to change preschool giving activities over to elementary school activities.  Below is a picture of our list from last year as it stands now, though it is a work in progress for this year. I did ask for input on our activities from the kiddo last year, and will do so again.  Since they are things we do together, I want to make sure they are meaningful to her too.  One thing to keep in mind is that your 25 Days of Giving doesn’t mean 25 days of giving away money.  Many of the items on our list do not cost a thing for us monetarily, but they still matter.  If your budget is tight, you could very easily create a “no cost” 25 Days of Giving list.

Not the best picture, but you get the idea.  A link to the .PDF is below.

Not the best picture, but you get the idea. A link to the .PDF is below.

25 Days of Giving

I am really excited about both our days of thanks and our days of giving.  Not only do they really reinforce character traits we want our daughter to have, but we are able to share such wonderful experiences together that I really believe we are given a gift too.  No matter how cheesy that sounds, I am truly happy to kick off our holiday season by acknowledging the blessings in our life and sharing kindness with others.

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Homemade Large Dice

I am one of the leaders for my daughter’s girl scout troop–and we are headed into our second year of Daisy scouts.  I learned quite a bit last year about running meetings and working with younger kids (most of my experience is with high schoolers).  One thing I know is that we needed to get the girls into more of a routine and also up and moving.  We meet right after school, so they need to shake their wiggles out a bit before settling back down.

So, in addition to a caper chart and meeting schedule (which will be an all in one sort of thing–I’m still working on that), I wanted to design some activity dice to use at the beginning of meetings.  My vision was for two different dice–one with song names on it and one with an action related activity.  One of the caper chart chores (for those of you who have never heard of a caper chart–it is basically a way to assign tasks to the girls for the running of the meeting) would be for one girl to roll the song dice and one to roll the action dice–then lead the song or action.  These would help us get our meetings going and give the girls something to actively do.  (I also freely admit I stole this idea from our wonderful former children’s librarian for how she started storytimes).

Now the question was, how to make the dice?  I wanted something easily portable that I could customize and would be fairly cheap to make.  Off I went to search Pinterest for suggestions.  I found many good ideas that included paper mache or  foam cubes or cardboard boxes.  I checked out my local Michael’s and at first could only find wooden blocks (to heavy) and florist Styrofoam (both white and green).  But, each dice would cost me at least $5 each (minus the 40% discount for one)–too pricey.  One of the pins I saw showed how someone used a gold foil gift box shaped like a cube to make her dice (she covered it in craft paper).

The supplies I used to make our dice.

The supplies I used to make our dice.

As a last ditch effort, I searched the small gift bag area, and after a few minutes of scouring I saw tucked low in a corner, small cube shaped gift boxes!  Hooray!  I found a size I liked–4 inch square.  They had both larger and smaller, but I thought this would be small enough to be portable and big enough to be fun.  I picked the craft paper type box, because I thought it would be easier to write on than the slick white option they also offered.  Then, on the way to the cash register, I passed a little shelving area with $1 stationary items and found little 3 inch square cards in solid colors.  On a whim, I grabbed those to put on the sides to give the dice a little color.

The finished product.

The finished product.

Yesterday, I put it all together.  I simply taped the open edges of the boxes down (I could have used a more transparent tape, but I had this on hand.  I don’t think they’ll care).  Then, I cut the little cards in half.  Luckily each side was colored, so I could get two sides out of one card.  I wrote the names of the songs and actions on the cards with a thin sharpie marker.  Next, I rolled pieces of tape for all four corners of a card and stuck it to one side of the cube.  I figured this way we could change the songs or actions fairly easily part way through the year or next year if we wanted without destroying the dice.

These was so super simple, and the best part was it was really inexpensive.  The boxes were $0.79 each and the card packs were $1 each.  And, I only used part of each pack, so I have cards left over for another occasion.  Each of the dice only cost about $1.25!  I am very happy with the result, and I think this will be a fun way for the girls to begin their meetings this year.

Here’s a list of what I included on each one–chosen with input from the kiddo:

Songs:

5 little speckled frogs

Down by the Bay

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old (Girl Scout Song)

I’ve Got Something in my Pocket (Girl Scout Song)

Magalina Hagalina (a song I learned as a Girl Scout.  Very silly.  My daughter loves it!)

Roller’s Choice (just to mix it up, because I wasn’t going to put Let it Go as an option).

 

Actions (some of these are songs, but they are action-y songs!).

Hokey Pokey

Head Shoulders Knees & Toes

Dance (to a song on my phone)

Jumping Jacks, Jump Rope, High Knees (for a little cardio)

Bean Bag Game (I have some home made bean bags and we can play a variety of games with them)

Roller’s Choice

 

How do you think you could use homemade dice in your life?  I can image a bunch of different ways.  Since you can design the sides however you would like, the possibilities are endless!

