Tag Archives: under $10

Button Snakes and Beans

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No matter how much of an effort I make to spend time with my kids outside during the heat of the summer, sometimes my internal thermometer begs for some indoor activities.  North Carolina is hot, y’all.  I know there’s a heat wave all over the country right now, but the South is known for it’s brutal summers and thick humidity.  Air conditioning is my friend.

My heat intolerance isn’t problem for Christopher, who is old enough to ride his bike outside with his friends even when I’ve had enough for the day.  But for His Majesty, it can sometimes take a little creativity to keep him busy,and adequately distracted from the things he wants to do outside.  If you have the same dilemma with your own toddler, allow me to suggest two ideas that have made our indoor time simple, quiet, and enjoyable.

The first idea is playing with dried beans.  All you need is some dried beans, a kitchen funnel, a few measuring cups, bowls or containers in various sizes(empty yogurt cups, spice jars, or oatmeal containers will work great for this), and spoons.  You can make an easy funnel by cutting off the top of a plastic pop bottle if you don’t have one.

His Majesty has enjoyed this activity since he was about 18 months old. It’s a bit messy, but I just vacuum after he’s done, and all is well.  He loves pouring and scooping the beans.

When your child is ready, you can make clean up a sorting activity, and sort the different beans into similar groups.  You can count them.  You can also hide little toys (he likes when I hide little people in the beans) and have your child can dig for them, like a little sensory scavenger hunt.

His Majesty has never been the type of kid who mouths things, so I don’t really worry about him choking on these.  Plus, if he decided to eat a few (which hasn’t been a problem thus far), beans are obviously edible, so no worries there.  However, you should also be aware that some kids will stick things in their ears or nostrils, so keep an eye out if your kid is into that.

When we’re done playing with these, I put them back in a container in the pantry and they’re ready to play with the next time.  I don’t cook dried beans (I honesty don’t know how, but I do know that doing so takes a long time, so I don’t really care to learn either), so I don’t have to worry that they’ll accidentally end up served for dinner after laying on the carpet or being handled by sweaty toddler hands.

Another fun, and very easy, busy toddler activity is a button snake, like this one from The Activity Mom. All you need for this is some very basic sewing skills, a button, some ribbon or fabric trim, and felt squares in assorted colors.  I also used an elastic hair band, but that it totally optional, and I’ll tell you about that in a moment.

Start by cutting your felt into shapes that you want your toddler to “feed” the button snake.  I used squares, just because it was the easiest, but you could use triangles, stars, circles, hearts, or a combination of shapes.  Set one shape to the side to serve as the base of your button snake.

In the center of all of your shapes except for the one you reserved, cut a slit long enough for your button to fit through.  Those will be your button holes.

Take the one felt shake that you set aside and sew your ribbon (I used a squiggly trim, since it was a bit firmer) to it.  I made a few passes with my sewing machine, and I didn’t even change the thread color, I just used the pink that was already in there.  Make sure you sew it on there securely, since your toddler is going to pull on the ribbon, and you want this to stay together so that the rest of the shapes don’t slip off the ribbon.

The next step is to sew your button on the other end of your ribbon.  I hand sewed it flush with the ribbon, and I did about 40 passes, to make sure it was good and sturdy.  Toddlers are rough, after all.

Here’s where an elastic hair band came into the picture.  I sewed the hair band to the underside of the felt base. I  sewed right down the middle of the band, giving me two loops.

That makes it easy to wrap everything up and keep it together for storage.

That’s it.  Your button snake is ready to rock.  Hand it to your toddler and let him or her “feed” the button snake.

The monkey tail you see peeking out from behind him is totally optional.  He got that at his Best Friend’s monkey themed birthday bash, and he has made it part of his daily wardrobe now.

The button snake is quiet and portable enough to bring to the doctor’s office, or on car trips, making it a great addition to a busy bag.  You can also reinforce color recognition into this activity, and, if you cut your felt into different shapes, you can extend the activity to include shape recognition.  As a perk, there’s little, if any, clean up involved when the fun is over.

Having simple little activities like this on hand has been really useful if I need a few minutes to make a phone call, or to assemble lunch or to just have a few moments of quiet.  Plus, they are great for fine motor development.

What have you been doing to keep yourself or your children busy this summer? I’d love some new ideas if you care to share!

Thanking our TEA-chers

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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

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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!

