Chalkboard Labels on Jars

June 8, 2012

Chalkboard paint on jars makes cute labels -- from World of JulieSometimes, when life gets completely messy or disheveled, I just need to take one thing, one small thing, and organize it. We had a big fruit-and-nut area that tended to be a mess of Trader Joe’s bags clamped shut with clips. I spent 20 minutes one day putting everything in jars. And then I remembered something I had seen somewhere, something about painting on chalkboard paint so you can make labels.

This makes me so happy. I followed the directions on Instructables (make a square on the jar out of blue painter’s tape, paint on chalkboard paint, peel off tape when the paint’s dry and razor off any paint that feathered). It honestly didn’t take that long.

And so pretty!


CATEGORIES: crafts, housekeeping

Sewing School

November 21, 2011

This, my friends, is what homeschool is about for me. I can pick an activity that interests us all — learning to sew — and we can spend days and days figuring it out. We got this great book called Sewing School: 21 Sewing Projects Kids Will Love to Make by Amie Plumley and Andria Lisle, which broke things down very well for us beginners. It was very, very satisfying to have the boys learning a running stitch and both saying, excitedly, “I’m doing it! I’m really doing it!”

From there, Henry has been methodically working his way through the book (needle book, pillow, superhero cuff), while Eli is making up his own stuff (sleeping bag for Soup, backpack for his stuffed animal Puppy). When we went to the fabric store to get supplies, I suddenly heard Zuzu gasp, and there was a bolt of the same fabric that her sleepy bunny is made out of. So of course we had to get some, and are working on making sleepy bunnies for her dollies.

CATEGORIES: crafts, homeschool

70s Craft Revival: God’s Eye Weaving

March 18, 2010

A few Sundays ago, Henry suddenly looked up from his close examination of my childhood copy of Steven Caney’s Playbook and announced, “I want to try God’s Eye weaving.” Well, he was just lucky enough to catch me in a good mood, and to want to do a craft we had all the supplies for (sticks from outside + yarn). This was definitely the type of craft that required frequent parental intervention (mainly when adding a new yarn color) but both boys could do the weaving part all by themselves (though it took poor lefty Eli a lot longer, because we kept showing him how to do it right-handed…once he started doing it left-handed he did a much better job).

I’m sure you all did this during the long summer of 1978 or thereabouts. The how-to part will come right back to you (basically: get two sticks, make an x with them, secure the x with yarn, wrap the yarn around and over each stick). The boys were super proud of their creations, and Eli hung his over his bed to keep away evil spirits (though Dave and I were slightly concerned that the God’s Eye was going to fall on Eli in the middle of the night) (but apparently the good spirits have thus far prevented that from happening).

Notice Eli’s bed? And the nice setup? (And make sure you notice the awesome painting by our fabulous neighbor Brian.) More tomorrow on how this particular little haven is soon to go away.


CATEGORIES: activities, crafts

Multicolored crayon blocks

July 30, 2009

Another summer jar activity: make multicolored crayon blocks out of runty crayon remnants. I saw it in Scholastic magazine. You all should do this today; it took no time at all and the kids thought it was magic.

First take all your little stupid crayon bits, and put them in a muffin tin. Oh, no wait, first preheat your oven to 350. Then put the crayons into the muffin tin. The crayon bits should all be about the same size.

Put the muffin tin in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes, until the crayons are melted. Put the muffin tin on the counter to cool for half an hour, then stick it in the freezer for half an hour. The crayons will shrink in the freezer, plus will get properly hard, and will just pop right out of the muffin tin. Magic!

Emily will note that Eli is pantsless.


CATEGORIES: activities, crafts

Knitting finally calls me back with its siren song

July 16, 2009

Our library had a “learn to knit” program last week, and Henry got it into his head that he wanted to go. Though it is possible that I made it sound extra enticing. It’s been years since I’ve knit, and it used to be a daily occurrence (I even made up a pattern once and got to be in a book). Why did I stop? Kids and life encroach on time, I suppose. Anyway, so we went to the library program, which was packed with people (hurray!), which meant we were pretty much on our own while the knitting teachers ran from person to person, instructing. The boys each picked out yarn and got a pair of needles (which they got to keep!), and then I helped them cast on, and started them knitting. They didn’t get it right away (and Eli, being only 3, didn’t really get it at all, though I think he’s close, honestly). Henry will get it with practice. What did happen, though, is that, as I was showing them how to knit, my body kicked into some sense memory meditation thing, and it was like eating a cookie my grandmother made or something. It became difficult for me to give Henry his knitting back.

