Tuesday, December 31, 2013

DIY Sweater Sleeve Snowman

These cute sweater sleeve snowmen are a quick and easy winter craft project. This project similar to the sleeve pumpkin I made, is a great way to upcycle a old clothing into cute decorations.

This is a fun project to involve kids in. Younger kids can help draw on the snowman's face or stuff it, and the sewing part is easy enough that a child old enough to be trusted with a needle can do it themselves.

Sew Easy Sweater Sleeve Snowman

  • White sweater sleeves
  • Needle and thread
  • Something to use for stuffing
  • Permanent or fabric marker to draw on face and buttons (or you could use tiny real buttons and sew them on)
  • Fabric scraps to cut for scarves
  1. Cut out the sleeve or sew a long tube of white knit fabric.
  2. Gather the bottom of the tube, and stitch closed tightly.
  3. Stuff the bottom ball of the snowman.
  4. Gather the section of the tube directly above the stuffing, and stitch closed tightly.
  5. Repeat until you have the desired number of balls and are at the top of the tube.
  6. Gather the top of the tube, and stitch closed tightly.
  7. Draw on the snowman's face or sew on buttons.
  8. Cut a strip of fabric for a scarf, cut the ends to resemble tassels and tie onto the snowman. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Mandarin Mondays: Palstic Model Kits (The Chinglish Files)

Friday, December 27, 2013

DIY Snow Globes

A fun winter project to involve the kiddos in is making snow globes. After you finish your project you have a new decoration and toy to enjoy.

Last year when we made snow globes, me kids played with them for hours and hours.

Homemade Snow Globes

  • Small figures or objects that are water safe ( I used buttons to create a snowman, but if you had extra Christmas ornaments that you didn't want for your tree, this would be a great way to use them)
  • Water tight jar and lid
  • Hot glue (I used crazy glue, but Hot glue would be much better)
  • Glitter and/or sequins
  • Water
  1. An adult can glue the figure or objects into the jar or to the inside lid of the jar.
  2. After the glue is dry a child can sprinkle glitter and/or sequins into the jar.
  3. Fill almost to the top with water.
  4. Screw the lid on securely, glue if desired to make more secure.
  5. Enjoy the winter wonderland.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Preschool Holiday Activity: Play Dough Christmas

If you need an activity to keep your little ones busy for a while you are preparing for the holidays or while you are in the middle of entertaining and trying to keep a lot of little people happy and out of trouble, grab some play dough and tell them to make anything they can think of related to the holiday.

Last year my boys spent an entire morning building Christmas trees, Nativity scenes, gifts, Christmas food etc. They even made play dough relatives and a bunch of stories in the process.

You can also have them make letters and try to spell out holiday words. But that might require more adult involvement.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

DIY Indoor Snowball Fight Gift

One of my boys' favorite gifts we gave them last year, was the gift of an indoor snowball fight. We live in an area that doesn't really get any snow, so that made is even more special, but I think all kids would like this gift. This could also make a good rainy day activity for January.

I wrapped up mittens and "snowballs" for each of my two older sons and labeled them indoor snowball fight. We had them open the gifts at the same time, and then off they ran chasing each other and throwing their soft fleece balls.

The quickest, easiest way to make this gift would be to pick up some mittens or gloves and white socks (roll them up in balls) for each child. If you want to hand make this gift there are lots of great mitten patterns for free or sale on the internet. Or you can even just trace around the child's hand with enough margin for seam allowance.

You can quickly sew up soft fleece balls by cutting 4 ovals the same size. You want elongated ovals, not to round or you will end up with funny pumpkin shaped snowballs like some of mine were. Although in the end my kids did really like that, because they could stack them up and build "snowmen: as well (like in the top picture), so it is your call. Sew them together right sides together halfway around the oval top to bottom (the long side of the oval). Continue sewing ovals together until you have all four sewn together with only a small opening to turn and stuff. After you turn and stuff the fleece ball whip stitch or invisible stitch it closed, very securely since these are going to be thrown all over.

