Monthly Archives: May 2012

Happy Trails

Standard

We were off again last week, this time headed up north, to visit with some friends in the Wisconsin Dells, with a stop along the way to see my in laws in a neighboring state. Not exactly a kid free trip to NYC, but it was sure to be interesting, nonetheless.

One reason it was certain to be interesting is that His Majesty despises being confined in any capacity, but more so than any other form, he loathes being in the car. He literally has come to associate car trips of any length with mindlessly stuffing his face full of food, preferably in form of empty carbs. As in, we eat breakfast and immediately get in the car for a 10 minute drive to a friend’s house, and he starts squawking for “something else” (food) before I even have his car seat buckled. This makes road trips not only messy, but inherently annoying, as we collectively try to shovel food in his direction while he repeatedly barks orders at us (“I want TWO crackers!”), lest we move too slowly and he morph into a cranky tantrum-laden troll. Oh, and did I mention that he stubbornly refuses to nap in the car– that he refused such a challenge, even as a newborn baby– despite our best efforts, bribes, and begging?

Sounds like a blast, no?

At this point, we are both used to his travel challenges, and ridiculously sick of them. We travel a lot, and I wanted to read a book in the car or nap or daydream uninterrupted. Enter THIS idea, courtesy of Crazy Domestic, for travel trays.

I was pretty much willing to try anything at this point, so some chalk spray paint and dollar store cookie sheets seemed like a small investment to make in the “Travel in Peace and Quiet” fund. I found the chalkboard spray paint at Hobby Lobby, and the cookie sheets, stickers, magnetic chip clips, pencil boxes and twist crayons (hoping they won’t melt as quickly as regular crayons) at the dollar store. The chalk and magnetic letters we already had handy, and I printed some free coloring sheets. We also liberated some matchbox cars from Christopher’s room. Everything for the project cost less than $15. The chalk paint was the costliest item, but I used a 40% off coupon, saving a few bucks.

I sprayed the trays during nap time. I did 4 thin coats, letting each coat dry for about 20 minutes in between. Per the paint instructions, it is recommended that you not write on your new chalkboard for 24 hours, so leave yourself adequate time before your trip so you aren’t disappointed.

On one tray, I used chip magnets to hold coloring sheets. Unlike Crazy Domestic, I decided not to glue the pencil case onto the surface of the tray, since the cases I’d purchased would take up too much play space on the trays.

Instead, I used magnets so that they would adhere to the front of the tray, and also serve to contain everything into as compact and portable of a package as possible for transport. I used the other pouch (not shown) to carry the matchbox cars.

I filled the case with the stickers, magnets, crayons, and chalk.

On the second tray, I stuck the magnetic letters, and more magnetic clips.

The third tray, I reserved until we arrived at our cabin.  It was my “ace in the hole”, the card to play at that immiment moment when His Majesty was just about to lose it.  Like my inspiration, I drew a little road on the tray in chalk, and let my little guy drive some of Christopher’s cars around the tray.

I would like to tell you that these simple trays revolutionized our road trip, and that we drove in blissful silence the entire drive, each of us enjoying the sound of the other’s breathing, but as great as they are, we still had plenty of noisy carb loading from our resident toddler, who kept a pretty constant running commentary of nearly every item we passed on the road. He is two-years-old, after all. However, the truth is that he thoroughly enjoyed the trays, loudly squealing in delight whenever I whipped them out.  They bought us far more quiet time than we have enjoyed on any other road trip since His Majesty arrived on the scene in 2010, which is a certain return in the time and money invested in this simple project.

And, as it turns out, our chalk board trays served an additional purpose.

Our friends used one of them to leave us us a good-bye note before heading back to their own home in the wee hours of the morning, after having spent a few days with us.

When I woke up to this on the counter, it was my turn to squeal with delight.  Gotta love handwritten notes! (The pterodactyl reference is an inside joke.  Hahaha, you just had to be there.)

What are your travel tricks and tidbits?  Do you have a masterful way of packing a suitcase, or stuffing an unbelievable amount of luggage into a vehicle?  Is there something that you or your family MUST travel with?  Tricks for occupying kids on trips, long or short? Share the love, share your travel tips!

