Aug 31, 2011

Grandparents Day, an email request

I had the pleasure of getting an email from a reader today.  Hi Shauna! (By the way, I love getting emails).  She was asking if I had any ideas for the upcoming Grandparents day.  I do have an idea or two that might work but I have to try them out first.  So, in the meantime, I thought I'd share a book that we just put together for our grandparents.  We plan to give it to them this week. 

We (That's totally a Victorian "We". My husband did all the work) ordered it last week.  It showed up on our door step two days ago and we love it.  The timing of Shauna's email question and the arrival of the book could not have been better.

I've seen photos books around for a long time but I'm not going to lie, I really wasn't interested in them.  I'm old school.  I love to scrapbook so the thought of just plunking pictures down on a page and having a book made didn't seem as special.  Boy, was I wrong.  I'm not changing my ways, scrapbooks, glue, paper, embellishments, still rock.  But, these books have something special all on their own. 

So, my idea for nice gift for Grandparents day is to make one of these books.  Ours was just a bunch of photos that showcased my kids spending time with their grandparents.  Plus, we added in some quick captions.  However, if you don't have a lot of photos, you could have family members write a letter on one page and add a photo on the other or something like that.  There's a lot of flexibility here.  Plus, if you get it ordered soon, you'll have it in time. Shutterfly was super quick with ours, it was printed and shipped in less than a week.

In looking at this book I am reminded at how special these two people are in the lives of my kids.  What a great reminder to have it all in one place.  Plus, I know they are gonna LOVE it. 
Just a bit of info, Grandparents day is always celebrated the Sunday after Labor Day.  This year it is on September 11th.  In the U.S. we've been celebrating it since 1978 and it was created in an effort to get the youth to recognize the contributions seniors have made through out history.  Pretty cool!

Also, I'm in no way sponsored by Shutterfly but I was very pleased with them.  This is the second book we've made and ordered and I love them both.  Right now I think they have some free shipping deals going on, you can check them out here:

Aug 30, 2011

Pencil Vase

A lot has been happening around here.  It's been a bit crazy.  Amongst a long list of things that have been happening, the most pressing was we wrapped up the last few weeks of summer and the kiddos have all gone back to school.  I love back-to-school! I especially love getting back into a routine around here. 

As part of our back to school prep we headed over to the school to find the classrooms, drop off our supplies and to met the new teachers.   The girls wanted to take something, a gift of some sort, to their new teachers.  So, we quickly whipped up some pencil vases and loaded them with flowers.  I've seen lots of versions of these all over the internet - this is not my idea - but I've never found one quite like what I wanted so I just made my own.  Here's what I did.

I grabbed the following supplies:
- A narrow glass vase
- Pencils, I think I used close to 30
- Double sided tape
- Ribbon
- Scissors

Step 1:  First, take your tape and stick two or three pieces all around the vase. 

Once the tape is in place, remove the other side of the tape to expose the adhesive.

Step 2:  Next, take your pencils and, one by one, line them up and adhere them to the vase.

Step 3:  Once all the pencils are in place, cut a piece of ribbon and wrap it around the vase, then tie it into a cute bow.   

Now all you have to do is add flowers.  And, I'm quite mad at my myself because I forgot to take a picture with the flowers in it.  Oh well!  The teachers loved them and in the end that is what mattered.

Aug 14, 2011

Frozen Pudding-wiches

I've been sorting through my recipes lately and found a snack recipe that I haven't made in years.  I remembered it being yummy and so I quickly whipped up a batch.

The result?  Three happy kids!

Now, not only do they taste good, but I love this recipe because if you are trying to teach kids to be independent in the kitchen, this is one recipe they can pretty much take ownership off -  here's the scoop  

You will need:

1-1/2 Cup - Cold Milk
1/2 Cup - Creamy Peanut Butter
1 Box (small) -  Instant Chocolate Pudding Mix
1 Box - Graham Crackers

Here's what you do:

Step 1:  In bowl, add milk and peanut butter.  Mix until well combined.
(the picture looks a little gross - sorry 'bout that)

Step 2:  Add in pudding mix and beat on low speed until well blended, about two minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes to thicken.

Step 3:  Break graham crackers in half and spread thick layer onto one half.

Step 4: Next, place other half on top to make a sandwich.

Step 5:  Line cookie sheet with wax paper or parchment paper and place sandwiches in a single layer on the cookie sheet.  Place pan in freezer, uncovered, and flash freeze for about three hours.

