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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Simple Cross Necklace

We made the most simple version of a beaded cross necklace in our Sunday school class.  It was so simple we LOVED it!

This is what we did:

  1. We used pony beads that you can buy at Walmart or the Dollar Tree.
  2. I hot glued the center beads together.  (This is the part that makes it so easy for the kiddos)  I used a heart bead for the center.
  3. Fold a piece of curling ribbon in half and tie a pony bead to the end.  By tying the bead you prevent the beads from being able to slip off the bottom.
  4. Take the two open ends of the curling ribbon and tape them together.  This will make it much easier for the kids to slide the beads onto the ribbon.  It can be kind of tough for little hands to get the beads on the ribbon if the two ends of the ribbon are not the same length and the fit is a bit tight.
  5. Start sliding beads onto the ribbon.
  6. Stop once you get your desired size.
  7. Tie a knot to replace your taped ends.
The kids LOVED how quickly they were able to make a cross.  For the amount of work and amount of time they took to do this activity (no more than 10 minutes) it had a high impact.  We will definitely do this activity again, next year.  There is  something that pre-schoolers just LOVE about stringing beads!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Decorating With Birch

I LOVE decorating with natural elements.  So when my husband trimmed a large birch branch that was hanging over our house, I willingly helped with the cleanup.  I had plans for these beautiful gifts of nature! 

This project would work with a variety of tree or bush branches and would look nice naturally or spray painted white.

This is what I did:

  1. I brought two 7 foot branches into my house, tied them together with fish line (so it wasn't noticeable), and leaned them against the wall in my dining room.  I think it would also look nice leaning against my fireplace but I was looking for something to fill an empty space and create symmetry.  I didn't want to spend a lot of money on an expensive artificial plant  and many are not as tall as I wanted. I didn't worry about bringing in insects with my branches because we trimmed a healthy limb.
  2. I planted a Jade plant in a small pot and nestled it in the crook of the branches.  I chose a Jade plant because it requires medium light and infrequent watering.  I then secured it with jute rope to prevent slipping.  I didn't like the rope visible so I hot glued some dried moss aound the rope and bottom of the pot.
  3. I also hot glued jute to some pinecones and draped them over limb.
During the Christmas season, I wired some red berries to my branches and perched a small bird on a limb which complimented my theme.

I also LOVE decorating outside and so last summer I leaned some branches  in a corner of my deck to add some pop!  A robin gifted me with a beautiful nest and I nestled it too in the crook of some branches.  I considered hanging a bird house on one of the limbs but didn't want the mess if a bird moved in.

This Spring I might add some white lights to brighten up my deck.  In the mean time, I'll try to be patient and wait for the snow and ice to melt!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Honoring Birthdays

My family LOVES to celebrate birthdays, but busy schedules often make it difficult to find a date that works for everyone.  So instead of celebrating each person's birthday individually, we often celebrate two or more together in the same month.  Next month (March) we have three, and I decided to honor each one by displaying his photo on a table centerpiece. 

This is what I did:

  1. I bought three 4" x 6" clear frames for $.95 each.
  2. I had each person's photo printed for less than a quarter and put them in each frame.
  3. I found the base of my Lazy Susan (I want my centerpiece to twirl so everyone seated at the table can see all three).
  4. I put non slip shelf/drawer liner on top of the Lazy Susan to prevent objects from sliding when turned.
  5. I placed my lucky bamboo plant, my battery operated LED stick lights (I bought them earlier from Michaels), and three glittery shamrocks (I paid less than a dollar each from Michaels) in a small basket and put them in the center of the Lazy Susan base. 
  6. I covered the top of the basket with dried moss that I bought from the Dollar Store.
  7. I filled the empty spaces with pinecones (left over from Christmas), dried hydrangea from my garden, and more moss. 
When the party's over, each honored guest can take his framed photo home.  For the next birthday gathering, I'd LOVE to use fresh spring flowers!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pony Bead Bracelet

Toddlers and pre-schoolers LOVE to string items.  It helps with fine motor skill development.  Making a bracelet is such a simple activity and fairly inexpensive.

