Monday, April 28, 2008

Resourceful Mom: Mother's Day Ideas

So I wanted to start doing a "resourceful mom" section of my blog once a week... or however often I am inspired. Some might call me cheap, thrifty, crunchy or just plain Hippie... but I call it being resourceful! So I will offer ideas (and hopefully get even more ideas) for creative, greener, and healthier living on a budget. Let me know what you think.

I decided to start with ideas for mothers day. I always struggle to find the perfect gift for my mom who has too much already. She has at least 8 bars of soap, 2 gallons of bubble bath and smelly lotions, drawers of pretty candles, etc. So I try to find her items that are useful, unique, special and crafty. These ideas could be for your mom, step mom, aunt, cousin or a friend who just needs a reminder that she is an excellent mom. :) I also tried to pick things kids can help with as well.

For Anyone:

Sachets. Sew a little pillow stuffed with lavender or something else nice smelling. You can even make them refillable to be tossed in the dryer in place of a dryer sheet or buy a small organza bag and fill with some store-bought or homemade potpourri.

Family Fun has a really cute pattern for kids to make beauty masks... but you could easily sew one up as well and it is still incredibly thoughtful. I am going to make me one for mothers day! Family Fun also has a whole list of kid-friendly mothers day crafts to check out.

Tissue cozies are always a nice and useful gift. Michael's has cute decorative tissue packs for $1 each or check the trial section of department stores.

These mother/daughter Lip Conditioners are so great! You have to check out all her adorable lip conditioner flavors. My favorite is the mom-to-be ice cream and pickles! I have to try it... just out of pure curiosity! Burt's Bees makes some really nice lotions and hand creams in trial sizes (perfect for a purse) and can be found at most department and drug stores!

Here is a Youtube video on making a flower arrangement in a teacup! You can generally find a teacup at a thrift store or antique shop for less than $10. You could pair it with a bag/box of tea, some local honey and some homemade bath tea. You could have kids help by picking the flowers, arranging, picking out the perfect cup, mixing bath tea ingredients.

If you have basic embroidery skills you can have your child draw on a tea towel or napkin with an erasable fabric pen. Embroider over their design in their specified colors for lasting artwork.

Framing some of your child's art is always special or have them paint/decorate a frame and put their picture in it.

Buy some reusable napkins and have kids decorate a cut-up paper towel or toilet paper roll, or glue buttons/beads onto ribbon and sew/glue gun the end for some creative napkin holders.

With even the most basic quilting skills, these quilted coasters at the purl bee would be a lovely gift. Add some lavender, rose petals or cloves to the inside that will release the scent when you set a hot mug on top.

Thrift stores generally have pretty vases/jars for sale and adding kid-picked wildflowers make a perfect gift!

For the Gardener:

Martha Stewart's Gardener's Apron is a very easy sewing craft that requires a minimal amount of fabric.

This gardening bucket requires more effort in the sewing department but is well worth it. I made it last year and it turned out great! I didn't do it with the embroidery though.

A no-sew project could be these natural plant markers (pictured right) also from Martha Stewart. You could have older kids paint them, make baby fingerprint flowers. With a big enough rock you could do an entire hand as a garden decoration. The hard part would be to find a kid-friendly, weather resistant paint.

Last year I painted some of my mom's pots for her plants and made pictures out of Anastasia's hand and finger prints and added nature quotes. Add a nice sunny perennial and you have a perfect gift!

Kids could sculpt little things out of polymer clay and glue to a stake or Popsicle stick to add to a potted plant or pair with painted rocks, and seeds.

For the least crafty individual, you could fill an already decorated flower pot with gardening tools and add some seed packets and a homemade, store-bought or kid-crafted card.

Gardening tools and seeds can be found cheaply at dollar stores, department stores and craft stores.

Handmade Gift Wrap Ideas

Sew a simple draw-string bag
Wrap the gift in a towel tied at the corners with a pretty ribbon
Put groups of items in a basket or have kids decorate a paper bag
Use an paper bag with hand prints or have a young child walk across it with inked feet for a special touch.

