11/12/18

Turkey Paper Chain

Our family loves decorating for holidays, particularly at this time of year. I love that our house goes directly from Halloween decorations, to Thanksgiving, to Christmas. And no matter what the season, my favorite thing about decorating is pulling out our artwork through the years and reminiscing. Homemade decorations are the best.

Our latest homemade Thanksgiving decoration? A chain of turkeys.


Follow the easy steps below to make your own. The materials list includes affiliate links.


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Paper Chain Turkeys



Materials:



Steps: 

Fold a piece of brown construction paper in half lengthwise, then in half widthwise twice. If you open up the paper you'll see 8 rectangles.



Refold the paper lengthwise, then use the existing fold lines to create an accordion fold. You can think of this as a Z (or an M or a W). Draw a turkey body on the top square. The head and the body should not quite reach to the edges of the paper, but the wings must touch the edges. This is how the turkeys will hold hands. (Or wings, in this case.) This concept is tricky for some children, so I always demonstrate what happens when the wings don't touch the edge before they get out scissors. 


Cut through the layers, following your pencil line. 


You'll end up with two strings of turkeys. Set one string aside, share with a friend, or tape the two strings together to end up with a longer paper chain. 


Glue googly eyes, beaks, wattles, and tail feathers to the turkeys. Anything goes. I chose to layer orange, pink, and yellow feathers.


Did you notice that one turkey's feathers are different than the others'? I noticed while the glue was still wet, but liked it and decided to keep it that way. It adds personality, I think. 


The last step is to hang your paper chain and enjoy!

11/9/18

Fall Foliage Cruise

Here is the layout from the cruise portion of our Canada trip in the fall of 2014. It's a bunch of photos in a grid, a decorated title card, and a ton of journaling along the bottom.

Fall Foliage Cruise (affiliate link)

As always, narrowing down the photos was the toughest part. We did so much and saw so many things. These 22 photos don't show even a fraction of what we saw and did, but they represent the trip pretty well. Amongst the photos are examples of the places we went, the landmarks we saw, the activities we did onboard, and the food we ate. My family members each appear in at least one photo. I'm thrilled to have this trip documented and in the album.

11/8/18

O Canada!

I love Canada. I've visited many times (most recently when we were detained trying to get back into the US... sigh), but my favorite visit, hands down, was in 2014. We joined my parents, my sister's family, and my brother-in-law's godmother for an epic vacation. We flew to Toronto, spent three nights, took the train to Montreal, spent two nights, and then took the train to Quebec City, where we boarded a cruise ship for a 10-day cruise. 

Trevor created an amazing album documenting the trip as part of his Independent Study (he missed 10 days of school for this trip) and also made a slideshow. Both are treasures, as they capture all the details through Trevor's eyes. I'd been putting off creating a scrapbook layout summarizing the trip for several reasons: it seemed like too big of a trip to summarize, Trevor had already documented it, and I didn't know that I could do the trip justice in one page. I ended up making three double-page layouts. I've already shared one (Autumn Colors) back in May, with promises to make and share the next two "soon." Does six months later count as soon? 

O Canada! (affiliate link)

This page covers the highlights of the train portion of our trip: Toronto, Niagara Falls, and Montreal. It was very difficult to narrow down the photos, but I'd say that any layout that includes 21 photos AND lengthy journaling is a win. I'm happy with it. I'll share the layout of the cruise portion of the trip tomorrow. 

11/7/18

Cardboard Tube Cowardly Lion

I've learned some things as I've been making my cardboard tube Wizard of Oz characters. Gluing tiny bits of hay to a scarecrow is NOTHING compared to photographing a reflective Tin Man. Photographing a reflective Tin Man is NOTHING compared to working with faux fur. Henceforth, I will be referring to "faux fur" as Fuzzy Evil.


Ordinarily, this is where I'd encourage you to make your own, but I can't in good conscience tell anyone to work with Fuzzy Evil. If you insist, however, follow the directions below. There are affiliate links in the materials list.

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Cardboard Tube Cowardly Lion



Materials: 



Steps:


Paint the cardboard tube with tan paint and let it dry completely. Cut a strip of Fuzzy Evil long enough to just wrap around the tube. It should be high enough to leave the face area exposed. Glue it in place. Cut a second piece of Fuzzy Evil to cover the back of the head, sticking up slightly behind the back of the head. Glue it in place. Add a few random tufts to the inside front of the tube. 


