Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mary Ann Kohl

Have you heard of her? I Love Her! Love Her, Love Her!!!! She is an author of several art books for kids. I heard of her for the first time when I read an article in Mothering magazine about a Toddler Art Party. My fearless, artsy friends in my mommy & toddler group (you know who you are and how much I love you!) decided to throw a toddler art party of our own. We had soooo much fun (and made such a mess!). Of course we always did on those mornings we spent together. So that was well over a year ago. I bought Kohl's book, First Art - Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos back then and it has given us hours an hours of creativity, exploration and just plain fun. Her whole philosophy is that art is all about the process, not the product. This philosophy has really helped me lighten up when doing artsy stuff with Taylor. I tend to need structure and rules and creating and exploring with Taylor helps me let go of that and enjoy a little freedom.

Now that Taylor is ready for some more advanced art experiences, I looked up some more of Kohl's books. WOW, she has written a whole lot of books!!! I was incredibly delighted to discover Math Arts - Exploring Math Through Art. Seriously? Math through art? I have serious math issues. Really. There are some fundamental math concepts that I never mastered which have caused math to be a major challenge of mine. It impacts my crafting, too. Sewing is a challenge with all the measurements and calculations. If my husband and I ever get divorced (we won't) I will have to stop sewing because I'm not able to do the math or logical thinking necessary to complete many projects. Seriously. It's a challenge. But, we all have our challenges. Anyway, I tell you all this so you will understand why I was so delighted to discover the Math Arts book. I do NOT want my children (yes we only have one right now, but at some point we hope to have more, God help us all!) to struggle with math the way I always have.

As I continued to browse her books, I came across 2 more that we just had to add to our craft library: Preschool Art and Science Arts. Thank you to my wonderful mother who is supportive of all my creative endeavors and all of my attempts to enrich Taylor's learning. She was so generous is giving us all 3 of these books!!! Thank you!!! Thank you!!! Thank you!!!

The books arrived on Tuesday and I cannot even tell you the rush I felt when I opened the box! They were shiny and new, colorful covers, just waiting to be opened. I've been pouring over the pages in all my spare time since I got them. We are going to have sooo much fun doing these projects for years to come. There are a few projects in the Science Arts that are age appropriate for Taylor but many of them are aimed at children 3 - 9&up so this is definitely a book that we'll revisit as she grows.

I urge you, if you have young children in your life, buy these books. They are wonderful!!!

To learn more about Mary Ann Kohl, her other books and her work with young children, read this great interview or check out her website.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spring Nature Collage

I thought it would be fun for Taylor to create a spring collage. She loves playing with glue so I decided to gather together a few spring like materials and let her play. I gave her, leaves, dried moss, artificial flowers, sand, and very small pebbles.

She had so much fun and stayed busy with this for quite awhile. I love watching her play and explore.

In the end, she started playing with the wipes and wiped away everything she had glued onto the collage. She just made a big sticky mess that ended up in the trash. Ah well, like I said, she had fun. So much for the collage. Preschool art is all about the process, not the product.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sidewalk Paint

Taylor and I had fun making sidewalk paint this weekend. The recipe is simple:

1/2 cup of cornstarch

1/2 cup of water

Food coloring

Stir together cornstarch and water and add a few drops of food coloring to get desired color.

I divided the recipe into thirds and made 3 different colors.

The paint is really cool! It's liquid, so it goes on like paint but dries like chalk. Very cool.

Note: This paint will wash off easily from the concrete but it will stain clothing because of the food coloring, so be sure to wear a smock or play clothes that are OK to get messy!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Birthday Party Planning Step 2 & 3 - Choosing a theme & Invitations

A ladybug party is an adorable, simple theme for a 3 y/o birthday party or any young child. Of course ladybugs are cute and the simple color scheme of red, black and white with accents of green is simple. Choosing a theme helps keep the party planning focused and fun. Obviously a theme can be chosen from anything from a story book, a movie or TV show, animals, colors, abc's or 123's...really, the ideas are endless.

