Thursday, December 19, 2013

Handmade Gifts: Lotion Bars & Lip Balm

Hi! Today I thought I'd share a great homemade stocking stuffer in case there's still anyone on your list.  I found this lotion bar recipe from Being Frugal by Choice. You can visit her blog for more pictures and info, but basically lotion bars can be made with just three ingredients: almond oil, coconut oil, and beeswax. If you want to add a fragrance, just use several drops of your favorite essential oil.  I love these lotion bars, because I know what's in them and because they are all natural they work great on cracked skin or eczema, which my boys struggle with. 

I bought the beeswax at Hobby Lobby, using a 40% off coupon, and waited to buy the oils until they were on sale. To make the bars you melt equal parts of each of the three ingredients in a double boiler, starting with the beeswax. Once it's totally melted you add the almond oil, then the coconut. Measuring is a little tricky since each ingredient is all different consistency. I cut off a chunk of wax that looked like (if chopped) it would be a half cup, and used a half cup of the other two. Once it's melted and combined you just pour the liquid into silicone molds and let harden overnight. I used some silicone muffin liners (which I filled about 1/3 of the way) and a star-shaped ice cube tray. 

Now, I am a firm believer that the key to good homemade gifts is in the packaging. I like my gifts to look handmade, but like something you might buy at a craft fair or on Etsy, know what I mean? So here's how I packaged them up. 

You can buy mini clear plastic bags in different sizes and with or without zip-tops at craft stores. I printed on some scrapbook paper and cut them into bag toppers. You want your printing to be on the bottom half, so you fold the plain part (the top half) behind. Slip the bag inside of your bag topper then staple.

Then they should look like this. You could also buy little tins for them or recycle some altoid containers into cute lotion bar holders. 

One batch will give you lots of little bars, or double the recipe to a cup of each if you want a lot of the muffin size.

I gave some to my grandma last year and she said she loved these as lip balm, so this year I also bought some chap-stick tubes and poured some into those. Homemade, natural lip balm. Happy last-minute gift making!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Goats: Loose Change to Life Change

Have you ever given or received gifts at Christmas time that you (or the recipient) forgot about, or broke, or used up by January? What if we could give a gift this year that outlasted the thank-you note? A gift that would never be forgotten? A gift that marked a changing point in someone's life--an entire family's lives. Guess what...we can!

My husband and I have been unrealistically toying with the idea of raising goats. We love goat cheese. We love self-sustainability. We also live in the city...a mind-bender, I know. The point is though that we appreciate what having a goat or two could mean; milk, cheese, baby goats...micro business. To us this would be an interesting side job/hobby, but to a family in a poverty-stricken country or region, a family struggling to put food on the table, or send a child to school (or having to choose which child they can afford to send to school); a goat is a game changer.

Check out this story of how goats are changing lives in Uganda, and this one about a family in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Pretty amazing stuff.

Maybe you aren't in love with [the idea of] goats like we are. How about a donkey, a sheep, a fish pond or some chickens? Samaritan's Purse has info on all these life-changing animals, here. For a one-time gift as little as $14 (for a brood of chicks) a family can provide nutritious food for their children and themselves--indefinitely--and for many that's just the beginning.

After reading the book Unpoverty earlier this year, I'm convinced that the biggest thing we can do to combat poverty is provide the desperately needed tools for families to sustain themselves and build their micro businesses. It's not just loose change, it's real life change. What a privilege to give this gift. I can't think of anything I'd rather give someone than hope and dignity. Can you?

Thank you for reading, and for making a difference!
- Haley

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Burlap Evergreen Trees

Last year I saw these cute burlap trees from Six Sisters Stuff. These are not too complicated to make, but they are a little time consuming and messy. See all the how-to details at the SSS link above. In the end they look just like something you would buy from a cute little mountain cottage store though, except a LOT cheaper to make yourself. My Dad helped me cut the trunk pieces out of some branches we already had, and then drilled the holes for the dowels. If you don't have a miter saw, you could try using a different base. An upside-down small terracotta pot would also work.

This was a great project to do as a big batch. If you're making 1 or 2 why not make 20, right? I gave some away as gifts, and also brought this as my craft for a winter Pinterest party. For the party I prepped the bases and cut 1/4" dowels into  12" or 9" lengths for everyone to choose from. I also cut all the burlap into 1" strips. The crafters then glued the dowel into the base,  cut the strips into the 6"to 8" pieces, and tied them on. Beware: the burlap will make a mess! It frays easily as you tie them on the dowel.

I also experimented with the ones I made, adding tiny pinecones,

and even trying one with red burlap and raffia as decoration. Not sure how I feel about the red one, but I did find a place for it.

This was a great party craft, and would be fun for a girl scout troop or a Mom's group. Hope you are having a good week! Happy crafting!

- Haley

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas Owl Wreath

Hi! It's freezing here. Colder, actually. We've been inside A LOT, so I'm trying to get all my Christmas projects and gifts done early, and be able to relax and enjoy all the festivities after next week. I just read this post, and I'm all about Christmas being stable (and about one), and not frantic. That said, we are still doing some decorating, some baking and some gift making, just not overdoing them. : ) We are looking forward to lots of fun memories this year. So far I'm not feeling stressed, or too busy, and I'm planning/hoping to keep it that way.

I really don't like to buy Christmas decorations or any kind of decoration, mostly because I don't like to spend money and I'm practical to a fault (what, buy that so I can store it in a box for 11 months a year?). Once in a while if I see something I like, I will try to make it out of stuff we already have. This week I thought I'd share a few decorations that I've made that are easy, inexpensive or both.

