Friday, October 30, 2009

Mom's Mosaics

Remember the mosaic M&M cake?  Well, here are some pics of Mom's inedible creations.

This is the foyer floor in my parent's house.  I didn't notice the leaves until just now...

Large vase Mom decorated for me.  Look closely and you can see lots of little treasures among the tiles.

Harley Davidson wall art (my dad loves his bike) that has yet to find a home on the wall...

I would love to post more, but she gives most of her art away as gifts, and the vase and Harley-Davidson gifts were the only ones I could easily get pictures of.  See what I mean?!  What talent!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Easy Sweater Re-Design

Lately, I've really gotten into fashion re-design, which, to me, means new clothes without spending money.  YAY!  Yesterday I came across this idea posted by Brookelynn on and just had to try it out!

 I was busy last night, finishing Baby Bear's penguin costume, but this morning decided to cut up a sweater to wear to work.  It sounded almost too easy to be true, but I loved the result!  In fact, I'm wearing it as I type this!  This is what I love about re-designing old clothes; you get to keep the features you love, like the soft, warm feel of my sweater, but change the things you don't like.  The sweater I cut up (I'll post pics tomorrow) was boxy and unflattering.  It is much more flattering and stylish as a shrug, I think.  I love how easy it was, but the fabric of my sweater seems thicker than the ones Brookelynn used, so it's a bit bulky in the front.  I'm going to remove a triangle of fabric from each side on the front, next to the sleeves, because I'm picky, and add a big brown button at the neckline, because it'll be super cute!  

Try it out and tell us about your results!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

No Purchase Necessary

Thrift and resourcefulness are traits that have been passed down through generations of my family and in my house they are virtues ranked right up there with generosity and honesty.  My sense of practicality, therefore, is usually in the driver's seat when it comes to my crafting.  Asthetics are important to me, of course, but if there's a conflict, practicality usually wins.

I realized that there are tons of crafting projects that I do on a daily basis, but don't usually feel are blog-worthy.  They aren't always pretty, but they are usually free.  I use what I have to create what I need.  Well, today I will begin sharing these with you, in the hopes that you will be inspired to do the same.

The weather in Missouri has suddenly turned colder and Baby Bear has grown too tall to fit into her warm pajamas from last winter.  She has developed a love of nightgowns, as opposed to pajama seperates, so I decided to add a little warmth to her summer gowns.

Unfortunately, I'm no master seamstress, so many of my projects are kind of like on-the-job training.  I apologize if my process is a bit discombobulated.

As usual, I forgot to take a before photo, but here you can see what it looked like before i added the sleeves.  I took the sleeves off of an old nightgown of mine first.  I find sleeves difficult, so I pinned it together before cutting anything, just to make sure it was going to look right.  Starting at the shoulder, I pinned the sleeve to the front inside of the arm hole, then started at the shoulder again to pin it to the back inside.  Of course, there was much more material than I needed, so when I got it pinned, I marked where the seam should be at the bottom of the sleeve.  I then unpinned the sleeve and ironed it flat, so that i could use the existing seam as a guide.  I turned it inside out and measured from the existing seam to the mark I had made for the new seam.  After sewing the new seam on both sleeves and cutting off the excess fabric, I cut the sleeves to the desired length (they ended up being about 3/4 length sleeves on Baby Bear) and hemmed them.

I then pinned the sleeves to the gown again, making sure I wouldn't be sewing over the ruffles around the arm hole, and sewed them in place.  Voila!  A fall-ready nightgown.  3/4 sleeves are about as much as Baby Bear can stand, since she stays so warm all the time, but if the nightgown was for me, I would have made the sleeves longer and sewed the neckline of the other gown inside the wide neckline of this one (kind of like wearing a dickie under a sweater) to make it warmer. 

I hope you like my free projects.  I do so many of them that I'm sure I'll never get them all posted, but I hope you'll find some inspiration in the ones you find here.  If you're a free-crafter like me, please share your successes and learning experiences with us!

