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    Entries in diy (5)


    DIY aromatherapy calm down jar

    Three and a half has brought with it some interesting changes in George's moods, behavior and communication. He's more in tune with his feelings than ever before, and when he has messed up (being hurtful to his sister, primarily, but also when he's being stubbornly unhelpful or otherwise rascally), he is more inclined to approach us with an apology and try to make amends without prompting. We still sometimes need to remove him from difficult situations for others' safety, or to respect their space, but his ability to shorten the distance between that and a willingness to fix it and move forward is heartening. To provide George with a new coping skill that might defuse the tension (or, metaphorically, diffuse it, if we wanna get homonymous), I decided to make him a calm down jar with an added aromatherapeutic factor. 

    You'll need an old jar, some fine(ish) glitter, glitter glue (mine is from the dollar store), a stirrer you don't care about (I used a bamboo skewer), a scrap piece of muslin or other cotton fabric roughly three times the size of your jar's lid, a bit of lavender, some confetti (optional; you could also use sequins, small buttons, whatever -- the heavier it is, the faster it sinks), and hot water. 

    Put a kettle on, or a cup of water in the microwave. You'll need hot water in the next step. Pour some of the glitter (NOT the glitter glue) into your jar (mine is a recycled jam jar with a tight-fitting lid). 1/4 inch in the bottom of the jar should be plenty. Add some confetti if you want; I had these weird ghosties leftover from something, but the glitter alone works just fine, too. 

    Fill your jar half full with hot, hot (not boiling) water. Squirt in some glitter glue, stirring constantly lest it clump up. I used about a third of a 3 oz bottle, and could've probably used less, but it's not an exact science. When you're satisfied that the glitter glue is totally incorporated, fill your jar up with hot water, leaving about half an inch of headroom at the top. Let it cool a little before you seal it, because you'll be doing some handling, and... it's hot. 

    Lay your lid on your fabric and mark a circle that's at least an inch larger on each side, the cut it out with pinking shears so it doesn't fray. Place some lavender in the center of the fabric. Close your jar as tight as you possibly can, and glue it if your kid might try to loosen it, because this spill would undoubtedly be the worst mess of all time. Carefully place the fabric, lavender side down, on the lid, and push any stray lavender back on top of the lid. Secure it tightly with a ribbon.

    Shake it up, give the top a scratch, inhale the calming scent of lavender and watch the glitter settle as your nerves do, too. Encourage your child to keep the jar in an accessible place and use it whenever they want. 


    DIY photobooth-style family photos

    The other morning on the radio, I heard a piece about hipsters: what defines a hipster, what sorts of things they like. It was kind of inadvertently funny, but had an interesting takeaway. Hipster culture is, one interviewee posited, a byproduct of a generation unable to display sincere emotion. Nothing can be enjoyed for its own sake, but must be enjoyed "ironically," presumably, I guess, because that lends the participants plausible deniability. 

    I'm definitely guilty of this sort of tendency to downplay my enjoyment through irony. Case in point: Though I've been decorating our house for the holidays since we moved, I've only this week stopped apologizing for the dorkiness and admitted that I just like holiday decorations. 

    Anyhoo, long story (not very) short, I hesitated to make the photobooth canvas Hanukkah project I'd chosen because I thought it might be too goofy, not arty or offbeat enough for our walls. Yes! That was stupid. Even after it was done, I asked Nathan if it wasn't too silly to hang up. I've only recently warmed to the concept of having family photos around the house (photos of family members who live in the home, that is), so this one was a stretch for me. I'm glad I went for it, because it's so cute. So, so cute. And here is how I did it (sorry for the funky formatting. All the info is there and I don't care enough to mess with it):


    To make the pictures look like they were taken in a photo booth, we positioned ourselves in front of the living room curtains, then, in Picasa, made them black and white and used the vignette tool. 

