Category Archives: creativity

Candy-free, junk-free, still awesome Easter egg hunt ideas!

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Easter is coming, and I’m usually stoked about it because to us, it’s a time to celebrate SPRING!!!! Being from Florida and now living in North Carolina, winter blues have become a depressing part of life. All the gray, dry limbs just make my heart sad. Even after ten years in NC, these dreary months are no fun. So Easter has become a celebration of all the gorgeous color that’s coming back to life in all its pastel glory!

We tend to do our own little egg hunts at home.  I like that it’s just us instead of the madness that happens at public egg hunts. Still, sometimes we struggle with what to put in them. We try not do to a lot of candy, but I’m a little sick of the non-candy alternatives. Seriously, our home is just about at capacity with all that tiny junk: the tiny plastic ‘toys’, hair bows that my daughter won’t wear anyway, more stickers, more temporary tattoos, tiny tubs of play-doh that dry up five minutes after you open them and turn into a crumbly mess all over the house….yeah. I’m done with all that.

So what to do? After some thought, we decided on money and power. What kid wouldn’t want that?

  1. Money: Our kids are starting to learn to save up for things they want. We have a bunch of spare change. Why not fill the eggs with some money? Change can add up quickly, and this will give them an extra chance to learn money management, counting and all that stuff.
  2. Power: We did this in the form of coupons. You know how some people do ‘love’ coupons for their significant other sometimes? Like “free massage” and stuff like that? We adapted this concept for easter eggs. Ours will include things like: choosing a restaurant, choosing a movie for family movie night, staying up past bedtime, choosing the next family outing, and some funny ones like ‘make daddy do the sprinkler dance’.

Admittedly, some of our easter eggs will still have candy and toys (mostly balloons and stick on mustaches). I was a bit worried that they wouldn’t enjoy it and it would all be a big fail, but they loved it! The coupons were so exciting for them, and it’s become a ‘thing’ in our house throughout the year.

And the actual Easter baskets? Our approach to baskets also follows our no-junk philosophy. We reuse the egg hunt baskets or ‘package’ everything in something that is part of the gift. One year we got the kids plastic chairs for the yard (the $5 walmart ones that are still kicking around our yard years later), so the ‘basket’ was the chair. We used beach buckets one year as well. We generally take it as an opportunity to stock up on spring and summer items that we’ll get them anyway, but are so fun. Some examples are:

  • beach towels
  • sidewalk chalk
  • bubble solution and a new cool bubble toy
  • flip flops
  • beach/pool toys

I hope these ideas help your spring celebrations and help keep some sanity in everyday life!

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Show-and-Tell: Hand-Embroidered Pillow

 

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One of the things I love most about having a handmade business is the creativity that comes with it. It’s so great to talk to people and take on a challenge. And I just have to tell you about a project I got to do recently.

A little bit ago, a client wanted something special for her goddaughter’s first birthday. Something that would show the little girl how much her godmother loves her, even though they’re far apart. A shirt? Nah – she’ll grow out of that…A blanket?  I’m sure a baby girl has about a million and three baby blankets. Nothing seemed special enough.

I’ve gotten to know this S (my client) fairly well – she’s not only a client, she’s an awesome neighbor and friend. One thing that is clear the instant you meet her is that she has a huge, loving heart. This gift needed to be personal, and illustrative of how much love she has, especially for someone as dear to her as her goddaughter.

Then it hit me: a pillow! Something that the little girl can cuddle with when S isn’t around to cuddle with her. We settled on a pillow in the shape of the state with two hearts connecting the locations with a saying  on the back.

And to give it an extra personal touch, I had S write the message on the fabric with a water-soluble pen. Thankfully, S was a kindergarten teacher, and has impeccable handwriting. I then hand-embroidered over the letters, hearts and dotted line between hearts.

