Dec 19, 2011

Gingerbread house photo cards

Hello my festive little wizards! We're over the pond at the moment. Just beat the jet lag and there have only been three major barfing incidents since we landed, and that, believe it or not is an improvement on last year.

Just popping in to let you know that I've written a post over at Alpha Mom along with printable templates showing how to make these little gingerbread house cards that stand up and have little snap closing doors with photos inside for the holidays, so if you want to print them out and have a go (makes a good grandma and grandpa gift from the kids) then here's the link over to the tutorial.

The other nice thing about this project is that other than the print outs, it uses only a couple of things that you've likely got in your recycling bin, so very easy to pull together. Plus you can equally go freestyle with it if you don't have a printer, or your kids are more into drawing their own thing than colouring.

I hope you all have a lovely winter break with lots of happy family vibes and plenty of custard cream biscuits (Oh, wait, the custard cream biscuit thing is just us, because we haven't had any in over a year and now I need to eat all of them, plus Wensleydale cheese, sausage rolls from Edward's in Conwy and as much fish and chips as is humanly possible)

Fa la la la laaaaaaa, la la la laaaaaaaa! Burp.

Dec 9, 2011

Festive bits and bobs

We're off tomorrow to visit the family back in the UK! Whooo! Can't say I'm looking forward to the long haul flights with more kids than grown ups, but at least these days Carys and Ffion are carrying their own bags, rather than me and Paul carrying both them and the luggage :) Looks like the kids get to leave their shoes on going through security this year too, so that's at least a small change in the pleasant direction. Last year when we did this trip Delyth was inutero and flying whilst pregnant turns the morning sickness dial up to eleven for me, so I'm hoping I'll find this flight a lot easier having her on the outside as well. Anyhoo, besides the blerch of flying,we're really looking forward to seeing friends and family that we haven't seen for a year and introducing them to the wee one. While we're gone though, here's a little run down of links to some of the festive crafts we've done on Filth Wizardry over the years in case a few take your fancy...

From 2010.
  • Massive amounts of morning sickness and no blogging!

From 2009.

From 2008.
For any readers I might have that live in the SF Bay Area, I want to give a shout out about RSV Chrismas Tree Farm. We went there a couple of weekends ago and it was the best place ever! It's a family owned place and all the people that work there are the family and good freinds of the owners and it's just a delightfully chilled out place to be with your family. We'd never gone there before and only made the trip because we'd heard about the swings that they have there. OH MY GOODNESS, the swings are AWESOME! The kids had the best afternoon at this place, eating toasted marshmallows and trying out all the swings hidden around the farm, including a not so hidden utterly enormous swing that puts all other swings on the planet to shame. There are hammocks dotted around the farm and picnic tables and giant xylophones. Really lovely place to be and really lovely people running it too.

These people didn't pay me or give me anything to write about them, I just wanted to share because it was so much fun that I thought my kids faces were going to break from all the grinning! Well worth a trip if you're anywhere near, plus it's right next to Ano Nuevo State Beach, where you can go on a docent led tour of the Elephant Seal breeding grounds. We do that every year and will be going when we get back in the new year because the baby seals will have been born by then.

I'll have another Holiday craft appearing over on Alpha Mom before Christmas, so when that's up I'll let you know. Hope you all have a fabaroo winter break (or summer break if you're on the other side of the sphere) I can't wait to see the kids running up to Grandma and Grandpa's front door and to see the look on mum's face when she finally gets to cuddle Del. Happy Holidays!!!

Nov 22, 2011

Laminated Autumn leaf magnets

There are a couple of ways of preserving fall leaves that I keep seeing popping up on the blogs this time of year. One is painting them with Mod Podge, like Jean does with her daughter over at The Artful Parent, the other is dipping the leaves in wax of some kind (soy/beeswax etc) like here on Autumn Comfort Candles. I was wondering about doing one of these options with the girls, but I was chatting with my oldest daughter's teacher a couple of days ago and she suggested laminating autumn leaves and I started thinking this might make a more useable item for the kids rather than a purely decorative one.

Obviously sealing leaves inside plastic isn't going to give results as natural looking or eco-freindly as the other preservation methods, but I hope that these will last through a good few years of play. My kids would turn leaves made in the other methods into fall coloured dust in no time at all. The other thing about this approach that suits us is that our fridge-freezer is ancient and ugly as sin. Our landlord obviously looked at it's rusty ass and said to himself "no-one's going to want this in their kitchen, but it still works, so I'm not getting rid of it". His unconventional solution was to paint it with the same paint that he used to paint the walls.The result scores a negative eight on the Marthastewartometer. We need pretty things to cover this lumpy magnolia matt emulsion and rust speckled monolith with! Fall leaf magnets to the rescue!

We pressed our leaves in a book for a couple of days, then sent them through the little laminator we have and then cut them out and taped a bit of flexible magnet to the back. You can buy rolls of magnetic tape from craft stores, but we just cut up free magnets that businesses hand out like the Round Table pizza ones that come through the door with tear off coupons attached.

They work like a charm and the kids have been sorting them and making patterns with them. We deliberately walked home along a different road from school this afternoon to see if we could find some yellow leaves to add. Have any of you laminated leaves before? I'm wondering how long I can expect the colours to last before we get photodegredation. They aren't in direct sunlight where they are, so I guess that helps. We'll have to press some flowers in the spring to do this with too!

