Friday, 11 February 2011 22:04

Valentine's Day Crafts

Valentine CraftsIt wasn’t until my husband and I had kids that I began to think that Valentine’s Day could be a great way for kids to celebrate the holiday with their family.

This may just mean that you will find that part of your day is full of fun and laughter while the latter is more romantic – like having two holidays in one!   Here are some ideas on how to make this Valentine’s Day a fun and memorable day, whether that includes children or just you and your loved one.

“Sweet” Recipes & Treats

Sweet recipes and treatsHow about making a Valentine's Day breakfast or dinner for the family and letting the kids help?  Remember that these meals don't have to be fancy.  Try serving heart shaped-pancakes to start your morning – they will be a big hit!  Check out our blog on this and other good for you and tasty Valentine’s Day themed recipes that you and your family will enjoy preparing and eating.

Valentine's Day Messages

This is a fun one! Purchase pink, red and white window markers at your local drugstore or party store and get creative.   You can use them to write Valentine's Day notes on the windows and mirrors throughout your home.  Encourage your kids of all ages to participate.  The younger ones can draw pictures, hearts and smiley faces while the older ones can leave messages.  If you are really in a festive mood, you can use the markers to do something similar on your car windows.   Your kids and spouse will enjoy finding these messages and drawings around the house!

Holiday Themed Crafts

Valentine Day's messagesFinding great Valentine’s Day crafts for kids and grownups is very easy by doing a quick internet search.  One of my favorite holiday crafts is soap making
because it’s simple, relatively inexpensive and fun for kids of all ages (and grown ups too!).  The finished soap bars can be given out as lovely gifts that are perfect for teachers, neighbors and relatives or can be used throughout your home for a festive touch.  Follow our easy example here.

Valentine Day's messagesAnother craft favorite is to have your child make a keepsake memory box to store their Valentine’s Day cards and small treats.   These are very simple to make and share!  You can buy ready to assemble kits at your local craft store or make your own by decorating a shoebox or tissue box with Valentine’s Day themed embellishments.   At our home we enjoy putting a small mailbox out for each family member and leaving little notes and treats the week leading up to Valentine’s Day – it’s a fun way to get into the holiday spirit.  The kids get very excited when the little flag on their mailboxes is up – signaling that something special is waiting for them!

Check out these sites for other Valentine’s Day inspired crafts.

Date Night In Without the Kids

After your kids go to bed have a couple's night in. You can rent your favorite movie or make each other’s favorite meal or dessert.  My husband and I have a tradition for Valentine’s Day…we always get Thai take-out and he buys me carnations.  It’s a silly tradition, but it reminds us of our first real date back in college, when we were poor students and all he could afford to give me on our first Valentine’s Day were a few carnations!    After the kids are in bed, we set the nice china out on the dining room table, complete with wine glasses and candles.  I love this way of celebrating because it’s very low-key, we avoid the restaurant rush, and we can enjoy a nice evening at home.

Family Date Night

If you have older children at home, a date night in can be a great way of incorporating them into the holiday.   Consider letting them stay up later and enjoying a family game night.   To make it more fun encourage everyone to dress in pink and red clothes!  If playing games is not something you enjoy doing as a family, try watching a movie instead and serving simple holiday themed treats.

Decorate for Valentine's Day

Keep it simple by shopping at your local dollar or discount store and purchasing red, white and pink streamers and balloons.   You may want to enlist your kids to help decorate your home or decorate yourself on the 13th after they are in bed so that your kids can enjoy waking up to the festive décor!

Easter EggsI can't believe that Easter is right around the corner, it snuck up on me!  I love planning for this holiday, in some ways more than I enjoy prepping for Christmas. There are just so many great ways to prepare and celebrate Easter, especially with young children. In the next two weeks I'll be posting crafts, healthy meals and other topics related to Easter, stay tuned! Meanwhile, below is my first Easter tip.

Easter Tip #1:  Healthier Alternative to Easter Basket Fillers

My children LOVE Easter baskets and eggs full of goodies, but l feel like we are just recuperating from the Valentine’s Day sugar rush! The last few years, the Easter bunny has not packed our baskets and eggs with chocolates and peeps, he’s gone a healthier route!