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More Kindness–Being the Example

 

Last week I posted about one of the ways I try to help my daughter cultivate a kind heart (which really isn’t hard, because she cares easily.)  I chatted about how we donate gently used items from her stash of clothes, books, and toys to various charities, folks in need, and to special friends.  My heart swelled to share about how my little one is so thoughtful and caring for others, but I didn’t really think about what I do for others at that time.

For moms and caregivers of any kind, this can be tough.  We spend most of our days planning and doing for others–scheduling activities, planning healthy meals, making sure the spouse’s oil gets changed, brushing the cats, cleaning the bathrooms, sending a text to a friend, picking up a little something we know our mom will love just because…  All of these things we do without really thinking about how we are showing kindness and love to the people in our lives–because that is just what we do.

And, sometimes we give so much to the people in our lives every day that we sometimes forget about giving to the people around us.  Knowing that I played a hand in helping people in need by finding donations with my daughter is rewarding.  Participating in our 25 days of giving each December makes me feel connected to others at a time when life is very hectic–and again is something I share with my daughter.  But, what about me.  Just me.  What do I do for strangers?  I, personally, think it is important to give back to “strangers” because we all have an impact in this world–both positive and negative.  And, we can have a hand in making sure there is more that is positive–because what we do has ripple effects.

So what had I done?  The answer was simple.  Not much.  And, with everything else we do all year round to give back and all of the caring acts we do for our friends and family, it may seem overwhelming to add one more thing to the already teetering plate.  Sometimes, though, the simplest answer is the easiest.  And, in the craziness of June, I forgot about a simple goal I had set for myself for the summer.

I had forgotten about the goal until I ran across a blog post (which I will share shortly) to participate in a program I heard about on a TED talk called “LoveLetters2Stangers.”  Take a second and listen to the TED Talk to hear about this movement. 

Love Letters 2 Strangers

Click here to be taken to her website.

Basically, how it works, is you leave a HANDWRITTEN (this is important) letter or note to someone–anyone–a total stranger, and then you leave it somewhere it can be found easily by someone else.  The letters don’t have to be long or fancy or perfect.  They just need to be thoughtful, heartfelt, and positive.  The idea is to lift up someone you don’t even know and brighten their day.  As someone who loves to write, I fell in love with this idea–and I put it down as one of my summer bucket list items (which also includes learning how to french braid my daughter’s hair, figuring out how to make a past post gallery on this blog, and teaching my daughter to tie her shoes).

Life got a little in the way, and I forgot about this goal until I stumbled upon this great blog post from Ashley at Little Blue Boo.  She took mini canvases, painted them bright colors, added inspirational quotes, and then handed them out to strangers for a Random Act of Kindness!  They are adorable!  But, I knew I didn’t really have it in me to recreate this cute little messages–at least not right now.

There is a great free printable on this site too. Click to go to Ashley’s post!

Then the light bulb went off.  What if I paired the quotes from Ashley’s blog with the idea of Love Letters 2 Strangers from Hannah!  So, this morning, I sat down and wrote out note cards to leave in random places during our travels about town.  I just used note cards I had hanging around (with pretty pictures of flowers on the front) and paired this phrase “Though we have never met and probably never well-know that I and countless “strangers” care about you and wish you the best” with a quote from Little Blue Boo’s site.  I varied the marker color more for me than the recipients–I plan to leave one a day in a location we visit around the city (which could be pretty widespread).  About an hour and a few hand cramps later, I have 10 finished cards and envelopes ready to go.

The plan:  I will keep them in my purse or car and take one with me when we go anywhere.  Then, I will find somewhere fun to leave the envelope like a bench or between items on a shelf or anywhere I think it will be found.  I will never know who picked up my note or if it made a difference in someone’s day, but I know the simple act of thinking of others will make  difference in mine.

My notes!  I made sure to add the loveletters2strangers website inside and gave them a fun message on the outside to make sure someone picked it up.

My notes! I made sure to add the loveletters2strangers website inside and gave them a fun message on the outside to  hopefully make sure someone picked them up.

For the future, I plan to purchase some more inexpensive cards (though if you choose to do this, you can use any type of paper) and write up more notes to leave around town.  I am very excited to get started, and I will definitely let my daughter know about my new “kindness campaign.”  She might even help me find cool places to leave the letters.  Why am I sharing this with her if it is supposed to be “just for me”?  I want her to see that I am doing things as well that send kindness out into the world and that our acts of kindness don’t always have to be monumental or “thing” oriented.  Sometimes a kind word is all that you need to brighten up someone’s day.

 

What ways do you send kindness out into the world?