    I gathered my materials: 

    - an 8x24" stretched canvas (not pictured)
    - mod podge (matte)
    - foam brush
    - scissors
    - 4 5x7 family photos, B/W copied

    I cut the pictures out, and left a small border but wish I hadn't. 

    I then laid out the pictures where I wanted them, switching up the order until they looked right. In my case, Nathan and I have the darkest/most hair, so putting our pictures next to each other looked bad.


    For the mod podge initiated this will be obvious, but for those who don't frequently decoupage it may feel like you're screwing up your pictures. You are not! Brush a thick coat of mod podge onto the back of each picture, making sure to get the corners and edges. Stick them in place one by one and smooth out the bubbles, working from the middle to the outer edges. 

    Your paper will bubble up a little no matter how diligently you smooth, but don't worry. It'll dry flat.

    After you've placed your pictures where you want them and smoothed them all out, you can sit back and get a preview of how it's going to look when finished. 









    Cover the whole surface with a thick coat of mod podge, being careful not to loosen any of your edges. I try to go in the same direction though I'm not sure it matters.

    Let the first coat dry (15-20 minutes) and do another coat. I did three coats and was really concerned about some major bubbling that was making George look like he'd been punched in the eye.

    I decided to leave it overnight to see if the bubbles went away, and they did! There are a few small creases and wrinkles, but I think that adds to the charm. 

    I hope yours turns out just as cute as ours! 






    hundred dollar hanukkah: DIY menorah

    I really wanted the gift our family opened on the first night of Hanukkah to be one that at least one of the kids helped make (and, let's be honest, Zelda's talents don't exactly lie in crafts, so it was all on George). Being a DIYer, I have a tendency to take on all of the holiday handmaking and this leaves me burnt out and annoyed: NOT something I want to model for my children. In the DIT (do-it-together) spirit of this Hanukkah, I limited my own handmaking to one project and chose an easy craft that George and I could do for very little money, that would still be useful. 

    We have a beautiful menorah that I dearly love, and I hope that someday the kids will fight over whose family inherits it. But I have a more candlelight the better policy, and what's more Hanukkah-appropriate than a menorah? 

    I found the candle cups in the woodworking section at Michael's for $1.69 per 5-pack. I bought two packs and a piece of wood from the same section for $1.99. I used a coupon, so it was 40% off, bringing my total to $4.58. 

    We hot glued the candle cups to the board and doubled up the middle two for the shamash. 

    George went crazy with some royal blue and turquoise acryclic paint, and I filled in the spaces he missed, per his request. I'll probably seal it so the melted wax doesn't ruin the paintjob, but otherwise it was a very toddler-friendly project and turned out really well: a yearly reminder of George at almost-three.

    Even though it won't be a surprise, I know seeing it lit up with candles will be exciting for us all.  



    how to stain your baby

    Zelda is so into being a regular person. She wants to drink your water and eat your pizza and play with that choking hazard and she will not take no for an answer, even when it is the obvious answer (I do not feed my seven month old pizza: don't bother). So during Nathan's first week back at school, when I was attempting to keep extra busy, I tried to find some fun things for both kids to do together at levels they'd each enjoy rather than George coaching Zelda or Zelda having things pried repeatedly from her grasp. Cornstarch paint seemed a nice, easy DIY for these last warm days and George is on a painting kick that I'm really trying to encourage.

    My recipe is 1 cup of water to 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. For this batch I made three cups because I knew they'd go through it quickly. You just mix the cornstarch into lukewarm water, then heat over medium-high heat until it's thick, stirring pretty frequently. I put a few drops of food coloring into cups and added the gloop once it had thickened to my liking, stirred to mix in the color and put the cups in the freezer to cool off for a little while. I gave them another stir when they came out, and they were ready to go.

    Zelda immediately turned the tablecloth and paper into a slip-n-slide. The sensory aspect was basically it for her, but she squished the paint around in her fists and slid all over the place and that was good enough for her. George is something of a rule follower and wasn't thrilled that Zelda had dumped the paint and subsequently got it all over herself, but I tried to give him an area of his own by repositioning the remaining paint and corralling his sister. I encouraged him to paint on his own arms or belly, but that was preposterous and he was deeply offended at the suggestion.

