Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Self-Expression

Last week, I got a new cell phone. I didn't really want a new phone. I was actually quite happy with the one I had for the past three years, mostly because it did what I needed it to do, and I knew how to use it! Unfortunately, it decided to die on me. My theory is that it's a conspiracy between Verizon and the cell phone companies: the battery kept draining as it spent every night for about a week trying to upload some update that it was apparently too antiquated to accept, and this was how they forced me to upgrade! (I'm mostly joking here, because I don't really buy into conspiracy theories, however it really seems a bit too convenient for those companies, don't you think?) Anyway, I found a phone that is quite similar to the one I already had, although I went with a Samsung instead of an LG because it had a larger screen and it takes video. Not that I have shot any video yet, but you know, just in case, and also my phone before the one that just died took video so I did sort of wonder why I lost that feature when I upgraded to the QWERTY keyboard.

Now, here's the main reason I told you the background story. Since I had a new phone, this meant that I needed to get a new phone cover, which was a tougher decision than picking out the actual phone. (How's that for a first-world problem?) On my old phone, I had a black case with pink flowers and butterflies that I loved. However, my sister-in-law, Jill, recently got the same cover, which meant that it was high time for me to try something new. (And Jill, if you're reading this, know that I love you, but still, we need to have different cell phone covers!)

I was surprised by my inability to make a simple decision regarding a cell phone cover. An eBay search yielded tons of results for my phone, which I narrowed down to a handful: a blue-green floral design, turquoise with white polka dots, a rhinestone covered owl, a bright green background with a brown owl perched on a branch, splattered paint, purple with a white butterfly, and purple bling which had rhinestones on the entire thing. This was as far as I got the first night after picking up my new phone, and I actually lost sleep over this, if you can believe that. It shouldn't have been such a big deal, but after having the same case for three years, and knowing that I will have this one for that long, too (unless they get me with some whacked-out conspiracy), I felt it had to really reflect who I am. (If you read my post yesterday, you know that this has been on my mind lately.)

By the next day, I was able to knock a few off the list of possibilities. I had decided that I liked purple and butterflies but just not that particular design. The flowers were too generic. Turquoise with polka dots was cutesy but kind of blah, not really me. The bejeweled owl was rather ostentatious, completely over-the-top wild, which I decided might translate as "crazy" in the event that people are judging me by my phone cover, and I assume that they are -- otherwise this was a huge waste of brain power! The purple bling was pretty fabulous, but ultimately I decided it was ridiculously impractical considering how often I drop my phone, not to mention the fact that I was worried people would think I was ultra-girly and high maintenance. I like pretty things and I like being feminine, but that's not all there is to me, so it didn't seem deep enough. (I know, I'm way, way over-thinking this!) That left the green owl cover and the paint splattered cover, which I needed another night to sleep on.

This was a tricky one. I liked the owl because I like birds lately, plus it was a fun, graphic design. It was simple but fun. And I loved the bright green. (If you've been reading my recent posts related to Puerto Rico, I am sure you understand.) Plus, I felt that this would suggest to people that I lean toward environmental friendliness, you know, being green, both with the literal color and the animal imagery.

Ultimately, I chose the paint splattered cover, which I felt was ideal for my self expression. It has lots of bright COLORS! It showcases my fun and kooky side (hopefully without making me appear crazy), and it obviously lets everyone know that I am into artsy crafty things. All good stuff. I may also have been slightly influenced by this year's MOPS theme, "A Beautiful Mess," which I have currently been planning for. This made me somewhat concerned that people would think I was messy, disorganized, or something along those lines. Then, I realized that I am a mess, and it's okay. Personally, I would love it if everyone thought I had it all together, but I figured this was a fun risk to take with showcasing my silly, sloppy side instead of choosing the safer owl motif. (I do really love to try new things and have fun, but I am often held back by my own fears.) And here I thought that I was totally over-thinking this and making it so much more important than it really was, when, in fact, I learned a bit about myself during the decision making process. Hooray for self-expression that leads to self-understanding, a perfect theme for the "Summer of Meg!"

{It's a perfect fit for me}

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mommy's Got Mad Skills!

Lately, I have been annoyed by the feeling of being boxed in by everyone else and their perception of who I am. When I vocalized this during the Puerto Rico trip, my sister-in-law, Jill, asked me, "Do you even know who you are any more?" She raised a good point! Who I am got kind of lost when I became a mom, and perhaps, became even more muddled when I switched from being a working mom to being a stay-at-home mom. So (in my mind at least), I have dubbed this the "Summer of Meg!" and I have been trying to take advantage of opportunities to try new things whenever they happen to be presented to me.

A couple of days ago, after watching my brother and his girlfriend try out my cousin's paddle board, I decided that I should try it, too. I ran up to the house and quickly put on my swim suit. In my eagerness to get going, I was already headed into the water before my brother, Ryan, was done giving me some some pointers. Normally, I am more tentative and try to get as much info as possible before jumping into new things, but I figured it would be much harder to chicken out once I had already committed myself to paddle boarding, and I really wanted to force myself to take on the challenge.

Naturally, it turned out that I should have given him a minute to finish explaining how to turn around. (This is why I usually figure things out before attempting them.) I had a slight scare when I got out far enough that the wind was starting to push me out into the bay, finding myself wondering aloud, "How do I turn around?!"  Fortunately, I was not far out, and I was never really in danger. I was just bound and determined to NOT fall into the water since the weather was more reminiscent of a September day in northern Michigan than the late-July day that it actually was.

So, I used my instincts and sat down (or squatted actually -- I don't really remember -- and my dear husband was kind enough to not shoot film or video of this portion of the show). Then, I pushed the paddle deep and hard until I was able to turn the board back toward shore. After turning around, I hopped back up, and noticed that I had a rather large audience, much larger than when I had started (and undoubtedly they were all thinking, "What?! Meg is paddle boarding?! Better not miss this!!).

Well, this meant that I had even more incentive to not fall in the drink. Most of the family was there watching, including my cousin John, the owner of the paddle board, and for some reason not looking stupid in front of him was imperative. I remember laughing and yelling, "I got this!" I was feeling more confident since I figured out how to turn around, how to get down and back up again, and most importantly, I did it all without falling in, so I hoped they didn't notice my legs were shaking a bit while I negotiated all this.

