Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A (re)Purpose Driven Life

I like to recycle. Even better, I like to reuse and repurpose (meaning the stuff sticks around, just in another useful form).  One way I like to do this is by being all craf-tay.
We have a very small craft room, and I recently carved out a space for a recycle area. I took an old plastic storage tower we had lying around and put it to good use by jamming it in the last 2' of space and filling it with 'trash'. Yay, me! *sarcastic snort*

I made three little labels (Cardboard, Paper, Misc) and spray mounted them onto each drawer. I used a clip art recycle graphic for the labels and for a frame that sits on top of the bin.  I think the frame is really a nice directional for my husband, so he knows where to put things (if he dares to enter). Also, I vow if all bins are full...there shall be no overflow! We'll accept more ONLY when there's room. You hear me? Oh & I don't want any toilet paper rolls (ewe).

Lastly, I added an inspiration/idea wall above the recycle bin from some leftover cork squares. On this wall I display pictures of recycled craft ideas that I like.  I love the tin cans for herb pots/May Day gifts, jar votive, jar flower vases and candy holders, bird feeders and of course, all the cute kid projects (can't wait to try out the milk carton boats).

There are many sites that offer info on how to craft with recycled items, just Google.
Kaboose  is one my favorite such sites, they do a great  job with index/search by specific recycled item.  Also, Re-Nest is a favorite spot & they have a great list of 50 creative reuse ideas.

It doesn't take much skill, time or money (can be free) to create a recycle craft area in your home. This also teaches kids about recycling/repurposing & you'll have fun making crafts/gifts together!
p.s. for the last several years I've been trying to reuse/repurpose these metal buckets as used in our wedding (pics below). I've given them filled with cookies, muffins, flowers, birthday gifts, Halloween/Easter treats..anything and everything. I know  my friends and family will be VERY disappointed, BUT...

the LAST bucket leaves tomorrow, filled with baby gifts for a friend.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Water World

At Home Projects

Don't worry, this post isn't about that bad Kevin Kostner movie.
We went to a free children's exhibit called 'Under the Sea', with some friends this morning. For my local readers, it was at Crown Center and it was fun (check it out!).

I thought it would be cool to incorporate a few learning activities beforehand, to go with the theme. So, the day before, we did the following (all free and didn't take much time):

I gathered our ocean/sea themed books and read them with her. You can find online versions,  and of course, the library is also a great resource.

We used an empty strawberry container and filled it with blue tissue paper (left over from gifts). We added tiny paper fish and talked about how they live/navigate in the water and the many different kinds of fish.

We then filled a small storage container with aquarium rocks. I've been holding on to this unopened bag of rocks for 4 years (post fish) and finally found a use for them!
My girl LOVED this... the feel of the rocks and helping to pour them in. Expect to have a few scatter or tossed in the process...hey, a small price to pay for creating an ENTIRE ocean floor ecosystem!

We added items one-by-one and talked about each in detail (we used a tube of cheap ocean creatures).

I then buried a couple items at a time and asked her to find them. This was her favorite part (we only did this about 20 times). Also, this is where most of the scattered rocks happened...all the excited digging!

Next, some questions:

Does a cow live in the ocean/sea? NO!
Do dogs and cats live in the ocean/sea? NO!
Does the mailman live in the ocean/sea? NO!
This was all extremely funny to her.
Does an Octopus live in the ocean/sea? YES!

As a fun bonus, I printed free ocean/sea themed coloring sheets. I made extra to give friends at the outing.  Just print, hole punch and tie together.  

Here's where I snagged the free themed coloring sheets- click this link:First School.
This site is TRULY AWESOME (take some time to snoop around), TONS of free coloring sheets and activities (thanks to my friend Natalie for sharing this site info).

After the outing, we did a fast Octopus craft. The picture is pretty self-explanatory. A cardboard roll, 8 cuts for legs, paint and some google eyes.

p.s. this is the tube of ocean creatures we used with the aquarium rocks:
Safari Ltd Coral Reef Toob

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

That Felt Fun!

