a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Simple "My Family" Hand Puppets

Our married children did not live close to one another so the young cousins did not have many chances to see each other. These simple hand puppets gave them the opportunity to play "together."

FYI: This illustrations in this post are from "Simply Stuff for Special People,"
one of my previously self-published bookettes.
  1. From sturdy smooth-surfaced fabric, cut two identical  sections for each hand puppet, using illustration as a guideline.
  2. Enlarge photograph head shots as necessary and, following the directions that come with the medium you are using, transfer one face to head area. 
  3. Place fabric sections right sides together (so face is “inside”).
  4. Stitch around puppet leaving the bottom open. 
  5. Turn right-side out and hem bottom edge.
  6. Slip a piece of cardboard into the puppet so colors wont bleed through to the back of the puppet.
  7. Using permanent marking pens put clothes on the puppet.
I know that mail order catalogs have cloth dolls that you can have personalized by sending in a photo of your child's face ----- and a lot of money. I haven't seen any puppets but the idea is the same.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thrifty Toys for Tots and Toddlers

            At gift-giving time it is not uncommon to see a young child abandon the gift in favor of the box it came in.
            While we may not feel we can give them as gifts, we can gather small empty boxes (like pudding gelatin, and cake mix that have been carefully opened and then taped shut), empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls, and any number of other items, and store them in a large box---at the ready to capture the attention of a bored or restless tot.
            Years ago, when Heidi's good friend Amber came for a visit she brought along two simple homemade toys for Heidi's toddlers. They were hits!

Shake, Rattle and Pop
Thoroughly wash and dry a plastic one-liter drink bottle. (Some of the bottles have really colorful caps and bases which adds even more appeal.)

Cut several colored plastic drinking straws into random lengths and place in bottle. Run a bead of glue around the inside of the bottle's cap and screw cap tightly on bottle.

That's all there is to it! When I made mine I added a few tiny iridescent stars, along with the straws. Glitter, colored rice, plastic beads or confetti pieces could also be added.

Lids You Can Count On
This toy/game consists of several lids (the smooth-edged kind that you zip off the 12-ounce "cans" of frozen juice) and a round food container, like cocoa powder, infant formula, or coffee come in, that has a removable plastic lid.

Cut a wide slot in the plastic lid, large enough for the lids to easily pass through. The kids love to drop the lids through the slot, over and over.

You can increase play value by adding designs to the lids with permanent marking pens. If you write numbers on one side and draw a corresponding number of something on the other side (example: the number 3 on one side and three hearts on the reverse or 4 on one side and four stars on the opposite side) the tots can learn while they play.

Getting to Know You
Yes, I know there is Skype (is that how you spell it?) and picture-taking/picture-showing cell phones and tons of other electronic devices out there but you know that I am simple and cheap. With that reminder I proceed.

When our married children moved to another state we wanted to make sure that our young grandchildren would remember us between visits. We found a plaything that could hold six photographs. It was great----and it was expensive! But it gave us an idea.

In the craft section of a discount department store, we found sturdy plastic key chains that held two 2-1/4" photos. We hooked three of them together on one key ring and had a six-photo toy that helped the young ones remember us ---- at a fraction of the cost of its commercial counterpart.

I always try to keep my thinking cap on and my eyes open to new ideas.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Creative Gifts for Grandparents ---Part Two

Long, long ago in the days before fabric crayons and fabric paints and transfer paper, permanent marking pens did exist and we found they did the job quite well. With today's choices you can pick the medium that matches your comfort level and your financial level.  If you go with those, the project will go faster---and probably cost more. Be sure to watch the sales and the coupons!!!

Bed Sheets that Warm the Heart . . . One year we gave both sets of grandparents a top sheet for their bed. I collected a variety of pictures that our children had drawn and a few one or two line stories they had written in school. I turned each paper over and taped it to a window on a sunny day.        I followed the lines of the drawings and the letters of the words with a broad soft lead pencil, creating  transfers.
  1. I pre-washed the sheet.
  2. With the sheet spread flat over our kitchen table, I placed one picture at a time right side up, randomly on the sheet and drew over the original lines, pressing firmly. (The lead on the bottom side of the paper leaves a light transfer line.)  
  3. Placing paper or plastic under the sheet to protect the table, I would then go over these light lines with wide-line permanent marking pens in a variety of bright colors.
  4. Using the markers we wrote an appropriate greeting along the wide upper hem of the sheet and dated it. We had the children "sign" their names on the sheet.
While both sets of grandparents loved their sheets it was interesting to discover, many years later when they were deceased and we were going through their personal things, what each couple did with their sheet. Dave's parents used the sheet until it was barely readable. My parent's carefully packed it away for safe keeping.  

