Category Archives: Crafts

Winter Fun for your Family

Today a new post of mine is up at Writer…Interrupted, called “Indoor Winter Fun For Your Children”. Check it out for details on some of our family’s favorite snow day activities for all ages.

With temps in the 20’s this past week, we’ve had a lot of indoor fun, breaking out the Sculpey polymer clay and making all sorts of oceanic creatures to fill our Apologia “ocean boxes” as recommended in our recently finished science book, Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day.

Every other year or so, we go scissor happy crafting delicate snowflakes, which we then use to decorate our windowpanes all winter. Usually we find inspiration at online sites such as Dave’s snowflake pages, which are incredible, but this year on a friend’s recommendation, I ordered Cindy Higham’s book, Snowflakes: Creative Paper Cutouts. My kiddos keep asking me when we’re going to have our “snowflake day”! The book hasn’t arrived yet, so I keep putting them off…

There are a couple of other ideas for those wintry afternoons when staying inside is just the best idea of all. I hope you go check it out, and in the meantime, share your favorite wintertime family activities in comments!

Blessings,

Mary

Graham Cracker Gingerbread House Traditions

generalstoreEvery so often there are blog articles that deserve being reposted. This one qualifies! Hopefully it will inspire some fun times for your family!

(The following was originally posted in December of 2006…)

Yesterday the girls and I spent from 8:30 AM-5:30 PM making graham cracker gingerbread houses. We do this each year with homeschooling friends…one of our favorite Christmas traditions!

This is a craft that can be as detailed and intricate as you want it to be. Using graham crackers instead of gingerbread takes a lot of the headache out of the process, making it very “mom” friendly!

northpolebiblechurchOver the years I’ve made these fun little houses in many sizes and themes. If you want a fun and easy version go here or here. For this version, you can use as few as 3 full graham crackers per child. Here’s another cute site with several to look at.

For a more impressive version, you’d have to get Traditional Christmas Cooking, Crafts & Gifts by Cy DeCosse. There’s a several page spread in there with diagrams to help you make a fancy town…

We start by combining our efforts with another family or two. We decide which candies each family will buy, and then we pool all of them together for the maximum effect!

Here are some of our favorites:

  • miniature candy canes (for stair rails up into churches or for “props” to hold up a 1/4 graham cracker door overhang)
  • normal sized candy canes (these are cute stuck in snow icing with a gumdrop stuck to the curved end–ta-da: a lamp-post!)
  • wafer cookies–the rectangular kind (we make benches out of them–to put under the lamp-posts. Use sugar cubes for the bench “feet”. You can also use wafers to make shutters for your windows, or to line the roof of store-front type buildings such as the General Store in the the book I linked above)
  • Gumdrops (flattened and cut to fit, these make great window panes. Cut them in different shapes/sizes and make stained glass windows for your town’s church)
  • Sugar cones (steeple for the church, or frost with green icing and decorate for Christmas trees)
  • Red and Green M&M’s
  • Red hot cinnamon candies
  • Peppermint hard candies (great stepping stones to your bench)
  • Hershey Kisses
  • Cereals: Grape nuts for gravel pathways, Shredded Wheat for hay bales, Chex for shutters
  • Pretzels–straight ones for porch railings, miniature rounded ones for fences around the yard, simply stick them in snow frosting
  • Marshmallows–use toothpicks to make snowmen out of these, or cut them into small pieces and pile in the yard for snowballs
  • Red and Green sugar, or candy sprinkles to shake on snowy rooftops

You get the idea…

MsgingerbreadhouseEach family also needs to bring cardboard bases to be covered with tin foil. We like to use Cinnamon Graham Crackers because the darker cracker looks more authentic for buildings. Plan on one box per house, if you’re tackling a large one.

For icing, you can buy meringue powder at any cake decorating store or in that section at Wal-Mart and follow the instructions inside for Royal Icing. Or, an easier and quicker way, is to use white Almond Bark. Melt it in the microwave and pipe it, or spread it with a knife to “caulk” your house seams together.

Yesterday we made the house w/yard, the church and the general store pictured above. On Saturday we’ll be taking them to our local rest home for their visual enjoyment!

In My Garden

This intriguing fellow is only one of the fun finds galore on gardening days at our place! He was so not happy, that “grin” is really a snarl, if  you can’t tell! Yikes!