The first thing that will give your guests an idea of the theme of the party is the invitation. You can send an invitation on-line using E-Vite, or you could buy pre-made inviations or have them professionally made. You can also make them yourself. Of, course, that's what I did!

I used a template I found on-line, along with instructions and created the invitations shown above. I used black & red cardstock from Stampin' Up! I looove Stampin' Up cardstock. Trust me, once you use their cardstock, you'll never use another brand of cardstock. The wings are attached with an eyelet and open to reveal the words " Our little bug is turning 3, come be spotted at Taylor's birthday party. The date, and time and Give us a Buzzzzz at our phone number". Didn't they turn out cute?!!!!!!

OK, so now for some fabulous on-line resources to help in birthday party planning!

Family Fun Magazine

Birthday Party Ideas
Oriental Trading Company

Happy Party Planning! Stayed tuned for Step 4 - The food! (My favorite part!)

Friday, April 24, 2009

More Spring Decor

Inspired by a similar project on a blog I can't remember, (sorry! I really need to keep track of these great ideas so I can give credit to the amazing peeps who come up with the great ideas!) I created this. It's all artificial so it requires no watering (I've got enough things to try to remember without trying to remember to water a darn plant!). I got a bag of moss from the Dollar Tree (same stuff I used on my birdhouses) and used a few polished stones (also available at the Dollar Tree). Then I added the ivy garland, the flower and butterfly for a splash of color. It took me less than 5 minutes to do the arrangement.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Letter Recognition

I'm working on letter recognition with Taylor. She goes to preschool and gets a lot of great learning experiences there, but of course, the learning doesn't stop once she gets home! Magnetic Alphabet Farm is a very simple book that I picked up about a year ago (LOVE the Bargain Books section at Borders!). It's a magentic book. It comes with the letter magnets and each page has places for the magnets as you read the story. The back of the book has this 2 page spread of the alphabet in order. Taylor loves this book.

I just discovered another super cool blog! It's called Teach Mama and she has lots of super cool activities for preschoolers to teach letter recognition (and just about anything else you could want to teach them!). Check it out!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spring Fever

(Note, The title of this post could also be: What I did on Sunday While Taylor was Napping and I Should Have Been Folding Laundry!)

Have you noticed the current birdhouse trend? They're everywhere. At first I didn't really care for them. I have this thing about birds. On more than one occasion, I've had birds fly straight into my head. Seriously. I think they're out to get me. Fortunately I've never been pooped on by a bird (knocking on wood, now!). Anyway, the more birdhouses I saw, the more they grew on me. I decided to snatch up a few. The big one is from JoAnn's ($5) and the two little ones are from the dollar store. I picked up a few sheets of spring paper and used a little paint, mod podge and ribbon that I had on hand to decorate. Some moss from the dollar store and some twigs from my yard finished them off!

I made this felt bird with just a little hand stitching and stuffing. I painted on the eye.

When I started making this one, I didn't care for it at all. The roof was too dark. But I just painted over it with a light layer of cream paint and wiped it off with a baby wipe. Now I think it turned out cute!

I didn't use any paper on this one. Decided I just wanted it a solid color, so I used some of the blue paint and then did a really light layer of cream paint over it. Turned out like a cloudy effect.

If you're inspired to decorate a birdhouse of your own, leave me a link! Happy Spring!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Earth Friendly crafting ideas

I'm not a totally green, earth friendly, all organic eating, cloth diapering mama. I highlight my hair although I actually go to a salon that uses all organic products, (but really, that was a total coincidence), I used disposable diapers (although I am seriously considering doing cloth diapers for our next baby - easier on the earth and easier on the pocket book). But, I am earth conscious. I'm a nature lover who appreciates hiking and exploring the beautiful world around us. I want nature to be part of my daughter's life and I want to do my part to keep preserve the earth for future generations. But, I'm a crafter. I realize I purchase paper and other products that have been made specifically for crafting and I realize that impacts the environment. So, here a few things I do to keep my crafting green and minimize the negative impact on the environment:

