Tag Archives: projects

Shrunken Apple Heads!

Here’s a fun little science and nature craft just in time for Halloween.  The kids and I made shrunken apple heads this month and it’s been great fun watching them change over time.

shrunken apple heads

All you need are some apples (we used imperfect ones off a generous neighbor’s tree), salt and lemon juice.

First peel your apples.  You can leave a little on the top and bottom like a little hat and scarf.

Then give your child some carving tools (a chopstick, grapefruit spoon or pen knife all work well, depending on your child’s age and skill level with tools).  You can trace your design first with a pen or pencil, if you like.

Carve out a face, making sure to make each feature large since they will shrink up and collapse somewhat.

shrunken apple head

Then mix up some salt and lemon juice and apply it all over, especially in the parts you’ve carved out.  This will prevent mold and also protect them from getting too brown.  If you like, you can talk to the kids about how salt has been used for thousands of years to preserve foods and other things, and how acids like lemon juice slow oxidation (browning caused by a chemical reaction when substances react with oxygen).

preserving shrunken apple head

Now just put your apple heads somewhere to dry.  Choose a location where you can watch them and keep up with how they change.

Have fun!




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10 Ways to Make Your Home Magical

Happy Monday!

I’ve been having fun brainstorming about home improvements around our house and looking at lots of blogs and Pinterest boards for inspiration lately.  I thought it would be fun to change up this week’s magical theme and focus on fun ways to make a little magic in our houses. 

Some of these are easy to implement and some are definitely the daydream type!  I tried to focus on doable projects instead of $15,000 pirate beds to purchase, though.  😉

Click on any image to go to its source (or the closest I could find to an original with an image search). 

Here’s my list of 10 ways to make your home magical for children…

1.  Have hideaways and nooks.

2.  Incorporate ways kids can be active and meet their sensory needs.

3.  Add color.

4.  Add whimsy.

5.  Incorporate your family interests and personalities in your decorating.

6.   Bring in nature and the outside.

7.  Let the kids help create their spaces.

8. Make it a party all the time (at least in little ways).

9. Add lots of opportunity for creativity and fun.

10. Fill it with love.

You can check out my inspiration boards for indoor play spaces, outdoor play spaces, home ideas and more on Pinterest to see more of my favorite ideas, too. 

Keep in mind that you don’t need lots of money to make your home magical!  I kind of like the fact that our house came to us so old and beat up because I got a free pass to do whatever I liked to it over the years as we fixed it up.  I have painted words up the stairs, stenciled gold swirls around the bathroom mirror, hidden colorful dragonflies near baseboards, painted doors with chalkboard paint and have given my kids the insides of cupboards and closets to paint five year-old masterpieces on.  If you rent, you can bring in temporary magic with well placed fairy lights, appliance box forts, whimsical peel-off wall decals and so on.

And really, the most magical home accessory of all is the sound of laughter inside it.  🙂

And with that, chickadees, I’m off to tackle a to-do list the size of a small city phone book and love on some kiddos.  Have a magical week!


Filed under happy stuff, neat stuff elsewhere

Make Your Own Beautiful, Affordable, Collapsible Dollhouse

Here’s a project I’m absolutely in love with!  Southern Disposition has the plans for an ingenious dollhouse she made from three ring binders, scrapbook paper, magazine pictures and a few found treasures.

It collapses to take up very little space, it’s utterly gorgeous, it’s green, and it’s super affordable.  She estimates she made hers for about $30 but she says you could easily do it for under $10 with a little creativity.

What a sweet holiday gift this would make.  🙂

Head over for all the fabulous information.

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Bleach Pen Fun!

Here’s a great craft for older kids and teens to show off their creativity and bring new life to boring clothes.  Try your hand at bleach pen altering!

Victoria made this lovely shirt from an old peach t-shirt of mine that I was going to donate. 

She put a layer of waxed paper inside the shirt (to prevent bleach soaking through to the other side) and laid the shirt flat, then drew a freehand design on the shirt and put it aside to dry completely before washing (do this in a well ventilated room).

