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Okay so Felt Mats are Just as Addicting as Quiet Books…

After making a road felt mat for C for his 2nd birthday I wondered if I could make a princess version for J.  In case you’ve forgotten (oh, if only I could forget…) she is completely obsessed with the Disney Princesses.  She has a bunch of these pop up board games that came with tiny princess figurines to play.  I think we played the games about a dozen times before she completely abandoned them and now just carries the princesses around with her everywhere.  Between those and her sets of felt people, I thought it would be fun to make a princess mat for her to play on!

I started off like I do with all projects:  Pinterest.  Unsurprisingly these aren’t nearly as popular as the car mats are.  I found three possible inspirations.  First, a Tangled one on My Decoupaged Life.  Although I loved it, I didn’t want to focus on just one princess story.  In retrospect I do kind of wish I would’ve got this route instead–made a small felt mat for each princess.  I just might do that down the road…

The second one I found was a little bit different.  Instead of focusing on the outside, All the Joy made the inside of the castle.  I stored this idea away for the future.

The one I relied on the most for ideas was A Girl and a Glue Gun.  I decided to make a mat that included something from each princess story.

One mistake I made was to make this project while J was home sick from school for a week.  I got a lot of input from her, which was both good and bad.  Like she wouldn’t let me include anything for Mulan, Pocohantas or Merida, even though that had been my original plan.  She’s only had the mat for a couple of weeks and she’s already complaining that they don’t have a home.  I knew I shouldn’t take advice from a 5 year old!

When making all of the buildings I referred to Google images for pictures of what they looked like in the movies and then did my best to replicate them.  I did a better job on some…  The animals especially turned out rather interesting…

I started off with a piece of dark green felt for the background.  I added a square of white for Elsa’s kingdom and dark brown for the woods.  Together those two were the same length as the dark green.  I cut a strip of light blue for the sky that was the same width as the dark green/white.  Last, I cut some dark blue for Ariel’s ocean.  I cut the top so it resembled waves.

I also wish I would’ve made it bigger.  I didn’t realize just how much larger C’s mat was until I had already cut the background felt for J’s mat and it was too late to make it bigger without having to scrap the pieces I had.  It didn’t need to be much bigger, but a little bit would’ve been nicer.

But here’s the final product, warts and all!

J requested the North Mountain first…no surprises there.  I made an Ice Castle for Elsa.  I used blue and white puffy paint to embellish it a bit and glued just one side of the door down so it “opens”.  I cut out a sleigh and Sven, a bunch of white triangles to represent mountains or snow mounds or something.  The light blue is a path for the princesses to walk on (J requested markings on the part leading up to the castle for stairs).  Marshmallow is guarding the castle and Oaken’s Trading Post is in the bottom corner.  diy-princess-felt-mat-north-mountainNext we worked on the woods.  I made a stream that leads to the ocean.  There’s a bridge that crosses over it.  The woods are supposed to represent Pocahontas, Merida, Snow White and Aurora all at once.  J requested a bench, an owl, squirrels and the three fairies from Aurora (just in case you were wondering what the hell those shapes were, hahaha).  The orangish/brownish felt is the path.diy-princess-felt-mat-woodsThe ocean scene was up next.  This one turned out to be waaaaay to spacious.  I should’ve made Ariel’s castle a lot bigger, but I didn’t realize how small it was until I had already glued it together and I didn’t feel like starting from scratch.  But this section has Ariel’s underwater palace, Eric’s ship, sunken treasure (I just needed something to throw in there!), Sebastian, Flounder (not sure where he is…), Ursula and her lair.  I also made Flotsam and Jetsam but by the time I was ready to glue the underwater scene down I had lost them.  I think they ended up getting swept up with all of the other felt scraps.  I haven’t gotten around to making another one set of them yet.  diy-princess-felt-mat-ocean

And then the rest of mat all crammed together.  Aurora’s cottage and spinning wheel.  A bookstore and fountain from Beauty and the Beast.  The Snuggly Duckling, tower and cave from Tangled.  The Wishing Well from Snow White (J had me add a blue sapphire ring at the bottom.  There’s a short story about Cinderella we read once where she lost her ring in the well and the mice had to retrieve it).  A pumpkin and carriage from Cinderella.  Tiana’s Palace (which I had to fight J tooth and nail so I could add it).   The magic carpet from Aladdin.  And, most importantly, Cinderella’s castle.

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I also added a back to the mat.  Since I used a bunch of different felts to make the different backgrounds I figured it would help to make it roll up easier.  Although really this mat isn’t large enough to roll.

I finished the edges of the front and back with some ribbon.

Voila, finished!  J uses it all of the time, just like I thought she would.  I really am considering making a different mat for each story.  Hmmm, maybe I’ll start that right now…

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You can’t have princesses without some villains!

So awhile back J and I made all 13 Disney princesses from her footprint (you can read all about them here).  disney-princess-footprint-craft-finishedShe immediately asked if we could also make all of the villains and princes from each story, but I vetoed her.  It took like 10 seconds of her time for this project, while I had to paint all of the hair and embellishments.  And since I majorly procrastinated doing that this project actually took a few weeks to complete.

Fast forward a few months and we were predicted to get several inches of snow in southern VA.  I remember when 4 inches fell down here last winter school shut down for a week and a half so I wanted to be prepared just in case.  I figured making the villains was an easy project that would make her happy and kill some time.  I picked up a piece of poster board and we were ready!  And thank goodness I did.  We ended up getting about a foot of snow and school was out for 6 days.  Projects were a necessity.

Last time I pretty much copied the princesses from a tutorial but this one was a bit more unique so I made them all up.  I googled each villain before painting her foot so I knew exactly what they were wearing.  I painted her foot, keeping the right side for all of the villains wearing black (which was about half) and the other side for any other colors. diy-disney-villain-footprint-art-17It turned out that I was out of red, which at the time I didn’t think was such a big deal.  I had no idea how many villains wear red!  I ended up just using a glitter paint that was sort of red and sort of pink and called it a day.  They don’t need to be perfect.