1) Recycle - I recycle everything that is recyclable. Our recycling bin gets full faster than our trash can. That's a good thing.
2) Reuse- I use the following things for spare containers to hold paint, glue or water when I'm working on a project: jars, cans, plastic containers (yogurt, fruit cups, pudding cups, sour cream or margarine containers, etc).
-Cereal boxes - I've started covering these with paper and using them as holders for books/magazines, etc.
3) I have a box in my craft room that I call my "trash to treasure box". Before I throw something in the trash/recycling, I think "What can I make with this? How can I re-use this?" If I come up with an idea, the item goes in my trash to treasure box instead of the trash. I have a box of jars/bottles in the garage that I reuse for storage.
4) I either file my paper scraps away (still working on an organization system for that) or I put them in Taylor's scrap box and let her use them in collages or other art projects.
5) I shop at thrift stores. I have a whole post that I'm working on about thrift stores. I buy gently used linens that I can use the fabric for sewing projects, I've bought bags of yarn, buttons, baskets, picture frames, books - you can make scrapbooks out of board books, I bought a dictionary because I love the look of dictionary text on scrapbook pages and other art projects, I bought a beautiful book of poetry with watercolor pictures to use to make cards...the sky is the limit!

So these are just a few ideas I wanted to share about earth friendly crafting. Do you have any earth friendly ideas to share?

Almost 3 yr old Free to Good Home

Beautiful girl just shy of 3 yrs old FREE to GOOD home! She is filled with energy and mischief, and is very demanding. Enjoys, cuddling, reading and testing her limits. Favorite food is chicken nuggets and hamburgers, favorite toys are dolls, favorite color is pink, and favorite word is "NO". Has mild reflux controlled with meds, PRN. Has a history of frequent fevers, ear infections and upper respiratory infections which appear to be in remission, now. Is allergic to dairy, soy, cinnamon, strawberries, pine-nuts and something in hummus. May have outgrown some of the food allergies, but current parents are hesitant to give her the foods to find out. Her food allergies are well managed with careful label reading and diligent food prep and planning ahead. Also has seasonal environmental allergies, and is allergic to dogs. Current family has a dog which she is able to tolerate and the very patient dog tolerates her as well. Girl is in need of lots of attention, one-on-one play time, frequent social outings, constant entertainment and structure that her current parents are too exhausted to provide.

Accessories include: 1 month supply of reflux meds and antihistamines, as well as cream for eczema, a referral to Kids With Food Allergies for endless on-line support in managing the girl's food allergies and validation that she is not the only girl who runs her parents ragged, countless dolls, a well loved Rose Petal Cottage, several bins of toys that she never plays plays with, crayons, coloring books and other art supplies, a complete wardrobe courtesy of a shopaholic grandmother, and all the necessary goodies to throw a wonderful allergen free birthday party for the girl and 10 of her closest friends.

Warning: Consider this offer carefully. Acceptance of this offer will result in a home that is worthy of being declared a national state of emergency, piles of laundry that may or may not be clean, floors covered with baby dolls hidden under blankets who are reportedly "sleeping", frequent night-wakings, being hit by the girl several times/day despite all efforts to curb that behavior, a total inability to carry-on a conversation with another adult without frequent interruptions, marital stress, gray hair and hair loss, irritability, and a complete loss of any patience, discipline techniques or parenting skills you may think you have. Peaceful, leisurely mornings will become obsolete. Any animals in your home will become completely neglected by you and well loved by the girl.

Acceptance of this offer will also result in an overwhelming protective instinct to ensure the girl suffers no harm. An increase in the size of your heart to make room for all the love that she will bring into your life. Laugh lines on your face from the frequent smiles she will bring. A bulging hardrive on your computer that is filled with all the adorable photos that you will feel completely compelled to take. Moments when the rest of the world stops and she is the only thing in your life that matters.

