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:
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.
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!
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 sketchbooks and colored pencils to capture what you discover.
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:
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 pictures 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. 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 create 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.
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 create 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 knew 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 dough craft. 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 than 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!
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 are 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.
You can purchase a set of Prismacolor colored pencils 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 that’s 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.
I’ve spent the past several weeks sorting through boxes of keepsakes. I can’t believe some of the stuff I’ve kept over the years. When we moved three and a half years ago we made fewer and fewer decisions about what to pack as the days drew nearer to moving day. Finally, at the end we just packed without much sorting—we were out of time. When you have lived in the same house, raising seven boys for nearly twenty years, you accumulate a lot of stuff!
Then there’s the other issue – my mother died quite a few years ago and my father remarried and moved into his bride’s home. Much of my mother’s belongings came to me since I was the only daughter and also the oldest. Some of her things were items she’d inherited from her own mother when she died nearly thirty years ago.
So now, I have all this stuff—photos, old glassware, postcards, newspaper clippings…the list goes on and on. Some of the items are quite valuable I would imagine, but since I’m not really interested in selling, I’m not compelled to have any of it appraised right now. No, at this point I just need to figure out where to put everything. With a house full of active boys I don’t dare display the hundred-year-old ceramic plate but keeping everything in a box in a closet somewhere isn’t the best way to really enjoy these keepsakes either.
What I have finally decided to do with at least some of my treasures is to design shadow boxes. I think I’ll make one in memory of my mother first. My husband can build the boxes and I’ll choose some of her things that hold memories for me. I might include her nurse’s pin and her picture in her uniform. I’ll probably include some of her jewelry, nothing terribly expensive, just items I remember were her favorites.
For my grandmother’s box, I already know I’ll include a pair of her glasses. Back in the 60’s she was quite stylish and wore those pointed rims with rhinestone decorations. She also had a sequinned purse. I’ll probably do another box of items my grandfather brought home from his tour in Japan during WWII.
By making all of these boxes I can display at least some of the things that remind me of my family and what each person meant to me. I’m excited to get started on this project. I’ve found a few websites and books (listed below) to help get the creative juices flowing. Now all I have to do is get my husband to build those boxes… a pan of brownies should do the trick!