Sunday, December 14, 2008

Apartment Fire

Just a quick note to let you know why I have been MIA and am likely to remain so for a while longer.  

A fire in our apartment Friday morning destroyed most of our possessions and has made it impossible for us to continue living in the unit.  My husband, M and I are all fine and are being wonderfully taken care of by the community of which we are a part.  We are very thankful!

Needless to say, though, the next couple of weeks are going to be pretty hectic, and I will probably not be blogging much.  I will try to give an update with more details and pictures sometime soon.  

Thursday, December 11, 2008

ABC Tuna Cans

I've just discovered that tunafish cans are pretty easy to recycle. They wash out easily, and their labels peel right off. Today they worked great for practicing M.'s letters. She's learned up through E; so I glued a circle with each letter up through E into the bottom of each can. I made some extra circles with letters and let M sort.

Our "sorting pattern" for all kinds of puzzles is:

What letter is that?
(sometimes answer from M)
That's an (A) isn't it?
Can you find an (A) over here?
(M points)
That's right. Can you put the (A) on the (A)?
(M puts the letter in place)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Completed Puzzle

Those of you who commented on the last post were absolutely right! This is how we announced to our family that I am pregnant. We are so thankful and excited to be expecting our second child!

(The words say: "Five weeks, 1/7th centimeter." My husband was actually the one who made the puzzle, and he wanted to make sure that the message wasn't too obvious to the grandparents as they were putting it together. That's why he wrote in Spanish)

By the way, I'd love to hear about fun or creative ways that you or someone you know has announced a pregnancy! I look forward to reading your comments!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Anyone want to guess?

We recently sent this puzzle to both sets of grandparents. Anyone want to guess what it says when it's put together?

Christmas Present Store

Buying Christmas presents is a risky business! Especially if you are on the frugal side of things and hate the idea of wasting money on a present that the person doesn't really want.

My parents' solution to this perennial problem is to set up a Christmas present store. Every year as Christmas approaches my mother keeps her eyes open for sales at stores and garage sales. She buys up a stash of items she thinks we might possibly enjoy,meticulously organizes receipts, and keeps the potential gifts in waiting until Christmas morning.

We each receive a certain number of "Christmas store dollars" as a wrapped gift. Then up from the basement come the boxes of goodies, each marked with it's Christmas store price. We have the opportunity to buy whatever we would like with our fake money and if there is any left over we are welcome to redeem it for real cash. Since people have an opportunity to choose what they would like my mother feels free to include lots of practical little items that are probably more useful than "gifty."

This system isn't for everyone. If you're not comfortable making a lot of returns, it wouldn't be economical at all. (My mother, on the other hand, is the queen of returns- all the stores know her as the "return lady").

It is a fun tradition though- a nice way to make sure everyone will probably get something they want or need and a way to de-fuse some of the stress of gift-giving.

For more fun tips visit here!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Printable Paper Doll Links

My sister and I had a steamer trunk full of paper dolls that we played with for hours growing up. Over the years, each doll developed her own history and personality that we built upon every time we played. To this day, there are still private jokes she and I have tied to that collection of dolls. It is one of my fondest sisterly memories.

Collecting the paperdolls became something of a hobby even into our preteen and early teenage years. We were always looking for more good quality dolls. Had the internet been around back then we might have printed out hundreds of dolls for free!

Here is a list of good-quality, printable paper dolls available for free on the internet. I have tried to include only sets where the dolls are dressed modestly. If you notice any problems with this in the links, let me know so I can edit this post.

Marilee's Paperdolls. Probably THE best site for printable paperdolls. Literally hundreds of dolls, plus printable doll house with furniture
Karen's Whimsy - vintage paper dolls from various eras
Designs by Lucinda Durbin. - a new set just about every month! United States historical characters paperdolls
My America paper dolls- simple designs based on the Dear America book series
Danish paperdoll in folk costumes Adult paper dolls from a variety of historical periods. Also included are some sets from great pieces of literature. Some of the sets contain some immodest figures; so parents might not want to let their children have free reign here. I included the link despite this fact because it really seems to be a useful resource. Could be great for homeschooling.
Patty Reed paper dolls based on the vintage sewing pattern series

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What can children do?