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I love how this turned out. It was a lot of work. A LOT of work, but I loved it. I loved the entire process of creating the template, figuring out fabric (you can’t go wrong with baby pink chevron for a baby girl, can you?), picking out the right shades of medium charcoal grey and hot rosy pink for the thread (because the standard black lettering with red hearts simply wasn’t going to work), stitching out each letter and making ‘forever in your heart’ stand out, the millions of times I had to go and spray the fabric to get all of the ink out, and finally sewing, stuffing and stitching it closed. It was all so satisfying.

As I worked on it, I kept picturing the little girl and wondering if she’d love the pillow as much as I’ve loved working on it.  Will she cuddle with it when she’s afraid of a storm? When she’s in the midst of her teenage angst, will she hold it and think of her godmother and know/feel that she’ll always have someone on her side? Will it be on her bed in her dorm room someday?

Thanks, S, for letting me be part of this beautiful gift!

A bit about buying local and handmade…

Here it is. My latest acquisition. I love it.

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I always have a problem keeping track of what I need to get at the store. It seems that even though I am psycho about my grocery list (perhaps a totally different blog post), I seem to forget some items I need because I never write them down when I see I need them.

I also want a place to jot down quick notes, like what time it was when I put something in the oven or when the baby fell asleep for her nap.

So it seemed like I needed a big dry erase board for my kitchen, but I didn’t want one of those that looked like it belongs in a dorm somewhere. I’m unfortunately way past my college days. And I’ve seen some ceramic ones, but they aren’t as pretty as I’d like them to be and not nearly as large. I wanted something pretty and shiny and unlike anything else I’d ever seen. And then it came to me: GLASS!!!

My mind immediately went to my pal Sandra at Artistic Impressions by Sandra A. Wills. She is a local glass artist from my tiny town that I’ve gotten to know over the years. We actually met at a childbirth class years ago when I was pregnant with my son. I ran into her again at our town’s farmer’s market where she had a booth with her beautiful art and I’ve been a fan ever since. Can I just say I am in love with her pendants? And if you look closely, my daughter’s room rocks one of her night lights (over by the lamb rug). Fused glass night lights!  Amazing, huh?

So I talked to her to see if she had anything like what I was thinking. She wasn’t in the dry-erase board business, but she was excited to tackle that project. She sent me some pics of different types of glass, we talked about where I wanted it to go and how I wanted to hang it, etc. The result is a gorgeous big message board that is custom fit to my space in colors that I love (they just happen to be University of Florida colors – Go Gators!)

And that is what I love about local and handmade. You get to know the people behind the pieces. It’s not just buying a thing – it’s buying a story and strengthening roots in your little slice of the world. You know the people, the stories behind the products, and you always end up with something unique, and in this case, tailor-made for you. Each item has depth and charm that you just can’t get anywhere else.

Here’s another look of my message center from further away:

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It’s made life much easier, and in a much cuter way. Thanks Sandra!

Baby Girl Nursery Show and Tell

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Get ready for a picture-intense post. I finally got around to taking pictures and writing about our nursery. I love this room.  I really do.  Sometimes, during those middle-of-the-night feedings, I try to come up with ways to get my hubby to agree to switch rooms so that this could be our master bedroom.  No joke.

I just love the soft, dreamy aqua with shades of pink and clean white.  It’s bright and fun, yet calming and soft at the same time. It’s definitely very girly but not too fussy and frilly.

But I think what I like most about it is how personal it is.  Everywhere I look, there’s something I made, or something from my childhood, or a reminder of a loved one.

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I’ve blogged about bits and pieces of it, but here’s the whole shebang put together:

First, I’m going to do a little sketch of the layout of the room (totally not to scale). When I was looking for inspiration online, I could never get a feel for the whole room because I couldn’t see the layout. And this room is kind of weird because every wall has either a door or a window, plus an air vent that blows directly where most people would put a crib or bed, so furniture placement is a little tricky.