This is what we did:

  1. I purchased pony beads (you can get them at Walmart and the Dollar Tree)
  2. I also purchased friendship bracelet string.  Its just plastic string.  I like this stuff because the ends don't fray.
  3. Tie a bead to the end of the string and then tape it down to a flat surface.  This will prevent the kids from spilling all the beads from their string.
  4. Give the kids a bowl of beads and let them create their own necklace or bracelet.  Encourage older kids to make patterns or to count the number of beads they use.
  5. Tie the two ends to each other.
Both of my boys enjoy making bracelets.  I encourage them to make bracelets/necklaces while I make dinner in the evenings.  It keeps them content and allows me to get dinner ready without a lot of distraction.  Its a calming activity so the transition when Dad comes home is a lot easier for all of us!  LOVE that!

3-D Children's Book

Make your childrens' books come alive by making them 3-D!  We buy a lot of books at the thrift store and Goodwill.  When you purchase a book for ten cents it doesn't really matter how you use it or destory it!  Books expose kids to ideas, people, places, and animals they often wouldn't have the chance to experience.  Being able to read is so important to child development and success in school!  Dive into your books, manipulate them, let the book take your child on all sorts of adventures.  You will notice that your "3-D" books will take your children on adventures that the author didn't intend or even imagine!

This is what we did:

  1. I cut out animals from the a book.  (This particular book was all about horses)
  2. I cut strips of cardboard from our recycling bin.
  3. Little Guy glued the strips to the back of our pictures.
  4. I folded the cardboard to make the animals stand.
  5. We used the animals to pretend, talk about animal sounds, sorted smallest-largest, etc.
Little Guy ended up pretending all the animals wanted to go to the zoo.  But, when they got there, the gate was locked.  All the animals were so sad.  He also tried to feed them grass (cut up cardboard) from his hands.  We got to talk about why the animals were sad and what they could do so that they'd be happy again!  I LOVE spending special time with my boys.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Trampoline Fun!

You don't need to go to an expensive trampoline park when you can build one in your living room!  We've been doing this one for a couple of years.  It's always a hit with the boys because they ask to do it often and I say "yes" occasionally.  They LOVE it.  I don't mind as long as they help put the cushions away when we are done. :)

This is what we do:


  1. We took all the cushions from our couches (they're pretty thick) and laid them out on the floor. (We have 3 couches)
  2. We cover the cushions with a blanket (and pretend that it is an ocean or a pool).
  3. We jump in!
The rule is no backwards jumps and that each child has to take turns.  That usually works (but not in the above video. Probably because I was recording them instead of watching them closely.  Thankfully, noone was hurt during the recording of this video.)  

Plastic Eggs and Colors!

My active Little Guy is trying to learn his colors.  We decided to spice up his "lessons" by playing a fun game.  Both of my boys LOVED it! 

This is what we did:

  1. We hid plastic eggs all over the living room.  We hid them in easy to spot areas.
  2. After the eggs were "hidden" I told the boys to "GO".
  3. They ran around the living room collecting one egg at a time and set it in the basket.
  4. They had to say the color as they put it in the basket.  Big Guy of course had no problem with stating the colors but I had to say the color for Little Guy most of the time.
  5. We did it again and again!
I adapted this game for Big Guy too.  After the boys collected the eggs, we sorted them, counted them, laid them out in patterns, guessed which pile had the most - least, etc...  This was a high energy activity.  I used an adaption of the same game when I taught summer camp A LONG time ago.  We collected balloons and the kids had to say the color of the balloon in spanish.  We used a stop watch to see how fast they could do it.  It was a ton of fun.  You could also use letters!

6, 5, 4 adding dice game!

Our family LOVES to play games.  We've been playing the game 6, 5, 4 a lot lately to help cure our winter boredom!  Its a great game because it moves quickly, helps our Big Guy work on adding, and because of its competitive nature its exciting.

Here is how you play:

  1. You need 5 dice.
  2. You need 5 chips (for about an 1/2 hour game) for each person.  We've used other objects instead of chips - such as bow tie noodles. (You can also play without them, it just wasn't as fun for our family)
  3. Everybody throws a chip into the "pot".
  4. Everybody gets one turn to try to score the highest number.
  5. Whoever gets the highest score wins all the chips in the pot for that round.
  6. Continue to play until someone is out of chips.
  7. The winner is the person with the most chips at that point.
Here is how you score:
  1. Each person gets three consecutive tries to roll the dice.
  2. You must get a 6, 5, and 4.  If you roll one of those numbers you set it off to the side.
  3. If you get those three numbers within 3 shakes, you get to add up the remaining two dice.  That is your score.
  4. If you get a 6,5, and 4 before you have shaken 3 times, you can re-roll the remaining two dice (up to 3 times) in order to get a higher score  BUT if you get a lower score that's what you get....RISK.
The player's score in the above picture would be 5.

