Monday, January 30, 2012

I Heart Crayons

What do you do with that bag or box of leftover, broken, stubby crayons that you've been hanging on to?  You make new ones!  These are my daughter's Valentine's Goody bags for her friends and classmates.

This is such a simple project and something that can be done with only a little supervision (except for the oven part).  This is how we did it:

We used a Wilton Heart mini muffin pan.  Nine inches of crayon per heart was a good amount for this size of pan.  This works to be about two and a half whole crayons if you're using new ones.  You could cut the crayons up.  We did. . . for the first batch.  After that, lazy me decided to break them up.  It's much faster and a lot easier.

Put your silicone pan on an old cookie sheet (Yuck, mine is gross!!)  You are going to bake these in an oven at 240 degrees for 15 minutes.  Don't go hotter or longer; the wax will get too hot and mix all together and you'll end up with an ugly brown crayon.  Take them out, let  them cool and pop them out.  Repeat a bajillion more times until you have enough for each friend to have five.  Okay, maybe not a bajillion, but close.

They actually turn out really kind of neat.  Coloring with them is fun because you never know when the color is going to change!

We packaged them up in cello treat bags (left over from Snowman Soup) and put a tag inside.  We were thinking of doing a tiny box for them but, let's face it, they're going to second graders who will probably toss the packaging before they even get into the backpack.  This is functional, cheap and not too strenuous to repeat twenty five times.

TIP:  If you aren't delegating crayon paper removal duty to a child, you can get them off really easily with a utility knife.  Slice down the length of the crayon with the knife though the paper into the crayon (but not into your finger!).  It peels right off with no effort. 

The poem is my effort in channeling Dr. Seuss and just printed out on the computer.  We glued the poem to a tag that we cut out with a Sizzix die.  Slide it in with five crayons and you have a sugar free treat for the class!  (Just kidding with the sugar free part. . . don't eat these!!!!)

If I do it again:

I would scour eBay and the thrift shops and find another heart pan or two so it didn't take so long.  It took us three days of melting crayons down to have enough for her classmates to all have five. 

I really think these would look good in a small treat box (like a mini Chinese take-out box) but I didn't want to take the effort to make so many of them.  We will probably make one or two of them for her teachers, though.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

A few nights ago I was craving grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.  I despise making grilled cheese sandwiches.  If you want the family to eat together, someone always ends up with the soggy, cold sandwich because the griddle isn't big enough to do an entire batch at once.  I am excited to say that I solved this issue and figured out the way to make the perfect sandwich!

I baked it.  I'm sure that this technique has been around for ages and that I'm not the one to have developed it but I sure would have appreciated the heads up years ago, about the time I started making sandwiches for two!  If you are like me and haven't heard about the oven way, here's how to do it.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Butter one side each of two pieces of bread.  Put a piece of bread butter side down on a cookie sheet.  Add your cheese to the top and cover with the second slice, butter side up.

Timing is essential here.  The bottom will bake and the top will just have melted butter and no toasting so don't go by appearances.  Time it eight minutes, then flip.  Give it six more minutes and then you're done.

It's perfectly toasted, perfectly crunchy with the gooey cheese in the middle.  The sandwiches even impressed my son who is the pickiest of picky eater.  The best part about it was that we were all able to sit down to eat at the same time and we all had hot, toasted sandwiches that were not in the least bit soggy. 

If I do it again:

I'm going gourmet next time and making adult sandwiches along side the kids' Velveeta ones.  I'm thinking some Swiss, Havarti and maybe some Brie all on Rye bread.   Perhaps tomorrow night. . . .

Friday, January 27, 2012

Valentine's Day Goody Pouches

My kids absolutely hate the pre-printed Valentines that you buy at the store.  They go through and read them, trying to decide which friend or classmate gets which card.  My fourth grader, especially, wants to make sure that no card with "love" goes to the opposite sex and that nothing too cheesy goes to the close friends.  We solved this problem a few years ago by making our own Valentines.  This is the one my son will be passing out this year:
Apparently, fourth grade boys no longer do Valentine's Day crafts but my daughter was thrilled to pitch in and help!  Here's what you need:

* 8 1/2 x 11 Valentine's Day Scrapbook paper (one sheet makes four)
* Cardstock for the labels (I used two sheets of red, two of white and made 30)
* Glue or a glue runner
* Hershey Kisses or whatever candy you will put in these.
* Paper Crimper

Start by cutting your scrapbook paper into quarters.  Run a glue strip down the two long sides and the short side.  The pencil marks show you below.  I usually run a double line on the short side. 