Last year I shared this canvas I made. Still my favorite Christmas phrase.

Also last year, Target had a super cute owl ornament. I liked it so much I wanted to use it as more than just an ornament. I decided to make it the centerpiece of a clean and simple winter wreath. I started with a foam pool noodle and duct taped the ends together. Then I cut some red burlap into 2" strips and wrapped the noodle, securing with hot glue.

Then I had my wreath base.

I hot glued the owl ornament to the bottom inside of the wreath and tried to make it look like he was sitting on a branch, using some sticks from the backyard. I just glued them on one at a time. Then I covered my glue spots with reindeer moss and mini pinecones, and added a few regular size pinecones as well.

I added a ribbon to hang it, and that's it!

Super simple, but still feels cheery and clean to me. I hope you are staying warm and enjoying all the good parts of this time of year. 

 Thanks for reading. See you soon for a few more easy decoration DIYs.

- Haley

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fleece Hat for Kids

So it was a balmy -10 here this morning, and we are pulling out all our hats, scarves, and gloves just in case (for some reason) we have to go outside in the next week. It might warm up to freezing on Tuesday (yay!). When it comes to cozy hats, fleece is the best! You don't have to hem, it's stretchy and forgiving, and warm and cozy. I've made a lot of fleece kids hats, but this by far is the fastest and easiest method. You can sew up a bunch of fleece hats in almost no time, and have a great handmade gift. I used a sewing machine for parts of this, but you could easily make these without one. Here's the quick run down:

For this mistletoe hat I used mostly grey fleece, with a little bit of army green for the brim and accents. You should be able to make 3 hats out of a yard of fleece. If you want to use an accent color, like I did, also get a quarter yard of a complementing color.  
You can measure your kiddo's head for a perfect fit (just add 1 inch to the circumference for seam allowance), or use these measurements as a guideline:

For kids 4/5: cut a rectangle 22.5" long and 12" tall, + a strip (other color) 22.5" long and 1.5" tall. 

For size 18mo.- 3T:   21.5" x 11"+ strip: 21.5" x 1.5"

For size 12 mo: 19.5" x 9.5"+ strip: 19.5" x 1"

* make sure to cut your fleece so that it stretches side to side, not up and down. Stretch to check, then cut. : )

- If you want to sew on mistletoe or another design, do that first. I just hand-stiched on the leaves. 
- Flip it over and sew the colored strip to the bottom inside. 
- Flip the strip down, fold right side (mistletoe) in, then sew the two grey sides together. (This might feel wrong because your brim seam will be on the "right side" of the hat, but it works out once you roll up the brim at the end.)

- Flip the hat right side out.
- Fold the bottom over to form the brim. Now your seam is back on the inside, see I told you it'd work out. : ) 
- Starting at the back seam, hand stitch, two inches from the top with a large running stitch. 

- When you get back to the seam, pull to gather the top. 
- Then sew around again going though two folds at a time, pulling tightly, then back and forth through the middle, to really secure it. 
- Knot and trim thread when finished. 

Almost done...Now just clip the top into 1/2 inch strips all the way around. Make sure you don't cut too far and snip your gathering stitches. 

And you are done! I added some buttons for berries and a little bit of bakers twine to tie the mistletoe branch. Add an easy (and reversible!) kid scarf (find the tutorial here), and you are ready for caroling and Christmas parades!

 Thanks for reading!
- Haley

Sharing this post over at All For The Boys

Monday, December 2, 2013

Book Review: Parenting by The Book

Being a parent is a lot harder than I thought it would be. Really, I just never thought about it before I was a parent, except when some kid was melting down in the grocery store and I would think to myself, that will never be my kid. Ha! So when Howard Books asked if I'd like to read a new parenting book that came out this fall, I was eager to see what John Rosemond had to say in Parenting by The Book.

Rosemond was a psychologist long before he became a Christian, so it was really interesting reading his critique of American postmodern parenting psychology. I have yet to read a parenting book that I 100% agree with, and this was no exception. There were portions of the book that rubbed me the wrong way, or could have been worded differently, but in-spite of that, I have already recommended this book to some of my close friends. There were some major ideas in the book that I loved and will hold on to, primarily: the difference between self-esteem and self-respect.

Rosemond talks at length about how Americans' goal for every child to have high self-esteem is one of the biggest parenting mis-steps. We are raising a generation of selfish, self-centered, and overly confident children. He talks about how the opposite of self-esteem is not depression, but humility. I liked this quote: 
"A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves." 
- Henry Ward Beecher
 He contrasts self-esteem and self-respect this way:
"...the fundamental difference between  self-respect and self-esteem is the difference between wanting to do for others (looking for opportunities to be of service), and wanting/expecting others to do for you (wanting to be served)."
This has long been a goal of ours in parenting; to teach our kids to respect others, and not to be selfish. By esteeming others above yourself, you can't help but feel self-respect.  

I was also struck by Rosemond's thoughts on raising a good follower, rather than a good leader. Parents talk about teaching their kids not to bow to negative peer pressure, but I think we could do so much better than just telling them who not to follow. The reality is that there has to be way more followers than leaders, and the likelyhood that your child will be the one leader, may be pretty slim. But every person, child or adult, will have to chose who to follow, who to align themselves with, and who to vote for over and over again in life, and we can prepare our children by teaching them how to recognize good character in others. 

There was definitely a lot of good food for thought in this book, and I love that there are discussion questions at the end of each chapter. Parenting by The Book would be a great book club or small group book to discuss. 

Thanks for reading!
- Haley 

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Howard Books for my honest review, and the opinions expressed here are my own. 

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