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Looking to the left when you first walk in is the wall of quotes that I blogged about here.  Right in front of it, tucked into the corner, is the glider that I redid with the quilt that came with the crib bedding thrown on top.  I kept the window simple – it has a pink curtain that’s supposed to block out light, but all it does is make the room glow pink, which I don’t mind too much.  Because pink is awesome. {Did I ever mention that I had a pink wedding cake back when nobody did any color at all on wedding cakes? yeah…I luv me some pink}

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Next to the window is the changing table and hutch that I spruced up (see this post). My little girl absolutely loves it and spends her diaper changes trying to touch the dots.  Let’s hope the sealer I used can stand up to baby fingernails!

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I filled the shelves with all sorts of things that make me smile.  Most of the stuffed animals were mine, including the purple and yellow ‘hazmat’ rabbit that I got when I worked with a fire department and did a ride-along with the hazmat (über cool firefighter slang for hazardous materials) unit for a day.  I also have the last pair of pointe shoes I used when I danced, a ceramic poodle that used to be in my bedroom when I was little, a little acorn that my son picked up for his baby sister on a walk, the wire bicycle that held flowers that were delivered to us when we had her, a bejeweled Eiffel tower coin bank, and a bunch of other things that make me smile, as well as the useful stuff: diapers and wipes, lotions and potions, etc.

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If you keep spinning towards the right, you see the crib. The poor embattled crib that barely survived my son’s teething days (cosmetically, of course. it’s still sturdy and super safe).  Why didn’t anyone tell me about teething guards?

The bedding was the inspiration for the room.  I was having such a hard time finding anything that I liked.  Everything was princess, flowers, PINK or just not right. Then I saw this and fell in love with it.  It’s Pixie in aqua by My Baby Sam.  I love paisley, polka dots, pink and aqua, and shazam! there it was – my favorite patterns and my favorite colors in one set.  It’s like the nursery gods smiled upon my soul.

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Above the crib, I hand-painted a pink frame with swirly edge, hoping for kind of a parisian-ish metal street sign kind of vibe. It’s a simple design, but I am so proud of it. There was no template or guide. Just imagination, a ruler, some chalk, painting supplies and nerves of steel. Inside the frame are letters spelling her name that I got from www.craftcuts.com because I got it in my head that I wanted all lower-case letters with a serif and those aren’t sold at craft stores. I’m a font nerd, by the way.  Their customer service is awesome and helped me figure out what size I needed, and even double checked with me after I placed my order to make sure that I was getting what I wanted.

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I decided to bypass the traditional mobile and make some pom poms in different sizes to match the room and as a nod back to the polka dot motif in the bedding. I cut about a million and a half circles folded them up, hot glued them onto foam balls and then fluffed them.  I used fishing line and command hooks to hang them.

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The final wall is pretty bare. It has three prints of very chic ladies in some of my favorite cities in the world.  I wanted to add a bit of a world-traveler vibe to the room, and loved these prints.  I love looking at those during those night-time feedings and thinking back to when I visited those cities and how I hope she’ll get to see them someday (and hopefully take her mama along!). That part of the room is pretty bare right now, but I foresee there being a little art table there or maybe a ballet barre or a dress-up area there in the future.  For now, the fluffy white lamb play mat will do.  And that’s cool, because I love it.

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The final piece that I want to share is the lighting.  My grandmother let me have one of her chandeliers from her house before she passed away last summer and my in-laws completely took it apart, cleaned it, replaced any hooks and wires (as well as the actual electrical wiring) that needed to be replaced, painted it and put it back together.  I love love love love love it.  Not only does it remind me of my grandmother, but it is so pretty and sparkly and adds so much to the room.

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Well, there it is.  My little baby girl’s room. I put so much heart and soul into it, and even though she may not appreciate it, I love being in there.  I still have a couple of things I want to add, and of course, things will change as she grows, but I’m pretty proud of how it turned out.

