Fairy Gardens and houses

March 29th, 2011

Spring is here! Well, almost. Every year my kids and I make fairy houses I the yard and last year we built a bunch at our local library too. I love seeing how flexible their minds are, and seeing the design choices they make: “Here’s the tire swing in the living room” or, look the pool is right outside the back door.

We were inspired by the Tracy Kane’s fairy book series “Kristen’s Fairy House.” In our yard, we have added non- natural things, or pre-made things. According to the book, you should only use natural things like bark, pine needles, acorns, pine needles, shells, rocks, anything you can think of!

The fairy house building usually involves some reading material too like The Littles by John Peterson or The Borrowers by Mary Norton, which has been made into a Japanese anime which should be available to view in the US this summer by Hiyao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli (My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, Princess Mononoke).

and and     


And a picture of Totoro, just because I love him so much

My Neighbor Totoro – Studio Ghibli in Japan (available on Netflix!)


Even the frogs and spiders like all the attention

For the house that Bella is sitting with, Mom & Dad made it with screws and a glue gun – as long as all the man made stuff is hidden, it’s sort of kosher. For the garden area, it was nice to be able to use all the crafts we made indoors all winter long outside. Painted birdhouses, and all those little flower & butterfly crafts from school.

Good Behavior Chart for kids

March 5th, 2011



Before my children could read, I needed a good behavior chart with an easy to understand concept. We love to read, so I used a visual from a couple of favorite books. For my daughter we used “Papa, Please get the Moon for M” by Eric Carle, and fr my son we used “Go Dogs Go” by P.D.

Eastman. Both had pages with ladders on them. I started o note that there are a lot of children’s books with ladder images – the Fire pigs or construction workers in Richard Scarry s Busytown books, or Dr. Seuss books. Pick a book and visual your kids recognize from a favorite picture book.


When my kids reached the top of the ladder, they got a treat — or in my son’s case, they got to go to a dog party!!!


I was very happy with my Eric Carle copy made with a stiff piece of cardboard from a dishwasher box, paint and pipe cleaners. The “Papa” was the one who went up the ladder to get the moon, and I made him out of a fancy wooden cocktail fork, a button, yarn and an old bubble wrap mailer. The likelihood that I will ever throw another party that requires cocktail forks is very slim! I made the moon out of an old plastic bubble mailer — the plastic kind takes and holds acrylic paint really well.


In this picture you can see Bella (“Monica” in the real book, which I highly recommend, waiting for Daddy to do her bidding and get her the

moon.) If I did this again, I would make it a little smaller. The ladder is made out of pipe cleaners, and you can have as many rungs as you like.




For Quil’s chart I used an old kitchen cabinet door, just because it was around. It was too heavy, if I did it again I would use heavy cardboard or foam core. I wasn’t so happy with how my version of the art from Go Dogs Go came out, but there was little hair left on my head, and I needed something fast to keep my little boy motivated to do good in this world! I should have put the cars in the treetop, since that’s where he wanted his cocktail fork mini-him to be all the time. These ladders worked for a good 4 years with both of my kids! When one got to the top, he/she got to choose their treat, and who should go. I am proud to say that both kids wanted their sibling along, so everyone won and both were motivated to work together on getting to the top.

Invasion of the Sock People

February 18th, 2011

This is a very fun craft for little and big hands alike. Smaller kids may need help with the sewing, but it’s an excellent opportunity to teach them a few basic stitches. This pattern and idea comes from a wonderful book I found at Michael’s Craft Stores. Our local librarian loved the book so much, she ordered both of the books as well. I have also done this craft with boys and girls at our town camp to much success.



Not all of them are named, here we have: Sun-on-my-face Bunny, Bootsy Collins, Robot Sock, Mary Queen of Socks (she did have a Stewart pattern bow before it got played off her), upside guy and two others who are nameless.



Without further gushing, here is the book info (check your local library first to see if you like it so much you can’t live without out it, like



Stray Sock Sewing: Making One of a Kind Creatures from Socks



Other reasons I enjoy this book/craft:

1. It was an excellent primer on basic hand sewing stitches, so I had been doing incorrectly or didn’t know the name of.


2. The variety you can achieve with one simple craft — the possibilities are endless.


3. The kids I’ve made this with come up the most inventive ideas — I would never have thought to make one upside down.


4. Being a kid of the 70s, I thought boys would have no interest in this craft, but I was wrong! I love being wrong about that kind of thing.


5. At the town camp, I taught 3 or 4 teen councilors the basic cutting and sewing in about 10 minutes, at the end of the two hour camp, I think we had made about 30 sock people.


6. It’s fast and very satisfying.


7. You can personalize them. I made one for our poetry loving librarian where she was holding a mini book with past of Ogden Nash’s sock poem.


