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Friday, June 29, 2012

Pillow Case Dress

The first sewing project I intended on making was a simple pillow case dress. I was introduced to the concept when my daughter was a baby, and I was signing up my son to participate in our community college’s kids’ camp. He begged me to take art classes. This lady in line asked me if I had ever heard of a pillow case dress and promised they were the simplest things to make, that you didn’t even need to know how to sew. I guess that might be true of the traditional ones made from real pillowcases, but that didn't appeal to me. A year later, I found a pattern I thought looked adorable and asked my BFF if she’d like to make matching dresses for our girls.

As is the case with most moms of school-aged children, months went by before we could even find a day where both of us were free. Weeks before, I had found some adorable fabric, so we were ready to sew! The girls entertained each other as we proceeded to cut out the pattern and pin the material. All was going fine, just very slowly as is the case with novice sewers (and friends who like to chat). In the end, we had one finished dress and another that needed more bias tape since for some unknown reason… okay, it was probably because while I was shopping I got distracted and only bought one package… I didn’t have enough for both dresses. I knew I’d be heading back to the store sooner than she would, so I let her finish her daughter’s dress. It had nothing to do with wanting her to be the guinea pig, I swear!

If you want to duplicate these dresses, you are welcome to visit the LBG Studio site that has that pattern and some wonderful pictures as guides, but I've also posted simplified instructions here:

What you'll need to buy:
  • 3/4 yard of lightweight fabric
  • 52-72 inches of extra wide double fold bias tape
  • 13 inches of 1/2 inch wide elastic
  • matching thread 
Once we cut our pattern from LBG Studio, we began with the top of the dress. Here’s what you need to do:
  1. Take one piece of cut fabric, and lay the good side facing downward. Fold down what will become the neckline ¼” and iron flat. Fold it down again, this time ¾” and iron. You will now sew the folded fabric down to create the casing for your elastic, making sure to leave enough space for the ½” elastic to fit inside. (The original instructions said to stitch the top and the bottom, but since neither my friend nor I are the best sewers, we didn’t do both.) Set this piece aside.
  2. Now take the other piece of fabric and repeat step one.
  3. Cut your elastic in half, so you have two 6 ½” strips and feed one through the casing of the back of your dress. Using a safety pin at each end of the elastic strips helps immensely. Once the elastic is in, sew the holes and ends of the elastic on each end together. Set this piece aside.
  4. Now repeat step 3 for the other piece of your dress.
  5. We are ready to attach the two pieces to create a dress. Face the good sides of the fabric toward each other and line them up carefully. Pin the sides together, beginning at the arm pits. Using your sewing machine, stitch both sides, making sure you give a 1/4” seam allowance and back stitching at the beginning and end.
  6. With the dress turned inside out, iron both seams open, so they’ll lay flat. So the inside seams don’t ravel in the washing machine, sew the edges of both sides using a zig-zag stitch unless you have a serger. Repeat for the other side.
  7. We are ready to focus on creating the straps for the dress. Turn your dress right-side out. Cut two pieces of bias tape about 26-36 inches long. To be safe, play around with the strips to see how long you need them, knowing they will go all around the arm holes and tie in a bow on each side. (The original instructions said 46-48 inches, but that was way too long for our girls. I only used 26 inches for a size 2T dress.)
  8. Once each piece is cut, tuck the edges of the ends of each strap and sew closed to create a clean ends.  Do this to all four ends. 
  9. Next, fold one strip of bias tape in half to find the middle and pin at the bottom of one arm hole, making sure you opened up the bias fabric to slip it over the edge of the dress fabric. Go around the arm hole and pin the bias tape over the fabric.
  10. Sew a straight line along the outer edge of the bias tape, starting with what will become a strap. Keep going as you get to the arm hole, and finish when you get to the other end of the strap. Now you have sewn the bias tape to the arm hole to create clean straps.
  11. Repeat step 10 for the second arm hole and strap.
  12. All you have left is the bottom hem. Turn your dress inside out. Fold the bottom hem up ¼” and iron. Fold it again ¾” and iron. Go back to your machine and straight stitch your bottom hem closed.
  13. Try your newest creation on your little girl and admire how adorable she looks in it!

    This particular pattern worked well for a size 2T-3T. As you can see in the pictures, my daughter loves her new dress, and because of its cut/style, she will most likely be able to wear it for a long time before she outgrows it, which I love. When she wears it, people notice it's a pillow case dress, and comment on it. I think it's adorable, and I'm proud of myself for actually sewing a full dress even if it is supposedly one of the easiest dresses to sew.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bucket List Activity 6: Mini Caramel Apples

How do you help a ten-year-old boy forget about losing two flag football games in one day? With caramel apples, of course!
We are in the midst of football insanity at the moment. Despite temperatures above 100 every day with a heat index close to 110, we had five flag football games over the weekend and six this week. Yup, that's eleven games in six days. I'm either one brave mom or one foolish one. Of the nine games we've played so far, my youngest two boys have won all theirs while my oldest has only won two, and one of those was while my middle son got to play on their team as a substitute. But enough about football. 