Safely back on shore, everyone seemed very impressed that I had stayed upright the entire time. My dad commented that he assumed that I would fall in. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Dad! I informed him that I was highly motivated. My mom suggested that most people fall the first time they try it, but I am not sure what she was basing this on. Why were they all so surprised? Did I mention that I was highly motivated? The water wasn't as warm as I would like, and the air definitely was not warm enough for me to be getting soaked. The most telling of all was Mia's shocked reaction, "Mom! I can't believe you can paddle board!!" I replied, "Well, guess what? I've got all kinds of skills that you don't know about!" Clearly, I am not known for being an adventurous spirit, but maybe on I am on the right track with the "Summer of Meg!"

"Do one thing every day that scares you." ~ Eleanor Roosevelt


{Trying something new...}

{I enjoyed my adventure, but I was relieved to return to shore!}

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Decorating Dilemma

Decisions, decisions. Today, I picked up my custom-framed artwork from Michaels and I am soooooo excited by how it turned out. This was a favorite souvenir from our day in Old San Juan, during our Puerto Rico trip: a $5 print of a cityscape, the most important design element being COLOR! (If you read my post about Puerto Rico, you understand how much I LOVE color!)

I enjoyed heading to Michaels and experimented with the different mats and frames until I had narrowed it down to two different color combinations: purple frame with red mat and green frame with blue mat. I think the guy working the framing counter knew to not mess with my creative juices because he just sat back and watched me. Then, he used his computer software to show me what the final product would look like for each color combination. (Way cool! I love the new technology, which they did not have the last time I had something framed.) The only problem was that I was stuck and couldn't decide between the two combinations. Both were really beautiful, but each one made the print look very different because it pulled different colors from the print and highlighted them. Finally, I decided to go with the red mat and purple frame because I told him I was pretty sure it would be hung on a yellow wall. He again used his computer program to show me what it would look like mounted on a yellow wall. That was the deciding factor because the red/purple pairing had the most impact.

Now, that I have gotten the artwork home, I am thrilled with what a $65 custom-frame and mat can do to make a very inexpensive print look amazing. However, I am once again faced with a design dilemma. While I was originally planning to hang the artwork on my yellow wall, I am now thinking it might look right at home in my green dining room. The yellow wall is the the entry way and living room, so people would see if upon first entering our home, but I would also enjoy looking at my picture of COLORFUL Old San Juan during every meal. After reading this post from Button Bird Designs, I have decided to ask for other people's input. Where do you think I should hang my print?


{Option 1: The Yellow Wall}
 
OR


{Option 2: The Green Wall}

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Make Your Own: Mustache on a Stick

Yesterday I saw an ad on Facebook that featured a woman and a little boy holding mustaches on sticks. So fun! With both of my brothers coming to Michigan this weekend, I felt inspired to make a few of these to take Up North with us. I felt that these would make for some fun family memories especially since I know that Nick, a professional photographer, will be taking lots of photos.

So, I grabbed all of the black felt scraps that I had, my bottle of Aleene's tacky glue, and a bunch of wooden skewers -- which had gotten tucked into my craft stash just last week after falling onto the laundry room floor. (Why do I store my skewers in the laundry room? Honestly, I have no clue, but that is where they have been for ages. Anyway, once they hit the floor, I figured that they were no longer "food safe," but that didn't mean that they couldn't be used for crafting. I just needed an idea. Funny how things work out.)

In the end, I had enough materials to make eleven mustaches on a stick. Coincidentally, (or maybe not -- you see how these things work out?) this is the exact number of family members who will be getting together this weekend.

{My mustaches remind me of a flock of birds.}

Materials:
  • wooden skewers (or dowels)
  • black felt (or craft foam or card stock)
  • tacky glue
  • pen/pencil
  • scissors
  • scratch paper (optional)
Directions:
  1. To begin, I cut pieces of scratch paper to approximately the same size as my black felt scraps. Then, I folded them in half, hamburger style. One each scrap of paper, I drew one half of a mustache shape, cut it out and checked to see if it fit on the felt. I then adjusted accordingly, both to make sure that it fit, and that I was happy with the shape, making more trimmings as needed. (Tip: If you don't want to draw your mustaches freehand, look for an online template such as this one.)
  2. Next, I used a little bit of tacky glue to stick my scratch paper templates on top of my black felt, just enough to get each to lay flat, but not so much to make it permanently bonded. Then, I cut around the templates. Once done cutting, I peeled off my templates. You do not have to use glue, but it made it easier to cut around the template without it slipping. (Tip: For cutting felt, use the sharpest scissors that you have available.)
  3. To make the wooden skewers more kid friendly, I used my scissors to cut off the sharp ends. (Note: If I had more felt, I would have made two-sided mustaches, sandwiching the sharp part of the skewer in between the two pieces of felt, and thus eliminating the need to trim them.)
  4. To finish my mustaches, I used a dab of tacky glue to adhere a wooden skewer to the back side of each felt mustache. When I say "back side," I mean the side that already had traces of glue on it, left over from the templates. (Note: I have seen other mustaches on sticks that had the sticks placed off center, and while I realize that this probably looks nicer in photos, it wasn't working for me. So, I centered mine to get stability, because floppy mustaches were not the look I was going for.)
  5. Make sure the glue dries completely before modeling your new facial hair. (Tip: If the tacky glue is not working, consider using hot glue instead.)
{My favorite little people model some of my creations.}

Friday, July 19, 2013

Curtain Call

Near the end of the school year, I found a sweet little wooden puppet theatre at a garage sale for just $2! I had never seen one at a garage sale before. Ever. So, I scooped it up. Then, after getting it home, I discovered that all of our puppets have gone AWOL. Perhaps because they have never had a proper theatre in which to perform? So, it has sat in a corner of the living room most of the time, occasionally getting opened up for brief puppet shows sadly consisting of about 2 finger puppets, all we could find after searching the WHOLE house!

Now, fast forward to this insanely hot week, when I have thought (more than once) that I somehow ended up in the Sahara instead of good old Michigan, by some weird turn of events. Yeah, it's crazy hot here, and the kids and I have slowly been going batty from being cooped up. This means that the Activity Director (a.k.a. "Mom") has been coming up with lots of projects to try to maintain our sanity.

One such project was making spoon puppets with Mia while Logan (miraculously!!) took a two-hour nap in the afternoon. Our spoons were all left over from my sister-in-law's kitchen themed bridal shower that I threw for her a couple years ago. (Yes, I know, I'm a bit of a pack rat... Honestly, I had been planning for these to become puppets all along, and it's taken me this long to find the motivation. Desperate times, you know?) We ended up with ten spoon puppets altogether, although I am mystified as to where the other two wooden spoons went. I know they came in 4-packs from Dollar Tree, so it seems like we should have twelve, but that's okay. This was more than enough to create a well-stocked puppet theatre.

