Holiday Bingo

This year my eldest daughter wanted to try her hand at some holiday crafts.  I figured it would be fun to try some more creative and challenging crafts so we looked at pinterest and I let her choose what to do.  She ended up wanting to make a holiday bingo game as a gift for her 2-year old cousin.  It was very sweet, although explaining to a 5-year old why bingo may not be an age appropriate gift seemed beyond her.  She just looked at me with wide eyes and said “It’s okay mommy, she can just use it when she’s older!”  (Shrug and sigh).

Most DIY bingo sets were printed from a computer,  but since I don’t own a printer I figured we could draw them by hand. My daughter got to choose all the icons and colors.  She actually drew each one for me and colored them so I knew what she wanted,  then I transcribed them to each board in random orders. The bingo pieces ended up being pennies we painted with nail polish and the dice we made were little wooden craft blocks that we drew the icons onto and colored.

I think this set is really cute and thoughtful, and it was a lot of fun for my daughter and me to put together. Hopefully her cousin will really enjoy the set when she gets older! Did you make anything special for yhe holidays?  Happy holidays to all! 

Label Love

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You never really realize how much stuff you accumulate with kids until they take everything out of its hiding place and you see everything strewn all over the floor  This is only exacerbated in a larger space because the items get spread all over the house across multiple rooms and it is up to you to pick up the pieces, put the all together in the right games/ kits/ puzzles/ etc. and then put them all back in their proper place.  Something that I realized very early on was the need for some sort of storage bins to organize everything.

Since I’m slowly figuring things out, I didn’t want to splurge on really nice bins or anything.  I found these really cheap but serviceable plastic bins in the $1 section at Target that would do the trick.  Once I got them and started to place the various toys in bins, I quickly realized I was going to need some sort of labeling system so that not only I, but my husband and the kids, would remember what goes where.

I am really interested in typography and the various different methods of representing information.  Variations on how you write the message with color font, size, shape and pattern, will ultimately influence the user on what they are understanding.

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I thought it would be fun to try my hand at whimsical typography for labeling these bins. I wanted to have a visual shape to the words, so that my kids can recognize what goes where since they are still too young to read.  I think the most difficult part for me was how to categorize the various bins, especially the “general crap” bin.  How do you distill that into one word that isn’t “crap”?  Well, I got through it eventually, although it took me longer than I would care to admit to finish all of the labels!  Here are images of some of the tags I created.  I got some craft scissors I wanted to try out so I decided to use them for the borders of the labels, but I’m not sold on it yet.  I may end up cutting it down to a straight rectangle.  We’ll see how I feel in a couple months…. What do you think?

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Happy First Birthday!

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Last weekend marked the first birthday of my youngest daughter.  I can’t believe how quickly time flies! I can hardly remember what happened during this whirlwind of a year.  It is true that as you get older,  time seems to speed on by even faster than before. There are so many things that I wished would move more slowly so that my ability to really enjoy the moment and memorize each precious memory is forever stamped in my mind.  Nothing can ever compare to these precious moments.

We kept the party strictly to family,  which is quickly already becoming a bigger affair as everyone’s families are growing larger!  I made the same cupcakes that I had made for my eldest daughter’s first birthday,  only I omitted the lemon from the cake batter and the icing for just plain vanilla cupcakes.  I think she really liked them, she gobbled them right up!

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Things always seem much more rushed for the second child so I was only able to make a quick backdrop for decorating for the party.  Nonetheless,  it was a festive and happy time and my daughter got lots of gifts. For the backdrop, I ended up taping the remainder of a plastic pink tablecloth to the wall. Then I ran chevron streamers from top to bottom in stripes. I lined the top with crepe paper tassles and heart balloons, then I affixed my trusty birthday banner on top for the finishing touch.

Happy birthday my dear little baby.  Please don’t grow up too quickly!

Dressed to the Fours

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This week-end was my eldest daughter’s fourth birthday.  I cannot believe that she is four already! Time really is flying and if you blink, things seem to just zip on by!

