Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

blog pics 018

Wishing all of you a very blessed and Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Preschool Craft – happy little Christmas wreath :)

"Mr. Moustache Wreath"We are crafting up a storm here.  At least the last 2 projects I’ve posted about have been spur-of-the-moment type things, and this one was too.  I’m realizing that we have more time for this kind of thing when we don’t have any planned preschool activities going on.  It’s been so much fun, and freeing, that it’s causing me to re-think a lot of things right now.  But that will have to wait for another post. :)  (Which, if my track record for that kind of thing counts, means don’t hold your breath for another post, heh.)

My husband snipped a few messy branch tips off our tree and was going to put them in our composter, but I rescued them for craftiness instead. ;)

SUPPLIES for this sweet little wreath person:  supplies needed snipped ends of pine branches (just a bunch of loose pine needles would work too), glue, green cardstock, googley eyes, pom pom, 1/2 of a red pipecleaner, 1/2 of a white pipecleaner, dyed macaroni, glitter glue, sequins, miscellaneous sparkly stuff (we used glitter foam snowflake stickers and some leftover glitter foam shapes from this project; other ideas are buttons, shiny ribbon, metallic paint pens… you get the idea).

First, cut a circle from your cardstock.  Depending on how many pine snips you have available, you may want a larger circle than ours; our circle’s diameter is about 5 1/2 inches.  You could also use a paper plate, and color or paint it green if you wish.

I drew a smaller circle for the face area, just to give M some idea of where to place the greenery for the wreath.

glue on the facial features before anything else, this helps you get the sense of where you want the pine needles and decorations to go. having fun making a wreath guyM used half of a red pipecleaner for the mouth, a pom pom for the nose, large googley eyes, and macaroni pieces to make eyebrows and a moustache (this was totally his idea - I love it!).

glue on the pine snips and needles!  Wherever you want them is where they should go. M felt free to let them go over the edge of the circle, and I like the bushy look of his little wreath guy.  Doesn’t he remind you of a sweet grandpa who has just woken up and needs a shave?  Or is that just me?  He totally reminds me of my beloved grandpa who would “whisker” me every morning. :)

decorate your wreath person with all the sparkly, fun things!

M named him, “Mr. Moustache Wreath”, hee hee.  He was so proud of giving him a macaroni moustache!  We hung him up over our Advent calendar, and I love seeing his happy, and a bit crazy, little face all day long.finished wreath

(I’m not sure why the pine needles look a bit brown in the pictures.  They were fresh, and don’t look brown at all in real life.  It must have something to do with the green cardstock.)

Have a beautiful day! :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Melted Crayon Christmas Trees (or any other shape you’d like)

Finished crayon tree I know this is not an original idea; I think many moms have tried this at one time or another.  But I thought I’d write about it because it was just so much fun for M.  I first saw the idea several years ago in MaryAnn Kohl’s book, Scribble Art

M has been asking to melt crayons into shapes since we made heart crayons for Valentine’s Day.  This kid grabs onto an idea and does not let it go. 

10 months later I finally gave in.  :)

Actually, the real reason we haven’t done it is that I’ve only had heart shaped muffin tins (the silicone kind).  So when I saw some cute tree-shaped ones at Target I grabbed them and one day last week I gave M the good news (you could use cookie cutters, but I felt too lazy to go to all that work, lol).  Boy, was he ever excited.  He spent a good 10 minutes at the kitchen counter going through his bucket of crayons and picking out the ones he wanted to use. 

Like this:hanging around, sorting crayons

Yep, just hanging there like a monkey, sorting crayons.  Did I mention he was excited?  (No, he wasn’t drinking the Coke in the background, that’s just for Mama, hee hee.)

After finding a variety of colors, with a good assortment of green shades, and peeling off all the papers, it was time to break the crayons up.  M came up with the hammer idea on his own.  Putting them in a plastic baggie first was my idea. ;)

He’s hammering them into tiny pieces in the photo below.  Hammering so hard his mouth is hanging open and you can’t really see the hammer because it’s moving so fast.  This may have been his favorite part:hammering crayons into tiny bits

We pulverized the greens first, and placed a layer of them in each mold:filling the molds with shades of green

Then the pretty colored ones were sprinkled on top:Adding other colors
You want these to be sort of thick, otherwise they may break when you pry them out of the molds.  We filled our molds up just a little less than halfway.