Either way kids will have a great time with this simple gift and get useful mittens (and perhaps socks) out of it as well. It might just be the most fun way to package mittens and socks for gift giving. :)

I think this would be a great gift if you needed to give something to all of the children in the extended family, unless the gift exchange takes place at Grandma's house in the living room full of crystal. Only Grandpa can bounce a tennis ball off the wall in that room and not get yelled at.

Friday, December 13, 2013

DIY Payday Bars (Caramel Peanut Clusters)

If you like some crunchy or salty with your sweet these caramel peanut clusters are for you. They are a nice twist on some of the more traditional holiday candies.

Homemade Payday Bars (Caramel Peanut Clusters) Recipe

  • Soft carmels
  • Salted peanuts
  1. Take a 1 inch caramel and knead it slightly (with clean fingers of course) until soft.
  2. Roll in salted peanuts. Press peanuts in firmly.
  3. Wrap individually in plastic wrap or parchment paper.
  4. Store in an airtight container. Freeze for longer storage (if you can keep them that long)

Want more crunchy caramel goodness?

No Corn Syrup Caramel Corn

Friday, December 6, 2013

DIY Chocolate Caramel Walnut Turtles

The only thing better than chocolate or caramel separately is chocolate and caramel together. These decadent turtles combine chewy caramel, rich chocolate, and salty walnuts.

These special chocolates are great for holiday parties or gift giving.

Homemade Turtle Recipe

  • Soft caramel candies (Homemade are awesome, but store bought should work too) (one for each turtle you want to make)
  • Walnut halves or quarters (5-6 for each turtle you want to make)
  • Chocolate to melt and spread over the top
  1. Take a 1 inch caramel and knead it slightly (with clean fingers of course) until soft.
  2. Place 4 pieces of walnuts for legs, 1 for the head, and 1 small piece for a tail if desired.
  3. Place on a plate or cookie sheet, caramel side up. Allow to harden slightly.
  4. Melt chocolate and spread a small amount over the top of the caramel.
  5. Allow to harden before stacking or serving.
  6. Store in an airtight container. Freeze for longer storage (if you can keep them that long).
Want even more chocolatey, caramel goodness?

Dark Chocolate Cake with Caramel Sauce

Turtle Ice Cream

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Homeschooling for the Holidays

Today I'm delighted to be guest posting over at Free Homeschool Deals.

From the post:

Homeschooling for the Holidays

Homeschoolers have a lot of freedom when it comes to how much school and what subjects they will cover during the busy holiday season. My boys are still young, and their workload light, so we'll be continuing our normal routine and working in fun Christmas projects.

Whether you "officially" take the entire month off, do "Christmas School," or just incorporate a few holiday activities here and there, these 5 ideas can help your family keep learning and have fun during the holidays.

Read the full post here.

Christmas Holiday Preschool Activity: "Painting" Sugar Cookies

A great Christmas baking activity to involve kids in is not just baking sugar cookies, but "painting" them with icing afterwords. Most kids love to cut out sugar cookies and paint on the icing and they make a great holiday treat for your family or to share with friends. Kids love to be actively involved in preparing for important things and like to help cook and make gifts.

Last year we did this with my 4 1.2 year old and 3 year old and they had a great time.

Do be sure to let the sugar cookies cool completely before icing and the icing harden completely before stacking or serving for best presentation.

Homemade Roll Out Sugar Cookie Recipe

  • 3 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup butter or margarine softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • Milk (if the dough is too dry)
  1. Cream together butter and sugar.
  2. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  3. Add dry ingredients, incorporating flour about 1 cup at a time.
  4. If the dough is too dry add milk one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
  5. Chill in the refrigerator a couple of hours or overnight. I did find that with all real butter though I had to let the dough soften up a bit after chilling it overnight.
  6. Roll small sections of dough at a time to 1/4 inch thick. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters and place on an ungreased baking sheet.
  7. Bake at 400F for 6-8 minutes, until edges just begin to brown.