If you want to see what children can do, you must first stop giving them things.
-Norman Douglas

Birthday Lanterns

Here's something cheap, easy and fun we did to decorate for my brother's birthday dinner this past week.

Decorate a bunch of small plastic cups with markers. You could let your kids draw pictures or scribble. We wrote out "Happy Birthday, (Name)!" (one letter on each cup)

Cut a small slit in the bottom of each cup. Or, if you want the up and down look like we did, just cut a slit in every other cup.

Slip the cup over each light on a string of white Christmas lights. Use tape on the upright positioned cups if you go for the up and down look.

This would be especially fun if you have an evening, outdoor birthday party!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Twice the Fun Tuesday- Old Gloves

Michigan winters= Lots of gloves, scarves, hats, and mittens around the house

Lots of gloves, scarves, hats and mittens + 3 not-so-careful kids= lots of orphaned gloves and mittens

1 orphaned glove + needle and thread + 2 pipe cleaners + 1 button + dryer lint = A cute little squirrel!
I wish I had taken a picture of the glove in its sorry orphaned state to give you a better appreciation for the transformation, but those of you from the North have likely seen your share of pathetic, orphaned gloves.

Perhaps you have a pile of said gloves at this very moment and would like to make your own little critters. The directions for the squirrel are here. (They call it a chipmunk, but I have never seen a chipmunk with a tail like THAT).

Apparently, however, there is a book filled with loads of other creatures you can make with old gloves. I have not seen the book personally, but if any of you have used it and can give me a recommendation about whether or not to buy it, I would be very appreciative!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas Counters

My counters smell like Christmas every time I clean them thanks to an idea from Kids, Cakes, Dishes and Laundry! And yours can too! Here how:

Using a small spray bottle, combine a few drops essence of peppermint or peppermint extract with a scent and dye free multi-purpose cleaner. I used 7th Generation Free and Clear.

It works great! No sticky residue- just sweet candy cane smell wafting up to my nose every time I clean. A little extra motivation for cleaning this busy time of year never hurts!

Little Box House

I looked out the window to the trash the other day and discovered that someone had thrown away an absolutely terrific box!

Here it is fixed up as a fun little house for M. Inside there is an overstuffed chair, a little cardboard bookshelf, a picture on the wall, and an end table with a lamp on it for reading (flashlight).
As I was fixing up the box I wondered whether M was actually old enough to enjoy this sort of thing yet, but I needn't have worried. She thought it was great, and ended up sitting on the chair for long stretches of time, looking at her books and playing with the flashlight.
She even giggled as she knocked on the door!

All this fun from an old water heater box!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Blogging Break

We're up in the cold and snowy state of Michigan right now visitting our family; so I won't be blogging for the next few days.

Visitting home always inspires me with lots of fun ideas though; so I'm hoping that will translate into lots of great posts coming up soon! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and I'll see you next week!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Nature Thanksgiving Banner

e have never really decorated much for Thanksgiving before. This year though, when I found this idea for making a thanksgiving banner entirely with items found in nature, I thought it might be fun to start.

The project especially appealed to me because it would cost us nothing (we already had construction paper and glue on hand) and it would give us a reason to be outdoors.

M and I went on several nature expeditions hunting for materials. We even brought our nature bag to the zoo because I was hoping to find a peacock feather to incorporate (sadly, no luck).

It's really fun how many new things about nature one notices when one does something like this. For example, I had no idea how many different kinds of acorns there are in our area until I started scouring the ground for them.

t this stage it's difficult to predict what kinds of things will become traditions for our family, but I think it would be neat if this project became something we did every year. As our kids grow older they would become more involved. Each child could become responsible for a certain letter, etc. And wouldn't it be fun to have a collection of photographs of these banners over the years to display somewhere?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cardboard Puzzles

I have found a new way of making puzzles ! (new to me anyway- maybe you've been making them this way for years)

Here's what I did:

- Using an exacto knife, cut shapes out of a piece of cardboard (the thick kind- from a box).
- Painted the cardboard (an ugly metallic purple- because it was what I happened to have on hand)
- Obtained two duplicate images for each shape.
- Glued a piece of cardstock to the back of the cardboard.
- Glued an image into each hole
- Glued the other set of images to the cut-out shapes
- Trimmed each shape to make it easily fit into its hole

For this puzzle I used pictures of one set of our relatives to provide a little refresher course for M before we head up to Michigan for Thanksgiving.

