Category Archives: DIY

Budgeting Banks

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I received some awesome vinyl from Silhouette (maker of my favorite cutting machine) to try out for a review on my blog. Their machine is way awesome! I used it to make a few fun projects:

When I received the vinyl, I had so many project ideas–but the one I was most excited to make was a budgeting bank system for my kids.

I have the Silhouette Cameo, which is super easy to use. All I had to do was choose the font I wanted to use and load the vinyl, and then it did all the work!

For this project, I used the font SNF Journaling Dots, though with Silhouette’s program you can use any font on your computer. I made the dots, peeled off the back of the vinyl, and applied the letters–super easy! (These are applied to Hubert’s Lemonade containers, which were a good excuse to drink their yummy lemonade!)

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Then, for a touch of color, I added a pot holder loom loop to each one. (Ribbon would be cute, too, but these were for boys.) My husband built a cute little crate to hold them all, and now we are all ready for the kids to put their money into their separate bottles for good budgeting skills!

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Silhouette is running a promotion on their machines and vinyl in case you want to check them out. To get the deals, use my promo code, UNPOLISHED.

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Practical(ly) Valentine’s Day

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I am a big fan of practical gifts. A friend once asked what I wanted for my birthday – and I told her a twin waterproof mattress pad for my toddler who was soon to be moving to a “big boy bed.” And, though I shouldn’t admit this, I once gave my mom a toilet for Christmas. She is not as much a fan of practical gifts as I am, so that one was definitely “better to give than to receive!”

Not only do I love practical gifts, I also love plants. I would much prefer my hubby bring home a plant with roots rather than cut flowers, and I love getting plants from others so I can think of them when I see the happy plant — provided I don’t kill it!

So this year, when our Valentine’s Day party approached, I decided I would get a package of flower seeds for each kiddo. I stapled a little (cheesy) note at the top, “’Sow’ glad you’re my friend.” I was excited to give something to kiddos that might inspire them to plant some fun flowers with their families!

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Since I was busy putting the valentines together, I totally neglected to have my kids make boxes. (Actually, I loathe the making of valentines boxes for some reason.)  My creative guys decided to make their boxes out of Duplos. Perfect. I don’t have to get out the paints, and I don’t have to feel guilty when I recycle their precious creations. We can just disassemble them and go on with life!

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Hope you have a good time celebrating Valentine’s Day with your little ones!

My ho-ho-ho hiatus

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I took a little ho-ho-ho hiatus from writing for a bit, and I have been eager to get back to it! Now that Christmas is over, I am able to breathe a bit…at least until January when we celebrate three birthdays in this house!

I should take this opportunity to write a little about self control…as I just ate an entire sleeve of Girl Scout Thin Mints as I was jotting some things down. (A sleeve really should be a serving size!) But, instead, I just wanted to show a few pictures of the projects I made for this Christmas. I so enjoyed giving homemade gifts, but next year, I plan to start in July! (I am not a procrastinator, so finishing my daughter’s pajama pants an hour before she was to open them was stressful!)

I hope you had a joyous Christmas with your loved ones!

Homemade Vanilla Extract
This a friend and I made a few months ago, since it takes a few months to cure. We ordered high quality vanilla beans and made it using a tutorial we found online.
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Recently, I found and printed a label from Style Me Pretty. I had to put mine on some printed paper because of the shape of my bottles. It was such a fun project, and it was a lot of fun to give!

Pajama Pants
I lamented the making of these pants in a previous post. They turned out okay. I learned a lot, so I hope to get better and faster at this next year. In the middle of fixing these pants for my husband (they were way too big and had to be sized down) my seven-year-old son asked why I was making girly pajama pants for my husband. That was a great vote of confidence! Incidentally, none of my boys have lamented the girly nature of these pants, but I haven’t seen my husband in them since Christmas Eve! I hope to have better luck next year in the fabric choice department!
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Can you see the ruffles on the little girl pants? I just love them!

Hand Towels
A friend of mine has the cutest hand towel she picked up from a craft store in Colorado. I decided it would be fun to make a decorative hand towel or two (or eight!) to give to a few family members.
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I purchased the premade flour sack hand towels from JoAnn’s, and then cut them in half and hemmed the edges. Then I added coordinating strips of cotton and edging. I used my Silhouette Cameo and some interfacing to cut out the birds and branch. I sewed around those with a zig zag stitch. Then I made some french knot eyes for the birds.
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Cornhole Bean Bag Toss
This is something my husband and I did together – he made the boards (designed them and everything!) and I made the corn bags. Since my husband and I are a divided household, we made them in Chicago Cubs blue (yuck!) and St. Louis Cardinals red (yay!).
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Our kids had a lot of fun testing them out for Grammie and Grandpa!