{Wooden Spoon Puppets by Mia, Age 6}

Materials:
  • wooden spoons
  • permanent markers
  • acrylic paint
  • foam paint brushes
  • tacky glue
  • googly eyes
  • felt
  • craft foam
  • scissors
  • buttons
  • sequins
  • fabric scraps
  • plastic gems
  • pipe cleaners
  • paint tray (old Styrofoam tray or a plate or bowl) 
  • hot glue gun (for adult use only)
  • something to protect work surface (cereal box liner or wax paper)
Directions:
  1. We used acrylic paint for the faces of the puppets. (Well, all of them except for the one she says is "sun burned" which she colored with an orange marker). I didn't have any "flesh" colors on hand, so I mixed up an assortment of skin tones using pinks, yellow, orange, some blue, and white. Apply a thin coat to the front side of the spoon, going down the "neck" somewhat. Then, flip it over, and apply a thin coat to the back as well. You don't need to paint the entire spoon, unless you want to. Lay flat on your cereal box liner (or wax paper) to dry completely, which takes just a few minutes. Tip: Acrylic paints will stain fabric, so old clothes/paint shirts are recommended. Also, you will want to protect your work surface. We used a cereal box liner, which works very nicely for this.
  2. Add clothing to your puppets. Mia used Sharpie markers to draw shirts and pants on some that she decided would be men. For the women, I helped her drape fabric scraps of her choosing to make dresses and then I used my hot glue gun to secure the material. 
  3. Add faces and hair. Mia drew hair on the men. She came up with assorted hair-dos for the women, which were made out of pipe cleaners, and adhered using hot glue. (Yarn would also work, but she wasn't interested in using any.) For faces, she drew noses and mouths using Sharpie markers. She added googly eyes with tacky glue.
  4. Don't forget the accessories and other details! All of the men have mustaches, which is funny to me since we don't know any men with mustaches. She also gave two of the three men glasses, drawn with black Sharpie before adding the eyes. A couple of the men are wearing craft foam bow ties, which I applied with hot glue and one has little buttons on his shirt, which again were hot glued. One of the girls, which Mia called "Rapunzel," has similar bows in her hair and another has a purple butterfly gem. Lastly, the "Old Lady," has two earring (miss-matched) and a necklace.
  5. Make sure all glue is dry before putting on your first wooden spoon puppet performance. Enjoy!
{Some of my favorite people put on a puppet show.}


Note: Not all puppets need to be people. They could be animals (like Mia made), robots, monsters, or whatever you can come up with! Mia chose to make two dogs and two cats, too. One of the "skin tones" came out on the yellow-ish side, but she declared it to be the perfect color for a Golden Retriever. His body and ears are yellow felt. His collar is red felt and his "license" is a gold sequins. (This is probably my favorite one, too. He's awfully cute with his lopsided kid-applied eyes, making it look like he is considering something mischievous.) Both of the cats have striped bodies of alternating orange and brown Sharpie marker, and they have their own collars and tags, too. The last dog looks a bit cat-like sense he has short pointy ears and whiskers, however Mia insists that dogs have whiskers, too! For whatever reason, we had no "children" that she created. When I pictured this project, I figured some of the puppets would naturally look like the members of our family, but clearly it's good to let kids do their own thing!


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Color Hunt Activity and Color Wheel Craft

Okay, even though I am labeling this "rainy day fun" it has not actually been raining here. Instead, it's just been so hot that it feels like the flesh is melting off of my bones whenever I set foot outdoors. No joke! Heat index of 102 degrees today! Ugh... Anyway, that means that I we have been cooped up inside (God bless whoever invented central air, am I right?) pretty much all week except for when we were running errands (and a 9:00 am park play date today -- glad we didn't start that one any later). Only problem is the cabin fever aspect of things. Fortunately, this mommy keeps all sorts of lists of possible things to do.

One activity we did yesterday afternoon was a color hunt around the house. This was nice because the kids worked together instead of, you know, trying to kill each other and driving me insane in the process. Ah, reprieve! I gave them the muffin tin that I had added colored inserts to for this color sorting activity and told them to find small toys and what-nots that would be lightweight enough to glue onto paper and that they wouldn't miss after the items were glued to the paper. (Note: This ended up being a great way to have them herd up all those things that I get sick of finding everywhere like plastic ring toppers from holiday cupcakes and little goodie bag items from birthday parties.) After they found all the little toys and other odds and ends from their bedrooms, I suggested we look at the craft bins where they found plenty of sequins, beads, buttons, pom poms, foam letters, bottle caps, and the Styrofoam tiles left over from this craft. By the time they had filled up the 6 cup muffin tin, I felt that we had enough colorful finds to create our color wheel, inspired by this blog (and found on Pinterest).

{From Color Hunt...}

{To Color Wheel}

Materials for Color Wheel:
  • 1/2 piece of white poster board (with grid lines, if possible)
  • pencil or pen
  • black Sharpie (optional)
  • large frying pan (or whatever you have that's big and round)
  • ruler
  • scissors
  • acrylic paint (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple) OR markers
  • something to hold paint (I used a Styrofoam tray.)
  • foam paint brushes (1 per color)
  • something to protect work surface (cereal box liner, vinyl table cloth, newspaper)
  • hot glue gun

Directions for Color Wheel:
  1. Using a pen or pencil, trace a large round object (I used my biggest frying pan) onto a half piece of white poster board. Tip: If your poster board has grid lines, I recommend keeping them visible.
  2. Cut out the circle.
  3. Find the center of the circle and make a dot. I used black Sharpie for this. (This is very easy to do if your poster board has grid lines. If not, you will probably want to use your ruler to help.)
  4. Using a ruler, draw 3 lines across the circle. You should now have 6 pie wedges of approximately the same size. Tip: I first did this with a pencil, and then followed with a black Sharpie, correcting the placement as I went. It does not need to be perfect, but I was glad to have used pencil the first go round. I didn't bother erasing my stray pencil marks because I knew I would be painting on top of them anyway.
  5. Once my circle was divided into 6 segments, I used acrylic paints to fill them in. I started my primary colors: first red, then I skipped a wedge, filled in the next with yellow, skipped a wedge, and then filled in the final part with blue. I had hoped that this would dry fast enough that the paint wouldn't touch the next corresponding part of my color wheel. (This would have worked better, though, if I hadn't immediately started painting the rest of the segments.) I finished up with secondary colors: orange (in between red and yellow), green (in between yellow and blue), and purple (in between blue and red). Make sure paint is dry before continuing to the next step. This shouldn't take more than 20 minutes or so. Tip: Protect clothing and work surface before using acrylic paints. I wore an old shirt and covered my table with a cereal box liner, which I use in place of wax paper for craft projects. Tip: I only used one coat of paint, and I didn't worry about streaks or uneven coverage at all. I knew it would get covered well enough to not matter, so save yourself some time by not trying to make it perfect. Tip: If you would like your child to fill in the color wheel, I suggest using washable markers in place of acrylic paints.
  6. Using a pre-heated glue gun (adults only!) start adhering the colorful items to the corresponding sections of your color wheel until it is as full as you would like. You can have your child tell you where to place things, if desired. Tip: Self-adhesive craft foams shapes and letters will save you some glue, if those happen to be among the items your kids have scrounged up! Tip: Start with the largest items and work your way down to the smallest items, that way you can squeeze them in as needed. Tip: If you want to be sure things will fit, lay them out prior to gluing. Allow hot glue to dry completely before moving the color wheel.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

