Tag Archives: diy

Gracen Raises Butterflies: Preparing Our Butterfly Enclosure

With our fuzzy little friends happily in their new homes eating themselves silly, today Miss G and I went out to the garage to dig up one of the butterfly homes I made years ago when teaching my first ever Kindergarten class.  Of course, there are probably many different butterfly huts available for purchase online, but I’m typically a fan of making things myself if I can.  Such was the case 8 years too…  Instead of purchasing a readymade butterfly home, I opted to purchase several of these inexpensive mesh hanging storage tubes and modify them a wee bit.  

IMG 9717To start out, I carefully made two large perpendicular cuts on the very bottom of the storage unit in order to open it up.  Then, very carefully, I snipped out all of the mesh dividers that created the separate compartments.  

IMG 9718Next, using some picnic table covering plastic (found on large rolls at IKEA and hardware stores), I cut out circles just a hair larger than the circular openings along the sides of the tube.  With a hot glue gun and a hand I was wiling to burn repeatedly for the sake of my students and soon-to-be butterflies (just kidding…um… kinda ☺), I glued the plastic windows to the inside of my tube to cover up the holes (gluing them to the outside would have undoubtedly been easier, but that would have also allowed my hot glue slip-ups to be more obvious, which simply was not acceptable at the time).  

IMG 9719In order to create some homey resting ledges for my winged friends, I glued several brightly coloured faux flowers to the inside of the enclosure too. 

Though very wrinkled from years of storage, our butterfly enclosure is now hung from the ceiling so it rests perfectly on the tiny little table our chrysalises are going to sit on when they’re ready.

IMG 9722In the meantime, since we’re not at the chrysalis stage yet, I pinned up the butterfly enclosure, set our caterpillar containers on the little wooden table, and set up a little reading and observing corner for her to enjoy.  

IMG 9720Now to figure out how we’ll hang our chrysalises…  While teaching, I stuck them (still attached to their container lids) to the ceiling of a large wooden block that was open on two sides, but since we don’t have one of those, I’m going to have to get a little creative. We shall see what we come up with!


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DIY {Paper Bag} Advent Calendar

Paper Bag Advent Calendar

I’m not going to lie.  I had grand plans to sew a beautiful bunting-style felt advent calendar that was hand embroidered and could be used year after year.  But it didn’t happen…  And that’s okay.  

Instead, I searched around the internet {a couple of days late}, combined a few ideas, and came up with what easily could be world’s fastest, simplest paper bag advent calendar.  It certainly won’t be something we keep for years and years, but it could last two or three.  Plus it takes almost no time at all to put together and I already had everything, save the paper bags, on hand.

IMG 3149To get started, I purchased 25 of these flat 5 by 7 paper bags (you don’t want the lunch-style ones that fold out at the bottom) from one of my favourites – Urban Source.

IMG 3151Then, using one of the stamp sets I use for my Littlelest Lulu block orders, I stamped the bags with ‘Dec. 1’ through to ‘Dec. 25’.  This job could obviously be done by hand, with letter stickers, or by printing labels from the computer, but I chose to do the stamp route this time around.  

Once done with the stamping, I folded the tops of the bags down about an inch from the top.

IMG 3155Next, I selected an area of wall to hang my calendar.  I went with this spot because it’s right along the ground and allows Gracen to reach her own bags each day, but you could really do any spot you wish.  

Using teeny tiny nails, a hammer, and some baker’s twine, I strung up five evenly-space lines for my bags. (I hung the bags as I went just to get a feel for how it would all look in the end, but as long as you know that the bags will fit in the arrangement you choose, you really don’t have to hang them up quite yet.)

IMG 3244Next, I filled the bags, added a note inside each, sealed them shut with washi tape, and hung them on the lines with mini wooden clothespins.

IMG 3247Originally, I had really wanted craft paper bags, but I actually think the white ones turned out perfectly.  They are just see-through enough to show the shape of the object(s) inside, which gets Miss G really curious.

IMG 3259This year, because Grae is nearly obsessed with adding to the tree each day, we decided to make her advent calendar all about ornaments.  Some days her bag will be filled with a purchased or previously made ornament to add to the tree, and other days, she’ll have to create the ornament first.  Either way, there will always be a handwritten note included that tells her why the ornament is special or what she can create using her materials.

