IMG_3492The second craft at Big Girl’s 8th birthday party were charm bracelets.  One of the things I was thinking about when I was planning this party was about how I could (subtly) teach the girls something about how things are made and in doing so, empower them to feel like they too can make (instead of buy).

I figured making jewelry (other than simple beading) was something that seems especially mysterious  and hard so therefore it would be a fun and exciting project to try out with the kids.  Big Girl and I decided that charm bracelets were the way to go.

What you need:



charm beads

jump rings


We purchased chains, clasps and charms online (we ordered from Oriental Trading Company).  We decided to order a pack of pink, purple and blue chains to create fun and springy bracelets.  The charms we picked were all either Spring (birds, butterflies and flowers) or in the same color family.  I already had jump rings and wire cutting plyers so I didn’t need those.  This craft cost about $45 for 18 bracelets with lots of leftover charms for future activities.

134In advance I cut the chains into approx. 6″ lengths and used a jump ring to attach the clasp to make the bracelets.  For those of you who have never done this, it sounds hard but is pretty easy.  You simply need to cut the chain link with the wire cutting part of needle nose pliers.  The little links next to the chain in this picture are the cut links that we removed when we cut the chain.

Jump rings are those simple metal rings you’ll find on all of your jewelry.  You see in this picture a pile of silver jump rings and the plastic case holding an assortment.  You can use jewelry pliers to help you open and close them, but you can also often do it with your fingers.

For this project we used fairly large ones that were easy enough for the kids to grasp in their hands.

I also discovered that most of the charms we had purchased did not come with rings so I attached jump rings to all of the charms so the kids wouldn’t need to deal with finding rings themselves.  I made Big Girls do lots of this work as it was pretty time consuming. She got a little cranky but she’s really good at putting jump rings on now!

Once I had premade the bracelets and prepped the charms, I laid out the charms by type and posted instructions on a tray.  121

I asked each of the girls to first lay their bracelet
out flat on the table then to pick out the charms they wanted and to place them where they wanted them to be.  I showed them how to open and close the jump ring and encouraged them to try it themselves.  I helped each kid in turn to either tighten the ones they had done themselves or to attach the rings for them.

They turned out really well.  IMG_3486My girls and I have been wearing ours often!  Several of the girls were able to open and close the jump rings themselves and create the entire bracelet.  For a few of the girls, I may have reached a bit too high.  But, you have to admit these bracelets are charming!

The final big project for the party was making clay beads.  I’ll post more on that within a few days.


Big Girl turned 8 a few weeks ago.  She was really eager to have a birthday party at home this year.  We decided to invite the girls in her grade (12 kids) to our house for an evening craft party.   To make this really fun and special, I decided to think up some crafts that would be wearable, a little challenging and distinct.  The next big challenge though?  How to do this without spending a fortune?

After tons of brainstorming, Big Girl and I finally settled on three major craft activities (not counting cupcake decorating!): hair-ties & headbands, charm bracelets, and clay beads.  Each of these crafts were reasonably affordable and manageable for kids 8-12 years old.

First up, hair-ties and headbands:119

I was so amazed a few months ago when I discovered that those fancy “yoga band” hair ties were really just ribbon tied in a knot.  Ever since, we’ve been making our own, sometimes with the addition of bows, beads and flowers and sometimes plain.  We’re not a headband family, but we realized around the same time that we could make headbands just as easily.  We decided to share this magic with Big Girl’s friends as the first craft at her party.

To make these hair-ties and headbands, you need:

-needle and thread

-fold-over satin elastic bands

-flowers, gems, etc…  We used chiffon flowers.

I purchased the chiffon flowers and elastic ribbon on amazon.  Fifty flowers and 10 yards of ribbon cost about $25.  This is enough to make 10 headbands and 20 hair-ties with leftover flowers!

To prepare for the party, I cut the ribbon into 18″ (headbands) and 9″ (hair-ties) pieces and trimmed the netting off the back of the chiffon flowers.

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Hair-ties are super simple.  Just tie a knot!  I pre-knotted them for the kids.  For the headbands, I sewed the ends together with a three inch overlap.  It took a minute or so to quickly hand sew them; would have been even quicker with the sewing machine.

I then pre-threaded a dozen needles and laid them out for the kids to grab.  I wrote instructions on an index card and taped it to the tray.

I had them mix and match flowers with headban117ds/hair-ties and sew the flowers to the bands themselves.
It was a huge success.  The kids loved making them and wearing them.  Some of the girls needed a little help with the sewing but most of them could do it just fine.  And, check out how cute this looks!


