Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Snip Snip

She's three and a half and just had her very first hair cut... sniff sniff... My little girl is growing up. Her brother had his first hair cut at three as well, but my little toe head had a lot less hair.

I can't believe she will be four in just a few short months - it seems like she was just born. I'm still chuckling about her feigning, "It hurts!" as the stylist trimmed off all of about two inches. Of course I had to save it. One little lock is now safely tucked away within the pages of her baby book. The one I am religious about updating regularly; seriously, I am really good about it. It's just a little thing that I can do for my children. I think they'll really appreciate those books when they are older. I know I love flipping through the pages of mine...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

More Gifts

Now that all the gifts have been opened, I can show you the brown sugar scrub the kids made for the special people in their lives. Papa, Grandma, Aunt Kathy, their teachers and babysitters all got a jar of it, and let me tell you, it's wonderful. I had to test it. I mean, I couldn't give away untested scrub, now could I. What if it didn't work? Luckily, I works really well and it was a perfect gift for a three year-old and a five year-old to make. Actually, the hardest part (for me) was getting a hold of the supplies. There isn't much call for exotic oils on Mackinac Island, though now that I've tried this stuff I'm going to have to keep a jar of it on hand all the time.

If you'd like to make a batch, you'll need:
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup sweet almond oil
  • any kind of essential oil or similar to scent the scrub (if desired)
I bought my oil here, though I must admit, I wasn't pleased with their service. When they discovered they couldn't ship to my P.O. box they claim to have emailed me. That email never arrived, while the order confirmation did - so I know they had an accurate address. After a long phone conversation (which made it quite clear to me that customer satisfaction is not at the top of their list) they shipped the oil to me. It arrived in time for the kids to make the scrub, which, in the end, is all that really matters...

Mix the sugar and the oil, put in a tiny bit of smelly stuff (we used a very small amount of almond extract), put it in jars and you're done. One batch made just about three cups of scrub, which for us was three jars - so we ended up making three batches. I wish I could remember where I saw this recipe originally, but I do remember them saying that the recipe was basically a two to one ratio of sugar to oil - and that you could use different oils; olive, and coconut should work as well. In the end I went with the sweet almond oil they used because I try to stick to the original recipe the first time I make something...

We jarred our scrub in pint-size canning jars; dressed up with a pretty fabric circle, a direction label and a coordinated beaded spoon. The spoons were Kitchen Aid measuring spoons which had the "Kitchen Aid" part removed thanks to the help of a Mister Clean Magic Eraser. (I'm still in awe of how handy those little things are.)

The best part was watching the kids' faces as people opened the gifts they made. It was priceless...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from Mackinac Island!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2009 Teacher Gifts

Part One

Sorry I've been out of commission for a while; life has just been crazy lately. Between finishing up presents, packing for an upcoming trip, and incredible amounts of drama at work, there just hasn't been time for blogging.

Somehow Christmas snuck up on me this year. It was like the weeks between Thanksgiving and December 15th just disappeared, but somehow I survived and managed to make these for the kids teachers - thanks to Kristyn. She made this for Lisa back in October and it was so cute. Thank goodness I filed the idea away, and then when I couldn't find it, that Lisa helped me remember.

They were really easy to make! I just printed out the names onto nice textured card stock and then trimmed it to the right size. The kids picked out the crayons they wanted to use, I hot glued them to the paper, and then I used double sided scrapbooking tape to attach the card stock to the back of the frame. The frames are about 3/4 inch deep collage frames, so those crayons are under glass. (I thought they would be easier to dust that way.) The kids made gifts too, but that's another post...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Present Plate

