Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Family Fun Night: Paddington

Sometimes on Friday nights we like to do something special with the boys. Usually nothing fancy just a good time together: game night, a movie, camping in the backyard or a free activity in town. A few weeks ago we had a Paddington Bear night. We got the book from the library, rented the movie from Redbox, and made special desserts and snacks to munch on while we watched the movie. Something about having a theme makes the night even more special for them.


They both had these plain teddy bears. I turned them into Paddingtons using some felt and fleece I had left over from other projects.  The hat was no-sew I just hot glued two pieces of felt together and  added a little brown ribbon. For the coat I just traced the body of the bear from the knees up (plus about a 1/2 inch all the way around) onto two layers of blue fleece. I made the sleeves extra long so I could roll them up as a cuff. Stuffed animal clothes are really easy to make. Felt and fleece are great because they don't frey and you can do minimal sewing or just hot glue. Older kids would probably have fun making the clothes themselves with felt, scissors and a little help with hot glue. 


For dessert we had ice cream, marmalade and teddy grahams.


The marmalade is really good if you put some in a dish and warm it up for a few seconds in the microwave then pour it over the ice cream. Yum.


We also made a s'mores mix with the Teddy Grahams, chocolate chips and mini marshmallows.


We loved our Paddington night. Spending time together doesn't have to be expensive or complicated, but I feel like we have to do these things on purpose or the weeks just slip away. Maybe your family would like a Paddington night? : ) I hope you are having some fun family time this summer! 4th of July, here we come!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Apricot Appetizer

Hi there! I hope you are staying cool. (ha that just made me think of year books --"Stay cool 4ever, see ya next year!") Not like that cool, although obvs you are that cool or you wouldn't be reading this.  

Anyway, I thought today I'd share an easy summer appetizer we tried recently. 


Apricot Appetizer Bites

You will need:

4 oz. goat cheese
1 tbsp fresh thyme (finely chopped, plus sprigs to garnish)
2 tbsp dried cranberries (or dried cherries), chopped
honey
whole almonds
dried apricots

These are so simple and flexible I wouldn't even call this a recipe, really.  Let the goat cheese sit out at room temp for a few minutes or microwave for just a few seconds to soften first. Mix the chopped thyme and cranberries into the goat cheese. Smear the cheese onto the apricots and top with an almond. Drizzle lightly with honey and throw a few extra sprigs of thyme and cranberries on the plate to garnish. 

Pretty and delish! I love that this is a no cook appetizer, because then you really can stay cool 4ever. That's important when it's 94º warm out.
; )

Have a great day, friends!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Simple Summer

Hi Friends! I haven't posted much because we are busy doing summer!  I love summer.  I think I especially love it because in summer we bask in a free schedule, and lots of free small town activities.  I feel like I see a lot of blogs or articles about moms who can't stand having their kids home all summer. Maybe different ages are harder, but I love that we get to spend every day together in the summer--I've been looking forward to it! 

We got a reminder of what a gift this time is this week when we heard about a local 8 year old little girl who died, after getting a cancer diagnosis just 14 days ago. Everyone is devastated for this family. It makes me so glad that I am taking time to spend playing with my kids. I know I will never regret enjoying (and teaching my kids to enjoy) the simplest things. Every single day is a gift you guys, we are not guaranteed even one more. 

Additionally, the longer I live here, the more convinced I am that we live in Stars HollowThis is what we've been doing: 

A free hot air balloon festival, is always the sign that it's almost summer. 


Working on summer reading programs and visiting the library robot,


We're having picnics in the park, and going to free concerts in the park.


Farmers markets. This radish festival was over-the-top Stars Hollow. They had a radish piñata, radish toss (corn hole), radish stamping art projects, radish taste testing, and this radish jewelry making station. I am telling you, I'm pretty sure I saw Taylor and Human Kirk there.


We bought our yearly National Parks Pass; the one that gets you into all the national parks and monuments in the country. We already used it at a Cabrillo National Monument (lucky us!), and we have Rocky Mountain National Park, and about 5 more in South Dakota on the list for this summer. Things 1 & Thing 2 have their sights set on some more Jr. Ranger badges


We are starting to eat out of the garden for this season. Lots of baby greens, and several handfuls of snow peas and sugar snaps, so far. I love that Thing 1 likes going out to look for ripe veggies from the garden. He's been watching those peas like a hawk. Thing 2's favorite garden activity is eating stevia leaves, which he calls "candy plant." Some beautiful blooms from our flower garden have been brightening up our kitchen too.