This picture, gingerly taken by soil-dirty fingers belonging to yours truly, shows you the view from my garden facing North, toward our house.  Behind the red tiller is our puppy run, current home to three adorable Australian Shepherd puppies.  See our Suburban behind my potato patch? The potato patch I’m forever scaring our chickens out of. My hubby swears he is going to catch me on film and turn it into millions on “Funniest Home Videos”–I guess I’m rather a hilarious sight to behold, giving those hens a piece of my mind for enjoying the loose soft dirt around my taters. Poor taters–er, chickens.

Tonight, at 10 p.m., on my way back to the house after shutting our chickens up for the night…I just couldn’t resist a visit to my garden.

It’s one of those cool, rustly summer nights. If the wind in our state could ever be termed “peaceful”, it is tonight. Loving the sound of it in the treetops, I panned my flashlight through the garden fence, tiptoeing to the old wooden gate as if my light hadn’t already scared away those pesky rabbits who made away with my cauliflower and lettuce transplants a few weeks ago. But even the rabbit raids make for great memories, as my eldest and her daddy have taken to “rabbit hunting” with their rifles at dusk. They’ve eliminated a few rabbit pests from the property in past weeks. I’ve eliminated rabbits from my garden with good old cayenne pepper on the plants. *Smile* (Thanks for the tip, hubby’s mom!)

The garden is dry, in spite of the wonderful rain we received on Tuesday. I bend to pull some weeds in my lettuce bed and realize I’m unearthing radishes–oops. Best save weeding for daylight. Weeding wasn’t meant to be done by the glow of the moon anyway. About as unromantic as a gardener that mistakes radish tops for weeds. Ah-hem.

I’ve meant all spring to write a post about the fun we had making soil blocks at Farmer John’s, which we planted and stowed beneath grow lights in the basement. Perhaps I still will post about it, I’ve got some great pics to share, and soil blocking is a super fun and economical way to start seeds. The second picture on this page showcases my Romaine and Salad Bowl lettuce still in flats on planting day several weeks ago!

Here’s a picture of my wide row of yellow onions, the first thing in the garden–pic taken back in April. I’d love to keep a garden journal, from year to year, not only for the memories, but for the practicality of having a record. My memory is mush when it comes to details. Too many in my life already!

And last but not least, my garden is full of these homemade stone markers. Since we grew most of our plants with the help of grow lights, we needed garden stakes or markers to know what was growing where. Rather than buy blank stakes and keep track that way, my girls and I decided to paint stones. Here’s the one we did for “cherry tomatoes”.  For watermelon, we painted a triangle shaped rock pink with a green “rind” and dotted it with dark brown seeds…

This will be our first year gardening “organically”. I do hope the cutworms and squash bugs don’t dampen my resolve at first sighting! I keep asking Farmer John about organic pest control, and he keeps saying…vigilant patroling of plants and a lot of bug picking.

Joy.

Speaking of Joy. My mom would agree that our favorite gardening book of all time is The Joy of Gardening by Dick Raymond. Farmer John thinks it’s a must have as well. If you even think you might want to learn about gardening, this is a book  you won’t be able to put down. It’s full of great pictures, how-to’s and tips from a pro on everything from starting seedlings, to tilling, creating raised soil beds, wide row techniques, composting and root cellar storage. I even take my copy to the garden with me, and have dirt smudges on the pages to prove it.

Who all is growing veggies this summer? Do you have a favorite book on the subject? Organic pest control tips? I’d love to hear them in comments!

Dressers in the Kitchen

Last night I put the last coat of polyurethane on my dresser project. First time I’ve ever tackled a refinishing project like this, and I’m so impressed! Now to find the perfect handles!

I’m so excited to have this dresser done. Wish I had a before pic for you, just imagine it painted a black paint/stain with gaudy gold-plated handles. As I worked on this baby, I fell in love. Each scrape of the putty knife sliding old paint away revealing wavy grains–each rubbing with steel wool and fine sandpaper heightened my anticipation to get the job done! I mused about where I’d place this antique that my husband’s grandfather built in his young adulthood.

I love antique dressers more than anything else furniture-wise. Especially the ones up on pedestal legs. I can’t bear to waste them on clothing storage! This dresser’s former glory was as winter gear storage on our back porch, right next to the kitchen entryway. One drawer for gloves, another for hats, yet another for coveralls, etc. That was fine then, but…

It’s got too much of *me* in it now to subject it to my family’s daily abuses! (Sorry, fam!) When the light bulb moment came I about spilled my can of stain/varnish. MY KITCHEN! Perfect place to put the microwave–at head height, no more bending over punching in times and start buttons.

