Crafter: A fireplace for the living room

Ah, nothing like a fire when it’s cold outside!

I usually craft at night, after the kids are in bed. I enjoy that time but I would like to craft more with my daughter, since she gets to benefit from the fruits of my labor. This Christmas break, I made the time and effort to craft together and we decided to make a fireplace for her dolls.

We were inspired by the wonderful My Froggy Stuff video on how to make a fireplace. Check it out at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4-UG4JOj7w

The fireplace she made was wonderful but a little small. We don’t have contact paper floating around so we used some of the scrapbook stash that I have accumulated over the years.

First we used a child’s shoe box as the fireplace. My daughter painted the inside black while I cut out 4 pieces of cardboard to be the hearth and mantle. After 2 coats of black on the inside, she’s picked out a pretty purple paper that had a look of stone to cover the hearth and sides. I taught her how to use modpodge as a glue and sealant and also how to pull heavy paper along side a table edge to help it bend.

Meanwhile, she had decided that she wanted the mantle to be white so Mom covered the mantle with white paper. After everything was covered, I hot glued the 3 pieces together. She modpodged everything and we let it dry overnight.

Purple marble and white wood mantle

At Christmas clearance, we picked up a small strand of 35 lights and cut a small hole in one side of the fireplace to string the lights thru. We used a band to contain the lights in the right size for the fireplace and then it was time to decorate.

For the flames, we were inspired by the Gothard Sisters at the website below. On the left side of their page, under crafts is a page entitled How to Make a Fireplace. http://www.ourdolls.net/

My daughter had found some sticks and we used tissue paper and white scrap paper for the flames. We tore some tissue paper into “flames” that would curl around a log. We them put it on the white scrap paper and colored it red in the center, surrounded that with some orange and then finished with mostly yellow, all scribbled with markers. Then, we used a paint brush and some water to blend the colors and let the tissue paper dry. When it was finished, we used the tissue paper as well as some of the images that had bled into the scrap paper.

I think it turned out really well and it was fun crafting together!

The dolls will enjoy snuggling before this fire!

We will put it in her dollhouse soon and will post about her big screen TV that will hang over the fireplace!

Crafter: AGD bathroom, part 3

Time to finish the shower and make the vanity. One of the things I obsess about when I’m making doll things is proportion. I know I shouldn’t and even things made by American Girl Doll are sometimes of 2 different sizes but, that’s me, as an adult, enjoying my hobby.

One thought is that all things are in relation to your doll like she is an adult, ie she will stand as tall as her refrigerator. Another thought is that, because she is supposed to be a girl doll, not an adult doll like Barbie, that her things should be a little big for her. Because making things smaller, like she’s an adult, is cheaper and easier to store, most store bought things are made in that size relationship. I make things a little bit big, I think it looks better and more realistic but I know we have the space.

Baby food containers, waiting to be traced onto the vanity

The vanity! One thing I’ve seen on some YouTube videos is vanities made out of American Girl accessory boxes. They are a good height. We used one that had contained the Fiesta set. I sealed it with hot glue, painted it blue and added cardboard “doors” on the front. Then I cut out a slightly larger cardboard piece and covered it with white paper to be the vanity top. I modpodged the paper to make it a more durable surface.

Our painted vanity and sinks

I used two baby food plastic containers to be the double vanity sink. I traced the bottom of the containers onto the vanity and cut them out, making them a bit bigger than the containers so they’d fit snug. I then cented the countertop over the vanity and cut holes out of the vanity below. I painted the inside of the containers blue, to match my theme. I’m still working on the faucet but should have it soon.

Remember the top of the pop bottle we saved from part 2? I used that as the shower head! I painted the inside blue, covered the lid with tinfoil and hot glued it into my shower. I used some folded tinfoil as a pipe above the shower head.

I covered a baby food lid with tin foil for the water knob. My lid had an inset so I cut out a piece of paper to fit inside and colored it similar to our shower knob. I cut out a small piece of cardboard, covered it in tinfoil and added a small piece of crumbled tinfoil under it to support the bottom of the L piece of cardboard. Hot glued to the wall, it can hold soap.

Inside of the shower

Part 4 will bring us the painted walls and the window. We need a privacy window, because it’s a bathroom. Come back tomorrow to see what I used…

Mess: My recent diagnosis of ADHD

ADHD for adults is often reverse diagnosed, the doctor told me.  He has many parents that bring their children in for testing and diagnosis and they realize that their children are just like them.