Now roll your paper into a tube starting with the non sticky side.  Roll the non sticky side to the sticky side and stick it!

Press one end closed.

Fill with candy.  This size holds three to four Hershey Kisses.  Press the other side closed at the opposite angle as the first side.

Run each end in the paper crimper two to three rolls.

Make your labels and stick to one end.  We printed off the "Happy Valentine's Day" on the computer and used a paper punch to cut them all out.  We layered and were done.  Easy!

This does work best if, when you seal your first side, the seam is anywhere except centered.  I like to make it about 1/4 of the way in.

The entire project took us less than an hour and my daughter and I had fun doing it! 

Happy Valentine's Day!

If I do it again:

1.  Stick the label over the seam on the back.  I didn't think to do this and it would have hid the seam nicely.

2.  I would use paper that was a lot more fun!  He didn't want anything with Love, hearts, too much pink, XOXO, kisses or anything too girlie.  It kind of took some of the fun out of it!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Elastic Knit Waist Jeans Conversion

I will admit that I'm somewhat of a prude.  I seriously dislike the current styles for little girls.  I don't feel like girls' jeans should be made "low rise".   Butt cracks are not cute, regardless of age.

Finding pants for my little gal is very hard, even without the current style.  She has inherited my husband's side of the family's shapely rear end.  We have to go a few sizes bigger than what she should wear to be modest.  The low rise drives me crazy.

I saw some knit waist jeans on the Justice website and thought I'd try to copy them.  This is what I came up with:

I will tell you how I did it but here's my disclaimer.  My mother is a beautiful seamstress that taught sewing and sewed professionally for years and years.  I am not.  I am a HUGE frustration to her.  I don't follow any rules when I sew and tend to cut first, measure second, if at all.

If you are the type of person who knows how to change your presser foot for the different stitches, who actually uses the patterns you collect, who takes pains to match your thread to your material and who knows what that little wheel thingy is used for, please don't read this unless you are prepared for my shoddy, winging it, MacGyvering way that I do things.  It didn't turn out pretty but it works, is comfortable and is covered by her shirts so we're happy.

So here goes!

I found a pair of jeans that fit her great in every way except for the length and her waist.  They're Goodwill jeans so they worked great to experiment on.  I also found an old knit tank top that I've outgrown (*sigh*) and was willing to sacrifice.

I first cut the zipper out of the jeans.

Then I cut the waistband off.  I used the belt loops as a guide and cut right below them.

Sew up the space where the zipper was.

Then I chopped off the bottom of my tank top.  I eyeballed it but would guess it was about five inches.

Pin the cut side of the shirt, right side, to the wrong side of the jeans.  You might need to gather it a little in the back if the band is wider than the jeans.  Don't pin the side with the hem of the shirt. . . you will use it later to save yourself a step.

I sewed the back on, pinned the front and then sewed that.  It was easier than pinning the whole thing and sewing it in one swoop.

At this point, fold your knit in half and pin to the front of the jeans.  Sew but leave the side open to put your elastic through.  Cut your elastic, thread through, sew and sew the opening closed.   I also hemmed the jeans to shorten the length to what she needs.

That's it!  Like I said, it's not very pretty.  I would bet that a person who actually knew what they were doing (and paid attention to their mom when she was trying to teach them) would do a much better job than I have but they fill a purpose and serve our needs.  I do like the purple on the top, though.  When she's wearing them you can sometimes see the purple when she stretches up or bends over.  Because I used the original hem on the tank top, it looks like she's wearing a purple shirt under whatever she's wearing and that's what you're seeing.  She loves them because they pull on and off very easily.  I like them because they don't show crack!

If I do it again:

Unfortunately, I will end up doing this again because it worked out so well.  I hate sewing!  This is what I'd change:

1.  I'd make the knit part a little bigger. . . probably an inch.  I like my little girl covered!  I will have to tack in the elastic, though, if I do.