Paint colors (all from Behr)
Walls: Adriatic Mist
Hutch backing: Poetic Princess (and plain white acrylic paint for the dots)
Frame for letters on the wall: Palace Rose

Letter Race!

Inspiration struck me a couple of nights ago during a middle-of-the-night feeding.  I was thinking about how to keep my son busy and work on letters and numbers, thinking about the stuff he does at preschool, and how I can recreate them at home.  And I wanted something that will get his energy out because it’s been a little too cold to take the baby outside in the mornings when his energy is at its highest.  Then I wondered if I could combine all of this, making learning some sort of full-body experience. So this is what I came up with:

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Letter Racing!

It’s so simple and easy.  I wrote letters on cards that I had lying around, but you can easily do it on regular paper and cut it into pieces (about four per page).  I did the letters in his name and then a few others.

My son and I then taped the letters to the front door randomly.  We went to the end of our entry hall so we were facing the door.  I wrote a letter on his LeapPad (a chalkboard, dry erase board or scratch paper will work as well), had him try to guess it, and if he didn’t know it, I said it for him.  Then I asked him to run to find it and bring it back, making a big deal: “Go! Go! Go! Run!”  “Yay! You got it!”  “Yes! That’s the C!  Awesome job!”

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We did this until we had collected all the letters to his name. Once we had them all, I wrote his name on the LeapPad (I had done one letter at a time before) and worked with him to put the letters in order, asking him what letter came next.

It’s such a simple game, but he loved it!  As soon as we were done, he taped all the letters back on the door and wanted to play again.  This time, we didn’t even need the LeapPad.  I just asked him what letters we needed, and helped him figure it out when he got stuck.

He got a little upset when I had to stop to feed the baby, and made me promise we’d play after lunch.  Yes, darling, I promise to make you play a fun educational game.  Sheesh.

When we played in the afternoon, I realized how many variations of the game there can be.  I had him go to the letters in different ways (crab crawl, hopping, etc.), I asked him to match letter sounds (What letter says “Ssss”?), I had him put the letters back on the wall one at a time…  The more we played it, the more changes we could make to make it fresh.

He was so excited to show my husband what he learned that day when my husband got home! We had another round of letter racing, and then something kinda creepy happened.  When we were done, our son started to put letters back on the door.  I got distracted drawing on the LeapPad (oops) and my husband was taking care of the baby.  He looked up and said “Did you have him do that?!?”  I looked up and saw this:

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Yup.  My son spelled “robot” completely by accident. He had no idea he had done that.  He’s a bit of a perfectionist, so it doesn’t surprise me that he put them in a straight line in the band between the panels of the door (he’d done that a couple of times during the day), but it’s kind of creepy that he spelled out a word.

All this excitement and all it took was a sharpie, some paper and some tape.

Super Fun Mid-Week Kid Birthday

So my little boy has turned three years old.  Wow. I cannot believe he’s grown up so quickly! I have to say, I was a little stumped about how to celebrate his birthday.  Three seems to be a big year – they are finally old enough to really enjoy all the fuss, so it’s really fun to celebrate.  But how?

As much as I wanted to give him a real party (and had almost the whole thing planned out before the baby was born), I realized that it was too much for me to take on at the time.  But I still wanted to make him a cake and celebrate.  I just needed the perfect inspiration, which was escaping me.

After asking around on facebook, a friend who thought I was having a party suggested setting up a cupcake bar so the kids could do whatever they wanted to do to their cupcake.  And I liked the idea of him decorating the cake, but wasn’t quite 100% sold on it.

Then it hit me how absolutely perfect that was.

I mean, what does a soon-to-be-three-year-old want more than anything in the world? Especially one whose whole life has been turned upside down in every which way within the past two months?

Control.