Thanking our TEA-chers

Standard
Thanking our TEA-chers

This month marks the end of His Majesty’s first year of play school.  He goes one morning a week at a church located about a 25 minute round trip from our home; A duration of time just long enough for me to accomplish nothing of real value.  I call it “doing the preschool shuffle”, because the amount of time is just long enough to start something, but not long enough to finish anything.  I can grocery shop, but I can’t make it all the way home, unload the car, and get everything put away.  I can clean a few rooms, but then I find one more thing to clean, and I don’t leave myself time to put everything away that has managed to navigate into the wrong place, resulting in yet another pile of stuff that then needs to be tended to “later”, as I dash out the door to pick His Majesty up at the appointed time.  Every time I tried returning home to clean something, I was late picking him up.  Every time.  I tried taking Christopher out for breakfast, but he doesn’t like getting dressed before 9, and he says that he gets more work done without His Majesty squawking in the background.  Even shopping for myself– in all of the unaccompanied bliss that the preschool morning would afford me– proves challenging, because most of the department stores that I favor don’t open until 10, and/or are a 30 minute drive from the school, which wastes far too much time.  So, I’ve all but given up on finding practical uses for that 2.8 hours a week (it actually works out to be a little less than 2.8 hours, since His Majesty is not a morning person, and the more I try to get him ready on time in the morning, the more he digs in his heels and intentionally moves slower, resulting in us chronically arriving about 15 minutes late), and I have taken to doing more self oriented (note that I did not say “selfish) activities like reading, making uninterrupted social phone calls, eyebrow and hair maintenance, and the occasional deep tissue massages.  I’m all about time management, folks.

So, as much as I now enjoy those few hours, what’s more important is that His Majesty LOVES it.  He runs down the hallway towards his classroom, bursts through the door, practically rips his backpack and jacket off and rushes to embarks on what is certainly an exhausting few hours of hard core play.  He makes art work.  He goes on the playground.  He listens to finger plays and songs and stories. He thoroughly wears himself out, and takes a monster nap when we get home.  He is all about going to play school.

Plus, he loves his teachers, Miss Beth and Miss Sarah.  Aside from noticing that they are always hugging him and telling him how fantastic he is, I also noticed that they always show up with coffee or hot tea in the mornings.  So, when I originally pinned this tea wreath, from Kojo Designs, it was with them in mind.  Last week, as I was getting a thoroughly awesome massage from Tabitha at Balance Day Spa, it dawned on me that due to an upcoming family trip, His Majesty’s last morning of play school was coming up this week, and I had better get moving on the project.  The things that occur to you while you’re getting a massage.

Luckily, it didn’t take long, and the supplies are easy to find and inexpensive.  You probably have some of them lying around your house already.

Here’s what I used for each wreath:

A large cardboard box to cut the circles that would serve as the wreath

10 inch Dinner plates to serve as the stencil for how large to make the wreath

A compass (remember those from when you were in school?) to make the inner circles

2 large pieces of scrapbook paper (I used 14 inch squares)

ribbon, coordinating with your scrapbook paper (to hang the wreath)

wooden clothespins (I used 24 on one wreath and 21 on the other, it just depends on how you space everything out)

mod podge

foam brushes to apply mod podge

hot glue and hot glue gun

tea bags in individual packets (equal to the number of clothes pins you’ll adhere to your wreath)

scissors

a pencil or pen for tracing

I started by cutting out my wreath forms from the cardboard boxes.  I traced around the plate and then had my husband cut them out.  I am not handy with a pair of scissors.

I used thick corrugated boxes for my cardboard, so I didn’t bother gluing two circles together like the tutorial at Kojo Designs, but that’s your call, depending on how firm the cardboard you use is.  Remember that it is going to support the weight of the clothes pins and the tea, so you don’t want it to be too flimsy.

I traced the cut out circles onto scrapbook paper, sticking close to the edge.  Don’t trace your circles in the middle of the page.  Tracing close to the edges allowed me to use the leftover paper to trace out the pieces that would eventually be used to cover the clothes pins.

Trace on the “bad” side of the paper, so that you don’t leave marks on it after you’ve cut the strips out.

Then I had my husband use the compass to trace out the center circles, and cut them out.

Finding the center of the circle.

You want the thickness of the cardboard to be about as wide as the clothes pins.

I covered both sides of the cardboard with scrapbook paper, using mod podge applied with a foam brush.