One thing I did immediately realize is that another reason I stopped knitting is that, when children aren’t acting like dogs, they’re acting like cats. Zuzu kept batting at the yarn and trying to remove the needles from the knitting. I threw her a ball with a bell in it so I could keep knitting (kidding).

We got two knitting books out of the library that day: Kids Learn to Knit and Knitting New Scarves. At home, I started standing in the corner when I was supposed to be cleaning, leafing through Knitting New Scarves (like it was Twilight or something! Sheesh!) and fantasizing about what I was going to make. I decided on one with holes that you then knit in a contrasting color, and took myself out to the shed, where all my knitting things were waiting, to see what size double-pointed needles I had (knowing full well I’ve got most every size). In the shed I found an unfinished sweater, two started scarves, an almost-done pair of socks, and the beginnings of a dishcloth. And so I have forbidden myself to buy any new yarn until I finish those projects. I packed one of the scarves and the sweater into my beautiful Knitter’s Review tote (thanks, Clara!), and brought them into the house, where they are being worked on post-kid-bedtime.

One thing I love about knitting is that it offers tangible results in this world I live in, this parenting world where I may not be able to measure success for ten or twenty years. It’s nice to be back to it.


Camp Jar

May 29, 2009

I am completely drooling over the Family Summer Center featured on Craft. The basic idea is to have a family camp of sorts, and to plan out your summer activities. I love the organization and the planning, plus the beautiful crafty calendar center. The thing is, though, I totally don’t have time to put something like this together. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized we don’t really need anything this involved.

I use Goodreads to keep track of my books (the Craft thing has a section for books you plan on reading over the summer), and while I love the thought of a three-month calendar where you can see everything that’s scheduled, we have all kinds of calendars (including a good one-month one that lives on the fridge and gets updated frequently). I think the most important part of this, to me, is the pile of planned goals and activities.

Since we have somewhere around a million jars, I got a jar and a cardboard envelope from the recycling, and wrote a whole bunch of potential activities onto cardboard strips. Here’s what I came up with, in about ten minutes:

I started to realize that pretty much everything I was listing was a very mom-centric activity, and while I do of course want to spend time with my children, I want them to do plenty of independent time too. So I think the plan will be this: every morning we’ll pull one thing out of the jar, and that will be our morning activity. The afternoon will be for free play. That way we’ll all get moving, and it will give the day some structure, so we don’t suddenly realize that it’s 2:00 and everyone is still in pajamas (not that there’s anything wrong with that, really, but it’s nice to know you did something at some point during the day). Plus I’m hoping that the morning activity will inspire the independent play for the afternoon, like if we go for a walk in the woods in the morning, they can gather sticks for a craft or pretend to be birds or something.

My other major thought here is that if we pick out, say, cookie baking, that we’ll pick a new cookie recipe and learn a bit about where it comes from, and also continue our food chemistry lessons. Or if we go for a walk in the woods we’ll identify some trees and birds.

From now until school ends, I’m going to add items as actively as I can, and hope to get 60 or so by the beginning of summer. Any ideas?

My other task will be to make up a big list of home improvement goals for the next few months, both so Dave and I can have a tangible list hanging in the kitchen to look at, but also so the kids (even though they can’t read), will have a notion of what it is we’re doing what with the table saws and pneumatic nailers and all.


How to Craft Mini Wreaths from Junk You've Got Lying Around the House

December 16, 2008

I really like having a wreath on the front door at Christmastime. But am I the only one who finds it doesn’t work so well in practice? It always seemed like it was banging all over the place and that I would get impromptu cornea surgery via pine needle whenever I tried to come in holding a baby and some groceries (which is roughly 98% of the time).

But, we do have these lovely sidelight windows on either side of our front door, and for a while I’ve thought that they would look pretty with wreaths. Of course, though, it’s not that easy to find a five-inch wreath. As often happens with crafts around these here parts, I got a germ of an idea in my head, and started looking around at random junk we had lying around, and pretty soon I was able to come up with all the parts and pieces we needed to make mini wreaths for the sidelight windows. You certainly don’t need sidelight windows — mini wreaths would look great in a row in any windows on your house.