That's pretty much our simple summer. I'm grateful for every day of this life, and I will not take anything for granted. I hope that you are having happy days too, Friends. 
                       "Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you will look back
 and realize they were the big things."



Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Mini Float Boats

So our little girl friends in Brazil got fairy dolls and little houses (here if you missed it), but we knew the boys would probably didn't want a flower doll. We wanted to make something they could all play with together, or on their own, so we made little boats and peg boys to go with them. These were so easy, quick and cheap to make. We made 20 I think and I don't know if we even used a whole pool noodle. This is a great summer craft/toy for kids.


Here's what you need:

pool noodle
duct tape
wooden skewer
serrated knife
scissors
craft knife 


Here's how you make them:
1. Using the serrated knife (I just used a steak knife) cut a 4" piece of pool noodle.
2. Cut the 4"piece in half down the middle; then it should look like this:


3. Turn the pieces over and cut off just the round edge to make the top of the boat flat. Like this:


4. Cut a 5" piece of wooden skewer, keeping the pointed end on one side. I used smaller skewers to start with, you can see they were about 8" long, and a little thinner than average BBQ skewers. This is the perfect length for the boat, because we then used the 3" piece that we cut off to make little fishing poles.


5. To make the sail: slightly overlap 2 pieces of duct tape, 3.5" long, sticky side up. Then use 2 more pieces to cover the sticky sides, so you have duct tape on front and back. Use the scissors to trim up any sticky edges. You can use additional thin pieces if you want to make a stripe down the middle or other designs.


6. Use the craft knife to cut 2 small slits in the center of the sail, 1/2" from the top, and 1/2" from the bottom. Then slide the skewer through and insert the pointy end into the flat side of the pool noodle boat. Now you have a boat! 


If you want to make a fishing pole, just use the piece of skewer you cut off (or cut a 3" piece), and hot glue a small length of nylon thread/yarn to the top. Cut 2 small fish shapes out of felt and hot glue the thread in between them. 

To make the peg guys we actually used the fabric paints (the same ones we used on the fairy houses). These have such fine points it was really easy to do details like eyes and mustaches. They are a little quirky, but we'll call that "personality." I especially like Thing One's in the back with the "crazy eyebrows" ; ) We sent a big group of fishermen and boats to our little friends in Brazil. I think they will be given to the kids with the story of how Jesus's closest friends came to be his friends in Luke 5.  I love that story, because those guys didn't do anything different than they had been doing. They'd been fishing all night and caught nothing, but when Jesus said put out your nets one more time, they were willing to trust Him, and it made all the difference. I hope that the boys in Brazil will like them. I picture them having boat races in a little stream somewhere. I hope that these little homemade gifts are just a reminder that they are loved. I think these boats would be great for Operation Christmas Child boxes too! I hope you are enjoying summer with your favorite people!


Thanks for reading!

**To see other things we've made with pool noodles, check out these posts:
Pool noodle ball pit & Light sabers
Pool noodle basketball hoops
Pool noodle hurdles/soccer goals
Pool noodle wreath base
Pool noodle indoor putt-putt course

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Felt Fairy Houses and Crafting for a Cause

Hi friends! Sorry it's been so long. May somehow just picks up speed and is over before I know it! Anyway, I've been keeping out of trouble by staying busy with some fun craft projects. Remember when we made the flower fairies? Well, my sister just returned from a trip to Brazil, where she meet a whole bunch of sweet kiddos that a friend of ours has been getting to know over the past couple of years. These kids are living a very different reality than our kids. I had just showed her these little dolls, and my sis thought that these would be a great way for us to show the girls that we were thinking of them (from afar) and to remind them that they are loved. (We made stuff for the boys too, I'll post about that later).


We are sending them with this verse, and reminder:
 Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?  
          Luke 12:27-29 (The Message)

Our message to them, and to you, is this: you are more beautiful to God than the most exquisite flowers. Flowers are here today and withered tomorrow, and God still made them beautiful to behold. YOU are beautiful and YOU are precious to Him. 


