(Easter) Bunny Money; or fooling my kids into thinking it’s as good as candy

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Hidee ho, there neighbors.  I sit here watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and naturally the next thing that comes to mind is Easter.  Doesn’t everybody combine apes and bunnies in their minds?  OK, maybe not.  However, Easter has been on my mind since Big Bro dug out the Bunny Money I made for him two Easters ago.

What is Bunny Money, you might ask?  It is many things:

  • It is the result of sitting too long at your desk trying to think of alternatives to candy to fill your Easter eggs.
  • It is a good alternative if you know your child will color eggs but not eat them and you want to limit the amount of egg salad you’ll be eating for the next week.
  • It is also a clever play in the term “funny money.”
  • It cannot be used in a majority of fine establishments.  Or Wal-Mart.
  • OK they’re coupons, like the coupons you made for your mom on Mother’s Day:  “Breakfast in bed” “Wash your car”.  But the kids don’t know it.  And besides, it’s the kind of currency they understand.

I started thinking of all the things Big Bro likes to do:  pancakes for dinner, one on one time with Mom or Dad (mostly Dad.  Mom is that lady that nags all the time), Disneyland . . . well that one wasn’t going to happen, but I came up with the following list of things I could live with:

  1. Play ball with Daddy
  2. Paint with Mommy
  3. Pancakes for Dinner
  4. Ice cream cone
  5. Stay Up Extra 30 minutes (Friday or Saturday)
  6. Build a Fort

I then scanned a dollar bill, front and back, and went to work with the clip art in Power Point, trying to find clip art to put in the corners that tied in with the treat on the bill.  I hope my scanning did this justice.  I would have scanned them separately but this scanner was trippin‘, y’all, and it’s 11:30 p.m.  One scan to rule them all seemed adequate.  Anyhoo I’m just prolonging this:

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On the flip side, I included the governing body issuing the currency (United Members of Team [Surname]), as well as Easter related clip art — bunnies, white lilies, Easter eggs, and somehow I managed to find a coin or seal with a bunny.  It’s amazing what random words you type into Google and what you get.

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I rolled them up and put them inside those hinged plastic eggs that somehow linger around the house underfoot for MONTHS.  Now I have to confess, if Geoffrey could have read better two years ago, they might have been a bigger hit.  Now that he is a little older and reading more, I may break them out again or maybe add other things like “movie night” or “go to playground” or “go to zoo” (to see the chimpanzees?  See I told you Planets of the Apes was tied to bunnies).  However, if you are looking for an alternative to candy, this might be your golden egg.

School Valentines Ideas; or, going against the herd like a dumdum

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Sometimes I’m an idiot who just can’t do the things other people do because it seems too easy to follow the herd.  In my over-complicated brain, if it’s easy and the herd is doing it, it must be wrong.  Usually about 11:43 p.m. when I am still working on my anti-herd “unique” project I realize, hmmm, maybe the herd is onto something.  Alas, Valentines was not one of those occasions.  It never is.

I was going to make Hershey’s kiss rings out of pipe-cleaners and kisses, but I saw someone had given those away at school a few days prior to Valentines.  My goodness, now the rings were herd tainted!  One other person had done them.  Nope, can’t have that.  I remembered I had a 5 lbs. bag of dumdums leftover from Halloween.  And a box of scrapbook paper.  No-cost Valentines?  Yeah baby!

I knew I wanted to glue something to the dumdum.  But what?  I was going to go with a butterfly, but for a 6 year old boy that seemed a little girly.  (Aw damn.  I could have done dragonflies.  Ah well next year).  After a lot of Googling, I came up with the Yoda-face Valentine.  I think I ultimately went with that because I could write on there “Yoda Best!”  or “Yoda One For Me!”  I traced a Yoda head silhouette on green paper 25 frickin’ times, cut out 25 frickin’ Yodas, drew on 25 sets of eyes, noses and mouths, and glued 25 Yoda faces to the dumdums.  I was kind of feeling dumdum myself by this point (“Could the herd be right?  Are store bought Valentines the answer to the overextended mother?  Yes, you dumdum ass!”).  I printed out tags with the aforementioned Yoda greetings, being unable to think up a suitably Yoda-hackneyed saying (“My Valentine, you will be.  You … will … beee.” Wait that’s a good one.  Dammit!).  Punched holes in the end of the tag and tied one on I mean tied it on with red ribbon to bring in the Valentines theme.  10:15 p.m., Yodas done.

