Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Busy Bag Swap

Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate in a Busy Bag Swap.  I was invited by a dear friend to join a group of ladies mostly from her church.  This is how it worked.  Since there were eight women participating in our swap, we each chose a "project" and made eight identical ones.  The types of projects we picked were activities that would be appropriate for toddlers or pre-schoolers.  The purpose is to have several activities on hand to use when you need your little one to be occupied.  Many of these ladies are home schooling moms and can use them with the younger ones while the older ones are doing lessons.  Also, some are good for traveling in the car.  Some of the activities require help from an adult or older sibling, but some of them the child can do alone.  If you are interested in doing your own busy bag swap just type "busy bags" into your favorite search engine.  Grab a drink, get comfortable, and prepare to lose at least an hour of your day.  There are many ideas on the internet and I never cease to be amazed at how creative women, and moms in particular, can be.

I'll begin with what I brought.  I am the creative activities director of the MOPS group at our church and found this activity when I was searching for crafts to do.  It is called an "I SPY" bottle.

 This isn't actually the one I took yesterday.  I think I left mine at the swap by mistake.  I made this one for my daughter several months ago.  The idea is to find a variety of small objects, put them in a bottle with some sand or rice, seal it up and have fun trying to locate the items inside.  On the one in the picture, I had made a list of the items inside, printed it out, and attached it with either clear packaging tape or contact paper.

She can read an item and then find it inside.  For the preschoolers, however, I  put each of the little trinkets on the glass bed of my color copier and made a photocopy.  I trimmed each one out and laminated them and attached each one to the neck of the bottle with a rubberband.

With preschoolers I definitely recommend gluing the lids shut so you don't get a carpet full of sand!  Finish it off by tying a strip of colorful fabric around the lid.

Ok, now for what the other mothers brought.  This little activity contains a coupon organizer (often found in the dollar section at Target) and a variety of colored papers and index cards.  They can pretend they are "working" or sort items by color or type in the pockets inside.  I think my AJ will enjoy playing with this and I am sure it will ultimately find it's way to my daughter's room and her desk.  She loves to play school and I think she will find a use for this.


I am sure this activity will also double as a snack!  It is very simple with a bag of mixed cereals and a piece of yarn.  The yarn has tape wrapped around the tip to make it easier to thread through the cereal and to keep it from fraying.  

This one is also very simple to make consisting of only three items.  The idea is to roll the ping pong ball or the car through the tube.  I can see where this would definitely appeal to little boys, but it sometimes surprising how much little girls like playing with cars too.  

How cute is this little clothes line?  All you need to make it is a rope, some clothes pins, and "clothes" cut from sheets of inexpensive felt.  There are many ideas for toys made with felt online and it is definitely worth looking into.  Felt comes in many different colors and you can purchase it for about twenty cents per sheet.  And its quiet which makes it a nice activity when you need it to be quiet or in the car.  

I think this idea might be one of my favorites.  While I think my children are past the age where they would enjoy this, I can definitely see an eighteen month old really enjoying this.  It is simply made from a small can with a plastic lid.  Three simple shapes were cut from the lid using either small scissors or an x-acto knife.  The pom poms can be purchased at Michaels, Hobby Lobby, and even Wal-Mart.  You can't really see from this picture, but she covered the outside with some decorative duct tape which I thought was clever.  I have also seen where you can just cut an X out in the middle instead of doing the shapes.  When all the pom poms are in, you can dump them out and start again.  Again, this is nice because it is quiet.  Can you tell I like it quiet at my house?

Another one that I liked a lot is these popsicle sticks with velcro on the ends.  You can build different shapes and designs with them.  I like the colors and the possibilities of doing patterns with them.  These would be very easy to make and less time intensive than some of the projects.  I didn't ask, but I assume the velcro dots are the same ones you can find in the sewing department at Wal-Mart.  

This activity is made by attaching a button to each end of a piece of ribbon and threading felt squares onto the buttons.  She included many different colors of felt and each square has a small slit in it.  As the child gets older they can practice doing patterns.  I do think this would be a fun activity for a two or three year old and teaches them a skill they need to learn.  

Story Blocks!  I have admired these in toy stores but never bought any because they seemed a little too expensive for six dice with pictures on them.  I never considered making my own!  This set is so cute and I can't wait to play with all my kids.  I am sure even my ten and twelve year old kiddos will enjoy this game.  The idea is to roll the dice and make up a story with the pictures on each die.  This was a very cute idea.  I can't wait to make some myself for gifts.  