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Getting Ready for Summer!-Routines and Schedules

I am finally on summer break!  And, now I am on stay at home mom schedule (mostly).  Our days will not be regulated by school and work schedules; our entire routine is no longer our routine.  In order for the summer to be fun, I also know that we need to have some sort of routine to get us through the days.  This post will be about our routine and schedule for the summer.  (Look for a post coming soon about chore charting and habits.)

After MUCH surfing on pinterest and looking at printables and suggestions from other moms out there and deciding what to keep from what we’ve done in the past, I came up with our summer routine/schedule.

Remember that lovely magnet board I wrote about last week and how I use it to hang up the most recent kiddo art?  Well, in the summer she won’t be bringing home as many creations, so it has been re-purposed for the next few months as sort of a command center for our summer lives.

command center

So, what’s on this board?  There is still a bit of room for art projects, as you can see.  But, most of it is tied to our summer routines and summer fun.

Let’s start with our daily schedule.  For the month of June, our schedule will be based around swimming lessons which are in the later morning.  I decided it would be best not to have any screen time before swimming, because that makes it hard for kiddo to get moving and motivated.  So, instead, I came up with a schedule that builds in time for learning and time for playing.  I used a fun free printable from Jen at I Heart Organizing for this one.  She typed out her schedule and posted it in a pretty frame.  I laminated mine and am using a wet erase marker so that I can change it as our summer routine changes (i.e. no swimming lessons in July).

You aren't seeing the whole document here, but visit http://iheartorganizing.blogspot.com/2012/06/our-summer-schedule.html to download.

You aren’t seeing the whole document here, but visit http://iheartorganizing.blogspot.com/2012/06/our-summer-schedule.html to download.

Learning time will consist of reading, writing, and math activities.  Some of these activities will come from work books, and some will be from items sent home from her school for the summer.

During her 1 hour play time block in the morning, she is allowed to play with anything she wants inside the house (or outside if the neighbor kids want to play).  But, to help her decide, I made this activity picker sheet for her.  (I actually made this last fall, but it didn’t get added to our routines that way I wanted, so we are working it into our habits now and hopefully it will translate into after school fun–while mom is getting dinner ready–when school starts).  She now has a prompt to help her decide what to do with her play time (because if she doesn’t she’ll spend the entire hour trying to make a decision).  Why 60 minutes?  I wanted her to have enough time to really dig in and play and also enough time to clean up.

I like that most of these options are creative play and also solo activities.  This play time is designed to be independent as I will be spending the majority of the day with her, she needs some time to be on her own (and it gives me time to finish up any odds and ends so that I can give her my full attention the rest of the day).  Plus it does give her the opportunity to play with her toys–something she has said for a while she wants to do more.

This by no means represents all of her options, but it's a good place for her to start.

I just searched Google Images for some of her favorite play items and added them into a Word document.

Right now our schedule only reflects the morning from 7:00-11:00 (lunch).  The afternoons are up for grabs.  To fill our afternoon time, I have a few items in place to help us decide what to do.  My goal is to have a conference on Sundays with the kiddo to get an idea of what she wants to do during the week–and then revisit that decision each day sometime before morning play time.   There are two main ways that we can pick what do do with our afternoons, whether we decide to venture out or stay at home…

1)  Calendar of local events

Every year I make a calendar for June and July of the many events going on around town.  These items include public library events, festivals, parades, story times, craft times, outdoor concerts, free movies, etc.  Usually I start building this calendar in late April or early May using our city’s visitors website, online family fun calendars for our city, the public library’s website, and so on.  I won’t share my calendar with you, because it really is just tailored to my town and family, but you can easily do the same thing.  All I did was take a calendar template in Word and add in my events.  And, because I am like that, the events are color coded.  All of the library events are one color, all of the concerts are another, and the movies another, etc.  This calendar is now hanging on our fridge right next to our family dry erase calendar.  Our dry erase calendar still is home to our definite family and work events, and this other calendar is more of our options for the day.  So, let’s say its Monday and we’re looking at our plan for the rest of the day before we head out to swim lessons.  We can decide what we want to do with our afternoon–go to the zoo, attend a program at the public library, go bowling, or just head home to play.  Once we’ve decided, I know whether to pack lunches, bring sunscreen, what clothes to bring if the kiddo needs to shower at the pool, and so on.  The calendar is really helpful so I don’t have to hunt around on websites the day before or the day of and scramble to make a decision…it’s all right there.  And, since it includes weekend activities as well, we can plan a bit ahead on what our weekends will look like too.

Here is an example of what your calendar could look like--ours actually has more stuff on it than this...

