31: Fabric-covered baskets


Awhile ago I snagged 7 of these strange looking baskets at the thrift store for 69 cents each, thinking that surely they’d be useful for something.  Since the wire is so widely spaced, they need some kind of a fabric insert to make them actually hold anything. I’d seen tutorials here and there for covering a storage bin, so finally this week I got out my stash of fabric, and started to experiment with my bins.


I have a snap press (like this one ) for diaper-making that I LOVE, and have become rather fond of making all sorts of things using snaps.  I decided to make rectangular bags that fit inside each metal basket, and opted to use snaps to fasten them to the framework.  I ended up being pleased with how these first two turned out.  Each one took me half an hour or so to make.

I am already scheming about using them to create a gift wrapping station something like this. I’m sure mine won’t be quite as organized as that one, but isn’t that a fun use for the inside of a closet door? I’ll keep you posted!

Go here to see how my daughters and others are finishing out our month of Focus and Refresh.

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31: What I’ve loved about this month

I find that I’m feeling a little disappointed that this month is coming to an end so quickly. I have a mountain of projects I’d still like to do. One is this soft green scarf that I’ve been working on for the past few days.  I’m using a very thick yarn, so that helps it go quickly. I’ve been knitting while the kids read to me and while I watch TV late at night, and think I should have it done by the end of the week.

I’ve enjoyed this month enough that I definitely want to continue finding time for crafts most days — LOVE that.  I’ve also been doing pretty well getting game or craft time in with the younger girls– not quite every day, but more often than in the past, so that’s good.  I also definitely am going to continue limiting my Facebook time.  A few minutes a few times a day really is enough.  Go here to see what other folks have been doing to Focus and Refresh this month.

How to make fairy wings in 20 minutes flat

I’ve never made fairy wings before, so I was thrilled to discover that making two sets took me a mere 30 minutes, cost me the price of some cellophane and packing tape, and utterly delighted my girls.  That’s what I call a win!

Here’s what you’ll need for each set of wings:

  • 2 wire hangers
  • 1 piece of iridescent cellophane  (about 18″x24″)
  • clear packing tape

I left my wire hangers exactly the shape that they came, except for twining the hook portions of the two hangers together and then stabilizing it with a few wraps of packing tape so that they felt sturdy and like one unit.  You can see what I did in the photo below.

Lay the bent-together hangers, centered, on a rectangle of cellophane.

Fold left and right edges of cellophane over the outer wing edges.  The two sides of the cellophane won’t quite meet in the middle.  Use a piece of clear packing tape to secure the two sides of the folded-over cellophane to the center of the wing frame.

Tuck in the bits of cellophane that don’t meet in the middle so that they wrap around the wing ends as I’m doing below.

Then cut a slit in the center of the bottom layer of cellophane from the bottom edge up to the center of the framework.

When you get close to the center, snip a diagonal bit to the right and to the left. At this point your cut will be Y-shaped, which will create a little v-shaped tab in the middle close to the center of the wing frame.
Fold the flaps you just created outward so that they wrap around the wings.  Secure with tape.

Repeat this process at the top end of the wings, first cutting a slit, then wrapping the cellophane outward around the wings, and finally taping the little v-shaped tabs across the center of the wing frame.

Tie the wings onto your little girl’s shoulders with two ribbons and wait for the smiles!

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Shelf for mismatched washer/dryer

At our house small bits of laundry like socks and washcloths seem to always fall behind the washer and dryer, and for awhile I’ve been wanting to install a shelf something like the photo on the left above the washer and dryer to block that space so that fewer things would fall off the cliff.

The problem is that our washer and dryer are not a matched set.  Our front-load washer has a flat top with the control panel at the front of the machine.  Our dryer has an upraised control panel at the back.  So I’ve been puzzling as to how we could implement this cool idea.

Yesterday we had the repairman come help us unclog the trap of the washing machine  (something that’s needed doing several times on our Whirlpool Duet).  In the process of working on it, once again we discovered lots of things that had fallen behind the machine.  (Don’t you just hate it when appliance-moving reveals you to be a less-than-stellar housekeeper?  Or maybe that’s just me…)

My wonderful husband decided now was the time to solve this problem, and here’s what he came up with:  a two level shelf custom fitted for our mismatched washer-dryer pair.  Bonus: now we have a perfect place to set the pencil sharpener.

Here’s the view of the washer-top. I don’t think we’ll be losing socks back there any more!

And here’s the shelf again from the other side of the room. I love small fixes like this –ones that make the most of what you have, instead of leaving you pining for what you don’t have.

I’m thinking about staining all the wood in this room a darker color, but that’s a project for another day! Here’s another post about our laundry room if you want more details.  It’s not always the neatest room in our house, but over the years I’ve been able to figure out how to make the most of the space, which is important when you’re doing three loads of laundry a day like we do.

Go here to see what other folks have been doing during our October Focus and Refresh Challenge. And tomorrow I’m hoping to show you fairy costumes!

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31: Fairy dust

Odds and ends in blue and yellow, gathered from thrift store and craft store, soon to be fairy garb for two little girls. Stay tuned…

Focus and Refresh

31: Everyday (not so) ordinary

My little girl is loving this uber-soft, super-comfy twirly dress from today’s sponsor Teres Kids. If you’ve got a kid who’s sensitive about tags and scratchy bits in clothing, check this clothing line out– I’d love to own something as soft and cozy as this little dress.

Here’s where I camped part of the morning– simultaneously helping the 17 year old finish an essay and coaxing the second grader through beginning multiplication.

