11/30/17

Christmas Tree Suncatcher

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting My Creative Life!

It figures that it would rain on the day I needed to photograph a suncatcher! No matter. It's still pretty and not a bad way to spend time when the weather keeps you indoors. 


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Christmas Tree Suncatcher



Materials:



Steps: 


Draw a large Christmas tree on one sheet of green cardstock. Hold a second piece of cardstock behind the first as you cut out the tree, creating two pieces that are exactly the same. Cut a rectangle of brown cardstock for the trunk and set it aside. 


Hold the two tree pieces together, being sure they are lined up properly. Use the Crop-a-Dile to punch holes through both trees at the same time.  


Set one tree aside. Cover the front of the other tree with the glue stick, then tear tiny bits of tissue paper and place them over the holes. This is a great way to develop fine motor skills!


Sandwich the first plain tree on top of the one with the tissue paper, lining them up carefully. Add extra glue if necessary. Cut two identical yellow stars and glue them on top of the tree, making sure they line up. 


Now find a sunny (or rainy) window and hang your Christmas tree. I used a little bit of transparent tape, but you could thread fishing line through the top hole before attaching the star if you prefer. 


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here!

11/29/17

Origami Christmas Trees

This post contains affiliate links. 

Do you remember the origami trees we made while working on the Oregon Little Passports journal? We turned them into little Christmas trees!




Origami Christmas Trees

Materials:


Steps:


Fold the origami paper to make a tree. Begin by folding the paper in half vertically, horizontally, and on both diagonals, opening after each fold. 


Rotate the paper so that it looks like a diamond instead of a square. Pull the top, left, and right corners toward the bottom corner, collapsing the sides in to form a folded square.


Your square will have four triangular 'flaps' -  two on each side. Take one flap and press it open as shown. 


Repeat the process with all four flaps. It will look like this. 


Fold back the portion below the triangle (yellow in the photo above), repeating on all sides. When you are done, it looks like this. 


This is the same thing, opened up. 


When you get to this point, add glue along the inside and press each side together. This will form your tree.


While the tree is drying, use a serrated knife to cut a cork for the tree trunk. If you start with 6" square origami paper like we did, you'll want to cut your cork into fourths or thirds. Any larger and it's out of proportion with the rest of the tree. Paint the trimmed cork brown and set it aside to dry. 


Punch four identical stars from the yellow cardstock. Fold each in half and glue all four pieces together to form a dimensional star. It's tricky to get the small stars lined up, but older kids will manage it just fine. 


Use the Stickles to decorate the tree however you like. 


When everything is dry, glue the tree to the cork, then glue the star on top of the tree. Make more than one and put them together to make an adorable winter scene!

Enroll Today!

11/28/17

Pearlescent Elegant Birthday Card

My dear friend Angela celebrated a milestone birthday recently and I was in charge of making the card for the joint gift that the Scout moms gave. Her party was an elegant affair with lots of sparkle and all the guests in black and white. I wanted the card to have the same style.

While I am really happy with how the card looked in real life, it was incredibly difficult to photograph. This was the best I could do. It doesn't capture any of the sparkle and shimmer.


Scanning it was no better. The dimensional elements look flat and the pearlescent cardstock looks blah. You'll have to trust me when I say the card actually had quite a bit of dimension, shimmer, and shine.


Anyone out there have tips for capturing sparkle, shimmer, and shine in photographs? 


Shop Your Fav Brands at Scrapbook.com

11/27/17

Glue-Resist Sunflower (Or, Look for the Light)

My ultimate goal for my US Travel resource is to feature my recommendations for hotels, restaurants, and attractions for family-friendly travel (along with craft projects, recipes, etc.) for each of the 50 states. It's a big goal and I'm really happy with how it's coming along. I recently updated the Pennsylvania page along with the other states from our October trip

I decided to make a glue-resist sunflower that will go on the Kansas page. Not only was it fun to make, but I learned an important photography lesson in the process!


Some background information: Whenever possible, I scan my finished projects. I'm not a great photographer and the limited daylight and rainy days of November do not help one bit. Unless the object is dimensional, it is so much easier to use the scanner and the results are almost always better. However, I'm careful not to scan things that might dirty, scratch, or otherwise harm my expensive scanner. I didn't want to risk getting chalk dust all over my scanner bed, so I decided to photograph the sunflower instead. 

I took a few photos, picked one, added a watermark, and uploaded it here. I hated the way it looked compared to the real-life version, but I couldn't figure out why. Compare the image below to the one at the top of the post. Can you spot the reason why this one was bugging me so much? 


Hint: Look for the light. 

After staring at it for a few minutes to figure out why it looked so weird, I realized that I'd photographed the sunflower with the light source on the left... the opposite side from where I added the chalk pastel highlights to the artwork. Here is the same image, before I cropped it. 


