Thursday, May 29, 2014

Road Trip Remedies

There are many blogs out there with TONS of great information on getting from one point to the next without a colossal melt down or two.  With four kids under the age of seven, we have our fair share of secrets.  Would you like to know some?  I thought you might.  

  1. Pack ONE pillow, blanket, and special sleep with buddy for each child.
  2. About two weeks before <without them looking> grab a few of their favorite toys for the trip.  Put them in their own bag and stash it where they won't get to or see it before the trip.
  3. Hit the dollar store and dollar bins at Target.  Pick up small trinkets, books, and toys.
  4. Get some glow sticks for traveling at night for a fun change of pace.
  5. Get a special plastic cup for each child as their snack cup.  Ours were a dollar at Party City.
  6. Get a special water bottle for each child as their drink to be refilled throughout the trip.
  7. Print out a "treasure map" and mark highlights to pass along your way. (We were going to Oklahoma through St. Louis so naturally we had to pass a huge arch, some pretty big rocks, and trees, the Oklahoma City temple, and treasure chest with an X to mark Grandma P's house.)  Mark off your progress as you go.
  8. Plan according to nap and eat times.
  9. Take breaks!
  10. Take pictures and have the kids help you take pictures.
  11. Sunglasses
  12. Read aloud
  13. Find choice gems along the road and exploit them.
  14. Picture books of the people you will be going to see
  15. Keep snacks within the navigator's reach
  16. Play all those games that kept you occupied when you were their age.
  17. Tell stories of the kids when they were younger.
  18. Create surprise "on the way home" bags full of things that they have never seen before.  (That last few hours before you get back home is the hardest for adults and kids alike, so give them something new that you saved just for those last tiresome hours.)

He made it to FIVE

Who knew our boy would actually make it to his fifth birthday, but he did!  Even with setting the garbage on fire and breaking the window with his hand, he still made it.  Phew!

Here he is. . .

Monday, July 2, 2012

Zoo Birthday on a Budget

Let the Wild Rumpus Start!
Summer is our birthday season.  We have one in May, June, and July!  I don't know about your kids, but mine love discussing everything about their birthdays starting in........December.  You can imagine that by the time birthday's actually get here, I am more than a little burned out.  Having said all of that, 
Our oldest is an animal lover, so I convinced her to go to the local zoo with just a couple bff's instead of having a large party at our house like normal.  It worked out so wonderful that I had to share what we did!  I hope it will inspire you to think outside of the box when it comes to your next kid's big day.

The Budget:  Less than $100--Crazy huh?
The Mission:  One happy Birthday Girl

We have a zoo membership pass so getting in had been paid for last year with the purchase of a well-used and well-loved pass.  We just had to have goody bags for the girls, but since I wasn't having as many kids to provide for we splurged just a bit more than normal.  We got four canvas bags in bright colors at Hobby Lobby for $8.  We filled them with left over paper Easter grass varying colors, water bottles with individual labels ($ .60 for cardstock), individually wrapped starfish snacks ($2 for a box of 6), and two individually wrapped animal fruit snacks ($1 for box of 8).  We had these party girls during the lunch hour so we fed them cheese pizza for $10.  Each bag was personalized with their names with puffy paint from a previous project, ribbon from our wrapping paper box, and a small tag printed off our computer with a scavenger hunt ($ .60 for cardstock).  Now add in gas which was about $30.  Grand total?  About $53.

Everything inside.

Every girl got her name on a water bottle and a different animal on the back.

All tucked away in a bag.  Now I don't have to carry it.
I loved the bags, but I didn't know just how useful they were until we got to the zoo. You know the maps, tickets stubs, coloring pictures and what-not you get at the zoo? Well, I didn't--for once--have to carry one blasted thing own water bottle.  GENIUS, if I do say so myself.
Now for the rest of the budget....
We are firm believers that birthday girls are QUEEN OF THE DAY so what they want goes.  She wants Dippin' Dots ice cream because it is close to 100 degrees out; she gets it at $20 for everyone.  She wants a stuffed animal as her birthday present from Daddy; she gets it at $9.  She wants to go see the butterfly garden; she gets it at $10 for everyone to enter.  If you aren't of the "Queen for a Day" philosophy then your trip will probably be cheaper than ours was.  At a grand total of $94, we couldn't complain, and I don't think she did either.
Happy Zoologist All-Around!
Just one last thing for anyone who wanted to know...
The Scavenger Hunt List Tag
We have a few older, but still usable phones with cameras.  The scavenger hunt was for ten things they would find throughout the zoo.  Once they found them, they had to take a picture of the item.  You could do whatever you wanted, but we chose things like: 
a sleeping lion, 
a baby, 
 something green,
 three friends,
 your favorite animal,
 you and the birthday girl,
 a reptile,
 a swinging monkey,
a blue bird. 