Here were the materials I gathered:

  • one old bent tomato stake that had been used by children as a weapon in the backyard (a wire hanger would also work just as well)
  • pine branch that fell off our Christmas tree when I brought it inside (oops!)
  • wire cutters
  • floral wire
  • red ribbon (ok, I did buy that)
  • suction cups from a plastic container in the bathtub that holds some bath toys…the boys always rip it off the wall to play with the container as well, and so the suction cups just sit on the wall by themselves
  • stapler
  • scotch tape

Here is Henry with all the supplies.

First we straightened out the tomato stake, measured it, and cut it in half. Then we bent each half into a circle. (Note to Eli: underwear first, THEN pants.)

We cut the tree branch into pieces 3-5 inches long, and cut the floral wire into pieces about 4 inches long (the boys had the most fun cutting up the floral wire). Then we just slapped the branch pieces onto the tomato cage circles, securing them with the floral wire. Remember to make the branch pieces right-side-up (i.e., with the tops of the leaves showing).

Here are our two finished wreaths. One branch was plenty for filling both of these (the bonus of making mini wreaths is that you don't need much pine). I filled them as best I could and then used leftover branch bits to fill in any areas that looked sparse. It's a pretty casual affair: the tomato cage and floral wire are both green, so they blend in nicely and you don't have to get crazy anal about covering everything.

The back of a wreath.

I measured the sidelight windows and figured out how long the ribbon would have to so that the wreaths would hang in the middle of the window. I cut two pieces (one for each wreath) that were twice that measurement, and looped each piece through the middle of a wreath. Then I stapled the ends together to secure it.

I made a bow shape out of another long piece of ribbon. Here I've secured it with a staple, but don't do that. I ripped the staple out right after I took the picture because it was holding the bow at a funny angle.

I took a 2-inch piece of ribbon and wrapped it around the center of the bow. I used a piece of scotch tape to hold that together on the back.

Stick a piece of floral wire through the back of the bow's center piece, and then thread it through the long ribbon that is attached to your wreath. Then, wind it some more around the suction cup.

Stick the suction cups on the windows, and you're done!

This entire thing took less than an hour, and that was with copious kid “help” and distracting loud Christmas music playing. It’s several days after I made them, and they haven’t fallen apart yet, which is a true sign of craft success here at World of Julie.


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Anatomy of a Craft on World of Julie

December 3, 2008

1. Read a post at Maya Made telling me to save toilet paper tubes for some sort of advent calendar project. While waiting for her to announce what her project is, I come up with what I think it will be.

2. Maya reveals her project, which is not what I imagined. (Predictably, it’s a much better idea.) The one thing I like better about my idea, though, is it doesn’t require me to buy little things (or, come up with some sort of little something) to put into the tubes. I’ve seen a lot of really cute advent calendars this year, but each of them seems to require some kind of small giftie or sentiment to put in a pocket each day. I’m trying to reduce the amount of little bitsinesses around here, not add. We already have enough confetti-like scraps littering the floor.

3. Force my mom to do my craft idea for me the day after Thanksgiving. Here are the boys with many toilet paper and paper towel tubes, cut into 1-inch or 1.5-inch tubes. Eli makes a horn. Next they are going to wrap each little tube in wrapping paper and then glue on a number from 1 to 24. My mom is happily game and does this while Dave and I install new windows in our bedroom (winter’s a’comin!).

4. Not adequately describing my Artistic Vision, my mom puts the calendar numbers onto the little tubes sideways. Not her fault. Especially since she finished the project even though the boys were so totally not into it any more and had long ago abandoned her to do other things.

5. In a fit of extreme anal retentiveness, I rip off all the wrapping paper my mom glued on because it wasn’t perfect. In a fit of not-helpingness, Eli takes the ribbon upon which we are to string the advent calendar tubelets, and cuts it into little pieces. After I had just said not to cut up the ribbon because we needed it fr our important project. I throw a hissy fit and dump all the denuded tubelets into the recycling bin.

6. On Monday, Eli asks me roughly 70 times, “When’s Christmas?” and so I decide to try again on the project. This time, however, I do it all myself. If you are going to be fussy about a project, and your kids don’t care, and, truly, no one else cares, then for heaven’s sakes don’t subject them to forced projectitude, just do it yourself.

7. Wrap each tube bit in wrapping paper. You should have 24 tube pieces. I had three types of wrapping paper, so eight tubes per wrapping paper design. I used Mod Podge for the first time to glue on the wrapping paper. I’ve heard so much about it for so long and I kept expecting to have some sort of decoupage epiphany, but it sure seemed like a big expensive container of Elmer’s to me. What am I missing?