I learned an important photography lesson. If the artwork has highlights, make sure to photograph it in an orientation that matches where the actual highlights will fall!

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Glue-Resist Sunflower


Materials: 


  • black construction paper
  • tacky glue
  • chalk pastels

Steps:


Use the glue to create a design on the construction paper. You can draw it lightly in pencil first or just freehand it like I did. While you can use ordinary white glue, a thicker tacky glue is going to stay in place instead of spreading. Let the glue dry overnight. 


Color in the petals with a yellow chalk pastel. Add red lines at the base of each petal.   


Blend the colors together with your finger. Color the center of the sunflower with browns. Use white to add highlights to the sunflower. (Interesting that I started with the highlights in the lower left... where the actual light was coming into the room... and ended up turning the paper 180°.)


Finally, color the background blue. 


And there you have it, the state flower of Kansas!


11/24/17

50 States Album Update: MD, DE, PA

We visited three new-to-Trevor states last month, so there are three new pages in his 50 States Album. He put a lot of thought into which pictures to use to represent his visits to each state, as well as how to summarize what we did. 


This brings Trevor's state count to 22! You can see the updated map of where we've been as well as the rest of the pages in his 50 State Album on my US Travel page. You'll also find links to travel recommendations, crafts, science experiments, and more inspired by each of the states.


11/23/17

Vegetarian (Or Not) Mexican Zucchini Boats

I am a huge fan of zucchini boats. I love zucchini and you can stuff practically anything inside, bake it, and have a yummy meal with minimal fuss. Mexican Zucchini Boats are especially delicious and are a great way to use up random leftovers from Taco Night. They work just as well with or without meat. I made these without meat, but you could easily add ground beef, steak, chicken, pork... or turkey! 


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Vegetarian Mexican Zucchini Boats



Ingredients:


  • zucchini (I used 3 for the three of us)
  • leftover Mexican rice (1 c.)
  • leftover beans (1/2 c.)
  • chopped tomatoes (1/2 c.)
  • leftover corn (1/2 c.)
  • shredded cheese (1/2 c.)
  • whatever else you want to put in, in whatever amount you want

Steps:


Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Cut off the ends of the zucchini and cut them in half lengthwise. Scoop out the insides, using an ice cream scoop (best tool for the job by far). 


Put the zucchini shells into a Pyrex baking dish and microwave 3 minutes or until they are fork tender. Meanwhile, put the scooped out zucchini into a frying pan and sprinkle it with salt. Sauté over medium heat for a few minutes to draw out most of the moisture. Remove from heat. 

Combine rice, beans, corn, and tomatoes. Add them to the sautéed zucchini. 


Scoop the mixture into the zucchini shells, stuffing them full. Bake for 20 minutes. 


Sprinkle with shredded cheese and return them to the oven for 3 minutes. Serve them as is, or garnish with avocado, salsa, and/or sour cream. 


Delicious and so easy!


11/22/17

Coloma Outdoor Discovery School

I completed the layout about Trevor's amazing 4th grade field trip to Coloma Outdoor Discovery School... about a year and a half after it happened. But I did blog about the trip just a few days after it happened!

Coloma Outdoor Discovery School (affiliate link)

The most interesting thing to note about this layout is that I actually pulled out my Fiskars scallop deco-edge scissors to do the green along the bottom! I haven't used them in eons, but I'll never get rid of them because they do come in handy occasionally. However, if you ever catch me using them to cut photos, you have my permission to take all my deco-edge scissors away from me and never give them back. 

11/21/17

2017 Gift Guide: The Best Gifts for Crafters, Bakers, Travelers, and Rabbit Owners

Tis the season for Christmas shopping! Because I hate crowds, I'll be doing most of my shopping online on or before Cyber Monday. Today I'm sharing part two of my Gift Guide. (Here is yesterday's guide to gifts for kids, teens, and families.) Everything is something I own and/or tried, love, and want. If you click a link and make any purchase, I will receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting My Creative Life!


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I love to bake almost as much as I love to eat, which is a lot. I've listed some of my absolute favorite things that the cook / baker in your life is sure to love. I have tons more suggestions, so just ask if you need more ideas.



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Our family does a lot of traveling via car, airplane, and cruise ship. Below are some of our travel essentials, plus one silly item that I couldn't resist adding. 



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I have a page dedicated to my very favorite tools and other craft supplies, so go check them out first and then come back. Are you back? Good. Here are more ideas.


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Of course I have a gift guide for rabbit owners! I considered making a guide for rabbits, but not many of them read my blog. So rabbit owners it is.


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I have tons more ideas, but I had to cut my lists off at some point. If you would like more suggestions, please ask! Happy shopping!