We put them in a 150 degree oven for 15 minutes, pulled them out, and as they started to harden, I poked a straw into them to create the hole for the ribbon.  Then we put them in the fridge to finish hardening and to loosen up a bit, for another 15 minutes. 

We popped them out of the molds (all the trunks broke off, darn it), tied on ribbons, and picked out one for each grandmother:Finished ornaments

We colored with the rest for a while, and then hung them on our Christmas tree.They color really well!  Aren’t they pretty?

Honestly, this was such an easy project for me – M did almost all the work, and loved every second of it, from finding the “right” crayons, peeling the papers off, and just about everything else.  All I did was put them in the oven and take them out.  Well, I tied the ribbons too.  But really, as easy as this was, I was surprised at the amount of pure happiness it gave him.  I definitely have to find more (cheap) shaped silicone muffin pans!

Have a beautiful day! :)


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Book Review – Doers of the Word by Archbishop Timothy Dolan

Archbishop Dolan went from the peace and quiet of Wisconsin to the hustle and bustle of New York City.

In this book, he writes very eloquently about how he has found that God is present both in the stillness of meditation and in the busy-ness of every day life.   This idea really struck a chord with me as I struggle with finding quiet time to reflect and think (and, let’s be honest, sometimes just stare at the wall and wonder about 4 year old boys) in the middle of busy days.

The book is a set of meditations written over time by Dolan as he spent time in his private chapel.  They are short and written in an easy-going, humble, yet shepherdly sort of way, and contain insight and wisdom that I found very helpful in my life as a wife and mother.  He did not write specifically to one set of people, but his thoughts are relevant to just about anyone in any stage of life and living any vocation.

Each meditation ends with a prayer and then a small “blurb” about some tradition of the Church.  These were interesting, but sometimes seemed a bit odd in relation to the meditation just finished.

I enjoyed this book; the only thing I wished for was that some of the meditations were longer so that the idea in them could be more fully developed.  As it was, in keeping them short, some of them felt like what I call “fluff” – a feel-good type of writing that just about anyone could come up with.  Thankfully, most of them held something (or were a good starting point for my own thoughts) a bit more substantial.

You can purchase this book here.

I wrote this review of Doers of the Word for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, your source for Oplatki and Advent Calendars. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.
Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Preschool Art / Craft – Melted Bead Christmas Ornaments

imageA few weeks ago, in a preschool post, I mentioned some great little suncatcher kits from Makit Bakit.  I remember making these when I was a kid, and they were so much fun.  These come in both boy and girl themes, which makes my art-loving boy very happy. 

You fill the sections of a metal suncatcher frame with the beads (I have M pinch them to transfer them to the frame – great fine motor work), then pop the whole thing into the oven for 20 minutes and they melt.  The result is a stained-glass-look suncatcher.  I think this kind is much, much prettier than the kind you paint.

racecar suncatchera racecar M made recently 
(the black beads are not transparent,
and make it look a bit splotchy;
most kits don’t have the black beads)

Each package has more than enough plastic beads for the suncatcher that comes with it.  I’d love it if they had just packs of the beads available, but as far as I know, they don’t offer them apart from the suncatcher frames.

You know I can’t throw those extra beads away. :)  So we used them with mini cookie cutters to make ornaments.

Our extra beads:plate with extra beads 

Line a pan with aluminum foil and place the cookie cutters on it.  Then begin filling them up with beads.  You want to have a layer that completely covers the foil at the bottom of each cookie cutter, with a small mound in the center that thins out towards the edges:filling the cookie cutters up with beads

Pop them into a 375 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes. 

You have to be quick with this next part.  As soon as they are out of the oven, they begin to cool off and get hard.  To make the hole for ribbon, I used a 1/8” dowel, coated with non-stick spray.  Stick it into the area of each ornament where you want the hole to be.  The first couple were pretty easy, then as they started to harden, I had to really twist the dowel to get it out.  I ended up putting half of the ornaments back into the oven to melt a bit and then made holes in them.

Peel the foil off the back, and pop them out of the cookie cutters.

They turned out pretty cute! finished ornaments

Strung onto ribbon, they’ll look so pretty on the tree or even hanging in a window. december 2010 002

Have a beautiful day! :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Preschool Art - Shiny Foil Christmas Collages

 sparkly foil collages (3)
I’m always surprised at how inspiration can strike simply by going through what we already have

I mentioned in an earlier post that we’ve been cleaning out and organizing some of our space in the past month or so, and part of this included my craft storage area.  As we went through a huge bin of paper products, I found some pretty Christmas cards that I had saved, in the hopes that I’d come up with something to do with them.

