Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Spring…….Finally March 23, 2015

Filed under: family,homesteading,off grid — ourprairiehome @ 5:33 am
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I was beginning to wonder if Mother Nature was ever going to get over her PMS and allow spring to arrive.  It seems that she finally got the idea and has allowed our weather to turn into it’s typical rainy self.  Each spring, I am eager to start planting the garden but have to wait.  You see, we live in a wonderful little area that has a week of nasty weather every year sometime in the week before or after Easter.  Never fails.  Plant the garden before Easter and you end up with a garden that either freezes or gets flooded out.  So, I have learned to be more patient over the years.  I wait until after Easter has passed by before I start planting anything.

We woke up early Sunday morning, about 4:30am, so that we could fumigate the attic.  We live in a state that has a lot of problems with red wasps.  So, it is not uncommon to see people load up on the cans of wasp spray or the fumigating foggers to use in attic spaces and other areas that the wasps might try to set up their nests.  We got the kids up and had a quick breakfast before loading them up into the car.  Hubby set off the foggers in our attic and we headed to town.  We ended up taking our laundry to the laundromat and ran a few errands afterward.  The foggers don’t seep down into the rest of the house, so we don’t have to cover anything ahead of time.

By the time we get home, the foggers have done their job.  This ritual is one that we repeat every 3-4 weeks throughout the warm months to control the wasps.  Another item that we began using last year that works great is to set out around the known wasp areas outdoors the TrapStik by a company called Rescue.

Trapstik

Trapstik for Wasps

This is probably the one thing that has been the most effective.  It is a sticky green trap that you hang up.  The wasps are drawn to it and within a couple of days, we have a full trap.  If you set these out early enough, you have a good chance of trapping the queen.  A wasp queen will leave the nest area early in the season.  If you can get her, the wasp colony will collapse.   What I loved about this trap is that it is pesticide free and we also never caught a honey bee on it.  The trap works to catch all types of wasps and carpenter bees.  We hang them in areas near their nests or anywhere they you notice a lot of wasp activity.  These really are effective in reducing the wasp population.  Some stores, such as Lowes, carries these but we also buy them online.

I am looking forward to getting out outdoor laundry and kitchen set up again.  Now that Mother Nature got over her winter mood, we will soon be getting those areas ready for summer.  During the warm months, we spend a lot of our time outdoors.  The kids have their pool and play area to enjoy.  Lots of shade trees are a bonus as well.  One thing that I typically stop doing in summer is baking.  I don’t like to heat up the house by using the oven unless it is necessary.  If I do choose to bake something, it is in the late evening or very early in the morning when the cook night breezes are present.  We are looking at designs for building an outdoor bread oven but haven’t chosen one yet.  In the long term plans for the homestead, we want to have a permanent area designated and set up as our outdoor kitchen.  So far, the plan is to build the oven and an outdoor grill from brick or stone.  Having it set up in a sheltered area will make it easy to use during rainy days.  I still love the idea of having a screened kitchen.  Basically, it is a room that is built with half-height walls.  The top half of the wall areas are completely screened in so that you can use the room during wet weather as well as keeping flies and such out.  I can easily see this as being one of the most used spaces during the warm months.  The kids can homeschool at a table while enjoying the cooling breeze.  Having the kitchen in there will allow me to be able to prepare meals and do my canning without heating up the kitchen in the house.   An outdoor kitchen with the screened area will make a nice place to have BBQs and entertain as well.

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Walkabout Water Bottle Sling March 11, 2015

Filed under: Crafting,crochet,free printable — ourprairiehome @ 9:45 pm
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Here is the pattern that I promised. This pattern came about as a matter of necessity. I purposely have made this sling a little on the deep side so that it will hold any of the standard sized water bottles. If you happen to be needing a sling for a taller bottle, just increase the number of rounds to accommodate the bottle. I also made this bag to be a little larger so that you can put the wider soda bottles in it as well.

The bag works up very quickly. I was able to make a bag from start to finish in about an hour. Once you get the bottom made, the rest of the sling is made on a spiral until you reach the top edging. I strongly suggest using a stitch marker of some type to mark the beginning of each round on the sling as you build up the height. This will help keep it more uniform in height all around.