Powdered Sugar Icing Recipe

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-3 Tbsp milk
  • Food coloring if desired
  1. Place powdered sugar is a small mixing bowl and add milk a Tbsp at a time until a nice consistency. Stir until smooth. Add food coloring if desired.
  2. Drizzle or paint cooled cookies a solid color with a food safe brush. Sprinkle with sugar or sprinkles if desired.
  3. Allow to harden at least 1 hour before stacking or serving.

The stars and snowballs turned out pretty good.
Don't their Christmas trees look festive with sprinkle ornaments?

Painting sugar cookies can be fun for adults too!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Giving Thanks for Good Gifts

This week I am going along with our Thanksgiving book, The Thanks Giving Tree: Seeing Blessings Everywhere, and taking a moment to share things that I personally am thankful for.

  1. I'm thankful for my parents working so hard to teach us their values growing up.
  2. I am thankful for my mom taking the time to show me how to sew, even though she no longer enjoyed it, both mending and sewing new things have saved us lots of money throughout the years.
  3. I am thankful for my father teaching me how to fix things, use tools, and build things. These basic skills have been used more, and in more ways, than I could have ever imagined.
  4. I am thankful for my Grandpa showing me how to waste not want not, use it up and wear it out, and how to save wrapping paper for later use. I might not have appreciated this attitude quite as much as a kid, but seeing potential instead of waste has helped us imensely.
  5. I'm thankful for my Grandma showing me how to bake bread, crochet, and hang up clothes on the clothesline. I think of her whenever I do these tasks.
  6. I'm Thankful for my Grandma showing me to proper way to make chocolate covered butter-cream candy, play word games, and laugh my way through life. Sometimes chocolate, fun, and laughter are all you need.
  7. I'm thankful that I can help teach these skills to my own children, passing down knowledge to the next generation.
  8. I'm thankful for my husband demonstrating unwavering trust time and time again, and helping me to grow my own ability to be sure of what we hope for and certain of those things we do not see. And for his patience whenever he teaches me anything technology related.
  9. I am thankful for my children teaching me to stop, enjoy the moment, enjoy the journey, and look at the big wide world with wonder again.
  10. I'm thankful to live in an age where I can look up how to do something on the internet.
And I'm thankful for an understanding family think my humble attempts at anything is great and who eat whatever I cook (even if that time I made pizza in a wok or made Piglet out of an old sweater wasn't actually the greatest in the world).

Friday, November 29, 2013

DIY Family Times Newspaper Keepsake Gift

The day after Thanksgiving is the perfect times to start making a Family Times newspaper (that is if you haven't already) to give as as Christmas gift. The stories and perhaps antics that happened on Thanksgiving are fresh in your mind and perhaps you talked about many other events of the year yesterday as well.

My husband and I have been making Family Times newspapers for several years now. It started as a present he and his sibling gave to their parents one year, but a few years later after we married we picked the idea up again and made it as a couple. My brother now helps us write a version for my side of the family as well.

Basically we try to give little snippets of what is happening in the lives of everyone in the family that year. And we try to interject some humor as well.

Now we try to record good ideas for "news stories" throughout the year so we don't forget, but I also try to consult with siblings close to the end of the year to see if they have anything new going on with them or something we missed along the way.

We use a simple free office program (Open Office) to format it and convert it to a PDF for easy digital sharing. And so it won't explode after we get it just how we want it, as it has been known to do on occasion.

This is a gift that is basically free to make, except it does require a good deal of time. But it is so much fun to look back on all of the years editions that we have, that it makes it totally worth it. And I think our families like it at least a little bit too.

Giving Thanks When Life Seems Unfair

This week I am going along with our Thanksgiving book, The Thanks Giving Tree: Seeing Blessings Everywhere, and taking a moment to share things that I personally am thankful for.

It can be easy for me to feel like my life is extra hard sometimes, to feel like life isn't fair. Nobody ever guaranteed that life would be "fair." But in reality many things in my life are actually way more than fair, in my favor.