Let's discuss what I really sat down to blog about... mini caramel apples! YUM!!! I seriously can't count how many times my youngest two boys told me how much they loved me while making and eating these things. You'd think my kids are sweet deprived. This is definately a bucket list activity worth repeating... often! Well, until I look at my kitchen, which is why I'm blogging. It's much more fun to write than to clean.  
This is such a fun dessert to make and to eat, so here's what you'll want to buy...

  • Large Organic Granny Smith Apples (or at least use my produce wash if you aren't buying organic)
  • Apple sticks (I found these by the apples in my grocery store, but you could probably use cookie sticks or lollipop sticks though they'd be difficult to poke through the apple skin. Cut bamboo skewers would work great too.)
  • Peanut Butter Baking Chips
  • Butterscotch Baking Chips
  • mini-chocolate chips (semi-sweet)
  • Sprinkles 
  • chopped cashews
  • shredded coconut
You'll also need to have on hand...
  • microwave-safe cups
  • small bowls
  • a melon baller
Let's begin...

1. First, use the melon baller to scoop out 10-12 balls from an apple. I suggest preparing one apple per two people. Then stick the skewers into them with the skin at the bottom, so once you cover your apple piece, you'll only see the skin portion, giving the allusion of a whole (yet tiny) apple.

2. Pour 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sprinkles, coconut flakes, mini chocolate chips, and chopped nuts in their own cups or small bowls. (The amount in my picture would handle two to three apples.) 

3. Put 1/2 to 1 cup of peanut butter baking chips in a microwave-safe bowl or cup and heat at 30 second intervals. Stir every 30 seconds. It will take about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes to fully melt the chips. I suggest 1/4 cup per apple, but I wouldn't try to heat more than one cup at a time.

4. Repeat with the butterscotch chips in a separate bowl or cup.

5. Now your apple-making station is ready. Your children or guests can dip their apple pieces in the melted chips of their choice and then roll them into the mixings. The melted chips won't make a mess of your mixings, which is great, but you may have to reheat them because after they cool off, they don't adhere to the apples as well.

6. Eat & Enjoy! (They harden enough immediately to set them on a plate or pop in your mouth.) 

If you want to set this up for a party, you will want to mist your apple balls with lime juice and store in the refrigerator. You can make your mixings ahead of time, but you'll obviously need to melt your chocolate right before allowing your guests to make their apples.

Another option is to make them all before hand on your own. These would make an adorable edible arrangement. For instance, you can set out a pretty bowl full of marbles and stick the apple sticks in the marbles, or you could try floral foam in the base of a large-mouthed vase or bowl and stick the apple sticks in that. Do you have any suggestions on how to display this adorable treat? I'd love to hear your ideas! 

  1. They are delicious!
  2. Your children will make you feel like an amazing mom!
  3. They are a little healthy, right? After all, there is apple in there, and it's easy to control portion size.
  4. They are fun!
  5. They are a creative dessert idea that takes very little time to make, so it's an easy way to impress your friends!
  1. They will make a mess with all those mixings escaping bowls if you let your children make their own.
  2. The wooden skewers are sharp, so be careful. However, none of my children, not even my 23-month old daughter hurt themselves with them.
Cost: Oops. I didn't keep my shopping receipt since I bought everything at the grocery store. I figure it is along the lines of any other dessert, such as homemade cookies, and I like to treat my children to dessert about three times a week. Also, I only used up about half of the bags of chips and even less of the other items, so once I buy more apples, I'll be able to make another batch. As for the apple sticks, those were $1.89 for a pack of 30 at my grocery store. I also found the brand I bought on at almost $5, but the bamboo skewers are a cheaper option if your store doesn't carry the apple sticks. Is it cheap of me to tell my kids to save the skewers so I can wash and reuse them for my family? Keep in mind, a person will eat between five and ten mini apples in a serving, so you will go through a lot of sticks quickly.

Yay! Another successful bucket list activity! Now, back to cleaning that kitchen.     

