Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Homemade Bird Feeders

The title of this post is deceiving, because though all of these are marketed as "bird feeders," the number of squirrels that feed off of them, beats birds 20/1. Nonetheless, it's winter and critters are getting hungry, so around this time we usually like to make some kind of bird feeder and hope it attracts some wildlife for our window watching pleasure. We've tried lots of kinds, so I thought today I'd just share several methods. 

The first kind we tried uses the pinecone and peanut butter method. Just smear a pinecone with peanut butter and roll in seeds, then tie some twine or string around the top and hang from a tree. We made these on a day that was warm enough to be outside, so I just filled a paper plate with the seeds, but if you are doing it inside I would definitely suggest using a container with sides. I'd also suggest feeding your children before you start this project, because peanut butter, animal food and hungry kids is a tricky combination...just sayin'.

When the squirrels got to this one, they actually chewed every last bit of peanut butter off, making the pinecone a frayed unrecognizable mass, which I found on the ground, roughly 72 hours after we made it. I don't think the birds got any of this one, but the squirrels definitely enjoyed it!

The second method uses gelatin, a little water and birdseed. You make the birdseed "dough" and press into a cookie cutter to make any fun shape you'd like. Press a knotted string into the seeds while they are still soft. The next day pop it out and hang from a tree. For the full instructions visit Eighteen25 here.  We made these as part of our earth day party last year, see all that fun here.

The last feeder we've tried is the pop bottle and wooden spoon. Take an empty, clean 1-liter bottle, cut a horizontal silt two inches from the bottom, just wide enough for the spoon handle. Directly across from where you cut for the handle, cut a line wide enough for the top of the spoon. Expand that cut into a 1-inch tall dome, so the seeds can spill out on the spoon. Insert the spoon and cover the dome cut-out while you fill the bottle with seeds. Tie a string around the top and hang the feeder from a tree. I found these wooden spoons 2 for $1 at the dollar store.

When I first made this one we had a foot of snow, so rather than traipsing to a tree, I just took a picture from off the deck. You definitely want this up high though to give the birds a chance. Once we did hang it from a tree, the bottle feeder lasted the longest of the three kinds; probably a week or two, for the birds to snack, before the squirrels finally chewed through the rope and it became a squirrel piñata.  Best. Squirrel. Birthday. Ever! That will be hard to top for sure.

Hope you are staying warm with all the crazy weather around the country!

Thanks for reading!
- Haley

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Make a Difference: Writing Our Sponsored Child

I'm trying to be more consistent this year in writing to the kids we sponsor through Compassion International. I often send stickers, and I made them paper pocket books once, but I want to get a little more creative. You can find the guidelines for items you can send to your kiddos here. Every time I look at the list, I'm actually surprised at all the stuff you can send. Here's a few things we're sending right now:

Math Decoder: Secret Message
Both of our sponsored kids have expressed to us that they are struggling in school. I'm always trying to encourage them in their studies, and telling them how proud I am that they continue to work hard and get better. I thought it would be fun to sneak in a little extra math practice, by way of a secret message. Everyone loves decoding a secret message right? I got the math worksheet from, which I love for free worksheets for my own kids (find this one here). For the message below, I just made up a little phrase and translated it into Spanish (our kids are in Guatemala). Since it will take them a while to work out the math, I wanted the message to be in Spanish so they could read it right away, not have to wait until someone could translate it for them. An easy way to do this (especially if you don't speak Spanish, or whatever language your sponsored kids speak), is to use a Bible verse you like, and then look it up in the other language. Bible Gateway has lots of translations of the Bible. Here's a link to the side by side for Proverbs 17:22 (just the first part), "A cheerful heart is good medicine," which I think is the perfect length message.  

Paint with Water Pages
You can not send paint brushes, so I'll have to hope they can get their hands on one, or some q-tips, but paper with the paint included, is a good start. I've tried some of these kinds of pages with my kids before, some don't really work well (especially the really cheap ones). This is from a pack by Melissa and Doug, and I was really impressed with how far the paint went and how well the paper held up. 

