Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy Holidays

This is a tad late, but I hope you had a very merry Christmas. The magic of the Season was certainly among us this year, and I am so grateful for the wonderful memories we created.  Memories filled with family, matching pj's (I can't help myself!), cookies, gifts, Nativity plays, Christmas books, music and laughter (and a few sleep-deprived nights with last minute projects and preparations).

Wishing you a fun and safe New Year, too!

Lunch Bag Scrapbook- Christmas Memories

I'm pretty sure Mr. One's teacher is a scrapbooker. Armed with this little tidbit, I decided to make a mini album for her Christmas gift.  This is a simple project that can be adapted to any theme you wish.  I have one of the Christmas Stack paper pads, so this was a simple project to put together with things I already had on hand.  Because the Stacks are grouped in color coordinated sections, it was easy to mix and match patterns to create a one of a kind gift.  Don't forget to add a handwritten note from you and your child.  Teachers love letters of appreciation, even more than gifts!

Here's a tutorial for you to complete one of your own.  Don't be afraid to improvise!

You will need:

Sewing machine and thread (not pictured)
4 brown paper lunch sacks
various holiday scrapbook papers
small jingle bell
paper cutter
adhesives of your choice
coordinating ribbon and/or stickers
small brads
small eyelets
eyelet setter and hole punch/ Cropodile
index cards
medium sized gift tags
letter stamps (oops, not pictured)
holiday paper punches
paper clips
fine point pens (brown, red, green and blue)

First off, you need to lay your brown bags on top of each other, alternating the bottom flaps.  The first bag should have the flap (facing up) on the right side.  The second bag should have the flap (face up) on the left side.  Repeat with last two bags.

Now, fold your top bag in half to find your center line.


Stacking all bags together, sew a straight stitch down the center line through all of the bags.  Go ahead and backstitch both ends to secure your stitches.  (If you don't have a sewing machine, you could hand stitch with a needle and thread.  Make sure to use a stronger thread and make a running stitch down the center line.)

Now, the fun part:  decorating your book.


The cover:  I used three different papers, one length of ribbon, letter stamps and a small jingle bell.  I glued the word paper on first, then the polka dots, then the stripes.  I used some decorative scissors to cut the edge of the polka dot paper on the front.  After gluing the papers down, I stamped "Christmas Memories" on a piece of white cardstock with brown ink, cut and mounted it on another piece of the polka dot paper.  I cut my ribbon in two pieces, then tucked the ends under the papers, gluing with a glue dot (these work best on ribbon),  I took the unattached ends and tied them in a knot.  I attached the bell to the bow, tying a small piece of clear elastic on the bell loop and then tying that onto the knot in the ribbon. (You could also use thin wire, or a glue dot, but a word of caution:  if you use a glue dot, it will prevent the bell from ringing well.)

Now, for the pages.  To save yourself a little time, lay a piece of paper on a page and measure to see what size paper fits best on the page.  For example, most of the paper I used for my bags were 5 inches by 5 inches square.  You can then adjust the size according to what you need (for example, you will need the pocket papers to be 5 inches tall, but only about 2 inches wide).

Pages 1 and 2:

Page 1:
striped paper (5"x5")
small red brad (just poke through top layer of bag)
two holly leaves (I used a small holly leaf punch)
3 1/2" coordinating ribbon

Page 2:

5"x5" square of red patterned paper
slightly smaller square of coordinating printed paper

Pages 3 and 4:

page 3:

3"x5" candy paper for pocket
2 small green brads
white cardstock tag
2 1/2"x4" coordinating paper for background
small red eyelet for tag
small length of green ribbon for tag
gingerbread cutout (I cut him out of another piece of paper that had a gingerbread print)
brown marker to outline tag with dots


When working with the brads for the pockets, here are a few pointers.  First, if you are using brads, pierce your paper with a large needle or paper piercer first.  This will make the brads go in easier.  Only go through the top layers of the bag (the flap and the front layers) instead of punching through to the back of the bag.  This is not only easier on your fingers, but then you don't have to worry about putting all the brads in first before gluing down the previous page.

