Egg Carton Wreath

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As I got out spring decor this year, I realized I did not have an egg carton wreath for my own front door, even though I was certain I had one somewhere in the basement.  Nope.  No luck, the wreath was absolutely, nowhere to be found.

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It was then that I realized I had assisted my students in making a few of these wreaths for a school fundraiser silent auction, and forgot to keep make one for myself.  As this was two years ago, I will chalk it up to post-baby-then-toddler mommy memory loss.

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So, what is a DIY mama to do?  Make a new one!  I set to work cutting up a paper egg carton, trimming them into semi-flower forms.  I used the ring of an extra large take and bake pizza box as the circular shape of my wreath.  I simply cut around the circle hole to make my wreath shape.  Otherwise, using a compass, large mixing bowls, or a pencil tied to a string are all great ways to make circles in your cardboard.  Then, I painted the cardboard ring blue.

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The kids needed an on-going project this week to work on.  March has been rough – sickness, snow, rain, freezing rain, more sickness, cold weather, mud, and time changes.  Ugh.  It’s enough to drive any teacher or parent mad right now.  So, we spread out newspaper and the egg carton eggs, divide up some different size brushes and started painting.  We always use liquid tempera paint for kid craft projects like this.  It is washable, bright, and easy to dispense and mix.  I personally like Crayola liquid tempera paint.  The 12 bottle set is a great array of colors and will last!  Actually, if it lasts too long, it will start to stink, FYI.  If you do not plan on doing a lot of painting, or are painting a smaller project, the 8 oz size bottles might be a better choice.

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After the flowers were dry, we simply glued them onto the blue wreath ring.  We just used liquid Elemer’s glue, so the kids could help.  If it falls apart, I will fix them with hot glue.  The leaves are made from green construction paper and origami paper squares.

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After attaching the leaves with liquid glue, I also decided to add some embellishments on the flowers with some of the printed origami paper.

Boredom Buster Books

I finally got around to creating a set of small take-along binders for my two kids.  They are forever wanting to be busy, constantly restless in restaurants, and my eldest is always wanting to write or draw something.  Here is what my solution looks like:

A half-sized, mini binder filled with pocket dividers, page protectors with activities, and lined paper in the back for writing or drawing.

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I drew some simple, blank-ish images for the kids to creatively fill in.  My thoughts were to update these every now and then with more simple line drawings.

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We absolutely love the Crayola dry erase markers – washable, wipeable, bright, and not smelly!

My five-year old, as we speak, is working diligently on  her book, all while giving me suggestions for more pages.  I haven’t even dived into the free printable sections of the internet yet, but suspect that will be the next place I look for page ideas.

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I made quite a few simple pages with writing practice.  My eldest is working hard on learning her rather long middle name, address, and phone number.  This certainly can’t hurt!

Now I am debating whether or not to make a set of these for the drawing center in my classroom.  I could fill  it with some simple drawing ideas for the younger grades, or even with FAQ in drawing.

Autumn Gardening 

September (and half of October) has flown by – that will happen when most of your week is busy with school, family, and grad work. I have a short break between classes right now, so I’m in frantic finish some projects mode.

Earlier in September, we harvested a 22 pound moon and stars watermelon from my parents’ garden. Funny to think that my son weighs about the same…

We took it to a friends’ house and only ended up eating some of it, enjoying leftovers during the remainder of the week.

I took this shot with the Prisma app, of my mom’s garden and our melon with a large zucchini. I always find fall to be so bittersweet, the coming cool balanced with the bountiful harvest as a result of the long, lovely summer days.

We also harvested some ghost peppers, by night, wearing gloves of course. I opted not to try these beauties. Though Eric and a friend said they were, “pretty warm.”

I’ve been prepping plants to bring in for the winter, as we had our first frost this past week. My Rosemary plant is so happy it bloomed this fall – I’ve never seen this before. They have the loveliest lavender delicate flowers. I look forward to fresh herbs in the howling, bitter dead of winter.