So a few friends and my mom helped make a tiny army of flower fairies and then I decided that every doll could use a little house. So I made up a quick, easy, and cheap little house...and then we made 30 of them! Wanna make one for your favorite little person? Here's how:


Here's what you'll need:
  • 3 sheets of felt (1 for the house, 1 for the roof, 1 for the door, or just a scrap in another color)
  • hot glue and glue gun 
  • colorful buttons
  • green and black puffy paint
You can buy the felt at craft stores like hobby lobby, by the "sheet" they are $ 0.25 You can be creative and use any colors you'd like (see the Frozen house, below). For the houses we sent to Brazil, I used 1 piece of brown/tan and one piece of grey for the roof and then some colorful scraps of colors I had on hand for the doors. Start by folding the brown felt in half, hamburger style. I just line up the edges and hold them together, then slip the scissors into the fold. Stretch while you cut and you should get an even cut every time. Then you can either sew the short sides together, or hot glue them together about 1/8" from the edge, if you want this to be completely no-sew. 

Turn the felt inside out to put the seams on the inside. Then you can glue on a felt piece for a door, and one for a door mat (this helps the house stand up better). I used buttons to make a doorknob and flowers, and fabric paint (puffy paint) to make some flower stems and grass.


After that dried for a couple hours, I flipped it over and made a window with black puffy paint on the back. Almost done!


For the roof, you can measure out a circle about 8" in diameter. I actually traced a small (dessert size) paper plate with about an extra 1/2" around the outside and found this was the perfect size.Then fold the circle in half, and cut through just one layer to the middle.


To give the roof a little peak, put hot glue on one edge of the slit you just made in the roof and along about 2" of the perimeter. Over-lap by about 2 inches and press down to join the sides.

To connect the house to the roof: Place the roof top-side down on a table.  Run a line of hot glue around about 1/3 of the top outside edge of the house, then turn it upside-down onto the roof about 1/2 inch from the roof edge and press it onto the roof from inside of the house. Then hot glue around the rest of the top outside edge of the house and press it down from the inside. Here's what it should look like, as you are looking inside the house from the bottom. The top of the house forms a little lip on the inside and then looks nice and smooth on the outside. (I hope this makes sense!)


Finally, cut through the house along two sides of the door: the doorknob edge and top of the door. Now your door opens, and you have a little house! Ta da! I hope the kids receiving them will like them, and that the dolls will remind them they are indeed beautiful. 


Like I said at the top you can use different colors to make different kinds of houses.  If you want your fairy house to look like a tree stump, you could try using brown for the house and green for the roof. When my boys saw all the little play houses I we were making, they wanted one too. Since we made a little Elsa peg doll, I decided we probably should make a Frozen castle. I did snowflakes and swirls in white and glow-in-the-dark, so this one actually glows in the dark, which Thing Two really likes. :) 


If you'll indulge me a have just a few rambling thoughts to end with.

Sometimes it's hard to think about the very difficult circumstances that people (and especially children) are living in both near and far. We live our easy and fun-filled lives; playing and crafting and baking. While so many are struggling to just survive. I think this all the time when I'm scrolling through Pinterest. I follow moms and friends and bloggers on Pinterest, but I also follow some amazing non-profits and ministries working in difficult places around the world. So I see things like :
"Fluffiest Cupcake Recipe" and "100 Fun Activities for Your Summer Bucket List" 
right along side: 
"Victor lives in Guatemala and has been waiting for a sponsor for 256 days" and " Our teams are working with earthquake survivors to provide clean water and tarps." 

How do we reconcile these things? Right there next to each other. Extreme privilege, and extreme poverty. Hobbies and heart break. I don't know. I do know that I want to see the poverty, I don't want to forget about it. I need to be reminded, so I don't get wrapped up in my own world. I think we always have the opportunity to use our talents and the things we enjoy for others. Sometimes it's just finding a way to connect the dots. If you love crafting and want to help kids around the world, you might want to check out Craft Hope. Years ago Jade had these same thoughts. What if we could combine a passion for crafting/hand-making things, with the desire to make a difference in the world? That is just what she does at crafthope.net. She has led campaigns to send super hero capes to kids fighting life-threatening diseases, quilts and comfort items for orphans in the slums of Kenya, dresses for girls in Mexico, and finger puppets to orphans in India (to name a few). She's always starting a new project, and it's awesome to see the results of so many creative people pulling together to make a difference. 

I think these little fairies and houses would be perfect to fit into an Operation Christmas Child Box. There's lots of opportunities to craft for a cause. It's a heartfelt, tangible way to give. What a privilege. 

The way to be happy is to make others so. 
- Robert G. Ingersoll

Thanks for reading. See you soon, friends!
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