My Little Apron

My Little Apron

I recently finished a fun project for my granddaughter. She turned three in May and, as has been my tradition-for three years anyway, I try to think of a gift I can make for her. So far I have made a rag doll and doll sized quilt and puppets.  At Christmas last year I made her an apron because she always wants to be in the kitchen when her daddy is cooking and Daddy has an apron. Lately I’ve noticed that aprons are becoming more popular again. There are many websites with information about making a variety of styles for children and adults.   Here are just a few:

http://tipnut.com/56-free-apron-patterns-you-can-make/

http://everythingyourmamamade.com/2008/07/22/139-free-apron-tutorials-patterns/ (some of these are repeats of the first website)

http://www.freeneedle.com/directory.php?directory=3

The pattern I used was one I actually bought:  Simplicity 3949.

As my granddaughter’s birthday approached I was thinking about what I would make for her and decided on a chef’s hat to go with her apron. I just used some of the scraps from the apron and white fabric to make the rest. I found the pattern here.

It was a simple gift but I think she liked it. If you look at her photo you’ll see what I mean.

Her little sister is about to have a birthday. I’ve been busily working on her gift but you’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to see it. It’s a surprise!

Happy sewing!

–Sheryl

Make Summer Memories — for $20 or Less!

In the Pool

Well, summer is slipping away. If you are like me, you start the summer with the goal to have a great summer, full of activities that will leave your kids with lasting memories. But now, with the summer more than half over, you are still looking for the time and the money to create these special moments.

I am here to tell you that there is still time and you don’t need a lot of money to make it happen. Remember back to your own childhood summers. It’s probably not the expensive vacations that you remember. It’s more likely the simple things that bring you the fondest memories. For me, some of my greatest memories are included in this list of things I’ve also done with my kids or still plan to do.

So take a few minutes to plan a little and then start making some memories. And be sure to have your camera ready!

1. Have an Ice Cream Party. Buy a gallon of ice cream, a bunch of bananas, and some toppings like chocolate syrup or whipped cream. Invite the neighborhood kids over and have fun creating amazing sundaes.

2. Host a Water Balloon fight. Buy several packages of water balloons and…well, you know the rest!

3. Go on a Nature Adventure. Plan a simple picnic and take a walk at a nature park. Bring along your insect, tree and bird identification books. You could also bring sketch books and colored pencils to capture what you discover.

Sidewalk Chalk

4. Host a Sidewalk Art Show.  Purchase a couple of large boxes of sidewalk chalk.  If you have sidewalks, have each child choose a square ( it’s a good idea to leave empty squares in between so the artists have room to work without stepping on each others masterpieces). No sidewalks? A paved driveway can be divided into squares too. If you live in the country you’ll have to find a friend in town with sidewalks! When the artists have finished their work invite the neighbors to visit your outdoor gallery.

5. Make some homemade bubbles. There are tons of websites with ideas for this activity. Here are just a couple to check out:

http://www.sabine.k12.la.us/ZES/bubbles/

http://www.tooter4kids.com/Bubbles/Activities_Recipes.htm

You can also just do a search for bubbles and bubble wands and find many more.  Cool humid days with little wind are the best days for bubbles.

6. Create a Photo Album of summer friends.  Buy an inexpensive miniature photo album and have your kids take picturse of all their friends. Print the pictures on photo paper on your home computer or take them to a quick print photo lab like those at Target or Walmart. Add captions and decorate the albums with stickers or other art supplies that you might have on hand. You could make this an annual event and years from now your kids will have lasting memories of their summer friendships.

7. Plan an outdoor games event. Invite some friends and play games like relays, tests of skill and other old-fashioned birthday party type games.  Who needs a birthday in order to have some fun?  For most games you can use various household items. A great book called Play with Us: 100 Games from Around the World is a great resource. Many of the games will be new to your kids. Most require a few props and those can usually be found or made at home. This book may be available at your public library. It is also available new or used at Amazon.com.  you can also check out this website for some fun, easy games.

8. Build an outdoor tent village.  Using old sheets and blankets, a few deck chairs or folding chairs and some clothes pins you can creat a small city of tent dwellings. Hours of imaginative fun can be found inside these temporary dwellings.  Think about the indoor tents you have made in the winter and adapt it the great outdoors.

For even more ideas for inexpensive activities to do with your family, click here.

Go have some fun!

–Sheryl

Save Money with Old-Fashioned Homemade Gifts

I am always on the lookout for frugal gift ideas. Even without the recent economic woes, we have needed to be careful in this area. It is easy to go way over your budget for gifts in a hurry!  With my large family and fast-growing extended family, finding a way to give gifts to those we love while keeping expenses down has always been a challenge.