Bucket List Activities 5: Snow Cones

Over 15 years ago, I attended my first Pampered Chef party. Having received all the kitchen gatchets and tools I needed as wedding and shower gifts, I didn't find any practical purchases at the party, but I did have my eye on their shaved ice machine. As a teenager, I often visited one of those shaved ice stands every spring and summer in the small town close to our home. It was a delicious and cheap treat I would even drive my young neice and nephew to on occasion. Now that I was married and had moved into our first house in the same community, I missed the shaved ice stand that had been replaced by a gas station, so when I saw the hand-cranked one  in the the Pampered Chef catalog, I knew it was well worth the $20 price tag. Sadly, they no longer sell that item, but, thankfully, mine still works.

While my family has found another shaved ice stand that sells those New Orleans' styled snow balls, but it takes 20 minutes to get there, so we can't go as often as we'd like. Instead, I keep all three of my ice bowls that came with my shaved ice machine in the freezer, ready to go at all times. I know this will be a bucket list item we do more than once this summer.

On this particular day, my kids decided to pull out our slip-n-slide. Since it hadn't rained all week, I figured it was a fun way to water our back yard. They not only enjoy slipping and sliding down the wet surface but creating some sort of baseball game with it. While they were enjoying the hot afternoon, I snuck back into the air conditioning to make the snow cones. They were a huge hit, but we ran out of cherry and blue raspberry, our two favorite flavors, so I made a mental note to pick more up the next time I sent to the store.   

Over the past few summers, finding snow cone syrup had become increasingly easy, so I was disappointed this past week when I could only find one flavor at the store: fruit punch. Even as a child, I never liked that flavor, so I returned empty handed. My husband said to do a Google search for a snow cone syrup recipe using Kool-Aid. Smart guy. I found one at Skip to my Lou's blog. It involves sugar, water, and a small packet of unsweetened Kool-Aid. For instructions, you can visit her website. Thankfully, I saved the empty snow cone bottles and will be making this homemade recipe soon. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bucket List Activity #4: Lava Lamp

As a child, I was intrigued by those lava lamps. My neighbor's brother had one, but my mom would never let us get one. I remember it taking a long time to heat up and make the lave bubbles float around, so when I found instructions several years ago in the Family Fun magazine, I instantly tore out the page and saved it in our family activity binder. This summer, my boys voted to put it in the summer bucket list, and today, we drew this activity.

Each child was excited about making his own lava lamp, and I will admit, I was too though I claimed I was making it for their little sister. If you are also excited about the idea of making a homemade version of those retro lamps, follow along...

You'll need:
500 ml plastic bottle
vegetable oil
food coloring
antacid tablets (Alka-Seltzer or a generic form)
pie pan

  1. After removing labels from your bottle, set it in the pie plate to catch spills. Using a funnel, fill the bottle halfway with oil. Fill the remaining half with water, leaving about an inch of air at the top.
  2. Add 10 drops of food coloring. (I recommend keeping it simple and using either all one color or mixing only two colors, with one of them being light.)
  3. Break the antacid tablets into fourths, and slowly drop in one piece at a time. You'll only need one tablet per bottle. Be ready to watch because this is the entertaining part. The antacid causes air bubbles to form at the bottom of the bottle, causing colored bubbles of water to burst through the oil.
  4. After the bubbles have settled, you can put the lid on the bottle and store it. Then you can flip it over to see how the oil and water separate and make colorful spheres, but if you want to see the bubbly show again, you'll have to add Alka-Setzler again.

  1. It's something you can make with household items. (However, we specifically bought a couple SmartWater bottles because of their smoothness.)   
  2. It can help teach the science of oil and water, how they don't mix, which floats, and why. (Water is denser, so oil floats.)
  3. It can help teach the science behind antacid.
  4. It can take you back to your childhood days when lava lamps were cool.
  1. It uses up a lot of oil, especially if each child wants to make his own (and he/she will).
  2. Your children may be disappointed in the "show." My ten-year-old son was less than enthused by the outcome while my other three younger kids (ages 8, 7, and almost 2) really enjoyed it.
  3. Unlike real lava lamps, the show only lasts a few minutes. 
  4. If you shake it, it will look like nasty pond water.

Like many of our other summer bucket list activities, this one uses up items mostly found in our house. We had to buy the antacid tablets, which only cost $1 for a generic pack of 12.  While I had the oil, it used up a little over one cup per bottle, and I'll need to replenish it, so I should figure that in the cost as well. I figure you could make these lava lamps for about $1 each.

I'm glad we tried it, but if you aren't convinced it's worth the time and money, you can watch this short clip of one of ours... (I apologize for it being sideways.) And on a final note, it is rather fun just to shake it, twirl it, and spin it to see how the oil and water move once the antacid has stopped working. In fact, if you are certain you won't be adding any more antacid, you could use a glue gun to seal the lid closed and let your children continue to play with it.    

