Color Changing Carnations

The latest experiment in Our Beautifully Messy House is one of the most colorful ones yet – Color Changing Carnations! It’s pretty simple to throw together and you will start to see results within a day! You can do this experiment with any white flowers…daisies, roses, even Queen Anne’s Lace…but carnations are cheap and abundant in our local grocery store these days. I was able to use this experiment to show L and WB how chemicals get into the food we eat, especially the food we grow. L knows why we always try to find organic fruits and veggies at the grocery, but now she can see why we do too!

 

Materials needed:

  • jars or vases
  • white flowers
  • scissors
  • water
  • food coloring

First, trim your flowers’ stems. It’s best to cut flowers at an angle and to remove any leafage near the bottom. Leaves trapped underneath the water’s surface become moldy and cause your water to go bad sooner.

Next, put about 10-20 drops of food coloring into each jar. The bigger the jar, the more food coloring you’ll need. Then, add the water.

Finally, put a flower or two into each vase and wait a day or two for the magic to happen!

The results are fun and exciting to see! Even I couldn’t wait to see what our flowers looked like with each passing hour.

To take this experiment to the next level, you can try making bi-colored carnations. Carefully split a flower stem down the middle and put each stem half into a different jar of colored water. We tried to make a half-yellow, half-red flower. Our “red” jar didn’t have quite enough food coloring in it, but the flower was clearly half-yellow! We’re still working on this one!

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Celery-Rose Print Shirts

If you’re a frequent reader of the blog, you know how much I love printing with the girls…citrus prints, finger prints, leaf prints, cardboard tube-heart prints, and now celery prints! They’re the perfect replica of a rose flower! Like most of our printing projects, the girls and I put these on shirts today so they can wear their art everywhere we go. You could also make a beautiful table cloth, tea towels, or pillow cases with this celery-rose print craft.

 

Materials needed:

  • celery
  • knife
  • t-shirts
  • acrylic paints (red, pink, and green)
  • paper plate or plastic lid
  • thin cardboard piece

 

First, place a thin piece of cardboard inside the shirt you will print. A cereal box flattened out works great…just something to protect the backside of the shirt from any paint that may soak through.

 

 

Cut the celery straight across, down towards the bottom of the celery stalks where they all come together. Don’t worry if it doesn’t resemble a perfect rose. First, roses aren’t perfect either…they have beautiful and unique imperfections just like people do. And second, you can add a green leaf detail at the end that will round the flowers out.

 

 

Next, put your red and pink paint on a plastic lid or paper plate to use as your palette. Press the celery into the paint and swirl it around a bit to get the paint on all stalks.

 

 

Carefully, press the celery onto the shirt and lift up. Voilà! Continue this process until you have all the flowers you want.

 

 

The last step is to add a little bit of green. Take one of the celery stalks that was cut off and simply stamp it into some green paint. Press it sparingly around the flowers to round them out and make the appearance of leaves.

 

 

Beautiful!!! This craft makes beautiful Valentine’s Day gifts, but would be perfect for any flower-loving friend anytime of the year. 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!!!

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.

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs (with Onion Skins & Cabbage)

How beautiful are these Easter eggs!?! Ever since I was a kid and read about dying eggs in onion skins in a nature-craft book, I’ve wanted to try it. I couldn’t believe how easy they were to make and how bright and colorful they turned out! The orange-brownish eggs were dyed in the onion skins, while the bluish ones were dyed using red cabbage. And no, you don’t need to buy a whole bunch of onions to get the skins. Just ask the nearest grocer at the store, and they’ll be happy to let you and the kids dig through the onion bin! You’ll find plenty there! It did not take long at all to dye the eggs in onion skins, while the ones dyed with red cabbage soaked over-night. Just takes a little patience!

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Materials needed:

  • white eggs
  • onion skins
  • red cabbage
  • medium-sized pot
  • water
  • small flowers, leaves, herbs
  • old pantyhose or knee highs
  • twist ties

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First, fill your pot up completely with onion skins. Then, fill with water, leaving a couple inches of space for the eggs.

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Do the same with the red cabbage, chopping the cabbage first.

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Next, put both pots on the stove and turn on high to boil. Let the water simmer for about 5 minutes, then turn the pots off. Let them sit and cool for 5 hours or overnight.

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To prepare the eggs to dye, to get the beautiful nature prints on them, gather small leaves and flowers from your garden. We even used some weeds with interesting leaf shapes!

Cut your pantyhose or knee-highs in small sections. We used knee highs. I cut them in half and then with the top portion, I cut a slit up the side. With the bottom half, it was easy to just place the egg inside.

