Wooden bowls - These are great for stacking, sorting and pretend play. They can be caves, hills, play dishes, containers, or anything else your kids can dream up. Even Wal-Mart carries lovely, heavy wooden bowls in their kitchen section for around $2 apiece.
River Stones - Where I live, there are no natural, smooth stones to be found anywhere that is legal to take them, so I purchase them from craft stores. $1-2 will buy you a big net bag of large, smoothly polished natural stones that are excellent for sorting, arranging, building and using to create little nature play scenes for toy animals and fairies.
Shells - Seashells, like stones, are easy to find by the bag in craft stores. My kids spend literally hours sorting them into wooden bowls, organizing them and admiring them for their lovely color and feel. They are great for ocean play scenes and you can use them in crafts or to make natural jewelry.
Wooden Peg People - Simple, blank, wooden peg people from the craft section can be purchased by the bag for only a dollar or two and can be painted with soft acrylic washes in rainbow colors, played with natural or you can paint them as creatively as you like. With some simple sewing skills, little costumes can be made for them using felt.
Furniture - Chairs, tables, stools and bunk beds make excellent play structures. Some simple wooden clothespins are all you need for hanging sheets or play cloths for creating structures. You don't need to buy a $300 wooden play structure. Two dining room chairs will serve just as well. A large sheet thrown over a dining table makes a fabulous house to play in. Some thin cotton rope such as laundry line can also be used to create play structures but should be supervised.
Items From Outdoors - We bring the outdoors in often. My children love to play in the yard and when they are finished, they come in with handfuls of little flowers, leaves, sticks and seed pods. These natural toys inspire creativity and a love of nature. When they wilt, I just toss them outside at the end of the day and the children can bring in more. They are great for crafts as well.
Painting Boards - These are wooden boards used under paper for children to paint on. A nice, sturdy bamboo or wooden cutting board works nicely and is much less expensive.
Needle Felted Toys - I learned in about ten minutes how to needle felt. All you need is some wool roving in the colors you prefer, some felting needles, an old cushion to felt on or a large piece of soft foam and your imagination. Felting is very, very easy and takes just a little practice. For a little more than the price of the roving, you can make beautiful toys for your children. You'll also learn a valuable skill which can earn you some cash.
Playsilks - While it is nice to have playsilks made from silk, silk isn't absolutely necessary. I also purchase non-natural fabric scarves from thrift stores and save old sheets which can be made into play structures. If you only want to use silk, you can purchase less expensive blank silk scarves in all sizes from dharmatrading.com. These are easily dyed with Kool-Aid packets or I like to use food coloring and vinegar in a pot of very hot water on the stove.
The wrap itself is made from 5 yards of osnaburg fabric which is very inexpensive and not too heavy and makes for a great carrier that doesn't stretch. It is sturdy and comfortable. It can be dyed and washed in a washing machine. The fabric itself is too wide, so I cut one side down shorter and folded the edge over and sewed a simple straight-line hem with a sewing machine down the top rail. I left the ends unhemmed and let them fray to see how it would look. It frayed perfectly only about 1/2 inch in and I don't end up with any strings hanging off.
I purchased a vintage cotton doily on Etsy for about $2. Using inexpensive craft paints and a paintbrush, I created a wash for each color by mixing the acrylic craft paint with water. The result is a soft, Waldorf-y dyed look which is permanent. I simply dampened the doily and wrung it out to get it to lay flat, then centered it on a piece of cardboard to soak up the extra color and keep it from running. Then, using the paintbrush, I painted the doily with the colors I wanted to use. With needle and thread, I carefully hand-sewed the doily onto the center of the wrap.
If you plan to sew a doily onto your carrier, wash them both first! Your fabric may shrink a little with washing and you don't want this to occur after you have put the design on.
I'm very proud of the carrier and love the design so much. It's was time consuming, but very easy to make and very affordable.
If you don't have the time to sew on your own doily, you can dye or hand-paint your carrier to give it some color. Check out the link below to get you started:
Head on over to Life on the Balcony to learn how to create one of these awesome gardens on your own apartment balcony or small-space patio.
