Monday, December 19, 2011

DIY Scrabble Ornaments and Name Tags

I have been picking up Scrabble games at yards sales for awhile now. I thought the letters would make cute ornaments on a tree. I spelled out some Christmas words. The kids helped me with this and they loved it! It turned into a great spelling activity for them. I glued the letters on the wooden blocks. My husband then cut them to size. I hang them with ribbon (the last picture shows you what we use to hang the ornaments) on the trees.

I thought this would be a great idea for name tags as well! It is a name tag and an ornament in one! The recipient can hang their "name tag" on their tree after they open their gift.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

DIY Dining Room Transformation!

BEFORE: Our dining room/kitchen is small. I needed to find some more room/cabinets for storage so I talked it over with our contractor (my dad) and this is what we came up with! It was fairly inexpensive but the impact/functionality is priceless!

First, we took all the "stuff" down and out and then measured. We went to our local home improvement store and bought ready-made/stock cabinetry. These were all "unfinished" cabinets they have in the store. We ran into some measurement problems and had to use laundry cabinets in the middle (which actually turned out better than what you were planning on doing - it gives it more interest), but other than that, they worked out pretty well.

We bought some molding to make it look more like a custom piece of cabinetry. We painted it all out in a creamy white and then we sanded to edges to look a little worn. I didn't want this to look like kitchen cabinets, but more like a custom buffet/dining piece. For the counter top, we just got a thick piece of wood and I stained it (instead of spending tons of money on a custom counter top). We cut the panels out of the top cabinets and went and had some glass cut at a hardware store. We then placed the glass inside with some DIY kit from the store and they turned out great! We were also able to put a light inside the top cabinets and underneath the top cabinets so the counter top can be lit.


Decorated for Christmas now, but I love that I can change things out in the top cabinets depending on the season!!!

Happy Mom!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Summer Marathon For Kids

A few summers ago, I wanted to keep my kids active so we did a marathon! The kids and I had to walk 26.2 miles throughout the summer. Each day we would walk whatever we could. Some days were longer than others, but we had fun doing it. On the last day when the kids would be finishing their last mile, I made a "lane" for them to come through and put a streamer up for them to walk through. I then had medals for each child and a certificate!

It was a great summer activity!!!

Great Homemade Reindeer Project!

This project was a perfect gift for grandparents and parents. To make the reindeer, I traced the child's foot on brown felt twice and cut them out. I then traced each hand and cut them out. I sewed the feet together with just a simple stitch. I sewed it almost all the way around, but left a small space so I could stuff it with cotton balls. After it was stuffed, I stitched up the rest of the feet. For the hands, I hot glued them on the back. I then added googly eyes, a red nose and a red ribbon on the back for easy hanging. I did write the child's name and the date on the back of the reindeer with fabric paint. These took me about 15 minutes total. They are so cute and can be used over and over. It is also a sad reminder of how fast your children are growing!

Merry Christmas Crafting!!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ice Age Birthday Party

When Landen turned 5, he really wanted an Ice Age/Mammoth birthday party. I searched and searched online for some ideas and there wasn't anything out there, so I came up with my own ideas and know they will help you plan your Ice Age Party.

For the invitation, I thought it would be fun to send some symbols that the guests had to "decode" to find out the party information. The invite read like this: Landen is turning 5 and he wanted to travel back to the Ice Age with Mammoths and Saber Tooth Tigers! Cavemen have inscribed Landen's party information inside the cave walls. We chipped away the rocks that held the important details. Use the information above to decode the message."

I made a chart with different symbols I found on the computer. Each symbol represented a different letter and then I just "spelled out" the parties details with the symbols. (For example a *stood for a "T" and so on).

For the games/activities:

I froze little "Ice Age" animals that I found at Target in ice. I filled Styrofoam cups with water, put the toy in the water and set the cups in the freezer. The kids had to use their handmade "spears" to free the animals. We made handmade spears from sticks and triangle rocks that the kids found on a "spear hunt". These "spears" were also used to "fight the Mammoth" (to wing at the pinata I made).

How to made the Mammoth pinata: I blew up a regular size balloon and covered it with strips of newspaper and homemade glue (I have basic pinata step by step directions on another post). I let that dry and popped the balloon. I painted the pinata brown and added a long nose with a paper towel roll and then added the tusks with just white construction paper. The ears were cut out of brown construction paper and added googly eyes. I wish I still had a picture on file for this, but I don't. I filled him with candy and little toys.