Our pumpkin and squash plants flourished this summer – some were intentionally planted and some volunteers from the compost pile. We picked these three beauties last week, before the frost.

Then we discovered two more large, but still-green pumpkins in the garden! Those sneaky little devils.

The pumpkins, frost, and coming of October inspired me to set up for Halloween.

I put my pulled the corn roots, after harvesting my black corn. The creepy roots, combined with my ceramic pieces from AP art class in high school, create the perfect spooky mood by my front door.

A few dried stalks, a rubber snake, and a ceramic-cast hand are perfect in the now empty planters at my front door.

I placed a few random ceramic masks, created from molds, around on the ground, slightly covered in leaves. My kids still find these frightening, so outside decor they stay.

Dining Room Table

One of the things I had on my summer to-do list was to decide on what to do with my dining room chairs.  They are in the image below – boring light wooden chairs from Target that I bought when I first moved to Greensboro more than a decade ago.  The chair story also involves my lovely dining room table, a post that I started almost two years ago and didn’t finish.  So, here it is, finally 2 years later.  

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My family before my youngest was born, shortly after we moved in.

One of the things I love about our current house, is the open spaces we have.  Our previous house, in Greensboro, had quaint 1939 charm, but lacked openness.  This is our dining room the spring after we moved to Iowa – open, airy, and with fun built-ins.

 

With that vast openness of a house space, though, comes ideas.  Many, many, many ideas.  My brain is on a pretty constant DIY cycle – it truly is a disease, I promise.  Eric can vouch for that, as he will fairly often get messages from me with content like this.  Btw, this project was a false start and ended up becoming a curbside freebie.

 

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While I love to DIY, I am not much of a woodworker.  I get grand ideas, but my follow-through is awful.  Eric on the other hand, is fantastically talented in this field – see his live edge computer table he made.  He inherited a large stash of wood from his grandfather’s shop, when we moved back.  This is what the stash currently looks like, I promise I have a dream list of what to do with it, if time were endless.

 

Not too long after we were settled, Eric began working on plans to create my dream dining room table from some of his grandfather’s wood.  He settled on a large plank of oak.  It was thick enough that it could be butterflied into 2 pieces to fashion the table.  He found a sawmill in Boone, Iowa and took the plank there.

 

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Side note- it was around this time that Eric also made a series of beautiful cutting boards for family members.  Somehow I didn’t end up with one of these bad boys, maybe in the near future?

 

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Because this table was a project that was worked on during the 9 months before I had our second child, there are not much in the form of documentation images of the project.  This is the table shortly after it was completed.  The legs were ordered from The Legge Shop, an Etsy shop from New York.  They were custom-made and came with a plate to be bolted in the middle of the two planks, to prevent too much flexing between the two pieces of wood.

 

I kept dreaming of bright, modern chairs to go along with my table.  I finally just bit the bullet, and spent a few bucks on bright yellow, Krylon Sun Yellow, spray paint to update my existing chairs from Target.  I did end up sanding the chairs in a few spots, and using a white base-coat spray first.  This was to ensure that the yellow coat adhered stronger and with less coats.

The kids have been thrilled with the bright color and my youngest keeps requesting to sit in the “lellow” chair.  I can already tell that the chairs yellow coat will need to be updated within the calendar year, but the upside is they are easier to clean with a new coat of paint.

 

The final outcome – table and bright chairs just make me smile.  The yellow is so cheerful and fun with the live edge and industrial legs of the table.  Now if I can just get Eric to craft a bench from that excess wood…

 

Chore Chart

Summer break started off with a bang and a sprint out of the school gates.  Then, we had a few trips, routine shaken up a little, naps were skipped, and meals not fully eaten…you get the picture.  Things weren’t like they were when everyone was in school still.  Before I knew it, I had an almost five-year old screaming at me, “YOU MAKE ME DO EVERYTHING!!!”

