Ode to the Staycation

I am a homebody.  I’m perfectly content puttering around the house, and I don’t like to travel.  I’m afraid of flying, and I get antsy in the car for long trips.  Most of all, I much prefer my nice clean house – especially the nice clean bathrooms in my nice clean house – over the questionable at best cleanliness in even the nicest hotels.  You may think that is all weird, but it’s me.  That’s why I was so excited about our recent summer staycation – and it was fabulous.  Let me take a moment to sing the praises of the staycation:

  1.  The weather – it was perfect.  Sunny and cool at the end of June.  I know that was just dumb luck on our part, but it was wonderful.  And the nice thing about a staycation is that had the weather not been perfect on any given day, we could have easily rearranged our plans rather than being tied down to a tight schedule the way we would have been if we would have been far from home.
  2. Flexibility – again, no tight schedule.  We woke up when we wanted, headed out to each day’s activity when we were ready, stayed as long as we wanted each place… it was great.
  3. Relaxation – at the end of each day, we got to come home and just hang out, again in our nice clean house.  And we got to just veg.  When I was growing up, my dad – aka the Energizer Bunny –  always packed our family vacations so full of activities each day that it left little time for relaxation.  My favorite vacation memory was the time my mom told my dad that he could go sight seeing on his own one afternoon because we were just too hot and tired to do any more that day.  My mom and I went back to the hotel, split an apple juice and a bag of Cheetos from the vending machine, and watched a movie in the hotel room.  It was heavenly.
  4. Less expensive – each place we visited we already had memberships or we had already purchased discount tickets months earlier when we had the opportunity.  So it felt like everything was free because we had already paid for everything.  And we were able to eat at home each evening instead of having to eat out.  Unless we decided wanted to go out for a nice dinner for fun – again with the flexibility and relaxation.
  5. No recovery – there was no unpacking, no mounds of laundry to do at the end of the week.  Aside from putting away a few new random gift shop purchases everything was back to normal right away.

So thank you, staycation, for a wonderful week.  I hope to do it again next year!  My husband is a homebody like me, so I know he’d be up for it.  I’m not sure how long we can keep our daughter convinced that staying home is the way to go though… She recently convinced our neighbors that we are taking a trip to Egypt soon (To clarify, we have no plans to visit Egypt, but she does.  She is actually planning a trip there.  She loves everything about ancient Egypt, so she’s bound and determined that she is going – whether or not we choose to accompany her!), and when we were at Pottery Barn Kids picking out her new backpack for school she was more interested in trying out suitcases and luggage she’ll need for her trip to Egypt.  Our staycation days may be numbered if she has anything to say about it!  I’ll just enjoy staying home at “our happy place” for now.

Snow White Dance Recital After Party

Our daughter recently had her first dance recital.  Performing on stage was a HUGE milestone for her, but it also presented me with a whole new uncharted category of things to celebrate: a spring dance recital!  It was so much fun to plan a small “after party” for our family to celebrate her accomplishment.

The song to which her class danced was “Someday My Prince Will Come,” so I decided the party should be a Snow White themed party.  I was absolutely thrilled to find paper plates and napkins on Amazon that matched both the theme and her recital dress perfectly.

Snow White Dance Recital

The Snow White/Dance Recital theme had so many fun possibilities.  I got out my artificial apples since apples are obviously a big deal in the Snow White story and collected various ballerina toys from around our house to use as decorations.  It was a very simple party (just Jimmy John’s sandwiches and fruit since we were at the recital all afternoon and didn’t have time to prepare a big meal).  However I still wanted it to look a little bit fancy since it was a very fancy event in our daughter’s mind (lipstick was involved, so of course that meant it was a fancy event), so I added gold doilies and gold plastic utensils.

Snow White Dance Recital After Party

Snow White Dance Recital Centerpiece

For dessert we ordered cupcakes from a local bakery and had them topped with apples and ballerinas to round out the Snow White/Dance Recital theme.

Snow White Dance Recital Cupcakes

It ended up being a very cute and fun celebration.  Maybe a little too much fun – our daughter has decided she wants to sign up for dance class again next year.  I just hope that I can find paper plates and napkins that match her recital song and costume again so perfectly next year!