It took me forever to compile all these, hopefully this will make it easier for others to find that perfect gift! Let me know of any other great ideas you might have!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Hot Chocolate in April

It is Sunday and I am enjoying a cup of hot chocolate as I write this little update. We spent the morning and early afternoon in old town Alexandria. We enjoyed walking around to all the boutiques and upscale furniture stores... and of course my favorite kiddie store, "Why Not?" Would you believe I already started planning out my Christmas gifts? We also stopped at Whole Foods to stock up on inexpensive, organic and gourmet foods. This is the one thing I miss the most about Glover Park... living around the corner from a Whole Foods Market. The weirdest thing is, their organic food and local produce is less expensive than what I pay at Giant or Bloom! I also picked up some of their delightful cannolis and the cashier asked me what cannolis taste like. I don't know? They taste like cannolis silly.

Despite all the chaos of the week and the week to come, I was able to make my Emmaline Apron. I recieved the pattern Tuesday, cut and began sewing Wednsday and finished it up on Thursday. I love it! It will match my new house and will be good to clean in once we get the key!!
I don't really know what this photo is all about... but it makes me die laughing when I see it.
Here we are celebrating Earth Day with a little nature walk. We picked up rocks, blew some dandilions seeds about (and Anastasia kissed a dandilion) and learned about sticky balls that stick to your clothes! Speaking of Earth Day, did anyone else get really mad at Walmarts stupid earth-friendly commercials? They basically tell you how great it would be to buy Silk soy milk, Sun Chips, and organic cotton pants at Walmart because those products help the environment (and they really do). The thing that gets me is all the waste that Walmart and their products puts out every day, and the gas/emissions to ship them, and the chemicals they use to preserve them. Not to mention that 98% of their products are designed to break or go out of style within a year so you have to toss the old one and buy a new one. On top of that, the commercials do not even speak of what Walmart itself does to better our world or environment except to sell cheap crap to people while leaving the mom and pop out on the street. I guess the point is that Walmart out of the kindness of its heart to our earth, provides us with organic stuff in order to put more money in its pocket. Its nice to know that Sam cares about us and the world our kids have to live in.

I have also been spending the small amount of free time I have discovering new blogs and some I just HAVE to share. Like Softies Central. I think when I have a craft room and a life of my own, I will make some little softies... and a little world for them. All for Anastasia of course. Not because I am addicted to cute and crafty things great and small. ;)

I don't know when I will have a chance to post again with a busy week ahead of us, but until then, I hope everybody has a great week!

Monday, April 21, 2008

"Gray Rainy Day... Down in the Mud For Us...."

So today was "one of those days." I try not to give this title to any day to early, because I feel labeling a day automatically condemns it. So when I woke up to an unhappy tummy and a sink of dirty dishes and headed out the door into the rain, I assumed it was an okay day for running my errands. At Borders I ran in to get some coffee... and ran into an old acquaintance that I purposefully avoid at all costs. I tried to turn around and run, but was definitely not fast enough (and far from being sneaky enough.) Then after purchasing my iced coffee, adding my milk and hint of sugar, I set it on the Jeep while I put Anastasia in the car seat. I didn't think about the coffee again until I was heading into Target wondering where my coffee went. It must have gone SPLAT right off the Jeep. Still, I was not having a bad day... just a few unfortunate events.

All went well at Target. Anastasia played with my cell phone and ended up dropping it in the bottom of the cart while I was checking out and I made a mental note to grab it when I loaded the bags into the car. Well I remembered to grab it when I was in the back corner of Michael's. Ugh. So I ran to the check out and ran to the Jeep and sped back to Target praying for my cell phone. The cart-guy who is very friendly and entertains Anastasia to no end had thankfully not brought the carts in yet!!! there it was in the bottom of the cart. So once I grabbed it, and got back in the Jeep it started pouring. It was one of those moments that it seemed God was holding off the rain until I got my cell phone. phew. By the time I got home late in the afternoon, the dishes were amazingly still there. Anastasia had fallen asleep so I tried to lay her in the crib where she woke up. As I put my groceries away on the tiny bit of shelf space I have (thanks to my dad's obsession with Sam's club) a huge pile of cans fell off the shelf, into the basket of clothes (that I hope were dirty) tipping all the clothes onto the floor. What a mess!!!