Many years we have made the decision that hand-made gifts are our best option.  There is something about being able to creat a gift for someone that goes beyond simply going to the store in search of the perfect gift at a bargain price. I think we get a chance to really savor the anticipation of how the gift will be received and are able to feel the love we have for the recipient  going into the process.

Some years we have made food items and other time it’s been Christmas ornaments or household items. Lately I have been sewing a lot of gifts since I have granddaughters.  I think finally having girls around has awakened a love for creating things from fabric that I never new existed until now!  I’ve made dolls, quilts, aprons and puppets and have a great time coming up with new ideas for the next project.  Right now I am finishing a little doll quilt for my granddaughter’s birthday in a few weeks. It is made from the same material that I made her baby quilt from when she was born so she and her dolly will have matching quilts.

Usually — at least at Christmas time — I involve my sons in the creating. Each time the satisfaction that shows on their faces when they present a gift that they helped make is  priceless.  There are shelves of books full of ideas for making the perfect gift. We have used many books and websites over the years that have had great ideas. I’ve compiled a list of a few that I think have some good projects and contain easy instructions.

The first three titles are out of print but available from used books sellers on Amazon.com.

201 Craft Bazaar Best-Sellers is a book packed with easy projects that you might find at any craft bazaar. The projects are simple to create and would be fun to do with children.

55 Country Doughcraft Designs has almost twenty pages of basic instructions and technique before they get to the projects. After reading the clear directions you will feel confident to try your hand at doughcraft.  The projects range from very simple to challenging and there are plenty of illustrations to show you the finished products.

Crafts to Make and Sell is another book full of projects you might find at craft bazaars. The instructions are clear and the variety of projects is amazing. The cover says “more that 1000 projects, tips and ideas for marketing or giving your crafts”

Finally, a much newer title is Painting and Decorating Clay Pots.  This book had 150 fun step-by-step projects using terra-cotta pots that you can find at any craft or garden store. You might even find some on clearance toward the end of summer.  This book is laid out in an easy to follow format. Each project has the instructions, a list of materials and a picture of the finished product. Projects range from small ornaments to household decorations to larger outdoor decorations. They are fun to make and fun to give.

Now is the time to start thinking about Christmas gifts!  You can take your time and make some wonderful gifts if you start early!

Have fun!

–Sheryl

Do You Geek the Library?

GeekTheLibrary.org

From a homeschoolers perspective it goes without saying that the library is a vital part of daily life — at least at our house. I don’t know about you, but for our family the library is actually our main source of curriculum. I use the word “curriculum” loosely.  It isn’t uncommon for me to have more that 100 books signed out on my library card at one time. Fortunately for me, my library has no limit to the number of books you can take home!

Years ago, when I began homeschooling I spent hours with the curriculum catalogs and then spent more hours in the vendor hall of our state homeschool convention in search of the perfect curriculum.   I collected boxes of different programs all designed to be the perfect means by which to educate my children.

Now, eighteen years later, I have tossed most of those texts and also tossed the concept that we need some sort of canned program at all. These days you will find us on any given school day, reading a variety of books — most, if not all, from the public library.

At this moment, because of the current economic challenges we are all facing, libraries are becoming endangered.  Many state and local governments are considering cutting funding for libraries at a time when  the resources available there are more important than ever.

As homeschoolers, we are quite familiar with the need to make our voices heard about issues of importance. This is another cause that we can get behind wholeheartedly. Institutions like the public library are part of what makes our country a great place. Let’s get informed and get the word out that we need our libraries to be a priority.

You can start by visiting GeekTheLibrary.org and sending the link to anyone you feel would be interested. No one will know that we think this is important unless we tell them.

What do you geek?

–Sheryl

Mama, Let’s Color!

Coral Reef

One of my favorite activities, especially on rainy or snowy days, is to color with my kids. Now I’m not talking about the box of crayons and the dime store coloring book sort of coloring. I am talking about artist quality colored pencils and Dover Publications coloring books. Dover Publications has hundreds of coloring books on a huge variety of subjects that can really enhance your child’s learning experience. Some of the titles ar just for fun and for the joy of creating art but others are very informational. There many historical titles that could be incorporated into unit studies.

Comparing this type of coloring to the old fashioned crayon variety is like comparing sirloin steak to hot dogs. Hot dogs certainly have their place but for real quality you might look for something a little more sophisticated. In the realm of coloring books, Dover definitely is the quality you are looking for.

