Showing posts with label Gifts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gifts. Show all posts

Jun 24, 2015

Tumbleweed Junction's Harvest Apron - a Review

If you're anything like me, you often find yourself outside meaning to pull just a few weeds or check the chickens' water level, only to end up harvesting veggies or fruits or eggs. And, again, if you're anything like me, you struggle with how to carry the food you've harvested so you can get it into the house. I usually ending up putting it in the bottom of my shirt - which I have to hold up to make a sort of hammock. But this just isn't practical - it's too easy to drop the food or have it stain your shirt. I've always thought that to solve this problem, I needed a harvesting apron.

So when Lorretta of Etsy's Tumbleweed Junction sent me one of  her harvest aprons to try, I was excited. No more stained, stretched out shirts! No more dropping tender fruit as I walked to the kitchen! And in fact, I've found the apron quite convenient. I just whip it on as I head out to the yard - just in case I find something I might want to harvest. It's light weight and comfortable, but sturdy enough for anything I might want to harvest in my yard.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of Tumbleweed Junction's aprons. They are made from high end quilting fabric (designed to last!), not the cheap sewing fabric sold in too many chain fabric stores. The sewing is also extremely well done. Honestly, better than I could do - and I've been sewing since Jr. High.

I find the apron works extremely well for light-weight food, including eggs, herbs, lighter weight veggies (like beans and peas), and smaller quantities of heavier veggies and fruits. Recently, a friend brought me some lemons from her out-of-state yard, so I checked to see how well the apron would handle something heftier. It did just fine with probably 1 - 1 1/2 lbs. of lemons, but when I tried to fill the apron up all the way, I found I needed to hold the top of it with one hand, or the lemons would spill out.

Another thing I love about this apron is that people of many sizes can use it. I am currently a size 16 (but heading toward smaller sizes!), and some aprons just don't fit me well. They don't have complete coverage, and/or their strings are too short to tie around me comfortably. But this apron has neither problem - and it also fits my 9 year old daughter! Usually adult-sized aprons are overwhelmingly huge on her. That's not true with this apron. (In fact, she loves the apron so much, she's been doing most of the egg collecting, just so she can wear it.)

Occasionally, Tumbleweed Junction offers this apron in a child's size. Lorretta tells me that if there's enough interest in the child-sized version, she'll offer it more often - and may even start selling mother-daughter matching aprons, too. I'm sure you could contact her via Etsy if you're interested.

Also, Lorretta just began offering a sewing pattern for this apron - both the adult and child's sizes all in one package - so you can make this harvest apron yourself, should you wish. It's a nicely printed pattern, too, with color illustrations and clear instructions.

Overall, I'm loving my Tumbleweed Junction harvest apron.It definitely makes life around this urban homestead a bit easier. To order your own harvest apron, click on over to Tumbleweed Junction's Etsy shop.




Nov 27, 2013

My Family's Favorite Board and Card Games | Best Board and Card Games for Kids

Of all the toys you can buy for children, games are really some of the very best. Children tire of them far less quickly than other toys (assuming they are great games), they last for many years, they can help bring families together (game night is our favorite night!), and they offer a lot of good learning experiences. That's why I'm always delighted when my children receive a game as a gift.

If you're thinking of some new games for your children - or someone else's - here are some we particularly enjoy. All of these games are rated as an A by both my children and myself.

Games for Little People

Busytown
My children, ages 5 and 8, adore this game, and we've been playing it for about a year now. As far as first board games goes, this one is tough to beat. This game features a very large (6 foot) and sturdy game board with a classic Richard Scarry Busytown scene. Just looking at the board is fun for kids, as they see downtown Busytown, the countryside, and even the shore, with all of Scarry's cute animal characters working and playing. The goal of the game is for each player to meet up at a certain spot so they can ride the ferry together and get to the picnic before Pig Will and Pig Won't eat all the food. Along the way, Goldbug may come along and ask players to find as many things (like balloons or fire hydrants) as they can. The more everyone finds, the more everyone can movie forward to the ferry.

Skills required: Simple counting of squares on a game board. I often helped my son with this when he was younger, but if your kids can count well and follow a path along a game board, they can play this game independently. Also, if you have young kids, you know that sometimes competitive games can be a challenge. Busytown is a good introduction to board games in part because players work together toward a common goal.

Age recommendation: 3 (with help) to 8.

