December 28, 2014

I Tried It…. Shrink Wrap a Christmas Tree {Success}

Recently, I was inspired via Pinterest - specifically this blog - to shrink wrap my Christmas tree. 

The steps are easy... 

Shrink Wrap a Christmas Tree

Step One:  Buy plastic wrap and wrap your tree. Saran Wrap works or you can buy the plastic wrap wand from Home Depot or Lowe's. After using the wand, I can't imagine I would prefer good old Saran Wrap for this task.

Step Two:  Remove all decorations, except for the lights. I saved a whole $50 not getting the pre-lit fake tree. Big mistake. A pre-lit tree is worth the extra $50 and I have been reminded of it for the past 3 years. Please, if you have this option - BUY PRE-LIT.

Step Three:  On to wrapping. Hold up the branches and wrap tree. We lifted every other branch and wrapped ourselves down the tree.




Until next year Mr. Mummified Christmas Tree!

December 14, 2014

Baby Shower Quilted Keepsake


Four (very short) years ago, the shower for my baby girl was held. I remember trying to figure out exactly what craft to do at the shower. I absolutely wanted something crafty, but I also wanted a valued keepsake for my daughter to treasure. ZERO offense to all the crafty onesie baby showers that occur…. and ZERO offense to those that attend those showers and create the ugliest onesie known to man… creating onesies are fun, but I don’t think they make a valued keepsake.

My stepmom – the Martha Stewart of our family – came up with a fantastic idea! My baby shower guests would each design a quilt block with a quote and a flower. To help keep quality assurance, flower “parts” and quilt squares were prepared ahead of time.  All the guests had to do was design their flower using the flower parts – iron the flower in place and then write their quote using fine-tipped fabric markers.

The results were creative and beautiful!! 



Baby Shower Quilted Keepsake
Colorful Fabric for Flowers
Muslin
Heat n' Bond
Freezer Paper
Flower Templates (Google Pictures of Flowers)
Iron
Fine-Tipped Fabric Markers
Fantastic Quilter!

Step 1: Find the fabrics to create your flowers. Fat-quarters or the fabric sample packs in the quilting section work fabulously for this project.

Step 2: If you aren’t using the sample pack of fabrics, then cut your fabric into squares – around 6” x 6” would work well.  Remember, you are going to cut designs out of this fabric – the square is just to get it to a manageable size.

Step 3: Iron on the Heat n' Bond. 

Step 4: Using muslin, cut out lots of 12” x 12” squares.

Step 5: Iron on freezer paper to the back of the squares.  This just makes them more manageable for the baby shower guests and for storage / mailing purposes.

Step 4: Using pictures of flowers as a template (Google: Flower Templates), cut out petals, flowers, leaves and stems. Make sure they will fit on a 12” x 12” quilt square!!

Now you are ready to have your baby shower guests create quilt squares!!!

Step 1: Have each guest create a flower on a square – have them leave about ¼ inch on all sides of the design. Once they are happy with their flower, iron it to the square.




Step 2: After flower is securely ironed on the square. Each guest should write their quote and sign their name.

Step 3: Magic happens!  Okay, not really – it is more like “stepmom magic quilting” happens.  If you are a quilter, then fantastic – sew together and quilt away.  If not, find yourself a fantastic quilter to finish the project for you.

The finished project is a quilt filled with quotes for my daughter. It was designed and handcrafted by her grandmothers and mother as well as many other women in her life.  A true keepsake that I hope she values for many years.



June 25, 2014

No Name Summer Drink

Hi, it's me. The inconsistent blogger. Yes, I blog tons and tons all at one time and then don't write a peep for months and months…. that's just how I roll. At times you will think, "she doesn't have time to blog" or "she doesn't have anything interesting to blog about" and you are correct on both fronts. But sometimes, just sometimes, my busy brain has moments of creativity and leaving that creativity to fester in my brain causes all kinds of chaos and sleepless nights. Trust me, it is cray-cray up there {and please, I beg you, forgive me for even writing the phrase cray-cray}.

Ok, so Summer is officially here and it is time to break out the fruity drinks that make your taste buds feel like they are on a tropical vacation.

This drink recipe is pretty much something I made up based on a drink I tasted at a local restaurant. And let me tell you, it is deeeeeeeeelicious. I don't have a name for the drink, but feel free to taste it and suggest a name. Or if you are feeling snarky, let me know what bars have already named this drink.


No Name Summer Drink

Grenadine Syrup
Pineapple Juice
Orange Juice
San Pellegrino Sparkling Lemonade
Coconut Rum (if you dare)


Now, beyond knowing the ingredients, I don't really think you need play-by-play directions. However, I know how some of you are. Oh, I know…. I know because my real job is auditing auditors. Jealous much? I didn't think so. On with the step-by-step directions.