Lemon Sugar Hand Scrub

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Lemon Sugar Hand Scrub

I love spring, partially because it’s warm enough to be outside, but not so hot by noon that it makes me want to hibernate with the shades drawn and the AC set to South Pole, but mostly because of the flowers and the garden and the yard work.  A lot of yard work.   It don’t mind though, because it’s generally work that I get to be immediately rewarded for.  I can see the results of my efforts right away when I rake out leaves and set more mulch and prepare the ground for another round of annuals (our frost date is April 15, and I can hardly wait!).  Then there’s the garden boxes that will need planting, and some potted herbs and lettuce given to me by my awesome friend Emily.  I really enjoy this time of year.  I really just enjoy getting to play in the dirt.  There’s something kid-like and soothing about patting down soil and handling mulch and mud.  I don’t wear gloves unless I am messing with something “picky”, so I tend to get good and dirty.

And so do my fingernails.

Which is pretty gross.

Enter this recipe for  lemon sugar hand scrub, which was inspired by Stephanie Lynn at Under the Table and Dreaming.   I made some of Stephanie Lynn’s version for a Christmas Bazaar a few months ago, and gave some away as gifts, and it was so easy.  I figured that I might as well whip some up to keep around my kitchen.

Three ingredients: Lemon juice, sugar, and vegetable oil.  Stephanie used olive oil, and you can also use sunflower, grape seed or safflower oil if you prefer.  This is a pretty flexible formula.

I’ve learned that the ratio of sugar to oil when you’re making a scrub is 2:1, so 2 cups sugar to 1 cup oil.  Then add a few tablespoons of lemon juice (I used 4, like Stephanie Lynn suggested) and blend it all together.  You can also use a few drops of lemon essential oil instead of the lemon juice.  I used my stand mixer, because it’s this is all obviously edible stuff, but you can also use a big bowl.  If you mix it by hand, literally, mix it BY HAND.  It will be easier than using a spoon and you’ll get everything blended better. Plus, you’ll exfoliate your hands while you mix it.

Once you get it mixed to a uniform consistency, spoon it into a wide mouthed container.  You want to container to be large enough at the opening so that you can fit your hand inside.

This recipe makes a little more than 1 cup of Lemon Sugar Scrub.  I stuffed mine in an 8 ounce mason jar, and used the rest on my hands right after I finished making it.

Perfect to have around the house for yourself, or to give as a gift to a friend!

Do you make any of your own beauty supplies?  Care to share any ideas?

Holy Smokes, I did a Guest Post!

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I’ve been on a  fantastic two week vacation with my family (including my adorable 80 year old Grandma, who seems to defy age in every possible way), but I couldn’t resist popping by to say hello, and to let you know that I was asked to do a guest post for Triad Moms on Main!  It’s about a Reindeer hand print Christmas ornament that I made with His Majesty, as part of a family ornament tradition that we started a few years ago (Pssst! It would make a really great addition to your tree, or a great keepsake gift for Grandparents and Godparents).  Pop on over there and check it out!

Hope your December has been fantastic, low stress, and full of fun family traditions.  Looking forward to showing you some of the fun stuff that I’ve been up to when I get home in a few days!! In the meantime, add Triad Moms on Main to your blog roll– they always have something interesting to say!

Happy Holidays!

 

 

The Kids’ Table

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Growing up, Thanksgiving on my Mom’s side was at my Grandparents’ house.  My brother, two cousins and I sat at the “kids’ table”, which was basically just a little folding card table that my sweet Grandma always covered with a festive tablecloth.  I loved the kids’ table.  It gave my cousins, my brother, and me a chance to hang out, chat and tease one another, while the adults in the family got to have actual real adult conversation (which I never understood the scarcity of until I had children of my own).  The kids’ table was a tradition that I thought was unique to my own family, until I got a little older and realized that many families used the kids’ table as a solution to the holiday seating dilemma.  Even though my family wasn’t “special” in our tradition of the kids’ table, I still smile when I think of the four of us sitting at that little card table (which I’m sure my Grandma still owns, and maintains in pristine condition, somewhere in her house).

It is a tradition that I’ll continue when I host this year’s Thanksgiving, and I pinned some ideas on activities to use for the kids’ table.  My board has a meager sampling of the things that you can do to occupy your kids while you put the finishing touches on the meal, or try to steal a few moments of those treasured real adult conversations, and there are many other great ideas out there.  I already decided that I’d print Thanksgiving coloring sheets and leave some crayons out, and this site has plenty to offer in that regard, but I wanted something else.  I thought about doing these napkin rings, but I didn’t want to have to sort through pictures, plus, while really cute, they wouldn’t do anything to keep the kids occupied. And then I found this idea. I think it is going to be a great way to help our kids focus on some of their many blessings, while also keeping them busy doing something creative.  Doesn’t it look like fun?