When I set the eyelet in the tag, I placed the sandwiched the tag between the ribbon so that I punched a hole through the ribbon and tag.  Then, when I set the eyelet, it attached the ribbon loop as well.

Page 4:

5"x5" square of striped paper

Inside the bag, I put three index cards that I hole punched and tied ribbon to the ends of to add more journaling or pictures.

Pages 5 and 6:

Page 5:

4"x5" printed word paper
1"x5" plaid paper
Christmas tree embellishment

For the little tree,  I freehand cut a triangle out of green pine paper, added a small tan rectangle trunk and a hole punched star that I covered in silver glitter.

Page 6:

4 1/2"x5" Christmas lights paper
3/4"x5" plaid paper

Pages 7 and 8:

Page 7:
5"x2" rectangle of gingerbread paper
2 red brads
5"x3" rectangle of candy paper
white tag
small length of ribbon
green eyelet
green pen
candy cutout

I followed the same procedure to add the brads to make a pocket as on page 3.  The tag is outlined with a green pen and I wrote "sugar and spice" along the side.  The candy is cut out from another piece of my patterned paper.  I added an eyelet to the tag hole and threaded a bit of ribbon into the hole.

Page 8:

5"x5" square of red striped paper
1"x3" (approx.) green patterned paper
spiral paper clip
letter stamps
brown ink pad
hole punch

For the "sweet" banner, I stamped my word onto a scrap of white paper, then hole punched the letters out and glued them down on to the little green printed strip.

Pages 9 and 10:

Page 9:

3 patterned papers (dot, stripe and gifts) that combined to make a 5"x5" square.
small length of coordinating dot ribbon

I sewed three scraps of patterned paper with my sewing machine, using a zig zag stitch.  I then cut a piece of coordinating ribbon, knotted it and used a couple of glue dots to attach it.

Page 10:

5"x4" stocking paper (cut a decorative edge along side with scissors)
5"x1 1/2" stripe paper
5" length of ribbon

(Sorry I forgot to take a close up of this one)

Pages 11 and 12:

4"x5" vintage paper
1"x5" polka dot paper
plaid ribbon
flower punches (I used a medium punch, then a small punch)
red eyelet
5"x5" square of red print paper
red paper clip tied with plaid ribbon

I punched the medium flower out of the polka dot paper and the small flower out of the red patterned paper, then hole punched them together and set the eyelet before gluing the embellishment on to the book.  The red paperclip is clipped at the top of page 12 so you can see it on page 13 as well.

Page 13 and 14:

  Page 13:

3 1/2"x5" poinsettia paper
1 1/2"x5" red patterned paper

Page 14:
3"x5" green print paper
2"x5" snowflake paper
4 light blue eyelets
white tag
green ribbon
small red hole punched flower
green pen

 I used my cropodile to set the eyelets into the bag to make the pocket (using similar procedure as page 3), set an eyelet in the tag hole and the center of the flower (I set this one directly on to the tag).  I outlined the tag in green and added a length of green ribbon.

Whew!  That was the longest tutorial I have put together yet.  I hope it is clear enough.  If you are interested in making one and want some clarification, please contact me and I'd be happy to help!

Happy holidays!

Monday, December 21, 2009

When Life Gets Tough, Eat Frosting!

Thursday was one of those days.

Those days when you have a huge to-do list, too many activities planned, and grouchy children.

Then you have to battle with the insurance people for the one hundredth time over things that you thought were already taken care of.

Oh, and you're pregnant (and look like you are due any second, but you're so far from your due date you don't want to think about it).

So, after a whirlwind of volunteering in your son's preschool class all morning, one doctor's appointment, finishing last minute preparations for a holiday party, grocery shopping with two young boys, and crying on the phone to complete strangers out of sheer frustration, you are so done.

Handsome Husband calls to tell you he is heading home from work and you haven't started dinner.

And it isn't even 5 pm yet.

What to do?

Well, there is a bowl with a fair amount of frosting left over from the cake you just finished frosting.

Solution:  You and the boys sit on the semi-clean kitchen floor, eating frosting and graham crackers.

And double-dipping.