Here is an example of what your calendar could look like–ours actually has more stuff on it than this…

2)  Summer Bucket List

For the past two years, I have also designed a summer bucket list.  If you are looking for ideas beyond what I have included, all you need to do is search for “summer bucket list” on Pinterest.  Some of them get very fancy!  I just made mine in a word document–I picked some fun summer clip art, a groovy font, and made the text colorful.  The items on our bucket list have changed as time goes by and she gets older, but some stay the same. I always try to include things I know we’re going to do, things we want to do, and things that push us to try new activities or visit new places.

Summer Fun

One of the fun things I found on Pinterest was this dry erase board with this great message for kids who complain that they are BORED!  Luckily, I haven’t run into that problem yet, but I am planning ahead.  I think mine is more of a what to do instead of screen time cure for boredom.

Here is my version.

I used markers that matched the font and colored in the stars in the border to add a little pizzazz.

I used markers that matched the font and colored in the stars in the border to add a little pizzazz.

And, finally, what about screen time?  The kiddo just asked me last night as we went over our schedule, when can I have screen time?  I am going to go with the daily recommendation of 2 hours per day (some days will hopefully be less depending on what we are doing)–AND I plan to have at least one screen free day per week.  But, on those days when screen time happens, I wanted a better way to be able to monitor how much she was actually getting for both her and me.  I again surfed around Pinterest and found a bunch of different versions of screen tickets that kids can turn in for screen time during the day.  I took my favorite version and revamped it a bit.  I knew that some activities the kiddo would choose might be in 45 or 15 minute increments instead of 30, so I made a few “blank” tickets that I can use a wet erase marker to write on to track those odd times.  I laminated and cut apart the tickets to keep them in good shape.  They will be given out and turned in each day and will be located near our summer command center so we can keep track of how many have been used and not used.  The original post from the tickets is here, but I couldn’t get the download to work–so I just copied the original image into word and pasted it a few times.  Then, for the blank versions, I inserted basic shapes over the 30 min symbols and changed the picture color to make them stand out.  We will see how well this works!

screen tickets

Whew!  That was a long post!  Thanks for sticking it out until the end.  Tomorrow is our first Monday of summer break, and I am hoping the schedules and routines I have put in place will allow us to not only accomplish our daily goals but have tons of fun together too!  Later on this summer, I will write another post as an update on how this actually is working for us.

Is there anything you have planned to make your summer run smoothly?

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Fairy House Kids Craft

Last year, we added a small garden to our back yard as a place for my daughter.  (More about our gardens soon!)  It has a few planters and a bunch of small resin statuary that she can play with.  After attending a Fairy event at a local forest nature center, she has been pretty keen to build a fairy house for our back yard.  I thought this small garden would be the perfect place to put a fairy house.  At the forest, they used items from nature like leaves, flowers, feathers, etc to build their fairy houses.  I knew that those items would not stand up to the strong winds that frequently blow our plastic chairs across our back yard.  Instead, I thought something a bit more sturdy would be in order, because I knew she would want to play with it more than once.  I also knew she would want to use her creativity to make the house special for her fairy friends.

We started out with an unfinished wood birdhouse from Michaels.  I used a 40% off coupon, so the house was quite nicely priced.  This house looked fun because there were multiple doors, so a few fairies could share and be neighbors.  We also decided to purchase some other unfinished wood items that were on clearance for $0.48 per bag and a few other embellishments to make it fancy that were fairly inexpensive.  All in all, these items were less than $10 total.

 

Before...

Before…

I also had a coupon for a free tester bottle of Valspar paint from Lowe’s I found in one of my magazines.  We stopped by Lowe’s and the kiddo was able to choose which paint she wanted for the project.  She chose Berry Twist.

A few weeks went by and we finally had some time to get started on the project.  The most exciting part for her was that I told her there were no rules.  She could do whatever she wanted.  She must need to hear that more often, because she was THRILLED to be able to choose her own design.  We used the other craft paints we always have on hand to add more color and details to the house.

Here she is on Day 1 of painting...

Here she is on Day 1 of painting…

We took a week or so break in between painting, and she came back to finish up the front and add the “details.”  Check out her finished project!

IMG_0311

Some of the little wooden pieces are loose. She wanted the fairies to be able to use them however they wanted.

IMG_0319

Side view #1

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Side View #2

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This is my favorite part! I love the picture she made for the back.

IMG_0320

She wanted to write the sign all by herself!

I am just so pleased that we decided to do this project!  She had so much fun doing it however she wanted–and I was so happy to watch her creativity at work.  Our next step is to spray it with a sealer so that it can hold up in the weather outside.  Then, we will install it in the garden!

 

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Craft Closet Organization

Sometimes I look through blog posts or magazines and drool over playrooms–mainly because it allows kids bedrooms to be just bedrooms.  Our three bedroom house does require some creative use of those spaces, though.  The kiddo’s room doubles as her play room (just like mine did as a kid).  But, our spare room has a bit more of a multi-layered purpose.  It is my office, dressing room, craft center…and also our spare bedroom.  I have worked hard to keep these areas as separate as the small space can allow and as tidy and organized as possible, but as with everything I don’t maintain diligently, some areas get a little our of sorts.  One half of the closet is used as my craft/project space–and that is today’s culprit.