Step 6:  Once sandwiches are frozen, remove from cookie sheet and place them in a freezer bag.  Then return to freezer.  

Step 7:  When ready for a snack, grab a pudding-wich and enjoy!

See!  Super easy and your kids will love them.  Plus, since they are frozen, they work great as a cool summer treat.

Aug 11, 2011

Word Pendant Tutorial

This post is dedicated to my dearest, life-long friend, Judy, and my mother-in-law, Shirley.  These incredible women found out within a few weeks of each other that they have breast cancer - their courage amazes me every day and I love them both dearly!

Clay Word Pendant Tutorial

*** If you are thinking about making these as a craft for Girl's Camp, I've addressed several questions and tips in a new post.  Please go here for more details:  Girl's Camp craft: word pendants 

Wow!  Thanks for the response to my last post.  Your comments and emails were greatly appreciated.  I asked if you'd like a tutorial and the majority wanted to know how to make the word pendant.  And, really, it's a good place to start.  So, in honor of the two women I mentioned above, I've made a "courage" pendant and here's the step-by-step:

What You'll Need: The Basics

In general, the following items are good basics to have on hand when you are making clay jewelry or really, any clay project.

Clay:  Before you can make clay jewelry you will need clay.  I'm a big fan of Sculpey.  If you go to a craft store like Hobby Lobby or Michaels you'll find Sculpey plus a few other brands like Premo and Kato.  Sculpey is the least expensive of the brands you'll find.  The other brands claim to be superior but I've tried them and I always end up going back to my Sculpey - I like it better but you can get whatever fits your fancy - it will all work about the same.  Just some minor differences and no, I'm not sponsored or paid by Sculpey! Although I wouldn't mind being - Sculpey people, if you're reading this... oh, anyway, back to the tutorial.

Stamps:  I like to use stamps to make the designs in my pendants.  Any stamps will work.  I have a ton of wood mounted stamps from my scrapbooking days that work great.  I've also used my acrylic stamps too - be creative here, if you find things with interesting patterns use it.  The very first clay jewelry piece I ever made was done using the bottom of my daughters shoe - it was awesome, great design impression.  Just don't limit yourself, think outside of the box.

Cutters:  Shape cutters will help you get a perfect shape.  You don't need them - you can sculpt you shape free-hand and get great results.  I like to do that often but for this tutorial I'm using a circle cutter.  You can buy them in the clay aisle at your craft store but don't limit yourself there, also look at cookie cutters and other things.  The cutter I'm using today is actually an apple corer.

*** - just an FYI - Sculpey is non-toxic, however, if you use a kitchen item on it, don't put it back in you kitchen to use on food.  The clay leaves a slight residue on things and so if you use a cookie cutter on your clay, dedicate it to a clay-only cutter from then on.

Stylus or sharp pokey-thing (that's what my girls call it):  You will want something like this to help you with your design and also to add the word to your pendant.  If you don't have one, don't worry, just use a tooth pick.  

What You'll Need:  Project Specifics 

The photo above shows the majority of the items I'll be using for the Courage pendant.  If you make your own, you will need the above mentioned items (clay, stamp, stylus, cutter) as well as the following:  wax paper, small paint brush, paint, Mod Podge, and string/hemp for necklace.

Step 1:  Lay out a piece of wax paper.  This will be your working surface.  As mentioned above, clay is non-toxic but you want to keep it away from any areas that touch food.  It leaves a little residue and the wax paper will just keep things clean on your working surface.

Step 2:  Pick your clay color and break off a piece.  Clay needs to be "conditioned" so you need to knead it for a few minutes to get it soft and workable.  Once it is soft, roll it into a ball and then press it out flat.  Keep it all a consistent thickness.  If you have a pasta machine that you use for crafting, you can run your clay through that a few times to get a really smooth surface.  Sometimes I'll do that but I didn't on this pendant.  I like the hand-made look.

Step 3:  Next, grab your stamp and make an impression in the clay.  You don't want to press so hard that you see the edges of the stamp base but you do need a good, deep impression.  

Step 4:  Use a cutter and cut your clay into the shape you want and then carefully remove the excess clay.  
Tip:  I always stamp my design before I cut.  This way I can line the cutter up better with my design.  Plus, if you stamp after the shape is cut, you risk flattening your edge and your pendant will be lop-sided.