  1. I get to see my husband a lot, way more than many wives.
  2. I get to spend lots of time with my kids, way more than many people.
  3. We have wonderful extended family, whom we are much closer to than many other people, despite our geographical distance.
  4. We have electricity and running water that rarely go out, a much higher standard of living than many of the world's people.
  5. We have lots of nutritious food, and actually can buy lots more fruit and vegetables for much less money here.
  6. We have more technology than almost anyone in history.
  7. We have more methods of communication than almost anyone in history.
  8. We have more ways to preserve memories than almost anyone in history.
  9. We have a whole new home Above to look forward too.
  10. We have more Hope and Peace.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Giving Thanks for Enough.

This week I am going along with our Thanksgiving book, The Thanks Giving Tree: Seeing Blessings Everywhere, and taking a moment to share things that I personally am thankful for.

I actually have more than enough of all of these things, even if sometimes it feels like I don't, or that I barely have enough.

  1. Love, always enough love, sometimes I forget to show it enough.
  2. Food, we may not always eat as much cheese as we'd like, but truly we've never even come close to going hungry.
  3. Time, sometimes it feels like the day goes so fast that I didn't get anything done, but I have been given enough time for everything that I am supposed to do. Sometimes all that is, is very basic food, laundry, diapers, potty runs, and hugs, but it is still enough.
  4. Room, our apartment isn't large, but it is plenty.
  5. Warm clothes, we might not be the trendiest, and sometimes it seems like the baby explodes his diapers and the little boys dirty all of their clothes before we finished the last load of laundry, but we all have nice warm clothes.
  6. Transportation, by foot or by bike, by bus or by train, sometimes it looks different getting around here, but it works.
  7. Kitchen, perhaps our kitchen should be named the little kitchen that could, but I don't know if anyone has ever gotten more value out of a used toaster oven and two hot plates than we have.
  8. Warmth, sometimes we miss central heat, but will live in a very mild climate overall,  we have a space heater to heat up a room, lots of warm clothes and blanket,and lots of little boys to cuddle with.
  9. Technology, we don't have the best of anything technology wise, except for systems administrator, he (my husband) gets our low end gadgets to preform well above their normal capabilities.
  10. Health, we are so thankful to be so healthy most of the time, especially when many people get sick here frequently.
  11. Cleanliness, sometimes I wish the house would stay cleaner longer, but three little boys and all of us home much  of the time, the house is clean is enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Giving Thanks Even in Loss

This week I am going along with our Thanksgiving book, The Thanks Giving Tree: Seeing Blessings Everywhere, and taking a moment to share things that I personally am thankful for.

I feel as though I haven't actually lost that many things in my life. I am truly thankful for that, but also could never pretend to understand someone who was in a season of deepest loss. If that is you though, my heart goes out to you and I am thinking about you this holiday.
  1. That I haven't lost very many things.
  2. My unseen home above.
  3. Those who I will see again there.
  4. That we will never have to say goodbye there again.
  5. Loving family.
  6. Wonderful friends.
  7. Current good health.
  8. Our current home, warts and all.
  9. Provision.
  10. That I know Who is in control of everything.

DIY Pumpkin Pie Latte

It's the day before Thanksgiving and you might need a cup of coffee to get you going. Or perhaps you want a really good dessert coffee to serve tomorrow.

Either way pumpkin pie in coffee form fits the bill.

I'll show you three ways to achieve this deliciousness.

The first is to make this pumpkin ice cream and put a big scoop in a cup of good, strong, hot coffee. Once the ice cream is made it is super easy. And it keeps quite a while in the freezer.

Or you can make Pumpkin Pie Coffee Creamer, which is basically like the ice cream without eggs or cooking fuss, just stir or shake before each use. Keep it in the fridge for a few days so whenever you need a cup it's ready.

Or you can just mix up the ingredients you need cup by cup so there is no chance of waste.

Anyway you make it it is delicious, and always better topped with whipped cream.