Uncle Wiggly
Back in the 1910s and 20s, there were some popular children's stories with a character named Uncle Wiggly. This game was created around that same time, but doesn't require that your children know the original character or stories.* The game board is heavy and beautifully printed. It shows a winding path along lovely scenes - with some unhelpful creatures (like an alligator and a fox) along the way. Each player moves his piece along the board, following directions on a card he's just drawn. The goal is to be the first to make it to Dr. Possum's house for tea.

Skills required: Counting of squares on a board game. Reading isn't absolutely required, although the cards do offer cute little rhymes on them. If your child can read the numbers of the cards and count spaces on her own, she can play this game independantly.

Age recommendation: 4 to 7.


Candyland
This is a classic game every child should own. The goal is to travel along a winding path in Candyland (a place with such fun things as a rainbow bridge and a licorice forest) and be the first to make it to the candy castle. Players draw a card with either one or two board squares of a certain color and move to the nearest square of that color.

Skills required: Children must know their colors and be able to follow a game board path. Children must also be able to count to 2. For players who are new to board games, parental help is required. Otherwise, kids with these skills can easily play this game independantly.

Age recommendation: 3 to 7.


Go Fish

I don't think there's a better first card game than Go Fish. Each player begins with a small number of cards (which most kids can hold in one hand without much trouble). Each player then tries to find as many matches as she can, asking each player: "Do you have a [type of fish]?" Other players either answer "Yes" and give their opponent the appropriate card, or they say "Go fish," and the player asking the question must draw a card from the pile. The player who puts all her cards down as matches first wins.

Skills required: Being able to match alike cards. If children can't read the names of the fish, they can just describe the type of fish, or (when not playing the game) memorize their names. Kids can easily play this game on their own.

Age recommendation: 3 to 8.



Games for Slightly Older Kids (starting at about about age 6 or 7)

Uno
This is a card game everyone in our house enjoys. The goal is to be the first to get rid of all your cards. The game begins with one card facing up in the middle of the players. Each player must then try to remove one or more cards from their hand and put them on top of that card by matching color, number, or function. Things that make this game fun include cards that skip other players, reverse the direction of play, make players draw additional cards, or change the color to any the player desires. There are several variations on this game, so be sure you're just buying the classic card set, as seen above.

Skills required: Children should be able to hold a number of cards in their hands. (Although I have sometimes given my daughter a large egg carton to hold her cards in.) Players must also be able to recognize all colors and numbers. If they can do this, independant play is quite do-able.

Age recommendation: 7 to adult.


Connect 4

The goal of this two person game is simple: Be the first to get four of the same-colored discs in a row. Rows can run horizontally, vertically, or at an angle. Players take turns inserting discs into the plastic game piece to either create their own row or block their opponent's. This is a great game for teaching children to think about other players' strategies. And once your children master playing the game this way, there are directions for making the game different and more difficult.

Skills required: Children must be able to count to four and recognize rows going horizontally, vertically, and at an angle. (If they can play Tic-Tac-Toe, they can play Connect 4.) Once they master these skills, kids can play this game without parental help.

Age recommendation: 6 to adult.


Jacks

A good, old fashioned game of jacks teaches kids motor skills and strategy. There are many ways to play this game, but the most basic is this: A player tosses the jacks on the floor. She bounces the small rubber ball once, catching it while simultaneously picking up one jack. The next time, she tries to pick up two jacks. The next time, three, and so on. This game may be played alone or with 2 players.

Skills required: Counting and motor skills.

Age recommendation: 7 to 10.


Sorry
The goal of this game is to get all your pawns "home" before anyone else. Each player moves forward by drawing a card and moving their pawn the presented number of spaces. Sounds simple - but other players can send you back home, trade places with you, and so on. May be played with 2 - 4 players.

Skills required: Counting. Also, it's important to be able to read some of the cards, because they may actually tell you to move backward so many spaces, instead of forward.

Age recommendation: 7 to adult.


Chinese Checkers

This game board is made with indentations for marbles to fit into. Each player has his own color of marbles and tries to move them forward to their opponant's part of the board. Marbles can only be moved one space at a time, unless your own or other player's marbles can be jumped over. The first person to move all his marbles into his opponant's position wins. For 2 - 4 players.

Skills required: This game tests your child's spacial understanding. Children must learn to stategize their positions to get where they want to go as quickly as possible.

Age recommendation: 7 to adult.