The point was to get these girls taking pictures.  We wanted them to take whatever pictures they wanted and have a ton of fun. We are going to print off the best ones and send them to each girl as part of the the thank you cards.  Isn't digital so amazing?
We had close to fifty pictures of just the dolphins on one phone.  Exactly what we were going for.  Take as many as you want and we'll delete the ones that don't turn out.  I think every girl LOVES dolphins.

Some Highlights of the Girls' Pictures

A Big Wasp that Makes Noises

A Blue Bird

Digging For Bugs

Looking at a Really Big Spider

A Favorite Animal

Something Green

One of the Dolphins at our Zoo just had a Baby
I hope this gives you some ideas for your next birthday party.  Leave a comment of something you have done so maybe we can swap ideas.  As always, thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Celebrate the BoyPart 2

His Birthday Finally Arrived!!
The Mat All Finished!!

This is the second part of the Car Mat/Blanket Tutorial, and I am as excited as you are to have it done for the boy's birthday!!

The biggest problem I had researching for this was I just needed closer and lots more pictures of what these wonderful moms had done already.  I found this place that was good, but here are mine so you have more to look at and get those creative juices flowing!

USAF Fire Station 1 complete with flag and dalmatian.

Farm where Grandma C grew up complete with apple tree, corn field, and a chicken.
The corn I hand embroidered into the striped field.  It really made it POP.

Who doesn't like their local ice cream store?
The roads are black felt heat-n-bonded on then just straight stitched with yellow along the edges.
I only used the applique stitch in black on seams where two roads met.  There is a smaller applique stitch in yellow down the middle of the roads.  This was my last sewing step and it felt good to have it down.

A downtown Chicago building.

John Hancock Building.  This one has the iron cross sections and radio  rods on top of it.
The cross sections are just straight stitching diagonally across.

'Da Bears play at Soldier Field.

My Hubby is a South-sider (White Sox) and I bleed blue (Cubs).  I tried to find some icons for it, but didn't succeed.
I will add patches later if I can find them.

School house with swings, flag, and ringing bell.

All-Star Gasoline the pumps are the ends of one shoelace. 

Train station with tracks and sign.  The sign has a train button; the tracks are black ribbon sewn
down the middle to stabilize and grey piping sewn over the ends about 1.5 inches wide.

Camping in the mountains.  The tent has red stitching to show lines in the tent, applique around,
and white lines out and to the the stakes.  The fire and trees are appliqued on wood then leaves or flames.
Mountains are for camping.  I put the "Y" detail on because our boy was born right next to a mountain
with a very similar "Y" that lit up on a good night.

Our home looks simple, but there are five separate parts to the building:  chimney, roof, structure,
windows and door.  Make sure to get every piece with your applique stitch and in an order that makes sense.

Trees were TOUGH, but we have forests in Illinois.  Everyone is slightly different, but every one was a pain
because of the curves in each one.  I skipped my normal three passes on applique and only did two on these.

Our public library has a funky roof line and TONS of glass.  

My hubby builds furniture, so naturally this is where most of the cars end up helping Dad.

I know it is supposed to have a t at the end, but t or not, the boy knows exactly what this store is.
The orange strip across the center is just the same applique technique I have been using just in a straight line.
The flag poles, radio poles, masts, swings and similar architecture features are all done the same way.

To finish off your blanket, you need to get the back material attached to your front material and bind it together.  I used clear thread and went around each buildings outline to bind the two fabrics together.  You could quilt it more traditionally if you like, but I'm lazy.  The clear thread was difficult to work with and probably took the most patience.  I made my own binding using this tutorial since I had never made my own.   Pin your tape around your blankets outer edge and sew around all the edges.  

Spread it out and get all the cars ready for a few hours of well deserved quiet time.

Entertainment for at least a few minutes!

Happy Birthday My Boy!

Woke up to Balloons and a supersized poster of himself.

