Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tutorial: Felt Doctor Bag

A big part of the "Real" Doctor Kit that I put together for my little girl was the Doctor's Bag. She needed something to carry all of her bandages around the house. I wanted something simple, that would be very cheap and I could but together in a short amount of time.
This cute doctor's bag needs only three sheets of felt, two black, one red and some red ribbon. Cut two strips from the red felt. The strips need to be about half and inch wide and two inches long.
Sew the cross to the middle of one of the pieces of felt.
Lay the two pieces of felt together with the cross on the inside and then sew three of the sides together. Clip your threads and leave the bag inside out for the moment.
Take two strips of ribbon that are each about four inches long. Sew one on one side of the bag in two places, a few inches apart. Sew the other ribbon on the other side, in the same places as the first side. Turn the bag right side out. Make sure to push out the corners as much as possible.
Overall this bag took me about 20 minutes and $1.50 to make. It has held up great, especially since she drags it all over. It is the perfect size for all of her medical gadgets and it lightweight and so easy for her to carry.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Curried Couscous

We love funny rice (couscous) in this house. Our first experience with couscous was on the salad bar at Jason's Deli and we have never looked back. We have tried it many different ways and this lightly flavored curried couscous is one of our favorites. It is very easy to make and perfect for one of your first experiences with this grain.

1 and 1/2 cups couscous
3 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
handful of cilantro, chopped

Mix all of the ingredients, except the couscous and cilantro, in a sauce pan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Pour the boiling liquid over the couscous in a mixing bowl and immediately cover with plastic wrap. Allow the mixture to sit for about ten minutes. Fluff up the couscous with a fork. Top with the cilantro.

Some of my tips:
I know it sounds odd to top it with cilantro but it really makes the dish. It is good without the cilantro and amazing with it. It adds the perfect accent flavor.
This makes quite a bit of couscous. Couscous really fluffs up when you add the liquid.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Children's "Real" Doctor Kit

Shortly after our car accident, my three-year-old began having nightmares that I was hurt. In an effort to help calm the nightmares, we decided she needed a doctor kit. After looking at a million toy kits, she was always unhappy that she wouldn't be able to hear real heartbeats with the toy stethoscopes. We decided we could make a bag with real things that would be way more fun.

The first thing I did was order a real stethoscope from Amazon. I bought this one here, for about $6.50. It is perfect, not very expensive but you can hear your heartbeat just fine.

At the dollar store, I found an Ace bandage, a wrist guard and a little notebook for her to write her diagnoses in. I had an old digital thermometer that is out of batteries that I included, but I did see thermometers at the dollar store as well. I included a sewing measuring tape so she could measure her patients and a roll of stickers to give them when they behave.

I made a shot, reusable wooden band-aids, as well as a doctor's bag (tutorials for all three are coming soon). I have also purchased a few other items, such as a real reflex hammer, but she has to wait for her birthday to add it to her kit.

She was so thrilled with the kit. We play doctor at least once a day and the stethoscope goes pretty much everywhere with us. This kit has been a hit even with the older kids. The older kids can't get enough of the real bandages and the chance to hear their own heartbeat.

I love this kit. I really feel like it fosters great imaginative play and it provides me with plenty of teaching moments with my daughter. We have so much fun using it together.

*Update*- We have since bought my daughter this Otoscope (the device used to look in ears) and this Reflex Hammer. She has loved both and now it feels even more like a real doctor kit!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Homeschool Preschool- Fun Ways to Practice Fine Motor Skills



One of the most important things you can do with your child, is help them develop their fine motor skills. Fine motor movement requires use of the small muscles in the fingers and wrists and fine motor skills is how well your child can control this small muscles.

Some common tasks that need fine motor skills include: holding a pencil, buttoning clothes, using scissors and typing on the computer. Fine motor skills are extremely important because they help your child be self sufficient. They allow them to eventually button their own clothes, tie their own shoes and zip their own jackets without an adults help. They are also important for playing musical instruments and even video games.