She had so much fun that she altered a ton of other clothing she scrounged up, from colored undies (peace signs were added in back!) to shirts and socks.

This could be done with younger kids if a parent does the actual bleach pen work, since bleach is very caustic.

For young kids, have them draw the design with chalk, then have a parent go over it with the pen.

Want to see some inspiration from others?  Here’s a google image search of all sorts of great designs others have done.  Fun!




Filed under crafts

10 Ways to Make Today Magical

Happy Tuesday!

We’re less than 6 days away from meeting our little one and I’m feeling awfully tired these days.  So today’s list of ways to make the day magical is courtesy of Pinterest!  🙂

These are all crafts and activities that I’ve pinned to my boards lately.  Click on the photos to visit the sites…

1.  Marshmallow shooters/pom pom poppers

2.  Power drills and pumpkins (eek! love the idea but with CLOSE supervision!)  🙂

3.  Angry birds in the back yard

4.  Cave of stars via cardboard box and Christmas lights

5.  Lawn Jenga

6.  Homemade cough drops and cough drop lollipops (honey based)

7.  Wand tutorial (we made these and loved it!)

8.  Scratch-off pumpkins (black spray paint, then scratch your design)

9.  Teacher Tom’s fabulous, kid-friendly version of crayon melting art

10. Quick epsom salt geode egg shells

Hopefully I’ll get a post or two in before our new babe arrives, but otherwise I’ll be sure to arrange for some pictures to be posted ASAP when we meet her.

Have a magical week!



Filed under crafts, neat stuff elsewhere, Ways to make today magical

10 Fun Links

It turns out that by the fifth child, I’m a terrible blogger!  😉 

Apologies for my lax blogging lately.  Hopefully you and your kiddos have been busy making some last minute summer magic of your own.

We’ve been busy and I’m keeping up as best as I can with my giant belly.  I’m getting rather old for this pregnancy business, I think!  I’m no longer a spring chicken and with this heat and four kids to chase, I’m not exactly one of those bouncy, skinny-except-for-the-belly, super active pregnant mamas who reorganizes the house and does yoga till the birth date!

Nonetheless, I’m enjoying this last hurrah of baby-making.  The kids are having fun playing “chase the baby part” on my belly and they’ve been wonderful at giving mama foot rubs and helping with housework (Daddy too, of course). 

We’re leaving today to visit Magical Mama Tiffany and her gang in Nebraska.  There will be some other fun families down there, too, so it should be a noisy, grand old time!

In the meantime, here’s 10 links that caught my eye lately (a few are ones I wrote up elsewhere).  See if there’s any fun that catches yours….

1.  Black magic art

2.  30 Days of August fun with your kids

3.  The A-frame play tent

4. Spaghetti and play-doh

5.  50 things to put in sand and water tables

6.  DIY chalkboard paint (Instructions from elsewhere: Outdoor Chalkboard: Get a 4 x 8 plywood sheet and mix a chalkboard-colored outdoor paint with unsanded tile grout: 1. Pour 1 cup of paint into a container. Add 2 tablespoons of unsanded tile grout. Mix with a paint stirrer, carefully breaking up clumps. 2. Apply paint with a roller or a sponge paintbrush to a primed or painted surface. Work in small sections, going over the same spot several times to ensure full, even coverage. Let dry. 3. Smooth area with 150-grit sandpaper, and wipe off dust. 4. To condition: Rub the side of a piece of chalk over entire surface. Wipe away residue with a barely damp sponge. )

7.  Easy homemade doctor’s kit

8.  Glow in the dark sensory tub game

9.  Tube and funnel peg board

10.  Glow in the dark wall

And with that, my sweets, I’m off to the wilds of Nebraska!

Kiss your babies, count your blessings, and don’t forget to take care of you!









Filed under crafts

A Door to Anywhere

Daryl has been on the lookout for an old fashioned screen door for a play he’s putting on in September.  Last week, he spotted one by the street for trash pick-up and snagged it.  When he got it home, he realized it seemed to be made for very tiny people (!) and would not work at all.