Twister


No game makes my children laugh as hard as Twister. Technically, it is neither a card or board game - unless you can count a large plastic "rug" as a "board." The "rug" has dots of several colors on it. One player uses a spinner to tell the other players to put a particular limb (hand or leg) on a particular color. This continues, with players unable to move a limb from it's former location unless the spinner tells them to. The results are hilarious as kids bend into all kinds of strange positions and get twisted into each other. The winner is the person who is last to fall.

Skills required: Color recogniation and knowing the right from the left.

Age recommendation: about 6 to adult (Younger kids can play, too, but it's much more difficult for little people to stretch across the "rug" to reach the appropriate colors.)

Yahtsee


Technically, this isn't a board game either - but Yahtsee is too fun not to include on this list. Each player rolls a set of dice and tries to get either as many of one number as she can, or combination of numbers. Each play earns a particular number of points and the person who finishes getting all the combinations and gets the highest score wins. Like Uno, there are a lot of variations on this game, so be sure to get "Classic Yahtsee."

Skills required: Basic adding skills, plus an ability to read dice. Parents can help with the adding.

Age recommendation: about 7 to adult.



Be sure to also check out this post about what toys my kids play with year after year after year.

Oct 10, 2012

How to Make a Quiet Book

Seasonal tree quiet book pages, via Serving Pink Lemonade.
One of the projects I'm considering making for my children this Christmas is a quiet book - you know, one of those fabric books with zippers to zip and buttons to button and Velcro to Velcro into neat pictures. At first, I thought my 7 year old daughter was probably too old to enjoy a quiet book, but a quick look around the internet proved otherwise. She will definitely enjoy dressing a little girl in different outfits or making her own fabric Mr. Potato Head.

And trust me, ladies, these books are wonderful for keeping kids occupied in the car, in church, at the doctor's office...The trick is to only let your children play with their quiet books during these special times. If you let them play with their quiet book whenever they want to, the book won't hold their attention for as long.

Happily, you don't need great sewing or drawing skills to make a quiet book. You can find free templates or patterns for quiet books online. If you want to do something more unique, you can also use cookie cutters or coloring book pages - or even paper dolls - as your patterns.

If you Google "quiet book ideas" or search for quiet books on Pinterest, you'll find a great wealth of ideas, from the simple and traditional to the highly creative and detailed. However, here are my favorite pattern templates, for those of us who don't want to invest the time to come up with our own:

* Monkey with colored balloons (a la Curious George), artist's palate (for teaching colors), seasonal tree (see the photo, above), barn, road for little cars, mailbox with letters, numbered flower petals, tennis racket and ball, dress up child, and a jig saw puzzle kite - all over at Serving Pink Lemonade.

* Another road template.

* Simple shapes, including a fish, duck, kite, leaves, squirrel, acorn, crescent moon, and snowman balls with carrot nose, all over at Martha Stewart Living.

* Bible-related, including: the Armor of God, Noah's ark, David and Goliath, Jonah and the Whale, and more at Laura's Thoughts.

* Socks in the laundry.

* Mr. Potato Head.

* "Put your hand in my mitten," telephone, dress a girl, tuck a child into bed, lace a football, zip up a tepee, clock, and more at Modest Maven.

* Shoe tying (plus about a gazillion sample quiet book pages to inspire you).

* Rocket ship.

* Dump truck.

* LED Robot.

* Cooking breakfast.

* Astronaut.

* Forklift.

* Robot and rocket.

Not sure how to go about beginning a quiet book project? Have no fear! There are many tutorials online, including those at:

* Imagine our Life

* Serving Pink Lemonade

* Utah State University Cooperative Extension

* Elisa Loves

* And this YouTube video



Happy crafting!

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Dec 16, 2011

What to Do With Empty Altoid Tins

Over the years, I've used Altoid containers to hold small tool parts (like the bits for my electric screw driver), as a travel sewing kit, and as a travel "first aid" kit. But recently, I ran across some really creative uses for Altoid boxes - and I had to share. Whether you make these as Christmas gifts, presents for another time of year, or just because, I think these are great little projects!
Link
For Kids:

* A mini dollhouse.

* An accordion book shaped like a camera.
Link
* Travel games. Here's a super tutorial, complete with free printables to help you turn an Altoid box into a mini checkers, chess, backgammon, and tic-tac-toe game. Or, choose these instructions, which include all those games, plus dots and squares, solitaire, and reversi. Here's yet another version, which uses mostly store bought items.

