Friday, December 17, 2010

A handmade Christmas, pt. 4

Merry Christmas

We all deserve to give ourselves a little gift every now and then, right? The ugly toy-filled corner of our living room had been bugging me for months. We don't have a play room so the living room is really utilized by the entire family. I've tried my best to keep a balance of kid stuff-vs-adult stuff but slowly the little dude's belongings took over a whole wall. At this point we really didn't own a toy box or shelving of any kind. I wish I had a before picture but, all of his toys were in a small sized tote box that was too deep for him to reach the bottom of (which resulted in him dumping the entire box out 99% of the time). The larger toys sat against the wall on either side of the box.

Last week I was at Shopko, "The Target of the Midwest," and I came across these awesome organizational boxes. I fell in love with them because they are made of recycled magazine pages. They are mainly white but you can see the colored ribbons through them with articles in other languages. And...they were half off! So I bought the boxes and just hoped that I would find the perfect shelving unit at the thrift shops in town.

Five thrift shops later, no luck.

So I stopped by my parents house and demanded that my Dad build me something on the spot.

Well not really... I politely asked him if he could please make me something to hold our plethora of toys. You see, my brother is the amazing carpenter and professional builder in the family. But now he lives in California. My Dad also subscribes to the "keeping it ghetto" philosophy that I belong to. So I knew that asking him to build something for me was a gamble... to say the least. Some day I'll have to make a post of all of the handyman ways my Dad has "fixed" household construction issues. Wow. He is very creative and resourceful. I'll give him that.

Weenie-man sniffing out the new arrival

ANYWAY. He slapped together a four sided long bench for me using some old wood that used to act as a base for one of his sculptures. For payment I made him a huge cup of hot coco with whipped cream and all. And I told him he could count this as my Christmas gift. I wanted something that would be low enough for Lex to safely climb on. Because regardless of the height I knew he would climb it, so might as well make it functional.

Next I took a baby sized quilt that we never use and a thrifted tablecloth and "upholstered" them into a cushion with my staple gun. It sat like that for about a week but something about the yellow/orange tablecloth just bugged me. So last night I layered some old grey curtains on top of the tablecloth. I like it a lot better now.

The second part of my corner makeover involves hanging yarn balls that I had read about at Re-Nest. Normally they are supposed to be homemade lampshades. We already have lamps and track lighting so we didn't need any more light in the room. I used $1 balls, yarn, and wallpaper glue for the project.

Dip and wrap, dip and wrap, dip and wrap

Highly recommend using plastic or a shower curtain during this process. 
Glue was everywhere. 

I didn't leave much of a hole in mine since I didn't plan to make them into lights. I just left enough room to punch the scissors into the ball and cut it apart from the inside. It was pretty easy to fish out all of the pieces. And since I can't stand for any craft to take longer then one day I attempted to hurry up the process and blow dried them. It didn't work. They felt totally dry to the touch but once I popped the ball, they collapsed into a lump of damp yarn. So my number one tip would be to wait at least 48 hours before you pop them. Seriously, it killed me. 

These could easily be made into Christmas ornaments using a smaller sized ball or balloon. They could be made in shades of red or green to decorate your space for Christmas. Anything is possible. Anything. 

And the final results are: 

His new obsession: 
From Goodnight Moon he is telling you,
 "And a quiet old lady who is whispering hush." 

Fully functional, he can pull out the drawers and grab away at his toys. 

And that my friends is how you take two simple ideas and turn them into one long and winding blog post. 

Stay tuned for two more handmade gifts...but I need to make them first... 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Narwhales, Mermaids, and Bees- Oh my!

I've been finding my groove in the land of Etsy. I'm trying to average a new painting every other day. I'm finding it can get pretty time consuming. I'm so thankful that I'm done with school! There would be no way I could have balanced this all on my plate alongside school. It is so nice to look forward to going home, tucking Lex into bed, and diving into my paints each night. Here are my first items from the shop:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Falling Whistles and Living Water

At the start of the advent season this video seemed to be in pretty heavy circulation. I don't know much about the organization, but I think that the video is very well made and has an amazing message. The message in the video is really why I wanted to focus on thoughtful handmade gifts this year. I've never been a huge holiday shopper in the first place but I love knowing that my family will see the tlc I've put into each of their gifts. The facts about the amount of money spent in the US each Christmas is quite staggering. My stocking stuffers for our family will be vouchers for Living Water International.

The only gift I'm spending "real" money on is this whistle. These whistles are part of a movement to build recovery for child soldiers in the Congo. The children are often armed with nothing other then a whistle.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A handmade Christmas, pt. 3

So, I'm not sure if this idea is "handmade" per se but it is easy to make and very personalized. Lots of times I feel like I get stuck in the gift-buying rut of attempting to shop according to people's hobbies. Usually I'm left feeling like the person already has everything related to their hobby. An easy way to get out of the rut is to do some homemade photography using items the person already owns.

By doing a little spy work I was able to take some photos of my friend's "band room" without him knowing it. Then when I printed the photos I just used the Kodak machine at the store to make a preset collage. It was super easy and only took about ten minutes. You don't even have to make the collage yourself, you can keep hitting the "shuffle" button until the photos are in an order that you like. I think the most important thing is to take close up photos of several details of the hobby. Total cost for frame and all $7! Can't beat that.