So how do you make sure that your child is developing excellent fine motor skills? Easy. Practice. You are trying to build the muscles in their fingers, so those little muscles need to be exercised.
 One of our favorite ways to work on fine motor skills is threading. Who doesn't love to make a fruit loop or pasta necklace? For our pasta necklace, I like the wagon wheels. They are easy to thread, but she still has to have the patience to put the thread through the correct hole.
 To make it a little more fun, we spray painted our pasta and added some glitter, but plain pasta works just as well.
 The best thread is a shoe lace. You can buy a package of 8 pairs at the dollar store and they are perfect. The end is finished so there is no fraying and it makes threading so much easier.
 Let your child thread and then let them wear their handiwork.
What are some other ways we work on fine motor skills?
We love to play Connect Four with our little girl. It requires her to pick up the pieces and fit them in the slot, also working her hand-eye coordination. Pick Up Sticks is also a great game for teaching fine motor skills. Practicing cutting lines on paper or holding a pencil correctly will also develop these skills.
Fine motor skills are extremely important and are something that should be developed BEFORE your child goes to kindergarten. With some easy and fun activities, like these, you can build your child's muscles so they can be independent and on target for their age.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

WotW: Clean up your inbox with Unroll.me

Once upon a time e-mail was the primary way people communicated with one another on the Internet. Today, e-mail is like that closet under our stairs – useful, but mostly a place to stuff everything in the off chance you may use it again some day.

Nearly every website you go to these days requires you to register for an account and then they spam your e-mail address with a million e-mails a day. Have you ever tried to unsubscribe from one of these accounts? Every now and then you'll find a nice easy one, but usually it's easier to change your last name on your social security card than to unsubscribe from a list.



Solution? Unroll.me, a service that simplifies your inbox and gets rid of unwanted e-mails. This short video produced by Unroll.me explains more.




To get started, Unroll.me scans your e-mail account for any subscriptions and generates a list of all subscriptions for you. To be honest, I have an e-mail address specifically dedicated to junk mail and I almost never check it. However, every now and then I'll have a service send e-mail to my primary e-mail address. When Unroll.me scanned my account, I was surprised to find I had 22 subscriptions.



Next, you have the option to unsubscribe from any e-mail subscription and it's as easy as clicking the minus sign next to the account. Seriously, could they make it any easier?

No offense, Texas Roadhouse, but you're clogging up my e-mail. Time to go.
Chances are, you won't want to unsubscribe from everything, and Unroll.me will take care of all your remaining accounts by "rolling" them up into categories (lifestyle, entertainment, news, etc). This makes searching for information quick and easy.


On top of this, they will compile this information into a daily digest for you. So, imagine you had four subscriptions in lifestyle, three in news and five in shopping. Typically, your inbox would have a total of 12 separate e-mails. After getting setup with Unroll.me, you will only receive 1 e-mail from Unroll.me (your Rollup) and inside that e-mail you will receive a report of each of those e-mails. You can click on any of the accounts to expand it and see what it contained. Unroll.me does not delete those e-mails from your account, it simply hides them from your view, keeping your inbox nice and clean and really making all those e-mails more manageable.






Oh, and did I mention this was all free? Pretty cool, right?


Currently, Unroll.me only works with Gmail, Google Apps and Yahoo e-mail addresses, though they are always trying to add more. But, honestly, if you're not using Gmail or Yahoo for your e-mail, well, why not?


Go ahead, get started by clicking here. It only takes a few minutes and will simplify your inbox.

Monday, June 18, 2012

20 Minute Shabby Rosette Headband

Rosettes are easy and a no-sew person's dream. They require hot glue instead of threading your machine and much less cursing. I love rosettes and I have made them for just about every single one of my daughter's outfits. They are easy to coordinate to a specific outfit and don't take very long to make.
 You will need:
Two fat quarters in coordinating color
hot glue gun and glue
elastic headbands
pearl type buttons
small square of felt
 Take your fat quarter and cut about a two inch strip all the way down the long side of it.
Tie a knot at one end of the fabric. Fold the strip together, wrong sides in, so on both sides you can see the pretty part of the fabric. Then start twisting. Twist the fabric together and wrap your twists around the knot, gluing as you go. I find I can usually only go a half inch or so before I need to glue down my twist with a dab of glue.
 Repeat. You will want one of one color and two of the others. You can make more or less, just remember, everything looks better in odd numbers.
 You will need some sort of elastic headband. I got this pack of 8 at the dollar store and most of them are perfect. Below is everything you will need to assemble your headband.
 First glue the headband to the circle of felt.
 Then glue the rosettes in a triangle to the felt. The felt will help stabilize the headband and give the rosettes something to be glued to. Take one of your pearl type buttons and glue it to the part of the headband where the rosettes meet.
20 minutes later, you have a darling headband, that was affordable and easy to make. Consider going in with a friend on fat quarters so you can make lots of different colors for super cheap!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Home School Preschool- Teaching Rhythm with a Homemade Drum



My husband is extremely musical and it's very important to me and him to have our daughter be musical as well. In our family, we have a rule that she must play the piano until she is good enough to accompany others and she also must choose one other instrument to play.

While she's still a few years away from beginning piano lessons, we wanted to instill a love of music in her with an instrument she could play. That's where my crafty side came in. Rather than spend money on cheaply made and poor-sounding musical instruments, I decided to make a basic drum for my daughter – and she loves it!