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Press a flower or leaf onto the egg and carefully wrap the pantyhose around it. Dipping the leaves in water first makes them stick to the eggs a bit easier.

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Twist the pantyhose in the back and secure with a twist tie.

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Now to dye the eggs! Place your eggs into the pots, making sure they are completely submerged in the water.

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Put the pots back onto the stove and bring them to a boil again. Turn down to low heat, and let the pots for 20-30 min.

After the water cools a bit, carefully remove the eggs soaking in the onion skins and dry them off a bit on a towel.

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Cut the pantyhose and the eggs will come out carefully. So cool!!!

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Place the pot with the red cabbage and eggs in your refrigerator and let them sit up to 24 hrs. Then do the same…removing them from the water and cutting the pantyhose off.

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To make your eggs shine, you can wet a paper towel with vegetable oil and gently rub it onto each egg. Such a naturally beautiful way to celebrate Spring, Easter, or Naw Ruz!!!

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DIY Nature Frame

Is your child a nature collector or, as Pippi Longstocking would say, a “thing finder”? If so, the DIY Nature Frame is the perfect project for them! Just about every day of the year, L fills our stroller, our wagon, or our pockets with things she finds on walks. We could be going for a walk around the block in the city and she still comes home with feathers, sticks, rocks, butterfly wings and seed pods! This past weekend we went for a walk and L brought home pinecones and pine needles that she wanted to “do a craft” with, ie. glue to paper. I knew that wouldn’t quite work, so in less than 10 minutes we put together this Nature Frame!

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The best part about having a Nature Frame, is that it’s a project that is constantly changing, evolving throughout the year. While ours has pine cones and pine needles in it now, the end of February, I’m sure within a month or two it will be filled with Spring flowers, robins eggs, and fallen bird’s nests. In the Fall, our Nature Frame will most likely be glowing orange with fallen leaves from the backyard…finally, a place for all our nature findings!!!

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Materials needed:

  • an old frame
  • string
  • scissors

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First, dismantle your frame. I bought this old and ugly print, among a collection of 5 other framed pictures, for $1.75 at an antique auction. I liked two of the pictures and that was worth the $1.75 and getting stuck with 3 I didn’t care for so much! So I stashed the ugly pictures away in a closet and I’m glad I did…the frame on this one was perfect for a Nature Frame! You can find similar frames for pennies at secondhand stores, yard sales, and antique shops.

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Next, tie your string to the edge of your frame and, with the help of your child, wrap it criss-cross around the frame. We used three different strings that were three different colors…anything works!

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Now, after you’ve been for a nature walk and your little one’s pockets are full, you can fill your frame. And then, hang it in a place for everyone to enjoy! We hung ours in our kitchen by the back door…L’s findings usually end up on the floor by the door, so now they can go up on the wall instead! I just love it!

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Enjoy!!!

 

DIY Bird Nesting Kit

The “DIY Bird Nesting Kit” is the perfect project for little hands and little helpers! L and I made three kits this week: two gifts and one to hang in our own backyard, next to our DIY Tin Can Bird Feeder. It took less than a day for our feathered-friends to find it and start picking away, flying bits of string home to cozy-up their nests! The DIY Bird Nesting Kit costs only $2.50 to make (I’m not kidding!) and it’s a wonderful project to help teach kids about giving, sharing, and caring for the world around us….aaand about birds and the various types of nests they make of course!

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Before making our Bird Nesting Kits, the girls and I read “Mama Built a Little Nest” by Jennifer Ward and Steven Jenkins. It is fascinating book with beautiful, collage-like illustrations, depicting all kinds of birds, their families, and the homes they build. (It’s best to read in a pile of beach towels, swirled around on the floor into your own nest.) I highly recommend it!

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Materials needed:

  • Wired bird suet holder
  • yarn scraps
  • scissors
  • ruler (optional)

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First, have your little one cut the yarn scraps up into pieces about 3-5 inches long. You don’t have to measure them, but your little one might want to with the ruler!

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After you have a nice pile of yarn pieces, it’s time to stuff them into the suet holder. Then, close the suet holder up and it’s all done. It’s that easy!

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Now, time to find the perfect place outside to hang your Bird Nesting Kit…someplace where the birds will find it and you can spy them doing so is best!

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If you’re giving your Bird Nesting Kit away as a gift, you may want to include a little card inside explaining what it is. Your friends will be sure to love such a colorful, quirky, and fun gift! Enjoy!!!

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Lace Snowflake Bowls & Decorations

Our LACE SNOWFLAKE BOWLS are one of those crafts that started as one thing, but inspiration hit and they morphed into something even cooler in the process! Originally, L and I were just making lacy snowflakes to hang in a window…which we did! But then it dawned on me that, much like our DIY String Bowls, we could easily turn the snowflakes into bowls as well! These are super-easy to make and it’s fun experimenting with various-sized lace and bowl molds. The finished product makes a whimsical, winter decoration for any windowsill or tabletop. They’d be a lovely centerpiece with candles set inside each snowflake too…so many possibilities!