11/20/17

Gift Guide 2017: The Best Gifts for Kids, Teens, and Family Fun

Tis the season for Christmas shopping! Because I hate crowds, I'll be doing most of my shopping online on or before Cyber Monday. Today and tomorrow I'll be sharing gift ideas for everyone on your list. Everything is something I own and/or tried, love, and want. If you click a link and make any purchase, I will receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting My Creative Life!

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When shopping for kids' gifts, I look for the trifecta of fun, affordable, and educational. I don't always hit all three, but fun is non-negotiable. Below are some of my favorites, all of which are Trevor Approved. If you have a specific age in mind and would like more suggestions, just ask!

  • Snap Circuits Kits - a safe and fun way to learn about electricity and circuitry
  • Everything by ThinkFun - single-player, travel-friendly games, brainteasers, and more
  • Kanoodle - this comes with us during our travels and fits easily on a lap desk or tray table
  • Magformers - it's amazing what you can make with these - so much room for creativity!
  • Floor Map Puzzles - we've had US and world floor map puzzles for years and Trevor still loves them
  • 6-in-1 Solar Kit - no batteries required to operate these once you've built them!
  • Keva Plank Sets - such a simple concept with so many possibilities
  • K'nex Thrill Rides - what's not to love about building your own roller coasters?
  • Fold and Fly Paper Planes - one of Trevor's all-time favorites
  • LEGO Chain Reactions - use the LEGO bricks you already have to make chain reactions!
  • Little Passports - fun subscriptions for science- and geography-based learning BF40 - 40% off 12 months

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You can't go wrong giving teenagers money. I have tutorials for a bunch of creative ways to give money as a gift. Read on for more gift ideas for teens.


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Our family loves board games. I've never counted how many we have, but I'm positive it's more than 100 and we play them all regularly. Here are a few of our very favorites that are fun for the whole family.

  • Labyrinth - quite possibly my very favorite game and that's saying a lot
  • Fluxx - silly, ever-changing, and totally unique
  • Quirkle Cubes - the original Quirkle is fun, but Quirkle Cubes is even better
  • Tsuro - I usually lose and I don't even care
  • Indigo - I always lose this one and still don't care
  • Disney Apples to Apples - great with a big group, and it's still fun when it's just the three of us
  • Exploding Kittens - the perfect combination of skill, luck, and silliness $5 off!
  • Rummikub - loved it as a kid, love it just as much as an adult
  • Funglish - this game is difficult, but in a good way!
  • Ticket to Ride - hugely popular and for a good reason
  • Sleuth - my mom's favorite game - it's a lot like Clue, but better
  • Blokus - best for four people, but still fun with three
  • Tetris Link - like Tetris without the time pressure

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Tomorrow's post will have four more gift guides. Hopefully you'll find something for everyone on your list. And if not, just ask! I have a lot more suggestions that I'm happy to share. 

11/17/17

Travel-Friendly Paper Plate Game

If you'll be doing any travel this holiday season, I have just the thing for you! I made a game from a paper plate and some pom poms that is perfect for car or airplane travel.


Each morning, I drive Trevor and a friend part of the way to their middle school. (We walk the remaining 1.5 miles.) They're only in the car for five minutes, but they often bring a game along and get a few rounds in before I park the car. As I watched them gather up supplies one morning for a not-so-car-friendly game, I decided to come up with something that is more portable. It's a really simple game, suitable for very young children, but they like it. 

I made the game while Trevor was at his book club. While I do the vast majority of my crafting at home, I bet the library is #2 for me!


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Travel-Friendly Paper Plate Game



Materials:

  • paper plate with corrugated edges
  • 8 pom poms (each a different color)
  • black drawstring bag
  • markers
  • 2 mini clothespins


Steps:


Use the markers to color in the corrugated sections of the paper plate, leaving two adjacent spaces blank. The colors should be random rather than in a pattern. Label one of the blank sections START and the other FINISH. Add the instructions for the black and white pom poms in the center. Color one of the clothespins brown. 


Here is a closer look:


To play, put the pom poms into the bag and clip both clothespins to the START area. The first player draws a pom pom, moves clockwise to the first space that is that color, and returns the pom pom to the bag.


The second player does the same: draw a pom pom, move to that color, and return the pom pom to the bag. 


If you draw a white pom pom, you immediately draw again. In this case, Player 1 drew orange. He moves ahead two orange spaces, then returns both pom poms to the bag.


Beware! If you draw black, you lose your turn. If you draw a white and then the black, you lose two turns, since the white doubles whatever follows it. The winner is the first person to land on final colored space (in this case, blue). 

Now make your own game! Follow my instructions or change up the rules and be creative!