Seek and Find
My boys love seek and find, and you really don't need to be able to read the words to get the concept. I think I will still put a note (in Spanish) about looking for the pictures from the box. This was originally a little party favor booklet, but since it says no booklets allowed, I carefully removed the pages from the cover, so now they just look like some magazine pages, which the list says are ok.

I hope that sending these pieces of paper help our sponsored kids feel special and loved. It seems like an awfully easy way to brighten someone's day. I hope that yours is bright as well! If you are interested in sponsoring a child through Compassion International, visit their website here. It's such a privilege to be able to speak to these sweet kiddos, a world away. 

Thanks for reading!
- Haley 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Up-cycled Reusable Grocery Bag

Hi! Have I ever mentioned how much I like getting free stuff? Love it. Even though everyone's giving them away now, I still get excited when I get a free reusable grocery bag. Usually they come with the some company's logo on the front.

I actually kind of like the bike on this one, but we had a blue bag advertising for our city water treatment plant or something.  I figure, why walk around advertising for something I don't really care about (don't get me wrong, I like clean water...), when I can easily make it into a fun book bag that I really like? I turned the blue bag into a library bag for my boys, who are both Grover fans (who isn't, really?).

To cover the printed front I just cut and hemmed a piece of flannel and then hand stitched it along the bottom and sides. This made a large pocket. Add a piece of velcro in the middle of the top edge so that pocket doesn't gap and slump.  

I wanted the pocket to be on the inside of the bag, so I turned the bag inside out, to make both of the outsides blank (no print), and put the pocket inside. To make the face, I just printed out a coloring page of Grover, printing it at 150% or something to make it the size I wanted.
You can find Sesame Street coloring pages here. Most Sesame Street characters work well for this, because you only need some facial features and the right background color to make it look like the character. Yellow could be Big Bird or Burt, orange for Ernie, green for Oscar, red for Elmo...lots of possibilities. I cut out the eyes, nose and mouth, and used them as pattern pieces. I cut everything out of felt, then just pinned it in place and hand stitched it onto the bag. Here's what the inside looked like when I was done.

And here's the final product, big pocket inside, Grover face outside. Up-cycling something that was free to begin with is the best!

I hope you are having a good week!

Thanks for reading!
- Haley

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Must-Read List 2014

At the beginning of the year I like to update my ever growing list of books I plan to read. Here's some that I hope to cross off the list this year:

Yeah, accidentally ordered the LARGE PRINT version of An Invisible Thread. At least it will feel like I'm turning lots of pages :) I'm adding to the stack above (and probably more likely to read first):

Seven by Jen Hatmaker (an experimental mutiny against excess)

Running for My Life by Lopez Lomong ("one lost boy's journey from the killing fields of Sudan to the Olympic games.")

and soon to be published:

The Locust Effect by Gary A. Haugen (The president of International Justice Mission, find a free preview of the book here)

The Auschwitz Escape by Joel C. Rosenberg (a historical fiction inspired by two true stories from WW2, read more about it here.)

When all this reading is going to happen, I don't know. But, without a goal, it'll never happen so, here's hoping. : ) Are there other books I should add to my list? Let me know what's on your must-read list this year!

Thanks for reading!
- Haley

Monday, January 6, 2014

Cabin Fever Cures 2014

It seems like friends are snowed in all across the country from here to NY.  We haven't left the house in three days. Amazingly, we are not even going stir crazy yet. Why? We saw this coming and planned some cabin fever busters. I did a series of ideas to beat cabin fever last year, you can find that link here.

Here's my 2014 ideas, all at once. 

Indoor Putt-Putt Course:
The kids have a cheap plastic golf set, and I've been thinking of this as an indoor possibility for a while. I taped off each hole with painters tape and masking tape. I cut a side section out of a plastic cup and taped it to the floor as the hole.

Then on hole 3, I added some hazards: paper plates arches. I used the sections I cut out as well to give the ball some places to reflect off of. 

Finally, I added a pool noodle or two as bumpers, just taping those down with masking tape as well.  