Handprint Ice Cream Cones

It’s summer!  And what goes more perfectly with summer than ice cream?  I found the idea for these cute handprint ice cream cones on Pinterest and decided to make them with our daughter.  They turned out so cute that we also made them at preschool with our class on Ice Cream Day.  Besides, I love making projects with hand prints or traced hands.  I think it’s so fun to have projects that preserve how big kids’ cute little hands are at different stages – especially at the end of a school year.

The ice cream cones are are very simple and quick to make.  First I cut some triangles out of light brown construction paper for the cones.  I had the kids draw lines on them with brown crayons or markers to make them look more like ice cream cones.  Then we glued them onto a light blue background.  Then I had several sheets of “ice cream colored” construction paper – pink, white, brown, lime green, yellow…  The kids picked their favorite ice cream “flavors” for their papers.  You can make one, two, three or even more “scoops!”  I traced their hands and cut them out.  Older kids would of course be able to cut them out themselves, but for little ones it’s hard to cut out hand shapes with all the ups and downs between the fingers without accidentally chopping off a paper finger here and there!  We glued the hand “scoops” on top of the ice cream cones in whatever order the kids chose.  Then they got to glue a cotton ball on the top scoop for whipped cream.  The final touch was a little round circle punched out of red construction paper to be the cherry on top!  All the kids, our own daughter included, enjoyed making their ice cream cones.  All that was left to do was hang the ice cream project on the fridge and start enjoying summer!

Mother’s Day Tea… Hoosier Style!

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and since my family is outside at the moment working on a top secret Mother’s Day gift, I have a bit of free time to share one of my favorite Mother’s Day ideas with you.  At our school we always hold Mother’s Day Teas.  The moms all come in and visit their children’s classes for some special treats.  The kids and teachers spend weeks preparing for the teas, and I haven’t been able to share anything about them in previous years because of a risk of spoiling the surprise.  However this year, I am in a different classroom so I can safely share about the theme we used in the past.  (Mum’s the word on this year’s theme though until after the big event tomorrow!)

In our old classroom, our thematic unit for May was Indiana.  After all, with the Indy 500 going on, May is Indiana’s time to shine!  As a proud Hoosier, I always had a lot of fun with this theme – especially when it came to planning a Mother’s Day Tea around all things Indiana.  The children made ball point pens topped with peonies (the state flower of Indiana) for their moms.  They put them along with tissue paper peonies they made in Ball jars (yup, also from Indiana).  These were the gifts and the centerpieces for our party.

Peony Gifts

We used napkins we found at Party City with peonies on them as well.  We also had the children make “LOVE” placemats for them and their moms inspired by famous Hoosier Robert Indiana’s iconic “LOVE” artwork.

Mother’s Day Tea Table

The food we served also had something to do with Indiana – chocolate milk, cheese, and yogurt from a local creamery.  We also included popcorn, which of course, is a very big deal in Indiana.

Indiana Mother’s Day Tea

Finally, we had the children sing “Back Home Again in Indiana” for their moms during a special program.

I always absolutely loved this Indiana themed party – I’m sure it could work for any celebration, not just Mother’s Day.  Happy Mother’s Day to all of the Hoosier moms as well as moms everywhere!

Kindergarten: You Had Me at “Seasonal Crafts”

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog post, and I’ve been meaning to write this one for quite awhile because it is very near and dear to my heart.  However, it’s been a very busy time at our house and this is the first chance I’ve had to actually sit down and do it.  One of the things that has kept us so busy is preparation for kindergarten.  Yes, it’s spring not fall – but we’ve had a few orientation events looking ahead to when our little one heads to school.  I expected these events to be very bittersweet.  On one hand, as a teacher I love school.  On the other hand, as a mommy I hate to send our little one out into the world.  I know that kindergarten these days is often not allowed to be what it used to be, or frankly what it should be.  Even in kindergarten, the focus is more and more on worksheets and academic skills instead of learning how to learn and love school.

However, after attending the preliminary orientation meetings, I must say that the sweet has totally overtaken the bitter.  The staff at the school addressed every one of my concerns with what are, in my opinion, the “right” answers.  The teachers explained that they would start the year working on routines and getting along with others and how to be good citizens, and I began to smile.

