Homemade Stovetop Potpourri

As I’m writing this our house smells like….you guessed it…Christmas!!! Stovetop potpourris seem to be the “in” thing these days, replacing seasonal candles and old school potpourri, and I am totally on board! Basically you gather a handful of ingredients, put them in a saucepan with water to simmer, and enjoy the fresh, seasonal smells that perfume your entire house. What I’ve done here is taken our favorite stovetop potpourri and preserved it using our food dehydrator. Then we jarred individual portions to give as gifts and to keep on hand during the holidays. Now whenever we’re in the mood, we put a pot of water on to simmer, add our homemade potpourri and enjoy the smells of Christmas!

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 apple slices
  • 4-5 orange slices
  • 2 lemon slices
  • 1 small handful of dried cranberries
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 whole nutmeg
  • a pinch of whole cloves (~10 cloves)

To dehydrate the apple, orange, and lemon slices, you’ll want to cut them very thin…especially the citrus. (.5 cm or less) Expect the fruit to take up to 12 hours to dry completely. Check them often.

After the fruit is dehydrated, add it to a jar with the other ingredients.

Add a tag with instructions for your friends, and your gift is set! Such a sweet gift for teachers and neighbors!

Be sure to make lots of extra to use in your own home over the holidays! Enjoy!!!

Fall Leaf Mason Jar Lanterns

I don’t ever seem to get enough of mason jar crafts…whether it’s a fairy house, a pumpkin lantern, or this week’s project…these festive FALL MASON JAR LANTERNS! The great thing about this project is that it’s very hard to mess the jars up and there are a few variations to try. I made these this morning with a group of ladies at L’s new school…each lady’s lantern was unique and beautiful. One lady mixed gold paint with every color, some overlapped the leaf prints, while others put just a couple prints on each jar. There’s plenty of creative freedom with this project! The jars shine brilliantly as lanterns, but you could also use them as a vessel for your No-Bake Acorn Treats or even arrange an Autumn flower bouquet in one, using it as a vase.

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Materials needed:

  • jars
  • acrylic paints and brushes
  • small-med fall leaves
  • tea light
  • dried rice, beans, corn, coffee beans

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First, prep your work space with cardboard, wax paper, or old newspapers.

Next, paint the underside of a leaf with a fall color or combination of 2 or 3. (Red, orange, yellow, green, brown, gold)

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Carefully press the painted leaf onto the surface of the jar and smooth down all the edges.

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Peel the leaf off gently to reveal your painted-leaf print. If your first print doesn’t look exactly as you thought it would, no worries…as you add more prints, any blips or irregularities will be hidden.

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A variation to this, is doing quite the opposite. Hold a clean leaf on the surface of the jar and paint around the edges. You can then paint the entire jar, leaving a little leaf window for the light to shine out. I originally thought this would look great with a solid color of gold…didn’t turn out as I planned, so I ended up dabbing all the fall colors all over the jar and it turned out beautifully! A beautiful oops! If something doesn’t turn out how you imagined, try something new and you may be surprised what you come up with!

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Arranged on a tabletop with mini-pumpkins, gourds, leaves, acorns, or flower petals, you’ll have a festive centerpiece for your Thanksgiving meal! Instead of just placing a tea light in each jar, first add small layer of dried beans, rice, corn, or coffee beans. This will bring the light up to the little “window” you have created in the jar and make it look more complete. Enjoy!

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Mushroom Spore Prints

Did you ever make MUSHROOM SPORE PRINTS as a kid? They’re super-easy to make and super-beautiful! Lately the girls and I have found lots of mushrooms around the yard, at L’s school, and when out hiking in the woods! Mushroom spore prints are so mush fun to make…you’ll be out looking for mushrooms everywhere you go! When looking for mushrooms, you’ll want to find some that are fresh (just a day or two old), before they’ve dropped their spores. Mushroom spores are no bigger than a speck of dust and the wind scatters them all around. As you probably assumed, the spores are mushrooms’ “seeds.” In making spore prints on paper, you’ll be amazed at how many just one mushroom has!

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While it’s fun to poke and prod at mushrooms, investigating them and marveling at their unique beauty, be sure to remind your kids that we NEVER eat a mushroom that we find outdoors. Only experts know the difference between ones that are deadly and ones that are okay to eat.