Two hours later I finally finished washing every last dish and took out all the collecting bags of trash. I then tried finishing up this felt book I was sewing for Anastasia's church bag (which worked brilliantly mind you) and broke 2 needles trying to make button holes!!! I was so mad I just went and made dinner. After dinner my day vastly improved. Anastasia took a little cat nap and was in a good mood, and we all went to Joann's where I found my needles, some fabric for my apron (I got my pattern today!!!) and some pink felt.

All was not lost... but it was still one of those days. I was so happy to find Anastasia loves dried fruit and she ate her green beans (and even some tomatoes and zucchini) at dinner. Getting her to eat healthy things always makes me happy! I love it when people say, "I can't believe your daughter eats that!!" I am always so proud. But she goes through phases so one day she might eat leafy greens, bananas and oatmeal, and the next day she just wants bread. I am also so happy to have my apron pattern!!! Hopefully between all the packing this week, I can finish it (and the other 5 projects and 3 books I am reading). *sigh*

Oh, I also updated all "My favorites"... I added Ben and Anna (who are in Italy and haven't really posted much lately, though I am dying to see pictures of Gravagna and their beautiful kiddies!!!) and Annie (Ben's sister whose blog I am addicted to even though I have never met her... and who posts tons of pictures of her adorable baby girl!) :) and I added links to Montessori by Hand (a fellow crafter/Montessori teacher who has really lovely patterns... especially the Emmaline apron) and lastly I added the Crafty Crow (the most awesome kids craft site EVER!!!). So check 'em out and let me know if you are a stalker with an awesome blog for me to add!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Good Morning Baltimore!

My mom won free tickets through Wash FM radio to go see the Broadway musical Hairspray at the Warner theatre in Washington DC! So we went to go see it last night and it was GREAT! How can someone not just LOVE this musical?! I think I will be singing "Good Morning Baltimore" for the next two weeks. In fact, the soundtrack is so upbeat and fairly wholesome, I may add it to Anastasia's music collection. Baby Einstein gets a little old now and then. The first and only movie I took her to see was when Hairspray was in the theatre last summer and she loved it. She didn't fuss a bit although I remember having to dance off to the side with her for the last few songs!
The live show with LIVE orchestra was superb! The cast was perfect (I guess that is what you get with Broadway) and I almost died laughing a few times. My only qualm was the huge number of sexual inuendos that left me so embarassed I am sure my face was beat red at times... and I feel I am usually pretty good at ignoring things like that. Sometimes I didn't know wether to laugh, or cringe! The movie version was not nearly so bad! But who can beat a live performance? The catchy songs, the whimsical and almost tackily silly props, the live performers dancing the night away, and even an explosion of confetti at the end... it was so emotionally charged I couldn't sleep by the time we got home!
And as lucky as I am to have had such a great night... I am still envious of Nick going to see the Pope tomorrow! I keep telling myself that Anastasia would not be content with all the traffiic, lines, waiting, and then a huge, long mass to sit through... so it would probably not be that great of a time.... but it is still the Pope and a historical event at that. So I will just be happy for my husband, and watch the mass on TV with Anastasia and all her toys. :)
I have quite a bit to do today... get dressed, fold and put away laundry, start packing boxes, work on the little book and bag I am making Anastasia, stop by Goodwill for some more items for the church bag, and eventually make enchiladas for dinner. I am thinking I might start making adventure bags for kids to sell on Etsy. They will be themed age-appropriately for city travel, beach, mountains, camping, forest, etc., and have destination appropriate coloring books, new crayons, little toys, maybe an educational book, binoculars, magnifying glass, bug box, a journal, etch-a-sketch, Bingo or I Spy games for the road, sand pails, etc. all in a matching themed bag. Maybe I could even ultra-customize it by adding kid-friendly maps, scavenger hunts and travel books for specific locations. *sigh* the wheels in my head just never seem to stop turning. 2 weeks from now, I should have the key to my very own craft room... then there will be no stopping the insanity!!!! Wahahahaha!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ideas for a church-bag?