You Put Your Right Foot In...

{I didn't realize how many pairs of shoes he had...}

For little ones who like to put on their own shoes but who struggle with getting them on the correct feet (read: all toddlers/preschoolers), here is a quick and easy solution that I picked up by reading FamilyFun magazine (June/July 2013, page 112b). Just take a permanent marker (I used a black Sharpie) and draw arrows on the insides of the shoes. Make the left shoe's arrow pointing right and the right shoe's arrow pointing left. Now, when the shoes are correctly laid out in front of the child's feet, the arrows point toward each other. Brilliant, simple, cheap, quick, and absolutely no-skills-necessary = the perfect parent hack! This works for all types of shoes and boots. And, the fact that the you see results right away doesn't hurt either. I only wish I had known about this when Mia was younger.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Making Mosaics with Styrofoam Tiles

This idea came from Pinterest, and I am pretty happy to have found it. Styrofoam is one of the few recyclable materials that the recycling center we go to will not accept, to it is wonderful to find another use for it (and I was pretty much tapped out, for the time being). In addition to a neat craft idea, this website taught me a new trick for getting Styrofoam extra clean: putting it in the dishwasher! I never realized that was possible, without melting it, but now that I have tried it there is no reason to fear germs when re-using Styrofoam from meat packaging, for example. This project was one that I prepped one day, and then pulled out on another morning when my kiddos were asking for a craft project. It helps to plan in advance, but this is easily one you could do in an afternoon, with less than an hour of prep work. And, it's a craft that the littlest ones on up to the big kids (think intricate designs) can accomplish.

{Styrofoam Mosaics by Logan, Age 3 and Mia, Age 6}

Materials:
  • black card stock (or another color you prefer)
  • glue (We used Aleene's Tacky Glue.)
  • scissors
  • Styrofoam (from food packaging)
  • acrylic paint (We used red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.)
  • paintbrushes (Foam brushes work well.)
  • something to hold paint (more Styrofoam or a plate/bowl)
  • something to protect work space (cereal box liners, vinyl table cloth, newspaper)

Directions:
  1. First make sure your Styrofoam is well-cleaned. I always used to hand-wash mine before I learned this handy Tip: Run it through the dishwasher for extra sanitizing power. What could be simpler? I put mine on the top rack, just to be on the safe side.
  2. Next, trim off the outside edges of the Styrofoam. You will have a flat, rectangular piece now. I trimmed my rectangle into strips before painting, about an inch in diameter, but that is optional.
  3. Protect your work surface and clothing since acrylic paints can stain. (Tip: I like using the liners from cereal boxes as "wax" paper. You can re-use them, too, but if they get really messy, I don't feel bad about tossing them.)
  4. Pour some acrylic paints onto another piece of Styrofoam (or onto a plate/into a bowl). Use one paintbrush per color and coat each strip or piece of Styrofoam. Tip: I found that using foam paintbrushes worked very well and I applied a thin coat in one direction. Let the paint dry, about 20-30 minutes. You don't have to rinse your brushes or paint "palette" in between coats. Although the paint on the Styrofoam will dry, the paint on the "palette" remains usable for the second coat. Tip: If having kids do this step, you may want to limit their color choices to 3 for simplicity's sake. Also, if you would like them to create art to fit with your decor, you can select 3 colors that go well, and only offer those color choices from the tiles you pre-painted.
  5. Apply a second thin coat of paint. Tip: I found that applying the paint in brushstrokes of the opposite direction from the first application made for good, even coverage with little streaking. Again, let the paint dry, about 20-30 minutes.
  6. Once the paint is totally dry, cut the Styrofoam into square tiles (or other shapes if you prefer). Personally, I believe that mosaics are typically made from square tiles, so this is what I did, although not all of them are the same size. (And that's okay!) Tip: This is also a step that children can do, especially if you want them to have scissor skills practice. (I just chose to do it myself because I was prepping for a future project, not one we were doing right then.)
  7. Now, it's time to create some mosaic art. (Note: Technically, mosaics should fill up the space as well as possible to create a design, and tiles should be placed tightly together with only a small amount of space in between. My kids did their own thing, and I didn't feel the need to "correct" them. Have fun with it!) Again, I laid down the cereal box liners for each child's work space, then I gave them some Styrofoam tiles and Aleene's Tacky Glue. (You could most likely use a regular white glue, but I felt that since this was a more heavy-weight item than paper, this would be an ideal craft glue. It's held up well so far.) We used black card stock for our art paper. Any color would work, but I thought black would help the bright colors to pop out. You could also use cardboard or box board (from a cereal box). Tip: If you don't want your kids to use too much glue (or they are not adept with the bottles) or you're working with a group, you may want to put glue into small bowls and let them apply it using Q-tips. This cuts down on excess glue and some of the messiness.
  8. Once kids are done making their mosaics, let the glue dry thoroughly, and then display their masterpieces. I am planning to look for frames the next time I am out garage saling, because these are much too pretty to not earn a permanent place on our walls (and this is coming from someone whose kids do crafts pretty much all the time).

{She rolled out of bed and asked for a craft. Good thing I was ready!}

{He's a bit notorious for using too much glue, but getting better.}

Friday, July 12, 2013

Water Balloon Painting!

This activity is definitely messy fun! You have been duly warned. It was an idea that I found here. While it sounds a bit kooky, I am always up for new ways of painting, so we had to try it out. The hardest part was getting them to be patient while I filled all the balloons, but once we were ready to go, the kids had a blast! If you're not afraid of getting of a bit messy, this is a great summer activity.