Step 1:  Grab you glass full of ice and put a tablespoon of grenadine syrup. Or more. Or less. Whatever.




Step 2:  Pour in a 1/2 cup of pineapple juice. Unless you hate pineapple juice...




Step 3:  Pour in a 1/4 cup of orange juice. Unless you hate pineapple juice, then pour in more OJ.


Step 4:  Add a shot or two of coconut rum. No picture of this. OMG, however will you figure it out!!! 

Step 5:  Top it off with San Pellegrino Sparkling Lemonade and give it a good stir.

Ahhhhh….. Cheers!



June 19, 2014

Disneyland!!



LOTS of people questioned my sanity regarding bringing a 3 year old to Disneyland. To sum it up, most of them were concerned that Sweetpea {SP} wouldn't remember the trip, therefore, wasting "precious" money. And, as always, I took their advice seriously…

…okay, I really didn't. I'm not the greatest at listening to other people's advice…especially once my mind has been made up! And I am so so so so glad I didn't. SP had an amazing time and the trip met every single one of my expectations!!! I considered a few factors before booking this trip:

{1} Does SP have the patience to stand in line for 20-30 minutes?  Yes and she was a super star.

{2} Will this be our only trip to Disneyland?  Um, heck no. I'm ready to book again!!

{3} Does SP get scared of rides or new experiences?  Not typically.

{4} Will she remember this trip?  Ha! Trick question. I am all about creating happy memories, regardless if she remembers them or if I remember them. I don't believe you have enough time to "wait" on creating memories.

Your answers to these questions might be different…and therefore, you would have a different decision. Always, make the choice based on your family - not what you hear from other people or on blogs :)

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to take this trip while she is still young is because she still believes in magic. This is a shot of her when she caught a sneak peak at Tinker Bell through the fence! PRICELESS!!!

On to the trip details!! If you are planning a trip, one Google search will get you tons and tons and tons of Disney related blogs with a million tips and tricks. Read them, they are interesting - but don't take any of them to heart.  Remember, you know your family - so make the best plan for your crew. The smartest plan we made was to have a plan, but not be so tied to the plan. Our original plan was to stay all day in the park…find shady spots to rest, but really maximize our day. Our plans changed as we realized we were seeing all the sights we had hoped to in record time. We went back to the hotel for a swim and nap, before heading back into the park for the firework show. Our new plan worked perfectly!

Disneyland Hotel


I wished I had taken pictures of our room at the hotel. The hotel room was smaller than average, but recently remodeled so everything was new and modern. Sorry, I'm the one person out there that doesn't care for the charm of an outdated hotel room! It had a small fridge, but plenty big for our snacks and water. The AC kept the room cold, which made for happy sleeping.

The service at the hotel was outstanding. From the moment we pulled up the vehicle, to the moment we checked-out, everything was simply perfect. Nothing else to say here. Just perfect.

Here are a few shots of the pool. It was large, with three different pool areas. For the most part, the pool was fairly empty. They also provided lifejackets for the kiddos to use. 






Goofy's Kitchen

The food was buffet style and cost $115 for all three of us to dine on hot dogs, spaghetti, chicken nuggets, etc. FAR FAR FAR from gourmet dining, but the experience is why you go. SP saw Goofy, Jasmine, Minnie Mouse, Dale and Pluto. Each character spent at least 5 minutes talking with her. She and Dale spent the entire time "bonking" each other on the nose. Her joy was worth every penny of that meal. Besides, we were too hungry to complain about what we were eating!


Disneyland Park
For starters, we bought a 2-day pass to only Disneyland. We figured we would keep it limited and we are super glad we did. We didn't feel rushed to try to see everything!  For those of you trying to figure out pricing, each ticket was $178.  

We rode in on the Monorail and the conductor let us ride up front with him. SP had a front-row seat. 


Let me tell you - this map was well used. By the end of the trip it was wearing rather thin! We used it constantly to figure out where our next adventure would be. It is easy to get a tad lost in Disneyland, so I would suggest keeping this map on you at all times. And if you are planning a trip, download the map beforehand. It will give you a good idea on how to plan your day. We did take advantage of "magic hour", which allows you to enter the park one-hour earlier than most guests. However, we did not realize the park only opens Tomorrowland and Fantasy Land at that early hour. We would have planned our days a bit differently. 

 
Entering the park earlier, did allow us to jump in the Tinker Bell line and only wait about 10 minutes. We had tried earlier in the day and the line was over an hour. SP had three characters she really wanted to see and Tinker Bell was one of them. If you get into the park early and your kids have a character they must see -- use this hour to your advantage! To visit Anna and Elsa was a 4 hour wait. Insane!!!