This activity is featured on
Raising Bean

Friday, June 22, 2012

Organizing & Showcasing Our Children's Schoolwork

Have you even been caught throwing your child’s schoolwork in the trash? I have. When my oldest son was in preschool, he apparently assumed I kept every one of his treasures he brought home. Boy was he crushed when he found a few of his drawings in the trash can. (I was usually much better about hiding them under larger pieces of trash.) So when that precious little boy asked, “Mommy, why did you throw away my work?” I gave the answer any loving parent would give: “Oh, I don’t know how that got in there. Daddy must have done it.” Yup, I blamed my husband who was at work, so he couldn’t defend himself.

As parents, we find it difficult to part with our children’s work, torn by the emotional need to keep everything and by the rational need to avoid being asked to be filmed for an episode of Hoarders. With four children, I simply can’t keep every piece of paper they’ve drawn on or every shoebox diorama they’ve created, so I devised a system. At my boys’ school, they receive Wednesday folders every week on --- you guessed it--- Wednesday. In it is a week’s worth of math worksheets, quizzes, spelling tests, etc. As my children have aged, they realize I can’t keep everything, but they often, especially the younger ones, ask with those big brown eyes pleading at me, “You want to keep this one, right?” And, of course, I do… at least for now.

This is my system. As I go through their work each week, I put it in two piles: keep and recycle. Then I put the work I want to keep in a drawer. For large items like posters and three-dimensional projects, I know I can’t keep them, so I immediately photograph them.  Then, at the end of each semester, I pull out the pile of work from each child and go through it again, relishing in how they’ve grown over the course of a few months. I then put it in three piles: keep, photograph, or recycle.
My middle son's first grade work that goes into his accordian file folder
What do I keep? If it has a hand print on it, I’m a sucker for it. If it really showcases their current writing skills and/or drawing skills, I also keep it. The last rule for keeping is if it is no larger than 8x10. If it is larger, such as their amazing artwork they bring home from their actual art class, I photograph it to put in their accordion file folder and also hang it.

I try to be even so I’m keeping approximately the same amount of work per child. I also keep all final report cards, certificates, and other reports like their reading level.

What do I photograph? If it is something they’ve colored but doesn’t tug at my heartstrings like some of the other pieces, I’ll group it with one to three other items and photograph it. Also, if it’s simply too big to fit in my file system or is made of something that won’t last like Fruit Loops glued onto paper, I photograph it. These I normally take alone. I’ve even photographed quizzes and music sheets just to remind us what they were capable of at that age.

What do I toss in the recycle bin? After going through a semester’s worth of work, I pick a good sampling of art, writing, social studies, music, and even math work. If I’ve kept ten spelling quizzes, I’ll keep one or two and toss the rest. If I’ve kept five essays, I’ll keep two or three and toss the rest. I don’t have a hard-and-fast rule for what makes the cut. I let my emotions guide me, which is why I do this sorting process twice, as soon as I get the work and a few months later when I have a lot of work from which to choose. I also try to keep a good sampling of their work and am honest. I don’t throw away something because it didn’t earn a 100. 
Elementary School Albums
Once I’ve sorted through everything and taken pictures, I file the work and photographs into their accordion file folders I place the certificates, test results, and report cards in their elementary school albums. We work on those albums at the beginning and the end of each school year.

So, to help my children remember their early school years, I have their school’s yearbook I purchase (and happen to create as the volunteer yearbook coordinator year after year), their own school albums that include personal photographs and personalized comments they enter, and these accordion file folders. I also proudly display their most current art projects on the wall leading to their bedrooms with these cute art display hangers I made a few years ago at a MOPS meeting. If you'd like to learn how we made these, let me know.

Also, if you are wondering where I got those great elementary school memory books, they are from a company called Books Are Fun. My mother-in-law bought them over five years ago when the company came to her school's teacher's lounge.    
Art Wall

Accordian File Folder filled with pre-k through 5th 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bucket List Activities #2 & #3: Bouncy Balls & Air Hockey Tournament

It’s Friday, and while my oldest son is still away at Boy Scout camp and my daughter is napping, I promised the other two we could complete a bucket list activity. We pulled out Bouncy Balls.

I wont' go into details about the instructions since you can find them at, and we didn't make any changes other than to use plastic cups instead of bowls and never understood the need for the ruler. The cups made for an easier clean up since we just tossed them out afterward. And, in case you are wondering, the recipe will yield you just one ball, so we each had our own pair of cups and spoons. However, if you plan to try this activity, be sure to read my suggestions below.

While the boys had fun following the directions and helping me measure out the ingredients, the end result was disappointing because the balls never fully hardened and only bounced a few inches. Our end results were rather soft one-inch pastel colored balls, and, as you can see from the mess on our kitchen table, they aren't the neatest craft to create. My floors are littered with bits of this concoction too, especially after the boys continued to try to bounce their balls because bits of the stuff would fall off.