IMG_5960

Quite the mess to deal with…

This part of the closet holds my many craft supplies–sewing box (in a grey tackle box), a button collection (in a scrapbook paper case), my camera, projects in need of being completed, gifts purchased for upcoming birthdays/celebrations/etc, and general craft supplies…

A view of the whole space.

A view of the whole shebang.

Below this messiness is a dresser that my mom used for me when I was a kid and I now use to hold my general craft supplies–including fabric, , jewelry, glue/adhesives, painting supplies, pipe cleaners, pom poms, feathers, scrapbook paper, and much more.  Each drawer has a purpose–and you can see the labels on them in this picture.

When I began, my biggest focus was getting the top of the dresser and the wire shelf under control.  The first step was to take everything out of the closet and place it on the bed.

Blank slate...

Blank slate…

Basket by basket, I started going through the items now spread out all over the bed.  What I soon discovered was that half of what was on the bed belonged either in the craft dresser, somewhere else in the house, or needed to be donated.  While I went through these items, I when to place things in the drawer and also realized I needed to go through the drawers as well.  For the most part the drawers were in good shape, but they did need a little attention.  Once everything that belonged elsewhere was eliminated, I took a good look at what was left and determined how best to add them back to the closet.

Wire shelf...

Wire shelf…

On the far right, the button box and sewing kit are stashed for easy accessibility. The black box holds items for gifts–empty jewelry boxes, padded envelopes, random gifts picked up along the way that have no intended recipient yet.  The yellow and lavender box is a memory box that holds mementos from over the years.  The basket on top of it has the makings for a fairy house kiddo and I will make soon.

Top of the dresser.

Top of the dresser.

The top of the dresser now holds my laminator and laminating sheets and paper cutter (located behind the wicker box).  The wicker box holds projects in progress–some are ones we are going to make and some are things that need fixed.  The top of the box just to the left has a place for note cards and gifts I know I will need very soon (this time for Mother’s day).  And just to the left of that, my camera bag.

I have that just purged and organized blissful feeling running through me right now.  I am hoping that with a place for everything…I will be able to keep this up long term.  The whole process only took about an hour, and I am thrilled with the results.  I now know for sure where everything is and have a good idea of what projects we need to get moving on.  While the tight quarters can be a pain at times, I feel like this small space will not work well.

The final product!

The final product!

Does anyone else have a creative use of a small space?

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Frozen Cupcakes!

Huzzah!  We have survived and can wait another year before we have a friend birthday party!  It is always so much fun planning and having a party-but it is a bit stressful too.  Even though we picked a low key activity this year–watching a movie–making sure we had everything ready took planning.  The part my daughter loves the most is putting up the decorations and making cupcake creations.  This year, the theme was Frozen and we already had our thank you bags ready to go.  All the decorations and food were bought–and the night before we were ready to transform the house into a Frozen wonderland.

For this post, though, we are going to focus on one of my daughter’s favorite things.  Cake decorating.  She loves watching Cake Boss on Netflix and every week we load up Nerdy Nummies on YouTube (if your kids are into cake decorating, check out Rosanna Pansino’s channel.)

For her friends party, we always make homemade cupcakes.  This year, we decided to get fancy with the decorations.  They included printable Frozen picks, sparkly snow-like sprinkles, homemade butter cream frosting, blue chocolate pearls, and homemade chocolate snowflakes.  The night before the party, we baked the cupcakes.  We decided on blue cake and white frosting.  We took a white cake mix and added some blue food coloring.  We made 12 regular size cupcakes and about 16 mini cupcakes out of one box.  I found fun blue with white polka dot cupcake liners at Michael’s for $1.

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Decorating supplies…

Then, we made our chocolate snowflakes.  I also picked up some plastic squeeze bottles and chocolate melts (in light blue and white with sparkles) from the baking aisle at Michael’s.  We learned from Nerdy Nummies how to make chocolate decorations.  Print out the shape you want.  Tape down the paper to a flat surface (we used flat, flexi cutting boards).  Then tape wax paper on top.  Melt chocolate melts in a microwavable squeeze bottle (you’ll need more than you think) and then draw the shape using the bottle over the wax paper.  It sounds very simple, but this part was the biggest pain–mostly because one of our squeeze bottles was defective.  The chocolate kept squeezing out the size of the bottle instead of the tip (You will not see white snowflakes, because that was the problem bottle).  Grrrr.  But, we finally had some workable snowflakes from the blue bottle.  We popped them in the freezer to wait until morning.  The snowflakes were a bit fragile, but if handled carefully, they won’t break.  (And even if one of the little arms did break off, we could just put it back in place by pressing it into the frosting).

