How to Make Your Own Traditional Straw Christmas Tree Decorations

November 7, 2015 by  
Filed under Articles, Great Ideas

feeding-a-reindeer-825188-mEach country around the world has its own Christmas traditions. Lithuanians and Germans often used straw to create ornate decorations and ornaments for their Christmas trees. If you’d like to make your own traditional straw Christmas tree decorations, you can use drinking straws and these instructions.

You’ll need the following: straight plastic drinking straws, ball of strong white thread, two or three long needles which will take the thread, ruler, and sharp scissors.

Step #1 – Cut straws into 8 equal lengths about 3 inches long. Thread a needle with a piece of thread about 20-24 inches long; do not tie a knot the end of the thread.

Step #2 – Thread four pieces of straw onto the string. Tie the ends to create a wreath. Instead of cutting the extra string, thread it through two more straws and then loop it around the opposite end. Thread on the last two straw pieces and tie it off at the opposite end again.

Step #3 – Cut straws into 4 equal lengths about 2 inches long to get an elongated design or 3 inches long to get a square. Slip the needle and thread back through one of the straw pieces already in the design to get the needle to the middle of the design.

Step #4 – Thread one of the shorter pieces and then attach it to the second joint by wrapping the thread around the joint. Add the next piece to the string and attach it to the following joint, until you have all four of the pieces are secured. This will give you an elongated or square box; it may also look like a diamond.




This is the basic design upon which any other variations are made. If you come close to running out of thread, tie another piece of thread to it. Hide the knot inside the ornament by placing it within a piece of straw.

Step #5 – Cut 8 more pieces of straw the same length as the first ones, about 3 inches long. At this point, the needle and thread should be at one of the middle joints.

Step #6 – Run the thread through two of the new straw pieces and attach them to the next joint. Add two more pieces and attach them to the next joint, and on until there are four triangles at the central joints.

Step #7 – To stabilize the “rays,” you can cut 4 longer straw pieces which will fit between each point of the ray and the top of the ornament. To do this, using the last ray where the string is hanging, thread the longer piece of straw and connect it to the top. Continue this until all four rays are stabile. You can also add 4 additional stabilizers between the point and the bottom of the ornament which will give you a more elaborate design.

If you look on the internet for “Lithuanian Straw Ornaments,” you can see some of the most beautiful and intricate ornaments. You may also get ideas of different types of straw stars you can make.

Birthday treasure hunt

March 26, 2013 by  
Filed under Great Ideas

I just read this sweet post on Bobbledybooks.com about the fun treasure hunt they had for their brand new 5 year old.

Such fun!

What I love about this is that it’s great for kids of almost any age, it’s fun AND the focus is on the enjoyment of the activity almost more than the presents.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love presents like everyone else does.  It just seems like, these days, kids are so focused on what they’re going to get that they don’t really enjoy any of it.

Enter the treasure hunt.  You can make it as simple or elaborate as you want – and it’s a beautiful thing.  For your younger sweeties, make the clues with pictures or easy to follow words.  Help them when needed, obviously.  Something that may be a no brainer to you might not click with an excited birthday boy or girl.

Make it worth it too.  Have a longed for gift as the final find or maybe even a fancy birthday breakfast or lunch item.  Have as much fun creating the hunt as your kids will have searching for clues.   You’ll love it!

 

Free Summer Activity Kit – Clean water!

April 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Great Ideas

drinking water

Image via Wikipedia

I just found out about this great kit that you can get from the folks at Pur and Safe Water Science!

The kit includes:

• PUR™ Purifier of Water packet
• dirt/contaminant
• stirring spoon
• 2 liquid containers

and on the site there are activity plans to go along with the kit.

No obligation – just fill in your info and they’ll send the kit to you. Just go to SaveWaterScience.org for all the details!

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Top 10 tips for getting away with great family travel deals

March 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Great Ideas

Laity Lodge Family Camp: Bike the River

Image by LaityLodgeFamilyCamp via Flickr

Top 10 tips for getting away with great family travel deals

Travel. With the family. For some those are the most dreaded words ever uttered. To them the idea of a trip with the whole family translates to chaos, headaches, noise and lots and lots of money. And, quite honestly, it can be that way if approached haphazardly. The great thing is, with a little planning and organization, family travel can turn into one of the most enjoyable and memorable things you can do – for your kids and for you.