Prismacolor

You can purchas a set of 120 Prismacolor colored pencils on eBay or Amazon.com for a fraction of what they cost in even discount art supply stores. Then we gradually put together a pretty impressive collection of books. Some we ordered new and some we picked up at yard sales for a quarter. We have books that cover all different time periods, nature topics and geometric figures.

We don’t worry about who colors in which books for the most part. We usually just choose a book and a picture that suits us at the moment. There is one exception — Mom has a Victorian House book thatis off limits!  I have worked my way slowly through this book one room at a time and am almost finished with my masterpiece.  I also have one which contains pictures of the outside of houses that I am enjoying. Of course I  like the nature ones, too especially the ones with flower gardens in them. My boys aren’t too picky but they really aren’t interested in my house coloring books. They prefer the historical and the natures titles.

Another title that has been particularly useful is the Human Anatomy book. It shows the body systems in very detailed illustrations so you can learn how our bodies are designed as you color. A great resource to combine with biology or health studies.

There are a couple of tips I’ve learned that will help the experience to go smoothly. One thing I would suggest  is to purchase a pencil sharpener that is strong enough to handle the harder lead of the pencils.  We ruined an electric one with overuse. I finally just bought a metal  hand-held one designed for artists. It works fine, just remember to give your artists a place to collect the shavings while they are sharpening. A paper plate or something like a piece of poster board will work fine.  Also, we have learned that if we want our books to look good when we are all done with them, it’s a good idea to use a piece of plain white paper between the pages so the pressure you exert while coloring on your current page doesn’t “transfer” the colors on the previous pages onto each other. The white paper picks up any color that is transferred by your pencil pressure.

Happy coloring!

–Sheryl

Sometimes Life Gets Messy

LaundrySometimes my life gets messy. I’m not talking about issues, emotional stress, challenging relationships. Not that kind of mess. I’m talking about the really physical mess that happens in households where kids are being trained.  For years I have had trouble finding the line between training my children to be responsible and keeping my household up to the standards I would like it to be.  When you are training children there is always that learning curve that inevitably leaves pot holes in the road.

This morning there was a pretty impressive pot hole.  We are in the process of training our boys to do laundry. Not just to learn the mechanics of running the washer and dryer. The whole process is of course, much more involved than that. At our house it involves the following steps:

  1. Finding the laundry (search the kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms and sometimes the front steps, please)
  2. Sorting (no, that new black shirt doesn’t go in with the load of white socks and underwear)
  3. Loading the washer (you cannot wash 25 bath towels at once, that would be at least TWO loads — and don’t forget the detergent!)
  4. Remembering that there is laundry in the washer before the sour smell gives it away
  5. Putting the laundry in the dryer (that little door with the fuzzy stuff coming out all over is supposed to be emptied EVERY time you load the dryer)
  6. Taking the clean clothes out of the dryer ( were the clothes in the bottom of that basket you just dumped clean clothes into, clean or dirty?)
  7. Bringing the clean clothes upstairs
  8. Sorting
  9. Folding
  10. Putting it away where it belongs

And that still isn’t the end of it. There is also the aspect that the laundry person needs to stay on top of the job. It is not acceptable to leave a zillion loads in the laundry bin and expect it to just  some how wash itself. The other thing is, since we have more than one trainee there is that issue of expecting that “someone else” will do it.  I often find myself saying,”someone needs to change the laundry” to which my husband can be heard saying frequently “someone doesn’t live here.”

So this morning, when my husband got up to go to work the clothes he needed hadn’t been put in the dryer the night before and now he was scrambling to find something to wear. It should never get to this point but when you are training children to be responsible there will be times when the system fails. They won’t always get it right and knowing that, we sometimes have the tendency to “just do it ourselves” so we avoid any issues. Whether we know it or not, we aren’t doing ourselves any favors when we choose to avoid the possibility of failure.

What we can do is keep working with our kids. They will eventually learn if we don’t give up. They will become responsible adults, eventually.  So just keep trying, keep training…and retraining. Keep encouraging them and keep praising them when they get closer to the goal. When the trash is overflowing and no one but you seems to notice, when the dog’s water bowls are empty…again, when the laundry smells funny because it sat in the washer too long, just remember that you main goal right now is training your kids, not having a flawlessly run household. It might be tempting to just do everything yourself but your kids will be the better for it if you just persevere.  One day they will be grown and gone and you will have your house in order. You will be proud of who they have become and you might even miss these chaotic days just a little.

Keep pressing on!

–Sheryl