One note that I want to stress as well is that the strap of the bag can be made a little shorter than you need. The strap will stretch with the weight of the water bottle. The 31 rows of stitching used to make the sling below fits perfectly when hung down straight on my shoulder. For my 9 year old daughter, it fits her perfectly when worn diagonally across her body from her left shoulder to her right hip. To get the measurement needed to fit you or your child, measure from your hip, diagonally up to your should and back down to the same hip. Be sure to start and end the measurement with where you want the top of the sling to be. Subtract 1.5 inches from this measurement to allow for the stretch that will occur when a full bottle of water is in the sling. This measurement should work well in planning the strap length.

The yarn that I used in the same was Red Heart worsted weight yarn in the super saver size skein. One skein should easily make at least 4 of these slings.

 

SUNP0001

Walkabout Water Bottle Sling

By Paula Jones http://simplicitybychoice.com

Materials:

worsted weight yarn
Crochet hook, size F (3.75mm)
stitch marker
yarn needle
scissors

Stitches used: (US stitches given)

ch – chain
sc – single crochet
sl st – slip stitch
dc – double crochet
tr – treble

Treble stitch: wrap yarn around hook twice, slip hook through next stitch and pull yarn through. Yarn over and pull through two loops at a time until you have only one loop remaining on hook to complete the stitch.

This sling is begun with a magic circle. If you choose to not use a magic circle, then simply begin with ch 4 and slip stitch to form a loop, sc 6 times in the loop, catching the yarn end to help secure it in place, sl st to join. Continue pattern as directed beginning with round 1.

Sling Base

Begin with a magic circle. Sc 6 times in loop, join with 1st sc to form circle. Pull thread to close the circle. Do not trim! Leave tail to weave in securely after sling bottom is made before trimming the end. This will prevent the magic circle from opening back up.

Round 1: ch 1, sc in first stitch from ch, sc twice in each remaining stitches, sl st to join (12 sc)

Round 2: ch 1, *sc in next 2 stitches, 2 sc in next stitch* repeat pattern to end, sl st to join (18 sc)

Round 3: ch 1, *sc in next 3 stitches, 2 sc in next stitch* repeat pattern to end, sl st to join (24 sc)

Sling Body:

NOTE: From here on, use a marker to show beginning of each round as the pattern works on a spiral.

Round 4: *ch 3, count 3 stitches from chain and sl st*, place stitch marker in this first chain space. Continue the pattern all around to end.

Round 5-18 Repeat round 4, moving marker up each round to show beginning of each round.

Round 19: sl st to first chain space, ch 3 (counts as first dc), 2 dc in chain space, then stitch 3 dc in each chain space all around, sl st to join

Strap:

Row 1: ch 4 (counts as first tr), 1 tr in each of the next 3 stitches, turn
Rows 2-31: Repeat row 1, use less rows if making sling for a young child. Bag will stretch from weight of the water bottle.
To finish: sc the end of the strap to the sling, centering the strap to opposite side of bag opening. Weave in ends to secure and trim.

***If you would like a printable pdf of this pattern, you can get it here.

 

Simplicity Goals – Kitchen February 21, 2015

Filed under: family,organization,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 4:40 am
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As promised, I am going to be posting more details about the decluttering I am doing in our home.  I know that some will find the extent that I am going with this to be extreme, but that is the beauty of this.  You can feel free to take from the ideas whatever you need that will fit your own lifestyle.  I am going to be posting this as a short series, one room per post, so that I can go more into exactly what I am doing and why.

As I have often stated before, I absolutely loved touring an old home that was on display at a historical museum.  The complete calm that I felt as my husband and I walked through the rooms was a sweet balm to my soul.  The thought kept coming to me that this was the feeling that we should have when we walk into our own home.  It is often stated that the family home is a place you can go to get away from the stresses of the world.  Yet, how often do we allow our homes to become influenced by that stress?  How many times do we fall short in that feeling of being at total peace when we walk through the door of our home?

This historical home, like so many others of that time, was very sparsely furnished.  The items on display were ones that spoke a story of the family’s life.  When we entered the home, we were in the largest room of the house….the kitchen.  Along one wall was a huge fireplace with an oven built in to the wall.  In the center of the room was a large wooden table.  The chairs were neatly arranged as was a long bench that ran the length of the table on each side.  Items most often used were carefully placed around the room.  A hutch for storing dishes, cooking utensils, and linens stood on one wall.  A butter churn in a corner next to a chair.  A firewood box was set up near the fireplace.  There were other items as well which decorated the room, but each item held a specific purpose.  Looking around, you could see that the family who lived in that home was likely a farming family.  The old farm kitchen was truly the center of the home.  Often times, it would be the only room to have heat in the winter.  For this reason, it was the place where the family was always gathered.   In many of the older Amish homes, this is still the case.  Our Amish neighbors, Levi and Katie, had one large room in the main level of their 2-story home.  On one end was the kitchen/dining room and at the other end was the living room.  I remember how simply it was arranged and have always wanted to recreate that level of simplicity in my own home.

