A Trio of Gifts


For some of the little ones in our family. Three different games using the same materials. Each came in a little handmade bag with other treats. I used Bazzil Chips and Labels from here. As with most of my projects the idea was great. I'd be happy to give a little how-to on these later. The girls loved helping make these.

Annie-Mama we're giving gifts from the heart this year, right?
Me-Yes, Why do you think that?
Annie-Because we are making them.

Really, I just so love that child and the way she thinks.


::Family Bingo


::Family Memory


::Family Tic-Tac-Toe

Advent Blog:Finishing up the year in pictures.


The Advent Blog kinda fizzled out. Projects were done, pictures were taken but posting never seemed to fit in to the whrilwind that is the holiday season. We had a lovely holiday and with lots of visiting with family. I thought I would finish out the year with a few picture posts of all that has been going on around here. I hope you all had a wonderful, peaceful holiday.
Happy New Year.

::the snowflakes

::the cookies


::the peppermint and white chocolate

::the gingerbread (mess)

Advent Blog: Glitter and Glue Part 2


A few years back Annie and I took a walk, collected leaves, acorns and twigs and put together a little fall mobile. It has hung in the kitchen ever since. I always planned to make a mobile for each season, sometimes it just takes me awhile to get things done (you know 3 years or so).

With our little glittery stars we decided to make a winter night mobile.


::a walk in the snow and a good branch


::white paint


::pinecones, glue and glitter


::our glittery stars



::a little fishing line and a winter night mobile

(trying to take pictures of our mobile was not so easy. The sliding glass door gave off too much light or too little light. I tried laying on the table, shooting straight on, etc. The best angle showed entirely too much of my oh so messy house so that was out. Hope you get the idea. And umm, I suggest not trying to string a mobile with one very crazy little kitty in the room.)


Advent Blog:Glitter and Glue



All of my holiday decorations lean more to the red, green and natural. Having two little girlies I figured we really needed a bit of glitter in our decorations. I wanted something easy and cheap that would also work as little gifts. Glittered Stars it was.

What you need.

A spool of wire
A board
Golf Tees
A drill with proper sized drill bit
A tin and a tub with a lid

Use a cookie cutter (or draw your own star) onto the board. Mark the points of the star and drill holes. Stick the golf tees into the holes.

Cut off a length of wire. On our first few stars we used a single wire. They were a bit wonky, we ended up doubling up the wire. You could also use a thicker gauge wire. I was using what we had on hand.

Wrap the wire start around the #1 peg and follow then follow the pattern like a dot to dot.

Pull the tees out and remove the star. Put in a shallow dish and get it all full of glue.

Now put the star into a tub with a lid and add your glitter. Shake it up. (this was the girls favorite part)

Open the tub, ohh and ahh and let dry. Now what to do with all those stars......

Advent Blog: Preschooler Gift Guide


Each year I get a bit obsessive about one gift for the girls. I start looking online to find the perfect version, check prices everywhere and generally get a bit nutty about it. All the research and effort seem to pay off because these are the toys that are played with the most often. Here is a little list of those items.

Maple Unit Blocks
We bought a set of these for Annie's second Christmas. They still get used almost everyday. Any set of blocks is great but you can read a bit about unit blocks here and here.
Shop here, here and here

Kitchen Set


I spent quite a bit of time researching this gift. I really wanted a wooden set and probably looked at every wood set avaliable at the time. In the end we ended up making our own set. It wasn't very hard and I think we picked up all the wood from the odds and ends bin at Home Depot for less the $75. This set has provided hours and hours of play for my girls and it is the first thing most kids hit when they come to play. Boys, girls, 1 year olds, 10 year olds, everyone plays with this. We modeled ours off of this set. You can find all sorts of wooden kitchens in all price ranges. Here are a few of my favorites and if you would like to know how we built our set I'd be happy email you.

If you've got a kitchen your going to need some food.