One of my goals for this school year is to have all four of our high school kids write an essay every single month. Here are the September essays, finally done!  (And mom’s hooray is as heartfelt-happy as the kids’!)

The UPS man brought treasure today– a new guitar for our 14 year old son Josh who worked hard at a job all summer to earn it. Here you’re looking at one happy kid. On a totally unrelated note, this son of mine decided a few months ago that he wanted a buzz cut every week, which is at least 8x as often as I ever cut hair around this house.  And so he learned how to cut it himself.  Every once in awhile I help him with the back of his neck, but I am pretty darned impressed with how well he does on his own. With a can-do attitude like that, I can’t help but think this kid is going to go far in life.

Go here to see what other folks are doing with the Focus and Refresh Challenge.


31: Donut-making day

Here’s the recipe we used. Go here to see what my girls (and other ladies) are doing to focus and refresh this month.

How to: high chair baby restraint

My husband built a booster/high chair for our little girls a few years back that is a lot like the child seats in many restaurants, except to allow it to fit an older preschooler, ours doesn’t have the front bar. When our little grandsons got big enough to try it out, it was obvious they needed a bit of help staying in. Here’s how I made a strap for our seat.  Click on any of the pictures to enlarge them. I think something similar to this would work to belt a child into a full-size dining room chair.

I began with two kinds of fabric and some quilt batting.  The first thing I made was a long belt, big enough to wrap from the front around to the back of the high chair, and then around the baby.  My belt is about 4 inches wide and about 40 inches long.   I made the belt with two layers of quilt batting between two layers of fabric.  I didn’t have any kind of pattern, so I did a lot of cutting, holding pieces up to the high chair, and figuring it things on the fly as I went. Your measurements will vary also, depending on the size of your chair and the way its rails are set up.

Next I cut and sewed a longish (20 inches?) narrow hourglass-shaped piece of fabric to be the seat piece.  This again was two layers of fabric with two layers of batting sandwiched in the middle. I made it long enough to extend from the back of the baby’s waist (where it would be sewn to the belt), under his bum and up through his legs to his front waist.  I also allowed enough length so that I could fold over the front edge to make a channel through which to thread the belt.

Here’s how it looks attached to the high chair, with the belt threaded through the front channel.  The (unseen) snaps on the right side of the picture hold the belt to the high chair.  The snaps on the left are the ones you snap after the baby goes into the chair.

Here’s a closeup of the snaps that hold the baby in. You can see that there are three different settings to allow for growth. I opted to have four snaps at each setting because I didn’t want them to pop apart with the little guys’ energetic movements.

Here’s how it looks when the snaps are done up.

And here’s little Ranger trying out the seat for the first time. Most of the time he’ll be sitting right up to the table, which makes it even less likely that he’ll go anywhere. But this adds a nice extra feeling of security, and keeps him from sliding too far down in the seat.

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Recipe: Cream of Anything Soup

I’m prepping to speak at the Shepherd’s Conference in Boise tomorrow, and am making a handout of some of my favorite pantry recipes for one of my sessions.  Here’s one that I haven’t shared here before, from Family Feasts for $75 a Week.

Cream of Anything Soup Mix

How many cans of cream soup do you buy in a year?  Here’s an affordable and more delicious variation of the same thing for less money.  If it saves you a trip to the grocery store, that means even more savings:  gas, time, and of course less chance for impulse buying!

Makes 5 c. dry mix (equivalent to 10 cans of condensed soup)

  • 3 c. powdered milk
  • 1 c. cornstarch
  • 1 c. powdered chicken bouillon
  • 2 T. onion powder
  • 1 t. dried thyme
  • 1 t. dried basil
  • ½ t. black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Store in an airtight container for up to a year.

To make cream of chicken soup: Whisk together 1/2 c. dry soup, 1¼ c. water and 1 T. butter.  Bring to boil, cook 2-3 min.  Will thicken as it cools.

Cream of mushroom soup variation:  Add ½ c. minced mushrooms

Cream of Celery soup variation: Add ½ c. minced celery

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31: Nature

Today I began the day intent on getting more grape juice canned. (Here’s how to make grape jelly  if you’re also overrun in grapes right now.) The kids picked and washed grapes before school, then I canned while the little kids did math and the teens did biology.

Biology today included an experiment that had a nature observation component.  The kids were supposed to go to some small body of water, observe the plants and insects, and do some drawings. With grape-mess everywhere, my first plan was to continue with canning and just let the teenagers walk the 300 feet down the road to the irrigation run-off ditch themselves.

But then the younger girls begged to go.  I let them follow the big kids, all with notebooks and colored pencils in hand.  And then the house was too darned quiet and I realized there was no reason I couldn’t just turn off the stove and go hang out with the kids in the sun myself.  So off I went, camera in hand.  And that’s how we spent the noon hour at our house today.

Several of the kids took some encouraging to get in the spirit of the project.  I reassured one that asking for another drawing did not mean I hated the first one, just that I knew there was an even better one still lurking in that pencil– which there was!  I’ve noticed when kids don’t feel gifted at something, they often don’t even try, which pretty much guarantees more negative results.  Not sure if I’ll ever turn an art-hater into a Rembrandt, but I always ask for effort, and I try to praise the heck out of the kid who obliges me.

I think we all ended up enjoying our time in the sun.  And the ones least thrilled about the drawing?  They were the most thrilled about the fact that our long biology class pushed math aside today.  So it all evened out in the end.

Here’s the link to see what my girls have been doing with our Focus and Refresh Challenge this month.  What about you?  What have you done unexpected or refreshing this week?