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Now on to Lil Bro.  More dumdums.  More scrapbook paper.  I was sitting at my desk at work thinking about what I could do for him and getting a little punchy from the never-ending pile of stuff landing in my e-mail (having a My Cousin Vinny moment, truth be told: “Is there anymore s#!t we can pile on top of this?  Is it possible?”) and the thought of curling a paper dunce cap on the top of the dumdum seemed like a good idea with the tag “This Valentine is for you, dummy.”  Yeah, it was a bad day.  So I opted to use my handy dandy Flexo-lite hole puncher and emphasize the sucker portion of the dumdum and add “I’m a sucker for you” with a heart in the middle.  I only had blue striped scrapbook paper in large enough portions to make 27 Valentines, but I figured that was candy-themed and if I added a heart that would bring in Valentines.  Hole punch, draw heart in with a Sharpie, write “I’m a sucker for you” around the edge, and add Lil Bro’s name to the bottom.  Glue circles to dumdums.  11:15 p.m., suckers done.  Starting to feel like a sucker myself.

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Finally the teacher’s gift.  What to make the teacher, hmm.  Well, as previously mentioned in the gifts in a jar post . . . well I have a thing for gifts in a jar.  She is going to think I have a fixation with baby food or wonder who is eating it in our house.  I decided to make paper flowers similar to the ones I used for the baby shower and use a dumdum as the stamen, and fill a small jar with the flowers.  I bought a jar of baby food and saved the food part to add to muffin batter.  Waste not want not.  Once I washed it and used steel wool to scrape off the last of the label and glue, I filled the jar with Valentines M&Ms.  The paper flowers are made like a snowflake — a square of paper is folded in fourths and then a triangle, then rounded at the end.  Cut a small slit in the center for the stamen and boom — flower.  I added the flowers to the jar, and then tied on a tag with Valentines greetings on it.  Logistics raised its ugly head — how would she carry this home without spilling all the M&Ms?  I didn’t want to, but I taped the baby food cap to the back of the jar.  What it lacks in presentation it makes up for it in practicality.  I never really figured out how to transport it as a bouquet.  I had to deconstruct it and reconstruct it at school because the flowers kept falling out.  Looks pretty, but totally unstable, kind of like the villainess in a James Bond movie.

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I added the remaining M&Ms to empty plastic baby food containers and glued two paper flowers I ended up not using to the tops to make small gifts for my boys for Valentines Day.  By this point it was 12:15 and I had to go to work the next day.  Yeah, time to stop.

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So there is Valentines Day, going against the herd.  Trying to be unique and crafty takes time, people.  Who are we kidding — you don’t have to tell me, I know I’m a fool.

Gifts in a jar revisited; or, a fool returns to the same well twice

 

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Well hello, blog.  Between the holidays, a birthday and life in general, I am surprised I remember my username and password.  Yet here I am, with an after the fact post about ornaments.  Keep in mind, this idea could be used as a more snow-globey concept, using different decorative elements in the jar based on the occasion or the season (Sand and shells in summer time.  Grass and flowers in spring.  Etc.)

When we last left, I was in the throes of the holidays, searching for a modest teacher’s gift kind of at the last minute.  My last post was gifts in a jar, and all that writing and thinking about gifts in a jar evidently made it impossible to do anything else for teachers’ gifts this year.  The final product, an ornament made out of a baby food jar, was a hybrid of photos in a jar, snow globe in a jar, and ornament in a jar.  It was a photo ornament in a jar.  I gathered:

  • baby food jars
  • picture of the boys
  • cotton balls
  • small presents or holly berries (not the actress)
  • glue
  • tweezers

First I bought baby food in jars.  I was hoping for carrots or sweet potatoes, which I could later use in a muffin batter and not feel wasteful, but all they had was Chicken and Noodle dinner.  Imagine how appetizing that looks pureed.  Oh yes, it looks like vomit.  I washed them, peeled off the label and used steel wool for any leftover residue.  I spray painted the caps red, then realized I should have punched holes first in the cap, then painted it.  So I had to be very careful not to inadvertently somehow crack the paint, and used the hammer and nail like i was one of Santa’s elves.  Once they were dry I looped some twine throughout the top and knotted it inside the cap.