Mama hen and her three babies: two little hens and a cockerel there on the far back right who, since I still
Here's one of those articles I write on how I managed some poor skill which will likely not be useful to everyone. Or maybe even anyone. Still, it might help someone to see how I manage certain things on a daily basis.
I recently became the owner of a small flock of free chickens! Yes, free, as in I didn't pay a thing for them. No money, no coop, no feed, nada.
I live in Hawaii where it is normal to see wild chickens free-ranging around the neighborhoods. Even in the city, chickens can be seen roaming the streets now and then. I decided I wanted hens, but without all of the fuss and work and money involved. I just wanted free eggs and I was pretty sure that my pioneer ancestors didn't have to buy things like chicken feed and expensive coop supplies.
My first problem was the chickens themselves. How to get them? There they are, just waltzing up and down the street. These wild birds manage to do just fine on their own with no one to feed them. They free range and lay eggs and have their babies just like any wild bird does. Since they can take care of themselves, I worked on trying to figure out how to enjoy those eggs myself while letting the birds continue doing all of the work.
I quickly learned that the hens liked to come into our yard looking for a place to nest. Their search for a quiet, dark place led them to our shed where they would set and lay an egg a day if the spot was right. Not only that, a chicken will lay an egg where she sees another egg has been laid, so I was able to devise a scheme to get free eggs for a while. I set up a nice little nest area in the shed and put a golf ball in it. Sure as eggs is eggs, those ladies would come inside and see that golf ball and start laying their daily egg there. During certain times, I could go out in the morning and collect my nice, warm, fresh-from-the-chicken-butt egg to make my breakfast.
I then learned that the chickens wouldn't stay and lay in my nest box forever. They would move on when they decided that the bugs at the other end of the neighborhood looked juicier. So I set out to get them to stay. I began feeding them.
I couldn't afford to buy chicken feed to give out as a bulk diet, so I just saved kitchen scraps. I keep them in a container in the kitchen or in the fridge and toss them out to the birds twice a day while calling them. The chickens quickly learned they would be fed two or three times a day depending on how many scraps I had and it doesn't take more than a small handful to keep them hanging around the house full-time.
So there you have it. I have my own flock of free chickens. They care for themselves, roost in the tree outside and because it's Hawaii, I don't even have to worry about what I'll do with them in winter. Our dogs and two cats do a great job of keeping mongooses - the only predators - away, and even if I lose a bird here or there, it's no skin off my back as they don't cost me a dime and do their own thing. I pay nothing for them and in exchange for a handful of scraps and breadcrumbs, they hang around the house and give me fresh eggs whenever I want them.
Since we tend to use our clothes until they are worn through with holes and no longer suitable to give away, I like to put mine to good use as rag rugs. These beautiful rugs are made from simple strips of fabric that have been torn or cut from old clothes, sheets and scraps. They can be used around the home or they make great gifts for anyone who loves that country farmhouse look.
Braiding and then stitching together is one way to make rag rugs, but it is time consuming and the stitches eventually wear out, causing the rug to fall apart. I prefer to crochet my rugs using a crochet hook. It's a simple single stitch that anyone can learn which is repeated again and again until the rug is the desired size. You can create oval or circular rugs using this technique and the rug will hold strongly together and last for decades.
1. First, cut your pile of rags into long strips approximately 1.5 inches wide. You will need a lot of rag strips. One brown paper shopping bag full of strips will make one small bathroom-sized rug.
2. Next, lay the top end of one piece over the bottom end of another and cut a small notch through both. Pull the other end of the bottom piece through the back of the hole like in the video below. You should now have two pieces connected to make a longer piece. Continue doing this with all of the rag strips.
3. Once you have one huge long piece, you can roll the long strip of rag into a big ball. To make it more manageable, you can just connect part of the sections at a time so you don't have such an enormous ball of rags to tote around with your rug. When you reach the end of the rag ball, you can just continue adding more rags to the end and create another long length of rags and a new ball.
4. Begin crocheting your rug. This video tutorial has a great explanation of how to crochet the circular style of rug and what type of hook you will need.