This one also seemed to be a big hit with the other moms.  It is made from clothes pins and paint chips.  It would be fairly inexpensive to make since the paint cards are free and clothes pins are only a dollar a pack.  The idea is to take the clothes pins off the cards and let the child put them back in the appropriate spot to match.  It is a great way to learn their colors and to understand that there are multiple shades of colors.  

Let's go fishing!  These fish are cut out from felt and have magnets for the eyes.  The wooden dowel fishing pole has a magnet that hangs down and is used to "catch" the fish.  It teaches coordination because you have to have a fairly steady hand to get the magnets close enough to grab.  

These tanagrams are made from sheets of foam cut into triangles, squares, and parallelograms.  I don't know if she came up with the horse design herself or if there are online sources to find ideas.  I bet you can get some ideas online.  On the reverse side are some simpler designs like a house that consists of only a square house with at triangle roof.  

I had a really good time at the swap and got to meet several people I didn't know before.  I love the idea of the swap so much.  I am thinking about maybe doing one that would be good for older girls.  The moms could make up little kits that contain things like bracelets or headbands or any number of crafty things that girls from seven to twelve would enjoy doing.  It seems that when you buy the supplies to make one item, you often have enough to make several.  An example would be bracelets.  If you buy a bag of beads and some cording, you can often make up to ten bracelets for the same price it would cost to make one.  I am also planning on adding this to our MOPS schedule this year.  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Home made laundry detergent

Several months ago, I started seeing all these recipes for cleaning products you can make at home on Pinterest.  I was skeptical at first, then tried one or two if I already had the ingredients on hand.  Last week I went through and made a list of the ones I wanted to try and headed to the grocery store to get supplies.  Everything is super cheap and it only takes a small amount.  I had tried a powdered laundry detergent a while back that had washing soda and I can't remember what else, but I wasn't overly impressed and I don't like using powdered detergent in my front loading washer because it gets all clumped up in the dispenser.  I was having to put the dry powder on my clothes before I started the washer instead of dissolving it in the water before adding clothes like you would do in a traditional top loading washer.  Anyhow... I found this recipe on Pinterest and decided to give it a try.  It only takes a few ingredients, and was very easy to make.  Sorry, I didn't take pictures as I was making it.  I will add them when I make another batch.

Here is what you need to buy if you don't already have it.  One bar of laundry soap.  I used Fels Naptha which is found at Wal-Mart or your grocery store in the aisle where they sell laundry detergent.  It cost one dollar.  You can also use something called Zote soap, but I haven't seen it where I normally shop.  You will also need to use washing soda, which is found right in the same part of the store.  It looks like Arm and Hammer baking soda in the orange box, but this is a yellow box and says Washing Soda.  Similar, but different.  I think this is only a couple dollars per box.  I already had some from a tie-dying project I did in June so I didn't need to buy any.  The only other thing you need is Borax, also found in the same aisle.  Again, it is cheap, and I already had some.  My total investment was one dollar, but if you had to buy everything you would spend less than seven I think.  

Here is what you do.  Now the original recipe makes ten gallons.  Yes, I said TEN GALLONS!  I didn't really think I needed or wanted to store ten gallons of laundry detergent so I halved the recipe.  First, put two cups of water on the stove to heat.  Cut the bar of soap in half and grate it into the pot as the water heats up.  Stir as it melts.  It is important to get it melted all the way.  I had a few bigger chunks at the end that I didn't let melt and it didn't dissolve in the solution like I thought it would.  While that is heating up, fill a five gallon bucket about 1/4 of the way with hot tap water and add 1/2 cup of washing soda and 1/4 cup of borax.  Go back and check on the soap and if it is melted take it and pour it in with the washing soda and borax mixture.  Then fill the bucket to halfway with water.  Stir it well.  I used a big wooden spoon, but a paint stirrer would work fine too.  Let this mixture sit overnight.  The next morning it looks like a nasty bucket of snot.  Stir it up.  It is thicker now.  If you want to scent it, now is the time to add about 25 drops of whatever essential oil you prefer.  I don't like my clothes to be scented so I skipped this step.  Now fill the bucket the rest of the way up with water and stir well.  You are now the proud owner of five gallons of laundry detergent.  