I would love to have stocked our kitchen with all of the lovely Haba wooden food but we mostly have Melissa and Doug. I like that the Melissa and Doug food has the velcro and can be cut. Many happy hours our spent cutting bread and butter for tea parties. Don't forget the plates and cups, pots and pans.

A Doll House

Boys and Girls alike love to play with a doll house. Any sort of figure set can keep the 2-3 year old set busy for hours. Ours is the Plan Toys house and I think I now I would buy a different set. It is a little hard for the girls to use the bottom part of the house. Look for something that is open all through the front.

If it's in the budget any of these would be lovely heirloom toys...

This, this or maybe a castle

Don't forget the people here, here and here

Other nice wooden doll houses

Wooden Barn and Animals

What toddler doesn't love animals? A nice barn and animals keeps them busy and you get the joy of hearing all those moo's, baa's and meow's.

You can splurge on this or this and don't forget to add these.

A less expensive option is this and this. Which is what we have.

This is enough to get anyone started and to empty your wallet. There are so many options for all of these toys but really these are the ones the girls play with over and over again. I might buy a different version but I would buy each and everyone of these again for the girls and someday when I'm Grandma I will definitly splurge on my grandkids. These were really the big investment toys, next time I will have a list of the other stuff that keeps 'em busy - you know the plastic stuff. We have lots of that too.

Advent Blog: Games


Annie and Maddie have just reached the age where we can sit down and play a game together. I love playing board games and spent many college hours playing cards and all day Scrabble fests. I thought I would share a couple of our favorite games with all of you.

Games for multi-age groups

Michigan Rummy

For the older set

For kids

Cariboo, Balloon Lagoon and Hullabaloo
Guess Who
Animal Yahtzee
Animal Bingo

My Favorite Card Games
Crazy Eights

I'm sure many of these are familiar to most of you, but maybe some are new. I really enjoy any of the Cranium Games and as I was compiling this list it seems there are many highly rated games I have never played. As the girls get bigger I am sure we will become more familiar with all of them.
Do any of you have favorite games to share?

Advent Blog: Enjoying the Season



Our Advent Garland Wednesday was "go to the play museum". I added "or go sledding if it snows." Gotta love the pre-readers.

I find that I still get all giddy for a good snowfall. I rushed in the house tuesday night and tried to wake both of the girls. I was really going to take them sledding at 9:00 at night but they wouldn't budge. We got our fill of snowy fun on Wednesday. The girls are finally old enough to spend extended amounts of time in the snow. We trekked and sledded, tried to build a snow person and ate lots of snow. It was crisp and bright with rosy faced children and cold noses and it was perfect. I'm definitly dreaming of a white Christmas.




Advent Blog: Cards


I signed the girls up for a Holiday Card swap through Kids Craft Weekly. We were given 10 families to send our kid made cards. A little strategic planning and our Advent Garland said we would get to make cards that day.

We clipped some evergreen needles and used red and green paint to make prints. I envisioned lovely little sprays of evergreens dotted with red berries. The end result was a bit more abstract and absolutley lovely. Let's hope the kids in the Dominican Republic, Singapore, Spain, Utah, Ohio, Minnesota, California and the UK are just as pleased.





Maddie only finished one card, the all green one, she insisted on making sure it was all green. I am fairly certain there is some developmental stage for needing to fill the entire page in one color. Not sure anymore what it is, but I was happy to let her develop.

Advent Blog:Garland


Last year we put together a little tree garland with paper rings. It served as our Advent Calendar with little things to do each day.

This year we decided on a tree and star Advent Garland. We still added little things to do each day: cocoa by the fire, read a christmas book, make cookies. Nothing fancy and I made sure to plan out the days so it works with our schedule. I would love to have a fancy mom made calendar, but time was short and anything to keep the girls busy. So cookie cutters for patterns, leftover scrapbooking paper, and a little hard work by Annie a beautiful kid made garland we had.


I love all the backwards numbers.


If ever I was to make a garland I would be sure to find some great inspiration from one of these links.

