Monday, May 31, 2010

XOXO to my Birthday Girl

Happy Memorial Day!

We are so thankful to those who have served our country, my dad and my grandpa included. And our gratitude goes to those who are currently serving, including their families. What a privilege it is to live in such a wonderful country.

Recently we celebrated a birthday in our house. Our little girl turned eight, which is an important number in our house. We wanted to let her know how much we love her, so we pulled it into her birthday party theme. When leaving notes for each other, we always sign them with an XOXO. And so we gave her an XOXO party.

We did a Saturday morning party, so we started out with a breakfast. It was so easy. We served the girls, French Toast sticks (French Toast cut into strips using kitchen scissors = not having to cut French Toast into bites for 15 girlies), scrambled eggs, bacon and strawberries. Who doesn't like breakfast! (Note: I cooked the bacon in the oven using this tip from Our Best Bites).

Then we started our XOXO craft. We made Tic Tac Toe boards.

This is how we did it. We prepped the boards ahead of time. We bought the wood and cut them into 5 1/2 inch squares and the metal was 5 inch roofing tiles. We had the metal cut into 5 inch squares and I drew the grid with a black Sharpie and a ruler. We had the birthday girl help paint the wood squares. Then we glued the metal to the wood using Liquid Nail.

For the Xs and Os, I ordered bottle caps from the Bottle Cap Co. I was able to get 100 bottle caps for $9.00. They also sell them in different colors. I thought about just getting two different colors, but then the girls wouldn't really have a craft to "make". So we went with chrome bottle caps. Each board needs 10 bottle caps (5 Xs and 5 Os). We then glued magnets to them ahead of time using E6000.

Before the party started, we made a "kit" for each of the girls. Inside our bag was a board, 10 bottle caps, a sponge brush, paper plate, pencil, and a quarter.

When the girls were given their kit, they were then able to choose what color they wanted their Xs and Os to be. They could choose to do them all the same color or have the Xs be one color and the Os be a different color. I had strips of paper for them to choose. I placed 5 of each on the row.

I made the font size big enough that a quarter could trace around it. The top of the bottle cap is the same size as a quarter. The girls used the quarter in their bag to trace around the letters. They were able to use the paper plate to trace on, since we were outside and on the patio.

They then cut out their circles and used their brush to modge podge the letters to the top of the bottle caps. (The paper plate was used for glueing too). A little mod podge on the bottle cap, place the letter on the bottle cap, then a little mod podge on top to finish it off. I used the glossy finish. They loved it!

We then served our cupcakes. Instead of having something on top of the cupcake to give them, we made a necklace for them to wear home.

Super easy and super inexpensive. We used 1 inch washers. We stamped an XO using the 1/8" Steel Stamping Set. We then traced the X and O with a black Sharpie and wiped it off instead of oxidizing them. I got the ribbon in the 50 cent bin at Michaels. I think I paid $5.00 total for all the necklaces. Click on the picture and you can get a closer look.

As the girls walked out with the Tic Tac Toe board in hand and their XO necklace on, we let them choose a thing of Tic Tacs to take. It was a hit!'

POST EDIT: Adding it all up, we spent about $5.00 per girl, excluding the cost of breakfast.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Knick Knack Paddy Whack!

I am all girl when it comes to cutesy stuff. I love pretty things. But I am also my mother. My mother is anti-clutter. She is the opposite of a hoarder. She never wanted a bread machine or a stand mixer because it would just be stuff on her kitchen counter and she can't stand "stuff." I knew I had inherited the trait when I made the declaration to my family that "if it doesn't have a place, it goes to Goodwill!" Each of my children's toys has a home. Every dish or utensil has a place in my kitchen. Even the cotton swabs have a special container in our bathroom! Part of this is out of necessity because I have a small house but much of it stems from my mother and her ongoing quest to conquer clutter.