8. Okay, okay, I’ll stop now.


9. Okay, one more — the baby socks you choose can give you ideas for the personality of the sock.


Gallery of Rogue (Socks)




All but these last two are made out of baby socks. Either ones I kept around for sentimental reasons, or strays that were too cute or purchased at the Dollar Store.

King Green Dog and Pinky Bell Cat were patterns from the book, but I would not recommend using the fuzzy socks I used – they shred when you cut them + Fuzz= Way More mess!


Mini Junk Robots

February 14th, 2011

My kids are 5 and 7 and there is much love for anything nerdy in our house. I don’t actually have any nerd skills (“Honey, the printer won’t print!”) but I do love anything geeky. I made a robot Christmas ornament for my son, now when I say “robot,” I mean it as sculpture. Sadly my robots don’t move, do anything or are articulated, maybe someday! These guys are small (so we could hang them on the Christmas tree) and my kids didn’t want them to be put away for the holidays, so now they are all over the house.

I used items around the house of most moms of young kids — old blocks for the bodies, broken toy parts, odd game pieces, and beads. We also have a large collection of various household hardware: drywall screws, finish nails, teeny tiny computer screws (for the eyes).

I’m not a big fan of glue, so I try to make my mini bots stick together with screws or tension, but I have to admit, that takes a lot of trial and error. Pre-drilling the wooden blocks with a small bit and using drywall screw for the arms & legs are the best. Also, if you use a wooden bead as the head, you can use a washer or another embellishment to screw the head down into the body.

Okay, lots of ‘splaining for something that’s pretty obvious. Here is my mini bot gallery.

about actual size. The body is a one inch wooden bead.

Draft Dodgers from Fabric Remnants

February 12th, 2011

For Christmas I made Draft Dodgers for family members. What do you get people who have everything they need? I used wool and polar fleece remnants from JoAnn Fabrics. I made a tube a door width apart (about 36 inches) and sewed a tube, left an end open and turned it back outside-right and stuffed. This is a good way to use up the last thread on a bobbin, or some odd colors (I hate changing bobbin thread for some reason). To add some personality I used some felt remnants from projects with the kids and made little sleeping pets parented by the recipients. This is Mingus, a rescue belonging to my sister in law.

A little hard to see this black cat, but I added some dimension with a ball of red yarn. This is Little Bear. And here’s a close up.

I detailed the black cat with shiny blue thread.


For stuffing I used some stuffing, but also old t-shirts, fabric scraps too small to use and old socks.

Snow Day I Spy Project

February 3rd, 2011

We have had a lot of Snow Days this winter, and this project always gets good reviews from my kids who are 5 and almost 7.

I took an old poster board and let them glue (I painted mod podge on for them or you can use Elmer’s or glue sticks) all sorts of things we had hanging around: old stamps, toy packaging, old greeting cards, pages from books that were damaged beyond repair (I am not a book butcher, I promise!). We also used crafts from school, ticket stubs, random cut out letters and pictures from magazines. This first one is a few years old, and the kids love exploring it every winter (this is the third year they have gone back to it) and remembering what they put on it.

We also play the I Spy Game – How many Snoopys can you find? How many stamps can you count? There are many possibilities for curious minds. If you do use Mod Podge, use a splat mat and do it on the floor. You can also thin out Elmer’s Glue with a little water if you want to paint the glue on like Mod Podge. Use old paint brushes for that or a sponge. I usually buy a bag of those cheap black foam brushes and throw them away afterward. Of course, I wash them and reuse them, if I can. (I’m having throw away guilt now.)

We used an old poster, but you could use a piece of cardboard or make your project a little smaller, the cardboard just has to be thick/strong enough to take a lot of glue!

Valentine’s Day Cards from Christmas leftovers

January 16th, 2011

I enjoy getting Christmas photo cards from friends & family. I keep them up on the fridge for as long as possible, they are the last Christmas things I put away. I save them up for Valentine’s Day, along with any red ribbon/wrapping from Christmas to use on Valentine’s Day cards. This is a great project for snow days or on MLK Day when the kids are off from school.

Here are the photos as we received them from friends.

Next I cut the pictures out according to the most logical shapes.

Then we mix and match with the fun elements of the leftover cards (the polka dots for example), an old lace curtain from the thrift store (no worries, it was nothing old or too nice!) heart cut outs, scraps of fabric, ribbon and yarn.

I keep a large Ziploc of pink, red and lacey things in the drawer to make our Valentine’s Day cards each year.

These are on 4×6 cardstock to be mailed.

Here are the ones we made freeform for use in class. We’re attaching them to a pencil, but I think it’s plenty just to give classmates a homemade Valentine all by itself.

We used cereal boxboard for the stiff cardboard and some scrapbook paper that always seems to be on sale!