2.  I might try a drawstring instead of the elastic.  I would need a really strong knit, not tank top knit, to do this.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dresser to Nightstand

The last major project for my little girl's room was her nightstand.  She needed one but her bed is so high (think Princess and the Pea) that I was having a hard time finding something that would be tall enough but not too wide.  It needed to fit into a very tight space.

I found this. 

It's not my style so it was banished to the basement.  I hauled it up to check to see if it would work and discovered that the green works with her room but the black hardware and the ugly faux wood top did not.  We tweeked it a teeny bit.  This is what it turned out to be:

It works a lot better than it did in its original form and it was done at no cost.

First, I filled in that ridge that they grooved into the top with wood filler.

Let dry and sand smooth.  Sand the rest of it while you are at it so that the paint grabs.

And paint.  You need an enamel for good wear and you need to use a high density foam roller so that it stays smooth.  Look for a roller that says for cabinet or furniture use.  I sanded the first coat and added a second and third.

The knobs were from my vast collection.  I love knobs and have acquired a collection of them from different garage sales.  It's one of my many endearing quirks.  I found these five knobs and thought they'd work well.

Next to her white headboard, it looks fabulous.  You can't tell from the photos but the wall color is a pale green so the nightstand works well with the overall colors.

Now both kiddos have more sophisticated rooms which will, hopefully, last them.  I am not planning on doing this again in the near future!

If I do it again:

I think I'd take a little more time and do something with the drawer color.  My house hasn't been properly cleaned for a couple of weeks, now, and it's driving me nuts so I was wanting to get this project over and done with.  Other than that, this was a quick, easy and free project so it scores points with me.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Magnetic Chore Charts

Lately our lives have gotten so much busier and our regular chore chart isn't doing the trick.  There are nights that we come home from school, do homework, eat, go to practice, come home, shower and head to bed.  This doesn't leave a whole lot of time for the kids to get their chores done.  However, skipping an assigned day of chores means that some don't get done again for another week and that's not good, especially when it comes to their bathroom!  I thought long and hard and decided on this concept:

Those are individual chores on magnets.  They go on these:

I had a bunch of $1 pizza plates that I had purchased for an activity at the school.  Cookie sheets would work, too, but I had these and I like the shape.  I decorated them with vinyl cut out with my sizzix machine.  The first font is in the Shadow Box font, the second is in the Lollipop letters.  The flowers are a combination of the Bigz Build a Flower and the Original small circle.  Easy peasy!

The magnets were also very easy to make.  I happened to have a bunch of square magnets left over from a Melissa and Doug magnetic board for toddlers. 

Print off your chores on the computer, cut out and glue to the tops of the magnets.  I sanded off the top layer so the glue to have something to stick to.  Paint the top with mod podge, let dry and you have a chore magnet.

A "Today's Chores" board is now hung on each kiddos' bedroom door (3M picture hanging strips.  Marvelous invention!)  I put chores that need to be done that day on their board.  They complete it and return it to my main board (hung on the linen closet door) when they are done.  This way, I can assign chores based on need and time available to do the chores.  I also color coded them based on how often that particular chore should be done so that I can prioritize chores with little effort on my part.

The kids aren't too happy with this new system.  They preferred the "skip it" method that we were implementing.  I, on the other hand, am thrilled with this and it seems to be working so far.  Any chores that are left on the board at bedtime are automatically carried over into tomorrow and a ten minute bedtime penalty is added to the next night.  Not many chores are unfinished and it's no longer unreasonable to expect that they get done.

If I do it again:

If I didn't have magnets to recycle, I would purchase small, precut wood shapes and use that as a base.  Flat glass marbles would be another option.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cottage Style Headboard

We are still working on my little girl's room and we are at the phase where we are thinking about the furniture.  So far, she has a white desk.  We thought that a large white headboard would look nice in her room.  We didn't realize how much headboards cost!

We looked around and decided to make our own.  I liked the cottage styles with beadboard but beadboard is very expensive.  This is what we ended up making:

That, my friends, is beadboard WALLPAPER!  It is paintable, washable and SO easy to use!  Here's how we did this remarkably easy project!