So back to cutesy stuff. I have a few of the Willow Tree figurines. I love them. But I have a problem with them just sitting on top of a dresser collecting dust. The anti-clutter alarms start going off when I see them just standing there serving no functional purpose. Then one day it happened....I was looking at the collection of books that was accumulating in my daughter's room and I had a light bulb moment. I will create Willow Tree bookends!

I was all set to have my husband cut pieces of wood to make into bookends but then I found this set at a thrift store for $1.25. All it took was a smack of a hammer and the apples popped right off. I was left with unfinished, wood bookends ready for my magic.

I cleaned them up and put on a few coats of paint.

I sanded my paint job and sanded down the edges. Then I rubbed each one down with a light stain (using a lone sock that has been hanging around the laundry room!)

I glued on my angels and here they are! My husband is in the process of building shelves for Kayla's room so these beauties will soon have a place and a purpose!

P.S. I didn't want to use something like Gorilla Glue that would make these bookends a permanent home for the angels so I used a few dots craft glue to adhere the figurines to the wood. My daughter may not have my "no clutter" gene and someday she want to have these figurines just sitting by themselves on her dresser.

Happy Friday and enjoy the holiday weekend!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Upcycle an old t-shirt into a cute shrug

I love the NPR shows “This American Life” and “Radio Lab.” If you haven’t listened to them you are missing out on some of the greatest journalism and human interest stories. But anyway, a few times a year they do fund raising and solicit donations before their show. And while I don’t do fund raising, I’m not to proud to do my own soliciting [insert shameless begging to “follow” our blog, and to “like” us on Facebook and to convince others to do the same].

Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

If you remember from my Mother’s Day post (here) I hate the word supple. I also hate the word moist and I despise when people say “expecially” when they mean especially, and “saltsa” when they mean salsa. But a new word that I really love is….UPCYCLE. It’s like recycle, but you’re making something even better out of it…and if I say, “I upcycle” people might actually think I exercise.

So when I found this tutorial (here) about how to make a cute shrug out of an old t-shirt, I was excited to UPCYLE. This was a great idea and I decided to  add a little more somethin’ somethin’ to this tutorial.

You will need:
An old t-shirt
Thread to match (or contrast)
Sewing machine
Safety Pin

First, cut your shirt up the middle of the side you want to be the front (if you have a graphic on the front, you might want that in the back so flip the shirt over and you the blank side as the front)
Then cut out the neck. I like to leave it in one piece because I’m going make a headband out of it later.

Then round out the corners. I cut one side and then used the scrap piece to guide me cutting the other side so it was even.

Then fold the edge over about an inch and pin to form a casing.

Sew the casing.

Then sew a basting stitch on the ribbon (I used the length of the casing on the shirt plus 2/3 more).
Gather the ribbon by pulling on the bottom thread. Now pin ribbon so that the basting stitch lines up with the casing stitch. Then sew.

Take your safety pin and attach it to the ribbon and string through the casing.

 And put on your shrug...or ask your very shy daughter to model it...

Just in case you don't want to do that whole ribbon thing, I did a simple one....

There you have it. That's how you make a t-shirt into a shrug. We just upcycled together...twice! Whew…I love those kind of workouts, when you don’t have to sweat and it doesn’t hurt. “Expecially” when you have something cute to show for it!
(Writing that word twice in my blog is part of my word aversion therapy!)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Case For Smiles

Just this week, my oldest daughter's good friend in school was diagnosed with leukemia (8 years old). She had an appointment on Tuesday with an allergy doctor because her allergies were bothering her. The doctor ran a routine blood test. That night they found themselves checked in to the hospital preparing for her first round of chemo. What a nightmare!

This has affected our home greatly. Constant thoughts and worries are about K and her family. Megan misses being with her friend everyday. And we're really going to miss her in the Fall during soccer season. She's an awesome goalie. She's hoping to still dress with the team and be the official Goal Money Can Shaker.

We've been drawing pictures and writing notes for her room. We've bought books and activities to keep her busy. But we also wanted to do something special to help cheer up her hospital room.