This is a fun game to play as a family.  We're at the stage where games are becoming more fun.  Our Big Guy is able to play more complex games than CandyLand and his losing doesn't result in an hour beneath the table!  LOVE that!  (In our house,the losers have to shake hands with the winner and say, "Good Game".)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Make A Simple Corsage

Are you planning a celebration for a special person?  Whether you're hosting a shower, birthday, or anniversary party you can honor that person with a corsage or boutoniere you make yourself. It's so fun and easy!  So instead of making a trip to your favorite florist, make one to a local store and choose a bouquet you LOVE.  I recently did just that.  I went to the floral department at Cub Foods and purchased three bunches; a colorful bouquet of flowers, a bunch of greens, and a bunch of Baby's Breath and I only paid $15 for all three.  With a few supplies I had on hand at home, I created a corsage, centerpiece for my dining room table, and a small bouquet for my bathroom. 

This is what I did:  

I gathered supplies:  a plastic bag, a scissors, a pearlized pin, floral tape, 1/8" wide ribbon 24" long, a 6" wire (I bought pins, tape, ribbon, and wire from Michaels or Jo-Ann Fabric And Craft Store), a piece of greenery 6" long, a stem of Baby's Breath 6" long, and a red carnation 6" long.

I made a small ribbon bow by wrapping it in a circle and wiring the center.

I placed the Baby's Breath on top of the greenery, the carnation on top of the Baby's Breath, and the wired bow on top of the carnation.  I trimmed the bottom of my stems and wire.  Then starting under the bow, I used floral tape to wrap the stems and wire.  As I wrapped, I slightly stretched the tape to make it stick, continuing to the end of the stems.

I stuck a pearlized pin in the back of the wrapped stems for attachment to clothing.  I sometimes add an extra pin.

I placed my finished corsage in a plastic bag, sprayed it lightly with water to keep it fresh (try not to get the ribbon wet), and stored it in the refrigerator until the party. 

TIP:  I've made a variety of corsages using several kinds of flowers and greenery.   I recommend keeping it fairly simple and light so the corsage hangs nicely on clothing. 

Make A Table Centerpiece

I LOVE fresh flowers. So whenever I host a party for friends and family, I create my own table centerpiece.  It's fun, easy, and inexpensive.  With a few supplies I had on hand, I recently made a centerpiece, corsage, and small bouquet for only $15. 

This is what I did:

I gathered my supplies:  a ceramic container, a scissors, a knife, wet foam (I puchased a package on sale from Michaels for a centerpiece I made earlier), water, fresh flowers, greenery, and Baby's Breath.

I used the knife to cut the foam to fit snuggly in my container.  I poured water on the foam until it was well soaked.  I then cut Lilies 10" tall and stuck them in the center of the foam.  I keep my centerpieces low so that guests can easily see over them.

I cut other flowers 10" tall or shorter inserting them in the foam at an angle from the center.

I filled in empty spots with pieces of greenery and Baby's Breath.  When I LOVED the end result, it was ready for my table! 

Add Some Ambiance

 I LOVE the soft glow of candles so whenever I entertain, I light up some tapers for my table.  I've learned that a little preparation goes a long way!

This is what I did:  

 I bought two 10" tapers from the Dollar Store, both for one dollar. I put them in the freezer.                                                                                                                                                

Shortly before my guests arrived, I took my candles out of the freezer.  (I recommend keeping them in the freezer for 24 hours or longer).  My candles did not fit snuggly in the holders so I wrapped the bottom of each of the tapers with aluminum foil and inserted them in the holders.  I got a nice tight fit and the foil was not visible to anyone.

I lit my candles and was ready for my guests.