A-Frame Play Tents
For the wee ones, we (ahem, well, my husband mostly) made some tents for reading and sleeping. Our boys have slept in their tents every night we have been at home since Christmas! My husband designed these — they collapse completely, didn’t cost much, and were fairly easy to make. He can’t wait to show them how to make a giant tunnel out of these by placing them end to end!
IMG_0913There is just something so joyous about gifting something homemade! I can’t wait to make a few things next year…which is good because I think I shall start soon!

DIY Advent Calendar

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It’s hard to believe December has arrived! It always seems to sneak up on me, even though it comes at the same time every year!

When I was young, Christmas was amazing, warm, and magical. And now that I am a parent, it is even more so! The old adage is true: it is indeed better to give rather than to receive. I look forward to Christmas morning perhaps more than my kids do. I love to watch their faces as they come out of their bedrooms!

One of the traditions we enjoy is counting down to Christmas using an advent calendar. This year, I was inspired by an idea on Pinterest using old baby food jars. I just love repurposing items like this!

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Each year, we plan to use this to hide trinkets, verses, ideas for games to do and so forth. This year, we plan to hide little papers that include something fun to do as a family — activities such as singing carols around the piano, baking cookies, visiting neighbors, reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, driving to see Christmas lights, reenacting Jesus’s birth story, baking gingerbread men, and going ice skating. (I’ll keep a master list so that I can prepare for the next day’s activity.)

If you want to make one, you will need:

  • 25 baby food jars
  • Spray paint (I used red and white)
  • Strong glue (I used E6000 from Hobby Lobby)
  • Letter and number stickers or cut outs
  • Paper circles
  • Mod Podge

Here’s what you’ll do:

  1. Spray paint the inside of the jars and lids. They may need a second coat. (Painting the inside will ensure the paint doesn’t scrape off in storage.)
  2. Paint a board.
  3. Glue jars to the board.
  4. Glue circles, letters, and numbers in the correct positions.
  5. Paint Mod Podge over the fronts of the lids and the title.
  6. Hide little trinkets, treasures, or papers.
  7. Delight in the memories with your kiddos!

If you get a chance to make one, I look forward to hearing how you use your advent calendars!

DIY: A Reading Highlighter Bookmark

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I was shopping in the teacher store one day, and saw something like this little doodad. I knew it was something I could make, and so I tried it out early last year when I was teaching our oldest little man to read. At the time, I wanted something to help him transition to focusing on lines instead of individual words. Since then, we have also used this to highlight vocabulary words and do other word studies. They are super simple and inexpensive to make!

To make this, you will need:

  • A paper cutter
  • Transparency sheet (or other thin plastic sturdy piece, such as a plastic to-go container)
  • Yellow (or other light color) permanent marker
  • Sturdy paperboard or cardstock
  • Tape (not shown)

Once you’ve gathered the materials, away we go:

First, cut your paperboard to the desired dimensions. Mine is 6″x2.”

Then, cut a window. I made one that is 1/2″x5.” I did this by placing the paper cutter blade down 3/4″ down from the top and 1/2″ in from the side. (At this point, I taped the paperboard to the cutter to keep it from sliding.) I then cut the 5″ length. I repeated this by turning the rectangle upside down and making the same cut. Finally, I cut the small, half inch length on each end to remove the “window.”

Okay, this is the super easy part. Color a section of plastic (slightly bigger than your window) with the permanent marker. Finally, tape it to the “back” of your paperboard. And, voila! A reading highlighter for your favorite new(er) reader!

Handmade: A Calendar Project

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Like most people, we enjoy making and giving homemade Christmas gifts. Over the years, we have made calendars for grandparents and great-grandparents using our handprints. It’s been such a treasured gift that I wanted to share it with you! So, without further adieu, I give you what I affectionately call “Handmade.”

What you will need:

  • Acrylic paint: black, white, flesh tone, brown, pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple
  • Plain colored paper or cardstock (You will need 12 of these per calendar)
  • Two sheets of coordinating patterned paper
  • Letter stickers or letter cut outs
  • A cheap calendar
  • A good adhesive – and lots of it!
  • A small hole punch – I use the Making Memories eyelet setter
  • A child or two (or more!)

Some tips:

  • Acrylic paint does not come out of clothing or carpet – so make sure your child (and you!) don’t wear your favorite outfits.
  • Do this activity as close to a sink as possible. A wet washcloth or old towel is also helpful.
  • Baby handprints are adorable and difficult – start out making baby’s handprint on each page. That way, if you need to use the backside of the paper because of a big paint smear, you haven’t already painted the older kids’ prints.
  • Start way in advance – that way you have plenty of time to finish at a gentle pace.
  • If you are making more than one calendar, I would suggest focus on making one month at a time. It is easier to do all of the July pages you’ll need, rather than making a whole calendar and then starting on a new one.
  • If you have more than one child, put small initials or a name somewhere on each print.
  • Make one for yourself, too! What a great way to document handprint growth!
  • A few “mistakes” are cute and enduring – leave them!