I am trying to come up with creative ideas for a "church bag" for Anastasia. Yesterday I brought crayons and some index cards and books to church with us. I try to avoid the Out-of-control-kid room (aka the crying room) at all costs. Anastasia spent almost 5 minutes drawing and then 20 minutes taking her crayons out of the box, and putting them back in. She did so well with the exception of a meltdown during the last five minutes.

So now I want to make her a bag/basket just for church (and other settings where I need a VERY well behaved child) with some picture books and toys she doesn't play with everyday. If anyone has any ideas please let me know. Everything has to be quiet and not-messy. I just want her to learn to sit quietly for one hour. I don't feel the crying room really teaches a kid how to act in church and there are always several out of control kids (5 and up) that really don't belong in there.

I will let you know what creative items I come up with!


So I found a few great resources to share with any of you other craft-and-idea-obsessed individuals, who like me find children to be a wellspring of creativity! First, I found an article of organizing church activities here. The author keeps seperate activities in ziplock bags just for church and grabs a few to go. I also saw these lovely book kits for sale, and am inspired to make my own with the pattern from Mother Earth News. Lastly, I found a pattern for making "I Spy Bags" which look really nifty! I think I might come up with my own. I also purchased a sketch book, some colored pencils in a tin (which might actually be too loud as she shakes them) and an animal book at Borders. I want to hit up Dover for some small coloring books and sticker books. I remember the little $1 books that kept me occupied for HOURS. Maybe the same will hold true with my little munchkin. I also stopped by the dollar store for some plastic braclets, some princess figurines and some butterflies, some notepads and jungle animals from Michaels, and a fresh set of crayons and a magnetic doodle board from Target. Hopefully these will entertain her!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Greener Giving

Today Anastasia and I went to a nice baby shower for a friend. I am a total perfectionist because I had to color coordinate the gift. I bought The Very Hungary Caterpillar by Eric Carle because it is Anastasia's favorite book (alongside Owl Babies) and has a big green fat caterpillar on the front. To match I bought a little green romper that reads "Smile" in similar green, red, yellow and orange as the book. I decided to be extra resourceful and make part of the gift because I feel handmade items are so timeless and usually much nicer than toys you find in a store. I found an adorable, little washcloth gnome tutorial here. I used fabric I had on hand: fleece and calico dots for the hat. Anastasia loved it so now I have to make her one! Then, I couldn't find a bag in my stash that matched, so I made one... so not only were all my items colored green, the bag and gnome were even earth-friendly green as the bag is reusable and I made them from scraps of fabric I had on hand. I am just experimenting with hand embroidery (I don't believe in machine embroidery) and I was very proud of my little gnome stitching. So my gift total was $12 + tax for a very green and really nice (if I do say so myself) gift. And the recipient seemed to like it as well... that is important too I guess. :)

Details of gnome and stitching on bag:

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tea and Montessori

I stopped by the library and after reading a review by Montessori teacher, Meg McElwee (Montessori by Hand) of Montessori from the Start (which I finished reading about a month ago). I felt that maybe I just picked up the wrong book because I felt the overall feel of the book was closer to our culture's perception of pushing our children to be independant rather than the attachment method which has worked so well for us. So I picked out How to Raise and Amazing Child the Montessori Way (also reviewed by the same teacher) and I love it! I definately feel this method fits our family ideals of "less is more" and our appreciation for beauty: manmade and natural. It is a very easy, positive read based on the principle that you will know when your child is ready for the next thing. So even if you don't know anything about Marie Montessori or her method, I highly recommend this book to educate yourself or as a guideline for a way to educate your child.

After reading the first book, I made some hand-eye coordination puzzles for Anastasia. First I cut a small hole in a box--just big enough for a poker chip, rounded up 5 poker chips and taught Anastasia how to use them. She was able to do this around the age of 12 months. I also gave her some toothpicks and a red-pepper flake shaker and showed her how to put the toothpicks in the holes. It took her a little longer but she spent hours occupied with this, and by 13 months she mastered it. I was amazed at how she concentrated on these puzzles and liked the challenge they offered her. Now she can draw on paper with colored pencils with ease, carry around a bowl with fruit and eat it carefully without spilling, etc. I am amazed what little toddlers can do if given the opportunity, and I like how Montessori believes in giving them this freedom.