Side note: The guy who was managing the Tinker Bell station was ah-mazing. Seriously. I'd hire him in a heartbeat. Managing crowds of children and parents -- getting his fairies all lined up. And doing it with such kindness. Really, amazing. I wish everyone could do their job with a smile and a positive attitude. It would honest-to-God make the world a better place.

Another character SP wanted to see was, of course, Mickey Mouse. We found him in Toon Town in his house. Toon Town closes the earliest of all the parks due to the firework show and we only had about 45 minutes to see the sights and Mickey Mouse. Thankfully, at 7pm, the line was relatively short. We only waited for 15 minutes. However, seeing Mickey Mouse was a BIG DEAL and she froze. She gave him her necklace and then just didn't know what else to do. She told me later that next time she would give him the biggest hug ever. I guess now there MUST be a next time.




Laguna Beach
We actually didn't spend our entire week at Disneyland. We could have, but didn't. We spent a few days prior to Disney at Laguna Beach. Our hotel was the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort and Spa. It was great. They had kid activities (e.g., movie night), a great pool and within walking distance to the beach. With that being said, I have no real desire to go back to Laguna. It's the beaches, really. I'm spoiled. I've never met an American beach I loved. I'm sure Hawaii will change my mind!! I hope Hawaii has a chance to change my mind!!

 
Road Tripping
Oh yes, this was another grand road trip. It actually wasn't bad. We left Denver on Friday night and drove to Grand Junction. The next night we stayed in St. George. Our plan was to visit Zion National Park, but since we are so wild and crazy, we visited the urgent care clinic instead. Fun times!!! We easily made it to Laguna the next day -- with plenty of time to hit the pool and beach. On the way back home, we stayed a night in Las Vegas. It was roughly about 6-7 hours per day.


 


Why even bother vacationing? 

Family. Family. Family. While it is GREAT to spend time with your extended family, nothing creates happy, long-lasting memories like hanging with your two most favorite people in the entire world. These moments are treasures to me and I wouldn't trade them for anything. Now off to plan the 2015 vacation!





February 08, 2014

Teaching Toddlers: Using Stickers for Patterns and Counting

I promise to not dedicate my entire blog to educational worksheets, but I've been on a roll lately….  These worksheets are honestly very simple and quick to create, but if you aren't a computer person, you can easily draw something for your toddler to utilize.  Or heck, leave your email address in the comment section (I will not post your email address on my blog) and I will email you the file to print!

Patterns

A great way to learn matching and sequencing is by using cheap garage sale dots (you can find them at the dollar store).  You know what I think of when I see garage sale dots?  Tiny Twister.  It makes me laugh (at my self) every single time. 

Okay, back to the tutorial…. 

At first, I was using notecards and placing a row of stickers at the top and Sweetpea would place matching stickers underneath. We went through a lot of stickers and a lot of notecards.  Using Word, I created circles sized .75 x .75 and shaded them the same colors as my garage sale dots. The row under the colored circles were left blank for Sweetpea to place her stickers on.  

Now, I know there are a ton of different colored dots you can buy, but if you are going to print this type of worksheet, stick with the basics.  Matching your computer dot to the exact color of neon pink on the other dots takes more time and patience than I have!


Counting

Below is another worksheet utilizing the KG Primary Dot font I used on my previous blog posting 'Teaching Toddlers: Tracing'.  Instead of tracing, I utilized the font to encourage visual recognition of each number. The goal is to place the correct number of stickers for each number.


Sweetpea loves using stickers, but sometimes she struggles to get them off the page independently. I recently learned to remove the "backing" to the stickers which allows her to easily peel the stickers off all by herself.  And you know how toddlers just LOVE to do stuff all by themselves!  Such self pride!!!  


February 01, 2014

Teaching Toddlers: Tracing

Sweet pea is always bringing home a worksheet where she traced something (her name, letters, numbers, lines or shapes).  And she seems to enjoy tracing because now in her coloring books, she will trace the outside of the objects before coloring them in!  Naturally (for me at least), I wanted to create some of my own tracing worksheets for her to utilize at home.

Step 1 is adding a "tracing" font to your computer.  I own a Mac and I am by no means a Mac expert.  In fact, when it comes to stuff like this, I would 100% prefer my PC.  However, I love the Mac for other things, so it is a trade-off I guess =)

Adding a Downloaded Font to Word (Mac Version)

You will have to Google the exact font, but to create the traceable letters, I downloaded the "KG Primary Dots" font.  I am certain there are easier (and probably correct) ways to download fonts to your computer, but the following steps worked for me.

