Simple Valentine Crafts for Kids

Happy Valentine’s Day! Last year we made simple paper heart Valentine wall decor, Simple paper heart garlands, and Cereal box sun catcher hearts, for the windows. This year we strung some pom poms for an easy garland to decorate our mantle,

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Pom poms ready for stringing

We twisted colorful pipe cleaners into heart shapes, adding perler beads to some.

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Pipe cleaner hearts: twist 2 colors together and shape into a heart, or just shape a single color into a heart shape.
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Add perler beads to pipe cleaners and twist ends, shape into a heart and you are done!

these pipecleaner hearts are wonderful to scatter around a buffet, bookcases and holiday table!

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A little collection of our Valentine crafts; Pom garland, pipe cleaner hearts with beads, yarn wrapped heart from 2 years ago and felt and yarn heart from last year.

We also made a hanging banner out of felt, googly eyes, leftover poms, tacky glue and a dowel.

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I love setting down supplies and just letting Penelope create. This heart is such a cutie!

Penelope stamped cards for her classroom exchange, we used glue dots to add a small gift onto the back.

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Homemade Valentines

I enjoy creating and connecting with my child. She is 7 now and becoming more and more independent each day. I hope to be able to craft with her for many more years, so that by the time she is grown, I can unpack these handmade treasures and fill our home with the memories of making together.

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Chinese New Year with Kids, Exploring Chinatown

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Happy Year of the Monkey from a Dragon and a Rat! We spent some time exploring Chinatown here in Chicago, so in this post I will share the places we loved exploring in Chinatown square. The plaza has two levels and normally fully accessible, however the elevator to the second level is currently not working, just a note for those needing accessibility, such as myself.

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We started by running around the square searching for our birth year and zodiac animals. It’s always fun to read our characteristic traits, don’t they always seem so spot on? Well the positive attributes at least do!

We shopped around at AJ Housewares and Gifts which is packed with merchandise, not an inch to spare! It is a tight squeeze, walk sideways through the aisles and watch where you step! There is so much to see, lucky envelopes, bamboo plants, lanterns, a fantastic aisle of plates, tea sets and bowls, cute cookie cutters, a variety of kitchen supplies, and trinkets galore!

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Lucky children for our doorway. These were inspiration for the characters A-Fu and Da-Fu in Grace Lin's "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon"
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Wishing Lantern, you make a wish and send it up to the heavens
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A small paper dragon to play with. It even comes with a pearl!
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Lucky red envelopes come with all sorts of characters. These also double as unique classroom Valentines!

We then strolled over to my favorite  candy/snack shop Aji Itchiban. There you can find a large variety of Asian candy, chocolate, gummy sweets and snacks such as dried vegetables, dried fruit and dried fish. A bit pricy but as a once in a while treat for the sake of exploring culture, I think it’s fine and well worth it.

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They have little sample bowls for each product, which is so wonderful if you cannot read Chinese on the packaging!

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Clockwise from left: Pina Colada chewing gum, Botan a chewy citrus flavored gummy wrapped with rice paper, Choco! My favorite! Tiny chocolate bites packed with big chocolate flavor, Green Tea Kit Kat (YUM), Center: Sweet Potato Kit Kat
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Cutest Chocolate Lolipop!
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We love eating seaweed, we love Hello Kitty, 3 cheers for Hello Kitty seaweed!
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See these cool rocks, they are chocolate! Penelope enjoyed tricking her friends into thinking she was eating a handful of rocks lol.

Then off to dinner at Ming Hin! We had  Pea tendrils with garlic, which I could seriously eat myself as an entree because it is so good, Chicken and corn soup a kid favorite, Egg drop soup with mushrooms, Beef with noodles, and Egg rolls, all were wonderful. The guys had spicy dishes so we didn’t try their’s, but Penelope and I were happy with our meal.