This was the first birthday party that we were going to have at our new house.  Life is finally starting to settle down and reach a routine and nothing marks an important milestone like the first birthday party in the new house!  I have been to many types of birthday parties and I have to admit that the thought of throwing a birthday bash for a class of 20 children was extremely daunting.  I decided instead to opt for a smaller, more intimate party, similar to the birthday parties I had as a child.  I told my daughter that she could invite four of her friends, one for each of her four years.  It ended up being five friends, which was still manageable.  I thought this would be much more personal and would give the parents an opportunity to get to know one another in a more relaxed atmosphere.  Days are crazy enough with school drop-offs and pick-ups that we never get any opportunity to see any of the other parents, much less talk to them!

We started preparing for the party weeks in advance. My daughter told me she wanted a princess party that was pink, purple and blue.  She wanted to have each of her friends come wearing a princess dress to do princess activities. You can recall in my previous post that my daughter and I had made a heart pinata. For some reason the thought of a bunch of 4-year old girls dressed up as princesses trying to bust open a pinata was so hilarious that it immediately went on the To-Do list.  I figured you couldn’t have a princess party without wands, so I set up an activity for each girl to make their own magic wand.  Since we were doing hearts as a theme, I ended up making heart-shaped “princess” cupcakes.  And finally, I thought, what better way to end the party, than with a special princess goody bag, which was actually a Chinese brocade jewelry bag that held all sorts of little goodies for the girls!

The nice thing about having a house and having no furniture is that you can designate a “party room” and you don’t have to worry about shuffling things around.  We spent Saturday afternoon decorating the room.  We made balloon streamers and crepe paper tassle buntings, and I made a curtain out of streamers as well.  All in all, the room was very festive and the party was a great success!  I think all the little princesses had a great time and I was correct that watching a bunch of princesses earnestly trying to crack open a heart pinata was pretty funny.  I think that the parents had a lot of fun helping to break that thing too!

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Tassle bunting – tutorial here

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Streamer Curtain – I used the same technique as a photobooth wall and just added tie-backs, tutorial here.

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Princess Heart Cupcakes – I was inspired by these images of cookie designs as well as zentangle designs such as these.

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Magic Wands – I wrapped a 1/2″ wood dowel in white grosgrain ribbon and secured with hot glue.  Then I attached some curling ribbon, where each girl selected a color, and finished it off with a silver glitter snowflake ornament.

What to Do With a Gazillion Art Projects?

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My daughter’s daycare has begun a great pre-k program which teaches them all sorts of fun stuff. Each month they have a theme and each week focuses on a different aspect of his theme. For example, the first month was family. So, they all made family trees and learned all about their family and each other’s families. In conjunction with these themed weeks, there are lots of different art projects to help teach them about these aspect. One day they drew a picture of mommy. One day they made a craft project of daddy. They learned the difference between girls and boys and had projects that defined the different genders, etc. etc. Well, we’re now 4 months into the curriculum and almost every day my daughter comes back with a new craft project. There are so many, which are great, but I’m having difficulty finding places to put them!

When I was growing up, I had done a lot of craft projects myself. I didn’t know what my mom had done with all of them. One day, a couple of years back, before any of my brothers or I had kids, we were all home for the holidays and reminiscing about our childhood. All of a sudden, my mom tells us that she has all of our old craft projects stored away in boxes! What!??!! So we pulled the boxes down and spent the afternoon perusing all of our different forays. Some of them were pretty hilarious. Young kids are so honest and open that when you read some of the things we wrote, it was shocking yet funny at the same time!

This moment flashes before my eyes each time my daughter brings home a new craft. I have diligently been labeling each project with a date and what it is (if it is not recognizable to me) or if there is something of note (such as – she glued all of the items on herself) and put them in a stack on top of our refrigerator. I found that if I leave them in an easy to reach place, she often wants to take them and re-purpose the craft into something else.  So, the pile grew and grew.  I, being a little bit of a neat freak, started to get a little agitated with the growing stack of disorganization above our fridge.  I finally had a bright idea to display all the art and reclaim some of the space above my fridge.  Also, it was a great project I could do with my daughter!

IMG_6316Since her room has a little table for her to do her arts and crafts, I had previously decorated with two simple framed pieces of her artwork.  However, I realized I could put this wall to better use and display even more.  I thought that having two strings with clothespins holding up her various art pieces would be a fun way to display all her crafts.  As she made more crafts, we could shuffle things around and pin more up.  My daughter got very excited with this idea.  I taught her how to use the clothespins and she helped me pin up all of her projects.  I let her decide, for the most part, what order to put them up.  The final result is what you see above!  I think that I’m going to need to think of another idea for displaying these crafts as there is no more room for other crafts and the pile continues to grow on top of my fridge.  Sometimes you just can’t win 🙂

A Kitchen Extravaganza – Part 3

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First of all, I hope you all had a wonderful mother’s day!  Congratulations to all the mommies out there for doing such a wonderful job with your kiddies!  The best mother’s day gift I had was coming out of the bathroom and having my daughter walk up the stairs, see me, and say “Happy Mother’s Day!  I love you!”  What a little dear!