I’ve always had a hard time with organizing my time and my life. I’m a procrastinator (which is why it’s hard to blog very often!), I have a difficult time finishing what I start, I am motivated my emergent situations, not by everyday things that need to be done (read house cleaning and paperwork!)

I was a gifted kid that heard all my life, “You have so much potential!” In school, I thought  I was too cool and smart to do things like homework, yet I aced a lot of tests. I could half listen in class into high school and do well enough. This wasn’t always a gift as I alienated a lot of teachers.

I didn’t want my daughter to follow in my foot steps but have had a hard time being diligent in helping her make good time management choices and to be organized.

After being diagnosed with post partum depression, I decided that I’d seek out medical help for my ADHD. I knew after a lifetime of thinking and acting one way, it was going to be hard to change. Reading books about ADHD, I knew I needed medicine to help me make life changes.

I started Strattera and Focalin about 2 months ago. They have been a big help! While I continue working with professionals about how to use my time wisely and work on changing some habits, the meds enable me to see things differently. This is a long journey, the nurse practitioner says it takes about a year to get meds adjusted correctly and change habits but, I’m on my way. I still don’t like to clean or organize but, I now have some periods where it’s not completely overwhelming.

I hope that I will inspire the 3 of my 4 children that have been diagnosed with ADHD to take control of their lives. My ADHD has given me some great gifts: I’m an out of box thinker, a multi tasker and can work like superwoman when my adrenalin is going. But it’s also challenged me in areas that require time management, organization and repetitive tasks. With medicine, professional help and some work and effort, I see some light at the end of the tunnel where I can find balance and be the role model that I want to be.

Crafter: American Girl Bathroom, Part 2

Today, it’s potty time! Sorry, with one in diapers and one potty training, it’s a focus in our lives.

We can’t have a bathroom without a toilet and I wasn’t sure at first how to make it. I always like to use recyclable materials and I

Cut in half, 1 inch trimmed, the pouring part cut off and saved

really wanted a round shape. I was inspired by the bathroom made at: http://myfroggystuff.blogspot.com/2011/09/making-of-doll-bathroom.html She makes wonderful things for dolls of all sizes and her videos are great tutorials!

Our au pair suggested using a pop bottle and I was so excited! I had thought of doing papermache with a balloon to model it around but, a pop bottle is ready to go. I think you could also  use a disposable cup or possibly a bowl or cup purchased from Goodwill.

I cut the pop bottle in 2 parts and cut off about an inch of the bottle. I then cut slits into the top of the bottom of the bottle, to make it easier to slide into the top. I then cut the top off of the top part of the bottle, to make a round shape for the top of the toilet bowl. Reserve the threaded part for the third installment in making the bathroom!

I then slid the top and the bottom together to make the toilet bowl. It seemed sturdy enough without glue to me. I then poured acrylic paint inside, using a brush to paint it around.

Here is the toilet bowl in proportion to our doll

Now I needed to make the back of the toilet. I looked around for the right size box; I finally found a couscous box that seemed right, after I cut it a bit. After painting, I cut a piece of foam and glued the toilet top on.

My painted and finished toilet

Finally, I wanted to glue the two parts together. I knew I could glue both parts to the walls but, wanted the toilet to be self contained, so we could change things if desired. I found that HOT GLUE MELTS POP BOTTLE PLASTIC! Learn from my mistakes and don’t mix hot glue and plastic.

I hope you enjoyed this post and check out tomorrow’s shower craft .

Julia checking out the facilities

Crafter: American Girl Bathroom, part 1

Hi All!

Sorry for the time away; been crafting and cooking for my big family! Now that the holidays are finished, we’ve been working on my daughter’s doll house, something we built under her bed and will show later in a video.

We decided that it needed a bathroom and have been busy measuring, planning and crafting. This is a multi step project because we’re making the walls and floor, a shower, toilet and sink as well as a shelving unit.

First, we measured where the bathroom will go to make sure that it would fit. My daughter’s dollhouse is a very open design but we all know that you can’t utilize the bathroom when everyone can see you from the kitchen and the living room!

I measured the area where we wanted to put the bathroom and came up with an area 19″ wide, 21″ high and 22″ long. If you can find a box that fits your area, great! But I found a wonderful stash of 7′ by 4′ by 6″ boxes to cut and make what I needed. These boxes had held a sauna so maybe check out a place that sells saunas for free material.

The beginning of the bathroom!