Step 1:  Find your desired font and download it.  This font was free!

Step 2: After your file downloads, open the .trf file you wish added to your font listing.

Step 3: The pop-up window titled "Font Book" will appear with a button titled "Install Font".  Click it.

Step 4: The pop-up window shown below will appear.  You will click the "KG Primary Dots" link (highlighted in grey) and drag it over to the font folder (highlighted in blue).

Step 5: Close everything and restart computer.  Yes, I am pretty sure this step is not necessary for people who naturally know how to install a font, but this is what I had to do.  Once I restarted my computer and opened Word, the font was available to me.



Creating Tracing Worksheets

After the download of your tracing font, you can create all kind of fun worksheets for you toddler or preschooler to use.  On this example, I used the font size of 100.  If you are using the "KG Primary Dots" font, then you should pair it with the "Century Gothic" font.  Both fonts type the lower case 'a' in the same manner. Try it out and you will see what I mean.

For structure, I like using a table to keep my letters and numbers lined up.  I also left the last row blank for her to practice writing letters without the aid of the dotted lines.



In addition to worksheets for learning to trace letters, you can use the font to have your kiddo practice writing their name, numbers or even words.  My Sweet pea absolutely loves tracing everything, so be creative and let them have fun while they learn!  It is very rewarding to see our little ones put effort into learning something new and then succeeding!!!

For more worksheets for toddlers refer to an older post "Teaching Toddlers Shapes, Letters and Numbers" for other worksheet ideas.




January 26, 2014

Preschool Introduction Book

Because life never stands still, Sweetpea is starting a new school soon. We are ALL very excited and had so much fun over the past few weeks picking out a new backpack, lunch box, etc. The only downside is she is starting her new school in the middle of the year and will be the "new girl".  To help introduce her to the new class, I designed an "introductory" picture book for the teacher to read during her first day.

To create the book, I used Walgreen's online photo lab.  The online design tool was VERY SIMPLE to use; no craft skills needed. You upload pictures, select the look and feel of your book, select a theme (e.g. tropical, baby girl, etc.) and then you design.  Design is a strong word.  You are really just clicking and dragging things around.

My design was, again, simple.  I selected solid backgrounds.  The left page layout contained only photos and no text.  The right page layout contained only text. I kept it consistent throughout the book because I wanted it to read like a picture book and not a scrap book. The total price was $22, with an online coupon.  The quality is pretty decent as well…. let's say it works in a pinch.  If you had more time and money, I've had wonderful results with Shutterfly books.  Note: If you use Walgreens, your book must contain at least 20 pages.  

These are not all the pages in the book, I just wanted to share a sample.  My goal was to engage the class while the teacher reads the book.  When she reads, "Do you like to swim?", I am hopeful hands will raise and Sweetpea will soon understand that friends will be easily made at her new school.












January 22, 2014

Valentine's Ribbon Wreath

It's not very often I have time to myself.  I seriously relate to the mom quote "a vacation is peeing alone"because boy does it fit my life!  And when I do get some time to myself, I usually end up doing really fun things such as fold laundry, clean house, meal plan, etc.  This is my life and I love it, but time to craft and blog…. not usually something I get around to doing. But in the last three weeks, I've had enough alone time to create a new wreath.  A wreath which only really takes an hour to create….

I chose this craft because it was simple and something I could easily pick up/put down when I am called off to do another task.  The wreath turned out super cute and cost less than $20 to make.  And I am a BIG fan of cheap, fast and easy.

Valentine's Ribbon Wreath




Supplies: 
10" Wreath (be warned - do not remove the plastic wrapping!)
5 Spools of Ribbon (more if you want!!)
Straight Pins
Thimble
Scissors
Ruler


Step 1:  Cut the ribbon into 4" strips. If you have a mat like mine, then lay out your ribbon and cut every 4" to save yourself time.  I only mention this "common sense" tip because the light bulb went off a little too late in my cutting project.  Sigh.


Step 2:  Make a loop and pin into the wreath. Each loop takes two straight pins. Be sure to utilize your thimble so you thumbs don't hate you later!  Many ribbon wreath tutorials will have you glue the loops together before pinning them to the wreath.  Since I am always strapped for time, I skipped this step and didn't experience any problems. 


Step 3:  Continue making loops and pinning using all the different ribbon types.  Pin the ribbon loops very close to one another to avoid gaps. Squish them together and pin them in all different directions. It is a craft project and the goal is to make the loops look randomly placed.


Step 4: Loop a large ribbon and pin to the back of your wreath to create the hook.  I used six pins to hold the ribbon on!!