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Ran into some positive wall art “Be Yourself”

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Then Penelope ran upstairs with her uncle, to explore the shops on the second level. She loves going up and down the stairs in the pagoda. On our way to the car we ran into a guy in a Yeti costume, ah city life is never dull! He was friendly and was being followed by a photographer as performance art, but Penelope was all “stay away from me you hairy monster” I would be too if I were 7. Then home sweet home. An all around thumbs up for the evening.

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Climb the stairs for a great birds eye view!

This weekend there are two Lunar New Year parades happening:

Saturday February 13
Argyle Chinese New Year Parade 1:00pm Location: Uptown,
1121 W. Argyle parade starting point.
Parade goes from Argyle to Sheridan, Sheridan to Ainslie, Ainslie to Broadway, then back to Argyle. Smaller than the Chinatown celebration but no less exciting, you can go explore the shops and restaurant in this vibrant Vietnamese and Chinese community.

Sunday February 14, 2016
Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade 2/14/16 Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade celebrating the Year of the Monkey. “The parade begins at 1 pm at 24th and Wentworth featuring dragon and lion dances, floats, marching bands, special groups, performers and the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce’s Miss Friendship Ambassadors. Before the parade, dine at one of the many restaurants in the neighborhood. Experience dim sum at Cai, Phoenix, Triple Crown, MingHin Cuisine or Won Kow. Or try some regional dishes at Xi’an, Lao Sze Chuan, Yan Bang Cai Sichuan, Qing Xiang Yuan Dumpling or Lee Wing Wah. Don’t forget specialty drinks from Kung Fu Tea, Saint’s Alp Teahouse or Joy Yee. There are so many places to choose from! Before you leave, be sure to stop at one of over 60 shops, groceries and herbal stores to purchase jewelry, clothing, snacks, herbal products, gifts, books and grocery items to make your own meals at home!”

AND on February 21, 2016 A wonderful lantern festival at Navy Pier in the Crystal Gardens. Location: 600 East Grand Ave.
Time: 12p.m.-3p.m.
“A cultural celebration for all ages. Join us for a lively afternoon of music, dance, colorful costumes, food and local vendors”

Have fun!

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Easy Mashed Sweet Potato with Coconut Cream

Hello Friends! Oh how I have missed you so! Yesterday was my 1 year anniversary on WordPress, can you believe it? I do not own a computer or a camera and I just thought, “why not?” I am so grateful to all of you readers for your support and kind words this year. AND what better way to celebrate an anniversary than with a yummy recipe! Hooray! This is a little dish I like to call Mashed Sweet Potato Yum, it is so easy to make, kids love it, adults love it, everyone will be happy. Except the dog, because there will be no leftovers!

Tools for the Trade:

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1. 4-5 Medium Sweet Potatoes

2. 2-3 Tablespoons of Maple Syrup

3. 1/2 Cup Coconut Cream (or Coconut milk if you do not have cream)

4. Vanilla Bean Paste (You may use Vanilla Extract if that is what you have, but trust me, it will not be nearly as good, vanilla bean paste is the bomb!)

The How To:

For this recipe I have both baked the sweet potatoes and steamed them, they turn out great either way.

Baking:
1. Wash each Sweet Potato and towel dry

2. Take a bit of cooking oil and rub a thin layer all over each Sweet Potato using your hands. (Super fun for kids)

3. Pierce a few times with fork

4. Wrap individually in foil

Bake at 375F for about 45 minutes depending on size. The Sweet Potatoes  are ready when you can pierce through them with a knife easily.

Steaming:

When I steam the Sweet Potatoes, I cut them into 1 inch rounds and place them in a large steamer basket until soft, about 20 minutes.

The Aftermath How to:

Peel the skins off your cooked potatoes and place them in a large bowl, using a potato ricer start mashing.

Place 1/2 cup of Coconut Cream into a saucepan and heat until warm, add 2 tablespoons of Maple Syrup and 1 1/2 teaspoons of Vanilla Bean Paste. Stir until well combined.