I pushed her foot down on the posterboard for each villain.  diy-disney-villain-footprint-art-18Let’s see if I can remember who’s who.  Starting at the top left it goes:  Ursula, Evil Queen, Lady Tremaine, Mother Gothel, Maleficent, Hans, Gaston, mess-up, mess-up, the bad guy from Tiana whose name I still don’t know (she doesn’t like that movie so I’ve only seen it once, haha), Shan Yu, Governor Ratcliffe, Jafar and Mordu.

The following day we embellished them.  I did the hair and crowns while she added anything that was needed onto the clothing.  Last time I didn’t let her help (not really sure why…) but this time she begged me to.  She did a great job! diy-disney-villain-footprint-art-19Then I cut around them with speciality scissors and used a hole punch for holes in the tops and bottoms of each person.  She divided them into 3 piles of 4, put them in the order she wanted them and picked out ribbon for each strand.  I weaved the ribbon through the hole, connecting the four villains together.  Here they are individually.

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Jafar

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Shan Yu

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Gaston

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Mother Gothel

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Ursula

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Govenor Ratcliffe. Who, in retrospect, should’ve been a lot fatter.

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Evil Queen

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Lady Tremaine

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Hans. Those are supposed to be sideburns but didn’t turn out so well, haha.

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Mordu

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Malificent

I cut another piece and made a loop to hang them up and voila, finished! diy-disney-villain-footprint-art-16 diy-disney-villain-footprint-art-14 diy-disney-villain-footprint-art-13We hung them up in between the princesses in her room.diy-disney-villain-footprint-art-15She hasn’t asked about the princes yet, but I’m sure it’s coming.  Next time there’s a snowstorm we’ll work on those guys 😉

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Thankful Tree

What better time for a post about a Thanksgiving project than in February?  Between Nolan’s quiet book pages and all of my Christmas projects apparently I missed blogging about this! Which is a shame since it’s one of my favorite traditions J and I started.  I’m just happy I realized I overlooked it.

So towards the end of October 2014 I decided I wanted to find a way for J to talk about the things she’s thankful for.  Do any of your friends on Facebook do the “thankful post” every day in November?  It was really popular a few years back, but now almost no one does it.  I still do and it’s my favorite time of year.  Of course I think the generic ones that are thankful for “family” and “friends” and “health” are all boring, so I find fun ways to express my gratefulness for life–things like hot dogs to keep my St Bernard in check when he sees kids/dogs/cats/squirrels while on walks or Google for answering my questions like “why will my 4 month old not sleep more than 30 minutes at a time?!”  I always do a serious one on the last day of the month, but I think it’s fun to come up with creative ideas.  Especially because that’s what makes life so great–all of those small things that you never really think about.  I really and truly am grateful for hot dogs and their amazing power over my Saint.

So I wanted to find a way to do something similar with J.  I finally settled on an idea I had seen floating around online:  a Thankful Tree.  Except I wanted to do it completely differently. We would draw a giant tree, paint it and hang it on the wall.  J could pick 30 neat looking leaves from outside.  Each day she would tell me something she was thankful for, I would write it on the leaf and then hang it on the tree on the wall.  I LOVED it!  Here’s a picture from our first Thanksgiving doing this, so an almost complete tree.  diy-thankful-tree-1I used clothespins to attach the leaves onto the tree (which I completely forgot I did!  I used tape last year, which did not stick.  I’ll have to try to remember to go back to clothespins this year).  One thing I did not like was using real leaves.  Neat idea, but not practical…what happens to leaves after they fall off the tree…um, they turn brown and crackly.  Duh.

Once November was over I had J make a turkey book.  I wanted it to look like this, but J put her own spin on it which I’m more than fine with–in fact I prefer it!  She’s going through a phase right now where everything has to look exactly the same as the craft that I show her and it bugs me.  Use your creativity to make it your own girl!  I cut out pieces of different colored construction paper for the book and held it together with pipe cleaners (J’s idea.  I’ve added staples to it since then).  Then I wrote one thing she said she was thankful for on each page, that way I can look back on it years from now and laugh that she was thankful for things like “balloons” and “breakfast”.  That’s my girl! diy-thankful-tree-5 This year we made another thankful tree.  I mixed the paint a bit better so it turned out more brown and less purple, hooray!  diy-thankful-tree-2diy-thankful-tree-3I wrote “Jordan is thankful for…” in block letters down the tree and let her color them in.  And then instead of using real leaves I cut out 30 leaves with my Silhouette in 5 different shapes and 4 different colors of cardstock–red, yellow, orange and brown.

Then for our family activity we all painted them to give them a little extra “something”.  diy-thankful-tree-1diy-thankful-tree-4Since C has a tendency to eat paint I tried out another homemade paint recipe, this time this one from Learning 4 Kids.  Look at those colors!  And the consistency was pretty cool.  J, of course, refused to use her fingers and insisted on using a paintbrush instead.  She loathes being dirty.homemade-paintThis one was a lot more successful than the one we tried out at Halloween for pumpkin decorating–he had a taste or two and then must not have enjoyed it because he actually stopped eating and instead painted himself, us and a little bit of the leaves.  Keeper!!!!!C-paintingWe set the leaves out to dry and then once November rolled around I asked J what she was thankful each day.  I used colored Sharpies to write them down and then she taped them to the tree/wall with Scotch tape.  Which, like I said earlier, did not work.  At least half of them were on the floor by the end of the month. diy-thankful-tree-2015I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t keep up with asking her after Thanksgiving, so she was about a week short on thankful things.  I definitely need to get better at that next year.  I was going to have her make another turkey book but when looking at the one from the previous year I saw how much space there was on each page, so I figured I’ll just keep adding to that instead!  I’ll write every year in a different colored marker and then make a key on the back front cover.  Brilliant!  diy-thankful-tree-6These were my favorites from 2015:  “tray lunch” and “everything in the world…except Roman” [our dog].  Oh J.