 Step 5:  Once the excess clay is removed, you're ready to add your word.  There are lots of ways to do this, but I'll show the way that works best for me.  Take your stylus and lightly poke several holes in the shape of each letter.  It's kind of like you are making a dot-to-dot game for each letter.  If you just start "writing" with the stylus, it will push the clay and doesn't produce the desired results.  Once you've got all holes and the letters shaped, go back and carefully connect the dots.  (Sorry, the photos are small - click on them to see this step bigger)

Step 6:  Once your word is done, add anything else you want to your design.  I added some dots in my flower to give it a little more detail.  Also, make sure you add the hole for the string at the top of your pendant.  When you have it how you like it, set it aside.

Step 7:  Next we are going to make the bead that sits at the top of the pendant.  Do this by shaping a small piece of clay into a small ball.  Then shape into the desired form for a bead.  Next, poke a hole through the center.  Make sure the hole is big enough that your twine or hemp can thread through it.

Step 8:  Add any details you want to the bead.  I used the side of my stylus and made random hash marks to give the bead some texture.

Step 9:  Not shown:  Pre-heat oven to 275 degrees and bake your clay, both the pendant and the bead, for 15 minutes.  (Different clay brands have different cooking instructions so read the label on your package)  Also, it is wise to use a disposable pan or dedicate one cookie sheet to just clay projects - remember, you don't want your clay to touch surfaces that also touch food.

Step 10:  Once they are done cooking, let them cool completely!

Now that it is cooked, you could just string it on a necklace and be done but I like to add a little more to mine.  Here's what I do...

Step 11:  Take a little paint, just craft paint works great, and very carefully add paint into the stamped impression.  Then with a damp paper towel or rag, quickly wipe most of the paint away.  **You want to do this step quickly or else the paint will start to stain your clay.  Do this for the stamped impression, the word, and also the small bead.  If you wipe off too much paint the first time, just repeat the process until it looks like you want it to.  I like mine to have just enough paint to show the depth of the design.  

Here they are after the painting step is complete. 

Step 12:  Next I add a protective coat.  I've tried various products and I usually just end up using plain old Mod Podge.  I like the semi-gloss look and I've found that a lot of other products, even those meant to be used with clay, peel off after awhile.  Once you add the Mod Podge, let it dry.

Step 13:  We're almost done.  Now you just need to put the necklace together.  Take a long piece of hemp and fold it in half.  Thread the folded end (the middle of the string) through the hole in the pendant.  Then tuck the remaining hemp through the loop that the fold makes after it's threaded through the pendant.  Then simply pull tight.

Step 14:  Next you just thread on your bead and tie the two ends of hemp together - then you wear it!  

If hemp/twine isn't your style, use a jump ring and a chain.  Either way it will look great.

So, there you have it, that is how you make a word pendant out of clay - hopefully it all made sense.  

Aug 4, 2011

Jewelry Creations

In July I took my little family and we headed West to spend time with my siblings. We had a great time camping, visiting, and swimming. It was a great week of reconnecting.  However, the highlight for me was introducing my family to one of my loves - jewelry making.

It all came about because my cute niece saw a camera necklace that she loved but it was WAY expensive and I casually said - "hey, you could make that!".  So, I packed up some of my gear and one morning at camp she and I sat down to create.

It didn't take long before lots of others joined in. Really, who can resist some crafty goodness?!  Even my brother made some too - awesome!

Anyway, after we got home I left all the jewelry supplies out and I've been having lots of fun.  I love it because it's something my girls like to do too.  In fact, a couple of nights ago my teen said, "I'm glad I have a crafty mom.  I wouldn't get to do this otherwise!"  Sweet!  Points for me!

I don't have tutorials ready yet but here's a little peak at some of my creations ..... (tutorials and more photos will come on another post)

All of these creations were made from clay, paint, stamps, and some hardware.  
Some other day I'll have to show my regular bead work creations. I'm addicted to those too!

I also tried my hand at a little Steampunk - love the gears!

The robot doesn't have a name yet.  Any suggestions?  Fredrick?  Frank?
And, if he had a heart, it would like this...

I haven't put it on a chain yet, but I will.  And, last but not least, here's my camera pendant.  Alison wanted to make a camera, hers was so cute I wanted to make one too.

Fun, Right?!  I'm very addicted.

Oh, the two word pendants at the top of the post are some of my favorites.  I made the green one years ago.  The purple one is new from a few months ago.  It was for my oldest daughter to wear to a purple party for a young women's activity at church.  We were tempted to make her a pendant for every value but we weren't that ambitious.  :)

If any of these creations fit your fancy, let me know, I'll do a tutorial!