Y’all, it was all I could do not to laugh.  I am sorry my future internet-surfing child, if you are reading this, but take this gem and use it yourself one day.

Rather than giving up and continuing to do everything, I thought like a teacher.  Funny how hard that can be to do for your own children, especially when you ARE a teacher.  I ordered these pocket charts  from Amazon and hung them on the fridge with their handy magnet attachments.  It was instant OOOHS and AAAHS from my wanna be teacher daughter.

Then, I made a series of notecards.  These are first drafts, and may get updated later with lamination and clearer images.  We will see how long they last abuse from almost two-year old son.  Anyhow, when said chore is done, she takes the card from the yellow side and transfers it to the blue side.  Yesterday morning, she was done with all but 1 card by 10 AM!  She was begging me to find some clean clothing to put away so she could transfer her last card.  I am just hoping the newness and novelty of this card chore system doesn’t wear off.  Maybe if it does, that is when I up the ante and make sparkly cards!  I am dying of laughter at the though of glittery chore cards – how she would love them.

Seriously though, the best part of this system though?  Little brother is watching and mimicking!  Soon I will have two politely trained kids, right?!  I can dream.

Since it was a four pocket chart set, the other two are now handy holders for the magnet shapes set.  It corrals the extra pieces nicely, and creates an empty workspace for their creations.

How do you encourage your kids to help out?  I love tips on raising thoughtful and helpful children.

Natural Dyed Eggs 

eggs1This year, for Easter, we decided to try something a little different for the egg decorating.  I ventured into natural dyes – something I had tried with success for Greta’s car cake for her 3rd birthday.  To entertain the kids, even more, I had them paint some of the eggs and add washi tape – the last 4 eggs on the right side of this image are those eggs.

 I started by boiling my ingredients in water for 30 minutes.  I used tips from The Kitchn’s post on naturally dyed eggs as a starting point.  Then, I strained all my dye through a sieve.  Above is the results of boiled purple cabbage.
 Next, I collected my dye in jars with 1-2 tablespoons vinegar.  Jars with lids seemed like the best option for storing them in the fridge, while the dye set.  We simply placed 1-2 hard-boiled eggs inside each jar to soak, I did one set overnight and one set for 8 hours.

 During all of this, the kids helped me by being eager watchers.  They also worked on watercolor painting their own eggs.
 Like I said, it was a huge hit with the kids.  They got to be observers of the changes of color over time.  We took them out every hour during the day to check the progress.

 The natural dye from top to bottom is: turmeric (yellow), yellow onion (orange), purple cabbage (blue), and red zinger tea (brownish-gray).

I am looking forward to trying more natural dyes with other materials – paper, fabric, wool…

DIY Wood Die Set

Eric made this lovely dice set a while back (as in, December!) and I forgot to post them until now.  It was a simple project – cut a long piece of wood into a set of five cubes, sand, and then use a Wood Burner  to make dots on the die.

They could be a fun addition to a kids’ block collection, a larger than life set of die for backyard or game night fun, or a great learning set for young, budding Yahtzee enthusiasts.  In any case, we gave them away to my sister and her husband.  Now I just need Eric to make me a set for summer die games on the porch.

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Speaking of the porch, we are getting closer to being done with that project.  Here’s a peek – we redid the floors, insulated the walls below the windows, and added white bead board under the windows.  We also upgraded to some more comfortable furniture.  Eric scored these orange (!) office chairs at a furniture thrift shop.  He knows me and my affinity for orange and chairs, so well.  We started this porch process last summer and hope to finish it this spring before it gets too far into porch season.  More on the porch project in the near future.

Living Room Built-ins

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Just as the trees sap starts to flow as spring nears, my creative juices start flowing and my right brain warms up at the thought of spring break and the ever-nearing summer off. For me, break from work brings the joy of less-interrupted project time.