    Zelda was having so much fun rolling around in the paint that George finally decided to give some handprints a try, and, after watching her brother for awhile, Zelda picked up a paintbrush. This exploration inspired by each other was, to me, totally the highlight of the activity.

    I plunked them both in the bath immediately after they were finished playing, but Zelda came out looking like I'd haphazardly shot a tube of sunblock at her and left her out in the sun all day. It came off, though... eventually.


    how to keep a toddler entertained

    Later this month, I'm scheduled to do a little workshop with some ladies who have recently graduated from transitional housing through Lydia Place, a local women and children's shelter. The topic of my workshop: DIY kids' crafts! I'm so excited to meet these women and share a few easy, cheap ideas. We don't have a ton of money to spend on all the cool new toys, or a rainbow of natural play dough so this subject is one I've researched and explored kind of a lot. The funny thing I've learned is that there will be a few "real toy" hits -- for example, George still loves his wooden shape sorter and he daily plays with puzzles -- but by and large, you can get away with giving your kid spoons, whisks, bowls, garbage, and he'll be just as entertained as if you'd spent a zillion dollars on an array of beautiful, handcrafted wooden toys. 

    At the workshop, I'll be sharing recipes for play dough and fingerpaint and all of that stuff, but I've recently sort of accidentally stumbled upon two major wins: rainbow rice and an odd use for an old oatmeal carton. 

    George is just now getting to the stage where I can trust that he won't put things in his mouth, so until now, sensory boxes have been a no-go. Knowing how good it feels, I'd love to offer him a container of dry beans to sink his little hands into, but there are plenty of Italian markets in his future, so I'll keep the choking hazards to a minimum right now. Somewhere, I saw a picture of kids playing in a bin of rainbow-colored rice, and I decided to replicate it using a little rubbing alcohol, food coloring and a bag of white rice left over from the last time I made a microwavable heating pad. I put a cup and a half of rice into each of six ziplock baggies (though any container with a lid would probably do), added about two teaspoons of rubbing alcohol and about 10 drops of food coloring. I shook and smooshed the bags around until the color was evenly distributed, then I opened the bags and let the rice dry. The rice doesn't absorb the alcohol, unlike it would water, so the drying time was pretty short. 

    I didn't take a picture of the rice arranged in a nice, even rainbow, but here's George, in the midst of his nearly hour-long first session of play:

    We had fun hiding his little plastic pig in the rice, spooning it into a seahorse stolen from the sandbox, naming the colors and had admittedly less fun trying to convince him to keep the rice in the box. 

    The other DIY is so easy and so weird -- to me, anyway -- that I won't blame you if you disbelieve in its amazingness. I've heard of making old Quaker oats containers into drums and knitting boxes, but the book Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready offered the idea that led to turning an oats carton into a... straw sorter. 

     I covered the outside of the carton with wrapping paper, leaving the top as it was (though paint is always an option, or if you're feeling especially fancy, mod podge-ing another piece of pretty paper to the lid). Using a regular hole punch, I made holes around the top of the lid, about an inch apart, as far in as my totally standard hole punch would allow. As two-thirds of our family enjoys drinking most everything from a straw, we have tons of straws. I cut the bendy parts off of ten straws, then put them in the container and handed it to George. He'll spend at least 15 minutes at a time meticulously inserting the straws into the holes (or, hole, as he has one favorite), opening the lid and extracting the straws to start over again. It's helped along his counting skills, as he likes to count the straws as they go in, and his dexterity is improving, too. He often wakes up and, upon walking into the living room in the morning, requests "game" which I play with him for a few minutes, then leave him to do alone while I make breakfast. Totally free, and miraculously engaging. 

    Do you have any tried-and-true recipes or projects that I could share with my workshop?