My Arts and Crafts Room

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I am blessed to have a room in our house that is devoted solely to crafting.  It started out as an office for my husband as well, but if he works from home, he usually sits on the couch with his laptop or sets up multiple monitors in the living room or on the kitchen table.  So I quickly invaded his “space” in the office.  For a time after I had O, I was limited to the first floor due to hip problems, so this room served as a bedroom then too.  But now…oh NOW it is the most wonderful space ever.  I have two big tables for working and so so so many shelves.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Let’s talk about storage.  The amount of paper and supplies I have accumulated is staggering.  My favorite crafting endeavors involve yarn, paper, and fabric, all of which add up.  I have a lot of wonderful scrapbooking supplies that need a home, yarn scraps, extra fabric, a computer and printer, a sewing machine and photos, photos, PHOTOS!

First things first, I decided I wanted open shelves for the yarn and fabric, as well as for pretty baskets.  I love when you walk into a yarn shop and they have all those open spaces with fibers of all kinds and colors galore.   I wanted to store my yarn that way.   My husband is a self-proclaimed Ikea master, having assembled multiple shelves, cabinets, beds, dressers, and more from the Swedish company.  For storage solutions, I feel there is no equal, especially for the price.  We decided first on a 5 x 5 cube unit for my main storage.  Mine was the Expedit line, which is no longer available, but now they have the Kallax line which is similar (here is a 4 x 4 cube version).  My yarns look great in it, and the bins fit my 12″ x 12″ scrapbooking paper.  The Thirty-One Your Way cube fits in it great, by the way.  IMG_4982

This was alone in the room with some wall cabinets for awhile, but last year, my husband said, “I think we should move the kids’ art stuff into that room as well, and make it a family arts and crafts room.”  He thought maybe I wouldn’t like that idea seeing as how that was MY space, but it meant we’d free up dining room space, and I also felt like purging and organizing, so off we went to Ikea again!  The plan was to house all of the kids markers, crayons, paper, coloring books, workbooks, globe, stickers, etc in this room as well.  We also wanted a big space so all of us could work on projects at the same time. The challenge would be to fit it all in and still be able to hide it!

This time, my husband bought items from the Galant line, and they work great in the space.  The sliding doors hide so much stuff and the cubes fit as well.

Sliding doors  are open to show the shelves.  See the black cubes in there?  Hidden kid art stuff!  Also, that rolling cart to the left.  You got it.  It's from Ikea.  It's working great for current kid projects...move it out to the big kitchen table, move it back...whatever you want!

Sliding doors are open to show the shelves. See the black cubes in there? Hidden kid art stuff! Also, that rolling cart to the left. You got it. It’s from Ikea. It’s working great for current kid projects…move it out to the big kitchen table, move it back…whatever you want!

Upper white cabinets are from Ikea as well. The lower shelves are from the Galant line.  The shelf on the left is Ikea, but a discontinued line.  The multi-colored 12 x 12 plastic tubs?  Costco!  My other favorite place!

Upper white cabinets are from Ikea as well. The lower shelves are from the Galant line. The shelf on the left is Ikea, but a discontinued line. The multi-colored 12 x 12 plastic tubs? Costco! My other favorite place!

A big, HUGE table in the middle of the room with a peninsula for my sewing machine, and the room is complete!  I did pretty much NONE of the planning in this room.  It was completely my husband’s vision and DIY skills.  But now it is such a nice place for me and the kids to work on projects.  And it’s all tucked nicely away out of site when we’re done.

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I’ve since added a few small updates that I think add a lot to this creative space.  I find having markers and colored pencils out is both pretty and easy to use.  So I got this neat organizer at Michael’s.  I added my cutting board to the top of the table since I do a lot of rotary cutting and measuring of both paper and fabric.  Lastly, I added some paper pinwheels and banners to the space to brighten it up!

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Indian Lake Park

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At some point, I will need to do a post about the Dane County Parks.  There are some great ones in this county.  But as for now, let me tell you about my favorite, year-round gem….Indian Lake Park.  Until last winter, I had only been to this park in the summer.  It is GORGEOUS in the summer with well-marked and groomed trails and beautiful views.  I like to pack a lunch with G and O and head over there for the afternoon.  We picnic, run around, and then hike the trail up to the overlook.  Along the way is a small, yet very interesting, old chapel.   This particular trail is good for kids my age (6 and 5) since it is not overly long, has steps, a couple old, interesting trees, and a rewarding overlook at the top.  It is easily hiked by my crew.

Hiking up the steps to the chapel and overlook

Hiking up the steps to the chapel and overlook

Ahhh the reward.  Check out the gorgeous view.