This is a very limited time offer. It may expire a few moments after the girl is at preschool this morning. Interested parties can contact the girl's parents at the local bar or insane asylum to determine if the offer is still valid.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Butterfly Bedroom for our Social Butterfly

Taylor's bedroom has been a work in progress. Her nursery was a safari theme, and I've known for awhile I wanted a butterfly theme for her "Big Girl" room. I just love the colors of pink, purple and turqoise. And I love the whimsical air of butterflies. We turned her crib into a bed last week. The crib is a Baby's Dream crib (Generation Next). It's a 3-in-1 so it's a crib, then a toddler bed, then a full size bed. When we took off the side to make it a bed, we added the canopy. Do NOT expect a tutorial on how to make the canopy. Yes, I made the canopy. Well, to be truthful, my hubby and I made the canopy and it would not have turned out half as beautiful as it is, if it wasn't for his logic to bring my vision to life. I used an oval quilting hoop (24", I think) as the base of the canopy. These can be very expensive (I saw some that were over $20), but the one I got was from JoAnn's and it was around $6. I used a 50% off coupon when I bought my 13 yards of tulle from JoAnn's, but the regular price is $1.89/yd. I stapled the tulle to the outside of the inner hoop, and that became the bottom part of the canopy. For the top part that goes from the hoop to the cieling, I cut more strips of tulle and stapled it to the inside of the outer ring of the hoop, with the tulle hanging down toward the floor. I then pulled the tulle up around the outside of the hoop, covering the outside of the hoop with tulle. We then used fishing line to tie the hoop to a hook that we mounted to the ceiling. Here's the tricky part, the hoop wasn't balanced because the weight of the clamp at the back caused it to tilt when it was hung. Of course we tested it all out before I attached the tulle, so we decided to glue a paper pouch full of pennies to the inside front part of the hoop. It did the trick! Once I had all the tulle attached, I hot glued the ribbon around the edge of the hoop, and hot glued a couple of butterflies to the front center of the hoop and along the sides of the canopy. I used a small piece of cardstock on the back side of the tulle so that the butterflies would have something to stick to.

How 'bout that, I think I just gave you a tutorial! :) But seriously, this project was a lot of effort and took a lot of thinking through and it's definitely a 2 person project, the hanging of the hoop got to be pretty tricky. If you have any questions and want to make one of your own, just leave me a comment and I'll try to clarify the process for you!

I love how the canopy turned out and it ended up being 1/2 the price (or less) of the canopy I saw for sale that was my inspiration. I just LOVE being crafty! It's fun and thrifty!

OK, so on with the rest of the room...

I found this fabric at JoAnn's a couple of months ago. I love the patchwork look without all the work! It comes already sewn like a patchwork quilt. I just backed it with part of a pink sheet that I bought on sale for next to nothing after Thanksgiving.

I made this pillow the other day, inspired by a butterfly pillow I saw at Target. The one from Target is waaay prettier, but this one was waaaay cheaper!

I hot glued another butterfly to the same ribbon I used on the canopy and tied it to the side of the bed to contain the flowing canopy.

I love these! These are from the Dollar Tree. Yes, they were a dollar for the whole set! They're removable wall stickers and I stuck them above the long side of her bed so they are behind the canopy but can be easily seen. They say "Dream" "Fly with the Angels" and "Dance with the Stars". Simply adorable.

I absolutely love the picture above the bookshelf. I doodle those flowers All. The. Time. Seriously, if you gave me those paint colors and a blank canvas that is what I would paint! My mom bought it for me at Target about a year ago and I've seen it there recently.

Sorry this pic is a little cock-eyed! I got a few of these butterfly baskets at the Dollar Tree awhile ago. I have them in purple, too.

A few of her favorite books and a personalized bear from one of my aunts.

