October 2012

Introduce your kids to Smashbooks

A fun way to scrapbook, journal or store memories

My family loves scrapbooking and now there is a new form of that available for kids and adults alike. It's called Smashbooks. Their motto is “For the moments and musings that stick.” These journal-type books allow kids to be creative while capturing memories. I bought an entire set for my daughter and my niece for Christmas (hopefully they don't come across this article).

So what are the things that you can do with a Smashbook? You can glue in pictures, movie tickets, theater bills, vacation post cards and anything else you can get your hands on. You can add notes, favorite sayings, Bible verses, or list events that happened to you that day.

Tennis ball uses

Crafting with tennis balls

I have been on a kick to craft with items I find within the house. I especially enjoy finding new uses for things, such as nail polish, baby oil, and even tennis balls. Your kids can get involved in this activity, which is a great way to teach children about recycling.

Here are a few things you can do with your next set of tennis balls:

1. Chair and desk protectors. My daughter's old school used to require that eight tennis balls be brought in each year. Turns out you can cut an X pattern in the tennis balls and put them on the ends of chair and desk legs. This prevents noises that distract from the daily lessons and offers protection for the floor from scratches.

2. As a pen holder. Cut one slit in the end of the tennis ball. You can then keep it on your desk to hold pens, pencils, paper clips, toothpicks, or any other small stationary item.

Knitting techniques: Do as I say, not as I do

My secret knitting shame

I consider myself to be a fairly accomplished knitter. I've successfully completed projects with stranded color work, intricate cables and lace (although not all at once). I can do intarsia and Kitchener grafting without needing to look up the instructions. And yet, there are a lot of things that I know I am doing wrong. Worse, I just can't stop doing them that way!

This came up recently with my project that had a lot of stripes, thus a lot of color changes, thus a lot of joins and ends to weave in. There are at least four or five "right ways" to do this, including spit splice, Russian join, and the fold-back method. 
But did I do any of them? No I did not. After practicing each in turn, I gave up and fell back on the way I always join yarn: I make a small, tight square knot, then weave the ends in vertically. There is so much wrong with this method, I can barely bring myself to talk about it.

Getting crafty with acorns

It’s that time of year!

Around noon every day, my daughter and I go outside and enjoy the weather for a couple of hours. This is one of my favorite things about homeschooling—we learn at her pace, and we never have to miss a gorgeous day. Today she took a bowl to our oak tree and collected a heaping bowl of acorns for her “potions lab” we built for her outside.

Acorns are such a fun fall find! Not only do they nourish our squirrel friends and provide seedlings for mighty trees—they also provide fun craft ideas. Here are a few things we have done with acorns that are so much fun!

The many uses of a pumpkin

Carving is only one pumpkin craft. There are many more.

I love fall and seeing pumpkins everywhere I go. Perhaps its their vibrant orange color, or the fact that they signify cooler, more comfortable weather with upcoming family holidays. If you love pumpkins as much as I do, you may want to use them for more than just carving. Here are a few more uses for your fall pumpkins.

1. A painting craft for younger children. Younger kids shouldn't be allowed to carve pumpkins, but you don't want them to feel left out. Giving them a set of paints to create a face for the pumpkin is a good compromise. This year my daughter painted an Angry Bird face on hers.

2. To hold your the stuffing for your family dinner. After you clean out the inside of a small pumpkin, you can bake it for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees without the lid. Next, fill it with your favorite stuffing and cook another half an hour or so with aluminum foil covering the opening to the pumpkin. Serve hot. Tip: I love to use chicken broth instead of water when I make my stuffing.

Joining new yarn

So many methods, so little time!

I recently embarked upon a project with a truly insane number of yarn joins. Stripes: my nemesis. I love stripes, they are so pretty and fun to color coordinate. But every time you change a stripe, you have to join the yarn. And with a scarf, you really notice every single wobble along the edge, so you want to be sure to do it right.

I spent a lot of time researching join methods. There are so many! Here's a sample of just a few of the more popular methods.

Pumpkin paper plate craft for kids

Perfect for a rainy fall day.

I love fall. My kids love the pumpkins and the colored leaves best. I try to always have one craft on hand for my kids to complete on a cold rainy fall day when there just isn't anything else to do. Of course, it is also a great excuse to make a pot of hot cocoa complete with marshmallows. While we sip on our cocoa, we make a craft. This week's craft is a paper plate pumpkin.

To make your own paper plate pumpkin you'll need the following items:

  • Newspaper
  • Paper plate
  • Orange paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Yellow construction paper
  • Glue
  • Leaves
  • Stick

Choosing colors for your knitting project

Rules of thumb to help you decide.

Whenever I have a project go off the rails, I always take extra care to perform a post mortem. I know the natural inclination is to just cram the thing in the back of your closet and pretend like it never happened. But before you do that, it can be very helpful to spend some time giving honest consideration to what went wrong and - most importantly - how to avoid that problem in the future.

In the case of my latest project, it involved stripes, and I decided to choose the colors as I went along. And it did not end well.
Now there is this theory floating around that you can just randomly choose colors out of a basket and it will all work out great. In my experience, that is a quick recipe for a disaster. As near as I can tell, that method only works when you spend a lot of time choosing which colors to put into the basket in the first place.