Check your woodpile and scraps.  We had a lot of what we needed for this piece.

Measure the width of your bed and decide how big you want your headboard.  I knew that a piece of plywood is 48 x 96.  Her bed is a full and measures 53 wide.  I had the Home Depot guy cut a very cheap piece of plywood at 53 inches.  The headboard was going to measure 48x53.

This is the wallpaper I used.  It's a Martha Stewart brand item and I had to order it in but it was worth the wait.  Very easy to use, very forgiving and very nice!

You need wallpaper paste for this.  I happened to have some leftover from hanging a border but you can make some or buy it.  I drew a straight line from top to bottom about a quarter of the way in and laid my first strip up to that line.

Smooth, cut (leave excess) and repeat!

Let dry.  This was SO much worse than waiting for paint to dry!!!  Trim.  I wrapped the bottom around and stapled it to the back.  I cut the other three sides inside the edge since it was going to be covered by trim and I didn't want any little pieces hanging out.

You will need some trim for the top and some trim for the sides.  We chose a very cheap trim for the sides and something a tad more ornate for the top.  Cut to size and brad nail on.  We added a thin layer of wood glue, too.

Fill those holes with some wood filler, sand and paint.  We used a high gloss white enamel.  It's durable and washable and very, very pretty!

I didn't want to make holes in my headboard to hang it so this is what we did:

It's a 2x4 screwed directly into the studs.  We added a piece of square dowel to the edge with wood glue and brad nails so the headboard won't slip off.  It sits inside that lip.

The top of the headboard is attached to the wall with two metal braces screwed into the back of the headboard and into the wall with drywall anchors.  I painted them the same color as the wall so you can't see them.

Add a bed and bedding. . . done and done!

If I do it again:

1.  I would use thicker trim pieces on the sides.  You can't really tell that those are trim pieces unless you are up right at the headboard.  They're so thin that they look like a piece of the beadboard.

2.  I would make the headboard just a *tad* wider.  Perhaps an inch. . . it's a little thing but it bugs me.  I like things to be just so!

3.  I would add a little bit of the trim to the bottom of the headboard where you see it sticking out.  It would only have to go in two or three inches but it would look nice and finish it well.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Homemade Laundry Soap

In the interest of saving money, I have been perusing sites on how to make my own cleaners and laundry soaps.  I am a little (okay, a lot) obsessive about my cleaning and laundry, though, and usually find a reason or two not to use a particular recipe.  I believe in bleach and use it everywhere.  I believe in washing all bedding in my house at least once a week.  I believe in washing my pillows as often as my pillowcases; I believe in cleaning out the garbage disposal with vinegar and baking soda weekly and I believe in the sanitation cycle on my dishwasher.  You can see that making my own cleaners is quite a leap of faith for me.

I did find a recipe for laundry soap that intrigued me, though.  It's a dry soap that works great with cold water!   I decided that the initial investment of less than twenty dollars was not too much for me to try it out.  I go through one and a half big things of Tide a month. . . this adds up to about $30 a month in laundry detergent.  I also used fabric softener and bleach in the wash which adds to the overall cost.  I thought I'd give it a try.

I have a high efficiency front loader so I was a bit leery about trying anything but this one works!  I use about 2 tablespoons and put it directly into the drum.  I can use my cold water cycles, no problem!  It gets my clothes so soft I don't use fabric softener.   My bleach loads that I do once a week?  Not again!  This works better than bleach to whiten the unmentionables!  

Here's the magic recipe.  I tweeked it a teeny bit from the recipe on the original site because I had some extra stuff on hand and thought "why not"?

one 4 pound box of borax
one 4 pound box of baking soda
one 3 lb 7 oz box of Arm and Hammer's washing soda
3 bars of Fels-Namptha soap
four pounds total of oxy-clean (or generic)
one bar of soap (like Ivory or some other all natural soap.  I used Zum because it was what I had)

All of this is found in the laundry aisle at Walmart except for the Ivory soap.

You start out by grating the bars of soap like cheese.  You could use a food processor if you wanted.  When I was done, I popped the grater into the dishwasher.  It's just soap so it won't ruin your processor for food use.  Just wash it well!