Felt is cheap, cheap, cheap at around 39 cents for an 8.5 x11 sheet.
I love to teach my toddler about numbers, colors, shapes and more using felt & she has fun with it too. Here's an easy and cheap project (NO SEW) that we did recently.

Ice Cream Color Matchup:
You'll need a variety of different colored felt pieces and one sheet of tan. Cut a cone shape, a scoop of ice cream and a circle out of card stock (or even regular paper) to use as your pattern. Trace the patterns on the felt and cut out. Use fabric glue to adhere the circles to the cones. DONE!

As you can see, little hands are ready to play with them!

You can put some Velcro tabs on the back of the ice cream shapes if you'd like. We use ours with the felt board hanging and on the ground (without Velcro) and they work fine without falling off.  
Playing color match!

You can easily cut numbers, shapes, food...the list goes on.
Also, Etsy has a great variety of felt collections, handmade by individual sellers (good deals).

Here are some FREE printable patterns for felt learning/games and other ideas:
ChildcareLand and DKL Teach. These two sites (along with Starfall are great resources for many learning activities and free printables).

We have a two sided felt board  that I picked up at church sale a while back (one side green and one side blue) - it hangs and folds, we use it nearly every day.

To make your own felt board, visit this link- DIY Network. This is pretty simple as it consists of wrapping felt around a board and securing.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Easy Silhouettes

I love silhouettes. So classic and timeless.To me, they always look like someone I know or have known. I really love to see them in a variety of frames all grouped together.

Image from Country Living

 I've been wanting to jazz up the blank area in our entry way, above the shaker rail. I thought a silhouette grouping might be cool.So, I did some quick research on how to DIY and I DIM in an afternoon.Here's the finished product in our entryway (my husbands profile is pending, I plan to sneak a pic while he's sleeping).

There are many ways to make a silhouette and lots of free tutorials online, just Google and choose your favorite. You can do them digitally or trace and cut photographs.I used the free online editing program Pixlr to do mine (thanks to my fab friend Jennie who shared Pixlr site info). For our family pet, here's the photo I started with:

I used the lasso tool and traced around the image. I then 'cut' it out and pasted it onto a new blank canvas. Then, I used the eraser tool to fix any rough edges, filled the image with black (bucket tool) and printed it. That easy!

Then on to framing. I have a supply of frames that I've picked up from thrift stores.
People look at me like I'm nuts when I wheel up with my cart full of ugly pictures, but they don't see the possibilities! Like this one.
Country sunflower hearts. Uhm, no.

I toss the pictures and rehab the frames with some spray paint. Well worth the $1-$3 spent and the embarrassment of buying them.
I used some leftover craft paper as the backing in a few of my frames.You can even do the silhouette in different colors.

Bella and Bean Storewall by Karl (via Apartment Therapy)

Add to your collection over the years & have fun with it.
Don't forget to write the name/date on the back of the silhouette- these make great family heirlooms!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Room for Two

It seems that we've made space for our newest member of the family in every room, and usually she takes it over...so why not my office/craft room too?

My office/craft room is an odd shaped galley style room. It would never due for a bedroom (way too small) and if a third adult were to enter, they would have to repel from the ceiling (really not kidding).

Still, I wanted to carve out a space for my tot in this room too, so she could color/paint while I worked & so we could have a place to craft together. Plus, things can get messy in this room- that's what it's for. 

This room was built with a lot of craigslist, thrift store and garage sale finds. For instance, the ribbon holder above my desk is actually a repurposed paper towel holder I got for $1 (it was previously an ugly brown). I used a framed picture from a thrift store and made it into a cork board, we used discounted laminate flooring, leftover paint...you get the idea.
p.s. I think the camera puts on 5', because the room looks so much larger in these photos!

So, after stalking some of my favorite websites for inspiration and taking advice from friends on how I could incorporate a tot space, I decided to take the smallest wall (adjacent to my desk) and kit it out for kiddie. 