Most of the cards had some sort of foil or glitter or something sparkly on them.  I cut out the pretty parts, and teamed them up with some glitter snowflake stickers, and sequins, and cut some glitter Christmas shapes from foam (stockings, candy canes, triangle “trees”, circle “ornaments”, stars). 

And what shines better than aluminum foil?  So I set everything out for M one morning.  I included some window markers too and glue of course:december 005

This was definitely one of the biggest hits we’ve had lately.  M loved this little art project, and it was so much fun I even got in on the action a bit. :)  The white window marker shows up so nicely on foil and made the perfect snow:december 019

Eventually we realized that our window markers are in pretty bad shape and drying out.  So I brought out the window crayons (which I normally loathe, because they are such a mess to clean off of windows).  The window crayons were perfect for this (permanent markers work well on foil too) and, while you do have to be careful at first since they will smear onto anything that touches them, they do dry and are then perfectly ok.  They went onto the foil so smoothly and have such bright colors, that I think these will be our “aluminum foil crayons” and window crayons no longer. No clean up for mom that way. ;)

Finished collages:sparkly foil collages (2)
sparkly foil collages (1)
 sparkly foil collages sparkly foil collages (3)

This was such a blast (for me too)!  If you are looking for a quick art project without so much prep, just peel off some aluminum foil, get out those window markers and crayons, and let the kids go to work! :)

Have a beautiful day! :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Art Project at The Homeschool Classroom

Please take a moment to read my latest post at The Homeschool Classroom, about one of our favorite Christmas art projects.  It was so much fun to make and we really love the results!

Have a beautiful day! :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Art (and craft, sorta) Time – Homemade Gift Wrap

We had SO much fun with this little art project!  I can’t wait to wrap up Christmas gifts with this very special gift wrap. :) 

We’ve never done this before, but it’s an idea I’ve had for quite a while now.  I have an abundance of white tissue paper, and from time to time I try to think of something to do with all of it.  Well, this was a huge hit, and I think it may just become an annual tradition!

I had quite a variety of materials set up for us, but M was so eager to get started that I wasn’t able to get very good photos.  I’ll try to list all the things we used; you can make this as messy or neat as you want, depending on your supplies.  We went for messy, mainly because of the glitter.

I set out several Christmas-themed stamps – “real” stamps and some that were sponges cut into shapes (you can see the star one in the photo below).  We used red, green, and gold paint with the stamps instead of regular stamp pads (although that would be a great option!), so to keep the stamps from getting “globby” with the paint, I poured the paint directly onto scraps of felt.  I dampened the felt first, although I’m not sure that’s necessary.  The paint soaks nicely into the felt and makes a great stamp pad with clear stamp results.  I added a bit of glitter into the paint, hoping that would satisfy the glitter-obsessed boy.stamps and paint stamp pads

I also set out a mini paint roller, and some porcupine balls.  We used the porcupine balls like stamps, and the prints looked a bit like snowflakes or stars.porcupine balls and paint roller

I also set out the following (sorry no good pics!):

  • red and green dot painters
  • red and green roll-on painters
  • red and green markers
  • red, green, gold, and silver crayons, bundled together with rubber bands (this was fun!)
  • a saucer full of school glue with glitter mixed into it
  • glitter foam snowflakes and Christmas trees

The school glue dries clear, and I used several different colors of glitter in it.  When you paint it onto tissue paper, you get this result:glue with glitterIt’s very shiny and sparkly!  The photo really doesn’t do it justice.

M used every last art supply I had set out and had a ton of fun making gift wrap!    Beginning to make some artsy gift wrap

I joined in and made some myself and we had a wonderful afternoon of fun.  We ran out of room for all the pieces to dry, but thankfully it doesn’t take long for tissue paper to dry, so I simply taped pieces to the cabinets once we ran out of counter space. :)

Eventually I gave in to the request for sprinkling on glitter and after that everything was glitterized. :)

Here’s what we made… again, the photos don’t really do these justice.  If you are lucky enough to receive a gift from us wrapped up in one of these you’ll see just how pretty they really are…gift wrap collage1

gift wrap collage2

gift wrap collage3 I think we’ll wrap presents with brown craft paper first, so the gift isn’t visible, then finish with a layer of our homemade gift wrap.  I can’t wait to put on some pretty Christmas music and wrap some pretty presents!

