Lofty Ambitions

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Before my youngest turned three, we promised her that once she was three she would get a “big girl bed”. Previously she had been sleeping on a mattress on the floor to get her used to sleeping on a twin mattress while not having to worry about her falling off the bed each night. A little less than a year ago, my daughters decided they wanted to share a bedroom so we moved the floor mattress into my eldest daughter’s room. While the room is a good size, having two twin beds really reduced the usable space in the room because of the shape of the room and the way the door swings.

When we moved to this house, we bought a really nice twin bed frame for my eldest daughter (she had just turned three and it was her first “big girl bed”). I didn’t want to get rid of this frame so I was looking for a solution that would maintain use of this bed but still allow both girls to have a real bed. Bunk beds wouldn’t work so I was looking for loft bed solutions. I really wanted a loft bed with stairs because I was worried about my daughter climbing down a ladder in the middle of the night if she needed to go to the restroom. Unfortunately, all the loft bed solutions with stairs that I found were both VERY expensive, and they would not allow the door of the room to open. I was a little stuck.

Enter, Pinterest. I started looking for different solutions and found an amazing tutorial for a loft bed with stairs that I could modify slightly to work with our room layout! I had to change some of the dimensions to fit our existing bed frame underneath as well as modify the steps and landing because of the limitations of the door swing. But, all in all, it was pretty good.

I made this bed over Memorial Day week-end. It took me about 2 full days (having to field two very curious children, borrowing some very old and not quite right power tools from my neighbors, and not having a proper worktable so rigging up bricks on my patio floor as my “cutting table”). All materials cost a little less than $300, which is about 1/6 the price of any loft bed with stairs I was able to find that might have fit in our space. Of course, being the architect I am, I had to draw it out with my modifications and the room layout to really get it straight in my head what I was trying to do. I think my husband thought I was a little cuckoo to start this project on Saturday afternoon of Memorial Day week-end, but amazingly, everything fell into place!

My daughters were very interested to see mommy using power tools and assembling something from scratch, but I wanted to show them that this is not impossible. I was a little rusty at first and the circular saw I used was probably twenty-five pounds, but I ended up getting most of the cuts pretty straight, which is amazing given how I didn’t have a level surface anywhere and I had to eyeball a bunch of stuff.

Modifications made were really surrounding the mattress support, adding some diagonal bracing for stability, and the steps/ ladder solution. We used (3) 3/4″ thk birch plywood sheets cut down to size for the mattress support (since it was raining the day we got materials so we were trying to put everything into the car to avoid getting anything wet). Since our loft wasn’t braced on both sides by walls, I needed to add some bracing to allow for more stability when the girls climb up the top bunk. The steps were made using the leftover plywood sheets for the treads and the platform was really just scraps that I threw together to make the landing and attach to the loft frame. I have to say, I’m quite proud of the result and it felt great to be making something with my hands again.

My daughters just LOVE this bed. We have attached a sheet to the top rail of the loft and use it as a curtain to create a “tent” where they read books and play together.  We put a little rug and a seat and some pillows to make it more comfy.  This week-end they are each getting one night to sleep in the tent with the sheet closed for a mini-adventure in make-believe land.  This project is already worth its weight in gold.

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Happy New Year 2017!

We were fortunate enough to have my parents visiting for the New Year, which allowed me to be a little more ambitious for our New Year’s dinner.  I have been wanting to teach the girls how to make dumplings.  I still have fond memories as a child of all of us seated at the kitchen table making dumplings, talking and joking while making delicious food. These are the kinds of small traditions I want to pass on to my children, but it is a lot of work for just one person to prepare all of the ingredients and follow through, because, inevitably, children’s attention spans are short. With my mom in town, this eliminated a lot of these concerns as we have been working together for so long that it’s almost like second nature when we are together and making food.

We ended up making three different dumplings: shui jiao and guo tie (same style, just cooked differently), wontons and shumei. Can I just say, TASTY!!!!  To save time we bought the store-bought dumpling wrappers but made the filling from scratch. Making it fun for the kids, we had on child per adult and I had my daughters separate the he dumpling skins, spoon the filling, and put water around the perimeter of the hehe he skins for sealing.  My mom, husband and I wrapped the dumplings.  When they get older they can get more interactive, learning how to wrap the different types of dumplings.