And this video shows a better explanation of how to create an oval-shaped rug:
These crochet rugs can also be made from plastic shopping bags. Check out this instructional video:
5. When you are finished, pull the final stitch tight and tuck the end into the rug using the crochet hook.
The finished rug can be shaken outside to remove dirt and washed in the washing machine when needed and then hung or laid flat to dry.
Wear it out,
Make it do
or do without.
This recipe just exactly fills a medium sized baby food jar if you're looking for something to store it in.
3T coconut oil
1/3 c baking soda
1/3 c corn starch
5 drops each lavender and tea tree oil
My daughter has a lot of friends which means I'm often busy making birthday presents for all of their birthday parties. Here's one of my favorites. This little washable, draw-your-own doll is a real hit with kids and is super easy to make. It would be a great first sewing project if you aren't proficient with a needle and thread (you can do it!) and it makes a wonderful gift or stocking stuffer. It should only cost you a dollar or two for the markers so it's a very affordable gift that you can give to a child of most any age. Kids love to draw their own friend which they can then keep that way forever or wash and redo it again and again. I have had good luck with Crayola washable markers which are made in the USA from recycled materials.
1. First, print out the template and cut out the pattern. You can change the size on your computer to make it as big as you like.
2. Take some white or natural fabric (cotton duck, muslin, etc. - I used some leftover osnaburg cut from a baby wrap I made) and cut two pieces the size of the pattern so you have a little bit of an edge all the way around.
3. Use something (I used a red Sharpie pen, not marker) to trace the pattern onto one side of the fabric.
4. Pin the fabric pieces together at the corners and center.
5. Sew all the way around the pattern on the line leaving a 2" hole in the top of the head.
6. Cut out the doll with sharp scissors all the way around leaving about 1/4" of fabric out past the stitching. Leave 1/2" flaps of fabric at the top of the head where the hole is. You'll tuck these in later and sew them.
7. Turn the doll inside out and stuff it. I like to use polyester batting from old pillows which I have washed. It washes well and polyfill is not treated with fire retardants. Use scissors or a dull pencil to poke batting down into the arms and legs well. Use your hands to shape the doll to prevent lumps.
8. Overstuff the head, then tuck the ends of the fabric down inside the doll's head.
9. Use an invisible ladder stitch to close the hole. You're done!
The dolls can be machine washed cold, then sponged with a dry towel and laid flat to dry.
Place approx. 2 tbsp beeswax (or other wax) into each section of a silicone soap or candle mold. Use only silicone. Plastic will melt in the oven and you may never get your wax out of a metal mold. Also, 2 tbsp is approximate. Just eye it. It doesn't have to be absolutely perfect. Add 1 tsp oil to each one of those. You can use vegetable oil. I used olive oil. Then place a piece of the crayon in each to add the color. Place the mold on a cookie sheet and put in the oven on 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
When the wax is completely melted, remove everything from the oven. Use a popsicle stick or something similar to stir each color well until all of the wax looks smooth and creamy. The wax may settle or separate a bit, so you might need to go back and stir each one again. Stop stirring if you see it starting to firm up a bit or you'll end up with messy-looking wax.
Let cool on the counter or wait until firm and then put in the freezer if you're impatient. Once completely cooled all the way through, pop it out of the molds. Use a rag to brush off excess.
These make really great stocking stuffers! I borrowed molds from a friend, so I went ahead and made 2 years worth of batches for my kiddos so I won't have to ask to borrow the mold again. The wax is firm, but softens well when warmed up in your hands while kneading it.
This year, my daughter has a new little brother, so I made a winter play scene for her that has both of them with a little sled to ride and a little snowman to build.
I purchased the wood pieces very affordably from this Etsy shop. I made my own color wash using safe acrylic craft paints thinned with water. You can leave them as-is once dry or you can seal them with a handmade beeswax polish.
I purchased an undyed destash playsilk from a mama on Etsy for $7 to use as snow. I'll be wrapping up the whole set in the playsilk and slipping it into her stocking to find on Christmas morning.