So, why don’t we spend a few minutes thinking about ways to “get away” with the family so you can start looking forward to those great memory making trips instead of dreading them.

1. Have a family meeting. Simple huh? Sit down with the family with notepad in hand and throw it out there … what sounds like a fun trip to you. Invite your kids to throw out ideas, talk them through, throw out ones that won’t work (respectfully of course) or table ones that might be for “when you’re a little older” or that fall into the “great idea but we’ll need to start saving now for that one” category.

2. Start a slush fund now! Get a large piggy bank, plastic 2 liter or larger jug or anything that can easily hold your loose change. ALL family members, littlest kiddos included commit to throwing any change they find or have in their pockets at the end of every day. You’ll be surprised how fast that change adds up to real dollars and that money can be used for fast food runs or even more expensive items down the road.

3. Don’t think big. Well, at least don’t ALWAYS think big. Sometimes the small, short trips can help to bring those fabulous memories. Often when families sit down to talk travel they immediately think “African Safari” or “Snorkeling in Australia”. When you start researching and seeing how much money you need for those big trips, however, all hope for “fun” is dashed. Remember that there are people in other parts of the country and even the world who are planning their vacations and their dream location might be only a few miles from your home. Look for great locations that are within a few hours or a days drive and enjoy the sights close to home.

4. Pack food. This may sound like a no-brainer but it’s often the thing that gets lost in the trip planning. When going on driving trips you can save a ton of money by planning and bringing food in coolers along rather than relying on restaurants and fast food stops along the way. Use the money you save for fun tickets to theme parks or other spots at your destination.

5. Consider a rental van instead of using the family car. Yes, it’s an added expense but with easy to find coupons you might find that, after factoring in the wear and tear on your car that a long drive would bring, using a rental will save you money in the long run. Plus, it’s part of the adventure to be driving a different vehicle than your day to day one.

6. Research. Put the kids in charge of researching your potential destinations. This is so easy with the help of the internet (please supervise your kids on all sites) but equally fun is a trip to the library for some research on places nearby and the opportunity to sent off a quick note asking for information by mail. I remember as a kid writing to various tourist spots and seeing all those great brochures and pamphlets coming in the mail addressed to me. Going through those as a family was almost as fun as the vacation itself and helped me to anticipate the trip even more.

7. Don’t overdo once you’re at your destination. It’s easy to think you need to cram everything in once you’re there but that mindset in itself can create misery for your kids and you. Kids get tired. Especially when surrounded by new sights and activities. Read their moods and just say no even if you think you’ll be missing out on something fabulous.

8. Consider alternatives to hotel stays. Check into bed and breakfasts or look into vacation home rentals at your destination which are often cheaper than hotel rooms and offer the benefit of a full kitchen and usually a private pool at the home. When we took our kids to Orlando the first time we found a company that is geared mostly toward a European clientele and got a fabulous 2 bedroom home with private pool just a short drive from the parks for the same price as the local hotels. When the kids were on overload we’d just drive back “home”, throw them down for a nap and then the adults could still relax by the pool without one having to stay in the hotel room with the kids. Fabulous!

9. Try a stay-cation. If your funds are really limited, use home as “home base” and take several day trips as a family. Mix things up a bit and have the kids stay in your room with you, unplug the phone and computer so you’re not tempted to just do regular life every day and order in take out for lunch or dinner to mix things up a bit. Or camp out in the basement.

10. Camping. It has to be said. Camping is cheap and kids absolutely LOVE it. Yes, it’s work for mom especially but there are ways to make it enjoyable for everyone … but that’s worth a post by itself!

So… what are you waiting for. Call a family pow-wow and get planning. This year is going to be the best ever for your family vacation.

Do you have any travel tips for families? Feel free to add your two cents in the comments below!

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Alamo blogging program, for a gift card worth $25. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”

Special Treats for your little ones at school

August 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Great Ideas

two pencils grade hb
Image via Wikipedia

I was blog hopping this morning and discovered two great posts that I just had to share because I loved the ideas and they’re so doable! YAY! Just a reminder, even if you still have young ones at home you can incorporate these ideas too. But both of these ideas are geared toward kids that are off to school every day.