Dumpling filling (for 5 packs of small, round dumpling skins):

2 lb ground pork

1 lb diced shrimp

2 lb chopped chives

4 stalks scallions, diced

4 slices Ginger, diced

2 T cooking wine

1 tsp white pepper

2 tsp salt

2 T cornstarch

4 T soy sauce

4 T sesame oil

Mix all ingredients together and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. Wrap away!

Happy New Year to all!

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! 

Holiday Cheer to Share

It’s the most wonderful time of the year again!  I love the holidays and the festive nature.  Seeing all the decorations, hearing the wood crackle as you build a fire, smelling the aromas of cinnamon and gingerbread, these are all things I associate with the holidays.  I can’t believe the year has flown by so quickly and we are here once again!

This year I (finally) started thinking of holiday gifts far enough in advance to plan for something other than a gift card for my children’s teachers.  I trolled ideas on pinterest and thought of what gifts both my girls could help make.  I settled on homemade hot chocoate mix with individualized marshmallows.  I saw a pin of marshmallows decorated using food coloring pens that I thought would be fun for the girls to make. 

I ordered some small metal tins on Amazon,  found some circular holiday stickers for the lids,  and used a 2.5″ circular punch to make an instructon label to fix to the back. This is the result. 

The girls had a great time decorating the marshmallows and helping me make the cocoa mix.  I ended up pre-mixing sugar with Ghiradelli cocoa powder and then packaging them into the tins, with the help of my eldest.  I got small 4″ clear cookie bags for the marshallows and found a great 6″ striped holiday cookie bag for the overall package.  I hope the teachers and care providers like these handmade gifts!

What are you making for the holidays?

Zentangle Bowls

I have these legacy bowls from college that are perfectly serviceable and durable, but they are definitely not my style and I am desperately waiting for them to “break” (they never will, they’re indestructible….. ) so that I can finally have an excuse to buy some fun new table settings.  I have been coveting sets of bowls that have mis-matched prints in bold colors or bold patterns.  Some that I especially liked are below:

Aren’t these just adorable?  I want some so badly, but I cannot bring myself to dispose of perfectly practical (and unbreakable) bowls.  Well, fortunately (or not) my husband accidentally broke a bowl, which, unfortunately, happened NOT to be one of the oh-so-despised bowls that I would rather it have been.  However, this did give me an excuse to get a new bowl.  I thought it may be fun to test out an idea that I had while planning the craft for my eldest daughter’s birthday party.  Why couldn’t I make something?  I have all these glazed sharpie pens.

I was prompted to find something to do when my daughter suddenly got sick and had to stay at home for three days.  In desperation, I went to Target with her and got two bowls for us to decorate.  For my bowl, I thought it would be fun to do a Zentangle-inspired, or Mandala-inspired design.  For those of you not familiar with Zentangle or Mandala art, it’s some images are below:

 

I learned from the party craft that I should try to avoid the actual eating surface because the washing would eventually cause the pattern to wear over time.  So, I had a plan, kind of.  This is what happened:

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My daughter helped with some of the simpler patterns, such as the large yellow dots.  She was really impressed with how long this took me to draw (it wasn’t that long, but to a 5-year old, it was “FOREVER”).  I’m looking forward to getting a couple more bowls to complete a set – all different patterns of course!  What do you think?

DIY Color-Me-Mine

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So birthday season upon us and I’m always on the lookout for new and creative ideas suitable for kids, especially as I was planning my daughter’s birthday party.  I had seen, a while back, an article about ceramic sharpie markers that could be used on an everyday lamp, plate, cup, etc. that would spice up an otherwise ordinary piece into something more unique or extraordinary.  In doing a little research, I learned that you could use these markers, bake said piece in an oven, and they would become a permanent part of the ceramic piece in question.  Wouldn’t this be a perfect craft for kids?

Obviously I had to test it out.  I started by purchasing a small box of these enamel sharpie markers:

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I found these to work really nicely.  If you didn’t push the tip in while you were drawing, the paint flowed smoothly and fairly evenly across the surface.  I would probably get a finer tip in the future for my own use, but for kids I think this is the perfect size.  Next, I took an Ikea mug that I had no particular affinity to and started doodling.  This was the result:

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Once I finished doodling, I set the design by baking it in the oven set at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  This was actually really fun and when my daughter saw what I had drawn, we ended up having a little craft party where she and daddy also got to decorate mugs.  So, now we all have our own personalized mugs and we found the perfect activity for seven little girls.  Win all around!

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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