The only way to go was UP (plus, storage was badly needed). I decided to go with a wall shelving system, for maximum space usage (plus, no moving parts to get in the way or block the door). With this setup, the bottom shelf is a desk and it can grow with the kiddo, as it easily raises up to higher levels.

I then installed some magnetic metal strips on the side wall, where we clip her artwork for drying/display.

This was amazingly easy to install (I did it myself!) and it was economical too. We stocked up with art supplies from the Dollar Store (you can get three times as much stuff for half the price) and when asked about Christmas & birthday wishes, we requested craft items.

Overall, I like the clear distinction between the two areas - I still have my 'grown up' space (even if it is just one side of the room), and she has her bright/vivid tot area. My girl asks daily to visit the 'awt room' and the memories we share in there are well worth it (so are the paint hand prints on my chair).

At times, there are 2-3 tots in there fighting over one glue stick.

What more could you ask for?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Art of Letting Go

Now that my girl is no longer a baby, I've been sorting through the mound of 'stuff' she has outgrown. Bummed that she's growing so fast and that these items, and the memories they hold, are fading. Sure, I've got a billion photos of her with these items, videos of the same...but it still doesn't seem like enough. These items are great 'memory joggers' and I love them.

I want to KEEP every last stained onesie, lonely sock and toy.

Not realistic. Sort of hoarder-ish.

I could almost accept this, if it weren't for the fact that I'm scared of completely tipping over the edge and not knowing it (you know... like saving hair, band-aids, teeth, fingernails) YIKE.

So, I thought of a better way to keep 'the stuff'. Turn it into an artful keepsake.

I took photos (and grabbed some from online) of favorite items we enjoyed during our first year.  I then arranged them into one graphic element:

Then, I played around in Photoshop editng the images into something I thought would make fun artwork for the wall. If you don't have Photoshop, you can use Pixlr or Picnic
(they are great, FREE online photo editing programs).
It's super easy too, you don't even have to dowload the software!

The possibilities are as endless as your time allowance.

A few final image ideas:

as framed artwork
have them printed on canvas
use as postcards/notecards
transfer them onto a tote/bag
add them to a scrap book/baby book

Happy Memory Keeping!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sending All My Love

I love these little mailboxes from Pottery Barn Kids.

How cute would it be for a kid to have their own mailbox for Valentine’s Day? To use each year, filled with valentines from loved ones as they come in the mail & a gift from mom/dad on the big day?
I  thought this would be a FAST/easy project (and it was), so here’s what I came up with:
  • One metal mailbox from Joann’s craft store ($3.99)
  • One long candle holder from thrift store ($2.00)
         You could use a shorter candle holder to place on table, or skip using one all together.
  • One initial letter from Joann’s craft store ($1.79)
  • White spray paint
  • Some red, white & pink felt (cheap at around 29 cents a sheet)
  • Fabric glue
  • Glue gun (or you could use all purpose glue or gorilla glue to attach decorative elements)
  • A festive button
  • Some festive fabric scraps
  • Pinking shears (these scissors really make all the difference with this project)
  • Regular craft scissors

First, I spray painted the initial, candle holder and wood knob white.

Then I cut & knotted fabric scraps around the flag arm, alternating patterns.  I then embellished the flag with felt hearts, glued together with fabric glue (pink felt was cut with pinking shear for decorative edge). I used the hot glue gun to adhere to the flag.
 I cut out some larger hearts from felt & glued a button on top of them, then hot glued it to the mailbox. Next, I glued the initial to the other side of the mailbox, added a felt owl I had on hand & glued the knob on the front. Lastly I screwed the mailbox to the top of the candle holder (just in case the glue decided not to hold).
Of course, this can work for boys too! Just choose different colors/themes.

As a lil' extra, I made a quick felt envelope to put inside (super easy). I sewed two pieces of felt together (you could just use fabric glue on the edges & skip the sewing). Cut out a little 'stamp' with pinking shears and put them down with fabric glue. I then slit an opening in the back so it can hold small gifts. I glued fabric scrap over the opening as trim.  It’s not perfect, but looks like it was ‘made with love’ and that’s all that matters, right?