The boys loved it, especially Thing One. We had a little family tournament on Friday night, and it was so fun to be able to do that without bundling up, driving there, paying to play, and freezing the whole time! Warm fun, for free, in our jammies? Well, ok. : ) 

Paint Studio
Have you ever taken your kiddos to a pottery painting studio? It can be fun, but it's kind of pricey for 10-15 minutes of painting. My kids enjoy painting something just as much at home, and we have a really reasonable studio fee ; ) At the beginning of the winter I go to Hobby Lobby and buy a few unfinished wood toys or paper mache bird houses. An apron, and some paint and they are good to go. 

If your kids are a little older you can extend this, by buying a build-your-own wood kit, and they can first build the toy, then paint it later. Thing One built this with his grandpa this week. Then he painted it at home and I whipped out a wood lizard from my stash, so Thing Two also had something to paint. 

Also, if you live near a Home Depot, they do a free kids building workshop the first Saturday of every month. You can find out about that here.

Exercise Dice
One of the things that makes kids go crazy inside is just feeling cooped up, not moving around enough. We made our own exercise game with some homemade dice. One die has movements on each side, the other has "like an (animal)". So you may roll: skip/like an elephant, or hop/like a cat, or spin in a circle/ like a bear. You can go to this Tools for Educators website to create your own customized dice for free.

Yoga Adventures for Kids
I was just looking through our local rec center guide thinking about signing Thing One up for something active. But with icy roads and flu season the worst it's been in 5 years, I just discovered something amazing. It's called A Cosmic Kid's Yoga Adventures. We did this one together, and there are several other videos you can watch on Youtube.

Thing One and Thing Two both liked it and it really held their attention.

Balloon Tennis
I've posted this before, but balloon tennis is also an indoor favorite here.

Hope some of these activities keep you from getting cabin fever.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Fresh and Clean - Citrus Tricks

Hi and Happy New Year! I love a fresh, clean start. This year I'm being totally cliché and spent January 1 cleaning the house and filling my grocery cart with citrus. For some reason I always crave citrus after Christmas. There's just something so clean and healthy feeling about it. 

After all the Christmas goodies and sweets, light and healthy food and drinks are on the menu here for the foreseeable future. I found a recipe for a "detox water" on Pinterest from I'm not a fan of fad diets or cleanses, but drinking water with fruit in it I can do. I'm still eating all my meals. I don't know if it does anything, but I have been trying to drink more water in general, so I'm throwing this in the it can't hurt column and I bought enough citrus and cucumbers for my husband and I to drink it for three days. Plus since you peel the grapefruit, I used that to make a batch of vinegar cleaner below. Score. So many birds, so few stones. Here's the easy combo for the water:

Detox Water (from
1 gal water
1 cucumber, sliced
1 grapefruit peeled and sliced
1 lemon, sliced
1 lime sliced
a few mint leaves

Combine and chill in the fridge for an hour or two. Skinny Mom suggests you drink 1/2 gallon of the water per day for 3-5 days. Seems painless and doable. 

I've had a theory for a while now that there are two kinds of people: people who clean their houses and people who pin things about how to clean their houses. Am I right? Anyway, I try not to pin things unless I really intend to use them, so I'm going to try to defy my theory and be both the pinner and the cleaner! Here's what I've been trying from Pinterest.

Homemade Multi-Purpose Cleaner
Fill a jar with fresh lemon, orange or grapefruit peels. Two grapefruit peels will do the trick. Fill with distilled white vinegar, making sure all the peels are submerged. Seal with the lid and let sit for two weeks. Basically the citrus just masks the smell of the vinegar. After two weeks,  remove the peels and pour half the vinegar into a large spray bottle, fill the bottle the rest of the way with water to dilute. Use on counters, floors, microwave, wherever.  

This last one doesn't use lemons, but I also tried this yesterday.

Cleaning the Washing Machine
This is supposed to remove soap build-up, and help it run more efficiently. For a front-loading machine I used 1/4 cup baking soda in the detergent drawer and 1/2 cup vinegar in the drum. Run a short (empty) cycle on hot. 

I hope your year will be one full of joy, giving, gratitude, grace, and love. Happy 2014!

- Haley
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...