Continuing the Tradition
As our kids started to leave home for college, military, and religious service we had the other family members decorate a sheet for them to take with them.

We, and now our kids, have continued to use sheets and permanent markers in lieu of guest books when the occasion presents itself.

Pillowcases . . . One year we traced the hand prints of each child on pre-washed pillowcases and let the kids color them in using the newly available fabric crayons. 

And More . . . Sixteen years ago when they had three boys 5, 3, and 9 months, our daughter-in-law Cheri made a memorable gift for us. She printed the following poem on a sheet of paper and helped the boys place their hands into saucers of washable craft paints and press them on the paper surrounding the poem. She added their names and ages along side of their prints and framed it.

Sometimes you get discouraged because I am so small
and always leave my fingerprints on furniture and walls.

But everyday I'm growing --- I'll be grown someday
and all those tiny hand prints will surely fade away.

So here's a special hand print, just so you can recall
exactly how my fingers looked when I was very small.

I can assure you----simple little things do mean a lot!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Creative Gifts for Grandparents---Part One

My parents were hard to buy for. Their knowledge of our tight financial situation was probably a strong factor in their declarations of "we don't want anything," "we don't need anything," "we have too much stuff already." In desperation, we looked at our parents in a different light. We looked at them as grandparents!

And came up with: Simple, cheap, and uniquely grand stuff you can give your parents when grandchildren are a part of the picture.

Get the picture? Take pictures. Use those pictures to make grandparent gifts!
Anyone can have commercial photos taken---in any price range from the local discount store packet to the department store studios and the nation-wide studios, to the exclusive photography studios and frame them or have them framed in a wide variety of choices from the same wide variety of sources. But, there are wonderfully acceptable ways to present your photos cheaply and priceless.

Simplest: Do your parents like to read?
Simply crop a snapshot to bookmark size or cut a sheet of paper to the size you want the finished bookmark and fasten a selection of pictures cut from snapshots to the paper. It is ready to laminate.

Still Simple: Do your parents eat?
Simply have one great photo enlarged* (either at the discount store photo shop or on a color copier at the quick copy store) to an 11x14 inch size
Cut a sheet of paper to place mat size and arrange a collage of snapshots as desired. Do a second sheet, if desired, so the place mat is reversible.

Take your finished creation to a previously-located copy shop that does laminating** and you have a useful gift that is uniquely yours.

*there are copyright laws which prohibit the copy of commercial photographs
**check your public library---ours has do-it-yourself laminating machines at great cost savings.

Pretty Simple---and Fairly Cheap: Do your parents wear casual clothes? 
There are a variety of kits and photo papers that allow you to quite easily transfer photos to tee-shirts, sweatshirts, aprons or other washable apparel or fabric. These products are readily available at large craft stores or craft sections of large box stores. The savings is greatly increased when you buy the product and the clothing when they are on sale, or over time, using the weekly coupons that are commonly available for 40 percent off a regularly-priced item.

Continued tomorrow...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Give the Gift of Fingerprints!

Fingerprints can be put to good use when you

This is a fun activity and a fun gift. This is "thumpkin" that almost anyone of any age can make and almost everyone will appreciate receiving. They are simple, quick and inexpensive. Even "addictive!" You can purchase stamp pads in a variety of colors or you can make your own. Fine line marking pens add the highlights. Since paper can be cut to any size, I find it best to purchase my envelopes first and and cut the paper to fit.

You can put your "thumbkin" in just one corner or you can have them march across the page.
Here are some ideas to get you started, then your imagination can take over.


You can make your own stamp pads by folding a paper towel so you have several thicknesses. Wet the towel and then squeeze out most of the water. Put the damp towel on an old plate. Pour coloring (thin paint, drawing ink, or food coloring) onto the towel. If the pad gets dry, add drops of water or more coloring. You can also use a sponge or a folded cloth for your pad.
    FYI: This illustrations in this post are from "Simply Stuff for Special People,"  
one of my previously self-published bookettes.