Our chocolate snowflake supplies.

Our chocolate snowflake supplies.

The next morning shortly before her party, we started decorating.  I’ve never made my own frosting, but I knew from past experience that trying to pipe the frosting that comes in the plastic can from the store baking aisle doesn’t work well.  It gets too warm from your hands and doesn’t really hold it’s shape.  So, to be safe, I bought a box of butter cream frosting mix from Michael’s with a 40% off coupon and prayed it wouldn’t let me down.  (Next time I think I’ll just try and make it from scratch).  Luckily, it made just enough to cover all our cupcakes.  We already had a set of Wilton tips and piping bags from some earlier cake decorating fun and just used the tip that looks sort of like a star.

Frosting supplies.

Frosting supplies.

Once the frosting was piped, we sprinkled clear sprinkles on top of the big and mini cupcakes.  Then, we added chocolate snowflakes and Frozen pics to the tops of the big ones.  And, the mini ones were treated to some blue pearls.  They turned out pretty cute!  And, the best part is the kiddo had fun making them.

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Elsa cupcakes.  The one with the pearls was for the birthday girl.  She LOVES Elsa.

Elsa cupcakes. The one with the pearls was for the birthday girl. She LOVES Elsa.

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Kiddo decorated these all by herself!

More Cupcakes!

More Cupcakes!

Lots of craft posts lately.  More organizing posts to come!  I already have one ready to write on the fascinating topic of cleaning out your purse…

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Frozen Birthday Party Thank You Bags!

My kiddo turns 6 this week, and we have been steadily working on all things birthday (well at least I have) for a little while.  I’ve tried to schedule everything out over about a 2 week time frame so I don’t lose my mind.  Plus, it’s not like I don’t have other things to do than plan a kid’s birthday party.  This year, the theme is Frozen.  It’s the thing right now, and my daughter is obsessed!  So, we are having friends over for a Frozen themed birthday party.  My daughter is also obsessed with baking and cake decorating–so we are doing our own.  Homemade and decorated cupcakes will be made later this week–and I will probably share a post on those next weekend.

This weekend, we worked on Thank You bags for her friends who attend the party.  My daughter LOVES Elsa, one of the sisters from the movie (in case you don’t have kids and/or live under a rock).  I found a lovely picture on Pinterest about making bags that look like Elsa’s dress.  So, about a month ago we hit up the craft supply store when everything was on sale, and the supplies have been waiting for us to have time to get them made.  Here is a picture of our inspiration piece.  I apologize to the original poster–there was not a link back from Pinterest.  (If you happen to stumble upon this and you made these super cute bags, let me know, and I will provide a proper link).

 

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We couldn’t find a package of just blue bags, but we did find some white ones and some great rolls of glittery blue stuff!  I grabbed my trusty glue gun (and had plenty of glue sticks on hand this time) and went to work.

 

These are the supplies we started out with.  Small canvas bags, spools of glittery blue, and felt snowflakes.

These are the supplies we started out with. Small canvas bags, spools of glittery blue, and felt snowflakes.

 

I went for a much simpler look than the inspiration photo.  I took two layers of the blue sparkly tulle and one strip of the blue sparkle ribbon and hot glued them to the tops of the bags.  I did not gather them or make pleats of any kind–mainly because I was going for what would be easiest.  I also decided to move the decoration to the tops of the bags, because I think the kids will be able to use them a little better without fear of tearing off the tulle.  To make them a little “cooler,” (see what I did there) I added the felt snowflakes as a detail near one of the straps on the front of the bag.  I also made a boy friendly version as we have a few gentlemen attending our party with just a large snowflake in the middle.  I am pretty pleased with how these turned out.  And, they only took about 1/2 an hour to make start to finish–including stuffing them with goodies.

The finished "Elsa" bag.  Simple, but fun.

The finished “Elsa” bag. Simple, but fun.

Kiddo stuffed the bags with a few goodies.  We put in small snack bags of snowman shaped marshmallows, a deck of cards (Go Fish, Crazy Eights, or OldMaid), and some cake shaped pull-apart erasers.  While I know some people think gift bags are a little overkill for kids parties, I like to think of them more as Thank You bags.  We will also be adding a little “thank you” message to each bag later in the week, which I will post here as soon as we have one done!

The finished bags and their goodies.

The finished bags and their goodies.

This was a fun project, and it really helps us look forward to the party next week!

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Pinterest Project–Egg Wreath!

