Friday, July 29, 2011

Scavenger Hunt Chore Cards

Days playing at Gramma’s sure are fun for all. But when it’s time for clean up, well it’s not so fun.

Where does a body begin? How can I help my little ones figure out where to start when I’m not at all sure myself?
I took photos of groups of like toys; things that are stored together.

I printed them in my photo program (so I could get 4 to a page) on regular paper. I used Clear Tar Gel Medium (because I already had it) to glue the pictures onto card stock making sure to completely coat the whole back surface area and edges. 

Then, working quickly, I used the Gel Medium to coat each side of the card stock allowing each side to dry completely before turning it over and coating the back. I did several coats to make the cards more durable. It will take a while to thoroughly dry, so don't plan on using these right away. Be careful to not glue it to your work surface.

I tried using regular Elmer's glue to see if it would work instead of the medium and it worked just fine. I went with the Gel Medium because it seemed to give a harder tougher finish. There are acrylic mediums that would also work great, and I'm sure Gorilla glue and maybe even wood glue would work. Do a test on them before you commit to it and decide which is best for you. And yes, these would be great laminated but I don't have a home laminator, and frugal Gramma here won't pay to have it done ($1.99 per 10 ½ by 8 ½ sheet at self serve at Kinko’s, I would have needed 5 sheets)  or use up her gasoline to go do that when what I have works just fine. The idea is for the cards to be more durable, thus the reason for the use of medium. You could use the cards as they are, if you wanted.

Now my grandkids can take a card and have a ‘scavenger hunt’ to find everything in the category on their card and put it in its place. More like a game than a chore. It really helps keep them on track. Little ones don’t always know what is meant when you say clean up your mess/toys. To them it looks just fine the way it is, and perhaps they don’t know what exactly is expected of them.

Give them a card, and show them where ‘home’ is for the items on their card. Kids understand that everything needs a home; it’s something they can relate to much easier. A tote or basket is a handy helper here, and makes gathering toys more fun.
But the preferred way for my grand kids to gather toys is to use a doll stroller. I have 3 strollers, but I think I need to get more. Using the Scavenger Hunt Chore Cards sure has made clean up time easier and a lot more fun!

P.S. Yes, I have very blue carpet. For an explanation, click here.

Update: It's usually dry and hot here in AZ, but it has been very humid lately. My chore cards at times feel tacky, I don't know if it's because I used too many coats of medium on them, the humidity, or if I should have just used a different product. If I had to do it over again I would use only the acrylic medium, or a spray on acrylic sealer; not the tar gel medium. Of course I could still use just glue, or a modge podge type of product. I''ll let you know if something else works better. The cards are great tools to help the kids clean up and have fun while doing it, the process of making the cards just needs to be tweaked. :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I Love This Seasoning!

I found this seasoning at Costco and I can't get enough of it!

I put it on everything, before and after it's cooked! It's spicy, salty, and a little sweet.

potatoes and cauliflower drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with seasoning then tossed, ready for the grill

I have sprinkled it on to veggies, eggs, all over grilled meats, and potatoes before cooking. I like it on foods that are already cooked too; the seasoning still has a little 'crunch' to it before the moisture softens it.

pork loin ready for the grill

One of my favorite ways to use it for an easy fast meal is to oil the bottom of a baking dish and place meat into it. (my favorite for this is chicken breast) Then I cover the meat liberally with the seasoning, sometimes so much I can't see the meat anymore, though it is very spicy that way. Cover baking dish loosely with foil and bake as usual. 5-10 minutes before cooking is done, remove the foil. Yum yum!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Second Sewing Lesson

Our second sewing lesson was fun! It did take a little longer than I expected, so being in such a rush for time, I needed to recreate the steps and a couple of pics for you so it makes sense. I have used some of the pics taken during the lesson too. Here it is! A Princess Wand!

