How-To’s Day: Recycled “swirly” crayons

I hate throwing away crayons. Even half a crayon. Even one-third of a crayon. But when I pulled down the kids’ bucket of crayons the other day to find it full of tiny crayon nubs and only two or three full sized crayons I knew it was time to let them go. So, inspired by another friend of mine, the kids and I made what they dubbed “swirly crayons”. Here is how you can put your crayon nubs to good use too.

A muffin tin
Cupcake papers
Broken crayons

Step 1: Preheat your oven to about 200-250 degrees and peel all paper off of the crayons.

Step 2: Line muffin tin with papers.

Step 3: Break crayons down into easily meltable sizes.

Step 4: Put the tin full of crayons in the oven and watch it. The crayons will look like they are just starting to melt for quite a while until they are quite suddenly crayon soup. Pull them out before they are over-melted.

Step 5: Let crayons cool. This will take quite a while. I think we left them for at least an hour

Step 6: Bust out your new swirly crayons and create a work of art.


How To’s-Day: Washer necklaces

I’ve been planning this post for weeks. But sometimes when I make plans I forget that I’m a mom. And I forget that cars can die, that kids get sick, that friends will need last minute help, that stores don’t like to carry exactly what I need or they purposely make it very hard to find, that family events tend to take all day… for three days in a row, and that my kids need to see my face from time to time.

So here it is but not without the help of three people who love me enough to dig me out of the hole I buried myself in this week: my awesome husband and my good friends Lanae Shrope and Stephanie Shumway. (And thanks to Lori Nielsen for the loan of her alphabet stamps!) Lanae is responsible for the chains and cords on the necklaces along with some of the work that went into making them. Stephanie cleaned my house and modeled for us. And my husband wound up doing the majority of the grunt work. You might be asking yourself what exactly I was doing. I’m still trying to figure that out.

And without any further ado, my make-your-own Mother’s Day washer necklace tutorial:

Washers (zinc plated)- Found at the hardware store. Buy a few extra for practice!
A heavy hammer- We used a 3 pound sledge
Alphabet metal punches- Found at Harbor Frieght
A cutting mat (optional)
A sharpie
Baby wipes
A magic eraser

Step 1: Place a practice washer on a concrete or tile surface. Use the cutting mat to protect the surface if necessary.

Step 2: Choose a letter and position it on the washer. Lift your hammer about a foot above the stamp and let it fall using only a touch of force. It will take a practice washer or two to get the hang of this. I ended up having my husband help with this.

Step 3: Personalize your washers with your desired message. We used a #2 Phillips screwdriver as a spacer. You can use a nail setter if you would rather a dot than a little star.

Step 4: Color in your letters with black Sharpie and then hairspray it quickly. Wipe off the excess with a baby wipe or a magic eraser. This takes quite a bit of elbow grease!

Step 5: Add the chain, cord or ribbon of your choice. We tried a few different options here.

In a matter of a couple of hours we knocked out six necklaces and a keychain for my dad’s birthday. And we had a blast! We have already come up with a list of different occasions to make these necklaces for. I ended up with one for myself and Stephanie and Lanae both went home with one.

We bought our washers at Home Depot for pennies a piece. The large one is a 5/8″ x 1 1/4″ zinc-plated fender washer and the smaller one is a 1/2″ cut zinc-plated washer. There are many different sizes and thicknesses to choose from and a couple of different finishes. If you want to get a little crazy, this blog post has lots of great ideas for different types of washer necklaces.

Have a very happy Mother’s Day!

How-To’s Day: Paper bag books

This week’s Mother’s Day gift idea is based on this Brown Bag Books video by Michelle Woods. This is another gift we have given on numerous occasions and have also made just for fun as a family. These books are super cheap to make, totally customizable and they allow for maximum munchkin involvement and creativity.

Paper lunch sacks
Jute (twine) or ribbon
Heavy weight white paper
Pictures of grandma with your kids
Hole punch

Step one: Stack three paper lunch sacks on top of one another head-to-tail so that the thicker bottoms of the bags aren’t together and then fold them in half.

Step two: With the sacks folded, punch a whole at either end of the crease, about 1/4 inch in, so the sacks can be bound like a book.

Step three: Cut several squares of heavy white paper. (Cut more than you need if your kids are helping since they tend to have lots of “mess-ups”.) Then, work with your kids to design a cover for your book including the phrase “Why we love Grandma” or “We love Grandma because…”. We have used popsicle stick frames on the cover before, we’ve layered paper, feathers and craft foam. Get creative!

Step four: On the inside pages, alternate photos of Grandma with your kids and artwork by your children illustrating things they like to do together and special things Grandma has done for them. I usually like to end with “She loves us!” and a coordinating, lovey-huggy photo.

Step five: Bind your book with twine or ribbon. Give to Grandma as a card accompanying a gift or as its own special treasure.

Last week’s Mother’s Day gift idea: Grandma’s brag book

How-To’s Day: Make a Grandma’s brag book

With Mother’s Day right around the corner, our next couple of How-To’s Day posts will focus on gifts for grandma. This week’s brag book is a gift we have given on numerous occasions. This book is durable for purse carrying, useful for braggy grandmas (as all grandmas should be) and cheap to put together. It is also easy to update at Christmastime or next Mother’s Day.

You will need:
3M Brag book 4×6 (found at Wal-Mart in the photo album section)
A cardstock cover page
A stack of your favorite photos

Step 1: Remove the cardstock picture that comes in the first pocket of your brag book and trace onto a plain cardstock of your choosing for your cover page.

Step 2: Create your cover page digitally like I did here or craft it by hand. I used this “We love grandpa” photo for a Father’s Day brag book cover.