Recently the girls in our church (age 8-11) did a service project. I was introduced to a charity that really affected me I know why. It's called A Case for Cancer. You can check them out at

It began with a mom who had a son battling cancer. To brighten his room, she made him pillowcases. It soon spread to making pillowcases for all the kids on the Oncology Unit at their hospital. It has now grown into an amazing charity nationwide with coordinators in almost every state. You can look here for the nearest director if you would like to help out.

After Megan and I received the first news about K, we went to the fabric store and picked out fabric to make a pillowcase. You can follow along with these directions and start making pillowcases for other kids that are sick and in the hospital. After seeing K and her mom's reaction, I'm anxious to make more. I'm thinking of making a bunch to let K hand out to her new friends at the hospital.

To make a pillow case you will need:

* 3/4 yard of fabric for the pillowcase body (I got a full yard for personal embellishment)
* 1/3 yard of coordinating fabric for the border of the pillowcase
(choose a cheery fabric suitable for children ages infant to teens, boys and girls. Use cotton or cotton flannel ONLY)
* thread

I use my mat and rotary cutter to cut the material to the appropriate sizes.

1. Cut the body of the case to 26 1/2" x 40 1/2"

2. Cut the border of the case to 10 1/2" x 40 1/2"

3. Fold the border in half lengthwise, with the wrong sides together (right side facing out) and press.

4. Place the right side of the border (still folded in half) on the right side of the body of the case. Stitch together using a 1/2" seam allowance along the raw, open edges. Then use a zig zag stitch to overcast the edge to prevent fraying.

5. Then place the right sides of the pillowcase together. Stitch down the side and across the bottom using a 1/2" seam allowance. Follow up with an overcast zig zag stitch.

6. Turn right side out and press.

*** Because I knew who this was going to, we wanted to make it extra special. We used our Wonder Under and material from the body of the case to add her name to the border. I did this before I sewed the border to the case. This gave me the ability to stitch around the applique. I followed the same steps that I used with the t-shirts. ***

We were able to spend some special time with K on Saturday afternoon when we delivered our care package. Her mom immediately put the pillowcase on her pillow. It brightened up her room. You can't see it, but that little sweetheart had a big smile on her face.

We love you Miss K! We're praying for you and know how brave you are! You're not afraid to defend the goal in soccer and we know you're not afraid to defend yourself in this fight. We're cheering for you!


Thursday, May 20, 2010

It takes a village!

Once upon a time I was a teacher. I got my degree in Elementary Education and I began my journey into the real world as a 5th grade teacher. (It was a bizarre turn of events that led to my current career as a Software Analyst but I'll save that story for another day.) When I look back at the short time I spent teaching it is the moments that I felt like I had truly made a difference that stand out. Now that I'm a mom I appreciate those experiences and want to make sure my child's teacher knows he or she is appreciated!

So here we are at the end of the school year and I want to give my son's teachers a memento. Time and money are short so I decided that handmade is the way to go. I looked at all kinds of blogs of crafty moms who had some great teacher gift ideas but again....the time thing was working against me! (Here's where I am supposed to admit I'm a procrastinator but I'm not ready to take that step yet!) My mind kept going back to a gift I received when I was student teaching so I took that idea and ran with it and created this inexpensive teacher appreciation gift....

I printed out the message "Thank you for helping me grow" in a fun font.

And with some scrapbook paper, a small wood plaque, craft paint, modge podge, distress ink and a dowel rod, this is what I created!

My son signed his name with a fine tip Sharpie on the back of each sign. But he's four and is still learning to write so I wrote in a little translation with his name and date! I'm mad at myself that I didn't get a picture of that!

The pots were $1.58 at Old Time Pottery and Home Depot has a large selection of small house plants for only $2.98. Can't beat that!

And so the summer begins....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

How to Make Fabric Bead Bracelets...take a look

My mother always taught me to "take a closer look" which meant to read the fine print on contracts (even if it is to just go down a huge blow-up slide), to double check my homework (which back then meant re-typing the whole page if I misspelled one word), to check your receipt as you are walking out of the store (actually, that's what I do...but she stands right there in the aisle so if she has a dispute, she can fight it right's a little embarrassing, but effective I guess). She taught me to check price tags before I even should think if I like something ("If it's not on sale, we can't buy it.")