A step stool from Target ($15) that we're using as a bedside table for her water, books and tissue box. The rug is also from Target ($30). It's soooo soft and cozy. In fact, she's been sleeping on the rug! So much for all the effort that we put into the bed!

I love this little corner of her room. The flowers were a gift from good friends of ours who own a baby furniture store. They moved their store and I helped a little with the move. Seriously, I just had fun setting up the adorable merchandise one afternoon and she gave me these flowers that she knew I was in love with. The little shelf was practically a steal. It's from HomeGoods and the center part originally had some monkeys playing baseball painted on it with the words "All Stars" I wanted a shelf just like this one, so when I saw the price tag of $2 (for real, $2), I had a vision. I knew the monkey's game was over and butterflies would soon dance in their place. I covered chipboard letters with scrapbook paper and stuck 'em on with hot glue (love my glue gun!)

I love this frame. Hard to get a good pic of it, but it says Dance, Sing, Play.

I made this hair bow holder with just strips of ribbon and a wood plaque I bought from the Dollar Tree,

The butterflies on the walls really make the whole room. They're from the dollar store and I tried a few different adhesives to get them to stay on the wall, but I ended up resorting glue gun. Please don't tell our landlord!

Well...there ya have it. I hope you enjoyed the tour of Taylor's room. There's still some details I want to add but I'll post about them as I add them. It's always going to be a work in progress...but it's so much fun!

30 Meals Project!

So, I just discovered the girls over at Nanny Goat. They are Awwwwesooommmme. Love them already and I've only known them for like, 20 minutes :). They've come up with an ingenius (and crafty and pretty, to boot!) system for meal planning. Be sure to CHECK IT OUT! It's sooo simple! I'm definitely going to be joining in the fun of creating the system and the fun of eating yummy stress free meals!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Happy Friday!!!!

I love Fridays. Especially when it's Craft Night at my friend Jen's! It's been a long week and I've been really tired this week. Hence the lack of craftiness around here. Anyway, this morning I am feeling refreshed and looking forward to a night of crafting with friends. So, stay tuned I'll be sure to post pics of my creations...still not sure what project I'm going to work on tonight. Happy Friday to you!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Donna Downey's Studio....

One of my favorite things to do online is look at other crafters' creative spaces. I am perpetually reorganizing my craft space and dreaming of my ultimate "studio". Well, I think Donna Downey is living my dream. Check out her amazing studio! I looooove it! I love every little detail.

Birthday Party Planning Step 1 - The Guest List

For some hosts, the guest list may be the easiest part of the party planning. For others, this may be a very painstaking process. See, often, it's hard to know where to draw the line. Due to our limited budget, I'm not inviting any of her classmates from preschool. I'll make a batch of cupcakes and take them to school for her. So, our list will include a few close friends who also have children who are friends with My Little Monkey. Our only family that lives near by is my father-in-law so of course, he'll join the fun. The guest list is finished off with a close friend or ours and his girlfriend, who Taylor has quickly adopted as her "Aunt & Uncle". So, the grand total for our guest list is 13 adults and 9 children (the kids range in age from 1yr to 3yrs).

So, that's our guest list. I'm still finishing making the invitations. Stayed tuned for those...they're sooooo cute!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Crayon Roll and a Gift Bag Tutorial

My daughter got her first "official" invitation to a birthday party for a girl in her preschool class. The girl is turning 3 and her mom told her she could pick 2 friends from preschool to invite to her party. My little monkey was so happy to get the invitation! I don't know the family at all and wasn't sure what to give as a gift. I decided on a crayon roll (filled with crayons, of course!) and a coloring book with a gift bag that doubles as a tote bag to carry the crayon roll and a coloring book.

I'm SO happy with how this simple project turned out. The crayon roll was super easy and I followed this tutorial.

I'm totally a beginner sewer and I made the gift bag without a tutorial or pattern. So, if I can do this, so can YOU!