Anne had fun and stayed focused most of the time. We moved from the sewing room (it was hot in there) to the living room (where cartoons were on) and she did a great job! We used a wooden dowel with a small nail at one end to hold it to the fabric for the handle. My Princess Wand instructions below call for a wooden spoon,; it works much better! Also, after a while into the sewing, I was afraid she would poke her self with the needle as it went into the fabric towards her legs so I put a plastic tray under her work so the needle would hit that and not her.
What you need:
Princess Wand fabric, a wooden spoon with a long round handle, stuffing, paint and embellishments, sewing supplies.

Take a wooden spoon and make a paper heart that is larger than the spoon head. Really the heart should be a little larger than what I have in the pic here.

Paint the spoon handle a coordinating color for your fabric. We used an acrylic paint so it wouldn’t rub off on her hands when she played with it later.

While the handle dried we worked on the fabric. With the fabric in two layers, right sides together, put the fabric into an embroidery hoop. Out line your paper heart onto the fabric. (I used a water removable pen for this, but a pencil would work too) Mark at the top where an opening will be for stuffing, and mark at the bottom where the handle of the Princess Wand will be. Be sure to leave enough room for the spoon to slide in.
No tray here!

I put a few dots on the outline to show Anne where her needle would need to go in and out at, just to give her an idea of how far apart the stitches should be.

I thought that if I had her do them too close together it would become too tedious and she would lose interest.

She needed a break to hold her new baby sister!

Stitch on the line, stopping and starting at the marks for the openings. I took the fabric out of the hoop and re-stitched it on the sewing machine for added strength.

Then I cut out the heart about a ¼ inch from the stitching. Turn inside out.

Add some stuffing; then, handle first put the spoon into the heart. Stuff around spoon head and over top. Stitch the top closed.
that's the man of the house, aka 'Papa', in the background

Where the handle comes out, we decided to add some ribbons as extra decoration so we pushed the ends up into the heart and stitched the opening tight around the handle, being sure to catch the ribbon ends in our stitches. She didn't want her Princess Wand to be too fancy (I did) by adding beads or other things. Later we cut these ribbons off because Anne said they bothered her. Too funny; but I'm glad she knows what she likes!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hello Mountain!

Not far from my house is a little mountain. Hill maybe, I’m not really sure what the correct geographical name for it is.  But I like to think of it as ‘my mountain’. I’m not sure anyone knows this. It’s part of my secret inner life, conversations I have with myself.  Anyway I love this little mountain.  I can see it from my studio window, my living room window, and my dining room window.  My kitchen window faces north and I can see a different mountain through it.  But it’s just another mountain to me, though I’m sure it has a name, I don’t know what it is.  I’ve never climbed it, so I don’t know that mountain as a friend, though it is nice to look at.

My mountain is my friend. I have lived with in viewing distance of it for 20 years. I have always thought it was beautiful to look at. The sun greets me each morning as it peeks over my mountains crest, then turns it bronze and amber; purple shadows filling its gully’s in the fading evening light. In spring wild flowers of every sort cover it in sheer loveliness. Rains wet its rocks turning them to sparkling jewels when the sun comes out. Once it caught on fire, brush and trees burned, later blackened and dead.

Sometimes I can see tiny shapes from my window inching slowly up its face, standing on its peak.  It makes me smile. I know my mountain is happy to have the company and I’m glad for that. I too know the joy of reaching its top.
The times in my life when I have struggled with a difficult place it has been to this mountain I have come.  It welcomes me as I climbed it to work out my sufferings, to offer up my prayers; as I sat upon its rocks, it welcomed my tears.  It held me up as I looked at the world below and realized in the grand scheme of things, my problems are not so big.  

Sometimes I have just walked its trails in the peace and quiet it offers enjoying nature and the rhythm of my heart, the constancy of breathing in and out. At other times I have climbed my mountain as a workout moving over it quickly, earphones in my ears, to burn off those extra few pounds that creep up on me every year over the holidays.