Pumpkin Pie Coffee Creamer

  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ginger (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp cloves (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree (homemade works great, but if using canned make sure to use 100% pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling with the sweetener and spices already added)
Mix all ingredients in a quart jar and store in the fridge. Shake or stir before each use.

Add desired amount to a cup of hot strong coffee. Top with whipped cream if desired.

Pumpkin Pie Latte (by the mugful)

  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1 Tbsp pumpkin puree
  • 1 Tbsp white sugar
  •  1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • dash or pumpkin spice or cinnamon to taste
Add all ingredients to a cup of hot strong coffee. Top with whipped cream if desired.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Giving Thanks for Family

This week I am going along with our Thanksgiving book, The Thanks Giving Tree: Seeing Blessings Everywhere, and taking a moment to share things that I personally am thankful for.

  1. I thankful to be adopted into a heavenly family.
  2. My grandparents for caring for my parents, and for loving me in the completely special and unconditional way grandparents do, and for teaching me many things.
  3. My wonderful, loving, and devoted parents, who have cared for and taught me so much throughout my life.
  4. My brother who was the best of friends and irritants (and vice-versa hold true as well I am sure) growing up and who can still always make me laugh.
  5. My amazing husband who;
    • Has a servants heart
    • Is a strong, Valiant man of vision
    • Is especially handsome
    • Loves me, my imperfectness and all
    • Always thanks me for cooking, and says the food is the best in the world, even when I wish I could serve him something better
    • Always knows when I need a break or chocolate or both
  6. My husband's family for whole-hardheartedly welcoming and adopting me into their great and fun family.
  7. My firstborn son Aaron, for making me a mom, for challenging me to grow and learn all of the time.
  8. My second son Andrew, for saying the funniest things and making me smile, and having really deep thoughts arise at the most unexpected moments.
  9. My third son Alexander, right now the baby, with all of the baby smiles and cuteness, and trying so hard to catch up to his big brothers.
  10. Our special friends far and near who treat us like family.
Also, I don't feel thankful being far from our extended families, but it has made me appreciate them more, make sure to take the time to connect despite the distance, and for other friends and people we have met, because of living far away from our biological families.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Mandarin Mondays: Typography Notebook (Chinglish Files)

How to adjust your handwriting in a paper notebook?

Giving Thanks in All things

This week I am going along with our Thanksgiving book, The Thanks Giving Tree: Seeing Blessings Everywhere, and taking a moment to share things that I personally am thankful for.

  1. Being far from many of our friends and family, makes us appreciate them more and make a greater effort to continually build our relationships.
  2. Being away from the land where we were born, makes us see benefits to living there that may be taken for granted as well as benefits to living here and learning about a new culture.
  3. Some of our favorite foods being harder to come by, leads us to appreciate them more when we do have them, and find new food we like.
  4. Having to work to communicate clearly in a difficult new language, makes us think more about what we are trying to communicate all of the time, and hopefully warding off Alzheimer's as well.
  5. Having only squatty potties, makes us grateful, we don't have to go outside, that our two older boys can flush for themselves, and is giving everyone strong thighs.
  6. No central heat, really low heating bill.
  7. Not being able to buy something we're used to being able to purchase easily, leads us make and fix more things ourselves.
  8. Things that break a lot, lots of opportunity to practice handyman skills.
  9. Seeing those with less, makes us appreciate what we have all the more.
  10. Having an unconventional life, has given us many unconventional blessings.
By the way I don't always have such a good attitude about all these and other things. I am quite human, definitely get grumpy far more than I'd like to admit, and still very much a work in progress.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Giving Thanks Because He is Good

This week I am going along with our Thanksgiving book, The Thanks Giving Tree: Seeing Blessings Everywhere, and taking a moment to share things that I personally am thankful for.