We also had an igloo/cave in the yard. We used white Styrofoam coolers that I found at a garage sale and stacked them up around the sides. We then used large sized paper to fill in the sides. The kids were able to write on the "igloo/cave" walls just like the cavemen did in the Ice Age.

For the cake, I made a 12" round cake for the base and then I made a "mountain" by chiseling a stack of 3 - 8" round cakes that were placed on top of the base. I frosted it all white except for a little "stream" of blue going down the mountain and spilling over the base. I then placed Ice Age characters around the cake.

I hope this helps you with an Ice Age Party!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Homemade Wreath - Cute and Easy!

I sat down to make something I had seen in a magazine. It didn't work because I had to use wrapping paper and I was trying to do it with scrapbook paper. The scrapbook paper was too strong - it didn't fold like wrapping paper would. So, I started messing around with what I had and I think I came up with a cute little wreath that is simple to make!

You will need: an embroidery hoop (any size), 4 sheets of 12x12 scrapbook paper - (I had a big hoop to work with so you may need fewer pieces of paper if you have a smaller hoop. You can use any color/pattern)

The first thing you need to do is cut your scrapbook paper into strips. You don't need to be precise on this. I just started cutting them into strips without a guide. I got about 10 strips per paper. Then, I cut the strips in half. I folded them over and stuck them between the hoop. I had to keep adjusting the hoop and opening it while I put more paper in it.

I alternated colors/patterns with each paper I placed. I tried to keep the "hoop" as tight as I could while I did this. If I found it hard to put the paper in, I loosened the hoop a little.

I did this around the entire hoop (you can make it as big or small as you need - depending on the size of your hoop). After I had all the paper in place, I tightened the hoop as much as I could and then added a ribbon at the top (see top picture) and hung it on my front door.

I have had so many compliments on this wreath! I hope you have fun doing this wreath. I found it to be so easy and it turned out so cute!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Santa's Helper Night

I have had this idea for a few years now and I have decided to do it this year. I am offering a "Santa's Helper" Night at my house. Parents can bring their kids to my house for 3 hours to go and get some Christmas shopping done. We are going to read Christmas stories, make Christmas crafts, have a snack and play Christmas games. At the end of the night, we are going to watch a Christmas movie. We are hoping that Santa can take time out of his busy schedule to make an appearance. I charged a small fee for this event. I think it will be a lot of fun and a big help to those taking advantage of it!!!!

Tis' The Season to be Santa's Helper!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments

The recipe for this project is:
1/2 c salt
1 c flour
1/2 c warm water

Mix salt and flour..... add water until dough like. Knead until smooth. Roll out the dough and use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Bake in oven at 200 degrees until firm (about 2 hours). Cool and paint.

This has been a tradition for us and we have used it for grandparents (homemade) gifts. The kids love to see these ornaments on their grandparent's trees every year.

Fun, cheap and creative way to celebrate the season!!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Easy To Make Booklets to Help Teach Shapes and Colors

Color and Shape Booklets:
A Fun Tool to help teach your child shapes and colors!

These are two booklets I made to help teach colors and shapes to the kids. They were really easy to make and the kids love to do them! For both booklets, I cut white paper in half. For the "Color Booklet", I wrote the color word on the page and then made some blocks of that color at the corners of the pages. I cut out squares of colored paper to go along with the color of the pages. I lay the colored squares on the floor and the kids need to put the right colored squares on the corresponding color page. For the "Shape Booklet", I colored a different shape on each page. I cut out shapes from black construction paper and they play it just like the "Color Booklet". I put the shapes on the floor and they go through each page and put the right shape on its match. I put these books together with a brad so that the pages were easy to move back and forth. These are a cinch to make and the kids love them! I store them in gallon size Ziploc bags. Another great thing about these booklets is that the kids can do them on their own!!!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Tis The Season to be Thankful

It is that time of year again when I try and get my family to reflect on all the blessings we have to be thankful for. It is so easy to dwell on the things we don't have or things we want, but we have so much more to be thankful for that it is important to refect on those things. This year, I wanted to do a "Thankful Tree" so we went down to the creek by our house and got a big branch. I set it behind the magazine rack I have in the corner of the living room. I cut out leaves from scrapbook paper and punched holes in them. At dinner each night, each one of us writes what we are thankful for on the leaves, we share them and then we hang our leaves on the branches. It is a great family tradition I started a few years ago that my family looks forward to every year! Cheers to all the things we have to be thankful for in our lives!!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Six Year Old Princess Party

