My mom adventures in Fort Collins

Gettin’ Crafty: Recycle an old t-shirt into a girl’s skirt

I recently reorganized my closet, and I had to have a frank conversation with myself about my wardrobe. Seriously, you can only wear so many v-neck t-shirts, right? But what do you do with your castoffs? If you’re on pinterest, you can search “Upcycle” and come up with dozens of inspirational ideas. I did have a t-shirt in my pile that was special and sweet–but it was a little on the small side.  So… I know, let’s make a SKIRT!

Who, but my helpless children, will participate in these antics?

Start with a shirt--this shirt is a size small, Simply Vera brand t-shirt with ruffles down the front of the shirt

Start with a shirt–this shirt is a size small, Simply Vera brand t-shirt with ruffles down the front of the shirt

It’s really helpful to have a kiddo’s skirt to work from.

I used this size Small Xhiliration skirt of my daughter's as a  guide--it is a simply A-line skirt with an elastic waistband

I used this size Small Xhiliration skirt of my daughter’s as a guide–it is a simply A-line skirt with an elastic waistband

I did have to take the top two sets of ruffles off (love me some seam ripper!) in order to allow enough room for what will eventually become the waistband. The skirt gave a general guide for the shape of the skirt.

After you cut the shirt apart, you can leave a bit of room on either side for a seam allowance (I used a ruler to at least try to get straight lines)

After you cut the shirt apart, you can leave a bit of room on either side for a seam allowance (I used a ruler to at least try to get straight lines)

Due to the nature of the fabric of the ruffles, I did stitch along the edges to prevent fraying. But other than that, you work the shirt into a skirt in a fairly typical way–right sides together, sew up each seam until where the waistband would be. Turn the top over unto itself to create a “tube” where you’ll insert the elastic (I used 1/2″ elastic).

Creating the "casing" (I believe that's what the cool kids are calling it)

Creating the “casing” (I believe that’s what the cool kids are calling it)

Have your kiddo try on the skirt, if you can, to get the elastic as tight as necessary. It’s good to check that they can walk around–even in knit fabrics, you don’t want the skirt to be too confining. (If need be, you can make the skirt shorter or create a side slit to counter this issue.)

The measured-out elastic waist-band

The measured-out elastic waist-band

And I actually hand sewed the last little bit to enclose the entire elastic. Then, the most fun part–have your kiddo try on their new garment.

Trying on the skirt

Trying on the skirt

Sitting in the skirt

Sitting in the skirt


New skirt!

New skirt!

And she likes it… major craft success!

MiniMurph and Spiderwebs: Cheap thrills for the kids

I know that our highly-consumeristic culture often emphasizes going places with your kids, doing “stuff” with your kids, buying “stuff” for your kids, and a lot of these things cost money. I personally try to avoid feeling like we have to spend money to have a good time. We go to parks, we pack picnics, we play with friends, we make crafts, we enjoy our time with one another. You get it. My love don’t cost a thing. Money can’t buy you love. The best things in life are free. All that.

But every once in a while it’s good to know that there are cheap options out there. I know of a $5 pizza kit and a $2 packet of synthetic spiderwebs that might just rock your world.

You may have heard of the pizza chain Papa Murphy’s pizza. It is a “Take and Bake” establishment: you come into the store, tell the nice folks behind the counter what you want on your pizza, then they create and saran wrap a pizza that you can take home and bake in your own oven.

My parents used to frequent this place, and my hubby generally likes it. I myself don’t love the pizza, but it’s often a good choice because it’s cheap and easy. We get this stuff once a month or so, and the kids will eat it.

Well, while I was having a fun day in Denver recently, Cory got the girls their own personal pizzas. It’s called the MiniMurph.It’s a pizza kit complete with dough, sauce, cheese, and pepperoni (if you’re into that, my kids definitely ARE into pepperoni). As a bonus: They come in the cutest mini-pizza boxes that are now being used in our play kitchen.

Spreading the sauce

I saw the photos and thought I’d share. Looks fun, right?