When everything is stirred and hot, you can take a little taste test and add more Maple Syrup if you like. Using a large spoon, ladle the hot liquid yumminess a bit at a time, into the sweet potato bowl and mix (I use a large fork for mixing at this point). Serve and enjoy! This recipe serves 4, however, 2 people named Veronica and Penelope can eat 2 heaping bowls each. ENJOY!

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Easy Needle Felting in Cookie Cutters

Hello friends! We are on a little felting kick here at our home. In my opinion an easy way to needle felt any shape is to do it on a metal cookie cutter! Especially when starting out.

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Aren’t they cute? All these beauties need are a bit of lovely thread and we have new ornaments for our tree, and for gift giving! They make cute embellishments for your wooly items, you just felt the completed shape onto your scarf, hat, sweater, purse etc. They are also beautiful scattered on a holiday table.

Tools For the Trade:
1. Wool Roving
2. Needle Felting Needles
3. Foam Block
4. Metal Cookie Cutter

WOOLPETS on Etsy is very reliable, I have bought and used their products, and have given them as gifts. If you live in the Oak Park, Il. area, they carry a variety of Woolpet’s felting supplies at Geppettos Toy Box. You can easily find supplies online, even Joann carries them. Here in Illinois there is a lovely Fiber Haven called Esther’s Place Fibers in Big Rock, Illinois, about an hour drive from Chicago. They have their own sheep and teach a variety of Fiber Art classes there. The supplies they carry are of fantastic quality and much more affordable for me personally, AND they have a ramp! So it is accessible! Woo Hoo! Love them!

If you are new to felting, my last post provided a link to a Google list of You Tube videos for felting. I will be starting a You Tube Channel in the New Year, so stay tuned! But for now HERE is a link to a You Tube demo on felting in cookie cutters. I hope you enjoy the process, feel free to contact me with any questions. Happy Felting!

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Needle Felted/Wet Felted Acorns and a Dollar store alternative!

Hello Friends! If you are reading in the U.S. Happy Thanksgiving! If you are a friend from afar then Happy Day to you! May your day be full of joy and gratitude!

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To celebrate our teachers and show them our gratitude this Thanksgiving, we made them each cards from the previous post and these Felted Acorn Necklaces. I used to Needle Felt and Wet Felt years ago and motherhood brought me back to the old art form to teach and pass on to Penelope. Aren’t they so cute?

Acorns fall from the trees here in the Midwest during the Autumn months and you can find the caps scattered about. Penelope had quite a collection, as it is super fun for her to find them and save. They are easily available for purchase online if you don’t have them where you live. I’ll have links below.

FELTING: In in order to speed up the wet felting process for Penelope who is 6, I Needle Felt the roving to firm it up a little, before giving it to her to wet felt into shape. This way she can play with the water and soap suds and not get tired of the process. Like most of the Fiber Arts, the process of felting can take quite a bit of time.

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Everyone has their own technique. I do Needle Felting first, then Wet Felt afterwards. Click HERE for a Google search listing of You Tube felting videos.

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One of the Orange balls is a Dollar Store pom pom ball, you may use that instead, they are just as cute!

ALTERNATIVES:  If you do not felt, no problem! You may purchase colorful felted balls online (HERE is a Google list) along with the acorn caps HERE. OR go to your local Dollar Store or Craft shop and buy a pack of colorful pom pom balls instead!

FINAL TOUCHES: Glue the ball to your acorn cap using a hot glue gun or tacky glue and voila, done! But wait, there’s more! If you want to add thread to make an ornament for your tree, a lovely napkin tie, or a beautiful necklace, you will need a drill, I used a 1/16 drill bit as our caps were tiny. Make 2 holes, one on each side of the center of your Acorn Cap and thread your string through before gluing. We made napkin ties for the table setting, necklaces, and ornaments for hanging, I am going to hang one off the rear view mirror of my car! Woo hoo! Happy Crafting and Connecting. I am so grateful to each and every one of you dear readers!

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Thanksgiving, Fall Paper Crafts, A wall hanging, table runner and some cards!

