Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Class Valentines

As with previous years, quite a few Valentines to make to cover Hank's two schools and Everett's day care class.

For Everett, we riffed off his love of Elmo to make "Everett's World" Valentines.

The lunch bags were found at 99 Cents Only store,

and filled with a snack sized bag of Goldfish, crayons, and an Elmo Valentine.

For his teachers, I once again purchased small boxes of Ghirardelli chocolate and put them in muslin bags found at Michaels.

For Hank's kindergarten class, we put mustache pencil toppers on Valentine's Day themed pencils. I bought the pencil toppers a year ago or so at 99 Cents Only. Tags found here.

For his teacher, her favorite candy in Valentine form and a cinnamon scented candle.

For his after school friends, Hank is giving store bought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Valentines. For the two teachers, we put candy in these cute jars from Target.

Always feels good to get these done!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Finishing up Christmas

Promise you won't hear anything more from on on the subject until the appropriate time later this year.

I missed 7 work days during December due to my own illness, being home with the kids, and a couple of scheduled days off. I needed about that amount of time to catch up with work assignments that should have been done by the end of the year, and likewise for my Christmas crafts.

I had one more stocking to finish up -- for Miss Harper, little sister to Riley. An angel playing a harp was an obvious choice.

Finally, my craft for my women friends -- white and gold embellished trivets. I bought the plain cork trivets at Daiso (see -- quirky phrase on the back)

and used skinny "artist's tape" to mark the lines.

The gold paint pen Sharpie claimed it could write on anything, but didn't do great on the raw cork. For some I colored in the line left by the tape and then just outside the line for a two-tone effect.

Others I colored on top of the white spray painted part, which worked a little better. Love these gold feather tags from the Target dollar section!

My other big project is a major overhaul of our house in terms of purging unnecessary items and organizing what's left. I started in the kitchen, and am going to work my way through the whole house this year. I break down everything into small bite-sized pieces, so thus far I have not gotten overwhelmed (like I would if I felt I had to finish cleaning/organizing the whole kitchen in a weekend, or a similar unrealistic goal). I am having a lot of fun finding new storage solutions, and getting rid of things that haven't been used in some time. I hope I can keep up the momentum!

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Elf hijinks and Christmas wrap up (minus two things)

Eyeball made it back to our house this year.

Being sick most of the month, I sooo wasn't in the mood to deal with the dang elf this year. But -- we made it through the month with only one day he forgot to do something funny (he has a little nook to sit in after he is discovered each day, so it's easy to say he is tired if he doesn't move into a new situation).

When Eyeball first arrived, he brought socks featuring his likeness. Other situations the boys found him in included

spelling their names using M&Ms

emerging from a ribbon chrysalis he made one day to become a beautiful butterfly the next

packing Hank a sugar laden lunch

and taking a shower.

Eyeball's month was not without mishap. He, too, found himself sick

broke his foot and received a green cast, just like poor Everett

was antagonized by Nana's Hallmark snowmen

and somehow found himself in this predicament.

See you next year, Eyeball!

Finishing up with Christmas stuff that was completed on time, here are the cookies we made (recipe here) for neighbors, BT's work, and a cookie exchange.

They were good, but a little pricey with the chocolate covered pretzel (store bought) antlers.

One more gift we gave to a few people -- a paper bag containing gifts I have been led to believe through books like Little House on the Prairie that folks would have given for Christmas in the 1800s -- popping corn (on the cob!), candy, cider, and an orange. The popcorn was something we tried to grow this year in the most pathetic garden of all time. Note to all black thumbs out there -- do NOT use "garden soil" in your container garden. Apparently garden soil is meant to be mixed in with existing soil, and on its own is like acid to plants. These cobs were purchased at a local diner.

Speaking of Little House on the Prairie, I was so tickled to see this setup during a December trip to Knott's Berry Farm

I knew exactly what he was doing, even from a distance -- making maple syrup candy in the "snow!" He was in the process of heating up more syrup when I stopped by, and it was going to be awhile until he was ready. I forgot to go back, so I missed out on trying some. Next year. Hey -- maybe somebody will try the trick with our popcorn when you add it to a cup of milk!

I had two stockings to make this year. Unfortunately only one was done before the end of the year in time for our family Christmas party. The other one will hopefully be done this month (or at least in time for next Christmas).

This is for baby Dylan -- mama requested something incorporating his middle name, Rider, and said he likes to growl

Finally for now, our 2014 keepsake ornament -- a germ. We had so much sickness this year -- can only hope for a healthier 2015!

Inspiration for design found here.
(I still have the one stocking to make, and my "mass gift" for my close women friends. Fingers crossed I can still muster some crafting mojo this month!)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Homemade for the boys

I was hoping to get a better shot of my only homemade present for the boys this year -- a doorway puppet theater.

This was how I left the puppet theater for them to find Christmas morning. They were happy with it, but yeah -- more so for the climbing through a doorway with a curtain over it versus to use for actual puppet shows. Only one of those took place on Christmas day.