Other pluses–Plenty of huge drawers to hold my generic brand George Foreman grill, and my Pampered Chef mini-4-in-one-loaf pan–both items have been hogging space on an end counter b/c they’re too large for my other kitchen drawers (or maybe it’s because my other kitchen drawers are already fully occupied!). So now they’ll be out of sight! I plan on using one of the smaller top drawers for my great-aunt’s silver, tablecloths, placemats and cloth napkins. Which will in turn give me more space in the hallway linen closet for the girls’ puzzles! I have a zillion cookbooks, they’ll go spine-side up in one of the drawers so I can grab the ones I want easily and not forfeit any more counterspace to all my favorites!

So tell me, do you like my “kitchen dresser” or do you think I’m crazy for putting a microwave atop something so stately!?

What pieces of furniture are your favorite and why? Got any stray dressers you could put to practical use while showpiecing them, or maybe you do already?

My Dh Made This

It’s a leather wastebasket! He made it for a rancher who loves to hunt. Two sides are the deer hide diamondsleatherwastebasket.jpg (rancher’s brand has a diamond around it) and the other two sides my dh carved into the leather himself–copying from pictures of this rancher’s prized deer trophies. The customer didn’t want it dyed…so what you’re seeing is leather–pure and natural.

Ironically, the hand-lacing took as much time, possibly more, than the leather carving. He’s not sure he’ll ever take on a wastebasket project again, but we were happy with how it turned out!

Make a Snow Globe!

globes2.jpgWant a FUN project to do with the kiddos? You’ve come to the right place~ 😉

Thanks to Martha Stewart’s basic instructions, we tackled about 12 snow globes the Friday before Christmas…and learned a LOT in the process. Like there really is a reason to use epoxy glue…and oil-based enamel paint…hee. But overall, we’re extremely happy with how our domes of snow turned out!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Jars and lids in varying sizes. You can use baby food jars but our faves were pimiento jars and diced garlic jars. They’re rounder as you can seesnowglobes.jpg in the picture at right. Martha Stewart also recommended those tall skinny olive jars, but we went with what we had on hand!
  • Oil-based enamel paint (for the lids). We used sage green (it looks minty in the pictures, but it’s really sage. Really.).
  • Sand paper–to roughen inside of lid before gluing ornaments
  • Clear-drying epoxy glue (we cheated and used hot glue guns. By day 4 more than “flakes” were floating around in our globes!) Use epoxy glue!!!
  • Plastic or ceramic figurines (not metal–too prone to rust). I raided the Christmas supplies in our attic, specifically a box of miniature resin Christmas ornaments! We also used a couple of synthetic evergreen tips for mini-Christmas trees, available at floral supply shops (or robbed from other Christmas decor around your house).
  • Distilled water, glitter (again, we went with what we had on hand–red and silver), and liquid Glycerin (available at pharmacies/drug stores).

Sand the insides of your lids, paint the outsides, and while the paint is drying, gather all your ornaments. My girls also made a globe with a plastic toy horse as the showpiece. So think outside the box. I had a miniature collection of resin nativity ornaments, and we even used some small wooden ones (I sprayed them with acrylic sealant) that never make it on the tree.

My oldest came up with the idea of gluing a “platform” to the lids and then gluing the ornaments to the platform…so that the globes.jpg“pretty” is up past the neck of the jar, and more visible. For platforms we used dice, vitamin bottle lids, water bottle lids…etc. It worked great, and you can’t even see them as they are beneath the ornament.

Once you have everything glued and ready to go, fill the jar almost to the top with water, shake a few drops of Glycerin in and add glitter. The Glycerin, according to Ms. Stewart, keeps the glitter from falling too quickly. Don’t put too much, she warns, or the glitter will stick to the ornaments and the bottom of the jar. (Mm-hm. It will.) Then screw on your lid and shake ferociously. Ooh, it’s sooooo pretty!!!

Christmas Doings

Survived yesterday’s “blizzarding”…just barely! Final snow totals were around 12 inches, with the high winds leaving drifts that were “rib” high on us people and white stuff to the truck beds and fencetops! We were at my sister-in-lasnowdriftplay.jpgw’s for Christmas celebrations when it hit, and had to blaze our own trail home on the buried country roads. Where’s a sleigh when ya need one?

This morning we girls played till our fingers and cheeks hurt…sadly, the snow isn’t wet enough yet to make snow balls-forts-people etc. But we still had a blast! So did the pups!

My parents stayed with us from Monday to Thursday, and got in on an all day Wednesday Christmas party here at our house with my friend Deborah and her children. Thankfully all our friends and family now have their power up and buzzing. We thank you for all your prayers!