Here's how to make the gift bag/tote bag:

(2) pieces 13.5" x 10.5" exterior fabric (these will be your front and back panels)
(2) pieces 13.5" x 10.5" interior fabric (this will be the lining for your front and back panels)
(2) pieces 13.5" x 5" exterior fabric (these will be the side panels)
(2) pieces 13.5" x 5" interior fabric (these will be the lining for your side panels)
(1) piece 10.5" x 5" exterior fabric (this will be the bottom of the bag)
(1) piece 10.5" x 5" interior fabric (this will be the liner for the bottom of the bag)
(2) pieces of interior fabric 16"x 3" (these will be the handles)
(1) piece of plastic canvas, heavy weight fusible interfacing/fabric stabilizer or foam board or heavy cardboard measuring 10.5" x 4" (this will be for the bottom of the bag and allow the bag to stand upright) - note, if you want the bag to be washable, keep that in mind when choosing the stabilizer - cardboard wouldn't hold up in the washing machine :)
Embellishment for the front of the bag if you want one.

Sewing machine and all the typical sewing supplies including coordinating thread and pinking shears.

NOTE: If you choose to make your bag out of felt like I did, I think an even feed foot (aka a "walking foot"), is essential. I have an even feed foot, but have never used it before. I started this project with my all purpose presser foot and I only stitched a few inches before my machine jammed and caused me over half an hour of frustration trying to unjam it, rip out my stitches and insert the even feed foot. So, save yourself the frustration and use the even feed foot to start with!

Step 1: Once you have all your pieces cut, match each interior piece with the exterior piece. For example match the interior front panel with the exterior front panel and then do the same with the remaining back panels.
Step 2: Pin the matched pieces wrong sides together (their is no turning the fabric inside out when this project is finished)
Step 3: Pin the two side panels to the outer, long edge of the back panel. See the photo below:

Step 4: 1/2 inch from the edge, sew each side panel to the back panel along the long side using a straight stitch. Backstitch to secure the start and finish of your seam. I'm sorry I got so engrossed in the project, I forgot to continue taking photos of the process so unfortately the visuals stop here. :(
Step 5: If you want to sew an embellishment on the front panel, do that now. I used a glue gun to attach my flower when the bag was finished, but some embroiderery or an applique would be nice.
Step 6: Pin the front panel to the side panels along the long edge of each piece - matching up the interior fabric.
Step 7: 1/2" from the edge, sew each side panel to the back panel along the long side using a straight stitch. Backstitch to secure the start and finish of your seam. (You should now have a bottomless bag)
Step 8: Take your plastic canvas (or whatever you've chosen as a stabilizer for the bottom of the bag) and center it in between the bottom pieces of your bag. Pin around all the edges to keep it secure.
Step 9: Sew the bottom that you just pinned together, to the bottom edges of the bag. Of course you decide what's the bottom and what's the top :). Use a 1/2 " seam just as you did on the other edges.
Step 10: Fold each of your handle pieces in half lengthwise. Press them to create a crease. (I used Ecospun felt and I placed a sheet over the felt before pressing it because I wasn't sure how it would hold up to the heat of the iron. This worked out well).
Step 11: Sew a 1/4" seam along the open side of each handle.
Step 12: Decide how far into the bag you want your handles. I placed mine about 1/2" in. Place the handle between the interior and exterior fabric. I pinned back the exterior fabric to ensure I would accidentally stitch it.
Step 13: Sew the end of the handles to the interior panel, leaving approx. 4 -5 inches between the ends. I backstitched several times to ensure the handles were securely attached.
Step 14: Sew a 1/2" seam all along the top of the bag.
Step 15: Pink all of the edges of the bag using pinking shears. (Be sure not to cut your handles in the process!)
Step 16: Add any embellishments to the outside of the bag using a glue gun.

And, ta've got yourself a snazzy, handmade, pretty and practical gift bag that doubles as a tote bag!

If you make one of these yourself, be sure to let me know! I'll definitely be making at least one more bag and crayon roll because now my little monkey wants one for herself!