And just sticking a finger or two in the bowl where the cracker couldn't reach.

You even let your four year old take a few pictures.

Why not?

Afore-mentioned four year old says, mid-frosting lick, "Mommy I love you!"

Much better than the day before when Handsome Husband arrived home to everyone crying...

Sometimes life is just better with a bit of frosting.

(Want to know what cake I was making?  Here's one of my go-to recipes when I need to look like I'm a fancy baker, Orange Crunch Cake.  I substitute pecans for the walnuts, just because I like them better.)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mr. Two is Two!

Last week, we celebrated Mr. Two's birthday.  My sweet little baby is a little boy now.  As Mike held him in his arms, sleeping on the eve of his birthday, he said to me, "This is your last chance to kiss him as a baby."  Oh, how bittersweet!  But it's a good thing to see him grow and mature and become more independent.  I love his tiny voice and his articulate little conversations. I love his exclamations of "I did it!" when he accomplishes something on his own.  I love his happy-go-lucky spirit, his hugs and "kisses" (he gives you one of his cheeks to kiss if you ask for a kiss!).  And how can you not love those big hazel eyes, big cheeks and curly blond hair?

On birthdays, you can't help but go back to your child's birth.  To those quiet, helpless, dependent newborn days.  To remember the chubby cheeks and toothless smiles.  The wide eyes and wrinkly newborn skin.  Those days loom close on the horizon again for our little house, but I can still feel nostalgic for the past.

Mr. Two's birthday fell in the middle of the week, so we had a simple celebration during his big day. Then, on Sunday, we had his cake and birthday dinner.

We awoke to birthday signs in his room and on his door, then Cody Pancakes with extra syrup.

We ate mac and cheese for lunch (his favorite).

He received many Happy Birthday phone calls from family near and far and loved talking to each one of them.

Mesa Arizona Temple Christmas Reflection by Richard Webb

We met up with my family at the Mesa Arizona Temple to listen to the Mesa High School choir sing (my mom is the accompanist) and look at the beautiful Christmas lights.

After the temple, we drove home and invited the family in for cinnamon rolls, hot chocolate and present opening.

He loved opening his gifts and each one recieved an enthusiastic exclamation of thanks.  He is really into animals (especially farms), so many of his gifts revolved around that concept.

Mr. One was more than willing to help him open his gifts and to help him play with them afterwards.  (He even woke up at the crack of dawn to play with his little brother's toys before the birthday boy woke up and he had to go to school.)

The next day, he got a package in the mail from Grandma and Grandpa in California.  My kiddos love getting mail, and Mr. Two was very excited to get something from his grandparents.



On Sunday, we had a cheeseball and crackers and french fries for the birthday boy.  The rest of the family had roast and potatoes (those of you who know me know I didn't eat the roast).  After dinner, we had birthday cake and sang one more time.  I found the pattern for this barn cake and animals on Betty Crocker's website.  Aren't the little animals adorable?

Happy Birthday Ben-Boy, we love you!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Another Beaded Ornament

OK, so can you see that I really like my tri-beads?  This is another little gem I collected teaching.

Mini Beaded Wreath Ornament

You will need:

red pipe cleaner
small round red beads
green tri beads

Pull a green bead down the red pipe cleaner about 2/3 of the way down.  You want to have a nice long strip of pipe cleaner on each end when you finish beading to tie the bow.  You will use an AAAB pattern (3 greens, 1 red...).  If you are working with a younger preschooler who is not strong on patterning independently, try this little tip.

Have them count out three green beads and one red bead and pull them to the bottom of their work tray.  This way, they know that when they have run out of green beads, they need to add the red bead.  Then, have them count out three more greens and a red and start again.  This makes for less stressful patterning and you get some simple counting practice in as well.

You will use about 8 red beads (and 32 green beads) to get a full enough string to make your wreath.

Now, for the bow.  Push the beads into the center so you have even amounts of pipe cleaner on both sides.

Twist the two ends together where the beads end to form the wreath.

Take one end of pipe cleaner and form a loop, this will be one half of the bow.  Twist the loop at the base a few times.

Repeat last step on other side.