I was looking all over the place for something fun to put on our bathroom door for Easter.  Our guest bathroom that my daughter and I use for everyday gets lots of attention at the holidays, because we see it quite a bit.  I realized for the Easter season, we didn’t really have a fun door hanger like we did for the other holidays.  I checked out my usual suspects, Hobby Lobby and Michaels and couldn’t find anything I wanted–and to be fair nothing was on sale yet so the cheap side of me said “no.”  Instead, I planned to use a sort of cute place mat until I found something I liked.  Seriously, I did.  It was held up by a ribbon safety pinned to the back and LOADS of green painter tape.

Not terribly, but not great either.

Not terrible, but not great either.

I was surfing Pinterest one night and ran across the idea of taking cheap plastic eggs and some plastic basket grass and turning it into something super cute. Of course I can’t find the original posting I saw and my pin didn’t save properly, but here are a few of the tutorials I used and their wreaths.

Wreath Example 1

Here are some of the ones I found...

Here are some of the ones I found…

I was grabbing some Kleenex to take to work from a local discount grocery store (allergy season, ugh!) and stumbled upon 18 ct plastic mini eggs for $1 and cute sparkly plastic bows, 2 for $1.  I grabbed 4 packages of eggs and blue bows and completely forgot Easter grass.  Instead, I bought some from Michaels at more than I should have spent–$1.50 per bag.  Kiddo thought it would be cool if the grass was more than one color, so we took pink, purple, and green and mixed them together.  The total amount I spent was $10.50 pre taxes.  You will also need quite a few glue sticks.  Mine were on hand (not figured into the cost), but I used every last one of the 10 or so mini sticks I had hanging around (more on that later).

I am going to warn anyone who wants to take on this project that it will take you longer than you anticipate (I figured 30 min tops).  It took a little more than an hour to make my two wreaths.

Step 1: (after buying supplies) Make a back for your wreath.  I read you needed a sturdy piece of cardboard to glue the eggs to, and luckily we still had this box hanging around from months ago in the garage waiting to be broken down for recycling.  It was so sturdy that it took quite a while for my super (Pampered Chef) kitchen scissors to cut through the cardboard (regular scissors would not have worked).  I recommend using an blade knife if you have one to save time.  With mini eggs, I knew my wreath needed to be small, which fit fine for the bathroom door.  As a template for my circles, I used a large dinner plate and a bowl.  This size turned out perfect.  I wish I would have measured more the inches around the circle.  One of mine turned out a little narrower at the top than the bottom, but once all the stuff got on it, you can’t even tell.

The box and my circle tools.

The box and my circle tools.

Step 2:  Glue on the eggs using hot glue.  You will need an inside and outside row of eggs for the base of the wreath.  Affix them so the wide ends touch.  I tried to line them up in pairs to begin with, and it just didn’t work.  I needed fewer eggs on the inside circle than on the outside, so I just did my outside circle first and my inside circle second.  I’ve seen where people do blocks of color together (all the pink eggs in a row next to all the yellow eggs in a row).  I wanted it to look more random, so I did a repeating pattern on the outside circle and for the inside just tried to make sure colors weren’t right opposite each other.  As far as how much glue, I put a small amount on the back of the egg and stuck it down.  If I had more glue sticks on hand, I would have gone heavier with the glue.  We’ll see how well everything holds over time.

Step 3:  Round 1 of Easter grass.  I took a hand full of each color grass and mixed them together on the floor (unless you feel like vacuuming when you are done, I recommend doing this on a table or a sweepable floor surface).  Then I took a little bit, rolled it into a ball in my hand, squired a little glue in between the “bums,” then shove in your Easter grass.  Some tutorials recommend using a pencil with unused eraser to do so–which will probably save your hands if you use the actual “HOT” glue.  I use the “cool” hot glue, but it still hurts like the dickens if you get it on your finger tips.  When the middles are done, do the same around the edges.  Then trim off any hairy bits you don’t like.  Some of the inspiration photos have much longer grass left on them than I do–pick what you think looks best.

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In progress pictures.  After Steps 1-3.

In progress pictures. After Steps 1-3.

Step 4:  Add the next layer of eggs.  Take single eggs and put them all cattywampus on the space in between the egg ends.  This gives a bit of depth to you wreath.  Add grass to any places that look like they have major gaps.  (The grass adding sections is what took the most time!).  Trim as needed.  Then, add your bow!  I am not a great bow maker, so I tend to find ones I like and buy them.  Luckily, they had these cute plastic bows on the cheap that worked perfectly!  Here is the final product!  You can also attach a hanger to the back if you need it.  My wreath just fit on the command hook that hangs out here for other seasonal decor.

All done!  Fits great on the bathroom door.

All done! Fits great on the bathroom door.