Gabrielle turned 6 on November 29th. She wanted another Princess Party (we had one a few years ago for her). For the invitations, I printed them out on 11x17 paper. The invite read:

King Matt and Queen Lindsay
Request your appearance at
A Royal Celebration

Princess Gabrielle’s
Sixth Birthday

To be held on the 20th day of November, 2011
Drop Off: 2 PM
Pick Up: 4 PM
At Castle (then our last name and address)

I rolled them up and taped them shut. I put them inside a paper towel roll. I took some scrapbook paper and rolled them up on a diagonal and folded in the ends so the invites couldn't fall out. I tied a pink ribbon around the middle of them and wrote the guests names (Princess Madelyn, Prince Ethan, etc.) on tags tied to the ribbon.

For the games/activities:

As soon as the guests arrived, I had them come to the table and decorate a crown. I bought jewels that had sticker backs so they didn't have to wait for glue to dry and could wear them right away.

Game #1: I bought a princess crown pinata this year because I found one on clearance for $8! I got the candy on clearance from Halloween and filled the pinata with that. We made a "wand" to hit the pinata with. We took our child sized broom and unscrewed the handle from it and wrapped it in pink fabric. On the top, I attached a star cut out of strong construction paper (I put silver glitter all over the star so it wasn't just cardboard).

Game #2: Find the Lost Princess so she can get to the ball. I found Cinderella "wall decorations" at the card outlet store for 50 cents! They were perfect because they were only about 8" tall and there were 4 in a package so there were 20 princesses hidden around the house to find. You could easily replicate this game with pictures of princesses printed off the computer.

Game #3: We played Poison Apple. I took an apple out of Gabrielle's play kitchen and wrote "Poison" on it. I had all the guests sit in a circle and I started playing some princess music. The one who had the apple when the music went off had to lay down and "sleep". At the end of the game, whoever was still "awake", had to go around and wake all the other guests by giving them a kiss (a Hershey kiss that is).

Game #4: We drew a picture of a princess on poster board and printed off some tiaras that we laminated. The guests had to "pin the tiara on the princess".

Game #5: Princess Bingo! We made our own Princess Bingo cards with pictures like crowns, castles, wands, dragons, carriages, etc. For the markers, we used purple coins.

Take Home Bags:

Throughout the party, we listened to Gabrielle's favorite songs from her favorite princess movies. We downloaded the songs and gave each guest the "Soundtrack from Gabrielle's Sixth Birthday Party". I also put in the bags princess erasers, bracelets, lip gloss, wands and lotions. They also got to pick things from the prize baskets after the games and those were added to their bags.

The Cake:

For the cake, I made three round cakes. The bottom one I made in a spring form pan and the top layer were 2 - 8" round cakes. For the base cake, I covered it with white fondant and then made a quilted pattern using a straw. I added pink edible pearls to the corners of the quilt pattern. For the top layer, I frosted it pink and then added pink glitter sprinkles to it. I topped it off with a crown and a wand and her candle. She loved it and it was pretty simple.

I hope some of these ideas help you in your "princess party" planning! May your party be pink and perfect for your little princess!!!

An Experiment That Teaches Different Colors

I was trying to come up with some more ideas that parents could do at home to help teach a child colors. Children love experiments, messes and things that change - so I thought what about changing plain white marshmallows into different colors??? In bowls, I mixed food coloring with a little water. We then put the marshmallows into the bowls and stirred them and let them sit for about 20 minutes. When we came back to check on them, they changed into the different colors!!!! The kids thought it was magic!!!

Try this at home and experience the "magic"!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cute 'Hand'made Halloween Banner

This was such an easy project to do with the kids, and it is one that parents will keep forever because you are using the child's hand print and footprint to make the banner!! To make it, just take orange and black pieces of scrapbook paper and cut them to the size you want. Then, paint your child's hands and/or feet! We made ghosts, bats, spiders and a jack-o-lantern!

For the ghost, paint your child's foot (underside of the foot) white. Have them place their foot on the paper upside down. When that dries, add googly eyes. For the bat, paint your child's foot black and have them place their foot on the paper upside down (just like the ghost). Now, paint their hands and place them on the sides of the footprint for the wings. When that dries, add googly eyes and draw black triangles on top of the head for ears.

For the spider, paint your child's 4 fingers (not the thumb) and place them sideways on the paper. When that dries, add a black (foam or construction paper) circle to the middle and add google eyes. For the jack-o-lantern (see first picture above), I just gave the kids yellow triangles to make a face.