M liked doing the puzzle very much. (She is especially fond of the doggie puzzle piece- can't leave it alone even when it has been correctly placed in the puzzle) Next time I make one of these, I am going to cut the pieces into different sizes. That way, it will be more obvious to her when she has a piece in the wrong place. (I think I'll stick with circles as it's still a little hard for her to match sides and corners)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ambigrams and Symbiotograms

Do you know what an ambigram is? It is a word that spells the same thing right side up or down. A symbiotogram is a word that spells one thing right side up, but when flipped spells an entirely different word.

Here is an example of a symbiotogram:

Each word "Ryan" and "Kate" spells the other when it is flipped.

If you think your kids might have fun with this concept, you might want to check out the online ambigram generator. (It does symbiotograms too, but they have to be words of the same length).

I think ambigrams and symbiotograms have all kinds of creative potential. For example, when I was a middle school Latin teacher, I used to create symbiotograms using Latin words and their English definitions. The kids had fun figuring them out! Certain kids were inspired to create their own word tricks. Interestingly, the activity seemed to be an especial hit with a couple of my students with Asperger's Syndrome.

If you do anything interesting or fun with the ambigram generator, I'd love to hear about it!

Giveaway Winner!

This week the random number that came up with was #7. That means that Jenna is the winner of the Dr. Seuss Marble Magnet Set!

Jenna said:

These are really cute magnets. My niece likes Dr. Seuss books, so I am sure she would love to get these for Christmas. Thanks for the giveaway!

I hope your niece enjoys these, Jenna! I contacted you by email, but if you didn't receive it for some reason, please contact me.

Thank you to all who participated in the giveaway and also to those of you who helped get my etsy shop off to a great start this week!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Favorite Nursery Rhyme

I wake in the morning early
And always the very first thing,
I poke out my head and I sit up in bed
And I sing and I sing and I sing!
- Rose Fyleman

Isn't that a perfectly happy poem?

Choo Choo Chair Train

Do your kids look a little bored this afternoon? Maybe you could suggest they build a train out of chairs! Send them scouting around the house for as many as they can find so it can be really long.

Then of course, they'll need to round up some passengers; stuffed animals and little siblings work well!

Kids can take turns being the engineer- tooting the whistle and leading the others in the chugging sounds and of course, announcing what they see up ahead on the tracks. Maybe they would like to sing along with a Thomas the Train CD after they have made up their own fun for a little while!

Twice the Fun Tuesday: Old Dryer Sheets

This tip may not exactly qualify as "fun," but it is useful! After fabric softener sheets go through the dryer they have not yet outlived their usefulness. Use them to clean mildew off of shower curtains. It works very well! They are also useful for taking soap scum off of the bathtub areas. Just wet and use like a cleaning cloth.

For more good tips today visit here!

Do you have an everyday item that you have put to new use? Please feel free to post a link to it here. I would be so thrilled to see your idea- even if it's a simple one. You don't have to link back to this site (although it would be great if you wanted to). I only ask that the link be family-friendly and that you link directly to the post and not some other place on your website.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hand and Footprint Wrapping Paper

Yesterday my daughter and I went outside to make some Christmas wrapping paper with her hand and foot prints. We used plain white wrapping paper and green and red paints (not finger paints- they aren't vivid enough). I think it will look cute wrapped around presents for the grandparents and tied up with big red bows!

For more great tips today, head on over here!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pitching Pennies

One Christmas when I was young, my grandpa taught us all a game he used to play when he was a boy- pitching pennies. We thought it was so fun!