Nov 16, 2011

Thanksgiving turkey craft over at Alpha Mom

Another crafty thingumyproject for you that I've written up over at Alpha Mom. It's an easy peasy lemon squeezy thanksgiving craft that should help keep the littlies busy at the dinner table and there's a print out template that I made for it too, so pop on over to the post here to see how they are put together (they are made using things that you probably have at home already).

Something that I didn't put in the post over there, but thought that my readers over here would get a giggle out of is the "thankful feather" that Paul drew before he went off to work this morning. Yeah, geek dad is geeky. That's a false colour representation of the cosmic microwave background radiation (including the microwave contribution of the Milky Way, which is the central red part). And Ffion thought it was pretty, so copied it. Definitely keeping those!
Being British rather than American, I've always leaned towards doing generic Autumn type activities around this time of year, rather than specific thanksgiving themed projects, but I was still surprised to find that after eight years of living in the US, this is the first thanksgiving themed craft I've posted about!

We've taken to celebrating thanksgiving by taking a packed lunch to a local forrest. It's turned into a nice tradition for us and one that I look forward to (yeah, it's also nice that I don't have to cook a proper thanksgiving feast. I just have to make sandwiches!) I just looked through some of our old photos from thanksgivings gone by and got all nostalgic. These little people grow so fast!
Hope you have some lovely times planned for next week, even if you aren't from the US and don't have the thanksgiving tradition.

P.S. The turkeys survived most of the day here, even after we had ten kids marauding about the house after school, but around dinner time I found some unfortunate turkey roadkill splatted on the kitchen table.

Nov 11, 2011

Cheapskate cardboard canvas wall display

I know I only just mentioned a couple of posts ago that we still have our leaf rubbing mural from 2009 up in the kitchen, and really this is the right season to have it there too I suppose, but for some reason the urge struck yesterday to change things up a little. Maybe it's because it's getting darker and gloomier out and we are craving a bit of extra vibrance around the house, who knows. It had been a good few weeks since we'd got out the pots of sloppy paint too, and that was a travesty that needed to be put right.

I've got a few of these corrugated sheets of cardboard from inbetween the pallettes of toilet roll at Costco. Actually, I've always got at least a few of these handy, but shhhhhh. We needed something big to fill the white wall space above our kitchen table, so rather than getting the girls to collaborate on one big piece, I thought we'd try a lot of smaller "canvases" that could be put together to make a larger one.

I've always loved seeing posts that other people do where they use proper artists canvases and let their kids paint them and give them to grandparents as gifts or put them up in their own homes, but several factors have meant that we've not gone that route ourselves. Firstly, those lovely stretched canvases are kind of expensive, even if you get them on offer, and especially the larger ones! Secondly, we rent and so putting lots of holes in the walls to hang big things is not really going to happen. Thirdly, and I think this is really the biggest reason, but maybe it's all in my head, is that it seems like a lot of pressure to put on someone. Giving them a canvas. A proper big blank artist's canvas, and saying "go for it. Paint whatever you like". I would have been frozen as a child, torn as to what I should paint, worried that I only had the one canvas and didn't want to waste my chance or mess up what I decided to paint. I think I'd be somewhat like that now as an adult too if you gave me a nice big proper canvas and said I could use it to paint something big for our home.

In an effort to get the effect of having canvases hanging rather than the paper taped to the wall that we've been doing up until now, but not have the kids feel any pressure or have to spend any money, I decided to chop up some of that corrugated cardboard and cover it with butcher block paper for them to paint.

Because we had seven canvases that were all going to be displayed together, I asked the kids if they could explore with colours and shapes, rather than painting people or objects. They were really open to the idea of just playing with the paint, rather than trying to make a representation of something. Honestly, I was expecting a bit more of a push back against the idea of going abstract on this project because both girls are heavily into drawing comic books at the moment, but they always surprise me with the varied directions their enthusiasm allows us to go.

We had a couple of hours in the back yard before the sun packed up for the day and happily, the bairn was very contented to sit and watch her sisters paint, which meant I got a few photos.

Paint, shoot a bow and arrow, go back to painting, it's the creative process right?

Today I put the paintings together to go on the wall by taping two lengths of string to the back of each column of canvasses and tying the strings together at the top. I hung each of the three columns on a single thumb tack, which meant we have this large display with just three teensy thumb tack holes high up on the wall. The cardboard and paper was light enough that we could have hung more from a single thumb tack if we'd wanted to. If our home had stairs then I'd really want to use this method to have artwork all up the stairs.

I have a feeling I'll be making a lot more of these "canvases" in the future, because the children got a kick out of being presented with the various sizes and dimensions to work on, and they could really be free and uninhibited with their painting, because they could see that we could make more easily and very quickly so they could just keep going with it until they felt done. The hallway is likely to get a similar treatment soon I think.

The bright colours in our kitchen came at just the right time, because today was so rotten and rainy and dark that we had to have the lights on in the house ALL DAY! Blergh. I've talked about some of the abstract paintings that the kids have done in the past:

One post about easle painting here
and another one here.

My oldest daughter was especially prolific with these, and I think I was missing the ones we used to have up in the kitchen. They are very proud of how it all looks hanging up like this.