When all the paint was dry, I alternated the colors of paper, folded the top 2 inches of the paper over a black piece of string and taped it so it stayed. I left a little extra string on each side for easy hanging!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tips on Having a Successful Yard Sale

We have a yard sale every spring and my friends always ask me how we do it and have it turn out successful each time.

Here are some of the tips I give them:

1. Make sure that you have enough stuff. If you don't have a lot of "stuff" for people to look through, people are less likely to stop at your sale. If your inventory looks a little slim, collaborate with a neighbor, friend or family member and do a sale together. Try and organize a neighborhood sale. The more you have, the better sale you will have.

2. Make sure everything is clearly priced.

3. ADVERTISE! You need to get the word out that you are having a sale! Advertise in your local paper and on Craigslist.

4. Make your signs nice, neat and colorful. Put them at every major intersection near your house. You need to post a sign at every turning point with arrows that will lead people to your sale.

5. Have a sign in your front yard so people can see it clearly from the street.

6. Be prepared to negotiate your prices. People are coming to find a deal. Be willing to come down in prices - you want to get rid of the stuff, right?

7. Keep prices reasonable! It is a yard sale, not a department store.

8. Make sure that everything you are selling works and there are no missing or broken pieces.

9. Have enough change. Your early customers will bring bigger bills so make sure you have enough change to accommodate them.

1o. Organize your merchandise to have like things with like. All clothes should be separated by gender and sizes. You want your sale to look neat and organized. Make it easy for your customers to browse and see everything you have to sell.

11. Choose a day/weekend when there aren't any major local events going on.

12. Try and hold the sale at the beginning of the "yard sale season". We have ours each year in the middle of April. People are eager to get out to find some bargains after a long winter.

13. Have boxes and bags for people to carry their treasures home in.

14. You need a "checkout table". Make sure you have an empty table for you to sit at and check people out at.

15. Donate the unsold goods to a charity or Goodwill. Do this immediately after closing your sale so it doesn't end up taking up space in your house or garage.

16. Don't be fooled. A yard sale is a lot of work. It takes a couple weeks of preparation and you need to be organized. But, in the end, when you have sold all your unwanted "stuff" and made some extra cash in the process, it is well worth it!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fun Squirrel/Fall Craft For Kids

Kids love to watch squirrels go up the trees, bury their nuts, jump from branch to branch, climb in their nests, etc. so I thought we could emulate that in a craft. The kids painted a paper towel roll brown. We then stood the roll up and punched holes all around the top of the roll with a paper hole punch. We cut brown pipe cleaners in half and then tied them in the holes to make them look like branches. The kids went out and picked up leaves and we punched holes in them too. They strung the leaves on the "branches". We then put glue around the top of the roll and set tissue paper on that to make a "nest" for the squirrel to sit in.

We made the squirrel out of a cork, cotton ball, googly eyes and brown paper. We cut tiny triangles out of brown paper for the ears. We glued the ears and the googly eyes onto one side of the cork and then put the cotton ball up the back side of the cork (for the tail). The kids took a brown marker to mark a little nose under the eyes.

The kids loved to see this craft come to life! They had their own little tree and a squirrel to put up in the tree! I am hoping we can keep these in tact so the kids can see the leaves turn brown and dry just like they do as the season changes. This will give them something really tangible to show them the changes that happen.

Happy Fall Crafting!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"Frugalness" is Fabulous!

Some may call it "cheap", but I think that saving money and trying to stretch a dollar is smart and instead of cheap, I like to call it being "frugal", and in my world, being frugal is being fabulous!!!

Here are some of the ways I try and save money and/or stretch a dollar:

  • Use coupons on everything you can! I use the coupons from the weekend paper, but I also email our favorite products/brands that we use at home and most of the time, they will send me great coupons - sometimes for free products!!

  • Stop at yard sales. What someone else is getting rid of just might be that something you need. You never know what you might find at a yard sale!

  • Rent Movies. Going to the movies for a family a four can cost close to $50! We wait to see the movies when they come out to rent. We get in our PJ's and make our own snacks and watch it in the comfort of our home. Movie nights are a great way to spend with your family.

  • Eat in!!! It is nice to go out for dinner, but you can make the same meals at home for a fraction of the price! Make it fun for the entire family. Play restaurant! Have your kids make menus. They can be the "servers" at your table. They can help you plan, prepare and cook the meal. And, when you eat at home, you can afford to have a cocktail and dessert and still come out ahead of what you would have paid at a restaurant!