{Finished Painting by Mia, Age 6}

{Finished Painting by Logan, Age 3}

Materials:
  • water balloons (Ours were from Dollar Tree.)
  • paint (Ours was powdered tempera that I mixed up in small batches.)
  • plastic dosing syringe (like the ones you get for administering oral antibiotics to little ones)
  • paper (Ours was a roll of craft paper I got from a garage sale. I've also seen it at Dollar Tree. If you happen to have a roll of butcher block paper, that would work, too.)
  • scissors
  • masking tape
  • bowl to hold the filled balloons (Nice, but not necessary, this came in handy as well when it was time to pick up the pieces of popped balloons.)
  • towels, washcloths, wipes, or paper towel (for clean-ups!)
Directions:
  1. I strongly recommend having everyone change into old clothing before starting. I asked my kids to go barefoot, but the pavement was hot, so we compromised and they wore their Crocs (easily cleaned up, so no worries).
  2. Mix up your paints. I have 4 colors of powdered tempera paints: red, yellow, blue, and green, so I just mixed a small bit of water with each of those in my plastic paint cups. Then, I mixed red and yellow to get orange and red and blue to get purple, so we had a total of 6 colors to use. (Tip: If you have ready-made tempera paints, you can skip this step, but I think that powdered temperas are a good investment. You can make up as little or as much as you need for each use and it's easy to adjust the consistency to accommodate the type of paint project you are doing. In the end, I think they are cheaper, plus you don't have to worry about them drying out and being ruined.)
  3. Add some paint to each water balloon, using a plastic dosing syringe. I think we filled about 20 balloons in total.
  4. Next, add some water to each water balloon so that they are inflated more. Don't add too much water, though. They don't need to be as big as possible. (Tip: Honestly, I am wondering if this step since we had trouble getting them to pop, anyway, and this just diluted the paint. We tried only one balloon without the water, and while it was much smaller, it popped just the same -- with being stomped -- and the paint remained vivid and undiluted.)
  5. Cut some paper off of your roll of craft paper (or butcher block paper) and adhere to a flat, smooth surface using masking tape. We did this in the driveway. Alternatively, you could weight the paper down with rocks, or skip this altogether if you are not concerned about it getting blown or moved in any way. (Tip: I recommend one piece of paper for EACH child. It's just easier this way.)
  6. Now that you are all prepped, start making some art. Sadly, we found that the balloons did not pop when thrown at the paper. Rather, they bounced off and rolled away. So, I just suggested that Mia and Logan stomp on them, which they found to be great fun!

{Photos taken mid-pop!}

{See the splash? Messy fun!}
7.  Let your paintings air-dry. (Ours took about an hour on a bright, sunny day.) Then, remove them and display, if desired. Personally, I was thinking of this as a process-based project rather than a product-based one, but the results were pretty cool, so I found a place to hang each of the finished art projects. (Tip: Our finished paintings fit nicely on two different doors. I just made sure to place them above the doorknobs.)



Thursday, July 11, 2013

10 Things I LOVE about Puerto Rico!

While there were a couple of things that disappointed me about our recent vacation (Note: It really does rain quite a bit during the rainy season, despite my wishful thinking that this would not actually be the case.), it was overwhelmingly awesome! Since it is difficult to even know where to begin describing the trip, I thought I would break it down into a list of my favorites (and even this is difficult to rank according to my preferences):

10) Wrought iron details on windows, doors, fences, gates, etc.
Okay, I know that some of the family (we went with Brett's folks, his two brothers, and my sister-in-law) felt that this was disturbing, wondering why they needed to be so protected, but I really believed (and again, this may be wishful thinking) that this was at least somewhat used for purely aesthetic reasons. If they needed chains and gates, they could surely put them up without delicate scrollwork and other lovely details, is all I'm saying. I really want to insist that this is the Spanish influence on the architectural design of the area. There really was a lot of beauty to it, even in areas where things looked a bit run-down, otherwise.

{Cathedral door in downtown Humacao}

9) Little lizards
We saw many anoles in the backyard of the rental house we stayed at in Humacao. They mostly hung out and sunbathed and didn't mind us too much. They were slightly territorial, however, if another lizard ventured too closely and we could see them puff out their chests and do some interesting dance that I just called push-ups, presumably to look larger and intimidate the other lizards who were encroaching on their turf. These guys made me smile every time I saw them. We had one who hung out on the curtain rod in the dining room for a couple of days and then disappeared, I am guessing through whatever hole in the wall that he entered by. The last night, someone discovered a baby iguana hanging out on a leaf in the yard, where it stayed until we had to leave. That was very cool because I got some up-close photos with no trouble at all.

{One of our many backyard friends}

{Hola, baby iguana!}

The only time a lizard gave me a start was one morning when I went to grab my Flonase off of a shelf in the bathroom, and when I pulled my hand out, there was more than Flonase there. A baby anole was on my finger! The only thing was, I didn't realize what it was at first, so I gave a startled "Ah!" (I did not scream, mind you, since I knew it wasn't anything huge or heavy, just unusual to feel something there.) Once I realized what it was, I was truly amazed because it was on my pointer finger, and it couldn't have been more than 1 to 1 1/2" long from tip to tail and it was maybe a third of the width of my finger. I only wished that I could have gotten a picture, but it quickly sprung off my finger, onto the bathroom counter, and vanished just like that. I guess I can't blame him. I would run away from whoever was trying to shake me off, too.


8) Little crabs on the beaches (which I think are these)
Another animal that we saw frequently that made me smile each time was the little sand crabs at the beach. They were, for obvious reasons, quite skittish around people and would quickly dart into their holes in the sand. However, if they weren't nearby their hole, they would often freeze, which allowed me to get good photos of the scared-stiff creatures. A couple of my favorites included one frozen next to a foot print in the sand, and another that stopped to hide next to a coconut, which were all over the beach.

{I loved that he tried to hide by this coconut.}


Some other crab behavior that we observed was what I think of as "surfing." We weren't sure if they were running away from us or what, but I started to think that they were playing after watching for a while. Most of the time, the crabs scuttled sideways, low to the sand when they were headed for their holes, but not when they were headed for the water. Then, they got way up on their legs, as far as they could reach and they dashed -- really, really fast -- into the surf. Then -- I swear this is what they were doing -- they rode a wave into the shore, picked themselves back up again and dashed back into the water to ride another wave. It was immensely entertaining, and I enjoyed it several mornings while we walked the beach in solitude.

