craft verb \'kraft\ to create with care, skill and intention

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Patio Furniture Makeover!

A while back I showed you a sneak peek of a project that, at that time, I hoped to complete and show off in just a few days. So now it's been a month :) Better late than never is becoming my personal mantra!

Some history: About 5 years ago, we were the lucky recipients of a really nice, gently-used wrought-iron outdoor dining set when my sister-in-law bought a new set. After 5 years, however, it was not looking so nice anymore.

A few years back I fell in love with a similar set that was bright cherry red. I came across it at a local plant nursery and I have never seen anything like it again! And since we were going to have to put some fresh paint on it anyway...well, you see where this is going right? A few Several Many cans of Rustoleum Sunrise Red later:

I picked up a drop cloth at Lowe's for about $12.00 and I only ended up using about half of it, so $6.00 for this project. I cut out pieces of the fabric to make cushion covers for the chairs and ties to hold them on. I just made the covers by folding the pieces in half, seaming up the sides (sewing ties into seams along the way), stuffing them and sewing the back closed. I made the ties by making strips into double-fold (not on the bias though) tape and sewing along the edge. Easy peasy.

I got those pads at Wal-Mart. A 2-pack is about $7.00 and I needed 2 packages. Stuffed the cushions, sewed them shut, added a couple of stitches in the middle to give them little tufts and stenciled on designs using acrylic craft paint. Including the cheap stencils and craft paint, the total project cost was less than $25.00 for all 4 cushions. When I shopped Home Depot I found plain beige cushions at $28.00 EACH! Ouch. Even with the many cans of spray paint, this entire makeover cost much, much less than 4 new cushions at a big box store. Woo hoo!

I love it! I hope you're having a great time with summer vacation! If I don't make it back before the weekend, have a safe and fun 4th of July!

Come to Meg's party!
A Little Knick Knack

Check out the party at Tip Junkie's! Literally HUNDREDS of projects!
Tip Junkie handmade projects

Come to Beth's party at A2Z. You'll find lots of great project inspiration plus some awesome pics of Beth's West Virginia vacation ~ gorgeous!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Week in Review - Peru and Brazil

Last week we "traveled" to Peru and Brazil and we had a wonderful time!

We ate FABULOUS food! You will definitely want to try these: Lomo Saltado, Fruit Espuma, Feijoada. Especially the lomo saltado! It is so delish that The Hubs asked me to start making it once a week.

To celebrate the traditional weaving done in Peru, we made woven bookmarks. I used instructions that I found on Craft Stylish. We were about a nickel short of a total project FAIL when it suddenly clicked for everyone and we ended up being successful. My sweet Little CC had a complete meltdown. Fortunately for both of us, I have a little bit plenty of experience with craft-induced breakdowns so I was able to calm her down fairly quickly :)

In honor of the Brazilian celebration of Carnival the kids decorated masks with glitter glue and feathers.

Finally, we spent a little bit of time looking at the globe (I seriously did not realize how huge Brazil is!) and updated the kids' passports. See those little flags at the bottom of the pages? Those are our "stamps" for each country. I found the images on the CIA website (yes, that CIA). They have tons of info on every country and flag. Not TOP SECRET info, silly, just demographics and stuff. And along with the images of the flags they include info on the symbolism and importance of each element of the flags. Very cool.

So now we are heading to Europe. This week we will visit France and Spain. The food alone is very promising :) I hope you all got to spend time with family for Father's Day and that you had a great weekend!


Monday, June 13, 2011

Week in Review - Mexico

We had a great week in Mexico last week! The kids were {mostly} awesome! The activities were fun and the food was sooo delish! Seriously, pickled cactus is one of my new faves. It tastes a little like capers, all salty and vinegar-y. Even the kids loved it - and I wasn't even sure I would be able to get them to try it! I made a "cheater" version of the Nopalitos con Papas because tamales are a lot of fun to make, but they are a lot of work, too! So I just cooked up a package of hash browns with peppers and onions according to the package directions and threw in about a cup of nopalitos toward the end. The kids went nuts for it! For reals! I couldn't believe it. I would still like to try the more traditional version sometime, but some form of this dish will become part of our regular repertoire for sure.