Here is the cool part.  Five gallons is 640 ounces.  You use 1/2 a cup per load.  That is 160 loads of laundry!  Ready for the even cooler part?  If you have a high efficiency washer you only use 1/4 a cup per load so you can get 320 loads of laundry out of this bucket of slime!  Plus you still have the half bar of soap and enough of the other ingredients to make another batch.  And next time, you only need to buy the soap because you still have a bunch of the washing soda and borax left.  Even if you had to buy all the ingredients and spent around seven dollars that is only two cents per load for a regular washer and one cent for a HE washer.  I washed two loads of laundry today and so far I am pleased with the results.  It seems to do just as well as store bought detergent or the soap nuts I have been using.  I used to use Tide in the big container that has a pour spout on the jug.  You know, the one with the red button you push and it comes out like a gatorade cooler.  I think that would be an ideal way to store this detergent.  Unfortunately I threw mine out a while back when I switched from commercial cleaners.  I am using an orange juice container and think it will work fine.  

My grandfather was visiting this morning and I was telling him about my latest adventure.  He said he would like to try it so I put him some in a quart jar.  It gave me the idea to bottle up some more of it to pass out to some of my close friends.  I realize laundry detergent isn't what we all dream of getting for a gift, but it is fun to try something new, and it doesn't cost me much to pass some along.  This quart jar will do 16 - 32 loads depending on your washer.  This way they can try it before they made five gallons of it!  That is the main reason for this post, I told those lovely ladies that I would put the recipe on my blog so they could make their own if they like it.  So, if you are one of those ladies and have tried it, please comment below and let us know what you think of it.  

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Summer activities:

It is mid-May and my kids will be out of school next week and I have been working on a list of things to keep us busy this summer.  I'm not sure what our vacation plans are, but there is a good chance we won't be straying far from home this year.  I have purchased a notebook/scrapbook from Michael's called a Smash Book and we are going to document our activities.  We have all been working on a list of 100 activities to do this summer and I have decided to share them on here as well.  Our list actually has more than 100 things on it, but our goal is to do at least 100 by labor day.  There a mix of things to do at home, free activities around our town, and some other things that you have to pay for, but I've tried to keep the costs down as much as possible.  I am going to include our list here in case any of you are looking for ideas for your family this summer.  I am becoming more aware of how quickly my kids are growing and want to make the most of the time I have left before they are all grown up.  Here is what we have so far...

1.                  catch fire flies
2.                  Bay’s Mountain(park, planetarium, maybe zip lining)
3.                  camp out
4.                  make a pin wheel
5.                  decorate a picture frame
6.                  perform a play
7.                  try a new yogurt shop
8.                  dance in the rain
9.                  fly kites
10.              water balloon fight
11.              plant and grow something
12.              go to Steele’s Creek
13.              ride bikes
14.              drive-in movie
15.              family game night
16.              tie dye shirts
17.              have dessert first
18.              go fishing
19.              see a movie
20.              go swimming
21.              go on a picnic
22.              try new foods
23.              pick blackberries
24.              have an opposite day
25.              family cook-out
26.              go on a nature walk
27.              exercise together
28.              go see fireworks
29.              go to Willow springs park
30.              Go to Warrior’s Path playground
31.              go to Sugar Hollow Park
32.              go to Doe River Gorge
33.              go to Natural Tunnel State Park
34.              go to South Holston Dam
35.              go the library
36.              play Frisbee golf at Steele’s Creek
37.              play putt-putt
38.              go to a zoo
39.              go to Dollywood
40.              go to Splash Pad in Kingsport
41.              go bowling
42.              go to Roan Mountain (Rhododendron Festival)
43.              see a waterfall
44.              hike on the Appalachian Trail
45.              ride bikes on the Creeper Trail
46.              hike to the fire tower at Bay’s Mountain
47.              watch the sunset at Beauty Spot
48.              go to the Carter Fold
49.              Music on the Square in Jonesborough
50.              Bluegrass on Broad in Kingsport
51.              go to a Minor League baseball game
52.              go to the farmer’s market
53.              Funfest to see the hot air balloons
54.              go Geocaching
55.              go letterboxing
56.             Perform random acts of kindness
57.              go tubing, rafting, paddle boating, or canoeing
58.              go Contra dancing
59.              see the Trail of the Lonesome Pine
60.              interview our grandparents
61.              play with sidewalk chalk
62.              jump rope
63.              blow bubbles
64.              do a science experiment
65.              make smores
66.              build a fort
67.              watch for shooting stars
68.              recycle something
69.              bake and decorate a cake
70.              run through the sprinkler
71.              make friendship bracelets
72.              make a piƱata
73.              tour the Bristol race track
74.              go to the Exchange Place
75.              have a garage sale
76.              look at the clouds for animals and shapes
77.              have a treasure/scavenger hunt
78.              read a book aloud together
79.              play basketball in the driveway
80.              memorize a Bible verse
81.              make a prayer board
82.              cook dinner together
83.              make necklaces from rocks
84.              plan a special surprise for Owen
85.              plan a special surprise for Emily
86.              plan a special surprise for AJ
87.              have a puppet show
88.              play hopscotch
89.              write and mail letters to out of town friends and family
90.              make flubber
91.              make sidewalk paint
92.              balloon tennis
93.              ding dong ditch
94.              make hand shadows
95.              pick and animal and learn as much as you can about it
96.              melted crayon hot rocks
97.              indoor picnic
98.              balloon characters
99.              Popsicle puzzles
100.          hand print art
101.          homemade lava lamps
102.          mini marshmallows and toothpick construction
103.          diet Coke with Mentos bomb
104.          go to garage sales
105.          bouncing bubbles
106.          home depot or Lowe’s for free make and takes
107.          play I spy
108.          pajama day- tv, movies, popcorn, etc.

