Birdseed Valentine

This craft is not a new one, but we were inspired to make it because it was featured in Bridget’s Highlights magazine. I liked the idea that we were making Valentines for the birds, although you could make any shape that you wish, we made hearts.

1.  Cut out a cardboard heart, punch a hole in the center and thread it with a ribbon (we used pipe cleaners.)

2. Spread the heart with peanut  butter or vegetable shortening on both sides.  I let the kids start it, but I finished it.

3.  Coat both sides with birdseed.  I had a large bowl which perfectly held the heart without it touching the bottom, which made it easy to sprinkle and then flip it over, while limiting the mess. It did make quite a mess though, so do this craft the day before you mop the floor.

4.  We made three birdseed hearts, but I hung each one up outside immediately after each one was finished.  For the last one, I let the kids come with to hang it up.

5.  Now hopefully Those Darn Squirrels will let the birds have it!!








Gumdrop Wreath

I first made a gumdrop wreath in college.  It was an idea from a Martha Stewart magazine of course.

It was actually quite fun to do with my kids.  Bridget is 4-1/2 and was able to really help.

We used small cutters to cut the toothpicks in half (it would be quite difficult to break in half as suggested by MS.)

It is important that you use the round larger toothpicks because the small flat kind are not strong enough to hold on the gumdrops, which are a heavy candy.

It is also important that the point end of the toothpick go into the wreath.  If you use the end that you cut, it does not grip the styrofoam.

We are celebrating advent this year by using both the traditional advent wreath with five candles and a Jesse tree.  Each night we light our candles and remember what each one represents and then we hang our ornament on our Jesse Tree (or in our case faux white branches from C&B.)  The children get to eat a chocolate gold coin while we read the corresponding scripture for each ornament to remind us that God’s word is sweet and worth more than gold (and to get them to sit still.)  I am excited because even though they are young (two and four) they completely understand that we are getting ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus and that he came to bring light in the darkness.

While we still have fun with the spirit of Santa, Paddy is expecting a baby Jesus to show up Christmas morning.  Speaking of Paddy, he took me by surprise and completely potty trained himself recently.  He also had his first haircut. The  picture below  will explain why I finally had to do it. . .

DIY: Lego Table

My children have just recently started to play legos.  Paddy got some duplo blocks for his birthday and in September I discovered a box of Patrick’s legos from when he was a boy and the kids immediately started to play with them.  Like most moms, I have a love/hate relationship with legos.  I love the time and creativity children use when playing with them, but I hate “the dump.”  I got very tired of constantly picking up and stepping on legos in Bridget’s room so I decided we should move them to the basement playroom, so if they get dumped, I don’t need to pick them up immediately.

Our neighbors have this really cool lego table.  It is now $120, but when I priced it out a month ago it was$160, and I just did not want to spend that much on a lego table because while my kids enjoy playing legos, they are not lego crazy.  I figured there must be some sort of DIY table out there, given that it is just more or less baseplates glued to a table.  I found this great one from skip to my lou.  We bought the kritter table instead of the lack from Ikea, and used liquid nails instead of spray adhesive, which also was much easier.

We did a slightly different layout too, making roads down the middle, which neatly divides the table into four different building areas, so everyone can have their own space with boundaries.

The final cost of the project was $60.  The baseplates are pretty expensive and they were $35 alone.  We bought a more”expensive” table by Ikea standards, which upped the cost and the liquid nails was $5.  The big downside is it does not have the nifty storage that the other table had.  It wasn’t that difficult to make if you are a marginally crafty person, but again is it worth another $60 to get the drawers and not have to do it yourself – maybe.  Paddy totally noticed it did not have the drawers and asked where they were.  I think I may make or buy some mesh drawstring bags that I could attach to the side of the table for storage, but for now we have the bin that dumps.


For those we love that live far away, my children in their Halloween costumes:

BTW- Paddy refused to wear his adorable rocket ship costume on Halloween so we put an Argentina soccer jersey on him and went with it.
Bridget lost her ninja mask at zooboo because she kept taking it on and off and refused to wear her ninja weapons on Halloween, she was a peace loving ninja.


it may not be cheaper to make your own cushions. . .

I made a bench cushion for my 81″ long bench in my kitchen.  Cushions always seem to be expensive, so I made my own.  The foam alone was well over $100 and that was with a 40% coupon.  The foam is a petroleum based product which accounts for some of the cost, but foam is just expensive.  Then I purchased 3 yards of sunbrella fabric so that it would be easier to clean.  I spent about $200 on just the materials, and I still had to make it!