 These days I don’t climb her as I once did. I have neglected her, withholding the gift of my footsteps upon her surface. I have enjoyed her from a far, loving her from my windows. Once I stopped my car at her foot, rolled down my window and whispered a promise, “I’m still here, one day I’ll be back!” She sat there still, unmoving, contented as always just to be.  I admire her for that. Something she has been teaching me these last 20 years. She’s my friend; and I have loved my time spent with her.

Now my days are busy and filled with grand children; soon they will be old enough and then one day I will take them with me for a little visit.  I’ll let them get to know her as I have.  My mountain can be a friend to them too if they choose. So I’ll see you later mountain, we’ve had some times together, and there are many more yet to come.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cloth Coffee Filters

Have you ever returned from the grocery store and realized you forgot something? Something you will need right away? You need the minute you opened your eyes? Well I did. Luckily I had one coffee filter left, but I didn’t want to go back to the store for filters and I didn’t have time to either. So, I started wondering why I use disposable filters in the first place. Disposable means throwing your money away with said item, usually. Online I looked up reusable coffee filters and remembered why I didn’t have one; they are expensive!
I looked up substitutes for filters and mostly read about people using paper towels when they are out of filters. I wouldn’t want to do that, who knows what kind of chemicals are in paper towels and I didn’t want to drink them first thing in the morning. Why not cloth filters? I didn’t really have much luck online in that area either so, I took my one remaining filter and headed to my sewing room. How hard could it be to make one? It turned out to be very easy, for certain types of filters, and not so easy for others. Let me show you.

cloth coffee filter

I only drink one cup of coffee a day, but my husband does not care for coffee, so I use a small four cup coffee maker daily. It takes a small filter that is simple and flat, it was a breeze to make a copy from fabric for this filter.  It worked wonderfully in the coffee maker too! I have used them now for a couple of months. I have four of them but really only need two. I take the used one from the coffee maker, dump the grounds in the trash (don’t put them down the sink, put them in the compost or trash please), rinse it under the faucet, and drape it on the tail of my kitchen rooster to dry. I take a dry filter and put it in the coffee maker for the next round of coffee. At the end of about a week, I wash* them in with my laundry, they come out perfect (don't use fabric softener's) and ready to be used again. It’s that simple. I can’t tell the difference from the paper ones in the brew or taste of the coffee; they do collapse on occasion resulting in grounds in the pot but that happens with paper filters too. Here’s how I made it.

I used a small scrap of muslin fabric to transfer the outline of the template I made on card stock tracing the outline of my filter. For this tutorial I used a marker so it would show up in the pictures, but normally I use a pencil for this. I made the template larger on the open end because I would need to turn down the top edge (I think you could eliminate this step if you used a zigzag stitch around the edge).

On my paper filter, it was easy to see were I would need to place my stitches and on one side I needed to place my template on a fold of fabric.

I cut it out and stitched it together; I used a zigzag on the edges to help prevent raveling. I didn’t do that on my original ones.

I made a hem around the top. Here, there was a fullness of fabric because of the angled sides and at times I needed to let the fabric over lap in order to keep the hem some what even.

I was not aiming for perfection or beauty; it’s a coffee filter. But I am very pleased with my results, and even after daily use for a few months they still seem to have a lot of use left in them.

I decided to try to make filters for my larger coffee maker that uses these types of filters. I’ll save the tutorial for another day; I haven’t had the opportunity yet to try them out. I’ll give you an update here when I do.

*Update 3/12/12: I no longer wash my filters in the laundry. I found that the first use always had an off taste afterwards. I only empty the grounds and rinse very thoroughly now then air dry them. I am still using the two I made here, and they do the job just fine.

