Saturday, August 28, 2010

12 Skills in a Year - Halfway Point Check-In

I know, it's almost the end of August. The halfway point of 2010 has already come and gone. But I wanted to write a quick check-in post about what I've accomplished so far this year with my "12 Skills In a Year" New Years Resolution.

If you aren't familiar with this adventure of mine, please check out the posts already dedicated to this subject:

January - Knitting
February - Blogging
March - Cross Stitch
April - Nothing
May - Coupon Clipping
June - Plarn

  P.S. The July and August posts are coming, I promise. Things got a little hectic at the end of the summer so I've been behind a bit.

Having completed learning the ropes and practicing almost 7 new skills this year, I've gotta say this is one of the best New Year's Resolutions I've ever attempted. For one thing, I have a rough case of anxiety. The severity varies from day-to-day and month-to-month, but having a few hobbies to focus on has given me something besides stress to dwell on, and that's been terrific. Also, just the act of creating something or practicing something new (particularly with knitting) calms my frazzled nerves pretty quickly.

The seemingly endless possibilities of having these new skills are another great thing about this resolution. For the past 2 years, I've attempted to make most of the Christmas gifts for my family and friends. I'm usually scrambling during the last 2  weeks before the holiday trying to come up with really simple ideas and putting them together without much success. This year, I've already completed 2 gifts for my family, and it's not even September! And this time, I'm actually quite pleased with the results and am looking forward to handing out the presents. In fact, it's taken a great deal of willpower not to hand things out already!

I hope you've enjoyed reading about my adventure ... now, I have a few more fairly inexpensive skills lined up for the remaining months of the year, but I'm asking for some assistance here. With my family in a bit of a financial pinch that's not likely to let up anytime soon ... do any of you readers have any skills with a relatively minuscule price tag that you'd suggest I attempt in the coming months?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

12 Skills in a Year - June (PLARN!)

First, say it with me: plarn. Yes, plarn. Plarn is SUCH an awesome word. Even more awesome, it's super easy to "make"! If you aren't familiar with plarn, it's basically just long strips of plastic that you can use just like yarn or string. Plastic + Yarn = Plarn.

For a while now I've been considering reusable shopping bags. We come home from the grocery store with ridiculous amounts of plastic bags, and even though I usually reuse them, I always feel bad about the sheer amount that I have in my trash can after a trip to the store when my 'plastic bag containers' are already full. So I was actually thinking about other ways to use those bags when I stumbled upon plarn on the internet.

My first thought was "what in the world would someone do with something like that?", but then I searched further and found lots of fascinating, practical, and interesting things that people were making with plarn. I found a great tutorial on making it here:

If you know how to knit/crochet already, then make some plarn (it's pretty much free!) and give it a go. It's just about as easy to use as a regular yarn. I have started to make a reusable shopping bag from my ball of plarn (ironic, huh?). I'll post a follow-up with a picture as soon as I get it done. Other project ideas that I LOVE are coasters, rugs, and bowls (my next plarn project). But seriously, anything you could knit or crochet, you could make with plastic yarn ... though I'm not sure I'd suggest a Plarn Afghan or anything.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The easiest finger puppets ever!

A while back, I tried to have the kids make their own puppets out of paper lunch bags. I figured it would give them something new thing to play with, something they would be proud of and would keep for a while. The craft went well, and I thought the puppets were SUPER cute, but the kids didn't play with them long. In fact, I think the excitement only lasted about 10 minutes.

The problem with the paper bag puppets was that they were too big and awkward for little hands to maneuver. So then, these little dolls were born. They let the kids use their fingers as "legs" and the thumb and pinky finger as "arms", and they were easy enough for even my 3 year old to play with.

Take a look at our fancy and cheap puppets:

If you wanna make your own:

1. Cut out a pear-shape on a piece of construction paper or card stock. The card stock would probably be better, our construction paper puppets got kind of droopy after a while.
2. Cut out two "finger-holes" at the bottom, wide end of the pear-shape. These are for the "legs".
3. Have the kids draw on a face and clothes.
4. Cut some hair out of a separate piece of construction paper. glue to the back of the head and then add ears, a hair bow, earrings, etc.
5. PLAY!

The kids played with these in a dollhouse for nearly 2 hours! The only reason they quit was because the paper started to tear and the puppets started to fall over. Next time, we'll use card stock. I just have to go and buy some first!!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Homemade Sidewalk Paint

I love sidewalk chalk. To me, sidewalk chalk is a mother's dream-come-true for her artistic children. There is usually more than ample space for the kids to draw, and it washes away easily with a hose or a steady rain.

However, my kids prefer painting over coloring. Something about that brush makes them feel extra creative and excited. So I did a little research online for an inexpensive paint to use outside that would wash away as easily as sidewalk chalk (and that is totally non-toxic) ... and I found the perfect "sidewalk paint".

Mix together equal parts cornstarch and water in a large bowl. Pour into individual cups or bowls and then add food coloring to make different colors. Then paint like crazy on the sidewalk!!

I found that an old styrofoam egg carton was the perfect container for the individual paints. It gave the kids the opportunity to mix them to create even more interesting colors! I just filled only half of the cups and left the remaining empty.

Our paint washed away the next day with a good summer rain. Good thing it's easy to make more!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Harmless childhood obsessions?

My son was recently handed down an old t-shirt with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on it. Now, that's fine by me ... I love hand-me-downs, and I think those Turtles are pretty radical, you know?

My problem arises from the fact that he never, ever wants to take the shirt off. He wants to sleep in it, go to family gatherings in it, even go swimming in it!! No matter the amount of dirt, grime, peanut butter and jelly, or chocolate on that t-shirt ... it's a fight to get him to take it off for me to wash it. And he's usually a pretty dirt-phobic little boy.

I'm pretty sure it's not gonna cause any psychological damage if I MAKE him wash it every once in a while, but I sure hate the fight that it causes!

Any advice?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

At the Car Wash, yeah!

It has been about a million degrees and ridiculously humid here recently, so we've had to spend a lot of our time indoors. However, kids don't do well cooped up for too long ... and I could tell that tempers were getting short and toys were getting boring, so I decided to let the kids wash my car one day.

This activity would have cost me pretty close to nothing, except I had to buy a hose and a few sponges. I filled a bucket with water and some dish soap, and let the kids go crazy. I think we were out there for an hour at least!

Please note, dish soap isn't the best thing to use for washing a car as it isn't really good for your paint. I personally am not concerned with the paint job on my car at all, and I figured dish soap would be easier on little hands than actual car soap. But please don't use it if you have an attachment to a nice, shiny, gleaming paint job.

I had totally forgotten how much fun a simple car wash could be!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Fun with felt - DONUTS!

I recently went to our local craft store to buy something totally unrelated to felt, and wound up walking out of there with about 60 sheets of the stuff, due to a well-placed "SALE" sign. So now, with a bunch of felt on my hands and kids in the house to entertain, I'm resolved to make as many neat things out of it as I possibly can!

My first project was felt donuts. These were super easy! Just cut out the basic shape, sew the outside shut (I did it by hand with a kind of whipstitch ... but you could totally use a machine), stuff with a tiny bit of batting, and then stitch the inside closed! Then I cut out different 'icings' for the kids to use for mixing and matching. I added 'sprinkles' to some of the icing by sewing with some thick craft thread and an embroidery needle.

My kids adore these! I think I'll probably make another few sets of them. If you didn't have really little kids in the house, you could even sew up some donut holes to go along with the set, out of the circle cut from the middle. But I was worried they'd be too small, so I'm saving those little circles for some other fantastic project .... I just don't know what that will be yet!