I cut one long piece of cardboard to become a “U” shape to form the two sides and floor of the room. I cut one long piece to form an “L” shape to reinforce one side and become the back of the room. I use a utility knife to cut cardboard and cut it on top of a wooden work bench. Use parent supervision to use a utility knife and ask your parents where you can cut; you don’t want to cut into the carpet or the kitchen table by accident.

You can see that my lines aren’t straight; it’s hard to cut a large piece of cardboard straight, while trying to not cut into the floor! I don’t think the dolls will mind though :-)

After I was sure the room would work, I cut a small window out and cut a small area for the door on the right side. We wanted the doll to come through the door but, also wanted to utilize the back of the wall for the kitchen so, we only cut about 1/2 a door.

When I had the box done, I put it into the space we will use for it and planned the location of the shower, toilet and vanity. My

Julia in her soon to be shower

daughter wanted some storage so also planned out where I’ll put a shelving unit. I used a pencil to sketch where I’ll put everything because I craft in the kitchen.

I cut two L shaped pieces of cardboard and stacked the small sides for the floor and hot glued the edged on where the long sides met.

After I glued the shower together, I covered it with Mod Podge and tin foil. Now that the shower is finished, time to work on the toilet, vanity and shower head. Tune in soon to see the next steps!

What will I do with the pop bottle?

Crafter: American Girl Kitchen Sink

I’ve been working on a full kitchen for my daughter’s dolls to go with the refrigerator I made earlier. The hardest part for me is figuring out the right scale or box size to doll size and then finding the right boxes. Coming soon is an experiment with making my own box, stay tuned!

I used a box that shipped vitamins that when it was on it’s side, its was as tall as the dolls’ waists.

I used some extra cardboard to put a shelf in and it provides a lot of kitchen storage. I also used extra cardboard to make the counter top.

For the sinks, I found some mini loaf pans and cut thru the two layers of cardboard and hot glued them in. The faucet is a cut off piece of hanger that I threaded into the back of the box from the top and covered it with some tubing that used to cover our faucet spray attachment before we replaced our people size kitchen sink.

The nice thing is that it’s somewhat flexible so my daughter can move the sprayer back and forth.

I hope this sparks some creativity in you to create for your dolls or significant others in your life!

Mother: Children with Hearing Loss

My oldest daughter was diagnosed with permanent hearing loss just before she was three. I suspected deafness when she was 9 months old and something loud fell and she didn’t react. After tubes in her ears to drain the infections, sedated hearing tests and speech therapy, they said she had a mild to moderate loss in one ear in the high tones.

What did that mean? It meant we kept up speech therapy until she was 8. It means she’s 10 and on her 3rd hearing aid, something that costs just under $2000 and isn’t covered by insurance (and is easy to lose.) It means that she’s on her 5th set of tubes in her ears. It means that her loss has gone from mild to moderate to severe to profound hearing loss in one ear. It means we’re awfully protective of her “good” ear and won’t allow her to do certain sports. If she had a head injury, she could lose any residual hearing in her bad ear.

When we adopted our now 6 year old son, we didn’t know he had hearing loss but, he has a similar loss to his sister in his opposite ear. He can wear a hand-me-down hearing aid which is very unusual. When we adopted our now 4 year old son, we didn’t know he had hearing loss but he has mild loss in both ears. Our baby has had 2 tests and shows no signs of hearing loss so far.

The kids wear 4 aids between the 3 of them. Our two older children are very oral and go to traditional schools. We taught them baby sign language which helped with delayed speech. Our third son attends our local deaf school where he learns and uses ASL and they also have some total communication incorporated.

I’m not sure why God has us on this journey. I’m thankful there are so many ways to communicate! We’ve had great therapists and audiologists on the way and we have learned a lot. Here are some of the highlights of what we have learned:

  • Explore all the options possible for your children as early as possible and spend whatever you can afford to help them on their path. If you can’t afford it, ask around for organizations that help pay for what your child needs.
  • There are many different ways to help your child with hearing loss. Many people are passionate about their own and their children’s journeys and might present you with their opinions on your path whether you want it or not.
  • Find what’s best for you by looking into the different options.
  • Your child might speak and might not, depending on hearing loss but also other factors that you might not know about until they are much older. ASL research shows that kids that sign learn language well, period. Learning ASL as a young child will not prohibit your child learning to speak later but might help your child to communicate much earlier which will be good for the whole family. In the beginning any language is good language!
  • Many children in the world are bilingual, America is one of the only leading countries where they are not. You and your child do not need to decide to cut out a language too early. If you do, you can add that second language at any time, you are never too late. Yet, a child that learns a second language earlier, will usually be better at it.
  • Parents that have children that sign, MUST learn ASL! The statistics says that 75% of hearing parents of deaf children do not learn to sign. This is a travesty. Imagine living in a foreign country where your family all spoke one language but you weren’t allowed to learn it, you spoke a different one and no one was allowed to learn yours?