Hello friends! I have some paper crafts we whipped up a few days ago, while Penelope was home sick. I was inspired after we pulled out our pressed leaves from early fall. I had a lot of scrap paper in my scrap bin and so we began tracing leaves, cutting, gluing and one creative thing led to another and we ended up with a Paper banner for our door, a paper table runner, and 2 cards, one for each of Penelope’s teachers. I think they are lovely and I hope they inspire you to grab some paper and make a thing or two, to fancy up your place or give to someone to brighten up their day. Here we go!

Tools For The Trade:

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1. Paper- your colors of choice
2. Leaves- to trace, use fake ones, real ones or Google a leaf image, print and cut out to use as a template.
3. Scissors
4. Glue sticks- we were using thick cardstock and scrapbook sheet scraps, so curling wasn’t an issue. Scotch makes a wrinkle free glue stick in the image above which works great if you are using thinner paper.
5. Paper punch- For the banner and cards we used one to fancy it up.
6. Yarn- For hanging banner
7. Dowel– For banner
8. Mod Podge or white glue for banner

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The How To:

1. Top left image: Trace your leaves out using a pencil.

2. Left middle image: Cut leaves out, make little leaf veins in a contrasting color as well.

3. Bottom left image: Glue all together with your glue stick.

4. Right image above: Glue your finished leaves onto larger sheets of paper. Ours were 8 1/2 × 11. That right there is the beginning of our beautiful table runner and banner! Just overlap the sheets of paper by 1/2 inch and glue.

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For the banner, we used our decorative paper punch and punched a scrap of yellow paper for a nice fancy edge. We then glued it to the bottom of our banner. I then slathered lots of Mod Podge to a second strip of yellow paper and wrapped it around our dowel twice, leaving an edge to glue to the top of the banner. Add a drop of glue to the dowel ends, tie on some colorful yarn and let dry! Hang it up, and let the cheer begin! So pretty.

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Above are two cards for Penelope’s teachers. Using the same concept you can make many things! These would be nice at a Thanksgiving place setting, using a smaller place card over a folded napkin on a plate. The leaves may be scattered about on the table or a buffet or hung as banners. We are making banners to string as I type this lol! I didn’t even like this paper and was going to toss it, but now I am glad I didn’t. Our pieces are quite festive and bright, but you may opt for a warmer, Autumn like color palate. Up ahead will be our felted acorns! Happy crafting!

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Easy Halloween craft #5 Day of the dead Laced Cardboard Skulls

Hello friends! Today I have a craft that we made 2 years ago. A cardboard skull laced with yarn. Great for both Halloween and Day of the Dead. Look at how great these look!

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I am a sew and embroidery lover, so I made all sorts of things for Penelope to lace with, by poking holes into cardboard and using yarn to lace with. Typically I made sweet, cute things like whiskers on kittens, shapes, stars, it never dawned on me to lace Skull heads! But, for Halloween another mom suggested it and so here they are! Lacing is great for fine motor skills and a nice intro to the wonderful craft of sewing.

Tools for the Trade:

Cardboard– We had a brown box from an Amazon delivery, you can use a cereal box or something thinner if you wish or white foam board.

White Paint and Brush– Our box was brown, so we had to paint it white. You can also trace your Skull head onto white cardstock, cut it out and glue it down onto the cardboard if you want to skip the paint.

Awl– or other sharp object for hole making, such as a screw, nail, tip of scissors. Please be careful!

Yarn– Any color that you love!

Pencil– for marking holes

Xacto– or scissors

Yarn needle– or tape, you will want to wrap tape around the tips of your yarn so that they go into your holes easily. We have a blunt plastic yarn needle.

The How To:

1. Sketch a random skull shape head. You….can….do….it! I made a circle on top and a sort of oval below, you can see by the finished photos above, they aren’t exactly alike. Crafting with your child is not about perfection, it is about connection.

2. Use your Xacto to cut it out

3. Paint it white if you wish, (skip this step if you are glueing cardstock or using white foam or board.) Keep in mind that if you are using a thin cardboard such as a cereal box, the paint will make it curl. That’s okay, once dry, you can lay it under a heavy book for a while and it will flatten out.