My tapers burned cleanly for five hours!  No drips!  This has worked for me every time with only one exception.  I tried this with expensive candles I bought from Crate & Barrel and had a drippy mess.  They burned a much shorter time too.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Race Car Slide

We got another great idea from Pinterest this morning!  Thanks, The Contemplative Creative for the inspiration for our amazing car jump, ramp, totally cool, and exciting cardboard slide!  The boys LOVED the excitement!

This is what we did:

  1. We got a big box from our garage.  I'd been wanting my husband to throw the t.v. box away for a long time.  He must have known we would find another purpose for it.  I used a scissors to open it up the long way!
  2. We put a big bin at the bottom of the stairs.
  3. We collected all of our matchbox cars and put them at the top of the stairs.
  4. We used masking tape to attach the cardboard to the top of the stairs.
  5. The boys took turns sending hundreds of our toy cars down the slide trying to get them to land in the big bin!
  6. It was pure joy as we watched the cars zoom down the slide, make a big jump and land in the bin!  So fun!
The Contemplative Creative suggested that the kids slide down the cardboard.  Without carpet on our stairs and the steep grade of the stairs that was strictly prohibited at our house!  My boys certainly thought of the idea to slide down themselves - So this was a CLOSELY SUPERVISED activity.  This was a high energy activity!  LOVE.  Oh, and I LOVE our new t.v.!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Aluminum Foil River

Its been a bitterly cold and snow-filled winter.  After the celebration of Valentine's day I can't help but to get spring fever (even though I know its at least 2 months away!).  It got me to thinking about the last BEAUTIFUL day before the winter blasted us.  It was an exceptionally warm fall day.  It got me thinking to an activity I saw on PINTEREST.  (I don't remember where I found it - let me know if you do) It was the perfect day to test it out!

This is what we did:


  1. Get a box of aluminum foil.
  2. Find a gentle slope in the yard.
  3. Fold up the edges of the aluminum foil.
  4. Put the hose at the top of the slope.
  5. I'm pretty sure we used rocks to hold parts of the aluminum foil down.
  6. Sail pop/soda bottle caps down the "river".
This was a really fun activity.  We had to fix the river, add jumps, changed the amount of water coming from the hose, and raced the bottle caps - guessing which would finish first.  We played for about an hour and my Big Guy even stayed out playing after I had gone in to make dinner.  We can't wait to try it out in the spring again.  I LOVED how cheap the activity is and that the boys could be creative while playing!

Party Hats

We made witch hats for our Halloween pumpkins.  You could do this for any holiday really!  We thought the hats were more fun to decorate than the pumpkin.  LOVE!
This is what we did:
  1.  Purchase party hats at the Dollar Store.  (Do you see the sports themed hat in the above picture?)
  2. Trace the hat on the center of a paper plate.
  3. Punch a hole in the center of the circle and cut 4 triangular tabs.
  4. Tape the triangular tabs to the hat.
  5. Spray paint the hats.
  6. Decorate the witch hats with any supplies you have on hand.  We used Halloween stickers, glitter star stickers, chenille bendy things, glitter, tissue paper, etc.
 We LOVED the final result.  The hats fit the pumpkins perfectly and stayed on with the elastic strap that comes on the party hat!   

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Jesus Feeds 5000 Craft

We learned about the miracle Jesus performed by feeding 5000 men plus women and children from only two fish and five loaves of bread that was offered to him from a young boy in the crowd.  Jesus gave thanks for the food and fed everyone until they were full.  There were 12 baskets leftover!

This is what we did:

The Baskets:
  1. Fold a piece of brown construction paper in half.  Cut four slits into it - being sure to save about an inch on each side.
  2. Cut 3-4 long strips of paper in a contrasting color.
  3. Weave the long strips between the slits. 
  4. Glue down each end of the strips to the brown paper.
  5. Cut off the extra length of the long strips.
  6. Round the edges of the basket.
The Fish and Loaves of Bread:
  1. Draw fish and loaves of bread on white paper. 
  2. Make copies for each child so that they have 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread.
  3. Color the bread and fish.
  4. Cut out the bread and fish.
  5. Glue them anywhere on the basket.
The kids really liked this project.  They worked on it for about 30 minutes.  We got rushed and they had to finish up.  They could've worked longer.  It was fun to let them weave the strips of paper and to cut out the pieces.  They really worked hard and were proud of the finished product.  As usual, I LOVED how everyone's project looked a little bit different in the end!