The following picture is of an Amish kitchen that I found online.  I don’t know who originally took the picture, but it shows the best representation of what I love.

Amish Kitchen

Amish Kitchen

In this picture, you can see how sparse the furnishings are.  The room is small, but very functional.  Do you notice the lack of cabinetry?  That is typical of older homes.  In fact, our home has no cabinets at all!  In this little kitchen, a Momma can do all her cooking, canning, and other tasks without any problem.  I absolutely would love to recreate this kitchen in our own home!

Above the table is a simple oil lamp suspended from a chain attached to the ceiling.  The other lighting option, which happens to be a popular one with the Amish, is propane gas lights.  You can see the propane tank in the opened cabinet.  These lights are just as safe to use as a camp lantern.  Storing the propane bottle in the cabinet box makes it safe around children, especially with the lantern up so high from a child’s reach.

A wood burning stove for heat as well as cooking makes the kitchen cozy in the winter.  The gas stove provides a method of cooking in summer months when it is too hot to use a wood stove comfortably.  It also provides a steady heat source when using a canner to jar up your harvest.  A baker’s cabinet holds the items needed for any baking that is done each day.  The family’s dishes are kept in the upper portion of the baker’s cabinet.

Compared to a “modern” kitchen, this one definitely lacks the conveniences that many women enjoy today.  There are no small appliances, such as a microwave or even a toaster.  Yet, to the woman who cooks in this kitchen, it contains everything she needs.  Extra dishes have no place in this kitchen.  It only holds what is essential.  Extra place settings of dishes, the canner, and other items that are not used daily may be kept on a shelf in the pantry until needed.  Once the need is gone, they are returned to that location.

Our kitchen is larger than the one pictured.  Though it is larger, it has had it’s times of feeling more crowded than the picture above.  This has been one of the driving factors in my wanting to cull out the excess.  When a room in our home looks too cluttered, I get very tense.  It directly impacts me.  I get overwhelmed and stressed.  I just can’t seem to function well in that environment.  Being as I spend so much of my time in the kitchen, it is the logical place for me to start when it comes to decluttering.

When I think about exactly what items I am needing in my kitchen, I take into consideration two things.  First, the number of people in our family.  Second, the frequency in which I use any item in the kitchen.  For all practical purposes, I only need the following to make my kitchen fully functional.

Dishes & Silverware:

1 complete place setting per person (plate, bowl, dessert plate, silverware)

1 glass per person for cold drinks

1 mug per person for hot drinks

Bakeware:

1 cookie sheet

1 muffin pan

1 (9×13) cake pan

1 (8×8) cake pan

2 pie pans

1 roasting pan with lid

1 casserole dish

Cookware:

1 stock pot with lid

1 large sauce pan

1 small sauce pan

1 large skillet

1 griddle

Food Prep Items:

1 large mixing bowl

set of wooden spoons

soup ladle

metal spatula

wire wisp

set of measuring cups

set of measuring spoons

measuring cup for liquids

sifter

rolling pin

knives

meat mallet

pastry knife

potato masher

rubber/vinyl spatula

Additional items, such as the extra place settings, cookie cutters, and canning supplies can be stored in the pantry.  I also keep the table linens on a shelf in the pantry.  The items listed above are the ones that are used most often.  The fact that they can all easily be stored in a single baker’s cabinet, such as the one in the above picture, is a great space saver.  I don’t have a cabinet like that, but the wire shelving is more than sufficient to store it all with shelves left over.  As I go through my kitchen supplies, I am finding that much can be packed away in a box.  Anything in the box that isn’t needed within 6 months, can be donated.  It is literally that simple.

