Thursday, December 31, 2009

Felt Crayon and Notepad Holder

Happy New Year Everyone!
We hope you and your families are having a wonderful holiday season!

We have been out a lot with our family and friends and we were looking for something to keep the kids busy at restaurants. We found this cute felt crayon and notebook holder at Skip to My Lou .
This holds either crayons or small pencils and a 3 x 5 inch notebook. The flower shape and colors could easily be changed to match your child's interest.

What you need:
  • 2 - 6 x 12" pieces of felt (one will be thew cover and one the inside liner - we used red for the cover and pink for the liner
  • 1 - 3 x 6" piece of felt for the pocket ( we used pink)
  • 1 - 12 " piece of ribbon (red)
  • 1 - 15" piece of ribbon
  • 1 - 9" piece of ribbon
  • 8 crayons
  • 1 - 3 x 5 inch notebook
  • 1/2 felt flower
  • felt circle for center of flower

First we sewed the 12 inch ribbon onto the 3 x 12" pocket.

Next we made a pattern of the pocket and marked it where we wanted to sew the crayon and notebook holder. We marked it 1 5/8 inches from the center on both sides for the notebook. The we marked 3 - 1 inch intervals after that to make the crayon holders.

Using the pattern we marked the fabric with chalk and sewed the pocket to the liner.

Next sew your flower onto the 6 inch side of your cover. Sew the 15 inch piece of ribbon under the petal in the middle of your flower and the nine inch ribbon under the center of your flower. Skip to my Lou used a button to close the holder, but we didn't have one and couldn't wait to try this project so we improvised.

Next we sewed the cover to the liner. the felt stretches as you sew it so you need to trim the edges. Skip to My Lou used pinking shears which looked so cute, but our shears weren't sharp enough to cut through so many layers. Then we added our crayons and notebook and we were ready to go!
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Monday, December 28, 2009

Sponge Balls For Bath Time

We first saw Betz White's Sponge Balls this summer, and thought they made a great substitute for water balloons for the kids (but we never got around to actually making them!). But we took another look at them recently, and thought they would make excellent bath toys!

All you need to do is to take two new regular sponges and cut them each lengthwise into 4 equal pieces. Next, lay them on top of each other. Then take a piece of dental floss and ties them together in the middle tightly. Fluff out the segments and you have a fun water toy - no matter what the weather!Of course, little Charlie didn't want to wait until bath time, and thought they were fun just to stuff into his bike...
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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sprinkling Some Fun!

Earlier this week we made gingerbread cookies with the boys, a project they really get into. Especially the decorating part. Those guys LOVE sprinkles! So much so that we tend to run out whenever we do any sort of cookie decorating project. And it's not like we can stop mid-way to run to the store.

So Rebecca suggested a way to make our own brightly colored sugar sprinkles! And it is so simple! Just put granulated sugar into a plastic bag (one with a zipper closure is preferred) and add a few drops of food coloring. Give the bag a good shake to distribute the color, adding more as you see fit. Then pour the newly colored sugar onto parchment or wax paper and let dry for a little bit (unless you are in a hurry, like we usually are!). Once the sugar is dry, you can pour it into a container!

Hopefully this little tip helps you with any last minute baking. Happy Holidays!
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Monday, December 21, 2009

Cleaning with Baking Soda

You know we love our green cleaning products. They work great and save you money. You can be green and save green! We have been rediscovering all the great uses that our grandmothers knew for baking soda. It is non toxic and very cheap. You can feel safe knowing you are cleaning with something totally safe for your home and family! We found a great article on The New Homemaker for 27 uses of baking soda.

Here are some of our favorites:

Use a paste of baking soda and water to remove burnt on foods from pots and your stove. Let it sit for 15-20 min. and it should come off easily.

Use baking soda as a scouring powder. Just sprinkle on your damp cloth to clean counter tops, sinks, cabinets, appliances and tile. It won't scratch!!

Pour a 1/4 cup of baking soda in your drains weekly to keep them flowing freely in the kitchen and bath. Rinse through with hot water.

Baking soda is great at removing oders. Sprinkle it in any stinky spot: garbage cans, diaper pails and litter boxes!

Sprinkle baking soda on your carpets and let stand for at least 15 min. then vacuum up for fresh smelling carpets.

Use baking soda in your laundry. Add a 1/2 cup to your bleach loads to boost the whitening power. Add to your regular loads for added freshness and cleaning.

Use a mixture of 1/4 cup baking soda to 1 quart water for cleaning plastic toys, lawn furniture and kiddie pools. Rinse with water.

You can even use baking soda occasionally on a wet toothbrush to clean and whiten your teeth (not the best tasting toothpaste).

Give baking soda a try. We have been so amazed at this old fashioned cleaning product.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Yarn Ornaments

We were trying to think of a fun project for our 4-year-olds to make as a Christmas gift for their preschool teachers. We have a ton of yarn left over from our flower pots, so we were hoping to incorporate that as well! Having seen lanterns made by wrapping glue-soaked yarn around balloons, we decided to use the same technique to make ornaments!

What you need:
  • balloons (we used water balloons)
  • glue
  • water
  • sugar
  • yarn
  • glitter (optional)
  • ribbon

First, we blew up the balloons to the size we wanted for our ornaments. We then diluted the glue with the water so it had a smooth consistency. We then added a bit of sugar. Sounds weird, but it was a technique our grandmother used to make some of her crochet projects stiff. Glue and water alone will harden the yarn fine, but we found that they were just a bit firmer when we added sugar to the mix.