I don't recommend this activity with school glue. After our failed balls, I messaged the blogger and received a quick response, informing me that it works best with Glue-All. She also reported that the measurements aren't perfect, and issues like different humidity levels will impact the success of the craft. We are used to high humidity, so maybe that also caused the balls to never fully harden. Another possible factor is the food coloring. She said her best balls didn't use them. If you plan to make these balls, get Glue-All and avoid food coloring. Sadly, my boys were very bummed when our balls didn't bounce, so I'll call this activity a flop.

  1. It gave me an opportunity to teach some measurement skills, such as how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon and the importance of accurately measuring wet and dry ingredients.
  2. For younger kids, it would give you a chance to experiment with colors, such as making purple out of red and blue, which I did, but my boys are old enough to know this. 
  3. It taught my kids that, despite our best efforts, not every activity will give us the desired results. I figure this is a worthwhile lesson to learn before it happens on a grander scale though I wouldn't intentionally do the activity with hopes of failure just to teach this lesson.
  1. It didn't work. The balls never fully hardened and only bounced 4 inches.
  2. It made quite a mess on the table and floor, moreso than other crafts.
I have never used borax, so I bought the smallest container I could find at my grocery store, which was $4.19. Thankfully, I've seen other craft activities that call for borax, so I'll save it for those, and perhaps, I'll try it out to clean my boys' white football practice pants and socks in the fall. Thankfully, I bought borax that's safe for HE washers. It also has some instructions on using it for cleaning, so maybe I'll try it in our tubs. I also had to buy the cornstarch, which was $0.89, but I will use it for other crafts and cooking. I had everything else. For many people, this will be a free activity. If we didn't plan on using the borax and cornstarch for any other purpose, then you could say this craft cost us about $1.70 per ball (since we made three), which is rather costly, but I have tons of borax left, so it'll get used up, and I won't consider this purchase a loss.   

On the upside, the boys quickly bounced back and decided to pick another activity: an air hockey tournament. Since we own the air hockey table, this is a free activity for us. While we got this air hockey table from my brother-in-law's family when we moved here, we haven't played with it much this past year, so it's become more of a catch-all in the playroom. The boys had recently cleared all their toys and junk off it and realized how fun it is. Unfortunately, they have yet to find new homes for all that displaced stuff, but I'm happy they have rediscovered the fun of this rather large piece of furniture that occupies about a third of our play room. I will say that activity #3 was a success. I won't go into a list of pros and cons because I'm not trying to persuade you to invest in an air hockey table, but if you have the room and need an indoor activity that entertains kids from 4 years to adult, this is something worth owning. At least they aren't on their Wii or X-Box and have forgotten about those sad bounceless balls.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Bucket List Activity #1: Scratch Art

Our first bucket list activity was the scratch art, which I found on Skip to my Lou's blog. I originally got the idea when my first grader came home with his own scratch art he had made at school. It reminded me of my art class in elementary school because we made the same craft, only I remember having to use black crayons and heavily color with them over the paper we had previously colored with bright colors. My son said they had used paint, so I searched the internet to find out what kind of paint is required. 
Here's all you need:
paper (we used multipurpose paper by HP)
crayons (light and bright colors work best)
black tempura paint
dish washing soap (we used Dawn)
sponge brush
newspaper to protect your table from crayons and paint
plastic cup and stirring device

Here's what you do:
1. Have everyone color a sheet of paper, making sure you press hard and avoid white spaces. My son taught me this after I had finished my first two pages, so I had to go back and color them even more. The white places where there is no crayon will keep the black paint from scratching off. I'm assuming you need the wax from the crayons to make the paint scratchable. This takes a while and can get tiring for little ones, so you might want to help, but I loved being able to do something mindless that let us visit while coloring. And it's fun to see what colors and shapes your kids pick out.
2. Mix about 1/4 cup of paint in a plastic cup you can throw away with 1/2 teaspoon of soap. 
3. You'll need a lot of paint on your brush and slather it all over your paper in straight lines. It takes about two coats to really cover all the crayons.
4. Let it dry for several hours, but to speed things up, you can use a hair dryer. My son said his art teacher did this, so he pulled out mine.
5. Once it's dry, you can use toothpicks to scratch designs into your paper. My son did an ocean scene with this one.  
One of the main reasons I enjoyed this activity is because it gave my youngest son a chance to be the authority figure and teach us what to do, which I think teaches valuable skills for kids, especially the youngest ones in a family who often learn from their older siblings.   

I've decided to give a quick review of each bucket list activity to help you determine if it's worth doing with your family, so here goes...