Then I covered the clothes pins with the paper strips, again using mod podge and a foam brush.  I let them dry for a few minutes, and then applied another thin layer of mod podge to the top of the scrapbook paper.  You only need to cover one side of the clothes pins, because the other side is going to be glued to the wreath.

I let everything dry overnight, and then I glued the ribbon that will allow the wreath to be hung on a pantry door or hook.  I knotted the ribbon together, tied a bow at the top, and hot glued it for stability.

The next step was to use hot glue to adhere the covered clothes pins (applying glue to the plain, uncovered side) onto the wreath.

As the glue was drying, I opened up my tea packets.  Learn from my mistake, please. I bought three yummy sounding teas made by the same manufacturer.  But then, I opened the first box, Lemon Zinger, and sighed.

They were not individually wrapped tea packs.

Boo.  When I bought them, I had a 50/50 chance of getting what I needed.  A smarter woman would not have gambled the entire purchase on one brand, and would have gotten multiple brands, just in case she was wrong.  I was mesmerized by the delicious sounding names, and made a bad call. Raspberry Zinger, Lemon Zinger, Honey and Vanilla… Mmmmmm….. Learn from my mistake.

But, as it turned out, I had many varieties of tea in individually wrapped packets in my kitchen, and more than enough to complete this project.  Plus now I’ve added these three boxes to my collection.  Quite a selection, indeed.  Friends who are reading this, accept my offer for tea when you come over next.  Please. I have so many options for you to choose from.  Just. Drink. Some. Tea.

In any regard, you want your tea to come individually wrapped, like this.

I applied them to the wreath using the clothes pins, alternating the colors to make them extra pretty. (After I took this picture, I found another variety, so I swapped some things around and added an additional choice, which you may notice in later photos)

I finished both wreaths in under about 2 hours total (divided up into smaller blocks of time) and spent less than $10 per wreath.

I’m going to combine these with gift cards, and I hope that the combination will be a nice treat for His Majesty’s teachers.

But what do you think?  Did I do the tutorial justice?  Do you think the gift will be well received?

Mother’s Day Kid’s Creation

Standard

My kids love to art.  Christopher takes an art class, and studies art history as part of his lessons, and few things cause shrieks of joy from His Majesty quite like the sight of crayons or paint.  They are little artists, and I love their creations.  A few years ago, when I’d accumulated so much of Christopher’s art work that it was spilling out of two Rubbermaid bins, I decided that I had to do something different in terms of storage, so I started photographing his artwork and printing it out in bound photo albums, just like in this pin.  That allowed me to keep the image of every adorable stick figure crayon drawing without having to store the giant piece of paper it was crafted on.  It changed the game entirely, and I highly recommend it. 90% of the boys’ artwork  now gets photographed and filed to go into an album, and the other 10% is handprint art.

There are few things that I like to do more than go back and compare their little hands to prints from when they were younger, and to compare Christopher’s handprints from when he was the same age as His Majesty.  It’s so nostalgic and sweet to see how they’ve grown.  Since there’s so many great ideas for handprint art out there on the web, I decided to help them create a masterpiece for their grandmothers this year for Mother’s Day.  I gathered some pinspiration from this pin from The Crafty Crow, which has all sorts of creative children’s craft ideas, and from  this tutorial from  Share and Remember, which shows you how to make the most adorable handprint calendar.  I’ve already got my wheels spinning to make it in the future.

Our project didn’t take very long to complete, and, as an added bonus, it fit into a large mailer envelope from Wal-Mart, which made it easy to ship.  We started off with 11×14 canvases, a foam roller brush, foam brushes, small (very inexpensive) paintbrushes, and acrylic paint.  I had all of this lying around my house from previous projects and purchases, so the only thing I actually had to purchase were the envelopes and the cost of postage.  If you had to purchase everything, it would be under $10.

Christopher mixed some blue paint and used a foam roller to cover each canvas. We did this just before bed one night, and it took less than 10 minutes to do both canvas.

The next day, he mixed some green paint to make grass along the bottom.

Then, we helped his Majesty work his magic, crafting some of the “flowers”.  He’s a pro at fingerprint and handprint art, on account of he goes to play school one day a week and they do lots of art.  Right now there’s a wrapped gift for me taunting me on the counter that I’m confident is some sort of handprint awesomeness made with the help of his play school teachers.  I want to open it badly, but I’m patiently holding out until Sunday.  Anyway, I  helped him use his thumbprints to make the yellow centers of the “daisies” and part of the orange and pink “gladiolas”, his palm print to make a red “rose”, and a purple handprint “tulip”.  I use a foam roller to apply the paint nice and thick on his little hands, and I had to work fast, because the paint starts to dry quickly.  Then I applied a little bit of pressure to his hand and fingers on the canvas to get a nice even print.