Today we got out the PANTONE Moroccan Blue paint and touched up the bands of bare walls above the windows on either side of our fireplace. These have been bothering me since we had the windows replaced a couple years ago.

I have also been working on finishing my papier-mâché jackelope from a few years back. I’m torn on the face. I think it looks cheesy (kinda creepy, too) and will most likely collage over it before I mount it on my wall.

I broke out my black Sharpies and added textural lines on the insides of the built-ins on either side of the fireplace. The results are a fun fiber-inspired design.

I also reorganized the books by color. It makes a weird order to the topics but pleasing to the eye. This is the left side all done – aside from the bottom shelf which I left alone since it is on floor level and filled with children’s books.  I will post the right side at another time.

Valentines 2016

  I still loathe buying greeting cards.  It’s a DIY disease – “I can make that.”

 This year’s Valentines have a bike theme going on.  I made this fun little stamp a couple weekends ago while Greta was working on her bicycle and heart print.  Or was that last weekend?  I don’t know…this time of year just escapes me.

 
 I started off my Valentines with some fun abstract watercolor paintings.  Once dry, I spliced them into sections.

 
 I attached the paintings to card stock with glue and by sewing machine.  Then, added small stamped bicycles to them.  On some of the cards, I stamped the bike directly on the painting.  Those ones turned out fine, but the bicycle ended up being a little hidden.

 
Greta had fun adding embellishments and her signature to her cards.  I love her ideas on what needed to be glued down!

 
 These are my two little Valentines, working hard at the kitchen table the other night.  The oldest was busy signing away – she opted for Ninja Turtle and Little Mermaid cards for her school buddies.  Meanwhile, little brother is sliding and throwing her Valentines on the floor.

 

 This is me this morning at work – I survived yet another year of teaching during the Valentine season – today were the element kids’ Valentine parties.  In the spirit, I decked myself out in my heart sweater (old one from Target!) and my heart earrings that my mom gave me way back in 8th grade.  They were sort of a big deal, because they were dangly and not just studs.  I cannot believe I still have them. My hubby and I are not much into gifts, cards, or any of the likes for Valentine’s Day, but whether you celebrate or not, Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all!

 

Artistic Wrapping Paper

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This project ended up being one my most favorite that I have ever done with Greta – making our own wrapping paper.  I have always kind of hated wrapping gifts and find myself giving sideways glances at those who wrap perfectly gorgeous department store worthy packages.  But that all changed this year – I now have a helper!  My oldest can write names, tear tape, cut, and hold her finger over knots.  VICTORY!

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Both kids are starting to get to the point where they can come with me to my classroom while I do a few small tasks.  Over Thanksgiving break, I had to unload a kiln or two, so I set them to work.  I gave them the backside of used, white roll butcher paper, and set them to work designing and creating recycled wrapping paper.  Here, they are using texture rubbing plates and large crayons.

 

They used foam dot stamper brushes and regular large paintbrushes to create swirls of reds, yellows, golds, and glitter, on the left.  The gold dots, on the right, are my personal favorite.  My youngest was able to easily stamp out the designs, and it was a quick enough project that he was not easily bored.

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Back at home, my oldest wanted to use foam stamps and Jumbo Paint (and Clay) Explorer Rollers to transform the brown paper packaging sheets into wrapping paper.  She loved figuring out how to mix tints – above she has figured out that adding white to her sponge stamper (something similar here: Pattern Paint Foam Rollers), it makes the green lighter.  This is always a fun ah-ha moment for little artists.

After the success of this project and their joy in working on a larger scale, a roll of paper may become a mainstay on their own art table.  I am leaning toward this Melissa & Doug Tabletop Paper Roll Dispenser.

challah

On another note, I woke up at the wee hour of 4:15 AM this morning – nothing says first day of winter break like being awake before the birds.  So, I got up, relished the quiet of my house, and set to work making Challah.  I would say this was a home run batch, making up for last year’s total flop.

Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the entire year.  Happy almost Christmas Eve!