Try out some of these basket and egg fillers instead of the sugary and chocolate filled ones found in traditional baskets.

  • Books: How about an Easter themed book or new bookmarks.
  • Gift Certificates: Older children may enjoy a small gift certificate to a local frozen yogurt shop or bookstore.
  • Small Toys: Bath toys, small puzzles, stickers, tiny stuffed animals, temporary tattoos and dollar store items are big hits.
  • Treats: A small amount of candy is ok, but try adding yogurt covered raisins, trailmix, nuts, and pretzels to baskets.
  • Clothes & Accessories: Does your child need a new swimsuit?  How about some flip-flops?  Hair ties, barrettes and nail polish are nice…what about a new toothbrush? One of my friend gets her kids PJs for the warmer weather.
  • Consider a theme and filling your child's basket with appropriate items.  Think outside the basket if you will, with these ideas:
    • Outside Fun Theme:  As the weather gets warmer, children will enjoy things they can use outdoors.  Think bubbles, balls, sidewalk chalk, sunglasses, water guns, new beach toys, jump ropes and hula hoops.
    • Garden Theme: Encourage your child to pick up a new hobby!  How about including some seed packets or child friendly gardening tools? Kid-sized gardening gloves or a small watering can.
    • Craft/Art Basket:  Boost you child’s creativity with a new box of crayons and a coloring book.  Maybe some paints and brushes, washable markers, a new pack of stickers or playdough.

Now how about those chocolate & candy filled eggs? You might consider filling your eggs with the following items:

  • Stickers!   Kids loves them….buy a large pack and then cut them into small sizes that will fit in the eggs.
  • Band-aids are fun, try ones with characters or that are brightly colored.
  • Trail mix or mixed nuts are healthy treats.
  • Raisins, granola, dried apricots, other dried fruit or sugar-free gum
  • Kids will LOVE finding coins or even a dollar bill in an egg or two!
  • Avoid the full size candy bars and stick to the small snack size portions (in a limited amount) if you want to include candy.
The possibilities for a a healthy Easter basket are really endless.  Now, I too love sweets and my kids enjoy them too.  I am not advocating you ban the sugary sweets all together; but limiting them and replacing them with these ideas is something to consider.  See, last year kiddos looked very happy with their candy free Easter baskets!  I know, they are a bit much; but Easter is HUGE deal around our home.   The kids look forward to it and I have a ton of fun getting ready for it.
Easter Baskets
Wednesday, 03 March 2010 00:27

Creating a “Green” Baby Basket

Green Baby Shower BasketWhy a “green” baby basket?

For baby’s and mama’s health, of course! When making a green basket, stick to natural and BPA-free products. Make the basket according to the steps outlined in our How to Make a Unique Baby Shower Basket article. This basket contains some of our favorite natural and eco-friendly products for baby and mom, but feel free to include your favorite natural products and personal touches.

What you will need from the craft store:

  • 1 medium to large sized wicker basket – to hold the gift items together
  • 1 package of paper or crinkle shred – to line the inside of the basket
  • 1 package of plant “stakes” – to help keep the items visible in the basket
  • 1 square foam brick – to keep items from sinking to the bottom of the basket
  • Packing tape – to tape the back of the items to the plant “stakes”
  • Tulle, ribbon and any other decorative touches – to embellish your basket

Products used in this basket:

For Baby
  • Burt’s Bees Diaper Ointment
  • 1 package of eco friendly diapers, like 7th Generation or Nature Babycare
  • California Baby Shampoo and Lotion
  • Trumpette Socks
For Mom
  • Earth Mama Baby Angel “Booby Tubes”
  • Earth Mama Nipple Butter
  • Burt’s Bee Lip Balm & L’Occitane bar soap
  • 1 sheet of 20 custom stamps from photostamps.com
  • Custom stationery set with pen

Green Baby Shower    Basket

Steps 1, 2 and 3: Items for baby and mom used in the “green” basket.

Green Baby Shower    Basket

For an extra touch, we added personalized stationery that we made for the mom-to-be using pre-cut cardstock from a local stationery store and baby themed stamps and embellishments. You can opt to buy a boxed set and tie it together with a ribbon. Mom will appreciate a set of thank you stationery for all the gifts she and baby receive.