I had a photo of the brothers in a 1990’s Kid n’ Play pose, back to back with their arms crossed.  “Oh la oh la a-a-a . . . rollin rollin rollin with Kid N’ Play now”  That’s all I remember from Kid N’ Play.  Anyway, I cut out a photo of each monster angel child separately.  I eyeballed from the outside if I need to cut them off at the knees so to speak to get the proportions right and get them to fit in the jar.  Once that was done I set the pictures aside.

I dribbled some glue in the bottom of the jar and gently pulled apart a cotton ball to increase its diameter so it looked more like a nest or snow drift than a cotton ball plopped in the bottom of a jar.  I then dribbled more glue and using the tweezers placed the picture in the “snow” and glue, making sure there was enough cotton piled up behind the picture to give it something to rest on.  I dribbled more glue in the jar where I wanted to stack the presents (little Christmas decorations found at Michaels) behind the picture to 1) cover up the back of the picture; and 2) hopefully make the ornament pleasing from another angle.  Fortunately the gifts were very light so they stacked well and at precarious angles that something heavier couldn’t have achieved.  I screwed on the top, and once dry, I used a Sharpie to write on the bottom “To: Ms. Teacher — Please Tell School District to Abandon Common Core Curriculum Because a First Grader Shouldn’t Be Doing Word Problems And Algebra.”   Oops, did I just write that?  Freudian slip. No,it really all fit on the bottom of the jar.  Really.

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The only thing I didn’t count on was the weight of the ornament.  It was heavy, bordering on too heavy for the tree.  It would have to be on a substantial branch or be a truly decorative ornament that sits on a shelf or mantel or desk.  They turned out really cute, however, but in retrospect making all 4 first and then testing them for weight was . . . foolhardy.

Hopefully I will get back on schedule and post my height chart soon.  All I have to do is make it.  You know, the essentials.  Also, I have a bunch of friends turning 40 this year, and we can’t let that go without a little sumpin’ sumpin’, and the ideas are a churnin’.  Well right now there is a 3.5 year old trying to rub my feet in an attempt to get out of time out, so maybe I can work this into a foot massage.  Ta ta!

Simple Thanksgiving crafts; or, Tom(foolery) Turkey Day crafts

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We were hosting our first small Thanksgiving dinner at our house.  Every year up to this point, Thanksgiving is usually a pretty predictable affair.  With the exception of the not one but two years we contracted the stomach flu.  All since I met Dave.  Coincidence?  I don’t know.  But we almost turned into a couple of Chandler Bings who could not stomach Thanksgiving food after associating it with ..  well you know.  I won’t ruin your Thanksgiving.  Anyway, I wanted to do a little something different with a minimum of clean up and expense.  Seeing as how my butler Jeeves had absconded with our vast amounts of family wealth and crown jewels, a minimum of expense and clean up seemed like a good idea.

Brown Craft Paper Stamped Tablecloth

For some reason I got it in my head I did not want to deal with washing a tablecloth, or that was my excuse for trying to make something crafty.  “Here lemme whip out that weaving loom I’ve been waiting to use . . .”.  I turned to what appears to be my favorite medium, brown craft paper.  Or maybe just because I have a lot of it hanging around.  After measuring the table, I cut off two lengths of paper.  I had intended to do a runner, but the paper was too wide for a runner and I did not feel like trying to cut a straight edge.  So table cloth it was.  I cut a potato in half, and then carved the outline of a leaf into it about a 1/4 to a 1/2 inch deep.  I then cut around the edge of it to result in a raised stamp.  I then carved the details of the leaf into the face of the stamp.  Then I started dippin’ and stampin’ red leaves all over the “cloth”.  Perhaps if I had more time, I could have done smaller and medium sized leaves in orange or yellow, but I was fine with the way just one color came out.  After this tablecloth it was apparent I needed to keep going with a rustic sort of theme.