Make it:

January:
Paint center of child’s hand white. Paint black everywhere else. When dry, add white circles with black dots for eyes (I used a pencil eraser), small triangles for beaks, and large triangles for feet.

February:
Paint one hand at a time with red paint and print overlapping in heart shape. Make a semicircle “stamp” and stamp edging after handprints dry.

March:
Paint fingers orange, top of palm flesh tone, thin strip under that orange, and thumb and very bottom of palm green. Use another child’s palm to make pot of gold. Use other little fingers to make rainbow and gold in pot.

April:
Print each child’s hand in white (not including thumb). If possible, have them spread their two sets of two fingers apart to make the two “ears.” Add details.

May:
Print spread apart green handprints. After dry, add yellow flower middles. After dry, add flower petals. This one is a many-step deal.

June:
Use various colors to make butterfly sections. When dry, add decorations and butterfly body.

July:
Paint palm blue and alternating fingers red and white. Try to get fingers as close together as possible. Add stars.

August:
Paint semi circle on bottom of hand and paint the rest of hand orange.  Paint with fingers apart. Add details after paint dries.

September:
Paint hand and part of arm brown. When dry, add leaves and apples on ground and on branches.

October:
Print white feet. Add eyes (pencil eraser) and mouths (I used a lid of a paint container) when dry. For fun, I added the word boo.

November:
We’ve all done these since first grade, so no explanation needed. I added red, orange, and yellow wisps of color and the face details after the brown was dry.

December:
Elf: See leprechaun in March, adding ball at end of hat, rosy cheeks, and pointy ears. Polar bear: white handprint with details later added. Santa: like elf but with different colors and without ears. Rudolph: Brown with antlers, red nose, and tail added.

Putting it together:
Use adhesive to attach your pictures to the preset pictures. Repunch the hole you covered so that the calendar can still be hung. Then attach a cute cover and back by attaching the patterned paper to the front and back, punching holes, and then laying the calendar flat and open and taping the coordinating paper together to keep it nice and together on the outside. Then add a label or title using stickers or your own handwriting!

Some of you may be helping just one child – in which case your calendar wouldn’t be as cluttered, or the child (as in the case of the butterfly) would make more than one handprint for the page. Feel free to get creative, embellish it, and adapt it for your number of kiddos! But most of all, make memories as you make your calendars!

A Chore Fairy

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I wanted to make a simple job chart for use with my kids. I wanted it to be flexible and easy to manage. I also wanted it to be a very clear picture for my kids showing what was to be done and what was accomplished. And I wanted it to be cheap!

I ran to Hobby Lobby, hoping to find some sort of inspiration. As I meandered through the metals section, I found metal pieces with individual letters. They were on sale for $3 each. Perfect. I even picked up an inspirational quote for a header. I then purchased some little wood circles, magnets, and scrapbook paper. Now I was all set! (And I was only out $20 for charts for four kids!)

I made a list of chores I thought would be doable by a 7-, 5-, and 3-year old. I printed these on scrapbook paper and punched them out with a circle puncher. I modge podged them onto the wooden circles and hot glued magnets to the backs.

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I displayed the letters, one for each kiddo. I explained to my boys that they would have chores to be done, and those would be displayed on the left side.

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After they finished each chore, they were to move it to the right. Easy peasy.

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When we first started using this, we started with the three basic, everyday chores for us: brush teeth, make bed, and get dressed. We used these basic “chores” for a few weeks, until they had the system down-pat. Nowadays they get these chores each day, along with one other chore*. Some of these chores I have had to introduce to them. Sometimes I have had to help my three-year-old do something that takes five minutes when it would have taken me two. But the responsibility and ownership I see in my kids is the real benefit.

Each night, like a little elf, I move their daily chores (brush teeth, make bed, and get dressed) to the left sides of their charts. I then remove their “extra chore” and replace it with a new one. When they wake up, they are actually excited to see what is on their chart. It’s like the Chore Fairy has visited!

It really is nice to share in the responsibility and all pitch in together! Now if only the Chore Fairy would make me a list…

*I wanted to include some examples of our “other chores” that are doable by wee ones. Some of these are never (or are rarely) given to our three-year-old little man. We have found these chores to work well: empty (small) garbages, unload dishwasher, empty hampers, sweep bathrooms, wipe down bathroom sinks, wash mirrors, wash glass doors, sweep front porch, sweep back porch, vacuum dining room, vacuum living room, sweep kitchen, water plants, dust bedroom, pick up bedroom, pick up basement, and get toys out of van. There are many more I can think of after having started with these. Of course, every home (and momma) would adapt and add as necessary! Let me know if you think of any other great ones we could all use!