This is seriously one of my favorite traditions.  I can’t wait until C is old enough to start and we have twice as many leaves on the tree.  I just think it’s a great lesson to teach kids–doesn’t matter how big or small, but find one thing every single day to be thankful about.  Because life is precious and we need to appreciate every single thing that we have.

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Is there a Dr. Nolan in the house?

The next quiet book page I did for Nolan’s Christmas present this year was by far the easiest page ever:  a doctor’s kit.  All I did was sew a giant pocket onto the page and fill it with extra supplies from J’s doctor’s kit (I don’t know how but she ended up with like 4 of some things.  I’m just glad to be rid of them!).

I chose some red and white polka dotted fabric.  I cut it so it was about the same width as the page and slightly shorter.  I turned all four sides in and ironed them down, hoping to make the edges straighter.  It worked somewhat.  I sewed the top edge down first, then pinned the box on the page and sewed the other three sides down.quiet-book-doctors-kit-page-4Next, the flap.  I cut a rectangle out from the same fabric that was slightly longer than my pocket. I did the same thing as above to make the rectangle straighter (and hide the raw edges):  folded each side under, ironed it and then sewed around the two sides and bottom.  Then I cut three pieces of red velcro and sewed them on the flap.  I knew (from past quiet book pages) that one wouldn’t be enough to keep all of the crap from falling out.quiet-book-doctors-kit-page-2quiet-book-doctors-kit-page-5And then I realized I made a colossal mistake.  I didn’t sew the other part of the velcro on the pocket before sewing it onto the page.  Sh*t.  And then I took a Nikki shortcut.  Which I always regret doing.  And even though I know I’m going to regret it, I always do it anyway because at that moment in time I’m just too lazy to fix the problem properly.  So instead of either taking the pocket off of the page, sewing on the velcro and resewing the pocket back on or just figuring out a way to get the velcro on there without using the seam ripper (which since this pocket was so large would’ve totally been doable)–I opted to sew the velcro straight onto the page.  I figured, hey, that’ll still work! quiet-book-doctors-kit-page-3Yeah, it doesn’t.  At all.  I’m a moron.  So I’m going to tell Amanda that if the stuff keeps falling out to just get a safety pin and anchor it in that way.  Or something.

I matched the velcro pieces together and sewed the top of the flap onto the page. quiet-book-doctors-kit-page-1And that’s it!  I added the items we have doubles of:  a shot, a thermometer (which I just realized looking at this picture that it’s not in there.  Hmm, I’ll have to figure out what I did with it…  It probably fell out of the damn page and is laying on the floor somewhere.  Ha ha.), a stethoscope, an eye thing and a knee banger.  J was also obsessed with putting bandaids on things for the longest time.  Seriously, I’d give her a box of bandaids on a long car ride and she would spend 30 minutes opening them and sticking them on her stuffed animals.  I figure he’s still a bit young for those, but I’ll give Amanda a heads up so she can add those too when the time comes. quiet-book-doctors-kit-page-6

Yay, two pages down!

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The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round…

For my final quiet book page for Nolan’s Christmas present I decided to go with a Wheels on the Bus idea.  I have a Busy Bag that I made for J about 3 years ago and I wanted to go with a similar idea for Nolan, except in his quiet book.  All I did for the Busy Bag is cut out a bus from cardboard, design a bus in my Silhouette, print it off and glue it on and then glued strips of velcro on the windows.  Then I cut out pictures of family and friends and glued velcro on the backs.  Voila, now she could have friends and family members ride the bus!toddler-bus-busy-bag-She absolutely loved it.  So much so that it’s now falling apart.  A lot of the family members are missing, some of the velcro has peeled off of the backs of the pictures that we do have left and the bus itself is starting to come apart.  C is just about old enough to start playing with it himself so I’m going to update it here soon.  You can read more about the Busy Bag Bus here!

I googled and Pinterested (is that a word?  If it’s not already I’m sure it won’t be much longer until it is!) Wheels on the Bus quiet book pages but never really found anything that I liked.  The closest I found was this page to at least help me design the bus.  And although I thought the finger puppet idea was cute, Nolan already had farm animal finger puppets in his Barn page so I felt that would be redundant.  Plus I really liked the idea of using photographs of friends and family.