That is his "happy face."

Let me know what you think in the comments.  Hopefully this was helpful and you get started on your own little man's--or little girl's--car mat soon!

Car Mat/Blanket Tutorial

Believe it or not, I am not a sewer.  I wish I could tell you what a baste stitch is with confidence, but I just can't.  So imagine my sweet husband's surprise when I decided to tackle this....

Car Mat/Blanket All Finished!!  Yippee!!

 I had the idea in my brain and went searching the Internet to see if I could find something as a jumping off point.  I hit the jack pot when I got here.  This was almost exactly what I wanted to do.  The main difference was I wanted curvy roads.  As you can see I found out really quick that to get all that I wanted on my little guy's blanket I had to compromise the curvy roads and race track for the greater good.  I am going to attempt to help any other novice (or not so novice) sewers out there that want to do something extraordinary.  Every time I show this, I get a huge wow.  Here's hoping my little guy feels the same way when I have it all ready and wrapped for his birthday in May (I know the clock is ticking away).

So you will need:
2.   Paper, stencils, pencils, ruler, erasers, and other office supplies
3.   Fabric scraps
4.   1 1/2 yards of a main base fabric (mine is the green corduroy)
5.   Lots of thread in all sorts of shades
6.   Sewing machine
7.   Heat n Bond (or whatever brand you use.  NOVICE POINT: This can be found in major fabric stores.  It is bought usually by the bolt [they have to cut it for you].  It is white and is the ironed on glue to keep your buildings in place while you sew them down. )
8.   Ribbon and Piping (Railroad)
9.   Buttons
10. Shoelace
11. At least 1/2 yard of black felt (roads)
12. Iron and ironing board
13. Embroidery machine (OPTIONAL. My mom has one so I used it, but I would have done it by hand if she didn't have one, or just left it out)
14.  1 1/2 yards of THIN batting if desired (I didn't use any)
15.  1 3/4 yards backing material (This is on the back.  The flannel for me.)
16.  Did I mention TIME (I have been working through this process since Halloween)

Alright, the pros to this project are you will be doing this for some time.  If you don't have everything all at one time, that is ok.  Work on what you can now, put it away until you can do more.  (In my case, when my budget allowed for it, or when something was on sale and I could get it then.) The cons are that it really isn't cheap especially if you don't have fabric scraps lying around because you are just getting into sewing or don't have the room to store all you would like.  I did find some ways to pinch a penny though.  My first tip is to go to the bargain bins at all of your major fabric stores first, then hit the local quilt shop.  I know you heard quilt shop and budget in the same paragraph.  I found a bunch of small squares (which were perfect for one building or some windows) for fifty cents or less!!  It is where all of my major building fabrics came from.  I spent about five dollars on all the building fabrics there and didn't even have to go to the bargain bins for anything else...SWEET.  The next con is that this sucker takes a lot of time.  My solution is planning, planning, planning.  I think I spent the majority of two or three months thinking, sketching, and laying out plans before I ever went shopping for material.

Speaking of sketching, it's your first step....Here is what I originally wanted my blanket to end up as.
See the race track that didn't make the cut?

As you can see it didn't really end up the way I wanted; as things went along some things just wouldn't work out.  You'll probably run into the same thing; relax, at least try to, and enjoy the process, if you can.

Once you have a rough draft start sketching the buildings first on paper and then on good, old card stock.  I found some great help on Google images.  Try typing in "school clip art" or "ship black and white," print it off and there is your fantastic pattern.  You could do a cave for dragons, or a scene from a favorite book of theirs, or even a sand castle (I thought of all this, of course, after I had already used every bit of space on his blanket.  Grrrrrrr.) If you need something pretty specific (the Willis Tower) type in "Willis Tower" and look at all the angles Google has and try your hand at sketching.  Get that ruler out ladies and gentlemen...It is your new best friend.
I have to admit that while I was working through this project I got asked many, many times what my scale was, and I had to say that I really didn't have one.  I know it sounds ridiculous, and it probably is, but I just eye-balled most of it. I knew Willis Tower needed to be the biggest so if the farm house was bigger than Willis Tower than it was too big.  Also, lay those card stock pieces on your base fabric so that you get a feel for the scale before you start cutting into any fabric. You can definitely do better than I did, let me know how it works out in the comments.