I hope you are all having fun! We are off to Peru and Brazil this week. And you know I'll be sharing about that! Have some fun and do something nice for yourself ~ you deserve it!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Travel Plans

Hi all! I hope you had a great weekend! I am so excited to kick off our week of imaginary Mexican travel. Today, we are going to start working on a papier mache pinata. It takes a little bit of work every day for several days, so if we start today it should be ready to fill with candy in time for our Mexican fiesta at the end of the week. If you want to make a pinata with your kids, you can find great instructions on DLTK's website. There is a wealth of information over there. Lots of craft ideas for every occasion under the sun. So fun!

We're going to keep our pinata pretty simple. I'm going to blow up a 12" balloon to use as our form, then we'll add a layer of papier mache everyday for a few days, letting it dry overnight between layers. Then the kids can have a day or two to decorate it before our fiesta.

On DLTK's website you can also find instructions  for a craft to simulate Aztec pottery. You use paper plates for the base and the kids draw or paint decorations onto them. Awesome! For both the pinata and the pottery craft I had most of the supplies around the house and only needed to purchase paper plates and balloons from the dollar store. Two dollars for a few hours of crafting fun! Not bad!

I picked up a book at the library about Mexican holidays. It's written for kids and has lots of great photos. Plus it gives a lot of cultural information as a background to the different holidays. It has a pretty delicious-looking recipe for Mexican hot chocolate, too. I'm sure we'll be drinking some of that despite the 95 degree temps :)

We'll spend a little bit of time looking at the globe and talking about geography and other basic facts - money, language, and of course food. Then we'll wrap up our week with a Mexican fiesta. I'm going to attempt to make tamales using a recipe from allrecipes. For our side dishes we'll have tropical fruits and Nopalitos con Papas. Nopalitos (cactus) in a jar are in the Mexican food section at the grocery store. I've had them once before and they taste a lot like green beans...yum! For dessert we'll have Tres Leches cake (made from a Duncan Hines mix) and then we'll bust into the pinata.

Can you tell I'm a little excited about all of this? Summer is my favorite time of the year. Having all the kids home can be challenging, I'm not going to lie about that, but we get to have so much fun too! I like for most of the time to be pretty loose and unstructured - the school year feels so scheduled all the time and I often feel that there just aren't enough hours in a day to do all of the things that need to be done. Summer is so different! If something doesn't get done, there's always tomorrow! Didn't make it to the library today? No bigs - we'll just do it tomorrow. Didn't make it to the store today? No prob - we'll have pancakes for dinner. See? Love it!

And I think unstructured time is good for the kids, too. So I don't want to give the impression that this is a curriculum designed to fill every hour of every day. It's more like a framework. I find it helpful to have a few structured activities in my back pocket to fill in the holes when things get a little too loose. So our imaginary trip around the world just gives me sort of a theme to work with to plan a couple of activities a week. It also serves as a fun way to sneak in (Ha! The kids don't even know about this part!) a little bit of learning so the kids don't go back to school in August with mashed potatoes for brains. Plus, let's face it, I'm a geek. If something involves crafting, cooking, and doing some research on the web - count me in.

We would love for you to come along! Feel free to add suggestions!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Passport to Fun

I don't know how much "Toot & Puddle" you guys watch - thankfully I don't have to watch it as much I used to :) One thing I love about the kiddie show though is the little saying "The more places you go, the more you know." So simple, but so true. The more different kinds of places you go and the more different kinds of people you meet, the more you know about the world and the more you learn about appreciating similarities and differences in other cultures. So I have decided to do something a little crazy this summer: I'm going to take my kids on a trip around the world. Okay, I know what you're thinking: "Wow, that envelope budgeting system must be awesome!" And it is...but not quite that awesome. Yeah, we don't actually have the tens of thousands of dollars that it would take to haul our family of 7 all over the globe Brangelina style.

So, we are going to do the next best thing and take an imaginary trip around the world. We will spend time on every continent visiting a variety of countries (18 in all if we stay on schedule - no promises there). The benefit of this kind of journey is that we can travel not only through space but also through time. For instance, I don't know how interested my kids would be in modern Hungarian culture, but I think they will find learning that Hungary was the birthplace of vampire mythology to be very cool indeed. When we visit Mexico we will make a modern pinata, but we will also do an Aztec pottery craft. I am so excited about this and I have been compiling info for months now. We are "leaving" for our first destination next week ~ Mexico ~ and so I have been spending this week getting our passports in order. Our Passports to Fun, that is.