First up – from our friends at Just Something I Made – napkin messages! The original post is done by an artist, and so her doodled napkins are works of art in themselves but I love the idea of sending messages in your child’s lunch bag … often! And drawing on a napkin is a cute way to do it. I especially love how she tells that as her son got older, she got creative with leaving a heart for him by hiding it in the drawing, so the other kids at the lunch table would get into the game too. Very clever! See what I’m talking about when you visit the post HERE.

Next is actually the post that led me to the napkin post – personalized pencils. Another fabulous and easy (though a little time consuming) idea of making little mini messages to modge podge onto your child’s pencils. Love it! Find out more when you visit the family economics site here.

Have you ever done this for your kids? My kids are homeschooled so I didn’t pack lunches for them except if they were off to a field trip or something – and in that case I’d stamp a quick mini-card to include or write a little love note on a 3×5 card – but these clever ideas take that to the next level! Love it!

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Tips for Frugal and Memorable Easter Family Fun

April 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Great Ideas

Holidays can be expensive for families. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter – they can cost a lot of money. Try using some of these tips for frugal and memorable Easter family fun rather than simply spending money on commercial items.

One thing your family might enjoy is taking a walk outdoors at a park or in your back yard. While you’re enjoying the outdoors, pick up sticks, rocks, or other objects which you can create three-dimensional nature art with. Children will enjoy using sticks to make a mouth or rocks for the eyes. The found objects can also be used in a nature display. Please note it’s important not to take bird nests out of the trees or take wild animals from their habitat.

Dye and decorate Easter eggs together. There are some parts of the process which will require adult supervision but the decorations themselves can be done by the children. See which child can come up with the most unusually decorated eggs.

Spend time together as a family to come up with the menu for a great Easter family meal. Ask everyone who is able to cook to prepare one dish. One person could prepare the meat course, someone else a vegetable dish, someone a salad, and someone else a dessert. Don’t forget to have someone prepare a special beverage for the meal.

Easter is considered a Christian holiday. You may want to attend a local religious observance or spend time as a family learning more about the holiday.

Share what you have with a family in need. This may mean opening your home to invite them to Easter dinner or making Easter baskets to take to the family’s children. If you help a family in need to make their day special, your entire family is more likely to remember the day.

Encourage the children of the family to help make decorations. Use the decorations for your home and if you have extras you can give some to grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other family. You may also want to share some with the family in need so they have something to decorate their home.

Has the family lost a loved one recently? Take a little bit of time out of your Easter Sunday to visit their graves. Specifically talk about your loved ones and remember the good times you had. Your family may decide to make this an annual part of their holiday.

Host a neighborhood Easter egg hunt rather than simply having one for your own family. Ask other families in the neighborhood to help by either purchasing the plastic eggs, providing candy, or providing refreshments for the event. The hunt may become a favorite part of the neighborhood’s celebration of Easter.

These tips for frugal and memorable Easter family fun are by no means the only things you can do. The easiest thing to do would be to ask your family what would make the holiday more memorable for them. Then take the time to make those activities happen.

Frugal Easter Gifts

March 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Great Ideas

Look around department stores and you’re bound to see expensive, pre-made Easter baskets filled with toys and candy. Some children beg their parents for the most expensive baskets and gifts. If you’re looking for frugal Easter gifts, however, try some of these ideas.

Who says an Easter basket has to be in an actual basket? Find a toy pail or box with a lid which will be usable after the holiday has passed. Using odd containers also makes filling them much more fun.

Chocolate bunnies are almost expected during Easter. You may choose to buy one bunny for each child in your family but there’s no reason you have to purchase a lot of candy to fill a basket. You can also make your own Easter food baskets for children to enjoy, including some of the following:

* Rice cereal treats made with marshmallows. Use colored marshmallows to change the taste. You may also want to dip them partially in chocolate as an added surprise

* Easter cookies in the shape of eggs, chicks, bunnies, or crosses. Decorate the cookies with icing, sprinkles, and candies

* Hard boiled eggs which have been dyed

Rather than putting toys into the basket, why not give the children something educational? When you find inexpensive books your children will enjoy throughout the year, store them in a closet. Then you’ll have them available for other gifts when needed as well.

Many small children enjoy coloring, so coloring books and crayons might be a good choice to place in their Easter basket. These can usually be purchased from discount or dollar stores for around a dollar.