The teachers said the children would be doing a lot of coloring and explained the importance of coloring for writing development and building hand and finger strength, and I began to grin.  (I was also reminded of one of the saddest stories I’ve ever heard.  A few years ago, one of my friends told me about how her daughters’ first grade class had earned a party.  They could choose any activity they wanted as a special reward… watch a movie, play a game, have a treat, anything.  With all those choices, the class voted to… wait for it… color.  The six and seven year old children in the class felt that they didn’t get any time to color and thought it would be the most special activity they could imagine.  Heartbreaking.)

The teachers explained that they would have discovery time each day for science experiments and social studies activities, and I found myself drawing little hearts and smiley faces all over the presentation handouts.

And then – be still my heart – the teachers said that they would do many seasonal crafts, and I almost started crying happy tears.  It was all I could do not to jump to my feet and cheer.  Clearly, as the title of this blog indicates, I do love seasonal crafts.  However, it wasn’t just my love of all things seasonal that made me so happy to hear this.  I was under the impression that seasonal crafts were no longer allowed in any elementary school anywhere.  Think back to your days in elementary school – I’m willing to bet that several of your happiest memorable activities revolve around various holiday projects and parties.  At least mine do.  Of course being able to make a hand turkey or a bouquet of spring flowers out of tissue paper won’t ever be tested on a standardized test, but I believe the benefits of doing seasonal crafts are much more far reaching than any skill and drill worksheet could ever be.  They help children follow multiple step directions.  They help develop hand-eye coordination.  They help children learn to take pride in the way their work looks and always do their best.  They help children express their creativity by putting individual touches on each project.  And most important of all, they are fun.  They make children happy, and they help them realize that school is a fun place to be.  No real learning can take place until children feel happy to be at school.

Thanks to the wonderful fist experiences at our daughter’s new school, we can tell she already does feel happy about it.  A few days after our first orientation visit, she wrote a book about how to get ready for kindergarten.  She drew smiling children riding on the school bus, and she drew rooms in a school full of more smiling children and bustling activity – just the way school should be.

Happy School

I’m so grateful to know that schools like this one still exist.

Valentine Arrows – Part 2

And now an arrow Valentine’s Day card to go with the candy bar from last week!

For the background of the card I used 8.5″ by 5.5″ white card stock folded in half.  I attached doilies to the fronts of the cards.  I found these beautiful pink and gold doilies last year at Michael’s, and I noticed that they have lots of doilies in the stores this year too.  It seems like doilies are cool again – just a few years ago it was nearly impossible to find even plain ones at any store, but now there are really pretty varieties of colors, designs, and shapes all over the place.  I plan to stock up so that I’ll have plenty on hand if doilies become hard to find again in the future!  I cut strips of shiny gold poster board for the shafts of the arrows.  I attached the gold strips to the centers of the doilies with pop up dots.  I punched hearts out of red card stock for the ends of the arrows and attached them with pop up dots as well.  I stamped tiny Valentine’s Day tags with a stamp and punch from Stampin’ Up and tied them to the gold pieces with red and white baker’s twine.  That’s all – pretty quick and easy.

I realize the clock is ticking, but you might even have time to make these and get them in the mail in time for Valentine’s Day.  At the very least you’ll be ready WAY in advance for Valentine’s Day 2018!

Valentine Arrows – Part 1

Even though I say “It’s Always the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” I’ve got to admit, this winter hasn’t been the best.  Around here it’s been dreary and wet and ugly.  During the month of January all I wanted to do was hibernate.  I spent a good chunk of my free time curled up on the couch completely unmotivated to do much of anything.  On the plus side, I got to watch a few IU and Butler basketball games from beginning to end, something I haven’t been able to do in years.  On the downside, I didn’t get around to doing any blog posts or any craft activities.  But today, the sun is shining and I feel energized and ready to come out of hibernation (even if the groundhog felt otherwise).  So I’m saying farewell to the doldrums of January and greeting February with a smile and a cute Cupid’s arrow project you could make to give your friends for Valentine’s Day!

You will need chocolate bars, heart shaped chocolates, and Pixy Stix.  Cut white pieces of paper the correct size to wrap around your chocolate bars.  Wrap the bars and tape them on the backs.  If I made these again, I might also wrap some pink doilies around the bars to make them look a little more colorful.  Use glue dots to attach the Pixy Stix to the tops of the bars.  Punch hearts out of red card stock with a heart shaped punch.  Use glue dots to attach the heart shaped chocolates to the hearts then use pop up dots to attach the hearts to both ends of the Pixy Stix to be the ends of the arrows.  I finished the bars off by wrapping some red and white bakers’ twine around them, attaching little stamped tags, and tying bows.