Well… That’s it.  World’s simplest, quickest DIY advent calendar.  It was ridiculously easy to put together, but I know my little lady will adore it just as much as if I’d had the time to make the elaborate one I’d originally planned on creating.  And that’s all that matters. ☺

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DIY Ribbon Wands

DIY Ribbon WandsMaking one of these sweet little ribbon wands for Miss G has long been on my project list, and since her last dance class took place today, it was the perfect motivation to not only make one for Grae, but to make one to gift to each of her little friends too. 

IMG 2879If you poke around the internet, you’ll find tons of different styles of ribbon wands and methods to make them, but when we stumbled upon these adhesive picture hanging strips (available at hardware stores), we came up with a way of our own.  

IMG 2878First off, we took  wide satin ribbon and cut it into strips approximately 125 centimetres long, cutting one end straight across and one end at an angle. Then, using a lighter, we sealed off the cut edges.

IMG 2880IMG 2881Next, we took the adhesive backing off of the picture hangers and firmly attached them to the straight end of the ribbon.  At this point I was going to sew the picture hanger onto the ribbon for added security, but the adhesive was so strong that it wasn’t necessary. 

IMG 2885With our ribbons ready, we moved onto the wand part of the project.  Using painter’s tape, we taped off our 6 inch dowels about a third of the way up.

IMG 2890Then using crafter’s acrylic in colours that coordinated with our ribbons, we painted the bottom third of each dowel with two coats of paint.

IMG 2892When the paint was good a dry, we carefully removed the painter’s tape to reveal the handle part of our wands.

IMG 2907IMG 2908Next, we used a tack to poke holes in the top ends of the dowels. 

IMG 2909Then it was time for these guys – small eye hooks available at all hardware stores.

IMG 2910We screwed the eye hooks into the recently made holes by starting the process by hand and using pliers part way through.  (One thing to be mindful of at this point is that if your eye hooks are on the larger side (like ours), you don’t want to force them down into the dowel too far.  You’ll get a pretty good sense on when you should stop twisting, and please do so.  Spoken from experience, if you force them down too much, the dowels will split open.)

IMG 2900Your wand should now look like this.  

IMG 2901IMG 2902Now the final step…  We hooked the metal picture hanging hook onto the eye hooks and use pliers to squeeze the hook shut tightly.

IMG 2904And there you have it – a pretty little ribbon wand.

IMG 2911IMG 2980In order to transport them to dance class without a big tangly mess happening, we simply wrapped the ribbons around the wands, and secured them with a bit of polka dotted washi tape.


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Nursery Closet: Storage Space Turned Cozy Book Nook

Yaaaaaaaay!  I’m so excited to say that I finally put the finishing touches on a special little project I’ve been working on for the last couple of weeks…  

In honour Miss G’s upcoming second birthday, we wanted to create a special area, something inviting and cozy, dedicated to her love of reading.  She’s always had a ‘book corner’ of sorts in her room, but it’s shifted over time and really only consisted of a carpet or blanket, a pillow, and a basket of books.  This time around, I wanted something more special. Something more permanent. 

I had pinned this post from Young House Love long ago, and knew I could use the idea to create the perfect space, not to mention, free up some room for big girl things that may be in her future while I was at it. (A wooden play kitchen? A dress-up station? Mini piano? …Perhaps!)

Here’s the end result… Miss G’s very own closet book nook.

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Although it wasn’t a difficult or costly project, there were lots of little steps that needed to be taken in order to do the job right, and anyone who has a toddler knows that those jobs aren’t always easily done with a wee one at your feet. Luckily for me, Grae is an overenthusiastic helper and was great at holding things, passing things, and transporting things throughout the process.

Up until recently, we’d been using the bottom of Grae’s closet to keep a couple of shelving units that housed her non-hanger-friendly clothes, and for storing bins of outgrown baby things. The bins made their way out to the garage where we have plenty of storage room and the clothes got shifted into a set of drawers that we already had in the room, and the project was on its way.

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With that stuff removed, I emptied the remaining stuff into the hallway, removed the top shelf and bar, took off the closet door, and gave the inside of the closet a good scrub and a quick coat of paint.  The wooden shelf and bar had been {hideously} covered in peach patterned tissue paper and an insane amount of packaging tape by the previous tenants, so that all came off and both pieces were sanded and painted white before being put back in.

Luckily that mandatory Grade 8 sewing class I took over 15 years ago paid off, and I was able to sew a basic curtain using fabric Grae and I had picked out at IKEA.  Next, I installed the spice racks turned bookshelves I had painted, as well as a curtain wire and curtain hook we picked up at IKEA too. 