Raising an Amazing Child the Montessori Way has so many nice pictures that I feel captivate my dream house: organized, beautiful, clean and above all, peacefully pleasant to be in. I honestly used to think all the anti-plastic enthusiasts were borderline insane in our day... but they aren't the ones giving their children lead-laced plastic junk made to become garbage. I have a nice mix of plastic, wood, metal, and fabric toys, and am perfectly comfortable with this, but Anastasia definately prefers the more natural, non-plastic items. It is amazing to me! I think the important thing for me is to really give her all possible outlets for creativity and exploration, and to not allow the materialistic mindset of our culture to infect her. I feel this is at the very heart of the Montessori method, and I hope to model our home around these ideals. I find myself having to completely change my own mindset... it is hard not to want this or that: be it a finely made European doll house or a crappy China-made shirt on sale at Target for $5.

Ok, so on the same note-- sort of, I found the best blog of kiddie crafts: the Crafty Crow. I can't wait to do them all with Anastasia in the future but boy am I enjoying this 14 month age! I love her more everyday!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Weekend Adventure

Here is Anastasia with her mischievous look about her. I finally found her a sunhat for the summer.

We had a semi-productive weekend. I feel we are just passing the time until we get into our house!! On Saturday Nick, Anastasia and I hopped in the Jeep and took a ride our to Leesburg, Va. We picked up some Bad Ass Coffee in Manassas on our way out. Leesburg was quaint but held a few gems. I fell in love with this Cottage Antique Store with really shabby-chic antiques and incredible prices (especially for antiques). I fell in love with a green dresser-mirror combo for $198. Solid Wood! If only I was in the market for one at this point in my life. There was also a fun little thrift store called the "Resourceful Woman" where I found a few treasures. There were also several antique stores, including one that had a huge cage full of beautiful canaries! I really want a pet canary that sings sweet songs. They sound like a nice Spring morning. *sigh* If only they weren't $100 a piece maybe I would own one! After our walking tour of Leesburg, we also took a drive to see what else was around and then went home.

Sunday was even more of an adventure as we are currently in the market for a new dresser for Anastasia. I suggested we go to some estate sales as it was cold and rainy and whenever we go to estate sales that is how the weather happens to be. I found 4 sales in the paper and figured that our dresser could be at any one of them... if only I knew what would take place. The first sale was great! Everything was 1/2 off... but no "safe" dresser for a little girl. The second one was a little sketchy as it was a small shack of a house with junk all over the yard and a sign on the door reading, "Go Away! I can't do this anymore!....Don't steal Peter's stuff!" Lets say a person with a shotgun behind the door would not seem out of place at all so we high-tailed it out of there. House number 3 was labeled as being in Alexandria but was actually in Arlington so we drove 30 minutes to Alexandria to find nothing. Then we decided it was Pizza time so we went into DC for some Armands. That made the whole trip completely worthwhile. Then on to house number 4 that was actually in Alexandria. As we were nearing Audabon Road we saw some large, nice town homes and were hoping for something of the same... instead we found a classic, 1960's Virginia trailer park. Anastasia was already grumpy but since we had come so far, Nick ran in to confirm our suspicions. Nothing worth our while. After church in Woodbridge, the day was still young so we made a stop at IKEA and found a lamp, some baskets, cutting boards, 59cent glasses, and some vanilla frozen yogurts making our day a definite success of sorts.
On Friday I picked up some polka dot fabric to make aprons for Anastasia and I. Now I am in love with the Emmeline apron by Meg at Montessori by Hand. I am not in love with paying $12+shipping for a pattern after spending $15 on supplies and needing to spend at least $10 more! That is almost a $40 apron... as cute as it is. Thankfully my mom suggested buying it for me for my birthday... and as Nick said last night, once I get my mind set on something... I have to have it my way. :) So I can't really help it that I have to have this apron!!! Unfortunately my apron project will be on hold until my mom orders me and we receive the pattern. In the meantime I am planning on embroidering and sewing some produce bags out of some muslin I bought at the store. It should be a quick project with a goal of using even less plastic bags at the grocery store. I hate being wasteful!! Hopefully this week will afford me some time.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Story of Stuff

I was a little side-tracked while working on my resume, and came across The Story Of Stuff video. Definately a bit disheartening, but the movie's simplicity and humor make it an enjoyable watch. Take some time to watch it.