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Corn Husk Napkin Rings

I had a bunch of corn husks from a short-lived attempt to make tamales.  Since I had a lot of them left over, I decided to “make something” since they tied in with the rustic theme.  After exploring a lot of ideas, I decided to make napkin rings out of corn husks.  I could have just done a simple ring but somehow I got this 3-D sculptural idea in my head.  I am still not totally convinced this was successful, but I still liked it.  I tore the husks lengthwise to the right width.  According to the internet, you can use a curling iron on low heat to smooth out a corn husk (Now how the hell do you put “smooth corn husk” and “curling iron” together?  I ask you).  And for once the internet is true, you can.  I started curling the husk and trying to see if a shape worked.  I did produce a curl, but it had to be held together with a red wooden clothespin.  Yeah it was a little weird but a clothespin is rustic, right?  I was going to glam up the husk with gold paint, but I ended up not liking the effect, so I kept the husk au natural.  I decided to write “thanks” in different languages on the husks with a Sharpie.  It so happens we are rather a multi-cultural family, so we had Gracias for Dad since my step mom is from Mexico, Merci for my brother since he studied French, Köszönöm in Hungarian for my sister in law because she is Hungarian (and I of course screwed up the spelling of this on the husk, dammit), Danke for Dave because of his German heritage, Grazie for me because I was running out of languages,  and Thanks for the kids.

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Centerpiece

As far as the centerpiece, I kept it very simple.  I had some glass jars I covered with scrapbook paper and a piece of twine tied in a bow (Twine.  Another of my go to’s.  Because I have a lot of it.  I often wonder if I had a lot of bling lying around would that be my aesthetic instead?) around the middle as vases for flowers.  On my way home from work the day before Thanksgiving I picked up some fall flowers from the farmer’s market.  I had a Christmas table runner that when flipped over only had a plain red fabric, so that became the runner.  I decided to go with no place mats for the adult settings, but for the kids I thought placemats would be nice.  So I took a piece of construction paper and glued a piece of scrapbook paper (I could NOT find any fall scrapbook paper!!  So I bought popcorn paper which strangely seemed to work.) in the middle.  I then printed each child’s name and glued that in the center, then I laminated the mat with clear contact paper.  That was it.  I mean you have to save room on the table for the food, right?

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For the kids, I set up a craft table with coloring books, stickers, paper puppets and crayons.  The kids later put on a puppet show for us at the urging of my niece.

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It was really a no frills affair, but for a family gathering I thought it was nice.  That’s the best thing about family, right?  Sure, I could have tried to have that flock of wild turkeys that often come in our backyard do some sort of dance like the penguins do in Mary Poppins, but with no Jeeves there to coordinate that . . . well anyway enough tomfoolery.

Updated — Closet Reading Nook; or , “who is the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows [her]?”

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There are two keys to creating a reading nook for your child: 1) freak out that your child is behind in his literacy skills and will never love reading the way that you do thus prompting you to make him a cozy reading space; 2) marry a great guy who will drill holes and a pole in the wall for you.  It did all start with the unpleasant realization that Big Bro was behind his peers on the reading skills.  I went into what Dave calls Cornered Rat Mode, where I become a bit ruthless, focused and driven to achieve a certain goal – in this case, to help Big Bro with his reading skills in a way that was fun and wouldn’t make reading so much a chore as the greatest hobby on earth (says the bookworm).

I of course Googled the web and was quickly overloaded/inspired.  At first I was just going to sling a bean bag in the corner of our living room.  That didn’t last long once that freaking creativity gene reared its ugly crafty head (wearing a fantastic book-hat it no doubt created from some felt scraps and spare pages from an old edition of Arthur Rackham illustrations found in the bargain bin at the used book store.  It’s a very specific and whimsical gene when it is inspired.  Now I may have to make that imaginary hat).  As usual, I digress.

Many sites suggested using unusual spaces for a reading area.  The boys have no room in their bedroom, and the living room is already in danger of being consumed by toys that are strangely never played with but always strewn on the ground, so when I saw the suggestion of the closet as a space, I knew we had something.  I used several sites as an inspiration, but knew that I wanted seating of some sort and a tent/canopy of some sort.  Why a canopy?  I had a piece of polka dot canvas I have been waiting 6 years to use.  Just sitting there in my fabric stash.  Waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting.  Getting its hopes up . . . and then waiting.  By hook or by crook, this nook would have the canopy look (aaaand apparently recently there’s been a little too much Dr. Seuss in said reading nook lately).