With their finished products

My other suggestion for cheap thrills is the awesome Spider-web-in-a-packet that you  can find at any craft store (I found mine at JoAnn’s), Halloween store, party store, and possibly even Target or Wal-Mart. Surely you know the type of packet I’m talking about.

Decorating pretty much anything at all for Halloween is a source of big fun at our house. But my kids didn’t even know these existed. They had a hand in creating the spooky porch, and they are thrilled. Twenty minutes of fun, and as a bonus the packet had little plastic spiders that they embedded in the spiderwebs. Porches are great for this stuff, but the wind has taken much of ours down by now (consider yourself forewarned). If you don’t have a porch just use thumbtacks to drape this stuff inside your window frame (inside or outside), cover a bush, or string it from your ceiling. A little of this stuff goes a long way–I’d recommend one packet to start with.

Marvel at the spooky spiderwebs… oooooooohhh

There you have it–cheap thrills for the kids, both under $10. What are some of your favorite cheap-fun-with-kids ideas?

Gettin’ Crafty: Super easy burpcloths
August 20, 2012, 8:12 am
Filed under: Crafting | Tags: , , , , ,

Two new burp cloths just hanging out on the sides of the rocker, waiting to be used. (But not by me! Nope, no “announcements” here!)

I love to sew, but I’m very bad at it and practically all-but-self-taught. I should definitely take another lesson, but it’s just been so much fun to mess around. I have several books, too, that help out with ideas and techniques. This idea originally came from a book that I got from the library, and I added the idea of “tags.” If you’ve never heard of the official name-brand Taggies products, you can see more of that here.

What you’ll need:

Matching rectangles of fabric: One in cotton and one in terrycloth (Size depends on you and what you’re going for, I made mine 12 x 18, but they are huge)

Scraps of ribbons, in a fabric that can hold up to the iron (polyester works well)

Sewing essentials like scissors, thread, sewing machine, a chopstick (or some other tool to turn your edges out), pencil, seam ripper (which I hope you don’t have to use) and your iron and ironing board.

Step 1: Pin your two rectangles together, right sides together. Pin in a few folded over scraps of ribbon. Leave a gap where you will turn the whole thing inside out.

Not the best photo, but I’m trying to show that you want to tuck the ribbon inside so that it will be on the outside when the finished product is turned right-side-out

For example, this is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Step 2: Sew the seams, remembering to leave the gap. Press your work, then turn it inside out. Use the chopsticks to help you turn out your corners.

Scout took this photo of me at the sewing machine

Here is the all-sewn-up deal

Here it is all turned right-side out, and I’ve tucked in the opening to match the seams. If you can picture it, it’s kinda like you’re going to make a pillow without stuffing it.

Step 3: Tuck the fabric in your opening in to match the remaining seam-line. Press this closed and pin if you wish. Now you will top-stitch the entire burpcloth. If you wish to have contrasting or matching thread, be mindful of that here. After top-stitching, press the whole thing and clip your threads and YOU’RE DONE!

Voila! The finished burpcloth: green terry on one side, cut little monkeys on the other and tags for the kiddo to suck on. HA!

So easy, right? The whole project will take you less than an hour, and they make adorable gifts.

I love the project so much, I made two right away–one blue and one green.

Gettin’ Crafty: Recycled Art Owls

You know, I found this idea back on Pinterest about 6 months ago. And it’s taken me this long to realize that 6 months worth of saved toilet paper rolls is probably enough to make a go of this project.

I bring you Toilet Paper Roll Owls. And they are cute (say it like this: cue-oooot). This is a perfect project for a preschooler, but clearly I had a great deal of fun with it, so don’t rule it out for the thirty-five-year-olds in your circles either.

Here’s what you do:

1. Collect a bunch of toilet paper rolls and fabric or paper scraps. You’ll need scissors, glue (preferably a glue gun, as I figured out), a hole puncher, masking tape, paint (we used a washable tempera paint made by Crayola),paint brushes and markers. Alternatively, you could use googly eyes (I took the slacker approach and used a hole puncher to make holes and a marker to color them into eyes). It’s helpful to plan for a bit of a mess, too–so aprons, newspaper, paper towels, etc. are nice to have around, too.