I started by making the bus in my Silhouette program.  quiet-book-wheels-on-the-bus-page-11I used the machine to cut my pieces out quiet-book-wheels-on-the-bus-page-6I had a brilliant idea for storing the pictures when not in use.  I would make a road on the bottom of the page for the bus to drive on and then sew a yellow zipper in the middle as the “line”!  Two birds, one stone:  a pocket and it adds detail to the page!  I bought a 9 inch zipper from Joann’s and got to work on the background. I sewed some blue fabric that I always use for the sky in quiet book pages (I’m finally starting to get a little low!) on the top two thirds of the page.  Then I cut out a rectangle of grey denim for the road.  I made it a bit longer than my page and cut it so it covered about the bottom third.  Then I cut a (not-very-straight) line across the middle for the zipper to go into.  If you look closely you can see that I didn’t cut it into two separate pieces–there was no need since my road was bigger than my page.quiet-book-wheels-on-the-bus-page-4I slipped the zipper in the opening and sewed it on by folding the raw edges of each side in about 1/4 inch on top of the zipper and stitching it down as close to the zipper as possible. quiet-book-wheels-on-the-bus-page-5As you can see it’s not straight at all (my M.O.) so I remedied that as much as I could when I sewed it onto the background.  To sew it on I folded the top edge about 1/4 inch down to hide the raw edge.  I didn’t bother doing that for the sides or bottom since they would be hidden when I sewed the pages together.quiet-book-wheels-on-the-bus-page-12Then I sewed all of the pieces onto my bus:  the black lines, the bumper, the stop sign and the lights. quiet-book-wheels-on-the-bus-page-9I placed it where I wanted it to go on the page, but didn’t sew it down yet; first I needed the velcro.  I cut a strip of the soft side of yellow velcro the size of each of my bus windows and sewed them on. quiet-book-wheels-on-the-bus-page-8I laid my bus on top to make sure the spacing was right and sewed it down.quiet-book-wheels-on-the-bus-page-7See that giant hole?  After the machine cut my bus out I couldn’t figure out why there was so much wasted space in between the driver’s window and the rest of the bus.  So I cut it out so more people could fit on the bus at the same time.  And then after I did that I realized why there was so much space there–for the doors!!!  Whoops!  I did a quick fix by sewing the scrap of yellow I cut off back onto the bus, and then the doors on top of that to hide it a bit (making sure to only sew the far side of each door down so they “open” and “close”.  I added another piece of yellow velcro there so someone could be “getting on the bus”.quiet-book-wheels-on-the-bus-page-10Originally I wanted the wheels to be able to spin, but that already happens on Nolan’s Fork Lift page so I decided I didn’t care that much for this one.  I found two matching white buttons and placed one in the “center” of each tire and then quickly hand sewed those through the tires and onto the page itself.  They wiggle back and forth, but don’t actually spin the whole way around, which is good enough for me.  And Nolan I’m sure.  As you can see I didn’t do a great job of making sure the buttons were centered.  It drives me crazy looking at it!!!  
quiet-book-wheels-on-the-bus-page-1Then I had Amanda email me pictures of friends and family.  I made them all the same size (about 1.5 x 1 inches), printed them off, laminated them, glued squares of scratchy yellow velcro on the back and voila!  Finished with Nolan’s Christmas present! quiet-book-wheels-on-the-bus-page-3quiet-book-wheels-on-the-bus-page-2

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Ladybug Quiet Book Page

The next quiet book page I made for Nolan’s Christmas present was the Ladybug page.  It’s a super simple page that’s also very popular–it’s all over the internet.  I decided to do one similar to this one, with a black zipper and snaps sewn on the backs of the spots.

I started off by cutting all of my pieces.  I have a ton of red costume fabric leftover from J’s Snow White Cape that I made for her last Halloween.  It’s not the most ideal fabric to work with, but it’s the only thing I had in plain red so it would have to do.  I cut out two half circles.  I cut another half circle out of a scrap of regular black cotton for the head and then seven circles from black felt for the spots.  quiet-book-ladybug-page-1I decided on 7 because I have a package of assorted sized snaps from a previous project and 7 was the most I had in the same size.  I figured it’d be too confusing if the snaps were different sizes.snapsI just eyeballed all of the pieces and I think the sizing actually turned out pretty well.  That definitely could’ve gone another way, hahaha!

I started off by hand sewing the snaps onto the red fabric and black felt dots.  
quiet-book-ladybug-page-8quiet-book-ladybug-page-3I absolutely despise hand sewing.  I was tempted to just use velcro instead, but I know it’s good for kids to learn the snaps–it helps with fine motor skills.  And I really hate using snaps.  The previous project I used them on was a Seasons page for J’s quiet book and I sewed a crapload of them on before I realized that I did them backwards–I put the bottom piece on the top and vice versa.  And then if I remember correctly (it was so traumatizing for me that I think I blocked it out) I sewed them on the wrong way on the Seasons pieces; instead of poking that part that sticks out into the fabric, I sewed it facing out.  Goosebumps just remembering that.  I think there were quite a few tears shed those days…

On the plus side that meant that I double-checked everything before I sewed it down.  And again after I sewed it down.  And again before I did the next snap.  Etc.  And I’m happy to say that I learned my lesson really well last time and I had zero problems with it this time!  Minus it being boring and time-consuming, of course.

I picked up a 7 inch black zipper from Joann’s and sewed it on.  I used my cheating method, as always.  I simply fold the raw edge of the fabric in about 1/4 inch and sew it as close as I can to the zipper.  Then repeat for the other side.quiet-book-ladybug-page-2Next I figured out where exactly I wanted the ladybug to go and sewed the black head down.  Since I was using fabric and not felt, I made sure use a zigzag stitch instead of a straight stitch to help with the fraying. I sewed it along the bottom and around the curve.  quiet-book-ladybug-page-4Then the ladybug, once again with a zigzag stitch. quiet-book-ladybug-page-5I added some googly eyes and twisted a pipe cleaner around my finger for antenna.  I hot glued them down.  quiet-book-ladybug-page-6And that’s it!  The dots are kept inside of the ladybug when not in use and then snap on to make her look beautiful.  Easy peasy! quiet-book-ladybug-page-10quiet-book-ladybug-page-9

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New set of Quiet Book Pages for Nolan: Matching Balloons

I’m seriously loving giving my fake nephew quiet book pages for his birthday and Christmas every year.  It takes the guesswork out of figuring out what to get him.  And, since I already have most of the materials on hand, it’s super cheap too.  I’m all about DIY gifts for people this year.  That or gift cards.  Keep it simple man!

I decided to give him 4 new pages:  match-the-colors balloon, doctor’s, Wheels on the Bus and ladybug.  I started with the one that I definitely already had everything on hand for:  match-the-colors.

I made a very similar page in J’s original quiet book so I already knew exactly what I wanted to do.  quiet-book-match-the-colors-balloon-page-originalAnd, amazingly enough, this page actually turned out well the first time around so there weren’t any adjustments to be made!  Seeings as almost all of her quiet book pages need to be revamped, that’s truly a miracle.