It's Genetic

My baby brother turned 12 this weekend.  Happy Birthday, M!!  I missed his party because Baby Bear was sick, but I got to chat with Mom while she worked on his cake.  First, let me just say that my mom is an amazingly talented woman and I like to think that I've inherited a little of her talent, but I really can't compete.

Mom loves  mosaics, so she decided to create a mosaic cake for M, using different colored M&M candies.  She bought a huge bag of them at Sam's and spent some time - okay, a lot of time - seperating out the colors.  After baking the cake, she covered it with plain white frosting, and then spelled out his name and Happy Birthday, using one color of candy for each word. 
Once she had the words arranged how she wanted them, she filled in the space around the letters with M&Ms in a contrasting color.  She started out with yellow as the background for the entire cake, but realized that the orange word "birthday" didn't stand out against the yellow background.  It ended up looking a bit like one of those color blindness tests where you have to try to see the number written in red on a background of green.

Fortunately, she noticed it before she had gotten too far and was able to remove the yellow candies from around the word "birthday" and replace them with brown ones.  She wasn't happy with the letters, because up close it was still a little difficult to make out the words.  To fix this, she halved blue, red, and orange M&Ms, then used them to fill in the gaps and make the letters look more like solid lines.
As a finishing touch, the edges of the cake are covered with various colors of M&Ms, in no particular pattern.  The finished product was really cute, I think.  I believe there are two pieces waiting for Baby Bear and I in Mom's fridge, too - Thanks, Mom!

If I'm going to brag on my mom a little, why stop there?  I'll take some pics of her inedible mosaic creations and post them sometime this week. 

Monday, October 26, 2009

New Threads!

I am so excited about the sweaters I bought last week!!  Nope, I'm not going to wear them - I'm going to destroy them!  I just couldn't wait to get them all disassembled before I started working on the first project, so after unraveling the sleeves and cowl neck of the deep plum 55% silk sweater, I started on this long, soft, ruffly scarf.  Oh, my goodness!  I believe I've fallen in love!  I plan to use silk much more in future yarn projects. 

I also picked up a sweater made of red and orange 40% silk yarn and one of navy blue and bright white 100% cotton.  I'm thinking of making a cap and scarf out of the red and orange, but haven't decided yet what to do with the cotton yarn.

I don't have a pic of it yet, but today I also picked up a very soft, snuggly sweater in a vintage-looking pale pink color that is just begging to be made into a pretty little ruffled cowl like this one.

Check out this site for instructions on unraveling a sweater.

Pumpkin Decorating: day 2

I suppose there actually is a silver lining in every cloud.  I took Baby Bear to the doc on Friday and was told she has the swine flu.  The poor dear went from "kinda sickly" on Friday morning to "really yucky" within a few hours.  The silver lining I mentioned was that, after she started treatment, she was feeling much better and wanting to create.  We needed some sedentary activities to do, so the pumpkins finally got some more attention.

I de-gutted the first pumpkin as Baby Bear looked on.  She was really looking forward to cutting holes in it with the apple corer.  She wasn't strong enough to push the corer all the way through, but she did the best she could, then handed it over to me.  I used a hammer to tap the corer in, then pulled it out, leaving the little round plugs in the pumpkin shell.  Baby Bear poked the plugs through, then reached inside the pumpkin to fish them out.  It was great fun!  We were quite satisfied with the result.

Unfortunately, we didn't have the same luck with the green pumpkin (or pumpkin-like gourd) and the apple corer.  It looks grey in the pic, but really it's a pretty soft sage color and I was really looking forward to carving it.  First, I nearly lost my knife; I got it stuck, trying to cut a nice little lid out of the top.  This thing was as dense as concrete and almost as heavy, too!  The stem broke off in the car, so I had nothing to pull the top off with once I got it cut.  I pried and pulled, hammered and pushed, but nothing worked.  I finally gave up on the top and tried to put holes in it with the apple corer.  Bad idea.  I finally did get the thing hammered in up to the hilt, but then I couldn't get it out!  Alas, I believe that is the last of my little plastic apple corer.  In trying to extract it, I broke off little orange slivers, leaving sharp edges to cut fingers on.  Anyway, we ended up with one holey orange pumpkin, instead of two polka-dotted ones. 