Cut a pair of matching ears from cardstock. Ink the edges, fold a small tab backward, and add glue. Put the ears on either side of the face. 


Glue the googly eyes in place, then use the brown pen to draw a nose, mouth, and whiskers. Then start filling in around the face with small tufts of Fuzzy Evil. Keep going until it looks relatively even. Finally, cut two short tufts and roll them in your hands like you'd make a playdough snake. These will be the eyebrows. Glue them in place, pointing down toward the center, but make sure your lion doesn't look evil. 


Now, take a shower and vacuum the house twice to eliminate as much Fuzzy Evil from your craft space as possible. (Note: You cannot remove it all. It's worse than glitter.) 


 As much as I struggled making this (and cleaning up afterward), I'm happy to have completed the Cowardly Lion. I have a few more items to add to my cardboard tube Wizard of Oz collection. In the meantime, check out the tutorials for the characters I've shared already: Dorothy, Toto, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man.


Who (or what) do you think is coming next??

11/6/18

8 of the Best *FREE* Museums for Families

“You get what you pay for.” Sometimes it is true, but not always. In our travels, we’ve discovered that the price of admission to a museum or other attraction does not always correlate with its value. We’ve visited expensive places that were short on content, poorly maintained, or otherwise disappointing. But more often, we’ve visited inexpensive or free attractions that were beautiful, interesting, educational, and very entertaining.

The 19 museums of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC are famously free to visit and you're probably already aware of them, so I haven't included them on the list. Instead, this list of 8 of our family’s favorite FREE museums includes lesser-known treasures that I think you'll love.


Joslyn Art Museum: Omaha, Nebraska

Picture a huge building made of pink marble with Art Deco details with a magnificent staircase leading to the entrance, an inviting wading pool out front, and sculpture gardens throughout the grounds. That’s the Joslyn Art Museum... and that’s just the outside! Inside you'll find gallery after gallery of works by some of the world’s most famous artists. Add in an amazing hands-on children’s creative space and you have a museum that will have you asking, “How is this free?!” again and again.


American Printing House for the Blind: Louisville, Kentucky

This museum is amazing. It is full of hands-on interactive exhibits that showcase the innovations and inventions that have aided the blind. We loved writing and typing our names in braille, navigating with canes, and solving puzzles only by touch. On certain days of the week, you can also tour the factory where braille books are created. We were there on a Saturday and the factory was closed, but the museum kept us entertained for hours. 


Arizona Capitol Museum: Phoenix, Arizona

The Arizona Capitol Museum is a two-fer: you can tour the Capitol and visit the museum housed in the Capitol and never pay a penny. Both are full of interesting artwork, artifacts, and more from Arizona history. Step outside and stroll through the Wesley Bolin Plaza and Park to see memorials honoring prominent figures and events from Arizona history.


Air Mobility Command Museum: Dover, Delaware

In 2017, we paid $30 for our family of three to visit the outstanding Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum in Ashland, Nebraska. A few months later, we visited the Air Mobility Command Museum in Dover, Delaware and paid nothing. The two museums were similar in content and we thoroughly enjoyed them both. We’d definitely recommend paying to visit the SAC Aerospace Museum, which makes it all the more impressive that the Air Mobility Command Museum is free.


US Mint: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Everyone likes money, right? Watching money being made and learning about its history is so interesting... and it doesn't cost any money to do so! Our family loved touring the mint in Philadelphia, but the one in Denver, Colorado is excellent as well. (P.S. Independence National Park, that includes Independence Hall and the Liberty Center and a dozen other buildings, is free to visit as well, but it doesn't fit my criteria of lesser-known museums. The Mint barely does. Definitely visit both.)


Toledo Museum of Art: Toledo, Ohio

The main portion of the Toledo Museum of art is awesome and well worth a visit on its own, but it's the glass that puts the museum on my Top 8 list. The collection of glass objects (housed in glass exhibit halls) is one of the most comprehensive in the world. It's beautiful, historically important, and  absolutely fascinating. 


Washed Ashore: Bandon, Oregon

This museum is small but awesome. From their website: "Washed Ashore builds and exhibits aesthetically powerful art to educate a global audience about plastic pollution in oceans and waterways and spark positive changes in consumer habits." The artwork is absolutely amazing. Artwork is displayed indoors and out, with plenty of activities indoors as well. Go to Washed Ashore. 