 

Materials needed:

  • mushrooms
  • sharp knife
  • dark paper or card stock
  • a large bowl or container

 

First, find a good mushroom or two. Mushrooms come in all shapes and sizes…you’ll want a typical dome-shaped mushroom cap, though it doesn’t matter what color.

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After you’ve carefully removed the mushroom from the soil, cut off the stem close to the top of the mushroom.

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Flip the mushroom onto a dark piece of paper.

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Cover it with a large bowl or container, and let the mushroom sit for a few hours or overnight.

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Carefully remove the container and lift the mushroom off the paper without smudging the spore print.

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Fascinating and beautiful!!!

Milk Carton Fairy Houses

Who knew milk cartons had so much potential??? They are perfect for making fairy houses and gnome homes! First off, a milk carton is just the right size for fairies…all it needs is a door and a few windows to make it feel like home. Milk cartons are also water-proof, providing adequate housing for both indoor and outdoor use. WB and L like to play with their fairy houses during the day and, at night, we tuck a little tea light inside to turn them into night lights! So sweet!

 

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Materials needed:

  • milk cartons
  • white primer spray paint
  • exacto knife
  • acrylic paints
  • hot glue gun
  • sticks, bark, moss, acorns, etc.
  • battery-operated tea lights

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First, spray your milk cartons with some primer. The surface of milk cartons is usually waxy and paint will have a hard time sticking. A coat or two of primer should do the trick!

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Next, using an exacto knife, carefully cut a door and windows into the house. And do not worry…the windows don’t need to be perfect! Fairy houses’ never are!

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Now the fun part for the kids, have your little ones paint and decorate the houses. Start with a solid color or two underneath.

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Then add details like polka-dot doors and Fall pumpkins. For our pumpkins, the kids used a wine cork as a stamp!

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While the paint dries, send the kids outside to collect nature materials to use for a roof.

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Before assembling the roof, you can easily flip the screw-top opening inwards. Just push it in with your fingers…it’s easier than you think!

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Glue twigs or bark over the opening, and then add all sorts of nature findings. Each house will be unique!

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To light your fairy houses up at night, place battery-operated tea lights inside. You could also use a string of lights in and around the houses for a magical display!

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“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” -Roald Dahl

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Mini-Canvas Magnets

MINI-CANVAS MAGNETS are not only a fun project for kids (and adults!) of all ages, but they also make sweet, little gifts for friends, grandparents, and teachers! I’ve founded mini-canvases at Michael’s on numerous occasions…usually on the ends of the acrylic paint aisle.

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Materials needed:

  • mini-canvases
  • acrylic paints & brushes
  • thin magnet strips

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First, paint your mini-canvases. The canvases are so small, little hands have no problem filling the space with a rainbow of colors. Best to give the kids 2-3 colors to use at a time. You may even want to paint a few!

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After the paint dries, flip the canvases over and attach magnet strips. You can find an array of magnets at craft stores with an adhesive tape on one side. Best to choose thin magnets, so the canvases lie close to the fridge.

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Now, time to gift and/or display your mini-masterpieces! So cute…and easy!!! Enjoy!

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Homemade Elder-Blossom Nectar

Inspiration for our HOMEMADE ELDER-BLOSSOM NECTAR came from one of my favorite children books, “Linnea’s Almanac” by Christina Bjork and Lena Anderson. L rediscovered the Linnea books a couple weeks ago and has been poring over each page. In the July section of the book is a recipe for Elder-Blossom Nectar. Since I had never made it, but always wanted to, we got to work! The very day we came across the recipe, we spotted an Elder Tree on one of our outings! How lucky were we!?! A few days later, we went on an early morning adventure and harvested the Elder blossoms.

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Ingredients:

  • 25-30 Elder blossom clusters
  • 1-2 lemons
  • 2 lbs sugar
  • 1 quart water

Before you harvest Elder blossoms, you want to make certain that you have the right type of tree. There are other blossoms that are similar, poisonous Elder and poison Hemlock, but are not the same. True Elder blossoms will be on a tree. The white flowers are in big, flat, round clusters that have a strong, sweet smell. (see pictures below) Poisonous Elder grows in pointed clusters that are yellowish-green and they do not have a strong scent. Poison Hemlock has a very different, fern-like leaf shape, and it grows more like a weed…not a tree.