  • Buy ahead! After every season, plan ahead and buy your child's clothes/shoes for the following year. This can be hard for some kids, but usually, the rule of thumb is to buy one size bigger than what they are in now.

  • Clearance aisles!!!!!!! In every store I go into, I know where they put their clearance merchandise and I check them out every time I am there. Get to know when your favorite stores put things on clearance. After every holiday, I am at the stores buying for the following year. This has saved me tons of money on gifts for family, friends, teachers and birthday parties. After school starts and supplies go on clearance, I go and get the supplies that are the list for the grade my kids will be in the following year.

  • Stretch your pizza! We often get pizza from a local pizza chain. They cut their slices so big that as soon as I get the pizza home, I cut the slices thinner which doubles the number of slices in the box!

  • Maintain your car! My husband has a 1997 Honda that he always maintains and it is still getting him to and from work (2 hours of driving a day).....knock on wood!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Save, Save, Save!!! I think it is important to make it a habit to save. Have your bank take money out every two weeks and put it into an account for you. If you don't see it and don't know it is there, you won't miss it and can't spend it.

  • Don't try and keep up with the Jones'. You will always have people in your life that have the newest cars, the bigger home, the latest fashion. Who cares? Who wants those monthly bills anyway? You need to stay focused with where you want to be financially and be content with what you have.

  • Financial Goals. I think it is important for couples to have a serious talk about finances. I think couples need to have the same attitude when it comes to financial goals, spending and saving. Figure out where you want to be in five years, ten years, etc. Do you want to build up your savings, pay off your mortgage, pay off the car, travel more? Finding out these answers sets the tone for what you need to do financially.

  • Think, think, think! If you want to buy something, think about it for 24 hours. After that, ask yourself if you still want it. Do you really need it? This is a great thing to do with your kids as well. When they are in a store and say they want something, tell them to wait 24 hours and gaurenteed, they will forget about it before night's end.

  • Swapping is the new shopping! Host a "Swapping Party" with your friends! Swap anything from children's clothes to your own clothes, from magazines to jewelry, home decor to holiday decor. Who wouldn't love a night out "shopping" with the girls and getting some great stuff without spending a dime!!!

  • Have a yard sale! Get rid of things that you aren't using and in the process, make some extra cash! We do this every year and the extra cash has come in handy for our summer vacations!

These are just some of the things that I do. I hope you find some of these tips helpful!

Happy Saving!

Your "Baby" Enters Kindergarten

My "baby" has started kindergarten and as heart wrenching as it is for me, she is handling it pretty well. The teachers really want the kindergartners to be independent and self sufficient when walking into school at the beginning of the day. Getting their bags and coats on their hooks, washing their hands, etc., but Gabrielle still wants me to take her in every day. I help her hang up her coat and bag and then the lovin' begins. This is the only time of the day that I get 27 kisses and 36 hugs (I know she is trying to hold me there as long as possible and of course, her plan works every time). I understand why the teachers want her to be independent, but I still want her to be a little dependent and it is nice to know that I am still needed a little bit. It took Landen a few months to be "independent" and since then, he can't wait to get out of the car to see his friends. Gabrielle is not there yet, and frankly, neither am I. I am happy to take her in as long as she will have me! I know this will soon fade and that I am not going to be "needed" much longer. So, right now, let me be "needed" and let her be "dependent" just a little bit longer.

Priceless Birthday Gift That Keeps on Giving

I started a tradition each year on Landen and Gabrielle's birthdays. I sit down and write a letter to each child. I write things that happened that year, things they are doing at that age (crawling, playing soccer, first sleep over, etc.), friends they play with, favorite toys, funny things they say, etc. Anything that would tell them a little bit about what they were like at that age. I started this because when I would ask my mom questions about what I was like (especially after I had my own kids) or what I did at a certain age, she would have a hard time remembering (who wouldn't after all these years). So, I thought this was a great solution and thank goodness because my kids are already asking me things like: When I was a baby, did I cry a lot? What did I play with when I was two? Who were my friends? How big was I?
These letters are an extra special gift (that costs nothing, but is worth so much) that I think they will cherish when they get older and especially when they start having their own kids.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Family Fall Fun

It is finally fall! My favorite time of year! I love the cool air, the colors, the football games, smores, campfires, hayrack rides, pumpkins.... I love it all! This year, I want the family to really get out and enjoy the season and all its glory! I have thought of some fun and creative ideas that will do just that. This weekend, we are heading out for a scavenger hunt in the park!