They added stems and leaves next.  But do you see that really fat stem on the “rose”?  That was the stem that led to Christopher vetoing any further attempts by His Majesty to paint on the canvas. We distracted the little guy play with a foam brush and a scrap piece of paper instead, and everyone was happy.

After about 20 minutes of drying time, Christopher used the top joint of his index finger to fashion leaves for the “daisies”, and then used his middle fingertip to polish off the pink and orange “gladiolas”.  Then, he put the finishing touch on the pieces, placing a bright yellow handprint in the corner as the “sun”. There was a gap at his wrist area, so he filled it in with yellow paint and the foam brush.

See how proud he looks?

He really had fun doing it.  He also wrote cards for them, and in the cards, he told them all about which part of the painting he and His Majesty  had done.

A simple, easy, from the heart–and from the hands– gift for their grandmothers.

I hope all of you mothers– and all of your mothers and grandmothers– have a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend!

3 Quick NYC Tidbits

Standard

Just popping in to share 3 quick helpful pieces of information that I learned while I was in NYC last week.  Then I’ll be back blogging later this week, starting with sharing a Mother’s Day project.  Ooooh, it is going to be so cute!!

Ok, so here are the tips that I learned. These will be useful if you decide to plan a trip to New York, which, by the way, I highly recommend. Here’s what you need to know:

1).  There is no sales tax on clothing or shoes priced at less than $110 per item.   That saves you 8.5% (4% NY state and 4.5% city) on some of your purchases… I’m not proud to admit how much I used this savings to my advantage, or of the fact that I used said savings when describing my purchases to my husband: “Oh honey, I spent XYZ, but I SAVED so much money!”

2). If you go to the Vistor’s Center in Macy’s and show them your out of state ID, you get a discount card for 11% off of your purchases (with a few exclusions, such as cosmetics and fragrances). But I mainly bought clothes and shoes, so when you add that to the tax discount, I saved almost 20%, right from the get go.  I then applied some of that savings towards the cost of the postage for shipping a few boxes home, since I broke a cardinal travel rule and didn’t leave enough room in my luggage to account for my purchases.  I wasn’t the only one who broke that rule, though.  There were several other women in line with me at the post office on 52nd Street doing the exact same thing!  Desperate times call for waiting in line at the Post Office on your last morning of vacation, I guess.

Ok, so let’s get to #3.  You should know that a lot of people come to Macy’s… tons in fact… and that the bathrooms were yucky.  Suffice it to say that my 4 foot 8 inch tall Grandmother was diligently looking for a manager to complain to until I managed to talk her down.  Which brings me to this seriously useful piece of information:

3). Starbucks has public bathrooms. You don’t have to buy anything to use them, and I’m happy to report that they’re remarkably clean.  With 194 locations in Manhattan alone, you won’t have a hard time finding one, although you might have to wait in line for a few minutes.  People love them some Starbucks, even in NYC.  They didn’t cram 200 of those bad boys 34 square miles for nothing, that’s for sure, and there was a line at the register at every one we passed, regardless of the time of day.

Anyway, tips aside, the visit was wonderful, we did everything we wanted to do and more, and I have 900 pictures to show for it.

Here’s just one of me and my Grandma at the top of the (obviously extremely windy) Empire State Building.

Isn’t she the cutest thing? You should see the outfits she wears, she is adorable.  And the woman loves to shop as much as I do– maybe more.  We’d be out for 12 hours running around from here to there, and she’d see a window display that she liked, and in we’d go.  She’s an awesome shopping buddy.

So, for now, it’s back to the normal grind, plus making Mother’s Day crafts, and figuring out what to give His Majesty’s play school teachers as an end of the year gift.  Plus, I’ve read two more books, and tried a few new recipes, and I want to tell you about those.  Oh, and you just wait until you see what my husband built me for our screened porch!  I’m excited to share some more stuff with you.

What did you do last week?  Make anything?  Buy anything?  Go somewhere? Do something fun?  I want to hear all about it!