 

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Once you find your Elder tree, you’ll want to cut off 25-30 flower clusters. Have your kids help you count the flowers, inspect them with a magnifying glass for fun, and put them in a large jar.

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Next, back at home, slice your lemon and add it to a pot with the water and sugar. Heat the mixture to a boil, then carefully pour it into the jar with your Elder blossoms. Cover the jar and let it sit for three days.

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While the nectar is setting, time to find and clean some bottles! You want to make sure your bottles are well washed in preparation for the nectar.

After three days, it’s time to bottle your nectar! Opening the lid, you won’t believe the sweet aroma that’s been bottled up inside! (I have to admit, I cheated. We opened the jar everyday to smell our nectar…it was just so tempting!)

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First remove whatever blossoms and lemon pieces you can with a fork or spoon.

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Next, tie a cheese cloth around the top of your jar. Strain the nectar thru the cheese cloth, pouring it into a large pitcher.

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From here, you pour the nectar into the clean bottles or jars you’ve prepared. Make sure you fill the bottles to the top and secure the lids tightly. If done properly, your nectar will last for six months in the refrigerator. After you open a bottle, you’ll have to devour the contents within a month…no problem there! It’s just so good!

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Uses and Recipes:

We use our nectar similar to other syrups or honey.

  • First we made a cold, summer drink by adding 4 tablespoons of the nectar to a quart of water. Yum!
  • You can make a warm, milky, tea-like drink as well. Stir together 1 teaspoon of nectar, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 cup of milk for each person. Warm the mixture in a saucepan and pour it into a teapot. (This tea is perfect for summer night tea parties, while watching the stars, lightning bugs, and bats come out!)
  • You can also drizzle your nectar on pancakes or over hot oatmeal or grits for breakfast. Delish!

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Bjork, Christina and Lena Anderson. “Linnea’s Almanac.” Stockholm: Raben & Sjogren, 1982. Print.

Tin Can Telephone

Now I know this craft, toy, activity is as old as they come, but how many of you have actually made a TIN CAN TELEPHONE for your kids yet!?! L has been begging for weeks for us to make one and today was the day! It was so quick and easy to put together and the kids played with it all afternoon. L already has plans for tomorrow and how we’ll make a longer TIN CAN TELEPHONE that will stretch to the neighbor’s porch. And yes…if you’re wondering…yes, it does work!!! As you probably remember, the key is making sure the string is pulled taut when you’re talking to each other, and try not to rest the can against your face as well. Enjoy!

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Materials needed:

  • 2 tin cans, clean and lids removed
  • Sharpie markers (optional)
  • awl or nail
  • scissors
  • string
  • tape (fabric, duct, or gaffer)

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First, color the cans with Sharpie markers. Of course you could always paint the cans, glue paper to the cans, or leave them plain as well.

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Next, put tape on the cans to protect your kids from any sharp edges. To do this, measure the tape, to get the length right.

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Carefully roll the can over the tape, wrapping the tape around the can, and leaving about half an inch of the tape hanging off the edge.

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Next, use scissors to cut the tape as pictured. Then, fold all the flaps down over the can’s edge. No fear of little hands getting cut now!

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Using an awl or a nail, poke a hole in the bottom of each can.

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Cut a piece of string and thread it through the hole in the bottom of a can. Double or triple knot the string. Repeat on the other side of the string with the second can.

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If the holes seems to be a bit sharp on the inside, and you have especially little hands that you’re afraid may explore the inside of the cans, you can put a piece of tape over the knots and holes of the cans.

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Now, time to play! Your little ones can experiment talking across a room, through fort walls, up and down stairs, from one bedroom to another…the possibilities are endless.

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Such simple, wonderful, old school fun!!!