What my son likes most in the world right now – more than Cars stuff, chocolate chip cookies, trains and playing in leaves combined – is calling the shots, and with good reason.  In the past few weeks, his whole world has been flipped about ten times over.  All his friends moved to a new classroom without him, his favorite teacher left the school, he’s been potty training and let’s not forget about a new baby in the house and the constant in and out of visitors that’s resulted from that and then to finish off this crazy time, he’s moved up to the next classroom which is structured completely differently from his previous one.  Just in time for the craziness of the holidays… it’s no wonder he’s trying to make everything go his way.

So I ran with it.  I decided he’d have as much control of his birthday as he could.  The day before his birthday, he helped make his cake.  Cooking is one of this favorite activities, so he was in heaven.  I made it even more personalized by dividing the batter and letting him choose colors to dye the batter and then letting him fill the cake pans by pouring spoonfuls of the different colors so we got a crazy supercolor marbled cake.  That night, I frosted the cake.

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The following day – his birthday – I set up the cake on the table with all sorts of stuff to decorate: glitter gels, Cars sugar decorations, edible dinosaur decals, sprinkles and tiny chocolate chip cookies the size chocolate chips.  When he came home from preschool, he saw his birthday table and his eyes popped open wide.  Just what this mama wanted.

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We decorated the cake while dinner was cooking (and I use the term ‘cooking’ very loosely – I popped a frozen pizza in the oven because pizza is his favorite and I’m not superwoman so I wasn’t about to cook from scratch that day).  We had so much fun and he was so proud of having done up his cake. And as an added bonus, we got some quality family time in what would normally be a hectic weeknight where we didn’t really connect.

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What do you think of this confectionary masterpiece?

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Infant Mermaid Costume DIY (Super Easy)

So, remember how I bribed my daughter so she’d be born before I had to get induced?  Well, here are the results of the sparkly Halloween costume I promised her ~ a mermaid!

Now, I realize it’s kind of nuts to DIY a halloween costume the week after giving birth. I fully believe in having time to bond with the baby, get the family settled and give my body time to heal before I jump back into ‘regular’ life (although now that I’m a SAHM, I’m not sure how realistic that is).  I know a lot of people go back to work and start training for marathons the day they leave the hospital, but that’s just not me.  So it felt somehow wrong to make a Halloween costume for a ten-day-old baby. But a deal is a deal, and I couldn’t bail on this one.  I mean, how bad would that be to not go through with the first deal I make with my own daughter?

And it’s not like this was difficult to do.  All it took was a mad dash though Joann’s a few days after she was born for some shimmer tulle (one yard each of three colors) and some elastic sequin trim.  The baby stayed in the car with my hubby while I ran into the store.  And then I foraged through my craft stuff for anything else I needed, which ended up being a square of felt, a rubber band, a needle and thread and a rhinestone button.

I began by making the skirt by following directions for a tutu (like this one except that I cut my own strips of tulle), but I made mine long enough that it would go past her legs and then some.  I tied it a little past her feet with a rubber band, and then I put trim around the waist and around the rubber band, barely stitching it in place by hand.

I then placed my square of felt (the ones that are like 39 cents in the kids craft area at Wal-Mart – nothing fancy here) over a long-sleeved onesie and cut it to fit in a bodice-like shape so that it wrapped around just a bit past the sides. I used some leftover tulle to make the bandeau top, and added a bit of sequin trim.  I glued the tulle to the felt and then hand-stitched the felt to the onesie so that I can use it again.

For the headband, I measured out how much sequin trim I needed and glued the ends together.  Then I made three yoyos with two layers of tulle each so they’d be full.  I sewed them on and sewed a rhinestone button on the center one because every infant mermaid headband needs bling.  I should have done some sort of pearl to go with the mermaid/ocean theme, but I used what I had on hand.

This project is super easy.  I think it probably took about 45 minutes, and that’s because I hand-stitched a lot of it so that I can reuse the materials later. I was able to easily do it between feedings here and there over a couple of days, despite being in that post-partum recovery/newborn adjustment time.