This is what I did to plan for the day:

I took white bags with handles and wrote the "scavenger list" on both sides of the bags. I tried to come up with things that we would have to "hunt" for and use our imagination for; things that would take us some time to find and make us see the entire park. Some things that made the list were: triangle shaped rock, spotted leaf, apple colored leaf, 12" stick, acorn, and tracks.

Inside the bags, I put a ruler, magnifying glass, paper, pencil and crayons (for nature rubbings and drawings). When the kids found something on the list, they put it in their bag. If they found something on the list that was too big for the bag, we took a picture of it. We also took pictures of other "cool stuff" we found along the way (the kids found a dead mouse and they thought that was the coolest thing ever......... gross!).

To make this an extra special fall day, I packed a picnic lunch. After our hunt, we ate in the park! This outing was a huge success. My family loved it! We got to enjoy the weather and we found some pretty cool things along the way! My kids can't wait to get the pictures developed and they keep asking me when the next "hunt" is!

......Mission complete!

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Basics of Making a Homemade Pinata

Making a homemade pinata is easy, fun and cheap and you can make exactly what you want!!!!

Supplies Needed:

  • Newspaper (cut into 2" wide strips)

  • Flour

  • Water

  • Balloon

  • Fishing line

  • Goodies to fill the pinata

  • Packaging tape

What to do:

  • Cover your work surface with plastic or newspapers - it is going to get messy!!!

  • To make the "glue" for the pinata, mix flour and water together in a bowl until you get a glue/paste consistency. The amount you need depends on the size of balloon you are covering.

  • Blow up your balloon and tie it.

  • Now, take your newspaper strips and dip them in the "glue". You want the entire piece covered in "glue". You will wipe off any excess glue with your fingers, but you want the entire paper wet with glue. Lay the strip on the balloon as flat as you can get it. You will keep doing this until the entire balloon is covered with the newspaper. *Leave a portion of the balloon uncovered by the tie - this is where you will fill your pinata. Once you get your first layer on, continue to add more strips until you have at least three layers on. This will make it that much stronger and sturdier when it comes time to fill it and hang it.

  • Once you have the three layers on, let it dry. I hang mine from the laundry line I have in the basement by clipping a clothespin to the tie of the balloon (so it is hanging upside down) onto the laundry line. The drying process can take a couple days because your balloon should be pretty saturated with the glue.

  • Once it is dry, pop your balloon with a pin. The balloon will shrink up inside the cavity of the pinata and you can get it out easily. Now, you can paint it, cover it with crepe paper, Modge Podge it, etc. to make it whatever you want it to be! Once it is painted, use a pin to punch two holes on the top and use fishing line through each hole and this is what you will use to hang it up with. Now, you are ready to fill the pinata with all your goodies! I use packaging tape to cover the hole on the bottom.

This post was just for "pinata basics". I have made many pinatas over the years - from Mammoths to ghosts. It is a lot of fun! Get your hands messy and see what you can come up with! Good luck!

DIY Halloween Decorations

My husband and I were out shopping this past weekend. We went into a greeting card store to look at their Halloween decorations they had for sale. I loved this "Boo" sign made up of three separate wood blocks! I checked the price and about died when I saw they were asking $30 for it! I told my husband that I would make my own the next day.

My husband cut pieces of wood (that we had left over from another project) at different heights. I painted each piece black and used a stencil for the letters (you could hand write it too). I used a white paint marker to paint the letters on. This is how my sign turned out! It is as cute as the one in the store, loads cheaper and more meaningful because we made it! The possibilities with this project are endless! You can do it for any holiday and use any words you want!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Teaching Your Child Colors, Shapes, Letters and Numbers

How Do I Teach My Child Colors/Shapes/Letters/Numbers?

At the age of two, I started teaching my kids these things. I started off just introducing them to these things, but before I knew it, they were picking up on it and telling me their colors and letters on their own! As I have said many times before, I am a huge believer in consistency and doing things over and over with your child until it is clear to them. I am also an advocate for trying out new things and making learning fun for kids. Mix things up! Get creative! Get them involved in a game and/or a project where these things are being used. This creates a situation where your child is learning and having fun at the same time !

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Go outside! What colors and shapes can you find in nature? Collect sticks and put them together to form letters, numbers and shapes.

  • Field Trip! In the grocery store, how many different apple colors are there? What different shapes are in the aisles?

  • Flowers! Try and find all the colors of the rainbow in the flowers?

  • Reading a book to your child: What colors are on the pages? What shapes are in the pictures?

