Felt Birthay Banner

August 30, 2011

Hello world!  My electricity just came back on this morning, and I feel like I am rejoining the modern age again.  We were lucky to have no damage from Hurricane Irene (actually just a tropical storm by the time it hit us in New England), other than being without power for 2 days.  It has been fine, other than the sad loss of some of the contents of my fridge and freezer.  Since we have both a gas stove and hot water heater, it really hasn't been too tricky having our power out.  It's just like camping really, except I got to sleep in my own bed, and more importantly, the kids slept in their own beds too.

Right before the storm was the only thing on our minds around here, we celebrated a birthday for one of our two boys.  It's birthday season at our house, and within a month, both the kids will turn a year older, and I will be embarking on my 30's.  On the morning of the first birthday, I was up early with the little one, and decided to start a project that has been on my list for a few years now.  I've seen lots of cute happy birthday banners all over blogs and etsy for a long time now, and I thought it would be fun to make one that we can use for all the birthdays.  I had a stack of nice wool felt, and I just got to work.

It feels silly to make a tutorial about how to make something so simple, but here is what I did to make mine.

1. Cut out 14 triangles. 
Each of my triangles measures 5" across and also 5" from bottom to top.  I cut the side edges with pinking shears, but since it's felt, it's just for decoration.  If you were using a woven fabric, you would want to be sure and do this (or sew two together and turn them inside out) to keep your edges from fraying.  To make things easy for yourself, make a template from a piece of a cereal box first, and trace each triangle before cutting it out.     

2. Make Your Letters.
I used Word to make my letters, and used PRINCETOWN LET font, size 200.  The letters were just shy of 2" tall (1 7/8") and this was just the right size.  After I printed out my page, I cut out each letter, and then traced them each onto white felt.  This part is the most tedious, but stick with it, because it really doesn't take that long.

3. Sew on the Letters. 
You could use glue, but I choose to sew everything because I think it looks nicer.  This also took me a few minutes, and I cursed myself a little for choosing a block font (with a million pivot points), but I love the way the block letters look.  I'm happy I stuck with it. 

4. Attach it all Together. 
I had a long piece of 1" wide red satin ribbon that I ironed in half, but double fold bias tape would also be nice.  My piece of ribbon was about 8 1/2 feet long, but longer would be helpful so you have a little more space at each end to string it up.  I just used a simple zig-zag stitch to sew the ribbon in half, and was careful to catch both edges and the felt triangles. 

And there you go, the easiest thing ever to make.  I know there are fast ways of doing something similar (gluing everything together), but I wanted to make something that looks great and will last us through this birthday season and for many more to come.  After I finished, my husband and I both agreed that it would be better for photos to make a separate banner for each word, but I like it this way too!

What do you do at your house to make birthdays special?  Do you have any traditions that you repeat for each family member?  I try and make a special supper (dinner for you Americans) that the birthday boy or girl chooses.  My four year old picked his favourite food - thin crust pizza with olive oil, garlic, fresh basil, tomatoes, and a blend of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.  Yum. 

Family Reunion T-shirts

August 25, 2011

This past week, we attended a family reunion with my husband's family.  My husband is one of seven children, each of whom is married and has at least one child.  That makes for 36 family members all in one place!  It was my mother-in-law's fantasy to have us all in matching t-shirts, and my husband and I were placed on the t-shirt committee.

My idea when it came to the t-shirts was that if we were going to spend money on t-shirts, we should do it right, and make a shirt that people would actually wear again.  I did a bit of Internet searching, and found a design that I think is pretty cool, and not just cool for a family reunion shirt.

Image via http://www.kinshirts.com/
We chose this tree ring design by Angela Hardison, but I think most of the stuff on her site is pretty cool.  We ordered the design from the website, she sent us a pdf, and then we took it to a local printer to have it made onto t-shirts.

So, how did it turn out for us?  Here's the whole group, all in one place and wearing the same shirt:

Photograph by George McWilliams
I just did a quick search of the Internet to see if I could find any other good family reunion shirts.  I was pretty disappointed with the selection, and pretty happy with my original choice.  There must be other equally cool shirts out there though, so let me know if you find one.  There's always next summer, with the other side of the family to look forward to matching with!

Kid's Messenger Bag

August 16, 2011

Since we don't go to tons of birthday parties yet, we often bring handmade gifts.  Either that, or awesome stuff from the thrift store (unopened puzzles, books, that kind of thing).  Does this make me sound cheap?  Well, I am, but I also like the idea of making something special, and not wasting money on crappy plastic toys.  I assume that other parents are like me, and don't want to continue crowding their house with kid junk, so this is the solution I have come up with.  Oh, and I'm cheap.  Did I mention that? 

This week, my older son was invited to a birthday party, and we made this messenger bag together.  I feel less guilty about sewing during our alone time (while my younger son naps in the afternoon) if we are working on a project together.  We started by looking for a tutorial on One Pretty Thing for a messenger bag (my idea).  After we found something similar to what I had in mind, I made sure that he thought it would make a cool present for his friend.  We ended up using the dimensions for the main pieces from one tutorial, and then based the rest on other messenger bags I have made in the past.   