Now, I do want to mention that when you cut down your dishes to a full place setting per person, this means that you have to stay on top of doing dishes immediately after each meal.  Otherwise it can be a pain in the backside to have to hurry up and do dishes so you can set the table again.  Some may find that it is too tempting to go grab up the extra place settings, especially if they don’t want to run a dishwasher that is not full.  In our family of four, it doesn’t take long to do the dishes if done right away.  We get the wash water ready just before sitting down to the meal.  My darling husband made it a house rule that each person has to clear their own place at the table and hand wash their own dishes.  This makes it even easier to stay up on it.  After the dishes are done, the table is wiped down so it is ready for use again.  It is really just a matter of setting up a routine and sticking with it.  Things don’t always go as planned, but the effort to stay on top of it is at the forefront.

What I have found over the years has been that the excess “stuff” in your home can be as stress inducing as anything outside of your home.  You have to maintain and store all those items.  When things get too cluttered and you run out of space, the intensity of your stress magnifies as you try to cull out what you are able to do.  Yet, at the same time, trying to hold on to as much as possible.  In having few things, you are free from that burden.  Cleaning is much faster and easier when you have less to deal with.  As I go through our home and remove excess, I am finding that my personal stress level is dropping.  I have more time in the day to pursue other things.  By removing unneeded items, I gain space for items that we do need.

Like the historical home, we want the items in our home to have purpose and function.  We want to be deliberate in what we buy and keep.  Though our home is much larger than what is termed a “tiny house,” we are wanting to adopt that way of thinking.  As we plan the remodeling yet to be done, we are looking to open up the front of the house back to its original floor plan.  The wall that separates the kitchen from the kids’ room will be taken down again.  Originally, it was all one large kitchen/dining room.  The pantry is a separate room just off from the kitchen.  In the entry area of the pantry nearest to the kitchen, there is shelving that can easily become storage for the extra dishes and supplies.  This will further leave the kitchen space more open and clutter-free.

I am still working on the process of scaling back in our kitchen.  It is taking time as I have to do it around my other daily tasks.  I am enjoying the results though.  Each bag or box of stuff that leaves the kitchen gives me a sense of relief.  It has been so eye-opening to realize just how badly we let the attitudes of society to take control.  In our country, people seem to have the attitude that if you have few things, you are poor and disadvantaged.  Yet, I am finding that by not catering to that attitude, we are actually going to be richer in our lives.  Instead of having to maintain so much stuff, we will have more time to really enjoy each other as a family.  We can pursue the interests that we have without distraction.  Best of all, we will save money by not getting all that stuff in the first place!

 

One View of Simplicity February 1, 2015

Filed under: green living,old fashioned,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 11:20 pm
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Ever since we started on this journey to a more simplified lifestyle 6 years ago, we are often asked why we would do this to ourselves.  It seems that society’s outlook on someone deciding to live within their means (or below their means) just because they choose to, is one in which the person is looked upon as having gone off their rocker.  For us, it seems silly that the media spouts off about the cries of conservationalists and enviromentalists for people to become more conscience of their use of fossil fuels and natural resources.  These groups often push for a more sustainable lifestyle that reduces the carbon footprint of each family.  Yet, here we are, doing exactly that and we are looked upon as being radical or weird.

I read an article today, “When Bread Bags Weren’t Funny” by Megan McArdle, that a dear friend shared on Facebook.  I loved the perspective of the author.  She was spot on in her views.  She shares in the article a glimpse into our nations past.  Not the distant past, but just a generation ago, using illustrations from the Little House books series as a comparison.

As I read the article, I was nodding my head in agreement to so much of it.  I have always held the belief that as a society, we have become spoiled.  Things that are relatively new (within 2 generations) have become so commonplace that people think it is impossible to life comfortably  without them.  One example of this attitude is the air conditioner.   When people first hear that we don’t use an air conditioner in the summer, they freak out.  They can’t understand how we can manage without one.  Truth be told, generations of our ancestors survived hot summers very well without air conditioning.  Even more interesting is to note that prior to my Grandma’s generation, women wore far more heavy clothing than we do today.  Yet, even in the deep south where humidity is  stifling in the middle of summer, these southern women managed to get through the season without health issues popping up all the time.

One of the issues that really makes me wonder at the thought processes of others is when people get weird over the idea of us using wood stoves for heat and cooking in winter while we have kids in the house.  Let me say this, even our autistic child who is developmentally delayed knows to never touch the wood stoves.  He doesn’t even touch them in summer when the stoves are not in use.  He simply has be trained to not touch them.  It is no different than teaching a young child to not touch a burner on your kitchen stove or to not pick up a glass object.  You simply train them.  Yet, there are those who cannot seem to understand this concept.