Bubbles are also a good choice for children’s baskets. You can purchase bubbles for little money but you can also make your own with 1 cup dish soap (Dawn or Joy are most often used), 12 cups water, and 3/4 tablespoon glycerin which is available at most pharmacies.

Candles made from eggshells are popular with older children and teens. Poke a pin hole in the small end of an egg and then a larger hole in the larger end. Blow the egg out of the shell, clean it, and then let it dry. Put tape over the pin hole, pour melted wax into the larger hole, and then place a wick into the wax. When the candle has solidified, peel away the egg shell.

Write or find a beautiful poem to let your child know how much you love them. Print it onto springtime scrapbooking paper or use calligraphy to write it out on parchment paper. Place it into a handcrafted frame.

There are many ways you can find or make frugal Easter gifts for your children. It’s not necessary to buy the pre-made baskets which are so expensive if you use a little bit of creativity. You might be surprised to find your children actually prefer home-made baskets instead.

The lunch dilemna

January 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Great Ideas

laptop_lunchbox 2008.02.19

Image by amanky via Flickr

Are your kids sick of eating the same old sandwiches for lunch? Here are some ideas for cool lunch ideas your kids will love:

Fruit And Waffle Brunch
When it comes to lunch, think outside the box and pack your child a brunch instead. Simply heat some frozen waffles and cut into strips. Have separate dishes of fruit and dips for the waffles for a snazzy brunch table. Just pack up the waffle slices and everything in small containers for a great brunch on the go!

Then, slice up your childís favorite fruit (may have to put some lemon juice on top to avoid browning). Need a fun dip idea? Peanut butter makes a great dip for many types of fruit and is packed with protein.

Mini Party Platter
Kids love to eat snacks, so why not create a healthy lunch that looks like a big snack? To assemble, cube turkey or ham from the deli, slice up some cheese and donít forget to add some mulit-grain crackers. Add in some baby carrots along with some celery and bell pepper slices and you have a great lunch!

Not Your Average Sandwich
Instead of using bread, make your childís sandwich with a bagel. All you need to is spread each side with cream cheese and top with your favorite lunch meat. Add some veggies for extra credit.

Wrapped In Style
Why settle for a standard sandwich when you can wrap it in style? Your choices are limitless, as any sandwich can be turned into a wrap. For starters, here’s a quick and easy BLT wrap:

Spread some cream cheese on a whole wheat flour tortilla. Top with some sliced tomatoes, mixed salad greens, cooked and crumbled bacon, and some low fat ranch salad dressing. Roll the tortilla up tightly. Need to take it along for a play date? Place some frozen juice boxes in a sealed plastic bag in your lunch box.

Here’s a fun idea for lunch – a Bento Box. Adding something simple like this in addition to your creative lunch foods will make lunchtime more fun AND healthy!

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Shop outside the box…

November 28, 2008 by  
Filed under Great Ideas

Why not shop with a fellow mom this season?  Here are some great mom owned businesses ready to serve you today!


I’ve networked with many (not all) of the moms in the list above and have been shopping almost exclusively with mom owned businesses whenever possible for several years. I like to support moms who desire to stay at home with their kiddos but who still want to bring in a little (or a lot) of income to the family.

Have fun clicking around the sites and happy shopping!

Kid friendly Thanksgiving

November 12, 2008 by  
Filed under Great Ideas

I was doing a little blog hopping (one of my favorite past times now) and found this wonderful article over at KidSmartLiving that I thought you’d enjoy.  They talk about making your Thanksgiving table kid friendly but still festive (great pictures) and fun!

You can read the article when you CLICK HERE

Some things I’d add to the mix to help make this Thanksgiving fun for your toddlers and preschoolers:

Practice beforehand – do a lunch run through a few times of setting a nice table, serving a meal, saying grace (if that’s not something you normally do before a meal but you decide to do at Thanksgiving) so that your young children are prepared for what’s coming up.

Let them decorate – Kids love crafts in general so let them make those “hand turkeys” and other fun crafts to decorate the table or the house.

Get the kids involved in the prep as much as they’re able – have them stir the mushroom soup into the green bean casserole, etc, so that they can feel proud of making something to contribute to the dinner.  Let them help set the table (the unbreakables) or be in charge of greeting the guests as they come to the door.  The more your young ones are involved, the more they’ll appreciate the day themselves!

Most of all, make the day special and your children will feel special too!


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