I started with the pocket.  Every year (okay last year was the first year, but I plan on it being a tradition!) I make the kids matching Christmas pjs.  I ended up with a ton of leftover fabric that I have absolutely zero use for, so I figured that I would make the balloon pocket out red reindeer fabric.  Even though it makes absolutely no sense.

I made the pocket the same way as always:  cut a rectangle that’s extremely uneven, fold the raw edges in to make it slightly more even, sew the top edge down, pin it onto the fabric and sew the other three sides on.  I sewed it onto the bottom right corner.

Next I pulled out my box o ribbon (super organized isn’t it?!) and my bags upon bags of felt.  box-of-ribbonbags-of-felt-scrapsI picked out 7 colors that I had some of both of:  black, green, yellow, purple, blue, red and pink.  I cut 7 different shapes out of each color felt:  rectangle, triangle, crescent moon, heart, diamond, square and oval.  I made a rough layout with the ribbon to make sure I was spacing everything well enough and then got to work.  Super easy, but veerrrrrrrry tedious.

I started with the red.  I sewed the ribbon down (this one tucked behind the pocket so I just cut two pieces out and then lined it up so it looked like it was all one long piece) and then put the soft side of white velcro on top of the ribbon.  I sewed the scratchy piece onto the back of the red square. quiet-book-match-the-colors-balloon-page-1Green was next.quiet-book-match-the-colors-balloon-page-3

Followed by yellow, and then black.quiet-book-match-the-colors-balloon-page-4Then green and purple.quiet-book-match-the-colors-balloon-page-5

And finally, pink.quiet-book-match-the-colors-balloon-page-6I used white velcro for all of the shapes but when I sewed it down I made sure to use the color of the matching shape.  quiet-book-match-the-colors-balloon-page-thread-2 quiet-book-match-the-colors-balloon-page-thread-1

Now I thought it was pretty simple:  pick a shape, follow its matching ribbon and put it on the piece of velcro with the corresponding color.  When J was younger she didn’t really understand, however.  She would get confused as to where to put certain pieces.  I think that’s because sometimes I used ribbon that was two different colors (like for brown the ribbon was actually brown and blue).  I’m going to tell Amanda that Nolan doesn’t get it she can trace the shapes with a marker to make it easier to figure out.  I didn’t want to do that though because once he gets a bit older that makes it really simple.

And that’s it!quiet-book-match-the-colors-balloon-page-finished-2 quiet-book-match-the-colors-balloon-page-finished-1

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Step Seven: A Brand New Desk

I had a really difficult time figuring out what to get J for Christmas this year.  Last year with did a kitchen theme:  Hubby made a DIY kitchen and I painted it (you can see it here) and then went crazy buying food, pots, pans, etc.  At the time she wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about it, but she’s gotten a ton of use out of it the last year.  Although I do admit that she would’ve gotten even more use out of it if she’d received it the year before instead.  But that’s okay…she uses it and that’s all that matters!

But this year I was at a complete loss.  She has a bike and a scooter.  She was obsessed with Barbies last year, but hasn’t played with them much the past few months.  I’m really strict on TV so there wasn’t even a question about giving her something like that for her room.  She rarely plays with her LeapPad.  Even dress up clothes have been on a decline since she started school.  For all of November I fretted about what to do.  Although I could just give her a bunch of random small things, that’s not how I like to do Christmas.  I’d rather do one big present and get small presents that tie back to the big present, with maybe a random extra thing or two.

I finally decided on a desk.  Arts and crafts are really the only thing that she’s consistently been doing since starting school.  And although we have our Art Activity Center and she has a craft table and a whole bunch of craft supplies downstairs, C is also starting to really get into it.  And by that I mean eating markers, crayons, chalk, paint…basically anything he can get his hands on.  As a result her stuff is ruined.  So I figured we could get her a desk to go in her room that can be used for arts and crafts now and then homework in the future.  I could get her a whole bunch of new supplies which would be kept in her room, away from wandering hands (and mouth).  I knew it wasn’t something she was going to be really excited about upon receiving, but, like the kitchen, she would love it in the long run.

After discussing it with Hubby, we decided he would make it.  Then J and I could paint it together during Christmas break.  I searched and searched on Pinterest, finally deciding this one was the one I liked the best.  No drawers, which I think only leads to clutter.  Not too big, not too small.  The one thing I didn’t like about it was the storage on each side.  Although great for holding books (so it’ll work well in the future), the art supply problem was going to be a bit harder to solve.  So Hubby designed one himself instead.  The left side is just the two legs holding it up and the right side has a small bookcase attached underneath with three shelves.  Which will be great for holding anything and everything!

We headed to the DC Ikea to get a chair for the desk.  While there I picked up two packs of these storage containers for her art supplies.  I also ended up getting two bigger ones from Dollar Tree.  Over the next month I bought her new markers (regular, skinny and stamping), paints and paint brushes, puffy paints, crayons (regular, metallic and glitter), glue, wasabi tape (which I found a terrific deal here on Amazon!), glitter pens, construction paper, a sketch book, a Melissa and Doug scratch pad (which was her favorite), a giant coloring book and a 12 pack of craft scissors.  I actually ended up getting a bunch of the supplies from IKEA…seriously, I love that place.

I made labels for each of the containers but they didn’t stay on very well for some reason…  diy-desk-14That’s alright, I already know there’s no way she’s going to put everything back where it’s supposed to go anyway.  And then my OCD will kick in and once a week I’ll have to go in and re-sort everything.

In the meantime Hubby got to work on the desk.  She saw it at each stage, but never really seemed to be interested in it.  No surprise there.  He finished it right before Christmas, which was perfect timing.  We stuck a bow on it and left it in the garage for her to find the next day. diy-desk-11Unsurprisingly she didn’t really understand what it was for.  At least this time we expected this reaction (unlike with the kitchen) and were well prepared for it.  I just told her that once we painted it and got it up in her room she’d get it.  She loved all of the new art supplies at least!