  • Getting your child dressed in the morning: Talk about what colors he/she has on.

  • In the car: Look at the passing vehicles - what color are they? What shapes are on the buildings? Can you find an "A"?

  • Cooking: Talk about the color in the foods you are preparing. Cut the vegetables into shapes. Making pancakes? Make them into shapes and letters. Add food coloring to batters to come up with new colors.
Projects and crafts are another great way to get your kids having fun while learning!

Here are some ideas:

  • Have your kids paint different letters, numbers, shapes - let them experiment and get messy!

  • Have them cut out different shapes (great for scissor skills too) and put them together to make a picture.

  • Have your kids mix paints together to see what colors they can make.

  • Use letter, number and shape cookie cutters as stencils.

  • Stickers are a lot of fun for kids. Make a sticker album out of a notebook and the kids can put the letters on the corresponding page.

  • Use alphabet cereal to make words. Spell their name.
The project possibilities are endless! You just need to find out what your child enjoys doing and run with it!!

In every thing you do, try and attach a color/shape/letter/number to it. That way, you are making it fun and interesting and not such a bore to learn. As with anything, don't do it so much that your kids' ears start ringing when they hear you mention a "circle" or the color "blue". At first, it will seem like your child is not even paying attention and that he/she is not retaining anything you are going over, but then one day you will be somewhere and your child will say, "Look mom, that truck is green!" Sweet success!

One thing about teaching a child something new, repetition and making it fun are two main components to them catching on. Repeating colors and talking about colors over and over is the perfect way for your child to understand and get the colors down. Making it fun The main thing is do it over and over and over again. You can teach colors wherever you are: grocery store, looking at flowers, reading books, flashcards, in the car, outside, etc. You just have to go over it all the time and soon, your child will be in the car someday and say that is a green truck! AAHHH - satisfaction.

Monday, May 9, 2011

DIY - Bowling Ball Caterpillar For Your Garden

I took 5 bowling balls that I picked up at yard sales and spray painted them green. I then took different colored paint pens and made spots on each of the balls. I added a face to the front ball and drilled two small holes above the eyes. I bent wire hangers to look like antennaes and spray painted them yellow. I stuck them in the drilled holes (I filled the holes with a little hot glue to help the antennaes stay in place). I laid him in front of some hosta and a little fence we have in the back yard. He has made a fun and colorful addition to our yard! Everyone has loved our new little creature!

Disney Virgins

We just got back from a seven day vacation to Florida! This was the first time we have ever taken a "big" trip as a family. I have been itching to get away and thought a Disney vacation would be fun. I split the vacation up between Disney World and Cocoa Beach. Our kids have never seen the ocean so I knew that splitting the time up would bring tons of new experiences and it would be cheaper than spending all 7 days at Disney!

Of course, trying to stick to a budget was very important to me. I wanted to have an enjoyable vacation and not have to spend tons of money to do it. One thing I found out right away was that I was going to plan this vacation on my own - without the help of a travel agent. The travel agent put different packages together for me, but in every one, I was paying for something I knew we weren't going to use. So........... I started my own travel planning journey! The first thing I did was search for flights. I checked rates daily to see if they would go down and I was able to get 4 round trip tickets with baggage claim and seats that we picked for $1050 (taxes and fees included)! Next, was lodging. There are tons of Disney hotels/resorts all around Disney World, but I found them to be a bit pricey. I was able to find Marriott hotels close to Disney and right on the beach in Cocoa Beach! Since we have a Marriott card and had some "earned" points we hadn't used, we had a few of our nights already paid for. I also decided to rent a car. You can use trams and taxis and shuttles, but we really found the car rental prices reasonable (our full size car was $140 for the entire week, plus a full tank of gas when we returned it). We loved the flexibility that it gave us. We didn't have to work around shuttle times or wait on someone else to get us where we wanted to go.

Now, I had all the major "stuff" lined up, so my next mission was to talk to every single human being who I knew had been to Disney. They were the best resource about what to do and what not to do. By doing that, I found out what parks were best for our family.