Next, we broke out the glitter.  I chose crystal glitter for this project, because I wanted to keep the natural color of the pumpkins.  Now, I had purchased a dainty little pumpkin to glitter, but my dear sweet little girl immediately claimed that one as her own.  She decided to decorate it as a birthday gift to her daddy, as his birthday is so close to Halloween.  She did a great job, but I wish I'd had another little one.  The glitter seems somehow out of place on this hulking, ungainly vegetable.  The color looked much more uniform once the glue dried, but I found some spots where I must have accidently wiped it with my sleeve, so I'll have to touch those up before displaying it. 

"After" pics will be forthcoming, but we have three left to decorate first.  Yes, I do realize I went a little pumpkin-crazy this year.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Junk Mail Origami

Happy Hump Day, everybody!  Keep on going, you'll make it to Friday!

Do you ever wonder what to do with all of the brochures and things that you get in the mail?  I know that I could stop signing up for things, but then I wouldn't get as many cool coupons.  Therefore, I end up with piles of paper that I use for covering the table during Baby Bear's craft projects, as packing materials, to write shopping lists on, etc.  Some of the wasted paper, especially as we get closer to the big holiday season, is really pretty.

I just can't stand to waste such attractive paper, and I absolutely adore origami as decor or for gift giving, so I turn those cute holiday brochures into paper cranes, flowers, and butterflies.  Below are some links to origami tutorials, pics of others' junk mail origami (I LOVE the elephant!), and some pics of my very own junk mail origami creations.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pumpkin Decorating: day 1

Obviously, the idea behind this pretty pumpkin clock was the Funkin; those hollow, carvable foam pumpkins that you get at craft stores.  Well, for future reference, not every foam pumpkin in the craft department at Walmart is a Funkin.  Baby Bear and I were cruising through at top speed, trying to get all of our pumpkins and the couple of supplies that we didn't already have, while still leaving enough time before bed to decorate them.  I saw this one and grabbed it, without even wondering whether or not it was hollow.

When we got home and I attempted to cut the top off of the faux Funkin, I was so disappointed to see a solid core of styrofoam inside.  I decided, since I couldn't return the thing and I hate to throw anything away, that I was going to cut it in half, dig out the foam core, insert the clock parts and hang in on the wall.  Please, please, please, if you're going to do this project, don't buy a solid foam pumpkin.  Having said that, the best way to get the foam out is with a serrated-edge bread knife.

I cut the foam out of the center of the pumpkin and managed to cover the room in what looked like snow, much to Baby Bear's delight.  (one of these days she's going to make me stop calling her that - maybe not until first grade, though)  That was, of course, the longest part of the project.  Next, I poked a hole in the center of the pumpkin with my craft knife.  Using the directions on the package, I put the clock parts together in the pumpkin.

I didn't bother to measure anything for the placement of the numbers; just relied on my eyes and I think it looks great.  It isn't finished, however, because I had to glue the top (or half of the top) back on and wait for it to dry.  Next, we plan to decorate it with glitter glue, like in the inspiration picture.  "After" photos will be forthcoming.

We also decorated this squash with thumbtacks that we spray painted black.  I just drew the letter "O" with a marker, and let Baby Bear stick the tacks in along the line.  This was fun and really easy!  I suggest this technique for anybody with kids old enough to use the thumb tacks with supervision.

Much better than conventional pumpkin carving!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere!

So here it is, the middle of October, and the Baby Bear and I haven't decorated ANY pumpkins at all!!  I can't believe it!  Time is just slipping away from me, ya know?