I think he is going to be very surprised and excited about this gift. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A handmade Christmas, pt. 2

I'm so proud of the amazing find this desk was. I had snatched it up at Goodwill for $5 a few months ago. It has been an eyesore in the living room corner begging for some new paint ever since. This week I finally went and bought the supplies for it and got it loaded into the car. The very same day I logged onto my favorite children's decor site Oh Dee Doh and found that they had written about this exact desk (or a very expensive version of it). It was such a strange coincidence. Here is the post about it:

Here is my gem before: 

And after:

I used chalkboard spray paint that turns the surface into, a well... chalkboard. I've seen this paint used a million times lately and wanted to give it a try. I really like the flat black look it has. 

Plenty of room to draw all over the sides, desktop, and back.

And a little boy's desk is never complete without a robot with a drawer mouth. 

I let him take an early Christmas test drive.
 He thought erasing the chalk was the best thing ever. 

A handmade Christmas, pt. 1

Last year I devoted all of my Christmas shopping to thrift shop gag gifts because we were poor. This year I decided to give myself the same challenge...but they will be meaningful gifts instead. So in the upcoming weeks I'll be showing you all my thriftgift transformations. 


Before I was a mom I used to believe in the idea of nurture over nature. But man, have I been proven wrong. My son hit 13 months and like clockwork he can't stop talking about, mimicking, and pointing to anything with an engine and wheels. On the other hand, my 2 year-old niece practices her mothering skills all day long to her baby dolls. My sister is the most un-girly mom on the planet and I know nothing about cars. So I guess my experiment proves that it is nature all the way.

Anyway, my project tonight is for my niece and her babymama skills. 

Before: $8 Goodwill 

And yes, I'm trying to fool your eye by showing the "before" picture in a bland background with a shower curtain as a backdrop, and the "after" photos on my snazzy black rug. Did it work? 


Just added some grey paint, red painted and fabric details,
 and sewed a little blankie and pillow. Ugly Doll not included. 

The deer is fabric, the rest of the red is painted. 

Lighting is bad on this last photo. I kept getting major glare off of the red paint.
 But I think you get the point. 

 The finished product kind of looks "wintery" to me. I guess it is the color combinations.
 I can't wait to see her face when she opens it! 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Mother/Son Trip of a Lifetime

Twenty days ago I took my son by the hand and waved goodbye to his dad for ten days. The trip came with a 50/50 mixture of pure excitement and pure terror. My excitement grew out of the fact that I knew I'd be seeing friends who I've been dying to see, touch, hug, and squeeze for the past six months. But fear whispered politely in my ear, "You can't fly/live/manage on your own with this biting bundle of energy in tow. You'll never survive. Muahahaha."

"Bye-bye Papa"

We boarded our plane and set off for the Golden Coast. The first day of traveling resulted in 90 minutes of a happy chatty baby, 150 minutes of a sleeping baby, 10 minutes of a restless crabby baby, 4 eardrum splitting screams, one delayed flight, and a very nice retired couple from South Dakota.

From the first moment we arrived at LAX we were surrounded by love. There were old roommates to have coffee with, best friends to have sleepovers with, cousins to play with, relatives to have turkey with, and coasts to gaze at. But best of all, there was a fairy tale perfect (YELLOW!) forest wedding to attend. It was freezing cold and it rained the last hour, but no one even cared because they were having too much fun. Everyone just packed onto the covered dance floor and got cozy with one another. In a perfect world all weddings would have that much joy overflowing from them. 

 Both times I've visited California since we moved away I can't help myself from constantly wondering how our life would look right now if we had stayed. This trip surprised me by how much I was glad that we were no longer living there. Maybe I'm getting old, or maybe my mommy brain is in overdrive, but for the first time ever I was annoyed by the crowds, the traffic, and the grime. I couldn't seem to escape the feeling of "oh-my-gosh-there-are-way-too-many-people-crammed-into-this-space." My beloved dream state no longer seems to fit this season of my life, but I'm not convinced that our current residence does either. Both locations are too extreme. One offers heaps of friends and all of life's conveniences. The other offers clean air and room to grow right along side a stabbing feeling that we are missing something. I wonder if this feeling will ever go away. At some point in our future will we relocate to a spot that feels perfect for us? For the first time in my life I have no long-term goals. So much about our future feels so wishey-washey right now. 

One of the highlights of our trip was a Sunday drive through the Malibu canyons the day after the wedding. Lex napped for the entire drive and I had my Christmas music station tuned it. It was definitely the craziest and curviest road I've ever been on, and one of the most beautiful too. It was a much-needed mental break in the schedule of visits, VISITS, and MORE VISITS. After a night of watching a beautiful couple pledge their love for one another I got to spend the morning with a couple who is still enjoying the cute lovey-dovey stage.


On a related side note: Five days ago I graduated college (!!!!!!). And now I'm really left with the internal struggle of the century. So what now? I don't want to sound full of myself but I think I may have peaked. All I've ever wanted to do was get married (check), have a baby (check), finish school (check), teach dance (check), and live happily ever after (NO check). After eight continuous years of college I finally managed to get enough classes of one category scraped together to form a bachelors degree. Too bad I can't mold all of my extra classes into a lump that is equivalent to a masters....