Here are a few pictures for you of what we’ve been busily doing since Friday…

helping2.jpg My lil helper, pounding away at graham cracker crumbs for cheesecake #5! We took several lahelping3.jpgundry breaks, during which I almost lost her in the dryer…

Then we made and decorated 7 dozen Christmas cookies to take to neighbors and family gatherings…more peanut brittle and 12 or so homemade snow globes!

christmasprojects.jpg Today, besides freezing our hinies off outside, we’ve played Clue five times (a Christmas gift oldest received yesterday at sister-in-law’s), made “snowstorm soup” and are about to head over to grandma’s to drop the chillens off so daddy and I can go finish up our Christmas shopping!

And to those of you who sent cards and packages…you filled my heart up to overflowing, honestly! To have friends like you, means so so much–thank you all!

What will you remember the most about this year’s Christmas doings?

(Soon I’ll post my “snowstorm soup” recipe and also a tutorial on home-made snow globes!)

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I nThanksgiving Dinner with Turkey and Pieow have two 15 pound birds in the house, thanks to our local grocery store having a buy-one-get-one-free deal on turkeys!

So it’s beginning to feel a lot like Thanksgiving!

I’ve been wanting to do some fun things this year, maybe start some new traditions. Here are a few appealing ideas–some I came across on the net, and some from me:

  • Making a Thanksgiving apron for the Grandmas in your life…this is cute…they took a variety of autumn fabrics and traced the grandkid’s hands, cut them out and put them on the apron, and then decorated them into “turkeys” with puff paints!
  • Having a Kernel of Thanks sharing time at the Thanksgiving table. This would be a good time to share the amazing story of Squanto and God’s plan and preparing him for the pilgrims
  • Thanksgiving games
  • Watch the Macy’s Parade (did this every year growing up!)
  • Make tissue paper leaves. Cut brown, orange, red and yellow tissue paper into small squares. Spread a section of contact paper sticky-side-up on your table and cover it with the tissue squares. Top it with another side of contact paper and trace leaves (that you’ve picked and traced onto cardboard). Cut them out. My kids loved this craft…and if you end up with enough leaves you can make a flat wreath…
  • Buy a special Thanksgiving book to be read every year at Thanksgiving.

“Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gPumpkin Pie for Thanksgivingratitude will allow.”
– Edward Sandford Martin

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving? Tell me about it…your favorite foods, the places you visit, the traditions you return to time and again…

Christmas Time’s A Coming!

And I’ve got to recommend two books and some great craft party ideas!

First, now is the time to be thinking about hosting a Christmas cookie exchange. Whether for the adult cooks in your life, or your own children and their friends (why not both?), this is a great way to kick off the giving we’re so fond of during the month of December.

In the book Great Parties for Kids by Nancy Fyke, Lynn Nejam, and Vicki Overstreet, you’ll find a two page spread on how to host a “Favorite Cookie Swap” for the kids in your life. Basically, each guest brings three dozen cookies, and the hostess makes about six batches of different kinds of cookies for sampling and giving away. Everyone leaves with several platefuls of variety to share with others. I like to emphasize that this is the time to make those fancy holiday cookies you only make once a year. It kind of dampens the enthusiasm if everyone brings chocolate chip cookies, know what I mean?

Also in this book, is a cute gingerbread man template to use for party invitations.

The second book I’ve got to recommend is Martha Stewart Living’s Crafts and Keepsakes for the Holidays. I was so excited to find instructions in this for classic looking homemade snow globes–something my 7 year old has been wanting to make since last Christmas! I marked several great projects in this book, from jingle bell wreaths to real ribbon chains (remember the construction paper chains we all made as kids for the tree?), to awesome silver origami ornaments to hang in your windows…

Do you have any great Christmas projects in mind for this year’s celebrations?

Dreaming of Christmas reds and evergreens,

Mary

Fun with Friends and a Serger

A good friend and her dear mom spent most of an afternoon showing my daughters the basics of using a serger sewing machine. They’re both amazing seamstresses, wedding dress caliber these gals!

Anyway, Andrea contacted me wanting to do what she called “a fun project” with my girls which would require only a half yard of heavy-duty fabric such as denim or canvas and sergedbags.JPGa free afternoon. Well, on our end that’s all it required. On their end it required rather a lengthy road trip and the carting around of two sergers so each of my girls could whiz along on their bags simultaneously. Not to mention a whole afternoon teaching session.

And I got to love on Andrea’s newborn the whole time! All in all, a pretty great day!

Didn’t the bags turn out awesome??? Love those pleats!