IMG 8378With those simple things done, I took a blanket we’ve always kept in Grae’s room, folded it in thirds, and lined the bottom of the closet with it.

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Then tossed pillows all along the walls to make it a soft a cozy place to curl up in.

IMG 8379The great thing is that the top is still a fully functioning closet. Tiny clothes = lots of leftover space.

IMG 8383Today, Gracen and I picked up some of these frames (I like them because they’re lightweight and use plastic instead of real glass) and chose a couple of pieces of her art work to go on the one side.

IMG 8377On the other side, we hung this ‘Mama Loves You’ print from The Paper Mama

ReadingThe final touch was adding a battery-operated push lamp to each side so that there’s always plenty of light to read with.

IMG 8395The best part is that Gracen absolutely adores her new book nook.  I’ll often find her in there, curled up on the platform, telling herself stories with a book in her lap.  Other times, she can be found hard at work, switching out the books and carefully choosing new ones to replace them.

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  Encouraging reading while creating a cozy hiding place for my precious girl, I’d say it’s a win-win.

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Simple Wall-Mounted Bookshelves

Let me tell you, we’ve been busy around here.  I’m not sure what it is about 30 degree heat that makes me want to redo patio chairs, modify step stools, sew curtains, paint walls, put together felt boards, redo toy chests, create alphabet books, AND organize engaging coordinating/helping projects for my little miss, but that’s how we’ve spent the last week.  We’ve got a few last jobs to finish up, and then we’re taking a well-earned break and celebrating with pool days and trips to the beach!

That being said, one of the other things we’ve been working on is a quick and easy Pinterest-rampant project for Grae’s room.  

IMG 7868While we were at IKEA picking up a Bekvam stool for Miss G’s pretty new toddler bench, we also picked up a couple of these Bekvam wooden spice racks… (Pinterest people, you all know where I’m going with this, right?)

IMG 7865While Gracen was happily painting rocks, I added the spice rack parts to my ‘to paint’ pile and gave them all two coats of a glossy white primer-and-paint-all-in-one spray.

IMG 7935After a day’s drying time, my little helper and I assembled them according to the instructions provided.

IMG 7944Then we mounted them to the wall using plugs and long screws (this was by far the hardest part of the project – really should have used a drill instead of doing it all by hand) and voila – Gracen had instant wall-mounted book shelves.

IMG 7949These little shelves are all part of a bigger project which I’m doing in honour of Miss G’s upcoming 2nd birthday (which I’ll be sure to share upon completion), but for now, Miss G is loving her toddler-height display-style bookshelves.

IMG 7942 ♥

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Plain Jane Step Stool Turned Pretty Multipurpose Toddler Bench

The other day while we were at IKEA picking up supplies for a little project I’m working on in honour of Miss G’s upcoming 2nd birthday, we decided to pick up one of IKEA’s classic step stools too… The Bekvam.

IMG 7869 There’s no doubt that modified versions of this little stool has been featured dozens of times on sites such as ikeahackers.net, apartmenttherapy.com, and pinterest and rightfully so – it comes unfinished and just begging for some prettying up.

IMG 7871Since the stool was for Grae, I chose to use leftover paint in one shade lighter than her bedroom walls.  While Gracen happily painted rocks, I gave all of the pieces two coats front and back, and let them dry in the sun for the remainder of the day.

IMG 7881The next day, while picking up some paper for a couple of block orders I’m working on, we came across this beautiful cherry blossom print, which really couldn’t be any more perfect. Anyone who knows me well, knows my love of cherry blossoms.  I love them so much, in fact, that we hired an artist to paint a cherry blossom mural in Grae’s previous nursery in Kuwait. 

Gorgeous paper in hand, it was time for the second part of the project… Beautifying the top.  To start, I gathered a pencil, ruler, and a pair of scissors.

IMG 7882I cut the paper into a 12″ by 7.5″ rectangle, attached it to the the bench top (leaving a 1 inch border around the edges), and used a couple of pieces of rolled tape to hold it down temporarily.

IMG 7883Next, I flipped the bench top over and traced the oval cut out onto the backside of the paper.

IMG 7887After carefully removing the paper, I cut the oval out just outside of the traced line.

IMG 7888Next, I busted out some matte Mod Podge and a foam brush and spread a thin, even coat of Mod Podge over the entire surface of the bench.

IMG 7889After waiting just a minute to let the Mod Podge get tacky, I carefully placed the paper onto the bench top and smoothed it from the centre outwards to remove any bumps and bubbles that had formed.