  1. Grace.
  2. Forgiveness.
  3. His patience with me.
  4. That I am not actually in control, even though far to often I try to be.
  5. Infinite love.
  6. Inconceivably vast universe.
  7. Unbelievably tiny cells, microorganisms, atoms, and still smaller parts that make up this tiny things.
  8. Majestic mountains, shifting sand, grand sequoias, and delicate roses, all beautiful in their own way.
  9. How this well designed everything works together amazingly well almost all of the time.
  10. Ever watchful care.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Tree of Life: Seeking the Son This Christmas (Advent Book, Activities, and Printables for the Whole Family)

Update November 2014: We have updated The Tree of Life: Seeking the Son This Christmas, a family devotional for Christmas, as well as the accompanying printables and are now making our family devotionals available through our educational website Greenfield Education.
See details on the here.
Thanks for reading!

Two years ago, we were thinking about what Christmas traditions we wanted to pass down from our childhoods and what new traditions we wanted to start in our own family.

We like making and giving gifts. We love connecting with friends and family. We like making and eating special food, a lot.

But we wanted something to do something very special to keep the focus of the Reason for the Season throughout the whole Christmas season, and we wanted to be able to have everyone in the family participate.

We decided to make our own book that combined Bible reading, singing, discussion questions, and activities all together that we could use for years to come and pass down to our own kids. What we came up with was The Tree Of Life: Seeking The Son This Christmas, a Jesse Tree style study that combined everything we wanted and more.

And we thought perhaps other people could benefit from this resource as well.

Here is the introduction:

Jesus is the reason for the season.

How many times have we heard these words yet lost Jesus in the busyness of Christmastime?

Shopping, parties, preparation, and even family gatherings can begin to crowd the Son out of His own birthday celebration. The other aspects of the holiday season are not all bad. We personally love Christmastime and the joyful celebrations it brings. And the Jews of old were in fact commanded by God Himself to keep many feasts to remember God and what He had done for them. So we don’t
think God hates parties, or good food either.

So in the middle of our feasts and celebrating, let’s remember God and what He has done for us, the reason we say we are celebrating. Let’s not lose sight of the Tree of Life amidst all of the other holiday decorations. Let’s not omit the Bread of Life from our holiday dinners. Let’s not forget The Way when we are traveling to relative homes or The Door went entering friends houses. (See John 6:35; 10:9; 14:6; 15:5.)

When we intentionally seek the Son, we begin to see Him everywhere. God can see our desire to grow closer to Him and will reveal Himself to us throughout history and creation. The Tree of Life: Seeking the Son this Christmas is designed to be a tool to help us draw close to Christ this Christmas.

This Jesse Tree style book is designed to trace the roots of Christ through the history of the Bible and explains how we are each supposed to live as branches of the Vine, intimately attached to the Tree of Life, our life source. (See John 15:4-5.)

Each day this December, we will learn a little more about this great Tree of Life through a series important biblical tales about amazing things God has done and mighty men and women of God. Each tale has a symbol to go along with it to help us better remember these important history lessons.

How to use this Book 

This book is divided into thirty-one sections each with a scripture reading, thoughts on how the reading relates to Christ, discussion questions, and suggested hymns and activities. We tried to include a variety of levels for the questions and activities so that this book would be applicable for a wide range of ages. We designed each section to be for an individual day, but, of course, you can go as fast or slow as you like.

Printable Resources

Inside the book is a link to the printable resources we have  created to go along with this book. There are full color original artwork ornaments to accompany each day's reading. There are also texture rich coloring page ornaments so your child(ren) can create their own keepsake set of Jesse Tree ornaments. There are also decorative printables and printable cards included.

Update November 2014: We have updated The Tree of Life: Seeking the Son This Christmas, a family devotional for Christmas, as well as the accompanying printables and are now making our family devotionals available through our educational website Greenfield Education.
See details on the here.

By the way, if you want to use Tree of Life: Seeking the Son This Christmas and truly can't afford it at this time, just email me at anna@thedoityourselfmom.com, and I'll send you the PDF.

Find out more about The Tree of Life: Seeking the Son This Christmas and our other family devotionals.


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