There are a couple of other things about this summer that my kids don’t know yet.  There is going to be NO tv until after 8pm each day with rare exceptions.  I am determined that we are going to spend our time together even if it kills us.  This means that I am going to be limiting my internet time as well.  I’m still figuring out the details, but I will be online in the mornings, probably around lunch time (since I do work from home and it is necessary to check some things throughout the day) and at night after the kids are in bed.  We are making lots of changes in our family.  Some of the big ones include next year will be our first year home schooling and we are slowing transitioning towards a whole foods diet.  I wanted to expand my blog to include these areas as well as my craftiness, which I hope to be able to continue!  My plan is to have the kids spending more time together and all of us having less screen time.  Hopefully you guys can keep me accountable.  I will be adding links to many of the ideas listed above.  

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Baby gifts

It seems like there is a baby boom.  There have only been a few babies born in my circle of friends in the past few years, but since starting a MOPS group at my church, that has definitely changed.  We have had three babies born since Christmas and four or five more due this spring.  I guess I am going to be busy.  This first set is for one of those MOPS moms.  Little Rachel made her debut just two days ago and I am so excited for her sweet mother.  I'm sure her dad is sweet too, but I have never met him.  The other two were special orders for cousins born only a few weeks apart.  I love picking out fabrics to use for applique and just downloaded some new designs that I can't wait to try out.  I found a website that has the most adorable designs and.... they were on sale!  The individual images were only $.99.  The way it works is I buy the image online and download it to my computer.  Then I convert it to the file format that my machine takes, save it to a card (like the ones in digital cameras), and pop the card in my embroidery machine.  It is simple and complicated at the same time.  Sometimes it works like a charm and other times it has me wanting to throw the darn thing out in the front yard.  Of course when it is the night before I need it that it acts up.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

More aprons...

Emily had her first sewing lesson tonight.  We practiced sewing straight lines on scrap fabric and then I let her make one of these cute owl aprons.  I have one more for sale as well as two of these white ones with the flowers.  I got AJ to be my model.  He is four years old.  They have an adjustable ribbon so they will fit anywhere from three all the way up to Emily's size and she is nine.  The flower ones can be monogrammed with a name or initial.  
Getting him to "act right" was a bit of a challenge.
well... this one might be a little better.  Or not.
I love his sweet little hands on his hips.  He kept asking "is this for boys?"  He was on to me...
Here is the flower one.  I think it might be my favorite.
And last but not least, here is Emily modeling her apron.  She did a great job for her first ever sewing project.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


I made these aprons last weekend.  I got the idea on Pinterest.  They are made from dish towels.  I went out looking for Valentine's designs that might make good year round patterns for little girls.  This is what I came up with.  I thought the designs were adorable.  I found some more last night at Kohl's with owls on them that I am going to get to soon.  There is no place for a name on them, but they are still going to be super cutey pie!
I mentioned on FB that I was going to make some aprons for Valentine's gifts and had orders for six before the night was over.  It just so happens that is how many I had purchased, so I was very happy about that.  These pictures don't really show them that well, but they were awkward and I didn't have a pint-sized model at home at the time.  
This one is for the daughter of a friend who has a new baby.  I thought I would give it to the new big sister.  
Close-up of the embroidery
When I make the owl aprons I am going to do these two as well.  I love the feel of these and think they will only get cuter as they are washed over and over.  They have kind of a shabby chic feel to them and since they are dish towels they are made to be washed a lot.

New baby items

I have been having lots of requests for baby items.  I went to a baby shower yesterday for a second cousin.  I made a matching set with a long sleeved onesie, a burp cloth and a headband.
I also embroidered some pre-made bibs with the same embroidery file and made a matching headband for those as well.  I thought it would be cute to wear it with jeans.
The cupcakes in the pattern didn't show up very well on the bibs, but I thought the colors were cute.