IMG 7890Next, I topped the entire bench top with a couple of Mod Podge layers, letting it dry fully in between.

IMG 7892For added protection, I took it outside and gave it a couple of coats of a matte spray-on sealant, again letting it dry in between layers.

IMG 7914After a day of drying time, my little helper and I assembled her pretty new toddler bench.

IMG 7916I was excited to have her test it out and it turns out that her first instinct was to use it as a table and chair combo, rather than a step stool (I thought I might have to show her that, but not needed). She collected her baby and her jar of snacks and wasted no time putting her new bench to use.  She’s used it constantly since, for everything from drawing, to sticker play, to meal eating, and game playing. The best part is that not only can this little stool be used as a toddler table/chair combo, but it can also be used the way it was designed to – for hand washing, teeth brushing, and kitchen helping too.

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DIY Felt Board {& Ice Cream Colour Matching Game}

When we were on vacation,  all of the old-school toys Grandma Charlotte has saved from her boys’ childhood got me thinking about favourites from my own childhood. While it’s not really a toy, one thing I LOVED  growing up was the felt boards teachers would use during carpet times in elementary school.  You just knew that if you sat down to listen to a story and the teacher reached for her felt board and a bag of felt pieces, it was going to be a good one.  

All of this got me thinking about all of the cool things Miss G and I could do with a felt board of our own.  From matching games, to sorting activities, to building funny faces, and learning about shapes and colours… The options are endless really.  

Now, we probably could have bought a pre-made felt board and coordinating pieces, but what fun is that?! Especially when making one of your own is so easy. The best part is that this entire project can be done over the course of a nap time if your little one sleeps for at least an hour.

IMG 7893We picked up this square poster frame from IKEA, grabbed a package of felt from the craft store (for my Littlest Lulu creations I much prefer the wool blend felt readily available online, but for projects like this the cheaper stuff made from recycled bottles works just fine), and gathered up a glue gun (I later changed my mind and used Tacky Glue but I think either would work), a pencil, and some scissors.

IMG 7894To get started, I took the cardboard backing out of the picture frame, lined it up with the corner edges of the felt piece, and traced the other two sides onto the felt in pencil.

IMG 7895Next, I cut the felt square out.  (Make sure you’re using really sharp scissors here. Your sanity and straight line with thank you.)

IMG 7896Next, because I chose to use white felt, I took the paper insert that came inside the frame, flipped it over, and glued it onto the cardboard insert to create a white backing for my felt. (You can use your glue gun or Tacky Glue here, but you could just as easily use white glue or a glue stick too.) See the difference? Much better with a little help from the insert.

IMG 7897Next up, I carefully gave my felt piece a quick iron. You don’t have to do this, but I found it made it much easier to mount the felt onto the cardboard when the large creases had been removed.  Just be sure to use a low heat and keep your iron moving if you do this step.  Then, mount your felt onto the cardboard using thin glue strips in order to avoid ripples and bumps in the felt. Also because felt does have some give and can stretch over time, it’s a good idea to glue the middle as well as the edges (I did the edges and a giant ‘x’ across the centre). Once you’ve got your felt piece placed on the glue, smooth it down from the centre outwards to ensure a good stick.

IMG 7899Once your glue has had a chance to dry, place your cardboard backing into the frame and secure it.

IMG 7900Voila! Felt board complete.

IMG 7901With Miss G still sleeping and a little time still on my hands, I decided it would be really fun to have a game of some sort ready to go for when she woke up. I had no idea what I would make, but it needed to be something quick and easy.  Thank goodness for Pinterest!  I searched “felt board ideas” and got all of these great results.  Scrolling through, I was immediately drawn to an ice cream cone colour matching game that I knew would be quick to cut out and super engaging for my little lady who loves matching games and announcing the colours she sees around her.

IMG 7904I just cut out my first cone and ice cream scoop freehand and then used the pieces as a guide for my others, but upon visiting childcareland.com later, I saw that she has a printable template available also.

IMG 7905I cut my circles out using a coin as a guide and glued them onto the cones using a little dot of Tacky Glue. And that was it. After a few minutes drying time, the pieces were ready to be put to use.

IMG 7906I love this felt board set because it can be used when talking about colours, it can be used as a matching game, it can used to learn about rainbow order, and it can be used just for fun (think 8 scoop ice cream cones!)

IMG 7908Here’s the finished product.