West Virginia State Museum: Charleston, West Virginia

The West Virginia State Museum is one of the best museums I’ve ever visited and the fact that it is free is remarkable. It is fully immersive; you actually feel like you are walking through history as you move from room to room. There are 26 different discovery rooms, each with lots to do, see, and experience. Allow plenty of time at the West Virginia State Museum!


What do you think? Any free museums you've visited that should be added to my list?

11/5/18

DIY Light-Up Ratatouille Costume and an Eyeball Mocktail

I'm thrilled with how Trevor's Halloween costume turned out. Making it was a joint effort between Steve and me. Check it out:


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Chef Alfredo Linguini and Remy Costume



Materials:



Steps:

Draw or print an image of Remy holding a spoon. Cut it out, then use the Sharpie to color it in completely. 


The next part is really easy: ask Husband Extraordinaire to come up with a light. If you do not have access to my husband or your own Husband Extraordinaire, it's easy to make your own using a few small parts. Steve used leftover parts to wire up a bright white LED in series with a resistor and a battery. 


Here's the schematic:


In a pinch, you could use a small stick-on light like this, but I'm concerned this one would be too heavy. If you're able to find one that is very lightweight, give it a try! 

I gathered the toque, the cut-out of Remy, the light, and the battery, along with my tape runner and Glue Lines.


I used the tape runner to put glue on the FRONT of Remy, then attached him to the inside front of the toque. I put two Glue Lines on the back of the circuit board, then attached it to the inside back of the toque. I left the battery out for now, since there's no on and off switch. 


I put the battery in the toque then we did a photo shoot with Trevor around 5:00 pm on Halloween in our backyard. It was bright and sunny, so you can't tell that there's a light on in his toque.
  

Here's Trevor at 7:00 pm while he was out trick-or-treating. It was fun to see Remy emerging slowly as the sun went down. 


And in case you were wondering... Yes, Steve and I did dress up, but we didn't coordinate with Trevor. Or each other. I had planned to make family costumes, but had to prioritize some other things, so we went with stuff from the costume box.


You can probably just make out the rat on my arm and the snake slithering down my chest. I don't think you can see the spider on my hat, nor my too-subtle green skin. And you definitely can't see the cockroach and eyeballs in my cauldron. 

When we returned to the house after trick-or-treating, I made a drink from the items in my cauldron (and maybe a few items from the refrigerator...)


To make your own eyeball mocktail, start by washing and drying a ping pong ball. Draw in the details. I used Sharpies, but you could use food-safe markers if you prefer. Combine equal parts of lemon juice, orange juice, and apple juice, then add a splash of vanilla Torani and a drop or two of green food color.  Float the eyeball in the drink, making sure the liquid doesn't come in contact with the ink. Delicious!

11/2/18

Gift Guides for Kids, Teens, Travelers, Crafters, Bakers, and More

About a month ago, I received an influencer survey in which I was asked how much money I charge to include a particular product in a gift guide. The question made me sad.... and a little confused. If my readers don't believe me or trust that my product recommendations are genuine, I don't actually have any power as an influencer, right? I do not, and will not, accept money to include something I don't like in a gift guide.

The items in all of my gift guides are, for the most part, things that I own, use, love, and/or paid for. There are very few exceptions. I recommend items I like because I love sharing cool products, I want to support the manufacturers of awesome stuff, I want to provide a useful service to my readers, and I use and appreciate other people's gift guides when I need ideas. Any money that I make from affiliate purchases is just gravy. That's the perfect segue into my disclosure: Most of the links in my gift guide are affiliate links. This means that I receive a small commission based on any purchases you make after clicking my link, at no extra cost to you.

As part of my blog redesign (how do you like it, by the way?), I made a permanent tab for my gift guides. Here you'll find all my gift ideas and product recommendations for many of the topics I cover in my blog, including:


   

   

   

   


Rather than just publish gift guides once a year, I'll be adding to these regularly and you can access them easily at any time. Gift giving isn't limited to just December, after all! To find my gift guides, you can click on any of the images above, or go directly from the navigation bar at the top of this blog.



I'm always happy to give individual recommendations, too! If you need ideas for someone with a specific interest, craft style, ability level, etc, I'll gladly point you toward something I think he or she will love. Happy shopping!