  1.  It gives toddlers and preschoolers a chance to work on fine motor skills.
  2.  It uses up some of those crayons the kids come home with on the last day of school. (We have a drawer full of crayons, yet every year, we buy them each at least two new boxes for their school supply list, and each June we get half of them back in great condition only to add to the drawer.)
  3. It uses materials you typically already have at home, so it is inexpensive if not free.
  4. It gives your family a chance to spend time together and bond while mindlessly coloring.

  1. It uses up a lot of tempera paint.
  2. The kids' favorite part is scratching a picture, which only takes a few minutes to do, but preparing the scratch paper takes much longer, especially all that coloring, which can get tedious and tiresome.
  3. It's a bit messy to create the scratch paper and then to scratch a picture, but then again, what craft isn't messy? I just felt I needed to include this.
This is a potentially free activity in that you'll most likely have all the supplies on hand, but if you need to buy the paint, that'll run you about $2 for a 16 ounce bottle. We used about 2 ounces to make four sheets of scratch paper. If you want to get technical and calculate the cost of paper and soap with it, the project will cost you under $0.10 per sheet.

Friday, June 15, 2012

From Big Brother T-shirt to Lil Sis Sundress

While my second and third sons get plenty of hand-me-downs from their oldest brother, my princess never will, or so I thought. Then I found some brief instructions in the July 2012 edition of Family Fun that shows you how to turn a man's t-shirt into a girl's tunic. Since my oldest son just finished fifth grade and will be moving to the intermediate school, I figured he wouldn't mind if I took one of his dozen school t-shirts for his little sister. I would have asked, but he was away at Boy Scout camp. Pesky no cell phone policy. Oh well. He adores his sister, so I know he won't mind.

The instructions were very simple, but I didn't like the idea of leaving the edges raw. I didn't think it would wash up well, and seeing that she would be wearing this dress to her other two brothers' school events, it needed to look professional... well, as professional as this amateur sewer can make it.

If you'd like to turn a t-shirt into a sundress for a younger child, you can follow these steps.

Here's what you need...
  • large T-shirt
  • 40-52 inches of 3/8 inch ribbon
  • sewing machine
  • scissors
  • safety pin

Here's what to do...

1. Pick out a t-shirt that fits the girl two inches longer than it needs to be for a sundress. (My daughter wears a 2T, and the t-shirt I used was a child's 12-14.)

2. Cut the sleeves off the shirt making a diagonal from the arm pit to the neckline.

3. Cut a straight line across the top to remove the neckline.

4. Cut a 1/4-1/2 inch slit down each armpit. Turn shirt inside out and fold a seem 1/4-1/2 inch long and iron down.

5. Using your sewing machine, stitch the arm seems.

6. Fold the neckline over 1/2 inch and iron. Then fold another inch and iron.

7. With your sewing machine, stitch what will become the casing for the neckline.

8. Cut two strips of 3/8 inch ribbon anywhere from 20-26 inches in length depending on the size of your dress. (I cut mine 20 inches simply because that was all I had left of my green ribbon, and my daughter wears a 2T.)

9. Using a safety pin, pull the ribbon through the casing for the front of the dress and again for the back of the dress.

10. Try the dress on the girl and tie the ribbons at the shoulder.

This shirt would have been adorable as a dress.
This dress took about 30 minutes to make, with interuptions. This will be a great way for a younger sister to get to support her older siblings in all sorts of activities. For instance, when our school sells the field day t-shirts in the spring, I never order one for my princess because she is still too small to fit into a child's small. However, now I can buy her a large and turn it into this dress, so when we are at the field day events, she will match. I'm also planning on buying a Texans t-shirt and making it into a dress so she can wear it to her brothers' football games this fall.  

A week later, and I have decided to make another t-shirt dress, but this time I actually spent some money on a t-shirt. I also bought some iron-on rhinestones. All three of my boys' flag football team colors are red, so I figured it'd be fun to make their sister a sundress to wear to the games. Last night I bought the supplies at Wal-Mart, and today I made the dress, using 48 inches of ribbon. Unfortunately, it's pouring outside right now, so it's not looking like we'll get to cheer on any football teams tonight.

To make the rhinestone football, I had my ten-year-old sketch out the image for me, and I cut it out. I then cut out the rhinestones into short strips and outlined the football. Once I had the shape, I took off the image and created the inside lines. I followed the directions on the package to iron on these rhinestones, but I'm disappointed by how many have already fallen off. I think I'll try to use some fabric glue to re-adhere them.