The present plate is my first attempt at an Advent Calendar. I had planned on calling it "The Countdown to Christmas" but my five year-old immediately decided "The Present Plate" was a more accurate description and it just stuck. All it is, is my largest serving platter, covered in white and gold snowflake fabric and loaded up with small bags and jewelry boxes (spray painted gold); each containing a small goody or two or an event / experience. For example, some of the things included are:
  • glow in the dark bracelets
  • two chocolate coins
  • two stickers
  • new pens and a note that says "write your name"
  • a note saying "go to Turtle Park"
  • bath confetti with a note saying "tonight is bath night!"
  • two Beanie Babies with a note saying "snuggle with your new friend and watch a show"
  • two small stuffed animals
  • a note saying "play a game after dinner"
  • new colored pencils
  • two pair of snowman socks and a note saying "go jump on the bed!"
  • a note saying "make a special project with Mama"
  • two new cups with snowmen on them
  • two little McDonald's stuffed puppies
Most of the things are items I picked up on clearance throughout the year, at the after Christmas sales last December, or found while thrifting. I bought the bag and plate-covering fabric when it went on sale last year and then saved jewelry boxes all year long. I came up a bit short with the boxes, but a nice sales woman at Kohl's took pity on me and gave me six of them the day after Thanksgiving. In all, I probably have $25.00 invested in it - including the fabric and paint.

I've had so much fun this December watching them take turns opening a present each night after dinner and then eagerly handing the note to their father or me to read. The Present Plate has been good for S and K; it has helped reinforce the lost art of taking turns, the importance of being happy for another's good fortune, remembering to say "thank you" (even when the gift isn't your favorite,) and of course - keeping track of how many days remain until Christmas (since they know we'll open the last one on Christmas Morning.)

I think this is going to become one of our family traditions...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Perfect Snowflakes Every Time

A Snowflake Tutorial
I love making snowflakes and being the perfectionist that I am, I like them to be as perfect as possible. The other day another teacher in the building asked me how I get mine to look so good, so I let her in on my little secret - it's all in the tools...

First, gather your supplies: square sheets of paper (I just use regular printer paper that I square using the paper cutter at school,) a pencil, scissors and a protractor. Take it from me, protractors are handy little tools to have laying around. Go ahead and get everything. I'll wait...
Next, fold the paper in half so you have a long rectangle - sorry, no photo for this step. (At school we call this "folding the hot dog way.") Crease this fold well.

Then line up the side edges like you were going to fold it again - only this time into two squares (this is "folding the hamburger way," if you're curious) but don't really fold it. Just crease it - down on the edge that you already folded.
Lay the paper flat on the table and it should look like this:
Now, get out your trusty-dusty protractor and line it up on the little crease you just made. (If you haven't used one since high school, you can refresh your memory here.) Align the protractor so that the center mark is over the crease and the 0 and 180 degree lines line up with the folded edge of the paper - which should be along the bottom.
Find the 60 degree mark. Use your pencil to make a small dot at 60 degrees.
When you move the protractor, you should be looking at this:
Next you are going to fold the bottom edge of the paper so it touches that little mark you made. I use my finger nail to help me get the bottom to fold exactly where I want it to.
then fold so you have this, (See how the edge lines up with the dot?)
and then crease well. (Like my owl jammies? I often live in my jammies on weekends, but I digress...)
Unfold the paper and you should have a line that looks like this:
Now, fold the bottom edge from the other side over until it touches that fold you just made. Again, use your nail to keep that bottom point nice and crisp.
When you unfold, you should have a V in the center of the paper.
Fold the paper back up along the folds you made. My students call this step "making a heart" because they think the folded piece looks a little like a heart.
Take that heart shape and fold it in half. Again, use your nail to help keep the bottom point looking good.
The top edges of the paper will not be even so you need to trim them. Use your scissors to trim away the uneven edges. The dotted line in the photo below is where I cut.
This is what you should be looking at:
Now comes the fun part. Use your scissors to cut away parts of the triangle to create your snowflake. Be careful not to cut away an entire edge. If you do, you'll get several pieces of paper instead of one flake.
Keep cutting until you are happy.
I like to experiment with straight lines as well as curves. When you are all done unfold your snowflake and bask in its beauty and almost perfect 60 degree rotational symmetry. Now go back and fold about 10 more because they're addictive...
If anything isn't clear to you, please let me know. Since I am a math teacher there may be directions here that make perfect sense to me but are unintelligible to you. If that's the case, email me or leave a comment and I'll edit the tutorial to make it more clear. Now, go make a flake!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mackinac Nights

I thought you might like to take a gander at the island's downtown - at night. I just love how everything looks this time of year when it is all lit up.