Making a drum is really simple. Take an empty oats container and glue construction paper around the cylinder. This is a great activity for your preschooler to get involved with because you can talk about circles and cylinders and how they are similar yet different. Once the paper is fastened, allow your preschooler to color, giving them ownership of the instrument.

As for drumsticks, you could use the real deal, but popsicle sticks are so much easier. I bought a pre-colored variety, but you can have your preschooler color the sticks as well. And that's it!

OK, so you've got a nice, crafty drum, but what's the educational value of it? Rhythm. Even if you're not gearing your child up to be a musical prodigy, teaching rhythm is a skill that will benefit them later in life in dance, athletics, math and science. Rhythm is really a study of numbers. This lesson will also enhance your preschooler's listening abilities, which supports language development.

To begin with, I showed my daughter how to alternate hitting the drum with the left hand and then the right hand. If your child doesn't know this difference, it's a great opportunity to teach and practice.

Next, we tied in our counting skills. I had her hit the drum four times in a row and count it. If your child is having a hard time with this, it often helps to clap with them. Once she mastered this, I had her do three sets of four and then wait quietly as we counted to four. This was her introduction to 4/4 time. If you're not musically inclined yourself, 4/4 time means there are four beats per measure (before the pattern repeats itself) and the quarter note gets the beat.


Teaching other time signatures and rhythms is just as easy. 

3/4 time is three beats.


6/8 time is six beats.


2/4 time is two beats.


When drumming, it's good to have your preschooler hit the drum a littler harder when you get to one. This will reinforce the idea that you're beginning a new measure, or starting the pattern over again. Also, make sure you rest, or don't play, for the same number of beats you were drumming. This will help you see if they really grasp the rhythm or if they're just banging away and having a good time.

Drums can get loud and out of control really fast, but once your preschooler masters a rhythm, it sounds better and they get excited about music.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dad photos for Father's Day

Every year, along with the electronics, the BBQ tools, and the gift cards, I like my little girl to have something to give her dad for Father's Day that reminds him of why it is so wonderful to be a father. This year we went with a sweet dad photo for his office.

The nice thing about the name Dad, is that you only need two letters. Lots of craft stores have cute letters to pick from or to buy plain and design your own. These white ones come from Hobby Lobby for $2.99 a letter.

We did a quick photo shoot using the two letters. We put extra emphasis on getting good pictures with the letter D because we would need two of the letters for the collage. Mostly I want to showcase her sweet, silly personality.

When we came home, I loaded the pictures in Picasa and created an 8x10 collage. Select the three pictures you want in your collage and then select the Create menu at the top of the Picasa screen. Under create, select picture collage.

Make sure under page format that your collage is set to 8x10 or whatever size you want your collage to be for your dad and then take it to be printed. Easy and fast, perfect as a last minute gift.
If you want a full tutorial on how to make the collage for dad, you can go here.

Don't worry, I didn't spoil his present by posting it on here. He peeked a long time ago. I guess he doesn't love surprises. :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

WotW: The Cloud of Clouds

A few weeks back, I wrote about the different major cloud services. In that post, I mentioned Box.com was my favorite of the cloud services, with its only downside being it didn't have a desktop syncing feature.

Now it does.

For those of you still not on the cloud bandwagon, perhaps this simple service will change your mind. To review, Box.com is a free service that gives users 5GB of online storage space. You can upload any type of file and store it in their cloud and then download it on any device, any time, anywhere.

Box.com's newest feature is a desktop syncing tool, which means a special Box folder is put on your computer.



You can drag and drop any file to your Box folder and it will automatically upload to your online Box.com account, making your files available anywhere.



To install the Box Desktop Sync feature, log in to your Box.com account in your web browser. Go to the My Account menu at the top and select Get Box Sync.



On the screen that follows, you will be able to select which version you need. This is based on your operating system. If you're not sure, Box will guide you through it.


After the file downloads, run the installation. This only takes a couple minutes. Once the installation is complete, you will be asked to sign in with your Box username and password.


You should now see a My Box Files folder in your documents. To begin with, you will only find one file in this folder, which Box puts there. Even if you have folders and files uploaded to your online Box account, they are not automatically downloaded. This is done for a few reasons, not the least of which is because if you have a lot of files online, it will take a long time to download them to your computer. Also, perhaps you don't want all those files on your computer as well as online.

But let's say you want to add a file or folder to your desktop. This is the syncing feature. To do this, go back to your online Box account in your web browser. Right-click on the file or folder you want to sync to your desktop and select Sync Folder to Desktop. A little blue icon with arrows will appear on the folder, indicating it is now synced with your computer.