Ahhh the reward. Check out the gorgeous view.

 

That’s all well and good but it’s DECEMBER right now.   Not gonna look like that.  Last winter, I discovered there is a sled hill here.  Okay so I know we don’t have snow right now, but we WILL.  So I highly suggest you plan a sledding excursion here.  The sled hill is a short hike from the parking lot through the snowy and beautiful woods.  At the top of the sled hill there is a large fire pit and a small warming house.  On the particular Saturday that we were there, there was a bonfire going, and the woodburner in the warming house was going strong.  G and I had a blast sledding here.  It’s a pretty setting and a perfectly sized hill.

Sitting near the fire pit at the top of the hill.

Sitting near the fire pit at the top of the hill.

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We saw many people cross country skiing here as well.  This is a sport I hope to try out again this winter.  I tried once as a teenager, and well, it didn’t go so great.  I enjoy the outdoors in winter though, so these trails look inviting!

When we get some substantial snow, head out to Indian Lake to sled.  And my kids would want to me to remind you that you MUST get hot cocoa after.  Winter activities must always be followed by cocoa, they say.

Movie Under the Stars

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Every summer we try to catch a movie as a family at an outdoor drive-in movie theater.  It’s always a fun time!  We started the tradition when our kids were wee babies, simply because our habit of seeing movies in theaters was interuppted by….babies!  So J and I brainstormed and thought , “how can we see a movie WITH a baby?” (we don’t have family nearby for babysitting and sitters were hard to find for awhile!).  The answer J came up with….let’s go to the outdoor.

And what fun it is!  The kids always play on the jungle gyms up by the big screen early while waiting for the sun to set.  We often dress them in their jammies before we get there, so when they fall asleep later, it’s easy to just put them in bed when we get home.  Other parents have the same idea, and it’s cute to see lots of kids running around before the movie starts, playing in their jammies outside.

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Playing around on the jungle gyms below the BIG screen....in jammies!

Playing around on the jungle gyms below the BIG screen….in jammies!

We take our van and park backwards and pop open the back to make a snuggly area for the kids to lounge.  We put nap mats or an inflatable matress, blankets and pillows in there and the kids have a great place to watch the movie (and fall asleep).  One time, my son only made it about 10 minutes before he fell asleep.  Whoops!  Too comfortable!

Sometimes, if the kids both fall asleep, we stay for the second movie (it’s often a more “adult” or older kid oriented movie).  Then, when the movie’s done, we load the kids (asleep) into their car seats for the ride home.

When the kids were babies, we brought a pack-n-play for them to fall asleep in.  Put a bug net over the top….done!  Worked like a charm.

Some things to remember to bring:  chairs for the parents, bug spray, blankets, and sweatshirts.  It has almost always been colder than I expect it will be to sit out under the stars and watch a movie.

Our usual place is the Highway 18 outdoor.  But check this website too for others in Wisconsin.

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Blooming Butterflies

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We are big butterfly fans here.  Well, G and I are.  O probably doesn’t care as much, although he enjoys them when we study them, search for them or see them in our yard.  It’s been a few years since we’ve been to Olbrich’s Blooming Butterflies.  The first time we went, we saw very few butterflies, and because of that, I decided to skip it for a couple of years.  This year, I decided we had to try again.  Boy am I glad we did.  We either hit a perfect day, or it was just better this year.  I HIGHLY suggest going with your kids!

The docents told us that it’s always better to be there on a sunny day.  The butterflies were extremely active while we there, repeatedly fluttering past us closely, landing on nearby flowers, and even landing on US.  They have an identification guide available which is very helpful for determining what kind of butterflies we are seeing.  I think we saw 7 or 8 different types of butterflies.  At one point, near a sugar water station, there were 5-6 butterflies just flitting around our hands.  G always makes it a mission to have one land on her.  She stayed perfectly still, and butterflies landed on her repeatedly!  I don’t recommend this for all children.  We have to remember not to touch their wings and to be VERY gentle.  But it worked out okay for G!

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After the butterflies in the conservatory, their is an easy scavenger hunt to complete in the outside gardens.  There are 5 stations set up to emboss a butterfly in your “Butterfly Passport”  set up throughout the garden.  G and O and I had a lot of fun completing this.  Each station has a yes/no question to think about which was usually an observation (“Do you see some large, flat leaves that a butterfly could perch on?”).  Once the entire passport is complete, the child gets a coupon to use for an ice cream at Michael’s Frozen Custard.  We found the scavenger hunt to be easy and not too much for small kids to complete.  But we are also very familiar with the gardens and don’t really even need a map.  Even so, I think  most kids would like it!