A funny thing about the wrapping paper: a few weeks ago I was in Target and decided to get Christmas wrapping paper so that task was all taken care of. They had tons of wrapping paper, and I was delighted to find exactly what I was looking for. They had wrapping paper that was all attractive and designy and was exactly the look I wanted to convey in wrapped presents, if I’m going to think too hard about it. And then I came home and there, on the cover of the Target toy catalog that we’d had kicking around the living room for about a week, were gifts wrapped in exactly the same three wrapping paper designs I’d bought. So I’m just a big ball of marketing goo, apparently.

Also, shockingly, I am getting absolutely no money from the producers of “Four Christmases” despite my obvious product placement above.

8. Spend roughly two hours wrapping not even half the little tubes. Why did it take so long? I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that I was trying to do it at 4:30 when everyone was all hungry and tired after our first day back on schedule after Thanksgiving vacation. Wonder why we can’t just start an advent calendar on December 15 so I don’t have to do so many little tubes. Give up. Consider pitching the whole project. Again.

9. Have a burst of let’s-get-it-done-edness while Zuzu takes a massive nap. Wrap all 24 tubes in wrapping paper, glue on little numbers. Take all the ribbon bits that Eli cut up and knot them together (because I’ll be damned if I’m going out and buying more new fancy Christmas ribbon for this dumb project).

10. Eli helps me put the tubeys into glass containers, which we put on the mantel. We string up the ribbon. It turns out to work much better with the knots in it, because it’s easier to keep it tied to the glass containers, and also keeps the tubes from shifting around too much.

I have to say that this whole thing looks way better in the photos than it does in real life. Remember this: maybe half the stuff on those crafty blogs looks kind of crappy in person. You are all welcome to do this little craft, but, frankly, I don’t recommend it. Maybe if you have nothing better to do when you are up late watching television and drinking wine. A lot of wine.

Happy Advent!

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Just doing the normal boring quintessential crafts here at World of Julie

November 25, 2008

Sometimes I get fixated on some kid craft that I feel like we have to do, or we’re not properly celebrating the season or whatever. Last year it was a gingerbread house (stay tuned next month, I’m sure another one is in the works, against my better judgment), this year it was peanut butter birdseed pinecones. I bought the cheap peanut butter and birdseed weeks ago, and the pinecones have been collecting on our picnic table, blowing around in the wind, and carefully being regathered on the picnic table by me. No one cared. Henry sort of seemed into it, but it wasn’t what he wanted to do when he got home. (more…)


CATEGORIES: crafts, Eli, Henry, Parenting

Let's Try Living in the Moment

October 17, 2008

Yesterday I was feeling guilty that I’m not doing things like making spider webs with the kids, or fun tree art, or even educational word rings. And suddenly it hit me, why the hell am I not doing these things? Of course I want to be a mom who does fun crafts with her kids. What happened? Well, part of it is that, when you have three kids, the time allotted for non-kid tasks, or even house maintenance tasks, shrinks dramatically. So I am either reading them books or rushing around vacuuming or cooking or calling roofers. The end result, though, is that I am focusing on exactly nothing and living life as a multitasker (and me, someone who hates multitasking).

So suddenly yesterday afternoon I decided to stop. If I’m going to have Eli home with me, I should at least be teaching him more than how to call contractors or how to watch mom do schoolwork on the computer. I need to remember to Be Here Now. (I’m also hoping the byproduct of this will be better sleep. Maybe they’re not sleeping well because they don’t get good time with us during the day, so they try to get parental time during the night?) Eli and I gathered leaves. Henry, Eli, Miranda and I made cookies (Miranda is Henry’s best friend, not a random extra kid I added) (well, she actually is an extra kid I love to add all the time because she keeps Henry happy, but she’s not my own kid). Henry and I did rubbings with the gathered leaves. And you know what? I got more done. I folded a ton of laundry, made dinner, and picked up more than I usually can.

I’m embarrassed it took me so long to get back to this. I think with three (or even two) kids, you can spend a lot of time running around doing nothing in particular. I’ve heard a million times: “Who cares if your house is a mess? Pay attention to your kids.” The fact is that I care if my house is a mess, and a chaotic house tends to lead to chaotic child behavior. But yesterday’s experiment might mean that if I include the kids, really talk to them, and focus on whatever I’m doing, things will get done. Stay tuned. It’s possible this plan will send me right out of my gourd, but it’s so crazy, it just might work.