This week, I needed a reminder to just "take a closer look." I'm blaming on the fact that I was a little sick...but here's what went down: it wasn't till around 4pm at work did I notice that my shirt was on backwards (luckily I had on a little jacket). Another day around 2pm my cousin pointed out that my shirt was on inside-out. And, yesterday I was putting something away in my sons room and wondered why the computer mouse was on his dresser. I picked it up only to realize it was his cup...his baseball athletic supporter/protector...(he's 9 by the way, so he won't even read this to be able to get embarrassed).

However, this week I did take a closer look and I was a little sneaky about it. I saw this lady in the mall and she was wearing the cutest bracelet and I wanted a closer look. I tried sidling up to her (ala Seinfeld) but that didn't work, so I glanced down and said to her, "Oh my goodness, that's the cutest bracelet, is that a designer bracelet?" Well she smiled wide and said No and that she bought it at a boutique and she held it up to me, and I touched it and the whole time I was trying to figure out how they made it. I got a close enough look that I came up with this instruction in my head...I later googled it and saw that there were some instructions online, but not like how I pictured it in my head. You can go ahead and figure out what works best for you. So, here's the result of taking a closer look!


 Here's what you'll need to make a fabric bead bracelet:

Strip of material of your choice (if you buy 1/8 of a yard you will have plenty)
wooden or plastic beads (you choose the may want to use an old necklace or bracelet)
Clear plastic hair ties
Scissors or rotary cutter
Sewing Machine
Needle and thread
Optional: colored craft wire, beads

First you want to cut a strip of material 2.5-3x as long as the widest part on your hand if it was squished trying to put a bracelet on (imagine trying to put on a bracelet and sometimes it's around the knuckles) Or if you want to make a necklace, it should be about 8-10 inches longer than the length of your desired necklace.

Now to figure out the width. On the package of the beads it will tell you the size. To figure out the diameter of the bead, dig back to early geometry to know that Circumference=Pi times the diameter (which is usually the size they give you) So my beads said they were 20mm. So, C=3.14(20mm) which is 62.8mm which i converted to inches using this conversion calculator .  So the bead is about 2.5 inches around. I gave myself an extra .75 inch so I cut a piece of fabric 3.25 inches wide and about 18 inches long (I have a very large man hands really).

 Then put right sides together and sew a long tube leaving one end open.

 Then snip the one corner that's sewn...but be careful not to snip the stitch. This helps when you turn this right-side-out.

Then with a chopstick or a pencil, turn the tube right-side-out carefully poking in the corners to make the end square.

 Then tie the tube with the clear hair tie (rubberband) about 4 inches or so from the end that is sewn closed. This end will be used to tie the bracelet together, so make sure you have enough end to tie a knot. Then pop a bead in there and move on down to the bottom.

And then use another hair tie to enclose the bead.

Keep doing that till you have the right size (end beads should touch when wrapped around your wrist).

After the last bead is tied off, you will need to sew the end shut. Tuck the raw edges in and sew together. I don't even know what kind of stitch that is...and it's probably ugly...but it's sewn closed.


Now you can make a knot loose enough so that the fabric bead bracelet can be pulled on without untying it. And this is what the lady had on...thank goodness I took a closer look.

Unfortunately, the Filipino in me couldn't just stop at a regular fabric bead bracelet. I needed to add bling. So I had some leftover craft wire (you could even use floral wire left over from the coffee filter flowers) . I just wrapped the wire between the beads...

And then I put about 12 blingy beads on and wrapped the wire tight to secure. I used some pliers to push the wire ends in as far as I could so they wouldn't snag.

And there you have it. A fabric bead bracelet! With bling! Just a little reminder to take a closer look and pay attention to the small things....that is unless you come to my house and then PRETTY PLEASE DON'T take a closer look...all you'll see is a messy house!!! Just love me for who I am!