Here's how you play:

Everyone starts out with a certain number of pennies and stands (or sits) a determined distance from a wall. One at a time, each person flicks a penny off of their thumb. When everyone has pitched their pennies, all rush forward to see whose penny is the closest to the wall. That person wins all of the pennies. Play continues like this until one person has all of the pennies and is the winner.

When I was a teacher I used to play this game with a slight variation. The way the students earned the pennies to play with was by answering review questions correctly. That way the students who answered the most questions had the best chance at winning, but it was still fun for the others.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Telephone Numbers to Letters Activity

Does your family have a long car ride coming up for Thanksgiving this year? Here's an idea from my friend Andrea that you can file away in the back of your mind in case the kids get restless. (This idea actually works best if there are at least 2 older kids in your bunch).

Have in mind a list of phone numbers that it would be good for your kids to have committed to memory. Maybe it could include grandparents, a work phone, the school office, a trustworthy neighbor, etc.

Hand your kids your cell phones (or if you'd rather, you could make a print- out of the letters that correspond to the phone number buttons ahead of time). Give them one phone number at a time to work on converting into an easy-to-remember word or phrase. (Most people have a much easier time remembering words than numbers).

One and zero are kind of tricky because they don't have letters assigned to them. Because of that, you might end up having to leave some numbers in your mnemonic device. For example, 512- 775-3746 might become "51 apples go."

See who can come up with the best idea, and let it become something your whole family uses from then on! Maybe you could work on converting the phone numbers of everyone who will be at your Thanksgiving celebration this year. Your kids would get a kick out of informing everyone of what their phone numbers spell, I'm sure.

Once you run out of phone numbers that need converting, you can work on your license plate digits. In that case, you'll work things a little differently. Each letter becomes the first letter of a word in a phrase. For example, HMQV-234 could become "Her Majesty Queen Victoria the Second is thirty-four" (never mind the fact that it's ridiculous- it works!)

13 Ways to Complete Household Drudgery without Numbing Your Mind

A housewife can spend many hours a week in mundane drudgery. In many of those chores one's hands stay busy, but the mind is left to its own devices.

I have found that if I am not deliberate about what I do with my mind during those times, it's easy to get resentful or negative. And, when you think about it, that's really an awful waste. There are so many useful and pleasant things I could be doing with that "free time" for my mind.

Here are thirteen ideas for making housework more pleasant:

1. Listen to books on tape, the radio, or podcasts. My mom always had classic pieces of literature blasting through the house as she did the dishes. As kids, that meant we were introduced to lots of great works like Sherlock Holmes and Jane Eyre effortlessly.

2. Pray while you work. You could assign a different kind of prayer to each chore. For example, dusting might be the time you think about and pray for your church's missionaries.

3. Work on making internal to-do lists. This way you don't waste time in between tasks figuring out what you are going to do next. Keep a small notebook nearby to jot down the tasks if the list becomes long.

4. Race yourself. Be very clever about efficiency, and run a timer to keep track of your progress. See if you can improve your time each time you do the task. Read Cheaper by the Dozen for inspiration!

5. Quiz your children on their times tables, spelling, etc.

6. Plan your next blog entry.

7. Make fun lists. Think of Christmas present ideas for your friends and family. Come up with ideas for new holiday traditions in your household. Make lists of your favorite foods. Think about insightful ways you might answer the question "how are you?" the next time you are asked. Keep a notebook nearby to jot down things you don't want to lose.

8. Let your children quiz you on fun things. Collect books of trivia questions, riddles, etc. that they can use.

9. Memorize Scripture. Keep index cards with Bible verses you want to memorize taped around your kitchen to help you when you get stuck. Change the verses periodically.

10. Whistle while you work. Or hum, or sing, or sing along with music on a CD. Not only will it improve your mood, it lets the rest of your house feel your happiness as well.

11. Think about ways you might make the task an art instead of a chore. The classic example of this to me is my mom making pie crusts. She always makes them from scratch even though it takes a long time and she thinks that storebought taste almost as good. She does it because it is something she really studied how to do, and she takes a healthy kind of pride in doing it well. Many things can be made more pleasant through a little creativity and by adding extra touches that make the completion of the task something special.