A door made for very tiny people?  I immediately seized on it and asked Daryl to hang it up for us.

Three hinges and ten minutes later, we had a door to nowhere.  Or the back yard.  Or anywhere.

Daryl added a hook and eye screw so the door can be fastened against the garage when out of use.

We discovered that it made a perfect stage for puppet shows!

Or just make believe.  🙂

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that often the most magical things are things that other people would consider rubbish.  Whether it’s scrap wood painted bright colors and used as giant outdoor building blocks or old doors that lead to nowhere, there’s often pretty nifty stuff out there waiting to be imagined — for free!   🙂


Filed under happy stuff

Six Nifties

Here’s some of what’s been filling up my browser windows lately…

1. Meet Me At Mike’s has started a fun little envelope project that anybody (child or adult) can take part in.  Send in a pretty little decorated envelope with something small inside (Artist Trading Cards, a photo, candy wrappers, ribbon, anything!) and at the end of the project one name will be drawn from all those who contributed to get ALL of the loot.  The envelopes will also be displayed in their window in Australia, so this would be fun even without the chance to get some pretty fantastic crafting supplies and doo-dads!

2.  Organic Gal has compiled a really thorough list of “Fakers and Not Fakers” — companies that claim to be natural or organic and may or may not be as healthy as they seem.

3. Now that you know which brands to look for, get some of them free at Saffron Rouge (more info here).  I got my order in today and it was a great way to try some heavenly smelling, safe bath products for nearly free!

4.  Magical Mama Pamela recommended these darling little sea creatures you can make from free patterns at Futuregirl’s blog.  They look adorable!

5. I’m in love with lots on this post from Little Eco Footprints.  I’ve been wanting to grow mushrooms with the kids for quite a while and didn’t know there was such an economic way to do it (though I don’t know how hard it would be to find a mushroom farm close enough to us) and also love the looks of her mushroom rissoles.  They look like the insides of stuffed mushrooms.  Mmmm!  🙂

6.  Happy To Be Called Mommy has published a tutorial on how to make homemade Wiki sticks.  What fun!  One of the commenters noted that one of the ingredients may not be good for little ones so perhaps a little experimentation is in order with beeswax or other more natural ingredients.  They look beautiful and those with a great yarn stash could make some gorgeous ones!

And with that, I’m off to find free German resources for a 12-year-old bent on learning the language.  Tschuss!


Filed under neat stuff elsewhere

Play Trees!

I have heard of training apple trees against walls to make beautiful patterns but I had never heard of this sort of tree manipulation until now.  Check out this plan for a living playground made from living trees!

Apparently it’s fairly common to tie young trees into knots and such to make interesting shapes years later.  One man dedicated much of his life to making all sorts of fantastic tree furniture and sculptures and there’s even an amusement park full of his trees that he started out in California.

Now researchers from Tel Aviv University and the company Plantware are partnering up to grow structures from trees on a commercial scale –  including bus shelters, playgrounds, and even houses.

It sounds so whimsical and fun, but like it would requires SO much patience!

If you want to find out more and see lots of links with other examples, click here.

I’m thinking we’ll have to take a look at some of the little lilac and maple volunteers in the back yard and see if we can make them a little more interesting…

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Help Kids With Dolly Donations

Have you heard of this neat site?  Dolly Donations offers free, simple cloth doll patterns and coordinates drives to donate dolls to children in need all over the world.

Magical Mama Sarah, who runs the site, just sent 181 dolls (and a few extras!) off to a Haiti orphanage, one for every child in the orphanage.  She’s already at work making more for local children in need.

The site offers free patterns and tutorials to make cloth dollies with a minimum of fabric.  You can even find patterns to knit or crochet, plus instructions on how to paint faces and add embellishments.

Sarah says visitors are free to use the patterns to make dollies for their own kiddos, but asks for people to make an extra (or more!) for children who could really use them.

What a wonderful idea!


Filed under crafts, helping out