Wreath #2!  We’re not done yet!  It was my intention to make an exact copy of this wreath for my mom as a surprise, but, I needed way more eggs than I realized for the first one.  I had a hand full of mini eggs, tons of grass, an extra bow, a wreath cut out ready and waiting, and a limited glue supply.  Now what?  I took a bunch of the grass and started gluing it in great tufts to the cutout.  After filling in some blank spaces, I trimmed it down.  Then, I added the bow and 1 of each of the mini eggs around the form.  I think it turned out much better than I anticipated, and I hope my mom likes it!  If you end up with extra supplies at the end of your wreath making project–here’s a way to put them to good use.

Wreath #2!

Wreath #2!

Step # 5:  VACUUM!  Seriously consider doing this somewhere other than carpet.  The static electricity made grass stick to our clothes and hands, so even the big pieces were a pain to clean up.

I am so glad these turned out well!  I wouldn’t say I had “fun” making them, but it was a fun challenge to tackle with a great end result.

p.s.  Random tip.  If you are almost finished with a project (say with 3 mini eggs to glue to a wreath), and your last glue stick is so far in the machine that you need another to push it through, but you’re completely out…don’t freak.  Take a pencil and put it eraser end into the glue gun.  Use it to push the glue out.  But, be careful.  It heats up the eraser and metal doohicky that holds the eraser on and covers them in glue.  This is only in case of emergency.  🙂

Are there any cute DIY holiday projects you have tackled this year?  Any Pinterest wins to brag about?

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Quick and Easy Seasonal Decorations

One of my favorite things to do since I was a little kid is to decorate for the holidays.  My brother and I decorated for pretty much any and every holiday–didn’t matter how big or small.  My mom kept boxes for each of us to use to decorate our rooms and around the house.  I love keeping this tradition going with my own daughter.  Of course we hit the big decorating holidays like Easter, Halloween, and Christmas, but I like to do a little something for some of the others too–like winter (which I know isn’t a holiday, but snowmen are so cute and we needed something for January!), Valentine’s, St. Patrick’s day, etc.  Here are a few ways to celebrate without going over board, and an easy craft to do with kids you can use as decoration too.

I started out decorating for mini-holidays last year by purchasing fun things to go on the door to our “guest” bath that my daughter and I both use to get ready in the mornings and before bed.  This year we added a few more elements to make it even more fun!

I really like the way the rustic wooden signs look.  I have a similar one for St. Pat's.

I really like the way the rustic wooden sign look. I have a similar one for St. Pat’s–and you can usually find things like this on sale at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby.

1)  We used to buy window clings and put them on the sliding glass door in our kitchen for all of the holidays–which is fun, but we have a ton of colder months where we live and those little guys don’t stick so well to cold windows.  Plus, we keep our vertical blinds closed a bunch of the time–which means we didn’t actually get to see them very often.  As an alternative, this past fall, we started getting the gel clings and affixing them to the mirror in the bathroom.  This way, we actually get to see them multiple times a day, and they add to the festive spirit.  We’ve already purchased ours for St. Pat’s and Easter–they had really cute ones at Gordman’s that were fairly inexpensive and we snapped them up.  Downside, we will have to buy new ones each year–which is not something I like to do–but they are not the easiest thing to store.  If anyone has a great tip or trick, let me know!

You can see the gel clings for our "winter" decorations on the mirror (snowmen and penguins ice skating.)  The snowman wall hanging we made last year out of a shoe box lid and some left over fabric, felt, buttons, etc.

You can see the gel clings for our “winter” decorations on the mirror (snowmen and ice skating penguins.) The snowman wall hanging near the towel is something we made last year out of a shoe box lid and some left over fabric, felt, buttons, etc.

3)  Looking for a super simple and cheap kids craft?  This has become one of my favorites.  I found these really cool simple wooden scroll shapes at Michael’s for pretty cheap–maybe $1.99 each before any coupons or discounts.  These are really easy to paint with acrylic paints, and we of course add glitter to make them even fancier.  The only part that is a pain is taking off the price sticker–because it leaves a little residue and probably some nicks from your nails scraping the paper off, so you can really only display one side of the shape.  Once the shapes are painted and glitter-fied, we just hang them from a little bit of ribbon or string in the same “guest” bathroom and can enjoy our minor holiday decorations all in one local.  This year the kiddo painted “frame” versions of these scroll shapes for family holiday gifts this year.

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This is the snowflake my daughter painted last year. Hers are always so colorful and beautiful. I love that she doesn’t worry about it being “perfect,” and just goes with what she thinks will be pretty.

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You can see our Valentine’s gel clings and the scroll hearts we painted this year. Now I just need to find a festive hand towel!

These are all of the frames she painted for gifts this year.  She chose the color scheme and painted each for members of our family.

These are all of the frames she painted for gifts this year. She chose the color scheme and painted each for members of our family.

Do you have any quick and easy decorating or craft tips for the holidays?

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