The second step is to mix everything together.  You are done!  I used a bucket I had in the garage that I washed out for this step.
You have to figure out what to do with this massive amount of laundry soap. . . here's what I did!

I bought a 1 1/2 gallon plastic jar at Target.  It was on clearance. . . yeah!

I used my Sizzix to cut out vinyl letters.  I filled it and set it out for daily use!  It doesn't hold the entire batch (I still have an ice cream bucket and an oxy clean container of soap left to put in when this runs low) but it makes it so that I have some handy. 

My scoop is an oxy clean scoop that I trimmed so that it won't hold more than the two tablespoons I use per wash load.  I use less for smaller loads.  The soap always dissolves, even in cold.  And, the best thing?  I have used this for a month and I'm less than a quarter of the way through what I have made.  I am guessing that it will take four to five months to use all of this AND I don't have to buy fabric softener anymore!

The scent is very light and very fresh.  For the bedding I would like to have a stronger scent, I buy the Purex in wash scent booster crystals.  It's cheap, doesn't take much, and it lasts because I only do the guest bedding and the family's bath towels with it.   If you've tossed around the idea of making your own laundry soap, I recommend trying this one.

If I do it again:

I might try a food processor instead of the grater next time.  It took a LONG time to grate four bars of soap!  It's a lot harder than cheese!

Friday, January 13, 2012

HUGE Magnetic Board

We're slowly finishing up my little girl's room.  She has outgrown the pink and the butterflies and wanted something a bit more sophisticated.   Her room is being done in stages, partly due to budget and partly due to the fact that we aren't sure what we want in there.  We did paint and have been working on a few projects.

My daughter is very crafty and loves to display her artwork and creations.  We have set up several areas in her room for her to do so in a non destructive way.  One of which is this HUGE magnetic board.

I am a regular on pinterest and see projects where people turn cookie sheets into magnetic boards.  It's a great idea but it has a few problems.  First, cookie sheets aren't that big.  Second, they can get expensive, depending on how big and how fancy you want to go.  I had used a oil drip pan on my son's wall for his use.  I decided to copy the idea but make it a bit more girlie for my daughter.

You start with your oil drip pan.  It's around $9 at WalMart.  While you are there, pick up some 3M picture hanging strips, some mod podge and some fabric if you don't have any at home.

This is what your oil drip pan looks like:

I clean it off with a kitchen cleanser. . . it has some sort of oily film on it that I don't like.  Simple Green takes it right off.  Cut your fabric so that it's about 3 inches bigger all the way around.   Don't get exact. . . that's not fun!

Don't forget to decide which way your magnetic board will hang and cut the fabric appropriately.  You don't want your pattern to be sideways or upside down when hung. 

Cover the inside of the pan with mod podge.  Paint it on:

Lay the fabric down on top.  Smooth it on.  You will get gooey so embrace it!  Remember, any wrinkles and they'll be permanent.  Make sure to squish the fabric into the corners of the pan.  Paint the top of the piece with mod podge and let dry.

The let dry part was SO hard!  I am not a patient person and I was in the go mode but I made it!  Flip the piece over and start mod podging the edges down on the back.  (I put two mixing bowls underneath the piece so the edges didn't touch the table.)

Let it dry. . . again.  The piece is done when it is dry.  Follow the directions on the 3M strips and you don't have to make holes in your wall!

I was SO bored with waiting so I made some cute magnets to go on the board.  Here's what I used:


Cut a flower off the bunch and cut the center out.  My flowers had three layers to them.  If you had different colored flowers, you could swap out the layers and make multi colored layered flowers.  I didn't so I stuck with what I had.

Glue the first layer to the magnet and each additional layer on top.  You can either cut the original center flat across the bottom and glue it back to the middle or use something else.  I had these:

So I made these:

I hung the magnet board, and added the magnets.

It didn't take her long to decorate it her way!

If I Do It Again:

Not much to tell.  I like how it turned out.  Some things to make sure to do again would be to use a thinner cotton fabric. . . I think anything thicker would bunch up too much.  I would also make sure to not have goops of mod podge left on the top.  I would also make sure to use the matte mod podge. . . it's a lot more forgiving than glossy when used in such a large amount.

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