When I talked to the children about this Bible story I emphasized what a miracle is and how important it is to share.  Later in the day I heard my Big Guy exclaiming that something was a miracle!  (kind of cool)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Old School Game- Cootie Catcher

Technology has really taken off.  There seems to be an app for practically everything!  At my house, It's not unusual to see my husband on his laptop, my daughter on her I Pod Touch, and my two youngest ones playing with electronic toys, while I'm surfing the web on my Kindle Fire. There are great things that come along with technology, but my family trys to make it a point to turn off our electronics and enjoy the "Old School" games. Here is one that was popular with me when I was in elementary school and my family LOVES it!

Free Cootie Catcher blank template is found Here

This is what you need:
  1. Paper
  2. Scissors
  3. Marker
This is what we did:
  1. Cut out the square, fold the paper in half, and crease it firmly.
  2. Unfold.  Then fold the paper in half in the other direction, and crease it again.
  3. Fold each corner point into the center.
  4. Flip it over and fold all four of the new corners into the center.
  5. Under the inside flaps, write a task or message. ie:  Hop three times on your left foot, or we LOVE you.
  6. On top of those flaps, write a number (in the circles).
  7. On the outside flaps, write a word (in the rectangles at the corners).
  8. Fold it in half.
  9. Unfold and fold it in half the other way.
  10. Stick you thumbs and first two fingers into the four pockets on the bottom.

This Is How We Played:

  1. We chose to write colors on the outside flaps so we chose a color to start playing.
  2. We opened and shut as we spelled out the color.
  3. We chose to write numbers on the inside flaps so we chose a number next.
  4. We opened and shut until we counted out the number.
  5. We opened the flap to read the hidden message.

Be creative!

Get The Picture?

I LOVE framed art, especially when it's "up close and personal."   Most of my favorite wall decor is made from photos taken by myself or other family members.  I just group photos together in a single frame or in a group of two or more with each group having a common theme.  I have no formal training in photography, but I sure LOVE my Canon digital camera!  It allows me to create and display special memories and also save money in the process.

This is what I did:

My son took these photos of coins when in a high school photography class.

I took these sunset photos out west when visiting my brother and his family.

  1. I bought inexpensive frames or found them on sale.  I only paid $15.00 for the bottom matted frame.  None of these frames came with non glare glass (which is quite expensive), but I found old frames with non glare glass at thrift stores and I used the glass for the three frames in the top photo.  I paid less than $2 for each one.
  2. I had the photos printed at Walmart for less than $5 each.  These are all 5 x 7.  The top photos are black and white, but the bottom is in color.  I've also had 8 x 10 photos printed in sepia tone for other groupings in my home.
  3. I put them in frames and hung them up.
It's fun to display new photos seasonally so hopefully I'll soon be replacing my snowy winter photos  with budding, green Spring time images!  Can't wait!

If you don't enjoy taking photos but want expensive looking wall art at inexpensive prices, you might consider buying a poster you LOVE, cutting it into a grouping, and framing it up as I did. 

Crayon T-shirt

We found a fun activity over at: Alpha Mom a CRAYON T-shirt!  We LOVED that we had all the materials at our house.  It was a fun craft to start out our Friday morning.  She has a great tutorial that we followed.

but, this is what we did:

  1. Use crayons to color on a piece of sandpaper.  The darker you press the more vibrant it will appear on your shirt.
  2. Put a piece of cardboard (I used a cereal box) under the front of the t-shirt so that you won't get crayon on the back of the t-shirt.
  3. Place your drawing face down on the front of the t-shirt.
  4. Put a small dish towel over the back of the sandpaper.
  5. On a medium setting, iron over the towel.
  6. Peel back the sandpaper to reveal your design.
  7. Put it in the dryer for about 20 minutes to set the design.
  8. Wash alone - so that you don't get crayon on the entire load of laundry.
Wouldn't it be cute if the kids drew a picture of their family?  I also think it would be cool to have them draw a picture on a piece of fabric and then frame it for their room.  Of course, you could have them just draw a picture and frame it but its fun for the kids to use different textures!  LOVE It!  Does anyone know if there is way to get a design onto the sandpaper for the kids to color in...such as a coloring book page?