Speaking of stuff, I stopped by Goodwill for their "Dollar Day" and for $12 I bought a new summer wardrobe (5 t-shirts and a skirt), and a tank top for Anastasia, a onesie, a nice hard-cover number book, and a sweater for my mom. I also went to the consignment shop and found a sun hat and a couple outfits for Anastasia. This all courtesy of "overpaying" taxes last year. So needless to say, I shouldn't need any more summer clothes!! Now if only Nick would let me spice up his wardrobe with second-hand finds.... :) I think after I finish my resume I will make a list of items we need for our new house that I can buy used and try and find them on Craig's List and at local yard sales. That is my contibution to the environment (and my bank account). The danger about good deals is buying what you actually need as opposed to excess "stuff". That is why my parent's house is a jungle of junk.

Remember, Reduce, Re-use and Recycle.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Showers

We had a very nice, but overly short weekend. Is it just me, or should weekends be AT LEAST 3 days long? So maybe no one would get anything done, but we would all be a lot happier!

Saturday we took a drive out to Culpeper for sandwiches at this little Deli called "The Stable." Nick decided their slogan should be "our sandwiches could feed a horse." He is not to far from the truth as my sandwich was stacked so high, I couldn't fit it in my mouth. I seriously could only eat 1/4 of it before I felt like I might explode! After our short visit to Culpeper, we headed to Shenandoah for a 3 mile (about) hike in white oak canyon. We hiked to the less-frequented lower falls and it was truly breathtaking. Anastasia had the best seat in the house-- in her backpack carrier on Nick's back. We had a nice time and a stop at the "Frost Diner" in Culpeper served us well with some yummy ice cream on our way home.

Sunday I learned how to play a dice game called "Bunco" at my aunt's house. The game was complete luck... and serves more as a social outlet for friends. Not my favorite game, but I won some Tupperware so that was good. I think I would prefer to have a mom's poker night instead of Bunco. That would be a little more my speed. Or even Spades!

I just started reading Dr. Sears' book "Parenting the Fussy Baby and High-Need Child." I wouldn't have described Anastasia as a fussy baby, I just assumed she was normal since she was my first. I just assumed every baby was "demanding" and had to be held, cuddled and nursed all the time. Since she has gotten older, when I read about how "normal" children act or behave I realize she isn't so normal. On top of that, her hot-or-cold attitude toward everything, her spunk, and her determination concluded for me that Anastasia is definitely a strong-willed child. Reading this book has really pinpointed Anastasia on the dot from day 1! It makes me feel like I haven't "spoiled" Anastasia, she just wants what she wants when she wants it. I am excited to read this book and learn more ways to help Anastasia develop her will rather than try and suppress it. I like that Dr. Sears has a lot of advice on disciplining and directing a strong-willed child (as they need a significant amount for their own safety and well-being). I am hoping to come away with a greater understanding of my child and how to effectively meet her needs as a little person and direct her towards becoming a good contributor to society, rather than a monster.

It is April! Hooray! It is a classic, dreary April Day. You know, the "April Showers bring May flowers" kind of day. I am very excited that at the end of this month we should be (God willing) closing on our little mountain house. I have to work today on my resume and fill out an application as an old friend from Alexandria Animal Hospital who lives in Front Royal, has helped me to get an interview at a local veterinary clinic there. I want to work Saturdays and evenings, but they aren't open past 6 pm and they are only open a few hours on Saturdays. But some hours are better than none! I actually kind of miss working to a certain extent and a few days a week would make me feel like a better contributor to my family and society. We will see what happens!! Its all very exciting! So I am hoping April will go by quick and maybe I will be living somewhere new come my birthday (May 4th)!! That would be the very best present ever!!