Today -- the eldest son head butted the lower tension rod. On purpose. Why? I couldn't tell you. So, it is bent and non-operable. If you look for doorway puppet theaters, 1) be prepared to go down the rabbit hole -- there are some amazing ones out there! and 2) it seems people shy away from the use of tension rods. Do they have children who act like goats, too?

I was off duty this year in the homemade hat department. During our trip to Iowa, my great aunt (so the boys' great great aunt) gave them homemade hats. They loved them, and wear them quite often. Why bother making competing hats?

And for today's homemade ornament -- I really didn't see any must make ideas until this popped up. I made a California ornament to celebrate the birth place of all 4 of us. The leather was salvaged from an old business card holder, as mama received this lovely new one for Christmas. I have our annual keepsake ornament idea in mind, but otherwise may not be too many more this week between Christmas and New Year's -- we'll see.

Friday, December 26, 2014

My favorite and least favorite projects this year

Hope it was had a magical Christmas! 6 is such a special age in relation to Christmas -- kids this age understand the stories re Santa, and eagerly anticipate his arrival. But -- there is that doubt about whether or not he is real, and they have so many questions about how the magic works. One day Hank is telling me the reason the elf didn't move one night was because I, not the elf, was too tired to move him. The next day I am told matter of factly how Santa gets into houses without fireplaces (it appears for him, a la The Santa Clause).

This was the year we, er, Santa decided to give Hank a bike. It was disappointing, as the front tire was destroyed beyond repair, which BT (playing Santa) didn't discover until Christmas Eve. Hank wasn't overly excited regarding the bike -- we don't have kids riding bikes in our neighborhood, so it's not an experience he is pining for. Also, I think he is pretty nervous about the whole learning to ride a bike thing, hence the training wheels despite training wheels not really being en vogue anymore (he had a strider bike, but never got the hang of it. And we know our son well enough to know if he got on and couldn't ride the bike in some form or fashion from the get go, that would be the end of that). In any case, the faulty Santa gift gave us the opportunity to talk about what could have happened - lack of Q.C. at the North Pole? A reindeer accidentally popped it with his antler?

Anyway, getting to my favorite and least favorite projects this year, my favorite were these stocking holders I made for us using painted toy animals. I saw this idea to add Christmas-y elements to toy animals a couple years ago (the hippo with ear muffs stuck with me), and of course there are many projects out there with painted animals.

The kids' animals are in line with their "spirit animals," as BT called them.

I have assigned Everett with monkeys from the get go -- for this project, a gorilla seemed more in line with the other animals.

Hank still has a thing for alligators/crocodiles -- there's a commentary there, but won't psychoanalyze the boy more than I already have in this post.

Although I could align myself with a hippo (weight issues, love to swim, seem sweet but actually quite dangerous) as my spirit animal, here it was chosen simply to use the ear muff idea.

Likewise, BT has no affiliation with giraffes, but the use of a mini wreath around its long neck was too good to pass up.

The plain silver stocking holders were purchased from Target years ago, and begged for some type of embellishment. The wee hat and scarf came from something from Bath & Body Works, I think, also from years ago. The colors were chosen to match the garland shown, purchased on clearance last year at Walgreen's. I am aligning all of our decor towards these colors.

My least favorite project this year was our Christmas cards. I had it in mind to use Tiny Prints this year. I had nothing but trouble, namely because the site, as I found through a Google search, is not compatible with Windows 8. Then, I chose a card design that was set as a default on the website as a folded card. I realized after entering info the info requested using the prompts (names, etc.) that there was a single sided version. I can't recall if the proof showed all of the other things I would have liked to include with our card (our last name, year, some kind of closure), or if I was too frazzled to notice what it looked like and didn't notice the lack of info, but was disappointed once the cards came.

The worst part, though, is that many of the cards are coming back to me. I used some envelopes I saved from years ago when Martha Stewart collaborated with Kmart. They were fancy envelopes -- I actually bought multiple boxes of Christmas cards on clearance just for the envelopes, and sent the cards themselves to the thrift store. In any case, they had a white square on the front to write the address of the recipient, and the same looking box on the back to write who it was from. I think the post office confused the back with the front, so about half of the cards were returned to me -- lame.

I know - first world problems.

Redeeming aspects about the cards -- 1) cutest picture ever, right? 2) The theme for these cards was chosen long ago -- the elements were bought over time and then came together so nicely with the picture and card theme; the silver seals to go with the silver envelopes, the love theme to go with the love seal, and 3) finishing out the silver theme, I knew I wanted to do scratch offs as the gifty element to include with the cards. I intended to make my own, but being sick and needing projects to cut out, I had to turn to Etsy. The ones I bought were way cuter than anything I would have put together. Overall, the card was a cute idea, but not well executed.

Tomorrow a homemade gift, and hopefully the start of my annual ornament making.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Speaking of school - and Christmas

Every year I say I'm not doing a theme tree, and then a little voice whispers -- just one more.