Our first day there, we spent at Downtown Disney. This is not a park. It is like an outdoor mall in the sense that you walk around from place to place. There are stores, Lego displays, an awesome dinosaur restaurant, Bippity Boppity Boutique is there (there is also one in Magic Kingdom). This was a great place to spend our first day there. We were able to see some things at an easy pace and get ready for our next few days at the parks. We also bought our tickets for the parks so we didn't have to waste any time waiting in line at the parks. I was able to get Gabrielle an appointment at the Bippity Boppity Boutique for that morning we were there. It cost $70, but I was so happy we did it. Your daughter goes into this "princess salon" and gets "made-up" by "Fairy Godmothers In-Training". Depending on what package you get, they get their nails and hair done. They get make-up put on and they can also get a full princess outfit as well (that package was around $180). You have to call ahead to make a reservation for this. You can't just walk in and expect to get in. Here are some great pointers if you decide to do this: #1 - Do it as early in the day as possible. This gives you the rest of the day to explore without having to worry about getting back for an appointment. #2 - We were so happy we did it in Downtown Disney and not in Magic Kingdom because that would have taken up a lot of time that we would have otherwise wanted to spend exploring the park. #3 - Don't expect your daughter to be laughing and smiling throughout the whole thing. Gabrielle was so overwhelmed with it all that she was so quiet and not really smiling during her session. But, the rest of the day, she was so proud of the way she looked! #4 - Take lots of pictures or record it. Your daughter will love to see them after it is all said and done (Gabrielle smiles the entire time she watches the recording).

The following day, we spent at Magic Kingdom. We were there right when they opened and we didn't leave until 10:30 that night (there is a lighted parade at night and a fireworks show)! It is important to grab the maps and the list of shows right as you enter the park. This will tell you where you can find characters to sign your autograph books (we bought these at Downtown Disney so we didn't have to waste time at the park) and also when the show times are. That way, you can plan your day around that. I do have to say that each show was a major production, you should not miss the shows or parades. You should also know which rides you want to ride because you should get a Fast Past for them right away to ensure you can ride them. There are also Fast Passes for some of the character greetings. This way, you don't have to stand in long lines for all of them. Remember to enjoy this. Don't let the long lines or anything else put you in a bad mood. You are in the most magical place ever! ENJOY it!

The next day we spent at Hollywood Studios. Again, we were there from open to close. Landen is a huge Star Wars fan so as soon as we got through the doors, we headed to the Star Wars Jedi sign up (as you enter the park, go left, towards the Star Wars ride and you should see the sign for the Jedi training). We got there just in time to get him signed up for the last show of the day. He was going to be on stage fighting Darth Vader!!! There are shows all day, but they fill up fast so if you have a Star Wars fanatic, make sure you do this the first thing. The stunt show at Hollywood Studios was fantastic! We all loved it! The Beauty and the Beast show was like a short Broadway production - beautiful! Again, there are character signing spots all over.

After this day, we got in our car and drove about an hour to Cocoa Beach. We got to our hotel, put our suits on and headed to the beach. If you have room, pack some sand toys so you don't have to pay for them there. We found a grocery store nearby and bought food to make in the room and to take to the beach while we were there. We hunted for shells and the kids actually got to hold a tiny sea horse that got pushed onto shore. We all had a wonderful time and none of us wanted to come home. Matt and I are already talking about where we are going next.......... on a budget.

Here are some tips that helped save money and time and are great for Disney virgins:

1. Take a cooler for water and snacks. Remember, you will be there all day and the prices are high at the stands and restaurants.
2. Bring or rent a stroller. You will need it. Even Landen (8) needed to ride in the stroller for a little break.

3. Pick up the maps and show times right at the beginning of the entrance. You need these! They tell you when all the shows and parades are and they are all phenomenal!

4. Get a Fast Pass for whatever you can.

5. Buy your tickets ahead of time so you don't waste time in lines waiting for tickets.

6. Talk to everyone you know who has been there. They can give you great insight.

7. Get a spot early for the parades!!! It is horrible if your kids can't see and you have to hold them the entire time!

8. SUNSCREEN! Take it and reapply all day!

9. Do the rides! We found that the parks did not have tons of rides and the ones that they did have, were perfect for younger kids.

10. We thought that Landen was the oldest (8) we would take our kids to these two parks. If he was any older, we don't think it would have been as "magical" for him.

11. Wear tennis shoes and comfortable clothes. You will be hot and walking all day. One night we had to sprint from one end of the park to the other to get to a show we didn't want to miss.

Enjoy the trip! It goes by way too fast! It truly is "magical"!

"Handmade" Mother's Day Gift

I came up with the cutest idea for a "handmade" Mother's Day gift that moms can use and/or keep as a keepsake.

I bought different colored fabric paints and I got white dish towels at Target on clearance. I had each child pick out a color and then I painted their hand and put it on the towel. I then added a stem and flower pot. I did one towel for each child. You could also do one entire family on a towel and have a pot full of flowers!