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Materials needed:

  • white or cream-colored lace
  • white glue
  • glitter (optional)
  • scissors
  • water
  • craft stick or plastic spoon
  • a cup for mixing
  • silicone mats
  • plastic wrap (not pictured)
  • small bowls (not pictured)

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First, prepare your work station. Have silicone mats out on the table and mix up your glue. Use about 3-4 parts glue to 1 part water. (An old yogurt cup or butter tub is great for holding your mixture.) Add some glitter to the mix as well, if you like!

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If you’re making a snowflake bowl, cover a small bowl from your kitchen in plastic wrap. (We used measuring bowls.) Pull the wrap tight and smooth it down, though it doesn’t need to be perfect.

Next, get an idea of how you’d like your snowflakes to look. Cut some strips of lace and lay them out, either flat on the table or across your bowl.

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When you’re ready to start crafting, dip a strip of lace into the glue mixture. Take it out and run your fingers down the lace to remove any excess glue.

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Now, lay the lace strip out…either flat on the silicone mat for a simple snowflake to hang in your window, or across your bowl, if you’re making a lace snowflake bowl.

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Continue to dip strips of lace in the glue mixture, then lay them down on top of each other, creating a snowflake pattern.

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Once your snowflakes are complete, set them aside overnight to dry. If you’re the impatient type, you could also dry them very carefully with a hot blow dryer. : )

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After the glue is good and dry, gently peel the lace snowflake off of the silicone mats. Ready to hang in a window!!!

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To remove a snowflake from the bowl, turn the bowl upside down. Undo the plastic wrap and remove the bowl. Finally, gently peel the plastic wrap off of the snow flake.

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Beautiful!!!

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Such a fun way to celebrate a snow day!

Mixed-media Fall Art

We have some glorious October weather in Virginia this week…cool mornings, sunny days, and brilliant leaves falling from our trees! L’s been painting outside these days, in a world of October color! Yesterday she made a beautiful fall tree using acrylics, melted crayons, and a sprinkle of “leaf glitter” (tiny pieces of actually leaves). The outcome is beautiful!!! I made a similar piece last year that I also adore…the process is as much fun as the piece of art itself!

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Materials needed:

  • canvas (you could do this on cardboard too!)
  • acrylic paints (blues, white, brown)
  • crayons (oranges, yellows, and red)
  • knife and cutting board
  • oven

*A tip when buying crayons for this project…when you’re looking for orange crayons, buy a box of 24 crayons. The larger boxes contain more crayons, but not any more orange and yellows!!! We always seem to run out of orange crayons this time of year!

First, have your child paint their canvas blue. We like to use some darker and some lighter blues, mixing them all together.

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Next, have them paint a few white, fluffy clouds.

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As the sky is drying, sit back and look at the trees with your child. Point out how the trunk is usually straight and thick. As you move up the tree, the branches get smaller and smaller, and they get more squiggly!

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As you continue to discuss trees and their features, lay out a few various-sized paintbrushes. Have your child put them in order from biggest to smallest. Now they know which paintbrush to use for their tree’s trunk and all its branches!

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Time to paint the tree!

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The next step is a little “out of the box,” but that’s what makes it so great! Have your child pick out which crayons are the colors of the fall leaves before them. Using a sharp knife and a cutting board, remove the paper off the crayons and chop the crayons up into tiny pieces. I think we used half a lime-green crayon, one yellow, three or four oranges, and one red crayon.

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Lay the painting down on a flat surface and have your little one sprinkle the crayon shavings all over the trees branches. L also crumbled up an actual leaf from the yard and sprinkled some of it among the crayon pieces. It’s a minor detail, but it’s my favorite. I’ll always remember this day and where L made her Fall Tree.

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Once the crayon shavings are all dispersed, put your painting into the oven at 200 degrees for about 3-5 minutes. Watch the pieces as they melt. (Our painting was too big to fit in the oven this time, so I carefully held it under the broilers with the oven set on broil. I did one end, then turned it around and did the opposite.) When you remove the artwork from the oven, be careful to hold it flat and steady…until the crayon wax hardens, the wax will drip if it is tilted at all.

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Isn’t the outcome gorgeous? It’s perfectly imperfect…just like a fall leaf.

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If you think this is just a craft for kids, you’re wrong…you can totally do this as well! “Mixed-media Fall Art” is fun for anyone and everyone! Enjoy!!!

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