Green Baby Shower Basket - Custom StampsMom will love these custom stamps from photostamps.com!

Packaging items: paper shred, ribbon, tulle and a white foam brick.

Green Baby Shower  Basket: Packaging itemsStep 4:

Gather all items into the basket. For this basket, we first placed the white foam brick at the bottom center of the basket. The four sides around the foam board were filled with the extra diapers. Paper shred was added to the top of the foam board and diapers. The remaining items were arranged on top of the paper shred, with the smaller items towards the front of the basket.

Green Baby Shower  Basket

In order for some of the items to stay in place, we taped one plant “stake” to the back of the items and then pushed the stake through the foam board.

Items are arranged in basket, with smaller items in the front. Make sure that all items are visible.

Green Baby Shower  BasketStep 5:

Green Baby Shower  BasketAdd decorative elements and wrap the basket if you like. The “little man” tag was so cute, but we added a blank blue card stock to the back to write down a description of all the items included in the basket. A homemade gift tag and layers of tulle add a whimsical touch. The finished basket was wrapped in cellophane and tied with polka dot ribbon. The details matter, let your creative side come through!

Wednesday, 03 March 2010 23:09

How to Make a Unique Baby Shower Basket

Baby Shower BasketThe next time you are invited to a baby shower, give the mamá-to-be something extra special, a personalized baby gift basket made especially for her by you!

It’s not difficult to do and it won’t take too much time, but the new mom will surely appreciate your thoughtfulness. Your baby shower basket can be filled with so many interesting, necessary and unique gifts for both baby AND mom. Choose a great container and thoughtful items for your basket, they will make all the difference!

The basics: The basket should take about 45 minutes to assemble, plus the time it will take you to shop for the basket items. The cost of the basket will depend on what you are going to buy. It’s best to set a limit and then work to make sure that everything fits within your budget. A smaller basket may cost about $30-$45 to make, while the maximum really depends on your budget. What will you need? A basket or other container to hold the items, an assortment of baby and mom products and a few decorative elements for the finishing touch. You may be able to purchase all the items at one place, but you will probably have to visit two places – a craft store for your container and another store for your baby items.

Step 1: Buy the basket/container

A wicker basket makes a great container because they tend to hold many items and can later be used for extra storage in the nursery or baby’s dirty laundry. The size of the basket will depend on what it’s going to hold. You can make a simple basket for a co-worker or a more elaborate one for a close friend. You may buy baskets in an assortment of colors and sizes at craft stores or home goods stores (Michaels, Jo-Ann Fabrics, World Market), where they can be very reasonably priced, unlike at many specialty shops.

Aside from wicker baskets, you can get creative and use other items to hold the gift together. How about using a little red wagon, a child themed wastebasket, or a decorative children’s suitcase? Consider buying a diaper bag off mom’s registry and filling it with all sorts of unexpected goodies. A baby bathtub can also be filled with lots of baby AND mom bath items! There are no limits – be creative! You may even suggest to a friend or two that you make a larger basket together.

Baby Shower BasketStep 2: Basket Liner

You will need shredded paper or raffia to fill in and line the bottom of the basket. These items are available at craft stores. You can skip these items if you choose to line your basket with baby items, like a blanket or diapers.

Step 3: Gather your gift items, the fun part!

Deciding which items to buy for a baby shower basket will depend on your budget, the type of basket you are making and size of your basket/container. You may want to build a basket around a certain theme (bath time, feeding time, or diapering). It’s a nice touch to incorporate the nursery’s theme or baby’s gender into the gift items. Lots of clothes & cute novelty items are fun to buy, but a basket full of items that new parents are always running out of or may have been overlooked on a registry will be much appreciated. Don’t worry, baby will have plenty of new clothes and toys!