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With those ideas in mind I approached Dave, who was strangely receptive to my idea, especially when I started asking ever so casual random questions about PVC pipe.  Once he gave me the “why are you asking about PVC” look, I had to come clean.   The problem was I needed to install a pole of some sort perpendicular to the existing clothes pole, due to the layout of the closet, in order to have a pole for the tent.  I was going to attach PVC somehow to the clothes pole, but Dave came up with the idea of attaching a piece of galvanized pipe to the wall using a wall socket that the pipe screws into.  I tried to act like, “sure I can drill that into the wall” – but he knew based on the last time I was faced with the drill I burst into tears because I was not confident enough to start using it (but hey, I WAS 7 months pregnant at the time, everything made me cry) that I might need some guidance, so he agreed to set up the pole for me and install a better (looking and functioning) light in the closet.

We also purchased bean bags.  I knew, when we bought them, that the print did not really go with the polka dots, and they might possibly be too big for the closet.  However, Corned Rats who want to avoid procrastinating do not let little things like size, fit, or matching print deter them.  Also when even Dave said the print reminded him of the Death Star, I knew I had to get them.  As alike as Dave and I are, we are of two minds on Star Wars and Star Trek, as one is MUCH better than the other.  Both are good, but one is far superior.  After I pulled my eyes back in my head when he said that without a trace of distaste in his voice, we were set.

Off we went to Home Depot, where we got the necessary supplies (a 24 inch pipe threaded on both ends, a corresponding socket or bracket or whatever the hell you call it, and a cap for the end of the pole).  We also let Big Bro chose the color of the pendant light (blue of course).  Once home, Dave set up the pole and bracket into a stud in the wall, and then I mocked up the canvas to see how long a piece I needed.  I draped it over the pole and used thumbtacks to achieve the desired openness, as I realized indeed the bean bags were too big. If the boys weren’t sitting so high up because of the damn bean bags I wouldn’t have to tack the sides of the tent to the wall.  That’s exactly what I ended up having to do, and I still need to invest in flat thumbtacks so they boys don’t keep knocking them off, or better yet, embark on the potentially messy project of releasing some beans from the bags to make them smaller.

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In any case, we set up the light, which made us both say “Kmart shoppers, we have a blue light special” because the lamp shade turned the whole closet blue.  I was reminded of that Seinfeld episode with the red Kenny Rogers Roasters light burning into Kramer’s apartment (“Kenny? Kenny?”).  But hey the point is there is plenty of reading light now.

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With the remaining piece of canvas I made a little area rug, threw some pillows on top of the bags, and suspended some spin art stars and swirls the boys had made.  (Of course, one has already been ripped off).  Reading nook complete.

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However, “reading nook” doesn’t really grab a 6 year old, so once I called it a “Secret Reading Hideout”, both boys were in there faster than you can flip a page.  Every night now we go into the SRH and read a book and/or do sight words.  They seem to really enjoy it and what is best is that I managed to get Dave involved on this too – after 9 years together this was bound to happen.  Who is the more foolish, the fool or the fool who marries her?

UPDATE

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An update to the SRH.  Over time, the thumbtacks just were not cutting it.  After using some of those supposedly “won’t mess up the wall” sticky hooks which still didn’t work, I reverted back to one of my original ideas.  I took a tension curtain rod and stretched it across the closet.  I cut the polka dot cfabric in half and sewed a pocket sleeve on each end.  I slid them onto the tension rod tied them back with fishing wire, attaching them to the useless hooks.

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In the past Geoffrey had a habit of taking out every superhero cape, mask, puppet etc., out of his dress up box under the bed and was then unable to shove it all back in there.  After a while I thought “Hmm.  Maybe its not just him.  Maybe that box just isn’t big enough?”  Any excuse to buy organizational things.   I bought a relatively inexpensive storage bench from Ross for his dress up clothes which also fit in the closet as a reading bench.  Don’t you love it when something does triple duty?  No clutter on the floor, a place for dress-up, and a reading bench that fits perfectly?  SRH 2.0, y’all!

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