This was another idea from way back, and was anticipated to use when Hank started kindergarten. I didn't fully execute a full on school themed tree, though I could think of all sorts of homemade ornaments using school supplies that would have been so lovely {sigh}

But, I added a chalkboard bunting to the tree, a folding ruler star as a topper

and school themed wrapping paper, such as two printed with apples, one that looks like a black chalkboard with white printed sayings, a lined paper with cursive holiday sentiments, and added ruler printed washi tape to black and green gift bags. Of course there is a smattering of school-made ornaments on the tree, but they'll be sticking around for next year's not a theme tree.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

School stuff

One thing working in my favor this month, despite being down sick, was that I had purposefully scaled back my preparations this year in relation to my room mom activities. Starting late November, there were 3 activities I knew I would be responsible for before winter break -- a friendship feast, prepping costumes for the kindergarten performance, and organizing the class party.

The friendship feast last year involved all of the kindergarten and 1st grade classes, and they came to the feast dressed as either Native Americans or Pilgrims. I started asking about the event early in November, but didn't get a definitive answer as to whether or not it was happening until a week before it ended up being scheduled. As it turned out, most of the classes were not going to participate. This was the first year our district took a whole week off for Thanksgiving, and perhaps most of the teachers felt it would be too rushed to get all of the elements ready (Hank was a Native American last year, and in class they made paper bag vests, a papoose, a headdress, a necklace, and a placemat) plus actually, you know, teach. But, our teacher wanted to do the feast. The actual food for the "feast" is vegetable soup -- the kids bring in the vegetables one day, chop them the next, and then parents take the veggies home to cook them into soup. One big problem -- we were set to be out of town for the feast, as this was when we went on our trip to Iowa. I have one helper with the class activities who is a godsend -- she also works full time, but is super savvy with setting up online sign up webpages for our different activities. I seriously don't think I could have made it through the last month without her help! In any case, by having folks sign up to help with the different activities, bring extra items such as juice boxes and crackers, and identifying 3 brave souls to cook the soup, the event happened successfully. I prepared recipes for the folks cooking the soup and included a can of tomatoes, spices, and bouillon. I was bummed to miss out, but glad it could still take place.

Nailed it -- except for blurry camera. Luckily I wasn't designated picture taker...

The Monday before winter break was the kindergarten performance. Again, since Hank participated in this event last year as part of T-K, I knew there would be something to prepare in relation to the class's costumes. Each class wears an overshirt of some kind -- most are plain t-shirts embellished with paint, felt, or tape. This year Hank's class was the snowman class. They wore plain white t-shirts with 3 black felt buttons. Well, wouldn't you know, those buttons need to be pinned on each year. In fact -- somebody obviously tried to wash about a third of the t-shirts with the buttons on to disastrous results. The pins left a bunch of holes in the shirts, the white yarn X in the center of the buttons had come undone, and the edges of the washed buttons were ragged. It took some time to fix the the buttons and get them pinned on the shirts, but I got it done. I also brought pretzels for before the show and candy canes for after just to add that bit of zing to my room mom duties (nailed it!)

The Friday before winter break was the class party. Our class party last year was pretty fun, and I admittedly just copied the elements set to my chosen theme, which was How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The party started with the teacher reading the book How Grinch Stole Christmas. Then, the kids received a paper smile I had printed out that said What would make The Grinch grin? We talked about how grumpy The Grinch was at the beginning of the book, but that he came around and was a nice guy at the end. Why was that the case? What would you do to make The Grinch smile?

There were 4 stations to visit after that -- one to make a paper Grinch face and attach the smile the kids had made,

the next to make Who Pudding -- it was a bit of a scientific experiment to scale down the recipe for instant pudding to make in cups. Some kids listened and their came out great. Others, well, I guess there really is science behind making pudding.

The third station was for decorating cookies (love that our grocery store sells un-decorated cookies!)

and the final one was to make a fruit skewer Grinch using a green grape, banana slice, strawberry, and small marshmallow. The kids got to cut the fruit. Almost all of these ideas were found via Pinterest -- sorry for not providing more direct links!

We also bought the teacher a class gift. I sent home a note early in the month to send back money for the gift. It was a little tricky since I am not there every day, so basically the envelopes just went back through the teacher, who sent them home in Hank's backpack. The main gift was a gift card to the teacher's favorite store. A small amount was used to buy an apple scented candle, one of her favorite treats, popcorn, and a rainbow ornament. The kids who have a really good day are said to "get on rainbow." Since the teacher is a long-term sub, I thought she would enjoy a memento of her time with the class. I added a gold disc onto the rainbow ornament with the class info. Another element to the gift was a book from the class to the room. All of the kids signed the book, and hopefully it will be read by classes during the month of December for years to come. So far Christmas is not taboo at our school -- it will be interesting to see if things change as the boys continue school there. The items were wrapped in a nice set of gift boxes BT received at work last year.

There was also ia used book exchange, and kids brought wrapped books that they were willing to part with for the exchange.

It was nice to have help for the party, and again an online sign up page for folks to determine what to bring. I was so relieved when the party was over! I was still sorta sick, but went through the rest of the day with a big smile. I don't think I will ever be a room mom again, but so glad thus far it is working out despite working full time!

One final note on the topic of class parties -- Everett has his party at school tomorrow. I made another Pinterest find -- string cheese snowmen!
I have a hard time letting go of the ideas in my head -- even though I know life would be more simple if I just said no or that's not necessary more often!