Baby Basket Themes

  • Bath basket: Include an assortment of baby bath products like shampoo, bath towels, wash towels, lotions and bath toys. For that extra touch, include a nice bubble bath, body scrub and lotion for the tired mom!
  • Feeding basket: Include feeding items that mom may have registered for but may get overlooked on a registry, like extra bottle nipples, a variety of PBA free pacifiers, small feeding spoons, and a cute bowl and sippy cup feeding set. Burp cloths, bibs and teething toys will come in very handy too! Add something extra for mom, like a nursing cover. Surprise her with a fresh batch of cookies or other gourmet treats she may enjoy. The new mom will also appreciate having some extra nursing pads or nursing bras on hand!
  • Relaxation basket: Include baby massage oil and a book on the benefits of baby massage, a soothing baby music CD, and lotion for baby. A new mom will appreciate a CD of her favorite type of music, a scented candle, an assortment of teas and aromatherapy treatments. How about a nice bottle of wine for the new parents that they can enjoy when they have a quite moment? A massage for a new mom is a FABOULOUS treat, so are gift certificates to the movies or to her favorite restaurant, but make sure to include a certificate for babysitting too! We like to include a set of “thank you” stationary and stamps for mom.
  • Labor basket: When the “big” day arrives, make sure mom has lots of handy items at the hospital, birthing center or home to help her through labor and after baby’s arrival. You may want to include: a relaxation CD, slippers, a book/magazine, lip balm, lotion, hair clips, massage oil, bath products for mom, a plush robe and maybe even a journal and pen to record all the exciting moments leading up to the birth and after.
  • Big sister/brother basket: It’s a great idea to remember older siblings by making a basket just for them. The basket can be given to them on the day of baby’s arrival as a special treat by mom. Not only will they not feel left out, but they will be kept busy! You may want to include: coloring items, small toys, snacks, puzzles, drawing pads, and stickers. You may event want to include a book on becoming a big brother/sister. As an extra treat, include movie tickets or give them a new DVD they can watch as a family.
  • Book basket: Sure, we know baby can’t read quite yet, but it’s never too early to start reading to the new little one! Research has shown that reading to young children, even from a very early age, can be very beneficial. Include baby friendly board books and a book that is bath friendly. This basket is a wonderful opportunity to give baby some wonderful books in español too. Many classic baby board books like Goodnight Moon, The Going To Bed Book and The Runaway Bunny are available in Spanish. Has mom been meaning to read a certain book? Maybe you can get her a copy on a CD for her car or buy her a gift certificate to a local bookstore. Mom may enjoy a new stationary set for all those great gifts!
  • Baby Favorites “Green” Basket: This is the basket that we most enjoy making because it includes a collection of all of our favorite baby and mom products – green & natural products that it is! See our guide to make this basket.
Other items you may want to include:
  • Baby wipes & diaper ointment
  • Cloth or disposable diapers
  • Board books for baby
  • Helpful parenting books or magazines for new parents
  • A year subscription to a parenting magazine

When possible, include natural and BPA-free products. They are so much better for babies’ skin and overall health!

Baby Shower BasketStep 4: Arrange basket items

Arranging your baby gift basket will depend on your container and personal taste. Ideally, you want to keep the larger items in the back and the smaller items in the front of the container. If your basket includes diapers, try lining the bottom of the container with them. It may take some adjusting, but just stand back and take a good look at the basket. Is everything visible?

Although not necessary, there are a few items that can help with making all the items visible and keeping them in place. We like to use white “brick” foam at the bottom of the basket and then cover it with paper shred. Foam bricks are available in the floral department of most craft stores. It will keep heavier items from sinking to the bottom. Plant “stakes” (sold in the same section of craft stores as the brick foams) can be used to hold items in place. We tape the narrow stakes the back of the gift items and them poke the stake through the foam board so the items stay in place.

Step 5: The final touch!

Add a pre-made bow or make your own with ribbon. You can place the basket in a pre-made clear plastic gift bag or use clear cellophane wrapping plastic (also at craft stores) for that professional touch! Remember to be creative! Your thoughtfulness will be much appreciated!

Friday, 12 February 2010 06:56

Valentine's Day Craft: Homemade Soap

Valentine's Day SoapSoap making is easy and relatively inexpensive. This is a fun craft for kids and when you are done, the finished soap bars can be given out as lovely gifts.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 (2lb) package of white glycerin soap
  • 1-2 soap molds. In this craft we used a Victoran style mold and a heart shaped mold.
  • Pink and blue soap coloring found in the craft stores
  • Soap scent (to your taste) – Vanilla was used in this recipe, also found in craft stores.
  • 2 small mixing bowls
  • 1 measuring cup
  • Ribbon & paper for packaging
Valentine's Day Soap - Step 1

*This recipe yields 12 regular sized soap bars.