I used an envelope method (where it overlaps in the back)  that my sewing teacher taught me in Oak Park.  It is easier and quicker than a zipper pillow. My first cushion I made was for my outdoor bench:


I made the cover too big and had to buy another piece of foam to put in it so that it would fit.  Fortunately, I had purchased 2″ foam, so that the final product was a nice comfy 4″ cushion.  for my Kitchen bench I purchased 4″ foam to start with, so I had to measure very carefully to make sure it was the correct width and length.  I did have to rip out one seam, but overall it went much smoother this time around.

My bench seat is 19″ deep, and the fabric had enough width to it that I could simply finish both ends, and there would be enough to wrap around the width of my cushion and leave a nice overlap in the back.  I then added 4″ to the 19″ to account for the height of the foam and folded the fabric so that it would have the appropriate width after it overlaped.  I then sewed up one end and boxed the corners. This is a good link from Craft Apple on how to box corners.  It is the final end that you sew that is so tricky.  I had to double check my cushion length and again add the 4″ to account for the height of the foam.   I sewed the seam and boxed the corners again, and viola, a very expensive homemade cushion!

This is the underside so you can see the seams, boxed corners and how the envelope opens in the back.

Just some random cuteness.  I found my children sitting together on the same chair (not using the 6 foot long cushion I just made!)

also, anyone remember Shirt Tales?


fall yumminess

I am loving this beautiful fall we are having, and I am finding myself making the two below recipes multiple times each week.

The Chai recipe comes from a dear friend from Oak Park and I love how my kitchen smells when I make it.

Chai recipe

4-5 cinnamon sticks (each 3″), broken
1 vanilla bean, split in half or 2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 whole nutmeg, coarsely chopped
6-8 cardamom pods (1 teaspoon whole seeds may be used)
3 whole star anise, roughly broken
2-4 tablespoons finely shredded ginger (I use 1 teaspoon ginger powder)
3 black peppercorns, bruised
3 whole cloves
pinch of sea salt
6 cups filtered water

place all ingredients in a stockpot and bring to a boil

reduce heat to low and simmer for 25-30 minutes. strain through a fine strainer or sieve. If there is a lot of sediment try straining through a strainer or sieve lined with cheesecloth.  The brew may be simmered longer to reduce volume and concentrate flavor.

Note: the spices may be used again for a second batch, reducing the water by half

Makes 1 quart

Chai Tea

2 cups chai spice concentrate
2 tea bags (green, white or black tea)
2 Tablespoons honey
2 cups milk of your choice

In a saucepan, bring the chai spice concentrate to a boil and turn off heat.  Steep the tea bags in the concentrate for 3-5 minutes.

Remove tea bags and squeeze out any liquid into the tea. Stir in honey to taste, add milk.  Warm over medium-low heat until piping hot.

caramel sauce

1 cup sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream

in a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and 1/3  cup water over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes.

Using a pastry brush, coat the walls of the saucepan with water to melt any sugar on the sides.  Increase the heat to high and cook, undisturbed, until amber-colored, about 5 minutes.  (I let it cook longer until it is more burnt, for more of a burnt caramel taste).

wearing oven mitts, slowly stir in 2 tbsp cream, 1 at a time. Using a wooden spoon, stir the remaining cream into the caramel.  Cook, stirring over low heat until combined, about 3 minutes.

This recipe goes great with freshly picked apples.  Apple picking is on of my favorite fall family traditions.  Our orchard of choice is Stuckey’s (which is where my parents took me when I was a child).  We also plan on checking out Tuttle’s this year after I run the Indianapolis mini marathon at Fort Ben in two weeks. . .

a lost month

Time has a way of always moving forward even when your life seems to stand still.  August came with many changes for my family.  Some happy and others incredibly painful.  It is hard to believe how much can change in just one month.

As we prepare to say goodbye to August and unofficially  start fall, I want to remember that we did make it to a beach this year, even if the water wasn’t salty.  It never feels like you had summer if you don’t spend some time at a beach.


Both of my children are now in preschool.  Bridget goes three days a week for pre-k and Paddy goes one day a week to mother’s-day-out.

Today was the first day they both went to school for a full day.

I felt both elation at having a day to myself for the first time in 4-1/2 years and also that pang in your heart knowing that your babies are no longer babies.

I am using the first six Wednesdays that they are both in school to take a beginning class in upholstery at ModHomeEc.

This is the chair I am going to paint and recover.

This is how the chair looked after our first class. The first step is to remove the existing upholstery and I sanded the chair down so I can paint it.

So as something ends, something also begins.

not a box

It is NOT A  Box, it is a choo choo train


My children love to play in boxes, today we made a train out of diaper boxes that I have saved.


Happy news, three dearest cousins no longer live 5000 miles away!

We celebrated their arrival back to the States with a hot tub party and lemonade!


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