The next day we started painting.  First, the primer. diy-desk-12Needless to say this step didn’t really entertain her much.  She did stick with it for quite awhile before abandoning me to finish it and go in the house to play.  I can’t blame the kid…I find painting therapeutic, but even I get sick of it by the end.

Then we discussed what exactly we were going to do with it.  I figured we’d paint the majority of it one color and then do something different to the top.  I had pinned a few ideas I thought she might like:  this one, this one and this one.  She wasn’t too enthusiastic about any of them, however.  She suggested circles, which somehow led to us talking about a huge rainbow.  Then she said she could add clouds and a sun and rain, and I suggested we do a big scene:  she could make a house with the family in front and do whatever she wanted in the sky.  She loved that idea!  And so did I!  Then every year or two we can just swipe a new layer of paint on the top and she can make a whole new mural.  That kid is absolutely brilliant.

We headed to Walmart to pick out a color for the rest of the desk.  Originally she wanted to do one of the metallic colors that Disney makes.  Turned out that they can’t do those at the Walmart we were at (um, so then why do you have a giant display promoting the colors then??) so she had to pick something else.  I was braced for a fit, but she actually didn’t seem to care.  She must not have been completely sold on it then…that’s the only explanation I can come up with!  Instead she choose “Sully’s Fur”, which was a light teal.  I thought it was an excellent choice.

Originally I was only going to buy a sample size of whatever color she decided on since that would be plenty to paint her desk.  But since she’s getting a brand new room (C will take over all of her furniture) when we move to Kansas in 6 months I figured I’d get a pint instead so we can paint her dresser, bed and (fingers crossed on this one…) new dress-up closet to match.  I’m so smart.

After priming I got to work taping everything off.  I decided we’d do all of the desk teal except the top and the 3 sides of the bookshelves.  We left the top with just the white primer and I painted each of the shelves (minus the bottom) white.  diy-desk-9diy-desk-7diy-desk-8She helped some with the first coat of teal.  Then I did the second coat of teal and both coats of white all on my own.

Then we were ready for our mural!  I started off by tearing off a sheet of our roll paper the size of the desk and had her draw exactly what she wanted it to look like.  That way there wouldn’t be any issues later.  She decided she wanted to go with a snow scene.  I drew a wavy line on the bottom and we painted that white and then the sky blue. diy-desk-1I have a ton of glitter acrylic paint so I asked if she wanted to make it sparkly.  The answer was obviously “YES!!!!!!!!!!“.  We used sparkly blue for the sky and sparkly silver on the snow.  I do have to admit it looked really cool, especially on the snow.diy-desk-10 diy-desk-3Then I held up her drawing while she copied it onto the desk with a pencil.    diy-desk-5Then she stood there and told me what color paint she wanted everything while I did the actual painting.  I could tell she was disappointed that she couldn’t paint it herself, but I knew if she did it was going to turn out disastrous.  I tried to explain to her that it’s really hard to paint something like this, but she didn’t really understand.  Until I let her decorate the dresses and make the crowns herself.  She wasn’t happy with the way a lot of them turned out and had me go back and fix them.  After that I think she understood.

Our work in progress!diy-desk-4And the final product!  How could I not love it…snowy, sunny, rainy, rainbow all at once with us in fancy clothing, crowns and wands while Santa drops off presents.  Does that scream 5 year old imagination or what?!
diy-desk-6Hubby sprayed it down with the same acrylic sealer we used on the Stepping Stones.  After we let it dry for a looong time (seriously that stuff is potent!) he carried it up to her room.  “She” (aka I) organized all of the art supplies on there, and that’s it!  diy-desk-13My friend Amanda got her some paint-your-own Elsa and Anna ceramic figurines for Christmas so that was her very first project on the desk. It’s been in her room for about a week now and she’s gotten plenty of use out of it, so I’m very happy with our decision to do a desk.  Might not be the most glamorous gift, but it’s definitely going to be used.

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Step six: DIY Stepping Stones for the Grandparents

To go along with our Snowman Ornaments we decided to send handmade stepping stones.  This is a great gift because we can continue to give one every year if we want to…or really any year that we can’t think of a great handmade gift from the grandkids.  Last year we gave these awesome bird baths to everyone and originally I was thinking we could do a birdhouse to go with it this year, but it just seemed too difficult to mail.  We’ll save that idea for when the grandparents actually make it out to visit us for the holidays…which means never, haha.  Don’t even get me started on that category.  Apparently roads only go one way…

But anyway, the stepping stones.  I did a search on Pinterest (obviously) for some ideas.  After going through numerous sites I found this one to be the most helpful.  There are specific instructions, tips for each step and tons and tons of example stones.  I highly recommend thoroughly reading the article if you’re looking to make one yourself!