My daughter loves the dress. In fact, as I sat down at my sewing machine to stitch it up, she grabbed the dress and said, "Sew, sew." How could I say no to that request? She's currently napping in it while the boys are hopefully picking up the game room, play room, hallway, and bed rooms. Yup, it's time for this momma to vacuum upstairs.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My Little Garden: Year One

Last summer I was inspired by friends who posted great pictures on about their backyard gardens. I really wanted to build one of those square gardens like I found here at  Casa Sugar, but I wasn’t quite ready to give up any space in our backyard. It’s not as big as I’d like, and with three boys who love playing sports and their little sister who thinks she can join in, we need every bit of space possible. As I looked around, I discovered I had a great solution: our sandbox. It’s one my boys bought with some Christmas gift cards right after we moved here. Our old city had great sandboxes at every park, and the boys loved playing in them, but parks around us now don’t bother with pubic sandboxes like we were accustomed to. I picked this one out because of its quality and size. Last summer, the boys had certainly outgrown it, and I was over the whole sweeping-up-sand-in-my-house thing. With my daughter not even walking, I decided to dump out the sand, wash out the box, and fill it for a simple garden. After all, the label that came with the sandbox showed that it could be used as a garden as well.

We bought several bags of organic potting soil. Do you know the difference between potting soil and topsoil? For years, I thought it was a needless name change with no real purpose, but I have since learned that potting soil is made to hold moisture in a container whereas topsoil can stay too moist, which can cause your plants to rot.

Since our sandbox (um, I mean planter) only goes about 8 inches deep, that limits what we can plant. I bought cucumber seeds and radish seeds along with some pepper plants. I was thrilled when our seeds started sprouting and our peppers started appearing. I also loved that I was teaching my children basic survival skills I think every kid should learn. When they are adults, hopefully they will remember how to grow some produce whether as a therapeutic hobby or out of necessity.

However, I forgot one key step in turning our sandbox into a planter: drilling drain holes. Our plants were surviving our hot summer fine. We had picked quite a few peppers and cucumbers along with two radishes before going to Disney World for a family vacation in mid-June. I had asked a neighbor to water our plants while we were gone. We were experiencing a drought since January, which is why I didn’t think about drain holes. While we were away, we had a much-needed rain, and lots of it. Unfortunately, without drain holes, my plants sat in water for several days. Combine that with 90+ degree heat, and you basically get boiled produce straight from the vine, not exactly the way you want to prepare your veggies. Since the drought continued despite that one day of heavy rain, I gave up on my garden for the summer. But don't worry; I didn't give up on it for long. 

In the fall, I decided to start again, but I'll save that story for another day.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer Bucket List

On the first day of summer, I pulled out a binder I’ve had since my boys were toddlers. It’s a compilation of all the fun activities and crafts I’ve come across in various magazines over the years. It is organized by outdoor activities, birthday party ideas, crafts, and indoor activities. While my original intentions were to use this binder several times a year, life sort of got in the way.

Colors in Nature Scavenger Hunt

However, on one school holiday a few years ago, we did use it. On the Saturday before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I pulled it out, picked a dozen ideas, and let each child select one.  On Monday morning, when the boys were off school for MLK day, we ran to Hobby Lobby to buy supplies. We then spent the entire day and night completing all three activities while hubby had to work.
Making Home-Made Soap
Yarn Art
It was one of my favorite days with my children, and while I had hoped it would become a tradition to spend that holiday this way, I must admit we haven’t pulled out the binder since, partly because my husband now gets that holiday off, so we can travel out of town to visit family that weekend.

While I love getting to go out of town for a three-day weekend, I also missed days of doing something special with the family, which is why I dusted off the binder. After all, it’s full of great ways to spend time together when the kids have a day off school. And summer means 77 days together. What a better time than this to use this binder? Besides VBS, Boy Scout Camp, football, and a couple short trips, we will have a lot of free time. While I’m one of those moms who makes her kids do educational work during the summer, that only accounts for about 20-30 minutes per day, so to keep the kids from fighting non-stop without breaking the bank, I created our Summer Bucket List idea.

So, with binder in hand, our I-Pad opened to my pinterest kid’s board, and a tablet of paper, I asked my children to sit on the floor with me and create a list of 20 activities and crafts we’d like to do this summer. To pick the activities that would excite my kids the most, I’d show them one and let them vote. Two votes meant it got added to our list. (I didn’t vote since I only showed them ideas I thought were good.)

Some ideas were simple, such as playing a particular board game together. Others required trips to the store for supplies. To make sure we pulled an idea out of the bucket list that could be accomplished on that particular day, I color coded them. Orange (think sun) meant an outdoor activity. After all, if it was raining or (more likely) we had a heat index of over 100, we needed to stay indoors. Green (think money) meant it required a trip to the store to buy supplies. Purple had no restrictions.