Exploring Olbrich during the "Butterfly Passport" scavenger hunt.

Exploring Olbrich during the “Butterfly Passport” scavenger hunt.

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Other things to consider:  We tried Crema Cafe for lunch and found it to be delicious!  And sometimes we stop at the Monona dream park located within Winnequah Park on the way home.  Always a hit.

We’ve done some other butterfly exhibits.  The one at the Milwaukee Public Museum is small but had a TON of butterflies.  The one at the Chicago Botanic Garden was also small but had a lot of butterflies as well…and it’s part of the Chicago Botanic Garden, which is a big plus and one of our favorite places (a topic for another post!).

Lastly, there is a great printable butterfly lapbook to complete here.  The kids have used this lapbook that they completed more than once!  See my post on lapbooks in general here.

 

Step Into the Past at Old World Wisconsin

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We are already fans of Laura Ingalls around here, and we have yet to even read all the original books!  We’ve been reading all the “My First Little House Books” (see what I’m talking about here).  Someday we’ll go through all the original books, but so far we are enjoying the easier books.  Both of my kids find it interesting to talk about pioneers and “the olden days.”  They especially like to hear what they would be doing if they were on a homestead during the pioneer days or if they lived on a farm 100 years ago or more.  They are awestruck just thinking about life without the electronics and conveniences of today!

Enter Old World Wisconsin.  We took a day trip to this amazing museum last week.  It was an absolutely wonderful day.  I didn’t anticipate my son having as great a time as he did, and we ended up being there for about 5 hours without any complaints or whining or “getting tired.”  G and O are 6 and 5 and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The grounds are set up with different areas, each area representing people from different countries.  My heritage is a mix of many European countries, and I really enjoyed seeing old Wisconsin farms built by people from Germany, Norway, and Denmark.  The farms have heirloom gardens to explore and heritage breeds of animals to see.  People in period dress work at each site and interact with the visitors and answer any questions.  The grounds are beautifully maintained.   It is quite large, but trams run between all the areas and we had no problem hopping on and off at the different stops.

The best part of each area were the experiences to enjoy.  All of the buildings are fun to explore on their own, but the best part is trying chores and actually feeling and seeing what it was like to live on one of these late 19th century farms.  In the Norwegian area, not only did we explore the farmhouse, see the sheep, and walk through the beautiful gardens, but we got to card wool and see and feel different woolen mittens and blankets that were made from the wool.  We sat through class at the one-room schoolhouse and learned a couple of fun recess games.

Carding wool.

Carding wool.

Learning about what it was like in a one room schoolhouse.

Learning about what it was like in a one room schoolhouse.

Learning some new "old" playground games.

Learning some new “old” playground games.

 

In the German area, we hung out in the summer kitchen with a wonderful young lady in period dress who showed us how she was making sugar cookies in the old wood-burning oven, how she had made rye bread, and then she took us out to give the two pigs a treat.

Giving a treat to the pigs.

Giving a treat to the pigs.

 

I was in LOVE with the heirloom gardens at each farm.

I was in LOVE with the heirloom gardens at each farm.

Then, we went to a neighboring German farmhouse and learned how to use a huge loom to make fabric.  We stopped in a barn along the way and noticed the adorable baby pigs.  We walked along a wheat field to yet another German farm where we donned wooden shoes to walk out to the chicken coop to look for eggs.  G did some more chores at this house including washing dishes and grinding wheat.  O swept the porch and “mowed” the lawn with an old-fashioned grass clipper.  Funny how much they loved chores when they were at OWW!

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One of the neatest areas is Crossroads Village.  We explored an inn, a blacksmith shop, a shoe shop, a wagon shop and more.  The best was the general store.  We were the only ones in the store and the shopkeeper really took the time to explain things and interact with my kids.  He showed them all the different types of grain for sale and how to use the old scale.  G had a fun time “arguing” with him about words that are used now and weren’t used back then (she was wearing Crocs….he said “no no no, THIS is a crock!”….and held up a ceramic crock, also “vest” vs. “waistcoat”, etc).

Old-fashioned fabrics lined one wall of the general store in Crossroads Village.

Old-fashioned fabrics lined one wall of the general store in Crossroads Village.

We learned how to make shoes at the shoe shop.

We learned how to make shoes at the shoe shop.

There are ample picnic tables, and you could easily bring a picnic lunch, but we chose to eat at the restaurant in the round barn on site.  Good food!  We ordered too much though….it’s just that the German potato salad and cheese curds sounded SO good as extras.  We were starving!