Well, I'm not a huge fan of the typical de-gutting and carving routine, so I thought I'd look for some other cool ideas.  Here they are.  I'll post the results of our pumpkin decorating next week.

Gotta love argyle!  I think I'm going to use metallic paints for mine!

The clock is so cute and these fake foam pumpkins last forever!!  LOVE IT!!  It would also be absolutely adorable in a princess-themed bedroom, to remind your little Cinderella to be home by midnight!

Who doesn't love glitter?!  These are darling.  Way to go, Martha!

Oooohh!  Maddie will love doing this one from Better Homes and Gardens AND it will be much less mess than actual carving!

I think the "tacky pumpkin" would look great with plain silver tacks, too!  On a great big pumpkin, this would make a really cute addition to a front stoop!

Why should kids be the only ones who get to dress up for Halloween?  My little one will be thrilled to try these cute costumed pumpkins, too!

Happy pumpkin decorating!!  Please share any and all of your adventures in squash adornment with the rest of us!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fabulous Felt Flora

I found my glue gun last night (do those pesky craft supply gremlins move your stuff to weird places while you sleep, too?) and decided to do something with this bag of scrap felt pieces I've had forever.  I just cut out four-petal shapes in various sizes free-handed, then covered an old button with another tiny piece of felt, using hot glue to adhere it. I sewed the button through the center of the stack of felt shapes, then hot glued it to an old barrette.  I love the simplicity of it.

What do you think?  I am thinking of making more of them as brooches and headbands, as well as barrettes.  I was also thinking that they would look cute on a handbag or dress up a plain skirt.  I can't wait to make more!  I gotta admit it - I love flowers!

Handwriting Worksheets Galore!

I am  having WAY too much fun with this website today!  The Amazing Incredible Handwriting Worksheet Maker lives up to its name.  Just type in any phrase or sentence (without punctuation) and create your worksheet.

There's not much else I can say about it, but just go try it out for yourself!  I made several with my daughter's name on them.  Your little ones will love doing worksheets about themselves.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I love Mr. Ellie Pooh!!!

First of all, let me just profess my undying love for elephants.  I positively adore them!  I think the love affair began in my childhood, when my mom read The Saggy Baggy Elephant to me. I loved him and I have loved all things elephant-related ever since.

I first encountered Ellie Pooh paper products at the St. Louis Zoo (The best free zoo in the states!  Holla!!).  I was enchanted by the cute little elephants adorning the stationary packaging and just had to buy one!  The paper is beautiful and sturdy, perfect for practicing the endangered art of the letter.  That's letter not email.

And who could resist contributing to such a wonderful cause?  This is a product that redefines the word recycle, while helping preserve my favorite animal ever, AND allowing people in Sri Lanka to earn fair trade wages!  Another cool thing about this organization - they do fundraisers!  What a fantastic alternative to selling candy or wrapping paper!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Parents As Teachers... As Parents!

My BMF (best mom friend) Wendy is a very thrifty and creative mom.  It doesn't hurt that before she was a mom, she was a Parent Educator for the Parents as Teachers program in her district.  My daughter and I visited her this weekend and I just had to blog about the amazing and educational toys she has created for Baby E. 

Genius toy #1:  The Corn Syrup Kaleidoscope
Materials: one clean, empty, 20 oz soda bottle; one cup light corn syrup; food coloring (optional); sequins, beads, other visually interesting small plastic objects

Remove the label and any other markings from the soda bottle.  Mix a few drops of food coloring into the corn syrup, if desired.  Pour corn syrup into bottle and add sequins, beads, etc.  Spread a strong glue, such as hot glue, Super Glue®, or J.B. Weld© on the threads of the neck of the bottle and put the lid on.  Wipe away any glue that squeezes out and check the instructions on the package to find out how long the glue needs to set up before it's permanent.  This makes a very fun and interesting thing for baby to play with, especially when rolled across the floor!