We’ve collected our gear, now they anxiously await the painting… No, really, it doesn’t look it but they were TOTALLY into this. Really.

2. First step, prepare the toilet paper rolls. Pinch the top of the roll together, and bend the edges in towards one another. Tape with masking tape to keep this in place. Now paint.

Painting is fun! We used a paper plate leftover from Christmas (hi, Santa!) as our palette.

3. Let the owls-in-waiting dry completely.

I found it was easier to hold the roll from the inside and paint it while holding it.

4. Cut your fabric scraps into wings, cut little triangles out of orange construction paper, and punch out circles to use as eyes (or use googly eyes).

We had a helper to make our owls–one of my daughter’s friends was over!

5. Time to glue. Now, I used both glue stick and hot glue. I think the texture of the toilet paper roll combined with the fact that you’re gluing things to a cylinder and not a flat piece of paper did make it a little obnoxious. Pull out the big “gun” if you have one. (I’m such a dork, making glue gun jokes is not even the worst of it.)

They are coming together.

6. Well, lo and behold… an owl. OWLS! What a hoot!

“WHO” loves crafting???

Gettin’ Crafty: Tank top to child’s dress
April 14, 2012, 6:06 am
Filed under: Crafting, Family

In my world, I’ve yet to truly accept that I’m not really that good at being crafty. You see, I love it so much that it breaks my heart to think of not doing it. I envision a whole home devoted to inspirational ideas gleaned from pinboards. Is it so wrong to long for gift cards to Hobby Lobby and Joann’s Fabrics? I look at jam jars and toilet paper rolls and think only of how I might someday be able to put them to good use in a reincarnated craft.

For better or worse, I have passed this trait down to my children. They, like most pre-school age kiddos, love to CREATE! Glue, glitter, fabric, thread, scissors, yarn, stickers, crayons, paper, paint, chalk, markers, etc. The obvious advantage in their crafting world vs. my crafting world is their ages. At 2 and 4, I think most people are not expecting Van Gogh. Whereas when you are 35 and your work looks interchangeable for your pre-schooler’s, it can seem defeating.

Yet I persist. So, here’s a little creation that you can whip up if you too care to tame the wild crafting beast that lives inside you.

Start with an old tank top (Do you see the look in her eyes? Mom, WHAT are you doing with your sewing machine?)


Old Tank Top (yep, the one in your Goodwill pile will work nicely)




Fabric Scrap* (optional, but helpful esp. if your tank top is  a v-neck)

Approximately 2 feet of ribbon

Heat-n-Bond Adhesive tape* (optional, but helpful)

Sewing Machine* (optional, but will make this project go super duper quick)


1. Cut out the side seams of your tank top.Then, cut the top straps. You should now have two generally tank-top-shaped, separate pieces of cloth .

Two separate pieces of cloth

1.5 If you have a v-neck, you may wish to add a little insert into the V. Even Toddlers in Tiaras don’t need cleavage showing. Dress that little fabric scrap up really cute, and apply it to the cloth from the wrong-side with a decorative stitch if you like.

A little insert into the V

1.75 If you fear that the dress is too wide, cut back the back straps area. Using a fusible adhesive (like heat-n-bond tape), make a hem. No sewing necessary! Just watch your iron so that you are following the directions of the adhesive, and use an iron cloth (adhesive on your iron stinks both literally and figuratively).

See how I trimmed back the back to make it a bit smaller?

There's my lovely heat-n-bond seam in the making. Heat-n-bond tape is to sewing what cake mixes are to baking.

2. Keeping your two separate pieces of cloth wrong-side out, you will pin up new straps–taking them up a few inches as necessary. Then, measuring against your model, pin a new side seam. Considering you now have sharp pins sticking all over your dress, carefully remove it from your model.

3. Lay out the dress and straighten your seams. If your tank top has an empire waist (as mine did), re-pin to account for bunching and fit. The empire waist area–an inch or so down from the chest–is a great area to put in a tie back which you can easily create with a ribbon. Pin your ribbon in 12-in (approximate) lengths to the interior of the dress. You’ll want about an inch of fabric sticking out when you sew it all up.