11/1/18

The BLU Notebook and My Dreams for the Rabbit Education Museum

This post contains affiliate links. 

I received a sample of the BLU Notebook to review and I am so excited to show you what Trevor and I made! First, a little bit about BLU. It is the first sketchbook made from blueprint paper, perfect for everything from designing your dream home to doodling. (Or, in our case, designing your dream museum and completing a history project!) It measures 8.25" x 11" and has a durable cardboard cover and a lay-flat spiral binding. There are 50 acid-free pages with a 10:1" grid within a half-inch square grid.


Our BLU arrived the day Trevor was assigned a large project for his history class. He needed to design a 3-room Medieval Asia History Museum with at least five display cases in each of the rooms. He had to make one floor plan for the entire museum, plus individual floor plans for each room, marked with the path for an audio tour that he would record. What perfect timing for a notebook of blueprint paper to show up, right when Trevor needed to make floor plans!

Trevor grabbed a bunch of Glaze pens and started to figure out the layout for his museum. He color-coded different parts as he designed. As you can see, the colors pop against the blueprint paper.


I couldn't let Trevor have all the fun, so I designed my own museum as a way to test out the BLU Notebook. Except instead of Medieval Asia, my museum would be about rabbits! I prefer to draw in color pencil rather than gel pen, so I grabbed four different brands of white and tested them. Prismacolor was the clear winner. Crayola and Prang were acceptable, but not great. And you can barely make out the FaberCastell, written above Prismacolor. 


Trevor's assignment had to be done on plain white paper, so he used the light box to trace the floor plans he done in BLU. It made it so easy.


Meanwhile, I mapped out everything I wanted to include in my rabbit-themed museum.


Unlike Trevor, I didn't do individual floor plans for each room, nor did I make an audio tour. Instead, you get to read all about my museum. 


When you enter the Rabbit Education Museum, the first room you come to has displays about the biology and distribution of rabbits and an introduction to other species of lagomorphs. A large wall display shows the evolution of rabbits over the past 10 million years, while a separate exhibit shows mammal taxonomy.

The second room focuses on rabbit anatomy. Here we learn about the teeth that rabbits must continually grind down, the powerful legs that allow them to jump many times their body length,  their near-360° vision, and the muscles that work in conjunction with their ears to allow them to detect the smallest of noises. Interactive displays let visitors 'try on' rabbit hearing and vision, construct a model rabbit skeleton, and see how rabbits' teeth are uniquely designed for their diet. An engaging video game shows guests why a rabbit (a prey animal), would have a bright white tail that seemingly would help predators spot it.

The third room is all about the benefits of house rabbits to both humans and the rabbits themselves. Displays teach about the proper care and feeding of rabbits, the bonds that they build with their human families, and many tips and tricks to having the best possible lives for rabbits and their human caregivers. This room also features a Play Zone where young children can play rabbit-themed games, try on rabbit costumes, crawl through tunnels, and even make toys to take home to their house rabbits.

There are two doors leading from the final room of the museum. Guests can go to the gift shop (stocked with gifts for humans and the rabbits they've left at home) and exit, or they can continue outside through the double doors. The first outdoor area features rabbit statues and other large artwork. Pass through a double set of curtains and you'll enter a large grassy area. The resident rabbits, all of which are adoptable to loving homes, roam freely in this area. Volunteers monitor their safety and help match animals to prospective owners. This area is surrounded by low raised beds, in which grow a wide variety of rabbit-safe foods. The rabbits are welcome to hop up there and browse the buffet as they wish.

If a rabbit needs a break from people or does not want to be outside for some reason, he or she can crawl through the three small tubes (much too small for humans) to enter the Rabbit Haven. This is a comfortable room with lots of places where rabbits can nap, play, or lounge in a climate-controlled area that is away from human hands.

Next to the Rabbit Haven is a veterinary facility that serves only rabbits. The staff cares for the adoptable rabbits housed at the Rabbit Education Museum, but also sees patients. The entrance to the vet office is separate from the museum entrance.

Where would this fabulous museum be located? Right here in my neck of the woods in Northern California, of course! I want to be able to visit often, after all. Now who would like to fund it? Anyone? Hello?

Thanks to the people at BLU Notebook for the sample and for inspiring me to design a museum I would love to visit one day!