I highly highly highly recommend going to this museum.  We will definitely be going back next summer!

Kids in the Garden

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Teaching kids to garden or enjoy gardens, is invaluable.  It seems as though there are so many lessons to be taught around plants.  Their habitats, structure, life cycle.  Their part of the food chain.  The WORK that gets put into “creating” food for us to eat.  And the list goes on.  So, therefore, I get my kids to be outside enjoying gardens with me as much as possible.  They are not always interested, but when they are, they are learning, learning, learning.

This year, I told the kids they could each have their very own garden plot to take care of.  They could pick out the flowers themselves and plant them (we didn’t do any veggies….those are all in the larger beds).  They get to weed and water and do whatever they want with their own plants (like pick the flowers or not).  It’s been such fun!    They need reminding when the plants need water, and they’ve been lucky that we’ve had a lot of rain!  O is giddy that the sunflowers he planted are ENORMOUS already, especially in comparison to the rest of the little plot!  He’s also pretty proud of the amount of yellow daisy flowers he’s had.  The plant started with just one flower.  G loves her yellow and gold marigolds.

The two little kid plots in my garden.  O is giddy about his gigantic sunflower plant!

The two little kid plots in my garden. O is giddy about his gigantic sunflower plant!

 

The kids also occasionally help with weeding and watering the veggie garden.  We started heirloom tomato and pepper seeds in March and watched them grow in the greenhouse (“green tent” as G called it).  They really get more enjoyment out of planting those first seeds and watching the seedlings than watching the big plants grow now.  I think it’s because in March all plants are so new again.  Everyone is just so excited to see GREEN stuff.

Little plants in the "green tent."

Little plants in the “green tent.”

Hopefully soon we’ll have some delicious veggies!

Get those kiddos digging!

Get those kiddos digging!

Little plants are not so little anymore!

Little plants are not so little anymore!

Lastly, flowers.  My kids help plant perennials for the garden, but picking them out is mostly my domain.  They might help more in the future.  But G loves them when they are blooming!  One of these days I’d really like to get a whole section of garden just for cut flowers.  Someday!!  This year I added a few plants that butterflies and bees love, and I can’t wait to expand with more of those plants next year.  I’d also like to add more lilies in different varieties.  They are truly my favorite flower.

A lily inherited from my husband's grandmother.

A lily inherited from my husband’s grandmother.

Carefree Celebration shrub rose.

Carefree Celebration shrub rose.

And if you’re wondering my favorite resources for plants, here they are:  Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds for heirloom veggies.  Jungs, Bruce Company and Flower Factory for perennials, shrubs and trees.  And Stark for fruit trees.  We won’t discuss what happened with our fruit trees.  Fruit trees will be attempted again someday though!

Summer Projects: Lapbooks

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I’m not a homeschooler, but  I LOVE following homeschool blogs because I get so many great ideas and links for things to do with my kids.  I’m always looking for indoor activities in case of rainy days, illness, and that LONG winter we always have.  So when I came across the lapbook idea, I was hooked.  The crafty part of me loves the cutting and pasting, the lifelong learner in me loves teaching my kids in a new way, and the mom part of me just likes having my kids sit still for awhile and do some handwork!

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G and O love lapbooks and always have ideas for new ones for us to do.  I’ve actually been surprised how much they embrace these projects.  They will sit down and complete one from start to finish, which sometimes can take an hour or more.  They are very focused.  Then, they often incorporate them into other activities.  They play school with them.  They use the notes in them to help them identify things in the real world.  For example, we recently did a butterfly lapbook and it had identification cards that you cut out and put in a pocket.  O has used these cards more than once to show me the butterflies he is noticing outside now that it’s finally butterfly season.

Back page of butterfly lapbooks.

Back page of butterfly lapbooks.

Inside of butterfly lapbooks

Inside of butterfly lapbooks.

So how do you do a lapbook?  Simple!  You just check your house for extra file folders (or buy them at an office supply store), fold them up so they open in the middle, and paste stuff in them.  I love this website for lots of great printables to put in your lapbooks. This is also a good resource.   Any Google or Pinterest search will also reveal TONS of printables or links to other people’s lapbook photos.  If I see a great lapbook printable or idea, I print it out and store it in a folder for future use.  I came across this list of lapbooks to go with classic picture books.  Right now  I have printed lapbook papers for a Henry and Mudge lapbook and Peter Rabbit.  O said he wants to do a frog lapbook so I just downloaded that one today.    The possibilities are endless.

Lapbooks about plants.

Lapbooks about plants.

 

Lapbooks about plants.

Lapbooks about plants.