I made my list of supplies:

  • Mold.  I purchased either an 8 or 9 inch circle mold from Hobby Lobby.  It was only $4 but it turned out to be the most expensive thing I purchased that day, so I was able to use a 40% off coupon for it.
  • Concrete.  After reading the tips on the above website I decided on a sand/concrete mixture.  Turned out Lowes didn’t sell it, so I had to hit up Home Depot for it.  And of course the smallest bag they had was 60 lb.  Which I would like to say that I pulled it off of the shelf, put it on the cart and pulled it out of the cart and into my car all on my own at 7 months pregnant.  I kick ass.  It was cheaper in the store, so it was actually only $4.
  • Marbles.  We have a ton of glass marbles that I was planning on using for this project, but it turned out they were too big for what I wanted to do.  So I ended up purchasing two bags of small ball marbles from Michaels.  Each at a separate time, so each at $3 with a 40% off coupon.
  • Green Gems.  After the original idea I had to decorate the stones looked like crap I had to go in a new direction.  So I picked up some “crushed glass with glitter” (except mine was green) from Hobby Lobby for $4, once again with a 40% off coupon.
  • Spray paint sealer.  I had a hard time deciding what to buy.  They had clay pot sealers, but that sounded like it was more to keep the soil and water in a pot.  Then there was a UV one, but it didn’t say anything about water.  So finally I went with Krylon Acrylic Crystal Clear because it said it was moisture resistant.  I’ll let you know the results, haha!  It was around $10, minus yet another 40% off Michael’s coupon

And that’s it!  In total I spent about $18 for all 4 sets of grandparents (of course that doesn’t count shipping costs since 3/4 sets of grandparents are worthless…).  And the mold is still reusable and we have a ton of concrete and sealer leftover.  Now that’s how much we should be spending on Christmas!

I knew I wanted to put the kids’ handprints in there so it was just a matter of deciding on the design.  I didn’t want to do just plain handprints…I think that looks boring.  I thought we could put the handprints in a flower shape and then push different colored marbles in the impressions to make colorful flowers.  We did that with the first mold and it did not look good.  We just pitched that stone after it dried and went back to the drawing board.

I decided to try again with the flower idea, but this time painting the handprints instead of using marbles.  I used the green gems from Hobby Lobby for the stems and then wrote 2015 in the marble balls on the top.  They turned out much better.  And then since we used regular acrylic paint I picked up a can of sealer to hopefully keep it from fading/washing away.

So this is how we made the molds:

  1. Mix the concrete.  Hubby did this part.  He didn’t use any measurements, so each time he mixed it the consistency was completely different.  Two of the times he made it he had to get some paper towels to soak up some of the water because it was so liquidy that the handprints were just disappearing.  Now if this was me I would’ve measured the powder and the water the first time so I knew how much to use, but hey, to each their own!
  2. Add paint if coloring the stone.  I had half a jar of a sample size red paint that we used on the first (well, technically second) stone we made.  I really like the color of it and if I would’ve had more paint we would’ve colored the other ones too.  It adds to it nicely.  I wasn’t going to purchase paint specifically for this, though.
  3. Pour into the mold and let sit for 30-60 minutes.  Some of the watery ones we actually let sit for closer to two hours instead… diy-stepping-stone-5
  4. Handprints!  C had a blast with the handprints.  He laughed hysterically every time Hubby pushed his hands in.  It took two of us to get his–Hubby to hold his hands down and make sure he didn’t grab a handful of concrete and eat it (which is what he was trying to do) while I spun the mold in a circle to get the flower shape.  We did his first and then J had whatever room was left. diy-stepping-stone-4 diy-stepping-stone-2 diy-stepping-stone-3
  5. Decorate.  After Hubby took C away (usually straight into the bathtub) J and I pushed in the marbles.  The gems looked nice but since they were so small quite a few of them didn’t get pushed in enough and fell out after it finished drying.  Fortunately we used so many of them that you couldn’t tell some had disappeared.  We used the green gems for the stem/leaves and for “grass” along the bottom.  We pushed the red and blue balls in the top to form 2015. diy-stepping-stone-1
  6. Let it sit for at least 3 days. diy-stepping-stone-9
  7. Take it out.  The concrete slipped right out of the mold! diy-stepping-stone-10
  8. Paint!  I painted C’s handprints and J did hers. diy-stepping-stone-11
  9. Let dry for 24 hours.  Then Hubby sprayed it with the sealer.  At this point we were a little short on time so he actually sprayed all of them at once.  3 hours later we wrapped them in bubble wrap and loaded them into the flat rate Priority boxes to be shipped the next day.  They arrived Christmas Eve…was that great timing or what?!  Although they definitely should’ve aired out a little longer before being packed away.  They sat in my car in the boxes overnight and when I got in to drive to the post office I think I got a little high during the 3 minute drive.  That stuff was strong!

And that’s it!  I think they turned out pretty cute.  We made 5 total:  four for the grandparents and one for ourselves.  diy-stepping-stone-8diy-stepping-stone-6 diy-stepping-stone-7 The top one is the first one we made, as I’m sure you can tell.  That was before I purchased the smaller beads for the year and decided to stick with the green gems for the stem as well as the grass.  It’s also the one we poured the red paint into, so at least that part turned out well!

I don’t have a picture of the fourth one we made, for my parents, because they came down to visit us for the holidays so I didn’t have to ship theirs.  Which meant we just barely finished it in time and I didn’t even think about snapping a quick photo beforehand.

Hubby’s dad said “Oh that’s too nice for people to step on; I think I’m going to build something to display it on the porch!”, which I thought was pretty neat.  And then he followed that up by asking “Are those the grandkids’ handprints on there?”  No, Gary, they’re the kids down the street.  Sigh.

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Step five: DIY Fort Kit for my brothers

I have two younger brothers, currently 7 and 9.  Technically they’re not related to me but it’s a long story and for all intents and purposes, they are.  I absolutely hate buying them presents for Christmas because it’s impossible to find something.  First, they’re ridiculously spoiled.  The amount of crap they have is astounding.  Second, they destroy everything.  Third, they don’t do anything except play video games anyway.  Nothing irritates me more than spending money on something that isn’t going to get used.  Last year I came up with a brilliant (and super cheap) idea:  DIY Marshmallow Guns.  I have no idea what tutorial I used but I don’t think it matters…they’re all pretty simple.  We spent less than $5 on both of them and although I doubt they were used at all after Christmas morning, I’m totally fine with it for that price!

I scoured Pinterest and the internet for another DIY idea for this year.  I never realized how difficult it is to find stuff like that for boys that age!  Everything just seemed dumb.  Finally I stumbled on DIY Fort Kits.  I was on the fence about whether or not it would be used, but I never found a better idea so a Fort Kit it is!