Have a beautiful day! :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Book Review – Smart Martha’s Catholic Guide for Busy Moms, by Tami Kiser

Tami Kiser is a mom of nine children.  She knows what it means to be busy! 

The biblical story of Martha and Mary is one that resonates with a lot of Christian moms – how do we get all the Martha jobs done, and still have the heart of Mary?

This book was written to give mothers practical advice, ideas, and tips on how to be a “smart Martha” – a mother who, while taking care of her home and family, remembers that the best thing she can do for her family is to treat each child (and her husband) the same way Mary treated Jesus in the biblical account.  Mary sat with Jesus; she spent time focused on Him, listening to Him with her heart, not running around “worried and anxious about many things” as was Martha.

This really struck a chord with me, and has been something I’ve been thinking about for the past couple of years or so.  A group of mothers from my church get together every Monday morning to pray and spend time talking (bringing along our children to play), and we are called the “Mary and Martha” group. 

It’s a balancing act really, this being both Mary and Martha, and a mother must have her priorities clearly set before her in order to be at all successful in accomplishing what needs to be done while still listening to her family with her heart.

I was excited to have the opportunity to read this book!  Tami Kiser has a lot of practical tips to share, and she writes in a friendly, familiar way, with some great humor thrown in occasionally.

Many of her tips about organizing toys, and general housekeeping were either unrealistic for me or things I already do, but they were written well and I do think would benefit many mothers.  The author’s idea of how many toys are “a few” toys for each child was “a lot” of toys in my opinion; perhaps I was looking for a more simplify-and-minimize approach than she uses in her home.  This is fine, and I understand that each family must do what works for them; but this along with her feelings about children and video games and the use of other electronic media just aren’t my feelings and thus I didn’t get much out of these sections of the book.

I also hoped for more wisdom and guidance about balancing activities that provide spiritual nourishment with all the down-to-earth responsibilities.  I found that, while this was discussed a couple of times, the book was mostly about being as organized as possible to allow for more time, the idea being that this freed up time will allow one to be more of a Mary to her family.  This is fine, but personally I know that if I don’t have clear priorities laid out for me, extra time will simply be spent doing more “Martha” activities.
Overall I enjoyed the book.  I appreciated the writing style, which kept me engaged and interested, and I did learn quite a few useful things that I hope to implement into our routines and home life.

Thank you to The Catholic Company, for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.  The opinion stated is fully my own.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Smart Martha's Catholic Guide for Busy Moms . They are also a great source for first communion gifts and baptism gifts.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Books

We checked out several really good Christmas books from our library last week. 

M’s favorite of the week has been Gingerbread Mouse, by Katy Bratun. image It’s a pretty simple story about a little mouse living in a gingerbread house until Santa comes along with a beautiful new (and unlikely to be eaten) house for her to live in.  The illustrations are wonderful.  We even made a gingerbread house this week, which fit in perfectly with the story.gingerbread house (3)
M also has really enjoyed Elliot’s Christmas Surprise, by Andrea Beck. image The story does a good job of reminding us to be thankful for what we have, especially our friendships.  It also does a great job of showing the fun that can be had with a large empty box. ;)

The Bear’s Christmas, by Jan and Stan Berenstainimageis hilarious (if you are a 4 year old boy).  Poor Papa Bear tries to relive his youth with Brother Bear’s Christmas gifts.  He gets rolled into a huge snowball, and this is, apparently, the absolute funniest part. :)

We also checked out The Night Before Christmas, by Clement C. Moore.image   This is the famous poem many know, but in our version the illustrations are done by Bruce Whatley (his name is familiar to me – any ideas what else he’s illustrated?), and they are amazing. Normally I like classic picture books to have the original illustrations, but this is definitely an exception.  Whatley knows how to bring the story to life, and this may be my favorite version ever.

There was one book that was so sweet (but not too sugary, if you know what I mean), it touched all of us – The Donkey’s Christmas Song, by Nancy Tafuri.imageI normally love all of Tafuri’s books, but she outdid herself with this one.  It is a very simple and beautiful story about the baby Jesus and the songs of the animals in the stable.  I don’t want to give too much of the story away; I’m hoping you’ll be able to find this one yourself and read it with your children.  I think even babies, as well as older children, will enjoy this one, the text is simple and short, and the illustrations are perfect.  I may have to put this one on our list to buy.

For more reviews of children’s books, check out Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns and Feed Me Books Friday.

Have a beautiful day! :)



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