*Join me for my  link up party, Wow Us Wednesdays.*

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

First Sewing Lesson

When my kids were 8-9 years old, I taught them some basic sewing skills. They each made a patch work pillow, and a felt needle holder. I have to say I haven’t thought about exactly what is the best way to teach a child to sew or what is the best age to start them? My oldest grand daughter, Anne, has watched me constructing many different things and never hesitates to come running when there is a tear or unraveling seam on any toy or garment. Once when I was making a princess costume for her she begged to help me so convincingly that I let her. She was about 3; helping only lasted a few minutes until she pricked her finger with a pin and the flood gate of tears opened. I felt so bad!

But teaching each of my grandkids to sew is a goal of mine and as I become busier it has become easier to put it off.  Today I had a small window of time I could spend with just Anne, who is now 5, and I decided to start on a sewing lesson. The plans I had for the lesson went out the window before they were started. She let me know about a friend’s birthday party she wanted to attend but didn't yet have a gift to take, and she wanted to make her something just like I always make gifts.
Well, now we needed an idea for a sewn gift simple enough for a 5 yr old that could be made in a couple of hours and be nice enough that she would not be embarrassed by it if someone remarked on the ‘handmade quality’ of said item. Talk about putting gramma on the spot, right?? Well one thing for sure; being old enough to have earned the title of Grand Mother, and having learned a few skills along the way, I did quickly come up with an idea.

Now you are going to say “oh I've seen felt flower hair clips before right here on this blog!” but, you have not seen the process accomplished by a first time seamstress. What I figured out for her first lesson worked wonderfully, and she was very happy with her end product. She was not frustrated by her first sewing attempt, it didn't take so long that she become bored by it, and she can’t wait to do it again! That’s more than I had hoped for. Let me show you how it all worked out. 

What she/we made was a felt flower hair clip and using the template I already had we traced the flower onto felt. She cut them out but they were a little wonky so I cleaned them up. There are 3 layers of petals with each layer smaller than the last, and 2 leaves.
Next I placed a dot with a marker in the middle of each petal front and back. I threaded a large needle for her and put a big knot in the end using a double thread. I soon realized that she was having a hard time remembering which side the needle should go into next, and she was having a hard time holding the small pieces.

I quickly took the flower apart and got out an embroidery hoop, put a thin light weight fabric into it and put a dot almost in the middle of it using the marker then pinned the first petal layer to the fabric. Now she could hold onto the hoop and since the thread was not long enough to easily cross over to the wrong side she could remember to re enter the fabric on the correct side.

First put the needle through the fabric in the underside of the hoop and into the center of the largest petal at the marker dot; sew through the end of one leaf and dot pulling tight. (you will notice in the pic I did not put a marker dot in the leaf; but you could)

Then sew through the end of the other leaf adding it to the layers. Now go back through both leaves, the petal and through the fabric to the back side of the hoop. Tie your thread.

She was not able to tie a knot so I did it for her securing the first petal and leaves; but do not cut the thread yet. Remove the saftey pins and cut the flower off the fabric leaving the fabric in the hoop. You can trim excess fabric away later. I did this part for her.

Make another dot on the fabric close to the center and turn the flower petal so that the leaves are now down against the fabric and the petal is up. Pin flower to fabric again matching the dots. 

Push the needle up through the fabric from the back of the hoop at the dot going up through the leaves and petal; then add the medium petal and the smallest petal.

Go in and out of the petals/leaves a couple of times keeping thread tight to secure it.

We added a button to finish the flower off the same way; up through one hole and down through the other all the way to the underside of the hoop.

Tie off the thread on the back of the fabric in the hoop and cut it away from the fabric. Trim away excess fabric if necessary.

Now add a clip or sew to a headband. We used a clip, and this proved to be too difficult for Anne so I finished it off. I’m sure she could have sewn it to a stretchy headband if we had had one, and I probably would have used the hoop again to hold it for her.

Most of the project was accomplished by her and she did a good job with it.

Here is a picture of the birthday girl wearing Anne's gift.
I think I will start all of my grand kids sewing this way. Now I need to find a good second lesson, and third.........

I linked this post at Under the Table and Dreaming.