I checked out just about all of the tutorials on the general Pinterest search above.  I followed Pie Birds‘ tutorial the closest, but pulled ideas from other random ones that I added to it.

I made my list:

**2 twin flat sheets
**rope
**flash light
**clamps
**glow sticks
**clothes pins
**suction cups
**grosgrain ribbon for the ties 140 in

Everything was super simple to find except the sheets.  I bought all of it minus the ribbon and sheets from the Dollar Tree…best store ever!  I took it all of the original packaging and put it in some plain ziplock bags.  diy-fort-kit-8I picked the ribbon up from either Hobby Lobby or Joann’s…I can’t remember for sure now.  It was just two rolls of plain white grosgrain ribbon.  Which I don’t know why I had 140 inches put down…I didn’t even end up using all of one roll!  Darn, could’ve saved myself $3…

I looked everywhere for cheap sheets.  Walmart, Target, Ross, Marshalls, Goodwill and 3 local thrift shops.  They were all so expensive!!  I mean come on Goodwill, who pays $5 for a used single twin sheet?!  I finally struck gold at Big Lots and found a set of sheets on clearance for $7.  And not just any sheets…CAMO!  Perfect!!

Although flat sheets work so much better I decided that the fitted sheet would do.  Especially since I’m not even sure if they’re going to actually use this kit beyond the first day.  At first I was going to trim all around it, getting rid of the fitted part then folding the raw edges in and hemming it.  I decided that was entirely too much work.  Especially since I don’t understand why the fitted sheet won’t work, especially if you pull it tight.

First I cut the ribbon.  I cut 6 pieces that were approximately 12 inches long.  I folded them in half and then pinned them onto the fitted sheet.diy-fort-kit-2I sewed them on.  I used a straight stitch back and forth across the top (at the end of the sheet) about 6 times to make sure it would hold.  Then I zigzagged the other 3 sides to help keep the ribbon from fraying. diy-fort-kit-3I put one on each “corner” and one in the middle of each of the long sides.diy-fort-kit-1Done.  In my search I found two ways to attach the ribbon:  either in a loop, like I used above, or with two open ends so they can be tied.  I had no idea which way would work better so I decided to make one sheet with loops and the other with ties.  So for the flat sheet I cut 8 pieces of ribbon, this time about 20 inches each.  I folded each piece into a V shape and pinned it on.  I sewed them the same way as above:  a straight stitch a whole bunch of times along the edge of the sheet and then a zigzag for the other three sides.  diy-fort-kit-5I sewed one onto each corner and then one in the middle of each of the 4 sides.diy-fort-kit-4I had also seen a tip somewhere along the way that if you fold the corners in and sew them down it makes an opening for the rope to slide through.  I decided to do that as well.  Why not?diy-fort-kit-6Since this was a complete sheet set it also included a pillow.  I debated for a few minutes and then decided I mine as well use that too.  I cut it open on three sides so it was as big as possible, folded the edges in and sewed them closed. Then I cut four more pieces of ribbon, looped them like I did for the fitted sheet, placed them in the middle of each of the four sides and then folded the corners in like I did on the flat sheet for the rope to slide through.diy-fort-kit-7Sheets were done!  Now I just needed a bag.  Fortunately I’ve made a ton of those peek-a-boo storage bags for kids toys a couple years back so I already knew exactly how to make one (someday I’ll do a post on those.  Maybe).  It was even easier to make this bag though since it didn’t need a window.  I went through my fabric file and picked out a camo print.  I unfolded it and set all of my supplies on it to see how big I needed to make it. I made sure to cut it plenty big.  Of course I have no idea what the dimensions are.diy-fort-kit-9Then I took all of the stuff off, folded it in half (right sides together) and sewed the side and bottom edges.  It looked like a gigantic pillowcase.diy-fort-kit-13The downside to using this fabric was it turned out it was a jersey knit.  Which meant it folded up on me.  A lot.  And I was entirely too lazy to pull out my iron to make life easier.  See, this is why everything I sew turns out half-assed!  I mean it would’ve taken me 2 minutes to pull out my iron, plug it in, wait for it to get hot and then use it.  Lazy, lazy, lazy.

Next I made a casing for the rope at the top.  This is where the jersey knit really irritated me.  Normally I would fold the top edge down about a 1/4 inch and then fold it again to make sure that all of the raw edges are hidden, but that was impossible this time.  So I just folded it down once and then zigzagged it instead.  diy-fort-kit-14I left an opening about an inch wide about halfway on the front for the drawstring.  diy-fort-kit-15Then I picked out some string.  When a fabric store near me in Canada was going out of business I made sure to stock up on drawstring in a major way since I was making a ton of those peek a boo bags.  Which meant that I had a bunch of options.  I went with beige.  I attached a safety pin onto the end to make threading easier and then pulled it through the bag.  Normally I would attach the other end to the bag to make sure it didn’t get lost along the way, but I made the string so long that there wasn’t any fear of that.  I have absolutely no idea how long I cut the string.  Maybe about twice the width of the bag?  I just know it ended up being barely enough.  diy-fort-kit-17diy-fort-kit-16And that was it!  The bag was finished! diy-fort-kit-18Turned out that for once in my life I drastically overmeasured!  Once it’s all in there and closed the bag is only about half full.  Which I’m perfectly fine with.  Always better too large than too small!

I made a tag in my Silhouette program, printed it on regular printer paper and then laminated it using my awesome laminator.  I punched a hole in it and attached it onto the bag.  There we go, a Christmas present for two boys for less than $15 that’s original.  It may or may not get used, but whatever!  And I love this idea so much that I think as J and C get older we’ll be giving it to their friends as birthday gifts!  Another win! diy-fort-kit-19