Genius toy #2:  The Zipper Bag Social Story Book
Materials: photos from a recent event, clear zipper food storage bags, hole punch, ribbons, duct tape, sticky labels
Wendy used photos of herself and Baby E on a trip to the St. Louis Zoo in this project.  She chose photos of single animals and placed two in each zipper bag - back to back, so you can see both photos.  She placed a sticky label on each page and wrote the name of the animal on it.  The duct tape was used to seal the tops of the bags, to protect the photos.  Each zipper bag got three holes punched in it on one side, to bind it like a book.  She cut ribbons and tied the zipper bag pages together.  I love this book!!! 

Pictured here is Baby E's absolute favorite; Genius toy #3: the garlic bread bag mat.  Materials:  garlic bread bag; plastic grocery bags; duct tape
You know those big bake-and-serve loaves of garlic bread you get at the grocery store?  They come in these wonderfully durable silver bags.   After a delicious dinner of spaghetti pie with garlic bread (Wendy is also a fabulous cook), she washed and dried the bread bag, then turned it inside out to make this super-easy toy.  She cut the bag to the desired length, and then stuffed it with a few of the plastic shopping bags we all seem to accumulate, and sealed it up with the ever popular Duct Tape.  Baby E loves the crinkling sound it makes, as well as the shiny visual texture of the bag.  In the picture, my little aspiring babysitter was throwing it up in the air and then catching it, keeping him entertained while the mommies had supper. 

Wendy has so many great ideas like these!  I'm looking forward to many more Wendy-riffic idea posts in my blogging future.   :-)

Awesome Play Makeup!!

This idea came from Emily at Not So Idle Hands.  She cleaned out used makeup containers and added fingernail polish to create beautiful, fun play make-up for her daughters.  I thought these were so cool and just had to try it out, myself! (the pic on the right is from Not So Idle Hands; the pics below are mine)

I dug through my make-up basket last night, in search of partially used and no longer useful items.  I found three eye shadow containers and one lip gloss case with a nice big mirror.  I cleaned them all out, let them dry, then dug through my nail polish basket (yes, baskets are how I organize) to find just the right colors.  I chose the cheaper polishes and those that were almost empty and got to work.

Just like in Emily's tutorial, I made sure to pour the polish slowly into each little tub.  My hands aren't as steady as hers, but I think I'll get it right with a little practice.  For now, my six year old (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BABY BEAR!) can play make believe princess without making a big, powdery, sparkly mess.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Find It! Game

I was inspired last week by a game I found online called Find It.  It's basically a clear plastic tube filled with tiny colored pellets and tiny objects to find.  It's a totally self-contained game, which I thought would be perfect for the car. 

I decided to make my own version, of course, and here's how I did it:

I washed an empty sports drink bottle (because it has a wider neck than the individual soda pop bottles do) and let it dry COMPLETELY.  I then removed the label, using GooGone® to remove the glue.  I removed the date stamp from the bottle using non-acetone nail polish remover.

I searched the junk drawer in my kitchen, my desk drawers, the bottom of my daughter's toy drawer, and various other nooks and crannies for items small enough to fit through the neck of the bottle.  I ended up with 20 items - a button, pencil sharpener, feather, chain, toy ladder, paperclip, diaper pin, clothespin, jack, magnet, rock, thumb tack, coin, tag, candle, hook, bolt, chalk, toy gremlin, and an old key.

I put the items into the bottle, then filled it to an inch below the top with salt.  That's right - plain, old, inexpensive table salt.  I then superglued the lid onto the bottle and voila!  A new and mess-free travel game!

This was just a prototype, of course, but my daughter got quite a kick out of it.  We played several times yesterday, with me timing her and counting the items she called out.  Next time, I'd like to use more items.  I think that, for older children or adults, I would color the salt with tempera powder or use a colored material like sand.  For my kindergartener, however, the plain white salt worked perfectly.  Have fun making your own and happy playing!!