The Schoolhouse, Willis Tower, Fire station, and Hancock buildings next to their stencils.
My stencil for the roads is brown wrapping paper I got at IKEA a year ago. I rolled it out and cut three inch strips for the roads and 1.5 inch strips for the railroad.  It worked great!

Wrapping paper for road stencil.
Yippee, you have all of your stencils cut out of card stock, so now you need to move on to cutting out your fabric.  Get your building, fabric, and Heat-n-Bond ready.  IRON your fabric to your Heat-n-Bond FIRST.  I know you think it will save you money on the Heat-n-Bond to iron only the part you need for the building, but iron first, then cut out your building using your stencil.  SO MUCH EASIER!

Once you get each piece of the building cut out, set it with the rest of the pile and keep working until you get the buildings all set.  This will make it so much nicer to see on your base fabric. Don't iron anything until you have it all laid out.  If you don't you might find you made to adjacent buildings the same fabric or something just isn't working right.  

Once you get it all onto your Heat-n-Bond and set up exactly how you want it on your base fabric, pin away my friend.  I pinned everything down that you see in the picture above and then worked on one structure at a time.  Think through each structure BEFORE you sew.  For example:
The Pirate Ship and Lighthouse
In this corner we have--shore material, lake material, two light house materials, two ship materials, and six types of thread.  The shore HAS to be ironed down first, then the lake and hull of the ship can be ironed.  Before you can put on the sails however, you have to sew in the masts using the same stitch and thread you will use for the wooden part of the boat.  So I ironed, but didn't sew the shore and lake, but iron and appiqued in the hull and masts.  After the masts are in then you can iron on your sails.  I appliqued everything on with the appropriate threads.  AFTER the shoreline is ironed and sewn on THEN you can iron on your lighthouse and applique it on.  I appliqued the sails and lighthouse at the same time because both used black thread.  My sails sat ironed but not appliqued on for a week or two while I waited for the lighthouse to be completed.  The name of the ship I had embroidered just before I bound the blanket.

YOUR DOING GREAT!  I ironed on all of my buildings and then worked on applique for each one so I could easily move to the next building with the same thread if it was possible.  This will take a boat load of time, but it is worth it in the end.  See you on the next post for the rest of the information.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer Vacation

We have been gone on a whirlwind of a trip!  We had a family wedding to go to in Oklahoma.  Since we live in the Chicagoland area, it ended up being about 16 hours in the car with 4 kids.  Yes, we know; we are insane.  We had some good times though.  Here are just a few of the hundreds of pictures we took for our highlights.  I hope you enjoy!

The St. Louis Arch

The Four at the St. Louis Arch

The St. Louis Arch

                                    Crazy Stuff 
from the Road

Horse Carriage on the Back of a Horse Trailer.
How'd they get that up there?
The Boy with Tow Mater!
That's right, this homemade Mater made his day!

Oklahoma Is Awesome

The Boy Riding a Tractor at Grandma P's Work.
The Boy Riding With Grandpa P.

The Cousin's Altogether for the First Time!

K's idea of a good time after a day of wedding chaos.
Yes, she is still in her dress Grandma P made her for
the wedding.
What would a vacation be without naps?
Or sickness?  The baby is sick; the mom
is taking a nap.

 Who doesn't love BOWLING?  It is fast becoming a
P family tradition, and even our little ones love it.
L won this round, but we will see who wins next time we go.

The Trip Home

We love trying out new parks on the road.
L loves the swings, and this one was right next to
a great Antiques store in Illinois.
Dad's love parks just as much as the kids.
This one was at our last rest stop before home.
The older girls like catching fireflies, but Mom and Dad
liked the old teeter-totter.

Springfield, Illinois

"The Big Girls" posing at the Capitol Building

Lincoln's Tomb.  We got there too late to go inside,
but the tranquility of the grounds was wonderful
after so much chaos. 

Lincoln's bust at Lincoln's Tomb.
Rub his nose for luck.

The Four at Lincoln's Tomb.
 Excuse the Mess Heads;
we had been in the car for almost two
days by this point.

These are just the highlights of a very long, but super fun trip.  It was so nice to go to things we normally just drive by.  We also took back roads the way home, and let me just say, SO PRETTY!  The crazy things we saw on the road was just a small fraction.  We saw some crazy stuff.  Thanks for stopping by, and leave a comment if you have seen some crazier stuff, or an experience of good ol' road trip fun.  Have a happy day!