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Super cute and super fun!  The charm bracelets were a big hit too.  I’ll post about them later this week.

115I mentioned months ago and weeks ago that we were turning an underused room into a library.  It’s finally done and it’s a lovely space.

I am enchanted with the idea that of a library, reading room and game space up at the top of the house where sounds can barely reach you and one can get lost in a great book. I look forward to the day when I’ll get to hang out and read up there.  In the meantime, I’m pleased to have made the space!

The major goals were 1) to create a space to store all of my favorite work related books; 2) to create a space where the kids could go and browse for a new unusual book to read; 3) a place for the kids (Big Girl especially) to play checkers or chess with a friend; 4) a retreat.

I think we hit all of those goals.  But it took some effort.  For one thing, it’s very small room.  It was a lot of work though to make it truly usable.  The room itself is less than 10′ x 8′ and has three doors and one window.  It used to be a small office, it could be a small kids’ bedroom, but instead we decided to make it a library.  With all those books it could too easily become a storage room instead.

To maximize storage, floor space and airiness, we decided upon a bright glossy wall color, very minimal built in shelves and floor pillows.  First, we had to clean the mess.  The picture below is already a cleaned up version.  The room was full to the brim of stuff! (Anyone else still storing 15 years of bills and receipts?  I know my husband would love to talk with you about all the reasons we needed that paper. )

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Next we picked the color and repaired the damages to the walls.  I used the same brown for the trim that I used in the kitchen a few months ago.  Big Girl and I decided to go for a bright navy blue that we though was kind of like blue velvet wallpaper.  Then we built book shelves by mounting 1″ x 2 ” to the wall, mounting shelves to them, and using posts on the fronts to make secure.

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This was an affordable way to build in almost 100 linear feet of bookshelves.  It took some real work though since our lathe and plaster walls are crumbling and we needed to insert toggle bolts before attaching the 1″ x 2″s.  (Thanks to my dad for this vision, drill bit and manual labor!).

We decided to move flor tiles from the kitchen (before the revision) up to create a rug.

Then the girls and I turned our attention to the floor pillows.  We bought some new fabric for these, but we also used TONS of stuff laying around the house both for the fabric and also for the stuffing.


We used an old dog bed we had bought for a little kid who kept falling our of the bed!  We used old bed pillows in a stack.  We cut open other old pillows and pulled apart their fluff to revive them.  And, we broke up old bits of foam (from an old breast feeding pillow and some other stuff) to create new filling for another pillow.  Little Girl spent several days hand-sewing another pillow for the room too.

All in all, it’s a lovely, sunny spot for reading.  I’ve just started Carol Berg’s _Soul Mirror_ (the second in the Collegia Magica) series.  Maybe I’ll find a chance this weekend to sneak up there for a bit and read.

IMG_3412It’s been a few weeks since I’ve had time to update here.

One reason is just the mid-semester busy-ness that makes it so hard to catch up.  (While my countdown helps with that, I’m not quite done.)

Another reason is that our library project has also taken an enormous amount of time! (About a month ago we decided to empty out a room on the third story that was being used mostly for storage and turn it into our library.  I’ll post pics about that project in the next few days.)

The third reason is that my kids have been on Spring Break and we have been super busy having tons of fun!  They went back to school today… and I’m missing them a bit.  So, I decided to do this post first: a collaborative found art rainbow that we made a few days ago to hang in the window of the library.  IMG_3405
We started by scavenging around the house to gather up items to use for the collage. We used bits of paper, pompoms, sequins, ribbons, feathers, scraps of paper, and even rubber bands from the asparagus frittata I had made for breakfast!

While the kids dug through drawers to find more materials, I cut a piece of clear contact paper and laid it on the table.  We then worked together to fit in the different objects we found in rainbow order.

To finish it we just pressed a second piece of clear contact paper over the top and folded it over to create a seam along the edges.  We used a hole punch to tie ribbons to the corners to hang in the library window.

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I really enjoyed making this because it was one of those rare projects where Big Girl, Little Girl and I could all participate collaborative and equally rather than dividing the tasks up. This could easily have been done with a younger kids too.

I also love that it is made only from found objects.  The papers we used were odds and ends that could easily have been tossed in the trash next time I cleaned up.  It’s a great trash-to-treasure project for sure!

I also like how this project gave Little Girl a chance to concentrate on sorting by color and concentrating on the relationships between colors.

And did I mention that it looks beautiful?!?!

Be back soon to show you the long promised library… promise.  And, next week I’ll post about Big Girl’s Crafty Birthday party.