12. Come up with fun bedtime stories you can tell your children that night.

13. Consider how you will teach your children to do the task you are doing. What kind of things do you take for granted that they would need to be told and shown?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Givewaway: Dr. Seuss Marble Magnet Set

To kick off the start of my new Etsy shop O The Lemon Tree, I'm giving away a set of 12 of my handmade Dr. Seuss marble magnets. These magnets feature a wide range of creatures, expressions, and objects from Seuss' well-loved books.

Isn't it amazing how those illustrations have captured the imaginations of so many different kinds of people? Young and old alike can't help but smile when they see the simple, ridiculous creatures with their amazingly subtle range of human expression. I'll bet you know someone who would thoroughly enjoy having little snippets of Seuss in range of their everyday life. This set might be the perfect stocking stuffer for that person this Christmas!

The magnets are approximately 3/4 inch in diameter and can securely hold at least three regular sheets of paper.

Please note that marble magnets are not suitable for young children as they could pose a choking hazard. But older children or high school students might love having them for locker decorations!

To be entered in the giveaway, simply leave a comment below, and please include an email address or some way for me to contact you if you win. I will choose the winner next Tuesday night by selecting a random number through and will post the name shortly thereafter.

If you would like a second entry, you may write about this giveaway on your blog and leave a second comment giving the link for the post.

Some Flowers Have Faces

Monday, November 10, 2008

DIY Shipwreck in a Bottle

Here is something fun you and your kids can make from things you probably already have in the house. Here is what you need:

  • A jar (I used an old sesame seed jar)
  • A toothpick
  • Oil (baby oil is best, because it is clear, but I used vegetable oil and it worked fine too)
  • Food coloring
  • Paper and cardboard
  • Packing tape
  • Super glue
1. Wash the jar and remove sticky stuff from outside with goo-gone if necessary.

2. Fold a piece of cardboard in half and cut a little boat shape out of it. Use your scissors to cut a little hole in the bottom of the boat.

3. Cover the front and back of a small piece of paper with packing tape and cut a small sail shape out of it. Use your scissors to cut two small holes along the flat vertical edge of the sail.

4. Poke the toothpick through the hole in the boat and holes in the sail. Trim toothpick with scissors. Now you have your little boat.

5. Fill the jar part way up with water. (I actually filled mine a little too high- you want there to be enough room for the boat to stand up straight even when the jar is on its side)

6. Drop some blue food coloring into the water. Drop your little boat in the water. It should float upright. Fill the rest of the jar with oil. Make sure you fill all the way to the top so that there are no air bubbles.

7. Apply super glue to the rim of the jar or to the lid. Screw lid on tightly.

Watch your little ship bob and dip on the stormy seas!

Shaving Cream Bathtub Paint

Your child's next bath very well might be his very favorite bathtime ever. My daughter and I just had so much fun with an idea from a book called Prime Time Together with Kids. Maybe you'll want to try it too!

The Palette: A muffin tin with shaving cream squirted into each cup and mixed with a different color or colors food coloring. The Brush: An old basting brush from my kitchen.

The Easel: Our bathroom shower tiles
A Happy Artist:

We didn't fill the bathtub up with water this time so that she would be able to stand up without as much fear of slipping.

We had a great time!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Can a 15 Month Old Help with Dinner?

Well, maybe not very well, but here is my daughter helping me snap asparagus rods and getting quite a kick out of it. (she was also in charge of making sure the bad part of each rod made it into the garbage bowl)

I think it was quite a thrill for her to actually be part of the dinner-making process instead of being relegated to the floor with a pile of books like usual! :-)

Teaching Numbers

Here is something my friend Julia shared with me from her nephew's montessori class:

One is fun.
Round and back on the railroad track. 2-2-2
Round the tree, round the tree, that's how we make number 3.
down and over, down some more. That's how we make number 4.
Down and around with a flag on top. 5-5-5
A line and a loop, six makes a hoop.
Across the sky, down from heaven. That's how we make number 7.
We make an S, do not wait, climb back up and make and 8.
A loop and a line make number 9.
Straight line down, circle we bend. That's how we make number 10.

Isn't that fun?