7) Brett let me shop as much as I desired.
This was good when it was raining. Of course, it was good when it wasn't raining, too. Most of the souvenirs we brought home were very reasonably priced, and the things that we spent a little bit more on, we had decided were worth it. The tricky part was finding authentic items that were not just tourist traps. It took some work to find things that were actually made in Puerto Rico. One thing we always like to get if we are traveling is a Christmas ornament. I can't tell you how many of these I passed up because they were cheap-looking and said "Made in China" on them. Finally, I found a hand-painted shard of gourd with the beautiful fort painted on it while we were in a cool shop called Ole! in Old San Juan. This was where Brett found his Panama hat, one of those hand-made items we felt was worth paying a bit more for. In Old San Juan, I found a really great dress, in one of my favorite colors: cobalt blue. It looked great with those cobalt sandals that had somehow made their way into my suitcase, when even I hadn't realized that I had packed them. (True story. I must have been sleep-packing or something.)

{Pretty new dress and a BRIGHT building!}

On a later day, in downtown Humacao, I found a nice little pottery shop that made me very happy, too. It had fun little trinkets in bright colors. Also, we just happened to find a very inexpensive women's clothing shop there so I picked up a fun skirt, and a practical tank top and shorts to wear to the rainforest, because for whatever reason all I had packed were dressier things. The shorts also happened to be cobalt blue, so that was a bonus. I wore that outfit with my new green head scarf from another nice artisan shop in Old San Juan called Artesanias Sarobey.

And earlier tonight, I took my inexpensive little art print to Michaels to get it framed with more bright colors to go with the city scene which includes, what else? Bright colors! I can't wait to see how it turns out...

6) Bacardi 
Okay, let me preface this by saying that I rarely drink. I have never been much of a drinker. I didn't handle alcohol well when I was younger and then, well, I spent years being pregnant, breastfeeding, being pregnant again, and breastfeeding some more (I logged over 4 years total just breastfeeding my two kids), so this was not something that ever mattered. Now, I am re-thinking that mindset ever so slightly. Not that I plan to drink huge amounts, or even that often, but this is good stuff, and it's worth it!

Poor Brett and everyone else had to deal with my craziness for the first couple of days. See, at home, I am basically the "activity director" and everyone, for the most part, does the big things that I want to do, and usually when I want to do them (obviously not all the time; kids are unpredictable, but you get the idea.) My in-laws are the nicest people you will ever meet, but they are NOT good at making decisions about what to do and when to do it. This drove me batty for two days, during which I frequently brought up the topic of rum and how much I would like to go on the Bacardi Distillery tour (which, for reasons noted above, must have come as a SHOCK to everyone). I was told to "relax" and "go with the flow" which if you can't tell, are not my specialty. Yes, I wanted to relax, but I wanted to do it on my terms, darn it!

{Good times!}


By the time we finally got to the factory tour, I was keyed up again. (Driving around San Juan did not help. Those people are C-R-A-Z-Y. They make Detroit drivers seem slow and laid back.) It was probably a good thing that we were told it would take about 30 minutes for the next tour to begin because that meant that we could go ahead and have our first complimentary beverage. Brett and I both chose one of the two options from their "classic" menu. I had the rum punch. He had a Cuba Libre. Y-U-M! And, it's worth noting that my brother-in-law was quick to point out that I immediately seemed much more relaxed. Finally. It only took two days of asking for rum for that to happen. I decided to be more proactive from then on, and I had 3 different daiquiris throughout the week at various restaurants. Plus, we came home with a bottle of Dragonberry, their strawberry rum, after I had it as my second complimentary drink after we took the tour.

5) Swimming under a waterfall in the rainforest
This is one of those things that we will look back on, I am sure, and continue to say "Wow! What a cool experience!" I am so glad we were able to do it. Hiking down there was about 30 minutes of very challenging work-out. The paths were very well-maintained, either with concrete or with rocks, for example, but it was quite steep and I could feel all of my leg muscles straining with the exertion. Other parts of the rainforest were mildly disappointing, but this was so, so worth the hike.

(I was under the mistaken notion that we would see lots of wildlife and beautiful, brightly colored plants. In actuality, we heard the coqui -- the native frog -- perhaps, once the entire time because there were So. Many. People. We went on Saturday, so that may have been our first mistake, but then again, it might always be that busy. Who doesn't want to hike in the only rainforest that is part of the US National Park system?! We saw very few bright flowers except near the visitor center, and as for wildlife, we saw a rooster and a feral dog, not exactly animals that we hadn't already seen all over Puerto Rico.)

I should not complain, though, because as we were nearly back to the van, I saw a mongoose dart across the path. Brett was the only other one to see it because I screamed, "Look! A mongoose!!!" loudly enough that he turned and noticed it before it ran away, presumably trying to get very, very far away from the screeching lady who kept yelling for everyone to "LOOK!" In case you are wondering, the only reason that I even knew what this animal was is that approximately 60 seconds prior to the sighting I had made a stop to read a sign by a picnic pavilion which said something to the effect of: "Mongooses are the most rabid animal in all of Puerto Rico. Please do NOT feed them or release them from cages if you come across one in a cage." Um, no problem. Who does that?! Aside from having to worry about contracting rabies, they're quite speedy and have no desire to be around humans. Do you suppose that is because they've heard one too many ladies screaming for others to look?

Anyway, back to the main highlight of the rainforest (other than the really, really nice gift shop at the visitor center, which obviously cried out to be shopped at -- try the dried bread fruit chips. So good!): the waterfall. It goes without saying, that this water was icy cold, but after hiking for that long, it was refreshing. The main problems were all of the people (photobombs, anyone?) and the fact that we had to climb over, down, and around, several large and quite slippery rocks just to get into the water. Eventually, we made it into the water and even managed a few pictures. This will definitely be one of our best memories of the trip.

{How cool is this?!}

4) Beaches! 
All of the beaches we went to were different. My brother-in-law seemed to think it was strange that I was compelled to beach comb every single time, and I tried to explain to him that there were always different shells to find, but I am not sure he understood. Fortunately, Brett is patient and he has spent enough time Up North with me to know that I do this. Every. Single. Time. I'm a treasure hunter. It's what I do. (If you read about the shopping, then maybe you can relate.) And, I don't do it the whole time. I reach a point when I know I can stop. I only collected sand from two of the beaches we went to, for example, so that shows some restraint, don't you think? (You're probably wondering why... I have a craft or two in mind, don't worry!)