Cut a long piece of yarn and put it into your glue mixture. You may want to do a trial run by wrapping yarn around your balloon before soaking it so you know about how much you'll need, but we tend to be too "fly by the seat of our pants" for that! Bear in mind that you will need more than you think. Next, take your yarn out and run your fingers down it to remove any excess liquid. Begin wrapping your yarn around your balloon, criss-crossing it around itself as you go. And add different colors if you want! Just be sure to leave openings, as this will allow lights to shine through and make it easier to get that balloon out later.

Once your balloon has the look you want, you can add some glitter! This was our boys' favorite part. Then let them dry for at least 24 hours, although it may take longer depending on how many layers of yarn you used.

Once your ornament is completely dry, pop the balloon and tie a ribbon on!

Now it is ready for your tree!

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Warm and Wonderful Pots

Every year at Christmas our family has the tradition of not only buying gifts, but also giving homemade gifts for the various members of our family. We thought this would be a nice way for the kids to understand that wonderful gifts are not always store bought. It is also a nice way to get them interested in the spirit of giving rather than just waiting for a present to be handed to them.

This year we found a little creative inspiration in this project from Kristen at Peace, Love, and Crafts, where she wrapped yarn around plain terracotta flower pots - like sweaters for your pots! Thinking this was a great idea, we decided to make this our homemade gift. We made a few changes to her design, and are tickled with the results!

We started with plain flower pots and let the kids (and husband!) paint the insides and tops. Once the paint was dry we then gave the pots a couple coats of polyurethane on all of the surfaces (do this without the kids - poly can give off some nasty fumes). This seals the porous terracotta and will keep moisture from leaching into your yarn. No one wants damp yarn! Yuck!

Once your pot is dry, it is now time to start wrapping it with the yarn of your choice (or in our case, the kids' choice, since they helped pick it out). Start by adding a drop of hot glue to the bottom rim of your pot. Then attach your yarn and wind it around the base. We found that we needed to add hot glue around almost the whole base to keep that first wrapping of yarn stable.

Continue wrapping your yarn around your pot, being careful not to overlap. Again, we found it helpful to add drops of glue now and then as we wrapped to keep the yarn secure.

When you get to the top of your pot, glue the end of your yarn down with more hot glue. Now you are done and ready for some gift-giving!As you can see, we did this with all colors of yarn, using one type for some pots, and multiple types on others for a striped effect. Once the painting and sealing is done, this project is really fast, but it makes a fun and unique gift!
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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Homemade Ricotta Cheese!

Did we say homemade cheese? Absolutely! We have to thank Steph of Snickerdoodle for turning us on to this great recipe for homemade ricotta cheese! Cheese is something that we always regarded as being something we could never make at home. But this recipe is so easy and fast! And the resulting cheese is better than what you normally would buy in stores!

What you need:
  • 2 quarts whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Line a large sieve with a layer of (fine-mesh) cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl.

Slowly bring milk, cream, and salt to a rolling boil in a 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring often to prevent scorching. Add lemon juice, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture curdles, about 2 minutes (although ours curdled almost instantly).

Pour the mixture into the lined sieve and let it drain 1 hour. After discarding the liquid, chill the ricotta, covered. It will keep in the refrigerator 2 days.

Like we said above, this recipe is easy, fast, and delicious! It made enough fluffy, yummy cheese to make a 9 x 13 pan of stuffed shells! We're pretty sure we'll be making ricotta instead of buying it from now on!

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Holiday Garland

We made this sweet holiday garland using the gingerbread ornaments that we made last week. We also added dried apples and dried oranges and red felt "beads". We strung them on bright red embroidery floss.

First we started with these beautiful clementines. We preheated the oven to 170 degrees.

We sliced them 1/4 inch thick and blotted them with paper towels. We lined them up on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.

We dried them in the oven for about 6-8 hours. We kept the oven door slightly open using a wooden spoon to let out the moisture. We turned the oranges over every two hours.

Next the apples. We used small red apples. These were also sliced 1/4 inch thick. We soaked them in lemon juice for 15 minutes.

We blotted them dry and dried them in 170 degree oven as well. These need to be turned every two hours as well so that they won't curl too much. We dried these until they were dry, but still pliable so that we could string them. About 6 - 8 hours

We gathered all our supplies including red embroidery floss and a large needle.

We recommend laying out your pattern and thread the garland on a table. We threaded in and out of the apples and oranges near the top so that everything would hang nicely.

We have found many uses for the garland. It looks so pretty nestled in greenery.

The extra dried oranges, apples and gingerbread cookies look beautiful on a platter with greenery and cinnamon sticks with a candle in the center.
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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cinnamon Dough for Homemade Ornaments

Here is an easy recipe to make fragrant holiday decorations that look and smell like real gingerbread cookies. They make great ornaments, garland centerpieces or package tie ons. Both children and adults will love this project! (our dog did as well!)

what you need:
  • a bottle of ground cinnamon - have extra on hand if your dough is too sticky and to dust your work space with
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of applesauce

Very slowly add the applesauce to the cinnamon. It is very easy to make the dough too sticky. We did and ran out of cinnamon. If this happens you can add flour, but it will make the dough lighter in color.

Dust your work space with cinnamon and roll out dough about a quarter inch thick.

Cut the dough with your favorite cookie cutters or shape with your hands. Use a bamboo skewer or straw to make holes to hang your ornaments. Now they need to dry. You can let them air dry or bake in the oven on a foil lined baking sheet at 150 degrees for and hour or so.

Visit us on Monday to see how we used our gingerbread guys!!

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