If the bow doesn't seem stable enough, twist the two halves of the bow together.

Hang on your tree, or give to a loved one as a gift.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Meet Me Under the Mistletoe

Can I make a confession?

I love Christmas decorations.

Our snow globes, Nativities, the handmade decorations, the garlands and stockings, the ornaments on the tree.

But my favorite Christmas decoration is the mistletoe.

I grin like a child in a candy shop when my Handsome Husband places our little mistletoe'd bell above the entryway to our dining room.

A few nights ago, the above-mentioned Handsome Husband stopped me above the bell and pointed up.  We had a nice smooch, and it wasn't even interrupted by little boy voices and tugging at pant legs (the boys were nestled all snug in their beds).

Do you think it would be alright if we just kept it up all year round?

I could figure out a way to make it work in our decor.

Love is enjoying a little kiss under the mistletoe.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nativity Book and Project

When I was listing some of my favorite Christmas books for our reading advent, I forgot one that I dearly love, Wombat Divine by Mem Fox.  It tells the story of Wombat, who desperately wants to be part of the Nativity Play.  It is difficult to find a part for this lovable little guy, but the solution is perfect.  It is sweet and simple, just like so many of her other books.

After reading, my kids love playing with our magnet Nativity to tell the story of Jesus's birth.  The magnets were super simple to make.  The pictures are actually a set of stickers* I stuck on yellow cardstock, laminated and added a magnet to the back.  My boys love playing with them on the fridge so much, we are missing a few pieces.  (I need to go on a magnet hunt!)  Hopefully, they will show up soon.

I think giving children materials to act out stories is so important.  It helps them more deeply understand their messages.  I want my children to internalize the real meaning of Christmas and to think beyond presents and getting and think of others and of the Savior during this season.

*If you can't find Nativity stickers (I googled "nativity sticker" and found bunches, especially on Oriental Trading),  you could use clip art or cut up a nice Christmas card or two to get your figures.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Candy Canes

Here are two sweet projects to do with your little ones, a candy puzzle, and a sweet treat or two!

Candy Cane Mosaic

You will need:

green construction paper
red and white construction paper cut into 1 inch squares

Make a candy cane shape on your green construction paper with white glue.

Have your child place the squares onto the glue line to make a candy cane.
For older children, have them glue the squares individually with a glue stick to form the candy cane on their own.

Tri-Bead Candy Cane

You will need:

1/2 red pipe cleaner
red and white (or clear) tri beads

Before starting, decide on a pattern you will use (ex:  red, white, red, white or red, red, white, white, red, red, white, white).

Take one bead and twist it onto the bottom end of the pipe cleaner up and around this bead to secure the bottom (you could use also use some hot glue to secure the bottom bead to the pipe cleaner).  Then, have your child string the beads, one at a time, in the chosen pattern.  When you get to the end, twist the pipe cleaner up and around the top bead to secure (or use a bit of hot glue instead).  Bend into a candy cane shape.  Hang on your tree.

These are great activities to strengthen fine motor skills as well as practice patterning.

Here's a sweet number puzzler for your older preschooler:

I think this idea came from an old issue of The Mailbox Magazine.  I printed out candy cane pieces onto cardstock and laminated them.  I used a piece of red construction paper and wrote numbers 1 to 30 on the paper and laminated it as well.  Use your candy cane pieces to construct the numbers and mark the ones finished with a peppermint candy.  This is pretty challenging, but a good thing to work on together. 

When you're done, make your own peppermint bark.

Peppermint Bark

You will need:

melting chocolate (or almond bark)
candy canes
double boiler
waxed paper

Melt any white chocolate or almond bark you prefer in a double boiler (this will help you to not burn your chocolate).

Crush several candy canes.  Our favorite method is putting them in a plastic bag and smashing them with a rolling pin or ladle.

Pour candy canes into melted chocolate.

Spread out on waxed paper and let cool.  When cooled, break into pieces and enjoy.


*And if I'm feeling a bit ambitious, I might be making these while my babes are asleep.  Peppermint Candy Cane Brownies from the girls at Our Best Bites, yum!!