Stay tuned for a matching Cupid’s arrow card coming soon… assuming I stay motivated and the couch and college basketball don’t start calling my name again!

Christmas in a Jar

As I’ve mentioned before, I really love to decorate with Ball jars.  Last Christmas I came up with yet another fun use for them: I made “Christmas in a Jar” favors to give as gifts.  They were really fun and actually very easy to assemble.  First I got a bunch of Ball jars, obviously.  Then I collected all kinds of “stuff” that reminded me of Christmas.  I actually took a jar around Target to make sure none of the items were too big to fit inside the jar.  I got old fashioned icicles to hang on trees, various Christmas candies, candy canes, tiny ornaments, tiny cookie cutters, and packets of hot chocolate – all the fun nostalgic things that make me think of Christmas.  Then I went home and stuffed the jars with a little bit of everything.

More Christmas in a Jar

To go with the nostalgic theme, I also found some “retro” looking Christmas paper from Stampin’ Up and punched scalloped circles from it to glue to the lids of the jars.  Finally, I tied a tag on each jar that labeled them as “Christmas in a Jar” so that people would understand what they were getting.  They were really fun gifts to put together, and people seemed to get a kick out of getting them.  They also made cute table decorations at our Christmas party last year.  If you need a last minute gift or favor, you still have plenty of time to put together your own “Christmas in a Jar!”  Merry Christmas!

House Christmas Card

I just finished and mailed this year’s Christmas card this weekend.  So now that that task is done, I can take a moment to share one of our past cards with you.  I came up with the idea for a house themed card a couple years ago when we were in the process of building a new house.  My big plan was to combine our Christmas card with a change of address card.  It would have worked perfectly except the building process got started a little more slowly than we anticipated, and we thought it might be putting the cart before the horse to announce we were moving before they had even broken ground on our new house.  Besides, we didn’t know our new address by the time we had to mail our Christmas cards.  However, the house cards were still cute so we went with them anyway.

House Christmas Card

I used a light blue card stock for the background.  I cut it to 5.5″ X 8.5″ and folded it in half.  On the front I glued a white mound of snow made out of white card stock.  I got a set of house stamps and a matching cutting tool from Stampin’ Up and stamped and cut out a house on light brown card stock for the front of each card.  I colored the houses with markers and attached them to the cards on top of the snow mounds with pop up dots.  I also punched out a tiny tree for each card to go next to the house and attached those with pop up dots as well.

Inside House Christmas Card

For the inside of the cards I stamped words on brown card stock to match the house and added little red card stock hearts to the words with more pop up dots.  I also added strips of paper with Christmas houses from Stampin’ Up to the bottoms of the insides of the cards.  I especially loved this paper because it reminded me of my grandparents’ Christmas village that I loved to play with when I was little and that now gets set up at our house each year.  Very special!

Leaf Turkeys

I always like to have our daughter make one special project to hang on the fridge each month.  While the handprint turkey is a perennial favorite for November, I saw the idea for leaf turkeys on Pinterest and decided that we had to make our own this year.   Our daughter loved making them and was quick to point out that they reminded her of a stuffed turkey decoration we have had for years because they both have leaves in place of feathers.  I thought she made a pretty good connection!

Leaf Turkeys

Leaf Turkeys

I cut out large circles out of light brown construction paper and smaller circles out of dark brown construction paper.  I cut out yellow beaks and red wattles.  I also happened to have some artificial leaves on hand that worked perfectly, although I think it would be really fun to go on a fall nature walk looking for leaves and then have kids use the leaves they found to make the turkeys.  I also had googly eyes ready for the turkeys’ faces.  Start by gluing the leaves on the tops of the bigger circles.  It takes a fair amount of glue to get them to stick.  We used Elmer’s School Glue, but I think Tacky Glue might be a better choice.  Once the leaves are in place, just leave them alone to dry.  They won’t stick well if you keep lifting them up to check if they are stuck yet (soooo hard for kids to understand)!  Then glue the smaller circles below the leaves.  Glue on the eyes, beaks, and wattles.  You will end up with super cute turkeys!