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Pajama Walks & Dandelion Walks

A couple years ago, our family started going on “Pajama Walks” during the warmer months of the year. They’re not something we do on a daily basis, but maybe once every couple of weeks. Pajama walks are perfect for nights when the kids have been really good, dinner was on the early side, and you want to do something special to end your perfect day. They’re also great on days which have been a complete disaster, as your last hope to turn the day around! Or maybe on rainy days when the clouds part and the sun decides to come out just before it sets…

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Basically, you eat dinner, give the kids a bath, and instead of reading a bedtime story, you take a stroll around the block. You sing songs, talk about your day, watch the moon come out, and unwind as a family.

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Over the past few weeks our pajama walks have morphed into something beautiful: “Dandelion Walks.” While on our walks, L started picking dandelions and other pretty weeds like all kids do. She then started leaving them on people’s doorsteps, in their mailboxes, and even gave a dandelion to a neighbor’s cat napping on their patio.

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So now on our pajama walks, the kids pick flowers for one block and share them for three. The neighbors might not even notice and the girls know this, but it makes them happy leaving these little surprise gifts of sunshine all the same.

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I’ve always told our girls, “Dandelions are where the sun kisses the earth when it rises in the morning.” And it’s true.

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To inspire your kids further, I highly recommend the book “Sidewalk Flowers” by poet JonArno Lawson and illustrator Sydney Smith. It’s one of our favorites!

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DIY Ragtag Fairy Skirts (No Sew!!!)

These Ragtag Fairy Skirts are so easy to make, I almost feel silly writing a post on them. They are so cute though!!! I figured if you didn’t know how to make them already, you need to learn! Like all my projects that involve fabric, my suggestion to you is to check out the secondhand stores in your area first. We have an old antique/junk store in town that has a huge selection of funky fabrics from the 80s and 90s…they’re just perfect for crafts like this. And they only cost $1-$3 for pieces 3-6 yards long! If you already have a nice pile of fabric scraps, you’re all set…it doesn’t take much!

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Materials needed:

  • fabric
  • elastic
  • scissors

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First cut the fabric into strips, about 1-2 inches wide and 12-20 inches long. Varying lengths make the skirt fun…it definitely doesn’t have to be perfect!

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Next, cut a piece of elastic long enough to go around your child’s waist, with enough left over for a bow or knot. Tie on each piece of fabric as pictured. First, fold the fabric in half. Then, put the folded loop under the elastic. Flip the ends of the fabric up and over the elastic and through the loop of folded fabric. Pull gently to tighten and secure.

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Repeat this process until the skirt is full. Although the lengths of the fabric can vary (makes the skirt more fun and free), I would try to make each “knot” face the same direction.

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Once all the fabric strips are secure, simply tie the skirt in a bow around your child’s waist. So easy and too cute!!!

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Rain Boot Wreath

I’ve seen old rain boots up-cycled into flower planters before, so I thought, “Why not use them for a Spring wreath!?” This RAIN BOOT WREATH was so quick and easy to put together and the outcome is adorable…perfect for Spring!

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I could’ve gone out and bought some new boots that weren’t dirty, worn, and broken in spots, but that required me to take the kids shopping and more money spent…not my idea of fun! I ended up making these with things we already had: L’s old rain boots and flowers we had leftover from other projects. Every time we walk in through the front door, the rain boots make me think of the many rainy, muddy adventures L went on during the first three years of her life. So much love!

Materials needed:

  • rain boots (kids’, adults’, old or new)
  • artificial flowers
  • rope and/or ribbon
  • scissors

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First, if your boots are dirty, clean and dry them.

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Next, lay out your flowers and decide how you’re going to split them up. When you arrange your flowers, start with the taller and/or leafy flowers first. Put the single, shorter, and more prominent flowers in last. Originally I thought I’d use wire cutters to trim my flowers, but I ended up just bending the wired stems in half, depending on the height I was looking for. This helped them take up room and stay put in each boot!

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Once your boots are filled and arranged the way you like them, tie a rope or ribbon securely to each boot.

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Now, take the boots to your door and see how they will hang. I ended up tying a knot in the rope down low, tying both halves together so the boots didn’t lean out too far from the door. I also shortened the rope a bit by wrapping and tying it around the wreath hanger.

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To finish your fun and funky Spring wreath, tie a pretty ribbon in a simple bow around the top and you’re done! So easy, cute and fun!

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Happy Spring!!!