* A spelling set. Purchase letter beads at a craft store and sand off the back letters. Glue a magnet to the back of each bead.

* A planets of the solar system set.

* A tin for the tooth fairy.

* A magnet faces game.


For Kids or Adults:

* A poetry magnet kit.

* A belt.

* An adorable purse. (Find a different set of instructions here.)

* A treasure box.

* A photo album. (Or try this tutorial instead.)

* A pinhole camera.

* A pocket tackle box.

* A play-able guitar.

Dec 9, 2011

Gifts in a Jar - Part II

One of the most popular posts here at Proverbs 31 Woman is about gifts in a jar. And there's no doubt about it - tossing food (or other items) into a canning jar is one of the easiest, quickest, and least expensive ways to say "Merry Christmas" or "I love you" to friends and family.

But it's 2011, and new ideas for gifts in a jar have crossed my path. Here are my favorites.

* Easy jar toppers from ornaments or toys. Spray the jar lids and the small ornament or toy with paint (silver, gold, red, or green work well for Christmas) and viola! You have a fancy jar topper!

* No cook snacks.
* S'mores kit.

* Chai tea.

* Pie in a jar.
* Cobbler in a jar.

* Crisp in a jar.

* Homemade spice blends.

* Sugar scrub. (Pictured at the top of this post.)

* Bath soaks.

* Bath snowballs.

* Bath salts.

* Shea butter body scrub.Link
* Bath fizzies.


* Hand scrub.
* Sewing kit in a jar.
* Apron kit in a jar.

For even more ideas, download this free "Gifts in a Jar" ebook, or this freebie, which includes mosaic bath gifts and dog and cat treat in a jar.

Dec 7, 2011

Last Minute Stocking Stuffer: Pirate's Eye Patch

Both my children love to play dress up, and one of their favorite "characters" is a pirate. But we've found store bought pirate patches break much too easily. So this year, I decided to make some pirate eye patches. They are quick to stitch up, a perfect stocking stuffer - and you may already have everything needed to make them.

I'll begin by explaining how I made my children's eye patches; then I'll explain an even easier, although not as "finished," way to sew them.

What You'll Need:
about an 1/8 yard of black fabric
about an 1/8 yard of iron on interfacing
white or light colored chalk
about 18 1/2 inches narrow black elastic
thread and sewing machine
sewing pins

How to Do It:Link
1. Measure your child's head and subtract 1/2 in. or 1 in. to determine the correct length of the elastic. If the eye patch is a surprise, you may have to be stealthy about this! I found 18 1/2 in. was about right for my 6 year old, who is of average size for her age.

2. Download the pirate eye patch pattern and print it out. Cut out the pattern.

3. Lay the pattern on the black fabric, which should be folded in half. Trace the pattern with white or other light colored chalk, being sure to transfer the dart and the dots. Cut out the double layer of fabric.


4. Pin the pattern on a single layer of interfacing; cut out.

5. Iron the interfacing to the wrong side of one of the eye patch pieces.

6. Stitch the darts in both eye patch pieces.


7. Place the two fabric pieces right side together and stitch a very scant 1/4 around the entire outer edge, leaving an opening at each dot. One opening should be about the width of your thumb (so the patch is easy to turn right side out). The other opening should be only slightly wider than the width of the elastic.

8. Turn the patch so the right sides face out. Turn under the raw edges at the openings and press into place. Insert one end of the elastic into the larger of the two holes; pin in place. Insert the other end of the elastic in the smaller hole and pin in place. Topstitch all the way around the edge of the eye patch.

Two eye patches took me about 15 minutes to complete.


An Even Easier Way

If you don't mind what the back side of the patch looks like, use the pattern piece to cut 1 layer of black felt for the outside of the eye patch, and one layer of black interfacing. Press the interfacing to the back side of the felt, sew the dart, and stitch the elastic in place at the dots.

Sep 12, 2011

15 Ideas for Handmade Gifts

Christmas will be here before we know it, and already I'm thinking I'd like to make most of the gifts I give. That means getting started now.

If you already sew, knit, crochet, or do similar crafts, you can probably come up with lots of ideas for gifts. But if you're not a strong crafter, there's still a lot you can make for friends and family. Here are a few ideas.