As far as the economics part of simplicity, here is my opinion. We are living on a single income.  My husband doesn’t make a huge salary, but a very modest hourly wage.  The wage is low enough that many families that we know would be looking for a second income to survive on a monthly basis.  According to the US Census bureau, the poverty line for a family of 4 is about $22,300 income per year.  Our family income is close to that.  Yet, we manage on this income.  How do we do it?

First, we don’t use credit unless critical.  We now have 1 credit card that is held in reserve for medical expenses only.  We are part of a medical sharing program and this credit card is what we use if we have to go to a doctor or buy medication.  Secondly, we only are buying essentials.  We see no need to go into debt to buy things that are unnecessary.  One point brought up in the article that I agree with is the opinion expressed about clothing.  In earlier generations, a person only had a week’s worth of clothing.  It was common for a woman to have what was termed her “work dresses” which were worn throughout the week.  These were the dresses worn as she did her daily tasks. The fabrics were sturdy ones that could take a lot of use.  For Sundays, she may have a single dress that was only for church or a special occasion, such as a wedding.  It was not uncommon for a woman to wear her Sunday best as her wedding dress.  When I was growing up, we got new (or new to us from the thrift store) clothes that were purchased just before the new school year began.  Our older clothes that still fit became our play clothes.  Each day, we would put on our school clothes before heading out to the bus.  When we got home, we had to change into our play clothes so that our newer outfits wouldn’t get messed up as we did chores or went out to play.  Today, many kids get a complete new wardrobe of clothing when school begins and they wear these same clothes whether playing outdoors or going to school.  Seldom do I hear someone talk about play clothes for their younger kids.  Often, kids today have more clothing than can fit in their dressers and closets.  Why?  Why would anyone need that many clothes?  How much money is spent on buying and maintaining that amount of clothing?  Where else could that money be better used?  It isn’t just the kids either.  Many adults have far more than they need, yet society says more is the better option.  If you don’t have a lot, then you are poor and underprivileged.  You are lacking in their eyes.  But who is truly lacking in this?

Toys for kids is another area where people go nutty.  In the Little House books, the Ingalls children had a special toy.  In the first book, Little House in the Big Woods, Laura writes about her sister, Mary, having a doll.  Laura’ parents couldn’t afford a doll for Laura, so Laura had a doll made by wrapping a cloth around a corn cob.  Later, she would get a doll of her own.  At that time however, Laura was happy to play with her corn cob doll.  Our kids have had a lot of toys given to them over the years.  We finally took on the task of buying each child an 18-gallon size plastic tote.  Because their bedroom is small, the toys that fit in their totes is all they keep.  We have given the excess to a thrift store run by a church that uses the proceeds for a youth ministry.  Our kids don’t feel slighted one bit by having to donate the extra toys.  They still have all their favorites.  Later, once the house remodel is done, they will appreciate even more the downsizing of their toys.  The room we are fixing up for them is the largest in our house.  We will be putting a wall down the center to give each of the two kids a room of their own.  Their rooms at that time will be about the size of a small bedroom in a single wide trailer.  More than enough room for them since they spend so little time in their bedroom anyways. Most of the time the family gathers in the kitchen/dining room or are outdoors.

My current project is attacking the homeschool shelves.  Every homeschooling family will shudder at the thought of what I am doing.  I am boxing up and donating all the excessive books that I have.  When I started buying them, I planned to use them with both children.  Now that I have a better idea of what Pookie is capable of doing, I know that it may be years before he can use some of these resources, if he is ever able to use them.  Instead of keeping everything on the hopes that he may one day be able to use the materials, I am donating everything Little Miss is not using within the next year.  By doing this, I will be able to clear nearly all the shelves.  Yes, like many homeschool families, I have a large amount of books and resources cluttering my shelves.  Not for too much longer though.

My feeling is that there was much to be appreciated about the more sparse furnishings.  The less you have, the easier to maintain and keep clean.  Purchases now are being considered by how much real use will it get.  I take time to consider each purchase and try to never buy anything on a whim or impulse.  Such was the way of things with earlier generations.  Money was scarce and they had to be thoughtful in considering each and every purchase they made.  Why is it so strange to others if a family lives that way now?  I can only think that it is because it is more acceptable to give in to our desires and wants without considering the financial consequences of those purchases.

As I think on that article mentioned above, I can only smile to think that someone else is “getting it” and understanding that there is no shame in choosing to live with less.

