valentine's day is just around the corner...

need a sweet valentine's gift idea?
okay, i realize that some of you are really going to barf at this one. and that is a risk i'm willing to take. that's how much i loved this project. when my hubby and i were newlyweds, i wanted to do something really special for our first valentine's day together. i started jotting down little things i liked about him in a notebook. i kept the notebook with me at work, in the car, etc. i recorded very simple sentiments, such as how i like the way he always did the laundry (still do, honey!!!), how i think it's cute that he's not too manly to cry at old movies. or new movies. or weddings. or graduations. or baptisms. you get the idea. anyway, i started out with the idea to type up my little handful of affirmations, cut them out, and put them in a little jar or something. however, my notebook really began to fill up. in a few days, i had about 100 little notes. i decided to try to come up with 365 sweet nothings, and he could open one every day of the year. (need a barf bag yet? like i said - we were newlyweds.......). i typed up my thoughts and cut them out in strips. i found the coolest vintage martini shaker in a flea market to hold them all. when he finally opened his valentine's gift, he really was pretty speechless. and he didn't wait to pull one out each morning, either. he dumped out the shaker and read them all on the spot. then, he put the strips back in, wiped his tears (hahaha! just kiddin', shane!!) and the container sat on the corner of our dresser, reminding him of how darn cool his new wife was. a year later, i noticed the jar was missing from the dresser. i was the one shedding a tear or two when i opened up my valentine's gift from him. he had refilled the shaker with little statements about me! it is truly one of the sweetest gifts i've ever recieved. this could of course be modified in so many ways for children, parents or grandparents, etc. it's a cool project. you'll be surprised at how many little, every day things you appreciate and love about the special people in your life. so open your notebook, get your pen, and start taking notes.....

cheap thrills & pirate booty

i don't know where or why i came up with this little plan, but it sure was fun! this little adventure can be adapted to fairy treasure, leprechaun loot, or anything else your little one is intrested in. our sweet neighbors handed down their awesome playfort swingset to my girls this past august. for some reason, the structure just screamed PIRATE HIDEOUT to me! i decided to make it official. summer was about over - it was lucy's first week at her new preschool, and i wanted to create a memorable end to a bittersweet adjustment week. (bittersweet for mamma...she had a blast!) i went to the dollar store and found a cool black bucket with rope handles, some gold and silver beads, lots of gold coins, little skull thingies on a rope, a pirate hat/patch set, red bandanas, and multi-colored decorative glass rocks (pirate jewels!). i think it was a $9 total. i placed the pirate booty in the bucket, then grabbed some scrapbook paper. i tore the edges of the paper, burned them a bit (i know you just rolled your eyes! it really did make it extra cool!), and wrote a note to lucy from the pirates. i used some pirate language to make it legit....something like: "dear lucy, please be a bonny lass and guard our pirate treasure....arg!" i rolled up the note, tied it with black twine, and stuck it inside the bucket. i hid the bucket in the back yard, then made a map that led from the new playfort to the pirate's treasure. i placed the treasure map in the playfort, under a pirate hat wrapped in a bandana. when lucy came home, we told her we might have see some pirates in the neighborhood! she was intrigued, and when she went out to her playfort, she was elated to find her map!!! she followed her treasure map to the pirate loot. she immediately hid the pirate booty in the sandbox under the playfort, where it stays buried today, awaiting the pirate's return. she still loves to dig it up and rebury it every time she's out there.
p.s....this could be a fun idea for a playdate activity. if you have more than one child involved, you could rip the map into pieces, and the kids could find pieces of the map first & put the pieces together before they could hunt for the treasure (remember that "backyardigans" episode?) it would also be fun to leave clues...bandanas, coins etc. hidden in spots along the way.

a project for your little picasso...

this project was so much fun for my little lucy, who was four years old at the time. i had an expanse of wall space that needed a little flair, canvases were on sale at hobby lobby, and lucy needed a quiet indoor activity during little sister's nap time. you can obviously make this project as big or as small as you'd like. lucy has smaller, framed versions in her bedroom and bathroom. also, a four inch square painted canvas
propped on a little easel makes a charming, colorful gift for grandparents, etc. after completing our project, lucy was actually comissioned by a family friend to create a series of three giant canvas panels for their master bedroom. she is in the process of completing those in the first image above. the second collage of images shows the canvas she painted for our kitchen. (playrooms are also great places for these masterpieces!)
if you are going to take on this super fun & messy project, you'll need:
  • canvas/canvases (hobby lobby often has a sale on these - they are in the art department) i recommend the canvases that are wrapped around a thick wood frame. they are ready to hang and do not need a frame.

  • multiple tubes of acrylic paint (e.g. apple barrel brand craft paint) you will need to choose one main color to use as your background paint (i don't recommend leaving the canvas white) in the examples above, the first entire background is deep red, and the second canvas is turquoise. choose several colors to layer together. make sure you have dark, medium & light colors to give the painting some depth.

  • paint brushes (you will need one large brush for the background color, and lots of different sizes and styles of brushes for the paint layers. lucy used all sizes & shapes of foam & nylon brushes.)

  • paper bowls or plates for the paint

  • spray gloss acrylic sealant for the finished product...also available at hobby lobby

  • lots of wet and dry shop towels

  • newspaper

  • paint clothes
  • spread newspaper under your canvas (you might need two spots for this project. your artist might want to paint standing up, with the canvas propped up against a wall, table or window, and sitting down on the floor or at a table. moving around encourages a bigger variety of strokes, etc...)

  • paint two layers of your base color over the entire canvas - front and sides -and let it dry

  • pour paint into containers - it's okay to put a few colors next to each other on the plate or in the bowl. they will naturally want to mix the colors, and as long as they don't mix them too much into a bland grey, the results can be very interesting...

  • lay out all the paint brushes on the will be washing these out a lot in the next few days!

  • begin painting canvas...i pretty much let lucy do her own thing, although i did discourage her from drawing people and houses in the beginning, and encouraged her to fill up as much of the canvas as possible. turn the canvas as you go to make sure it is getting even coverage. you don't really want a "top" and "bottom" want it covered.

  • let them experiment....lucy wadded up a paper towel at one point and dabbed on paint, making interesting patterns, then eventually swirled her hands in the paint and over the canvas. if you look closely at the finished product, you can find her precious little handprint hidden in the pattern. (i did have to step in when she dipped her bare foot into the paint bowl....)

  • let the first layer dry and come back to it in a day or two.

  • paint another layer on the canvas... paint over the previous patterns without covering them completely. with just one paint application, the painting will look flat and rather one-dimensional, but the layers create depth. i had lucy do three full layers on our big canvas.

  • spray a couple coats of acrylic gloss over your masterpiece, and hang it with pride!

take me out to the ballpark [oldner]