The deaf community has had a hard history and it’s worth reading about it to see it’s parallels to civil rights in the US. I can speak only for my experience and there are so many great books out there about people’s experiences.

We are so thankful for our local deaf school. Our youngest son, who has the best hearing of the children, is so happy at our deaf school, it’s a perfect place for him. He might learn to speak one day but if not, there is a community of people that accept him as he is. When he’s somewhere like church where people don’t understand him, he’s not happy, even though he can understand other people.

Our oldest daughter speaks very well and does great in her private school with small classrooms. But when the class gets loud, she can’t understand what’s being said around her and she gets frustrated. Even though she functions and you might not know she has hearing loss until you see her hearing aid, it affects her in ways that hearing people can’t understand.

I’m thankful for the many options there are for our children. Feel free to email or comment and tell me about your journey.

Cook: Baked Pumpkin Maple Custard


  I like to use ingredients that are as close to their original form as possible. I like buying local and seasonal, when possible. Living in Indiana, we have access to farmers all around us, providing us with fresh vegetables for at least 6 months out of the year.

With my love of ethnic cooking, you’ll still find French truffle salt, Swiss chocolate and Korean seaweed in my pantry. But I’ve found that most countries enjoy products without  a lot of the pesticides, preservatives and excess “stuff” that we as Americans eat without much thought.

With that in mind, today I created a delicious custard with a butternut squash that I got from our CSA (community supported agriculture group,) raw milk and pastured eggs from our co-op and maple syrup for the sweetener.  I know the title says pumpkin but, I’ve read that most cans of “pumpkin” is actually squash anyway. I based my recipe on the following:

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/maple_pumpkin_custards_with_crystallized_ginger.html

Just in time for turkey season, I hope you like it!

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups of raw milk
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 2 cups mashed butternut squash (prick a medium sized butternut squash with a fork 8 times. Microwave on high for 5 minutes, turn over, microwave for 5 more minutes. Cool slightly, peel, deseed and mash with fork or use a food processor for a smoother consistency. You could also cut in half and put on a greased pan in a 400 degree oven for approximately 1 hour until soft. Proceed as above)
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Put a kettle of water on to heat for the water bath.
  2. Pour milk into the hot mashed squash and mix well.
  3. Whisk eggs and syrup in a large bowl until smooth.  Add pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; whisk until blended.
  4. Divide the mixture among 12 6-ounce (3/4-cup) custard cups. Place custard cups in the roasting pan and place into the hot oven. Pour enough boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the custard cups. Bake, uncovered, until custards are just set but still quiver in the center when shaken, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer custards to a wire rack and let cool for 45 minutes. Refrigerate and eat for breakfast or dessert.

American Girl Sized Refrigerator

Why start a blog? Well I’ve been following Karen Mom of Three’s blog ( http://karenmomofthreescraft.blogspot.com/) for a while because, current crafting at my house usually involved making things for my oldest daughter’s American Girl dolls. It’s fun to play together, she appreciates it much more, it gets my creative juices flowing and it doesn’t have to be perfect! Check out the prices on AG stuff and you’ll see I could have spend hundreds of dollars on similar things.

So after emailing Karen to thank her for her great ideas; she asked me to send her some pics of what I’ve made for my daughter. After emailing back and forth, Karen offered to post some of my prior projects and encouraged me to start my own blog. Thanks Karen!

I’ve already made a stove and sink for the doll’s kitchen, of course cooking things are one of my favorite to make, so I decided to make a fridge.

American Girl Fridge Tutorial

Materials: hot glue gun and glue, 3 soda boxes, 1 11×17 sheet fun foam, 1 scrap pc black paper, 1 pc of white stiff paper, acrylic paint of your choice ( I used almost 1 whole bottle of pink paint, 1/2 a bottle of white paint and some grey paint to shadow the inside of the door.) A black pen, scissors, ruler, a paper cutter could be helpful.