4. Sew  up the seams. Be mindful of the ribbons, because you only want to catch them in the seam where you pinned them!

5. Press seams. Try it on your model and see what you’ve created! (If it’s still too long, you will also need to pin and hem your dress.) Have a fun fashion show!

The tie-back bow

Another shot of the dress

Everyone will want to try on the dress.

Someone help me. “Ma’am, step away from the sewing machine. Keep your hands where I can see them.” Seriously, it’s just a matter of weeks before I cut up the old curtains to make cloth-diapers for Baby Alive. Wait, I’ve already done that.

Getting crafty: Homemade Playdough
March 28, 2012, 1:40 am
Filed under: Crafting, Family | Tags: , , , , ,

This one is especially for RFL, but I thought it would be a fun post for all. Today we made some fresh playdough to upgrade our supply.

A disheveled helper showing you her Kool Aid packet (and yes, she's wearing Christmas jammies, don't judge)

I give you the world’s easiest (and best smelling) homemade playdough.


2 ½ Cups All-purpose flour

2 Packages Kool Aid

½ cup salt

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

2 cups boiling water


Mix in order (dry ingredients first, then add oil, then add water).

That big ball of dough should come out looking something like this (we used Grape flavored Kool Aid)

 A few thoughts: I use bleached flour for this, in the hopes that it picks up more of the pigment from the Kool Aid (not sure if it actually has any impact on the hue, though). Use the old school Kool Aid, not the sugar-free kind. Since the recipe requires the use of boiling water, I let my kids do all the mixing until that point (though other recipes I have found actually make it on the stove-top, so you pick your non-kid-friendly approach). Once you stir in the water, it will look kinda wonky. Let it cool a bit more, and then knead it to fully integrate all the ingredients. Also, you will find that since there is a fair bit of vegetable oil in it, that your playing surface may take on a greasy sheen. If that bothers you, cover your table with one of those wipe-off picnic table table-cloths. The upshot of all the oil is that this stuff stays pliable for a long time. I think the last batch I made was last summer, and kept in a cheap-o air tight container, it has kept amazingly well. The only other down side is that if you want a variety of colors, that’s going to be more difficult. You could definitely half the recipe and make two batches with two different Kool Aid packets, though.

Happy playing, folks!

Enjoying the finished product

Snow day!
February 5, 2012, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Crafting, Family | Tags: , ,

Way back on Thursday, there were staggering predictions for snow on the Front Range. Denver cancelled school on Friday… without even waiting for Friday to arrive. Poudre Schools, notorious for not cancelling school, declared the day a “Snow Day!”

I was thrilled with this notion. Who doesn’t love a day to be lazy? Snow days say, “I give you the gift of casting off your commitments for the day and enjoying your cozy home with reckless abandon.”

Scout standing next to the snowman she made with her dad on Friday over lunch

We enjoyed a bit of crafting as well. Next week is, of course, Valentine’s Day. We have been told by Scooter’s preschool teacher to bring a valentine for every child. Last year, I got some cheap-o store-bought ones with Disney princesses on them. But this year, oh no, we are going old-school. Handmade valentine love, baby!

The inspiration for our valentines. Have I mentioned how much my kids love french fries, especially McDonald’s french fries?

Scooter with her card. The inside “french fry” is a pull-out that says: Hey Small Fry, Want to be my valentine? Isn’t it the cutest? Don’t you want to pin me?

The night was capped off by a movie night. We watched Piglet’s Big Adventure for the 18th time. I still love all the Carly Simon music in that one. We ate popcorn and had snacks for dinner.

Continued snow on Friday night meant that there was again some lovely fresh snow when we woke up on Saturday. The girls and I took full advantage. The snow was perfect for packing. Also perfect for snowballs (heck, kids have to learn sometime–better I teach ’em, at least I won’t throw them at their faces). It was bright and sunny, I even got my lawnchair out to enjoy.

The snow bunnies on Saturday

Oooh, I love a good snow day, or snow DAYS, as the case may be.