Step 1:

Cut your white glycerin soap bar into 4 equal parts. Take each part and further cut into 1-inch cubes. Place ½ of the cubes in 1 small mixing bowl and the other half in the other mixing bowl.

Step 2:

Heat your soap cubes in the first bowl in the microwave for 1 minute on high. Continue to heat at 10-second intervals until all of the soap has melted.

Valentine's Day Soap - Step 4
Step 3:

Once the soap cubes have melted, add your favorite fragrance and red soap coloring. Mix the melted soap, coloring and fragrance.

Step 4:

Pour the mixture into the measuring cup and then into your molds. Let cool for 1 hour.

Valentine's Day Soap - Step 5Step 5:

Apply gentle pressure to release your soap from the mold.

Valentine's Day Soap - Step 6Step 6:

Wrap the soap in tissue paper, wrapping paper or other decorative paper (found in the scrapbook section of craft stores) and tie with ribbon.

Valentine's Day Soap - Step 7Step 7:

Repeat all the above steps with the remaining ½ soap cubes but this time add a little blue to the mixture to make purple. Try alternating your colors too – be creative!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010 20:56

Las Memorias

ScrapbookingScrapbooking, card making and rubber stamping are hobbies that have grown tremendously in popularity.

While finding products to make beautiful and unique crafts is relatively easy to do, finding such products in Spanish or with a Latino theme is a much harder task. Two companies, Spanish Memories and Arte Latin-Oh! are the only suppliers that we have come across providing unique products in Spanish or with a Latino theme. Scrapbook materialsThey even carry items for you reggaeton fans! The founders of these companies are intensely proud of their culture and they have a wide variety of unique products that you will love.

If you enjoy blogging about scrapbooking, this blog is a great one, and it’s in español.

Friday, 29 January 2010 03:49

The "7-Minute" Scrapbook Page

Scrapbook - BaptismIt’s a grand idea – to capture your child’s “firsts” and other memorable events in a scrapbook.

Scrapbook - Playing Guitar with GrandpaBUT, we all have excuses – we are busy, we could never catch up, we don’t want to spend money on more supplies or (if you are like me) you have already spent too much money on supplies that you did not use! My excuse is that I have a hard time getting my pictures off the digital camera! These excuses are why I LOVE www.howfasttimeflies.com – it’s my favorite digital scrapbooking site. The site makes it very easy to tackle the sometimes daunting task of making a scrapbook/memory book for a child, a loved one or yourself.

Scrapbook - Making Flour Tortillas with GrandmaCathy Bennett, a mom, started howfasttimeflies.com in 2007 and it has grown into something really unique. She has a team of very talented designers that have created so many beautiful templates for children and they now have “grown up” templates – think weddings, showers, etc. This site is so easy to use…really, all you have to do is:

Scrapbook - Making Tortillas1. Create an account (it’s free) on howfasttimeflies.com.
2. Upload your pictures to the Digi-Scrapbook software (this is the most time consuming part).
3. Create your pages by choosing a layout and dragging your pictures into the template.
Scrapbook - Baby Sister4. Add your own text & title to the page.

Once you have completed your page(s) you can order 12x12 copies that go right into your scrapbook and there is an application that allows you to share the pages on Facebook. The $5.50 per page is worth it for the busy mom or for the paper and glue scrapbook “drop out.” The pages are printed on high quality 110-lb. cardstock.

Scrapbook - Go Irish!It’s been called the home of the 7 minute scrapbook page because it really is this easy – the hard part will be choosing from over 480 templates. The site’s templates are the nicest I have seen – and I say this with a lot of confianza since I have spent way too much time doing online scrapbooking! I like that I am able to add my own text en español, too.

Scrapbook - SpringIf you already scrapbook in digital format, you will LOVE this site; if you scrapbook the old fashioned way with paper and glue dots, you will LOVE this site; if you have never tried scrapbooking or stopped doing it, you will LOVE this site.

The scrapbooks you see here are some of the pages that I have created using the site.