P.S. If you try using this tutorial, make sure to make the side piece (that goes all the way around the sides and bottom of the bag) longer than 27".  I had to add several inches part way through sewing, and next time I make a bag this size I will start with a piece about 31" long.  It's easy to trim down at the end, but annoying to add length in the middle of the project.  

After I made my plan (quick notes with a sketch, and dimensions for the pieces I would need), my son picked out the fabric.  This fabric is denim with woven tools (in green, red, and yellow).  I inherited it from my mother-in-law, Susan, and I haven't been sure of what to use it for.  My son loves this print and is always asking me to use it, and I actually really love how it looks on this bag.  He also selected the plaid print for the lining, and I think he did an excellent job of selecting a coordinating print with almost no help (I only guided him to the appropriate weight of fabric).

He loved this bag so much that he has asked me to make him one just like it for his birthday later this month.  It's the perfect size for storing his treasures (junk) during his everyday play, and it looks pretty adorable on.  

This was a simple bag to make.  It's fully lined, and has one pocket on the front under the flap.


The strap has 5 rows of stitches to make it stronger, and I left about 6 extra inches when I attached it to the bag (the extra length is hidden inside) so it would be possible to make it longer as he grows.  I felt like a genius after I did this, and when I told his mother about it.  Since it was so simple, I decided to dress things up a little by adding a simple leather 'K' applique (for Keaton) and called things good.

In case you are interested in making your own, the front and back pieces measure 11" wide and 9" tall, the side (gusset) piece is 3" wide by 31" long, and the flap is 11" wide and 7.5" long with rounded corners.  I started with a strap piece 4" wide by 44" long, and adjusted it to the appropriate length after my son tried it on.

I'm curious, what do the rest of you bring to birthday parties?  Especially if you are on a tight budget?  I find I'm more likely to make a gift if the mother is crafty (or I know appreciates handmade).  Do you think kids (or mothers for that matter) appreciate gifts like this, or would they just rather have the plastic toys?

Country of the Month Club

August 11, 2011

In my family we have started a pretty fun club.  It's called the Country of the Month Club.  We "visit" a new country each month by learning a bit about it.  So far it has been fun, and is something that my husband and I have enjoyed doing together.  We have also extended this activity to include our two young children, and they have been mostly learning about the country by enjoying the food we've cooked. 

This month we're "visiting" Peru.  I've made a Country of the Month bulletin board which contains our world map (in the future, I'll have a bigger one), the new recipe to try, some facts about the country, and a flag of Peru - made by my daughter.  We've also read a few travel books about Peru and watched a movie set in Peru.  I love our "club" because it is manageable (one new country a month can be squeezed in), and is pretty flexible and can be extended in many different ways.  Also, it's fun to do things together.

Do you want to start your own Country of the Month Club?  Here's how:

1. Decide who to invite to your club.  Is it your entire family, just you, you and your significant other, you and your friends or extended family?

2. Get a world map.  Each month as you "visit" a country, label it using a method of your choice.  We are sticking little pins in each visited place.

The CIA Worldmap is really great.  (Image via the CIA World Factbook website.)

I printed the 2011 version, but the pdf is interactive and won't load as an image here.

3. At the beginning of each month, choose a new country.  (Can be random or meaningful - it's your club, so do what you want.)

4. Decide what you want to do to learn about the country this month.  Some ideas include:
  • Read a book about the country.
  • Read a book by an author from the country.
  • Cook a meal native to the country.
  • Eat dinner at a restaurant which serves the country's food.
  • Learn about the history of the country on Wikipedia.
  • Memorize a few facts about the country - capital city, neighbouring countries, leader, population size, major exports, famous citizens, etc.
  • Look at art from the country.
  • Watch a movie set in the country or made by natives of the country.
  • Listen to traditional music from the country.
  • Learn a few phrases in the country's language (if it is different from yours).
5. At the end of the month, label the country as "visited" and get ready for your next trip.

Healthy Cookies

August 4, 2011

Whenever it rains, my daughter wants to make cookies.  I usually agree, especially in the hot summer; rainy weather is the perfect kind of weather to bake cookies in.  Sometimes, however, when a request for cookies is made I think: "No!  I don't want another dessert in my house, just lurking on the counter, teasing that I'll never loose that baby weight."  Oh yeah, and I don't think a steady diet of chocolate chip cookies is very good for my kids either.  It is times like these that I pull out the Healthy Cookies recipe. 

This recipe was found in a well-loved church cookbook that my mother gave me.  It has so many good recipes it in, but this cookie recipe really is the humble star of the book.  I love that it contains whole wheat, but still tastes yummy.  I'm not going to lie, it is not a decadent dessert, just a little something to satisfy that sweet tooth.  It is pretty versatile as you can add whatever you like for extras - I chose craisins and chopped pecans.

Healthy Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
3 cups oatmeal
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup additive of choice (raisins, crasins, nuts, seeds, chocolate chips)

1. Cream together butter and sugar.
2. Add eggs, one at a time.  Beat until mixed very well.
3. Add oatmeal and flour, then mix in additive.
4. Roll into balls, and slightly flatten each ball.  Then bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

I still plan to experiment with applesauce and bananas to reduce even more of the fat and sugar and make it even more natural.  Does anyone have a "healthy treat" recipe that they use as a go-to?  Please share!

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