If you go back and look at your Box folder on your computer, you will see it begin to download your files. From here on out, any changes you make to that folder on the computer and/or online will automatically be synced. Pretty sweet.

Why this is awesome

OK, so big deal, Dropbox and Google Drive have the same thing, right? True, but Box has greater sharing capabilities and embedding features that Dropbox and Google Drive can't compete with. Again, I think it's worthwhile to have all the cloud services, but Box is by far my favorite and this desktop sync is a great addition.

As we move more and more to using mobile devices, we will want our files to be accessible and Box Desktop Sync makes this so easy by allowing you to drag and drop files to your specified folder, just like you've always been used to with a traditional operating system.

On top of all this, Box has one more neat trick up its sleeve. Let's say you want to share a file with a friend. The traditional way to do this is to send an e-mail with an attachment, but this is kind of a pain because you have to take up storage space on your e-mail account and on the recipient's. Not to mention the fact that some e-mail accounts are touchy about attachments or have an attachment size limit. Avoid all this with Box's link sharing feature. Here's how:
  1. Add a file to your My Box Files folder.
  2. Right click on that file.
  3. Select the Box Sync option.
  4. Select the Get Box Link option.


A dialog box will appear with two links.


Either link can be copied and pasted into an e-mail, saving space and avoiding an attachment. The recipient of your e-mail simply has to click on the link and will be able to access the file.

There is a difference between the two links. The first link will share the file/folder with the person, which will take them to a simplified Box folder screen where they will see the file onscreen and can download it if they desire. The bottom link is more direct. When the user clicks on it, the file will immediately download.

Box Desktop Sync is an incredibly handy feature and the more you use it, the more you'll find yourself putting files in the cloud with minimal effort. Plus, once you download the Box app (free on both iOS and Android devices), you will have those files at your fingertips.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Lace Wrapped Bangle

I kind of love bangles. I have a whole box full of them. I used to be super envious of the girls in middle school and high school that seemed to have an over abundance of them, so now when I see some I have a hard time not picking them up.
 Luckily for me and my wallet, my local thrift store sells bags of jewelry for .99 cents. All the jewelry above came in one bag. I picked this bag because it had lots of bangles.
 While I love the bangles, I didn't love that the plastic ones looked scuffed up, so I decided to cover them with some lace trim. I took a package of flat lace trim and hot glue one end to the bracelet. I wrapped the trim around the bracelet, hot gluing as I went to make sure it stayed put. I made sure the last wrap would finish inside the bracelet, so there wouldn't be any seams on the outside.
 I finished the bracelet, and then promptly lost it to my three-year-old. It seems anything I make that she likes becomes hers, go figure.

I guess I am off to the thrift store to find more bangles, to keep, hopefully this time. ;)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

WotW: Visit World Wonders from Your Computer

Google is amazing. I'm sure that comes as no shocker, but really, they are. As if a great search engine, YouTube, Google Docs and Gmail weren't enough, Google continues to amaze.

This past week, Google released its newest feature: Google World Wonders Project.
Following the educational/world exploration vein they started with their Art Project, Google World Wonders allows users to explore some of the neatest architectural and historically significant sites in the world. Although the list is far from complete, what is on the site is interesting and many of the places I've never even heard of prior to visiting the site.

The splash screen to the website is pretty cool in and of itself. Wait patiently for a few seconds and it will give you a new location and the globe beneath will automatically rotate to show you where it is found.

The splash screen only shows a few locations, so if you really want to get around, you'll need to go to the navigation menu up top. There are two ways to search here: Find by Location and Browse by Themes.




As soon as you select a location, you will see a familiar Google Street View-esque view of the place. Like on Google Street View, you can use the arrows to navigate. You can also double-click to zoom in, and/or use the scroll ball on the mouse to zoom in and out. Some locations really allow you to explore, while others are pretty quick and you're done.



On the right side of each location, you will see a menu with more information. Each of the tabs gives you  better insight into the location. 


The Information tab is, of course, informative and thankfully brief so it doesn't take that long to read up on a new location. The Photography and Video tabs (where available) contain user-created content, some of which is good and some not so much. Finally, there is the 3D models tab. This is really cool. In order for this to work, you will need to install the Google Earth Plug-in, which is a free download.



Being a Google product, this site works best on the Google Chrome web browser. Click here to download it if you haven't already.

After a quick install, the 3D model will come up and you can explore in a little more detail and freedom than you can with the main view.


This site probably won't change your life, but it's a fun distraction. If you have children home for summer break, this is a good way to keep their minds engaged in a fun virtual learning environment. So expand your horizons and explore the world from the comforts of your own home.