IMG 7911Miss G was thrilled to wake up to this little surprise and matched the scoops to the cones again and again, naming the colours as she went along.

Can’t wait to make some other pieces for her soon.

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Hand Drawn Dinnerware

Gracen and I had so much fun with this little project today.  It’s been flying around the web like crazy recently, (like here and here and here and here) so when we came across plain white bowls for $1 each the other day, I knew we’d be giving it a shot very soon.  

IMG 6991All you need is some plain dinnerware, a Sharpie or two, and in our case, some tape, and a pair of scissors.

IMG 6994Because we chose to decorate bowls, I wanted to tape off the inside of the bowl, where the food goes.  Some may say that the Sharpie is sealed in by the end of the process, but something just doesn’t seem right about putting Grae’s food on top of permanent marker. Plus, I think having just the rim decorated looks cute.  Painter’s tape would have been the obvious choice here, but since I didn’t have any lying around, we made do with packaging tape and it worked just fine.

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IMG 7006Grae got started drawing right away. I explained that we weren’t drawing in the middle of the bowl and that we were just decorating around the edge, and that’s exactly what she did (therefore the tape was pretty much unnecessary, but hey, you never know).  

IMG 7011When I asked Gracen what I should draw on my dish, her immediate response was, “Apple!” I ran with that idea, and since she’s been so interested in colours for the past couple of months, I got started on a little colours of the rainbow theme of sorts.

IMG 7013IMG 7015IMG 7020Gracen drew and drew and drew and never did I have to encourage her to keep going, choose a new colour, or fill in a blank space.  She was having so much fun and was so thrilled about the fact that she was using Mama’s ‘special’ markers that she had more than enough motivation for over an hour’s worth of drawing.

Mama s DishOf course, in that hour, she stopped to come over and admire my dish several times.  She’d look with big eyes, then nod her head with a slow, enthusiastic “Yaaaaaaa…” and a sweet little smile on her face, in obvious approval. Then she’d go on to point out the colours and pictures she saw {and shared those she wanted to see in the very near future – my apple, tree, birdie, and banana were all ideas she offered}.

IMG 7023Grae s DishThe finishing touch was to happily sprinkle her entire rim with dots of different colours.  She’d stop a moment, glance at it sideways, then pick up another Sharpie and add more.  This continued again and again until one time she took that same sideways glance, then very nonchalantly announced “All done”. And that was that.

IMG 7042Before we could get it in the house to cure in the oven, she wanted to put her new dish to use, so she carefully browsed through the garden for a handful of ripe strawberries and a sprig of mint.

IMG 7047With her snack gone in less than a minute (yes, she shoved that entire thing of mint in her mouth and chowed down on it like the rabbits at Maplewood Farm), it was time to show off our finished products.

By Gracen  MamaIMG 7051One final touch to add – our names, the year, and for Grae, her bright green signature.

IMG 7059And then into the oven they went.  In attempt to “bake the marker on better”, I amped up the heat to 400 and left the dishes in for 45 minutes, despite the general recommendation of baking them at 300 degrees for 30 minutes.  Bad idea. Although Miss G’s came out fine, my lighter colours really, really faded, some to the point of becoming nearly invisible.  Learn from my mistake. The good news is that there’s an easy fix for mistakes such as mine. Just simply redraw your design and then pop it back in the oven for another 30 minutes at 300. 

Dinner  DessertWe let our bowls cool, gave them a good {hand} wash, and used them for dinner. I did try washing them (okay, maybe I even scrubbed a little bit), and so far, so good.  The designs still look exactly as they did, and I’m hoping they stay that way for a while at least.

This was such a fun, easy, and inexpensive project and I’d highly recommend giving it a try.  While Gracen (almost 23 months old) loved it, I think older kids would like it just as much.  On top of it all, wouldn’t a hand decorated mug or dish make a great gift for a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or parent? (I must keep that in mind!)

If you do try this project, here are a few tips I learned along the way:

  • Plain dinnerware pieces can be found at thrift stores, dollar stores, and places like IKEA for next to nothing.
  • Before starting your drawing, wash and dry your piece very well to get rid of any oil that may cause your marker to stay put as well as it should.
  • Darker, vibrant colours turn out better.  Yellows and pastels seem to fade and distort.
  • Do not attempt to bake on your design better by increasing the heat. This will just lead to a mess.
  • Gently hand wash your items. Do not put them in the dishwasher.
  • If needed, touch up your design and re-bake.

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