Thankful Turkey from Parents.com

I was given the incentive to start this craft by accident.  Contractors had taken over our home trying to complete items on the “one year punch list” for our not-s0-new-anymore home.  That said, I was displaced from doing anything of value, which gave me the perfect excuse to craft, but also took away my access to my computer, which was buried under (drywall dust covered) plastic.  Not wanting to disturb the contractors, I went outside onto the back porch, taking my brown yarn and two foam spheres (one larger than the other, to use as a head and a body for the turkey) with me, and trying to figure out how to make this guy without the benefit of directions.

I started wrapping the brown yarn around the foam spheres, one at a time, gluing it in place whenever I felt like it needed some securing.

Change directions to cover the entire sphere.

And just keep wrapping, wrapping, wrapping…

Keep wrapping until you get both of the sphere’s completely covered in yarn.

Luckily, this craft was pretty easily amenable to my own methods, however, this is the point when I realized that access to the original instructions would have been especially helpful.  As I admired my yarn covered spheres, the thought suddenly occurred to me that my round bodied turkey would not stand up on his own.  Oops.  Funny how something so simple can slip your mind, isn’t it? (Don’t worry, I figured out how to make my turkey stand up, you’ll see 🙂 )  Anyway, after the contractors were gone for the day, I went back to read the source’s recommendation that you cut a sliver off of the larger foam covered sphere to flatten it out and make it more stable (obviously doing so BEFORE you start wrapping the spheres in yarn).  That knowledge was no help to me at that point, but it will hopefully be helpful to you.

After the spheres were wrapped, a few days past until I was able to get back to this craft.  Which gave me time to figure out two things.  1) How was I going to secure the head to the body (The source blog says to use a tongue depressor, but I don’t have one of them, nor do I have any popsicles in the house, and I certainly wasn’t running out to the store in the frenzied Thanksgiving week crowds to buy any), and 2) How was I going to get my turkey to stand up?

The former was accomplished by using toothpicks and hot glue to hold the little ball in place as the head.  It took a few toothpicks, to hold it steady, and then I glued around the contact area to increase the liklihood that it would stay in place. We’ll see how it holds up the the kids, but it feels sturdy now.

Then, I got out my card paper scraps.  This activity is a great way to use up any scrap paper that you have lying around, and I didn’t have to cut a single new piece of paper.  I fixed the second problem by making Mr. Turkey a stand out of two strips of scrap paper that I stapled together in a circle.  His “body” fits right onto the ring of paper that serves as a base.  Problem solved.

I used two buttons as eyes, and cut out Mr. Turkey’s beak and red hangy neck thingee (Which, thanks to a quick Google search, I have come to learn is actually called a wattle.  Google is my proof that there isn’t a silly question that I can come up with that numerous other people haven’t also wondered about.).  There was nothing precise about this, I used buttons that came from a hotel sewing kit, and cut some scraps of orange and red paper, bending the ends to give me an edge to glue, and then applied pressure while the glue dried.

Here's Mr. Turkey with his face, standing up on his circular stand. It's all coming together...

Then, I picked out paper scraps that were large enough to use for feathers.

I picked a variety of colors, and cut out feathers using the first one that I cut as a template for the rest of them.  It certainly wasn’t rocket science, so they aren’t exactly the same size, but I’m pretty sure the kids won’t mind. See all of the pretty colors?

I hot glued toothpicks onto each feather, leaving about 1/2 of the toothpick on the feather and the other half sticking out to use to secure it to the turkey’s body. After waiting for them to dry, I arranged them on the back of the turkey’s body, and set him on his stand.

And here he is from the back:

Tah-Dah!!  The kids’ table Turkey Topper.  His Majesty is absolutely enthralled with this thing, and is actively planning an attack on it, but in the event that Mr. Turkey survives until Thanksgiving dinner, the kids can use crayons to write down things that they are thankful for on each of the feathers, and then stick the feathers back on the body of the Turkey to display.  I might even write down a few things that I am thankful for to help get them started.

Do you have a kids’ table?  Are you doing anything special to occupy the kids in the hours before you enjoy your Thanksgiving feast?  I’d love to hear your (p)inspiring ideas!