 

 

A Much Needed Hiatus January 13, 2015

Filed under: family,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 5:18 am
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Have you ever cooked a lobster or learned how it is done?  The lobster is placed in a pot of water.  As the water slowly heats, the lobster doesn’t seem to notice until the water’s temperature reaches a temperature too high for the lobster to survive in.  Over the past few years, it seems as though that analogy could describe my my life.  Yes, I have a wonderful family that I adore, but life happens to all of us.

Living our lifestyle is not for wimps.  We do everything without modern conveniences to make my work easier.  My husband chops wood and  splits it without the benefit of a gas powered wood splitter.  The physical aspect of our life is better than going to a gym on most days.  We love it.  

Homeschooling our children is something that we both feel strongly about and enjoy.  Our daughter is learning more on topics that schools typically don’t cover in addition to the regular subjects that schools teach.  She is also gaining life experiences that most kids never learn.  Our son is getting the one-on-one instruction that he needs in order to be able to learn.  He also is receiving  occupational, physical, and speech therapies at a therapy center each week.  It takes a lot of my time to homeschool and see that our son gets to his therapies.  The end results are worth it though.

One area of my life has been both a source of enjoyment as well as a source of stress.  It has been social media.  I can ignore the posts on places like Facebook, but the private messages and notifications were a constant distraction.  I love being able to keep in touch with friends and family, but I am finding another part of the equation to be more difficult.  While I love to “meet” others who are parents traveling the autism journey, I find myself being placed in the position of being the one to bring encouragement and filling their cup so often that my own has taken a backseat. 

I get emotionally, spiritually, and physically drained.  I found myself putting so much into every area of my life without taking proper care of my own needs.  As a result, I have felt like that lobster who is noticing a rise in the water temperature.  With that realization has come some much needed changes.

The best change has been that we allowed my prepay cell phone to run out of airtime.  It was purely unplanned, but has turned into a blessing.   I currently do not have a phone but will get more airtime put on it when I am ready.  Being “radio silent” has been enlightening as well as liberating.  I am finding more peace in my days with the kids and less stressed.  I have been changing our way of eating to a carb cycling meal plan.  With this, I am starting to lose weight and am feeling great.  The family loves the foods I have been making as well.  

Another change is that I am getting more relaxed time to spend doing things that I enjoy.  Because I am not stressed, my days are more productive, leaving me more time to crochet.  The kids and I have more time to do fun things, like crafts or games, than when I was stressed.  On the weekends, my sweet husband is going to give me a day out so that I can have a day to focus completely on myself.  I have so needed some “Momma time.”  I am truly understanding that if I don’t take time for myself, then I can’t be the best I am able to be for the family and others around me.

It has been a time of self-discovery as I learn to give myself permission to take care of my own needs.  As a Mom, you are so focused on taking care of everyone else first that you can easily overlook yourself.  I can honestly say that the lesson has been learned.  This hiatus from the phone and social media has shown me just how tense my life was becoming.  Now, I just am going with what comes my way and learning to say “No.”

 

Black Friday Craziness November 28, 2014

Filed under: Crafting,family,holidays — ourprairiehome @ 9:26 pm
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I have never understood the fascination that many have of going out shopping the day after Thanksgiving.  Yes, there are great sales, but the size of crowds and traffic alone is enough to make me cringe.  I have tried it a couple of times, years ago, and hated it.  Maybe because I went out alone, or maybe because I didn’t really have a plan to make it fun.  Either way, I have found myself thinking now that I am glad that I don’t put myself through that.

What I am doing is making the gifts at home or ordering online.  I find it much more satisfying and calming to my spirit to avoid the crowds.  I am lucky to have people around me who also enjoy receiving the handmade gifts.  Rarely have I had someone be too snooty to accept something handmade.  On the rare occasions when that has happened over the years, I just make mental note to never make them anything homemade again.  If anything, they will get a little gift card so that they can buy what they want.

One thing that I have been trying to instill in our children is the importance of giving of oneself through your time and talents.  With that in mind, I am teaching them to also make their gifts.  It is fun to watch them work on a project that takes several days (or longer) to complete.  The pride that Little Miss feels when she finishes the item and gives it to the recipient of the gift is a joy to see.  Likewise, I am so grateful that the gifts are well received and the children are praised for their efforts.