Cost: I had everything in the house so, it was free. If you have the glue gun and glue, under $10. I’d recommend using a different type of glue for putting things inside of the fridge, I burnt myself using the hot glue. Don’t use hot glue except under the supervision of an adult!

I like to make things with whatever I can find around the house, if possible. I started with three 12 pack soda boxes, because they were a good size and shape.

First, I decided which side I wanted to be the door and cut around 3 edges to make the door. Because the boxes aren’t very sturdy, I decided to layer one box inside the other, for added strength. To do that, I cut the top and bottom off of one box and cut up one side to make a flat rectangle. I layered them, using hot glue.

 I made sure to turn the inside box so that the weak sides aren’t together. Soda boxes have some perforated spaces so you can carry them and you don’t what those sides together.

 Then I cut 2 long sides out of the 3rd box, bent them in half and cut them on the bent line. These became my four shelves. I put the bottom of the fridge on the shelf, centered it and then put a line next to the fridge. You could also use a ruler to measure how big the shelf you wanted. Then I bent the sides down and glued them in, eyeballing where they should go. I also decided to use some of the left over cardboard to make an interior freezer door. For this, I cut a long rectangle and folded it in half. I cut one half to make a door shape to cover the top shelf and then narrowed the other side to slip in above the shelf and glued it in.

 Painting time! I painted the inside white, the outside pink to match the appliances I’d already made. I didn’t paint the door because I planned to use foam on it. I used at least 3 coats on the outside, to cover the lettering and 2 coats on the inside.

 I decided to paint a shade line on the inside of the refrigerator door, to give it some depth. To finish the inside fridge door, you could take a picture of the inside of your fridge door and figure out how to print it and get it to be the right size to fit your project. I wanted to give it some space to put things and used some cut and folded paper glued in to give very shallow shelving that my daughter can then make paper bottles of ketchup and things to insert.

Here is what it looks like with the doors glued in. I’ll post another time with pictures of what we can put in these shallow bins.

 If you’d like to do similar shelving, here are the measurements that I used.

 If you were making this right now you might be worrying about the door of the refrigerator. Why? Because after doubling the cartons and adding shelves, the door isn’t meeting the edge! I used foam, cut larger than the door itself to be the front panel. My foam wasn’t long enough so cut 2 panels. for this, I used my scrapbook paper cutter to give me straight lines. You could cut it by hand but the clean edges make it look nice. I also cut out an extra piece you can see, cut out the middle and backed it with black to be my ice maker. I wrote ice and water on it.

You might notice in the above picture a small pink handle on the left side. That is the lever I use to close the refrigerator. I cut out some strong cardboard, made it into a small popsicle stick shape and painted it pink. I then used the tip of my scissors to carefully put a hole in it and also the side of the fridge where I wanted the handle to be. I then inserted a brad to attach it.

 You can see I put the hole about 1/3 the way into the latch, and attached the latch close to the edge of the refrigerator.  That left me a good amount sticking out to act as the handle and to go thru the foam. I then noticed where the latch touched the foam and carefully cut a small hole in the foam, not too close to the edge, and tight enough so that the foam holds the refrigerator closed.

That’s it! I hope you enjoyed my first craft and might look at the boxes you have laying around and see new possibilities.

Cook, Crafter, Mother, Mess…

Have you ever heard that poem,

A. A. Milne‘s Now We are Six (1927)

Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief,
Or Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief, doctor, lawyer, Indian chief.
Or what about a cowboy, policeman, jailer, engine driver, or a pirate chief?
Or what about a ploughman or a keeper at the zoo,
Or what about a circus man who lets the people through?
Or the man who takes the pennies on the roundabouts and swings,
Or the man who plays the organ or the other man who sings?
Or What about the rabbit man with rabbits in his pockets
And what about a rocket man who’s always making rockets?
Oh it’s such a lot of things there are and such a lot to be
That there’s always lots of cherries on my little cherry tree. (from Wikipedia)

It’s what I thought of when I created the title for this blog. I’ve always seen the potential in life and how many hats we all wear. What I thought I’d be in childhood, high school, and college are all different than where I am now. Who knows what jobs and titles I might carry in the future? Regardless, I’ll always cook, craft and be a mom. The mess part I still have hope to change, as does my husband, but it doesn’t seem likely!

In this blog, I hope to share some of the adventures I have cooking, crafting and mothering. They can be thankless jobs but can also bring so much joy. I’m thankful for these gifts in my life and I hope that you might also join me on some of these adventures!

Always comment if you have anything you’d like to share.

Thank you!

Stephenie