My goodness!  This kitchen really took some time to make!  You can follow the progression from my previous posts here and here.  Living in a small apartment with limited space really makes it difficult to craft a larger project and not have it become a hazardous area for your toddler!  I must say I’m very pleased with the result.  Even before I started adding coats of paint to this to make the kitchen look nicer, my daughter was thrilled at having a kitchen.  It just goes to show you the power of a child’s imagination.

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of leaving some sharpies out one morning and my daughter ended up drawing all over the freshly painted stovetop.  Alas, the red paint I got can’t seem to quite cover up the sharpie marker…. man those things are permanent!

IMG_5410This entire project cost me about $30 for some knobs, a p-trap for the faucet, and paint.  Everything else I had on hand.  I wanted to make an oven because my daughter got an adorable cupcake and cookie set that came with oven mitts.  No kitchen is complete without a sink.  I used an small stainless steel mixing bowl I had on hand.  Since I was making this, I measured to make sure everything she owned would fit in this: sushi kit, stir-fry kit, cupcake kit, and cookie kit.  I’m very pleased with the results and my daughter has already had endless hours of fun “cooking” for us.  I just hope it stands up to the abuse.

Here are some more pics of the finished product.  I hope you enjoy!

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Top view of kitchen

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Diagonal view of the stovetop

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View of sink: the faucet swings back and forth

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Oven with storage drawer below

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Front view of overall kitchen

Specs on the kitchen:

Measurements: 24″W x 12″D x 32″H

Sink: small stainless steel mixing bowl w/ a lip

Oven door: window is plastic from a cheap $3 Ikea frame I had on hand

Drawer: leftover box from the Melissa & Doug cupcake set

Stove knobs and faucet knobs: larger ones are pot handles I got from the hardware store

Small knobs: extra pulls that I didn’t need from my Ikea bedstands

Sink Faucet: p-trap from hardware store – I screwed the p-trap into the ring and glued the ring to the countertop so the faucet actually swings around like a real faucet.

Bar for hooks: plastic LED fixture cover I had as a sample from work

A Kitchen Extravaganza – Part 2

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Well, I finally mustered up enough motivation to take a look in our basement for materials to build a play kitchen for my daughter.  We live in an apartment building with a communal trash/recycling room and there are always lots of cardboard boxes on hand.  I thought to myself “what a great use of free resources!”  I pilfered heavily from the basement and for the next two days our apartment’s living room looked like the trash room.  I think I may have stressed out my husband and my mom (who was staying with us at the time).  My daughter thought it was the next amusement park though.  She had a blast playing with scraps as I cut, measured and glued stuff together.  It reminded me a lot of my architecture school days building models hour after hour.  It was actually quite fun.

IMG_5372Based on my previous post, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted this kitchen to incorporate.  It needed an oven, stovetop and a sink.  Once I figured this out, I had to think about how I proportionally wanted it to look.  Being an architect, I drew a plan, front elevation and side elevation, thinking of the easiest way to accomplish this without any unnecessary hardware or additional bought items. (Sorry for the shoddy photos, my sketches got a little messy from use…)

Of course my first pass wasn’t perfect.  My first iteration had the oven door as the full left side panel.  This resulted in the door opening, being too deep for my daughter to reach into, and her stepping on the door to put anything into the oven.  She ended up not liking it so much and didn’t ever want to use it.  Also, she somehow accumulated all of these utensils and other items and had nowhere to put anything so it turned into a hazard zone where you had to be careful not to step on a fork or other item.  I decided to cut the door down and add a drawer in the bottom.  This was exponentially better as she immediately took to putting things in the drawer and taking them out.  Also, the door to the oven shortened so she no longer was in danger of stepping on it and breaking it.  This little add made the kitchen that much more useable and “real”.

Above is a sneak peek of part of the kitchen in it’s finished state.  Stay tuned for more to come!