A Peek Inside the Fish Bowl
All Sorts
Zopeuse's on Flickr
Craft Magazine
My Words
Whip Up
Uncommon Grace
From Kiddley
Family Fun
From Martha more Martha

Hope you all are inspired too.

And so it begins.....


We have already been in gift making mode around here and talking lots about Christmas but the it doesn't seem real until the boxes come up and the tree goes up.


We had a lovely time decorating the tree and the girls were thrilled to find all of their ornaments and hang them.


We made a few changes to tradition this year (very very difficult for me) and moved the tree into the family room so that we could enjoy it more and the girls asked for colored lights instead of my white ones. I decided my raffia garland didn't work with the lights so I picked up some silver and red metallic garland. Definitely more kid than Martha tree and I love it.

Tradition did stick with Annie placing "walnut head" on the tree and the after decorating eggnog and Santa's Favorites Cookies. Yum.


I had big plans to roll out 24 days of Holiday posts with ideas for gifts, crafting, traditions etc. But our Advent Calendar went up a day late and then it was too dark to take a picture.

So that sorta blows the whole 24 days of posts thing but I figure I can still carry on with all of this because you, my loyal readers, are probably not going to come into my room at 2 a.m. crying because I put the advent calendar up a day late and that meant we didn't drink the hot cocoa on the right day and lord if the world doesn't end if you don't do the thing on the 1st advent tree that it says to do. At least I hope you won't. So get ready for 23 days of holiday posts or at least as many as I can sneak in.

Today I Am Thankful



Today I am thankful because in a world that often seems to zoom by in a streak I have a place to find focus. I can be stopped still in the middle of chaos and find order and sense. I can be confused and lost and find direction. I can be lonely and insecure and find warmth and security.


Today I am thankful because I have these two little beacons of sense and sanity. They are my compass and my map. A belly laugh, a hand to hold, a batted eyelash and a hug and kiss to the moon, those are what I am thankful for.

The hubbies not too bad either.

A yummy link


I've been hunting around for some yummy pie/tart/cheescake recipes to make tomorrow for Thanksgiving and came across this wonderfully yummy blog. Such great pictures and recipes.

Just a little something to get your appetite ready.

Storytime 2


Today Annie and I messed around a bit with the photo story and came up with a little cleaner narrated book. Annie spent most of the afternoon making the book and insisting that we put it on the computer. She clicked around and did all the saving of the images and chose the transitions.

I promise not to post one of these everyday. Happy Sunday.



The girls have been working on creating little books lately. I had been thinking of making up a bunch of blank books for them to have at the ready and then I saw this post by Amanda and had to get down to business.

At the same time my sister-in-law was talking about making Photo Stories of her students books. I thought this would be so great since the best part of their books is listening to the story that goes along with the images. I scanned in all the pages of the book and then had recorded Annie narrating.

I did have some trouble converting the Photo Story file so that I could display on the blog. I ended up using photobucket instead of dropshots because dropshots did not like my file.
I think I need to make bunches of these.

Ideas anyone?


I recieved this message from A Kite Rises a bit back

"...hope you do not mind me asking, but have you any ideas on how to make the whole
Christmas experience less commercial and more magical for a teenage lad of 16? I
would be so interested to know what way you keep your family grounded amidst the madness and maelstrom at this time of year"

I have been thinking alot about this and also about christmas with the girls and all of our extended family. I have 5 brothers and sisters, 8 brother and sister-in laws and 15 nieces and nephews (and #16 is on it's way).

In my dream scenario I would make gifts for everyone but not so sure that will happen this year. I am going to try and make as many as we can and we do a lot of picking names and grab bags so as not to overwhelm everyone.

Last year I made little bags for all of my girl nieces (I think I still owe a few of them) and Annie and Maddie chose music for a cd. Annie wrapped each one and handed them all out. The year before we made ornaments for all the cousins. I was so impressed that all of the kids were so excited to receive the little gifts and at how excited the girls were about giving not just receiving.