I took photos on the hayride and at the tree lighting on Friday night, but none of them turned out very well. Nighttime photography and corralling two excited children just don't mix. So I went out again on Saturday night, tripod in hand, and got much better results.

Christmas lights just make me smile...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas Bazaar 2009

Part Two...

Community Hall at the height of the Bazaar.
Click and blow this one up. It's much better bigger.

If you've never been to the Mackinac Island Christmas Bazaar, you're missing out on a fantastic experience. If you're an island fan, you should visit the Bazaar at least once. Our community tries to make sure there is something for everyone and all the money raised stays on the island. (It is shared between the Medical Center and the island Churches.)

There are booths of things for sale for the adults - including my favorite table - the baked goods, as well as auctions for bigger ticket items. And of course, Santa makes an appearance. No one quite understood why I was taking photos with the kids looking away from the camera, but I was thinking, "Oh, that's perfect - I can post that one!" Santa is played by one of our local dray drivers; a really great guy. We're lucky he is willing to sit there roasting in that suit, smiling while people put their screaming children on his lap. (If that Santa suit looks familiar, you may be remembering this post.)

There were also crafts for the kids over at Trinity Church, but we didn't make it. Our lives are currently ruled by nap time, so after giving Santa their letters my two were done. We went right home for a much needed rest - Mama included.

Today is the big auction and the prime rib brunch. Yum yum!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Perfect Timing

Our mittens were done just in time for snowmobile season! Which Started Friday in almost the best possible way. I rode my bike to school on Friday morning and my husband took me home on the snowmobile Friday afternoon! No month long walking on roads too icy for bikes but not snowy enough for snowmobiles. Trust me, those times on Mackinac are not pleasant.

Snowmobile season started on the perfect day because this weekend is the island's annual Christmas Bazaar. Lost of people brave the winter weather for this annual event.

One of my favorite parts of the Bazaar is the island's community garage sale. It's held in one of the island's few garages (since we don't have cars) - can you guess who's garage it is?

(Dennis, the Fire Chief, let me climb up on one of the trucks to take this picture.) The kids love the sale too. They each got to enjoy a hot dog, brownie and some cocoa and then got to pick out a toy to take home. Since I could ride my snowmobile, I took the kids home after they ate and then I went back later to shop for wool sweaters - what else?

I did manage to find a few other treasures too. A vintage apron, some wooden trees for the kids to decorate, a rain hat, two blue and white plates, and three bottles of glitter. I've never seen glitter in glass bottles before so I think they've been around a while. With two little kids in the house, I'm predicting they'll finally get used.

Today we'll all go back to the Bazaar for lunch and to see Santa. He arrives at one - on a fire truck...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mackinac Mittens

Eight Mackinac Island women + a pile of felted sweaters = a whole lot of fun.

We cut, we sewed, we chatted and we had a great time just hanging out in my classroom at the school making mittens. (Just try to ignore the messy parts of my room. The kids and I have a ton of projects going on right now.) Not everyone got a chance to finish theirs, but everyone made great progress - even K, who hadn't touched a sewing needle in over 40 years! The entire Mitten Making Party was actually her idea. She wants to make some for all her relatives for Christmas.

I loved using everyone as guinea pigs for the mitten pattern and tutorial I've been working on. It was good to see what made sense to them and what was clear as mud. As a sewer some things are obvious to me, but sot so much so to someone else who doesn't really sew. You know? I've been making good progress on the tutorial so I'll get it up within the next couple of weeks.

I'd love to get to it sooner but Mackinac Island life is just crazy right now! The Christmas Bazaar is this weekend, DARE graduation is next week and the Christmas Program* at school is the week after that. Throw in the fact that my students and I are making light up cards for their parents and gingerbread houses between practices and I'm surprised we all have time to breathe!

*We may be one of the last schools left to actually have a "Christmas Program." I love how our entire town comes out for it - regardless of whether or not they have kids in school.