I then typed up the list and printed the items on the appropriate colored card-stock. We cut them into index card sized rectangles and folded them in half to fill the bucket. I put all the instruction sheets from magazines or printed from the internet that would be required in a folder to keep with the bucket.

Basically, the plan is to randomly pull an activity out, keeping in mind the color restrictions, if necessary, and do the activity together. These aren’t all day affairs, mostly one-hour events to break up the day. I figure I can pull out the bucket when the boys have been watching TV for too long or don’t have any swim dates or play dates scheduled that day. Our goal is to get through each activity before the first day of school in August. I’ll happily share with you these ideas, so you can try them out for yourself. On each Tuesday, I’ll blog about any activities we completed, which means no recipes for the next 10 weeks. Who wants to cook in the summer anyway? As you can see from our list, a few activities are very simple, but they made the list because at least two children requested.

Summer 2012 Bucket List

  1. Have a Wii tournament
  2. Make bottle music
  3. Make and race Plastic Bag Paratroopers
  4. Make Snow Cones
  5. Have an Air Hockey Table Tournament
  6. Make Hand-Print Stepping Stones
  7. Watch Home Videos
  8. Make a Tent with Sheets and Tell Ghost Stories together
  9. Have a cookiebaking contest
  10. Make bouncy balls
  11. Make Fruit Leather
  12. Make a LavaLamp
  13. Make bird seed feeders
  14. Make a Jacob’s Ladder
  15. Make Mini-Caramel Apples
  16. Make Glow-in-the-Dark Mountain Dew
  17. Make Tie-Dye Shirts
  18. Make Solar S'Mores
  19. Make Sidewalk Paint
  20. Play a board game where each player changes/adds one rule.
  21. Make Scratch Art
  22. Make Black Glue & Watercolors Art
  23. Create a Back Yard Survivor Challenge and Compete
  24. Have a Play-Doh Sculpture Contest
  25. Make Flower Seed Cards 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Simple Spring Skirt, Take Two

When I was going through my fabric bags (yes, I really need to dig through my attic and pull down the shelves I want to bring downstairs for my growing collection of sewing material), I discovered a bright green tank top I had bought a couple of months ago. I must have taken it with me shopping in hopes of finding fabric to match it and when I was unsuccessful, promptly got distracted and forgot about it.

Summer is here, and I need more skirt/tank top outfits to wear to my sons’ football games. I decided to make another simple spring skirt.

Thankfully, I found some fun blue fabric that has bright green and hot pink in it, so it’ll actually match a couple of my tops in case I manage to stain or ruin the first one because it is summer after all, and that means eating ice cream and snow balls, both of which I’m prone to spilling down my front. I thought this would be an excellent idea to test out my instructions from my previous post and time myself so I could share just how much time you’d need for this project.

I also realized I wanted to make a few minor changes and then give you the instructions in an easier step-by-step method (less chatty). First off, this new fabric measured 37 by 22.5. I also used ¾ inch elastic. I decided to do some pinning and add a zig-zag stitch on the side seems to prevent fraying, all of which are accounted for below.

1 yard of lightweight fabric
3/4 inch elastic (to fit your waist)
coordinating thread

So, here’s a much less wordy set of instructions:

Step 1: Cut two rectangles by cutting the fabric in half, so they measure approximately 22 ½ inches long by 37 inches wide each. These measurements should work for sizes 2-8.

step 2
Step 2: Match the sides up with the good sides facing each other and sew the first side seam giving ½ inch allowance. Then, using a zig-zag stitch, sew the rough edges on both sides of your new seam. Repeat with the other side. Last, iron the two seams flat.

Step 3: Iron what will become the top of the skirt by first folding the fabric down ½ inch and ironing flat and then folding down another 1 1/4 inches and ironing it flat again. Pin in about six spots regardless of how well you’ve ironed. Sew the casing, leaving several inches of room to insert the elastic

step 4
Step 4: Now that the casing is sewn, we are ready to move on to the hem. Fold the fabric over ½ inch and iron flat. Then fold again another ½ inch and iron again, OR if your fabric wasn’t trimmed at the bottom, you can get away with only folding it over one time. Next, pin at about six spots and top stitch the hem in place.

step 5
Step 5: Let’s tackle the elastic. First, measure it around your waist where you want your skirt to rest and cut that exact length. Next, thread it through the casing after safety pinning both ends. You can use a crochet hook to help pull it through. Once it is through, overlap the elastic about ½ inch and sew together.

Step 6: Once you sew the elastic together with a ½ inch overlap, sew the rest of the casing closed.

Step 7: Fidget with the fabric around the elastic so you get an even distribution.

By the way, it took me about 90 minutes to make this skirt, completing the first three steps in 30 minutes and the last four in an hour. Keep in mind, a lot of time was taken up on step five!

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