Santa and his elves are usually very busy making gifts for the girls. See here and here and here.

Some of the ideas floating around are having the girls write books for their grandparents and using snapfish or the like to print them. I would love to sort through all of my grandmas pictures and make a book for her or my mom. That might be a nice project for an older child. I thought maybe that would be a nice present from a teenager, sorting through all the pictures and recording a caption from grandma/grandpa and then publishing it.

For the little ones in our family I was thinking of making a memory game with pictures of the family.

So those are few of my ideas as far as homemade gifts go. I know all of you out there must have some great ideas of your own. So I am opening this up to all of you. Send me an email with any of your ideas on making the holidays special without it being all about the toys. I'll compile them and try to get them up the week of thanksgiving. I think I posted last year about some nice advent calendar ideas and some of my favorite toy stores so I will also link to that.

Have a happy Monday.

Following patterns....

A while back the girls found one of my Japanese craft books. Annie took one look at the patterns inside and asked for some paper and scissors. I told her that she couldn't cut out the patterns. She said "don't worry I am going to put the paper on top and make them." Okay. The girls proceeded to trace every pattern piece in the book and glue together each of the little dolls. It was really a great little project for them, kept them busy for hours, required lots of patience and team work. I think I may have an excuse to get myself some more of these books "Oh, they're for the kids honey." I love that they came up with this all by themselves.






Saving for a rainy day....


Each year we save the change we find around the house to pay for one or two of our museum memberships. This year the time between a full change jar and our membership expiration fell a few months apart. The girls were begging me for a trip to our favorite children's museum but we wanted them to learn the value of saving and waiting. When I thought we were getting close we dumped out the jar, sorted and counted. We were still 20 dollars short. Ughh. Annie did pretty well at counting and making piles of quarters and dimes. She left the nickles and pennies to me. Maddie just wanted to steal all the money.

After a few weeks I figured we had to be close and I really needed a museum trip. So we headed off to the bank so the big machine could do all the counting for us.


The girls carried in their big jars a change, handed them over to the teller and waited. We were 13 dollars short, I kicked in the rest because I really never learned that whole lesson about saving.


The membership is $88 so I had the teller give us 8 tens and 8 singles. Annie has been working on counting by tens and Maddie on ones so it was perfect. No one even had more money than the other. We did a practice run counting out our bills and headed to the museum.


We headed up to the counter, each girl with 8 bills in her hand and they counted. Thanks goes to the very patient visitor services staff and the kind mom waiting behind us who understood the value of what we were doing. We had such a wonderful visit and now when we go to the museum the girls will know that they saved and paid for it. I was so proud of them for tackling the real world of money but even more they were both so proud of themselves.

What are you all saving your change for?

I think the bank staff thought I was a bit nutty taking pictures of them turning in the change. I didn't think saying that they were for the blog would change the whole nutty thing.

Happy Halloween


Goldilocks and Baby Bear hope your Halloween was as spooky as can be.

I was able to borrow Maddie's cute little costume and Annie's chose hers from a picture and pattern in last years fall Cutting Edge magazine. How can you turn down making a costume with knitted golden locks. It's really just a hat with 6 really long strips added to the side and braided. I can now add wigs to my knitting repertoire. I'm off to sleep off my candy coma.

One swings and one climbs


We went to one of our favorite fall festivals on Sunday. They had a set-up for climbing 30 feet or so up in a tree using ropes and a foot ascender. We waited in a fairly long line and watched many kids shimmy up the ropes and some struggle up the ropes.
Maddie took the first turn and was too small to climb but got high enough to take a brave swing over mommies head.


Annie ended up on the tallest rope and was determined to climb to the top. I had my doubts and the man belaying wasn't sure she could even get going. But get going she did. I watched as she climbed


and climbed


and climbed


and climbed


all the way to the top, all the while smiling away. In the end I didn't think we were going to get her down. Who could argue with her after such and accomplishment and such a wonderful of view from the tree.