1. Canned goods. If you've taken the plunge into canning, you'll find most people are thrilled to get home canned items, especially jams, jellies, fruit butters, and the like. Check out this post on making the jars prettier.
LinkLink
2. An easy to knit scarf. Learn to knit by using the directions here. The design is simple, but if you choose a beautiful yarn, the end result will be lovely.Link
3. Fun, scarves for kids using only minimal sewing skills.

4. Family heirloom cookbooks.

5. Bath goods, like these bath fizzies, easily decorated soaps, bath "snowballs," and body scrubs; they are better than store bought.

6. Totes/grocery bags from pretty fabric. If you don't sew, try decorating simple store bought bags. One idea: Gorgeous silhouettes. Or try Martha Stewart's no-sew bag. For a simple sewing project, try making drawstring bags or desk bags.

7. Button necklaces.
Link
8. A child's pom-poms (made from recycled plastic shopping bags).
Link
9. Storage bag and play area for matchbox-style cars or an art caddy.
Link
10. A simple dress-up cowboy vest for boys or girls or a really nifty superhero cape.

11. Map coasters.

12. Soap crayons.

13. Butterfly house.

Link 14. Rapunzel hair clip organizer.

14. Homemade vanilla extract.

15. Driftwood shelf or driftwood rack.
Link

Be sure to also see last year's post on gifts children can make.

Dec 27, 2010

Creating a Family Heirloom Cookbook

This year for Christmas, my mother in law gave us a treasure: A collection of family recipes. It made me realize just how fun and important these recipes are, and how much I want to preserve them for my children and grandchildren. The good news is it's easy to do, and makes an excellent gift, no matter the occasion.

Begin by gathering together recipes. Start with any in your own cookbook or recipe card collection that are family favorites. Recipes often used during the holidays are an excellent choice, since your family will likely remember them for years to come, but also consider "every day" recipes that might have meaning.

Next, think about recipes you associate with your relatives. Brainstorm with your siblings or other relatives for ideas. Some relatives may not have a printed or written copies; they may keep the recipes in their head. This is an ideal time to get those recipes on paper so future generations can enjoy them. If you have cooks that don't use measures, set up a time to cook with that relative. As they toss in a handful of this and a pinch of that, measure out the ingredients and write them down.

For relatives who aren't nearby, considering sending out emails explaining the project and giving a deadline for submitting recipes. For relatives without email, send a snail mail letter or make a few phone calls. Be sure to promise a finished cookbook to every one who participates.

Once you've gathered recipes, you might think you're done. But I encourage you to do two addition things to make the cookbook a true heirloom: Gather anecdotes and images.

Write down memories or anecdotes about the recipes, whenever possible. For example, you could note that your mother made those special chocolate chip cookies whenever you had a hard day at school, or that grandma always made her famous chowder for Christmas Eve dinner. Interview the people who originally cooked the food in your family; perhaps they have an interesting story about where they got the recipe or why it became a family favorite. These sort of stories are golden!

Adding images to the cookbook is an excellent touch, too. Sure, you can include photos of what the food looks like when it's served, but better still, include family photos. For example, for each recipe, include a photo of the original family cook. Or add images of the food being served at a family function.

Another excellent way to add images to your family heirloom cookbook is to gather original recipe cards (typed or hand written), clippings, or cookbooks. Scan the recipes - including any hand written notes or food splatters - and use them to add interest to the cookbook. (If recipes might be difficult to read - for example, if they are hand written - do include a scan of the original, but also offer a neatly typed, easy to read version of the recipe.)

Next, put it all together. Type the recipes up in a word processing program like Microsoft Word, or a digital scrapbooking program. Add anecdotes or notes to the recipes. Add photographs and scans. Be creative!

If you'll only be "publishing" a few cookbooks, you can print all the copies at home. This uses quite a bit of ink, however, so you might consider printing just one copy, then having a professional photocopy shop make duplicates.

Although there are plenty of websites out there promising to make family cookbooks look gorgeous, I still think the best method of "publishing" them is the traditional one: With an ordinary binder and plastic sheet protectors.
Place two printed pages together, back to back, and slip them into one plastic sheet holder. This keeps the pages clean, neat, and mess free. Use divider sheets to break the recipes into categories. You can stick to standard cookbook categories like "main dishes," "soups," and "desserts," or divide the recipes by family traditions, holidays, or generations. Design a cover and slip it into the binder, too.

I usually also include a number of empty plastic sheet protectors so additional pages can easily be added.

And voila! You've just created a cookbook that will be passed down, generation to generation!