Would you like to join us for all or part of our journey? I will be posting things here, recipes and crafts and such so that anyone who wants to come with can easily do so. If you would like to make passports for your kids to help them document their adventures, here's how I did mine. But first, remember that it's all about having fun! Nothing has to be perfect. This isn't for a guest spot on Martha Stewart or's just about fun things to do as a family.

The very first thing I did was to create 2 documents in Word. You will see pictures of them in the following steps. One is a personal info page that includes a place for me to attach a school picture for each child. The other is an info page for each country we visit. If you would like to use these documents, just email me or mention it in comments and I will be happy to send them to you. Each page will be one quarter page of an 8.5"x11" sheet of regular printer paper, which means that I will be cutting each piece of paper in half crosswise to make 2 pieces that are each 8.5"x5.5". I decided that I wanted my cover to be just a little larger than the inner pages, so I used 12"x12" scrapbook paper (Bazzill Basics in "Admiral") and trimmed it down to 6"x9".

Then I folded each piece in half lengthwise to make my little book cover 4.5"x 6". You want to use something to give you a nice sharp crease at the fold. If you have a fancy bone folder then more power to ya :) Me, I used the flat edge of this plastic camping knife.

I decorated the front with stamps from the dollar bin at Michael's and some gold ink. I discovered (a few days later) as I continued to work with these that the gold ink kept rubbing off on my fingers. I blasted it with a couple of shots of hairspray and that took care of the problem.

This is the country info page. It is printed on the front and on the back.

I cut the pages in half crosswise and then folded them. I used my fancy-pants creasing tool again to make sure the creases were sharp so the pages will lay nice and flat for me. Before we go on, let me say that the most straightforward way to assemble all of this would be to nest your pages together, nest the pages inside the cover, and then staple the whole mess together through the spine. If your stapler will cooperate with you in that method, go for it. Mine wouldn't, so I had to use a different but almost-as-easy method.

Here you can see the personal info page on the left, which will be the first page of our passport. Because I am {50% planning, 50% hoping} to visit 18 countries I used 5 of the country info half-pages. That will actually give us 20 info pages, but I'm okay with having some extras. I nested each of these pages inside of each other, then nested that group inside the folded page for the personal info. Does that make any sense at all? It's very easy to do, but I feel like I'm making it sound complicated. Sorry :)

Open your little booklet to the middle and use a sharp object to poke 3 holes in the crease - 1 in the middle and 1 about an inch or so from the top and the bottom. As you can see, I used my seam ripper. You can use an awl, an ice pick, or whatever works for you.

Get a needle and 30-35" of thread. You won't actually need that much, but it's a lot easier to work with long tails and you can trim it after it's tied off. Thread your needle leaving the thread doubled and do not knot the end. Okay, picture the top hole as 1, the middle hole as 2, and the bottom hole as 3. Bring your needle up (from the backside to the front) up through hole 1. Leave a tail of several inches of thread at the back and hold it with one of your fingers (or a piece of tape if that's easier). Take your needle down through hole 2, back up through hole 3, back down through hole 2, then tie it off on the backside. Trim the tails down to a half inch or so.

This is how the little booklets look at this point. I'm quite enamored with them :)

Now open your cover and smear the whole thing with some kind of adhesive. I used Mod Podge.

I tried a few different ways of doing this, but I'm only going to show you the one that worked best for me. Lay the closed booklet onto the adhesive on the back half of the cover, snug it right up into the crease, then close the cover.

With the cover closed, smooth everything together (that's my $6 brayer ~ woo hoo!) from the front and back sides.

Open up the passport and smooth the front and back covers from the inside. Be gentle, the paper tears easily while the adhesive is still wet. Close it up and hit the spine with your creasing tool one more time.

To make sure they dried nice and flat, I set a phonebook and some weights on top of them for a little while.

Here's what it looks like when you open it up!

Here's the finished passport! They are so fun! This is a pretty long post for a project that was pretty quick and easy. If you want to do something similar but a little less involved, go for it! Your kids will love whatever you do. They don't care nearly as much about perfection as we do :)

Have fun!

Party at Beth's!

Hop on over to Meg's party too!

A Little Knick Knack