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Here are our cut out Skull heads drying after a coat of kids tempera paint.

4. Poke holes for Eyes, I made 8 holes in a circle formation, with One hole in the center of the circle.

Nose- One hole on top and 4 holes  below, making a triangular formation.

Mouth- I played around with the mouth shapes. The Blue yarn threaded skull has 5 holes above, 5 holes below.

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The Purple yarn Skull has 5 holes on top 7 holes in the middle and 5 holes in the bottom in a sort of smile shape.

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5. Thread your yarn needle with yarn, or wrap tape around the tip of your yarn so that it has a nice hard edge and can get through the holes easier.

6. Start sewing! Yarn up, yarn down, yarn all around!

Have fun connecting and crafting with your child!

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Easy Halloween Craft #4 Kirigami Spider Webs

Only 2 more crafting days until Halloween! So let’s get moving, here is my #4 easy craft! Paper spider webs! I love paper, and a love for paper comes hand in hand with a childhood love for oragami. This website is a wonderful resource for all things Oragami and they have 3 different variations on the paper spider web, based on difficulty, which is wonderful for different ages and cutting skill levels. I hope you enjoy making them. We simply used regular construction paper in a variety of colors. I think they are fantastic! We added a spider from the Dollar Tree super fun! Enjoy!

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Easy Halloween DIY for Kids

Hello friends! Well Autumn has arrived and with it, all of it’s spendor. We live in the Midwest, so we are surrounded by the changing leaves and their gorgeous hues of orange, red, yellow. Pumpkin filled and flavored everything is in the markets and shops and warm fuzzy clothing has been unpacked and keeping us warm. Fall is the gentle reminder that nothing lasts forever and also the calm before winter, a gentle transition to the cold. So, let’s appreciate the time we have and enjoy our days connecting and crafting with our children, with our friends, or with yourself. I have some simple Halloween DIYs to share, let’s begin with a little something I like to call “The Boo Banner”

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Spooky isn’t it? I always begin by asking Penelope “What would you like to make?” She will design it and I help make it happen. Child led play or creativity is the best kind! Let’s get started:

Tools for the trade:

1. Felt- we used 1 sheet of Orange 1 sheet of White 2 sheets of black.
2. Tacky glue or glue gun
3. Dowel or stick from outdoors
4. Yarn- we used black and white
5. Needle and thread
6. Your sketch or Online printout of image and letters of choice
7. Googly eyes
8. Glitter

The How To:

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We wrote out our letters onto paper and held both paper and felt together for cutting. You may pin them together, or draw directly onto your felt if you wish.

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Tacky glue those babies onto the felt!

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Penelope drew the ghost directly onto the white felt, you can see her lines. The notebook shows her preliminary  sketches, aren’t they so cute! Cut the ghost parts out and glue, glue, glue!

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We cut strips of Orange felt to add some color to the banner and also as a blank space to anchor the pieces onto. Glue top and bottom pieces to the Orange felt and add a strip of Orange to the top to match.

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Glue googly eyes all over and slather glue for glitter onto letters if you wish. We happened to have white glitter which Penelope dusted all over and that gave the banner some nice texture and shimmer.

Let the whole thing dry completely. Fold over your top edge and sew across the bottom so you can put your dowel through the piece. You may also want to stitch your pieces on at this point. I just stitched the connecting seams with a simple straight stich, nothing fancy.

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For hanging we braided yarn we had on hand.

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I slathered glue along the edges of the dowel and wrapped the yarn around it leaving tassels at the ends. I lost my hot glue gun lol! So I was inventive and used a mini hair clip to hold the yarn down while it dried. If you have a hot glue gun that is not lost somewhere in your house, then you can just hot glue it all together and call it a day lol!

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And there it is, all pretty and spooooky decorating our front door!

Hope you are inspired to cut and glue some felt together and doll up your windows and doors! Enjoy!

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