The first beach, I just think of as "Our Beach" because it was a few step away from the rental house, and because Brett and I walked it several mornings and we were almost always the only ones around. One morning there was a many on a horse and another morning there was a lady sitting on the sand (she did not look like a local), and then one morning there was a jogger who had a hard time staying on the path while Brett took photos of me in my bikini leaning against the palm tree. That was part of the fun of our beach. We got to take silly "model" pictures that were fun for both of us. I felt pretty and he enjoyed it, plus I figured he deserved it for all the beach combing, all the shopping, and all of the two days worth of crazy Meg that he endured before I finally got my Bacardi! We also saw lots of crabs, some shore birds like herons, and some of my favorites: pelicans.

{"Our Beach" is adjacent to a nature preserve.}

{A favorite "model" photo of mine. LOVE the feeling of escape to paradise!}

One morning there was a pack of three feral dogs that joined us briefly. I honestly think they were organized about it, too. The two large dogs poked their noses into our beach bag, and finding no food there, decided to roll on our beach towels, before running off. Meanwhile, the short dog, who may have had some chihuahua in his lineage, came right up to us and started licking my legs. I didn't even realize he was there until he did this. He was so friendly, I almost bent down to pet him, before realizing what I was about the do. He licked me a few more times before deciding that I wasn't going to give him any food, and then he trotted off to join the others. These were the most forward of all the feral dogs that we encountered during the week.


We never actually went in the water on "Our Beach" other than walking along the shore and getting our legs wet. Others in the family went at some point and claimed it wasn't that bad, but it always looked murky to me. This was the most debris-strewn of any beaches we went to and walking along we would see all sorts of garbage: baby bottle nipples, pacifiers, a Lego brick, OJ containers, Dawn dish soap bottles, many plastic bottles and cups, and tons of shoes, mostly flip flops, although there was one bright colored dressy wedge sandal that seemed to sad to me to be washed ashore. There was even a rusted, broken cage from a shopping cart, of all things!

The next beach that we visited was Lucia Beach, which I think was about a 10-15 minute drive. It was raining that day and there were large waves, which I found LOTS of fun to play in (but I've spent enough time at Lake Michigan, I suppose, that this didn't seem frightening to me). However, most everyone else was put off by the undertow and they didn't really want to spend much time there. The most interesting thing was driving to the beach, which required us to go through a palm grove. When leaving, there was a herd of cows passing through the palm grove, followed by these white birds (some sort of heron, I think). We saw cows everywhere in the Puerto Rico countryside whenever we drove someplace, and they were always trailed by these birds, however, it still surprised me to see them at the beach. It should not have, since they were obviously "free range," but it did, nonetheless.

On another day, we went to one of my favorite beaches: Seven Seas Beach in Fajardo, which was about a half hour drive through the mountains. The water was very calm with no surf at all. There wasn't too much sun that day, but the rain held off at least. We just floated on top of the water, which was nice and relaxing. This was a super beach for beach combing, with many unusual shells and lots of nice beach glass (a favorite of mine from all my time spent Up North). The most memorable thing about this beach was the school of fish that swam up to us in the shallows and went in and out of our legs. I was curious to see them because the others said they were there, and I wasn't even believing them until I saw them myself. Unfortunately, once I saw them, I had to get away because they kept touching my legs, which freaked me out! Jill was the only one who didn't seem to mind, or at least she didn't mind until they started nibbling at her knees. Josh thought they were coral cleaning fish. They were up to 8 inches long and kind of silver-ish from the side view. There was also a pack of wild dogs here, who entertained us by running around and playing together. Two could swim, but the other two could not, apparently. And one pregnant girl just lazed in the sand nearby us. This was the first time I was able to actually sit on the beach and read a book!

One afternoon, everyone did their own thing, and Brett and I drove the the nearby Palmas Del Mar Resort to check out the beach there. It was a beautiful, sunny day! However, the surf was quite rough, and while I enjoyed it at first, it became too much and we had to get out of the water. The good news was that they had beach chairs here so I had a comfy place to do more reading. The beach was obviously groomed, so it was clean, and in retrospect, we should have brought money since they had a little place that we could have gotten drinks, if for no other reason than I could have had that drink on the beach that I thought was in store for me. (It didn't happen, but I'm not complaining.)

On our last full day in Puerto Rico, we stumbled upon (there is no other way to describe how we found this one) a place called Escondida Beach near Guardarraya, while we were driving along the southeast coastline (amazing views!). This was a Sunday, the only weekend day that we were at a public beach, and it was quite busy. The sand was nice and the water was clear and the absolute warmest that we had experienced. Literally, it was like bath water. It was very calm, however, we didn't float quite as well as we did at Seven Seas Beach, for whatever reason. There were some very pretty flowered trees all along the shoreline, and we learned how handy they can be. We just used them as a place to drape towels and shirts, but after the rains quickly blew in, we suddenly understood by the local people had hung tarps between the trees. They just sought shelter while we were scooping up our things and dashing to the van, which we ended up doing again later, when another rainstorm blew in off the water. These things came and went quickly, so it made sense for people to come prepared to sit them out, before going about their beach days.

3) Food
I ate so many delicious things on this trip! I know that Brett was very concerned that I would NOT like the food because I really don't like spicy things, but I had read two guidebooks and I tried to convince him (and myself) that it wouldn't be spicy, but savory and sometimes sweet. The food of the Caribbean, I thankfully confirmed, is not at all spicy. It's delicious! I think I may have gained a couple of pounds there (and that is saying a log because my metabolism generally makes it so that I don't lose or gain, I just maintain). It probably did not help that so many things were fried, or that they seem to eat a lot of meat, which was no problem to my way of thinking, since it wasn't spicy. One of my favorite foods, other than those dried bread fruit chips, was something called pastalillo, which was a pouch of fried bread stuffed with meat. I chose the pollo (chicken). We bought this from the kiosk on the beach that last day. Also, on the beach there, a vendor came along and sold me passionfruit ice cream, which was delicious. Other goodies that I enjoyed were arepas (more fried bread) made with coconut, which was surprisingly yummy considering I typically don't like the taste of coconut and mofongo (a local specialty, sort of like a "cake" of fried plaintains -- which taste nothing like bananas, as I assumed they would, by the way -- made with oil and garlic, and sometimes including meat). Some mofongo that I tried was better than others, but the place to get them that made the best was La Palmira "Casa del Mofongo" which was right outside of the neighborhood where we were staying.