There are many gift ideas that you can find on Pinterest and other online resources that will give you examples of things kids can make.  These are not just the cutesy crafts but you can find meaningful gifts that can be used for a purpose.  A project that the kids are working on is to make an ornament for each person they make a gift for.  The ornaments that they are making are so cute and easy for them to do.  Even Pookie is getting in on it.

The best part of the holiday crafting is that instead of dealing with crowds at stores, we are spending time being creative as a family.  That in and of itself is a gift that you cannot replace.

 

Christmas Ornament Exchange & More November 4, 2014

Filed under: Crafting,family,holidays,old fashioned — ourprairiehome @ 9:05 am
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On Facebook, I am hosting a Handmade Christmas Ornament Exchange.  It has been so much fun making the ornaments to mail out to the swap participants.  Mine are all crocheted.  I went onto the Ravelry website and did a search for free patterns and found a plethora of ideas.  I have always loved the look of old fashioned handmade ornaments.  Each year, I try to make a new decoration or other item to add to our collection.  Last year was the first time we had an actual Christmas tree.  It is a small tabletop style, but in our home, that works for us.

I have been busy crocheting a lot this year.  Nearly everyone will be getting something crocheted or otherwise handmade.  One new aspect is that both of the kids will be able to make gifts this year.  I wasn’t sure if our son was going to be able to do it but found some neat ideas for crafts that both kids can make.

I wanted him to make something a little more personal for his Occupational, Physical, and Speech therapists though, so designed an ornament for him to make each of them.  He is learning sign language, so that will be incorporated into his project for them.  I don’t have pictures at this time because the camera I was using doesn’t work anymore.  I will try to post a picture tutorial later though if my husband is able to take pictures for me to upload.

Here is one idea that is a very simple one to make.  I am using the air-dry modeling compound made by Crayola for this project.

“I Love You” Clay Ornament

Make a tracing of your child’s hand on a sheet of paper.  Carefully cut it out.  This will become a pattern for your ornament.  Roll out the modeling compound to 1/8″ thick.  Carefully use a knife to cut out the hand print pattern from the clay.  Fold the middle and ring fingers downward so that the clay hand print looks like the sign meaning “I love you.”  You may need to lightly dampen the folded fingers t make them stick to the palm of the hand.

Next, using a small plate or bowl, cut out a circle that is slightly larger than the clay hand, from the 1/8″ thick clay.  This will become the base you attach the hand print to.  Lightly dampen the back of the hand and place it in the center of the ornament base.  Press just firmly enough to make it stick well, but not enough to flatten the hand too much.  You want the dimension of the sign language gesture to remain clear to see.  Using a straw, make a hole for hanging the ornament at the top center.

Let the clay dry thoroughly.  You can speed up the process by placing it on a wire rack in a warm oven, if necessary.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully if you attempt to dry them in the oven.

Once completely dried and hardened, you can have your children paint their hand print ornaments.  Use a permanent marker to write their name and the year on the ornament once the paint is dry.  To give a shiny finish, you can spray the ornaments with a glossy clear coat of spray paint.  After the ornament if finished, thread a ribbon through the hole and tie the ends into a knot.  Enjoy!!!

Another fun idea that Little Miss is making is a crocheted garland.  She is just learning to crochet and wanted to make a simple decoration for the tree.  So, she is crocheting a long garland using the basic chain stitch.  I will be teaching her how to add beads to her garland as she crochets.  It is really simple.

Beaded Chain Stitch Garland

This is a perfect first project for a little child to make.  There is no gauge or specific hook size.  All you need is the crochet hook, a smaller steel hook that is small enough to thread through a bead’s hole, yarn, and the beads.

The distance between beads is up to the person making the garland.  On our little tree, the beads will be about one bead every 1.5″ of stitches.

Begin making the chain.  When you reach the point where you want to add a bead, carefully remove the crochet hook.  Using the steel hook, thread a bead onto the hook.  Next, grab up the loop of yarn with the steel hook and slip the bead off of the hook, bring the yarn through the bead’s hole.  Set aside the steel hook and place the yarn loop back onto the crochet hook you are using to make the chain stitching.  Continue chain stitching until you are ready to add another bead.  Repeat this pattern until the garland is the size you want.  That’s it!  A very simple garland that a child can make successfully.

There are so many handmade decorations and gifts that kids can make for others.  By teaching them from an early age to hand-make their decorations and gifts, you are not only teaching them a craft/skill, but are teaching them to give of their time and talents.  It is something that will benefit them for many years to come.