{Beach food!}

2) Bright colors
I am sure you have already picked up on the fact that I LOVE bright colors. Our house has walls painted in every color of the rainbow and I pretty much always wear bright colors. It was so nice to shop somewhere that had clothing in bright colors because that can often be tricky to find here in Michigan. I was so happy to see buildings painting in bright colors, everything from pink to blue to purple to lime green and vivid orange. I took tons of pictures just of houses and other building in bright colors, just because. Even the roadways were covered with bright colors on the concrete barriers and overpasses! It made me so HAPPY to look at them all! Old San Juan was especially brilliant for this, but we saw tons of other colorful places all around where ever we happened to be. Our rental house was a brilliant shade of yellow, for example. And all of the interior walls were painted in bright colors, too. It was extremely cheerful, and I could not get enough of the bright colors. While there were not too many colorful flowers to see in the rainforest itself, they were everywhere else: at the beach, along the roadside, in front of houses and restaurants and other businesses. Everywhere we looked, there was brilliant colors and I never tired of them!

{A BRIGHT building in Old San Juan. LOVE the door!}


1) Spending time with my hubby without kids!
This was our first-ever vacation without our kids, and for that matter, the longest (a whole week!) vacation we have ever taken. Before leaving, we were asked if this was our second honeymoon, since we flying out on the morning after our 12th anniversary. I remember laughing in response, "No, in order to take a second honeymoon, we would have to have GONE on one the first time around!" I don't think I have to tell you how remarkably relaxing that is to spend that much time together without children clamoring for our attention. Now, if we can just figure out how to get away on a regular basis, we will be all set. (And even though they are great people, I would love to do this without all the relatives!) Yep, Mommy got a taste of the tropics, and she could get used to it! We decided there are lots more islands that are begging for us to come visit them someday...

{Our "fancy" dinner night}






Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Flag for July 4th Craft

While my kids were at "Camp Grandma" they made these American flag projects at story time. The book that they heard was called I Pledge Allegiance, and it broke down the Pledge of Allegiance into pictorial references to make it easier for kids to grasp the big concepts, which I thought was pretty cool. The lady who read the story, Jill, said she was inspired by the torn paper illustrations, so I thought that they would have made torn paper flags. However, she must have decided it was easier to prep for a group by cutting the red strips and blue squares in advance using scissors. If you are doing this at home, I really think tearing the paper would be so cool, assuming the kids are old enough to do this themselves. Anyway, here is how we did this craft.

{Flags by Mia, Age 6 and Logan, Age 3 1/2}

Materials:
  • white paper
  • red and blue construction paper
  • scissors (optional)
  • glue stick
  • wooden skewers (or plastic drinking straws)
  • stapler (or tape)
  • adhesive paper hole reinforcements (like this)
Directions:
  1. Cut (or tear) white paper to the desired size. Ours are made from 8 1/2" x 11" computer paper that was cut in half, hamburger style. Any white paper would work.
  2. Cut (or tear) squares from blue construction paper.
  3. Cut (or tear) strips of red construction paper.
  4. Design your flag. Both kids started by gluing their blue square to the white flag. (Mia did hers completely on her own, which is why it is in the opposite corner that it technically should be. This worked out nicely, though, for display.) Next, they glued on their red strips. (Note: The intent was to leave space in between for the white stripes. Mia understood this better than Logan did, of course, since she is older.)
  5. Add some "stars." Jill gave them these white circle paper hole reinforcements, which I thought was clever. (I am always a fan of using what you have on hand!) You could also use star stickers, or draw your own stars, too. Torn white paper is another option that would look nifty.
  6. Lastly, we tucked the wooden skewers into the end of the flag, rolled it over, and stapled them to secure. The staples poked out some, so tape might actually be a safer choice for little hands. (Note: I inserted the sharp end of the skewers so that they were hidden, for safety's sake, but I overheard one mom with older kids suggest that they should leave it poking out the bottom end so that they could stick them in the lawn. This sounded cool, but definitely short-term since these crafts were not made to last. I would, perhaps, stick them in an indoor plant, though.) Tip: If you are concerned about the safety of wooden skewers altogether, you can cut off the pointed end, or simply substitute a plastic drinking straw as we did in our 4th of July mini flag project from a couple of years ago.


Recycled Easter Egg Maracas

I'm baaaaaack! We had an AMAZING time in Puerto Rico (without kids!), and I would love to share some of the cool stuff we saw and did, but I literally have no clue where to begin. So, for now, I am backtracking. Actually, this project relates in a way because maracas are a traditional musical instrument of Puerto Rico. So, go me, I'm not as off-track as I thought.

This fun, simple craft is one that the kids and I did in VBS, right before heading off on vacation. We had a global carnival theme and during the last day, we "visited" Mexico. My friend, Julie, came up with the craft projects for the week, and I helped out a bit. I don't know where she found this idea, but it was great, and ALL of the kids from preschool to 6th grade LOVED making maracas. (Actually, I think several of the teen helpers came back later to make their own maracas, too, so this pretty much appeals to kids of all ages.) Plus, it's a fun way to re-use those extra Easter eggs that I am sure you have laying around.

{This maraca is simple and fun to make.}

Materials:
  • empty plastic Easter eggs (1 per maraca)
  • plastic spoons (2 per maraca)
  • decorative duct tape (or regular masking tape and markers to decorate)
  • scissors (optional)
  • macaroni noodles (or rice, dried beans, beads, etc.)
Directions:
  1. Open a plastic Easter egg and put in about 5 macaroni noodles. If you don't have those, any dried pasta, rice, or beans will work. You could also use beads, button, brads or whatever small items you have on hand to make the noise. Close the egg after filling it. (Note: It doesn't matter what color egg you use, or even if the two halves match because you will be covering it up.)
  2. Tear (or cut, if you prefer) off 3 pieces of tape. We used a variety of decorative duct tapes. Some kids chose to use plain masking tape, which they decorated with markers after assembling the maracas. Two pieces of tape will be longer, about 8 inches (you don't need to measure, just approximate) and the last one will be shorter, about 4 inches. (Note: If doing this with a large group, as we did, tear many strips in advance and place them on a wall where kids can easily reach them. We did this in sets of 3, which turned out to be unnecessary because they liked to mix and match their patterns.)
  3. This next step is easier if you have a helper. Cradle the egg between two plastic spoons and then adhere the tape. (One person can hold it all together while the other person applies the tape. Just ask your child which job he wants and then you can do the other one!) We found that it was easiest to use the short piece to go over the tops of the spoons to sandwich the egg in between and hold it all together. Then, we used the longer pieces, one at a time, to go around the egg and cover the rest of it along with part of the spoons. It does not need to look perfect, but you can always add more tape if needed. (Note: If you don't have any plastic spoons on hand, you can just make egg-shaped shakers by filling them and applying the tape.)
  4. If using masking tape instead of decorative duct tape, now is the time to draw designs with markers. Otherwise, you are done. Enjoy making music with your maracas!