Step 3: Print your favorite photos as they are or jazz them up digitally. If you are a paper scrapper, you could scrapbook your whole brag book without having to worry about the pages being ruined as long as you can fit each page into the 4×6 sleeves.

Step 4: Insert photos, wrap and gift!

Photos by Jesse Woodbury (my little brother)

How-To’s Day: Become an eco-friendly family

As a child, I was quite the environmental activist. I paraded around my neighborhood with my “Save the Whales” poster, frequently checked our faucets and toilets for leaks and was horrified at our city’s lack of recycling resources. Then I became a teenager.

Flash forward to my life as a parent, when I realized that my choices, actions and attitude now affected the world times three (then four, then five). And I started to care again. But more than that, I had an interest in protecting my family from the harsh chemicals that contaminate our food, air, water and homes.

I am by no means an expert and I have a lot more to learn but here are some of the efforts my family is making:


This is probably the easiest way to get started. Paper, plastic and glass goes in their own bins in the house and then out to the blue recycle can. My son has become more involved (read: pushy) about this since he started kindergarten. (Heads up, preschool moms!)


If there is an option, we try to always go reusable. If we get plastic bags from the store, we use them for trash bags (I have yet to hear of an alternative to using trash bags) but we try to remember to bring our own cloth bags. In fact, I’ve become somewhat of a collector and have bags from just about every store in the Valley, and then some. I even made my own bag using a grocery bag as a pattern.

Some other ideas:

  • Use reusable water bottles, especially stainless steel.
  • Give cloth diapers a try. Find more information on this trend here.
  • Put items in your home to a different use.
  • Keep plastic food jars to store leftovers, LEGOs or crayons.
  • I use those big, Coscto-sized Ziploc boxes to organize papers and other items.
  • See if an artist or crafter in your area can use your baby food jars for mixed paints, buttons or beads.
  • Find new homes for your old toys and clothing. Many local families are in need of these items!
  • Use the backs of old schoolwork, flyers and office papers for coloring paper. My kids go through stacks of paper when they’re allowed to so I usually set a limit and then let them work through scrap paper but I encourage the use of their new (re-purposed train table) chalk table.


Buying your produce in-season and from local sources whenever possible reduces the number of miles your food will travel and the volume of resources used getting it to you. To make an even bigger impact, grow your own produce. I would say that this may not be possible for everyone, but hey, we live on a college campus in the desert. If we can do it, so can you. Not only will a garden greatly reduce your family’s carbon footprint, but it will save you money and jazz up your dinner table. We throw a little cilantro into every salad because we can, make pesto and salsa and eat peas fresh right off the vine. Jealous yet? Get digging! If you are really low on space, give Square Foot Gardening a try as we have done here.

This list is in no way comprehensive and there are many more way your family can make a difference. For more ideas, check out a couple of my favorite blogs on the subject, The Green Parent and Green and Clean Mom. And please comment with ideas of your own!

How-To’s Day: Chicken wire memory board

We have used this board to post pictures, invitations, announcements and most recently our kids’ hand-made “favorites” books. It’s easy to make, a great gift and a fun way to display small papers in your home. Here’s how to create your own.

You will need:
A thrift store frame (or make your own)
Paint and a foam brush
Chicken wire
Wire cutters or tin snips
A staplegun
Clothes pins

Step 1: Sand your frame down, wipe it clean and cover it with a couple of coats of paint. Let dry. Sand again for a weathered effect if you so desire.

Step 2: With a pair of wire cutters, cut chicken wire just bigger than the opening in your frame. Make sure you have enough overlap to be able to secure the chicken wire to the back of the frame.

Step 3: Turn the frame over and put a staple in across the wire every few inches until secure.

Step 4: Hang your memory board on the wall and then use clothes pins to fasten kids’ artwork and pictures or greeting cards to the chicken wire. Or use the board to organize earrings and jewelry.

So many possibilities!

Baby stuff checklist

Among the top questions I am ever asked by expectant moms is: What do I need before my baby comes? A sling! Is usually my first answer, followed closely by a co-sleeper,  breast pump, the Dr. Sears Vaccine Book and cloth diapers.

Before their baby was born in January, my brother and his wife asked me to sit and write a comprehensive list of what exactly the need to have which they would then take with them to register. I did and the last couple of times I’ve been asked, I told the inquiring expectant parents to watch for the list on my blog. Here it is! Finally.

  • Breast pump- The very best you can afford. Preferably double, electric. Otherwise, get a lower grade and plan to rent a hospital-grade pump for the postpartum period. Trust me.
  • Receiving blankets- Don’t try to swaddle your baby with these, they are too small. They are good for setting on the floor to change baby, catching spit-up, keeping sun out of baby’s eyes and so forth.
  • Gowns- All you need for around the house during the heavy diaper changing period (boys and girls)
  • Onsies- Great under a swaddling blanket.
  • Solana Swaddle Wrap– The perfect super-light blanket to keep your baby bundled but not too hot for her first four months or so.
  • Pacifiers- Don’t use them right away but it’s better to have them on hand. I like the green Soothie pacifiers.
  • Bouncer- Be sure baby doesn’t spend too much time here to avoid possible spinal issues.
  • Lansinoh- For judicious use when nursing. (Too much will cause baby to slip off the breast.)
  • Hydrogels (Medela or Lansinoh brands)- Can use one set for 6 days, rinse after each nursing with warm water. Do not use with Lansinoh cream.
  • Cloth diapers- For baby’s bum if you want to jump on the bandwagon, otherwise to be used as the world’s most effective burp cloths, cushions, props and nursing drop cloths.  (You will find a million uses for these.)
  • Baby bathtub that fits in your sink. Or you can just use your sink.
  • Baby or regular soft washcloths
  • Baby soap- Unscented, natural is best.
  • Diapers
  • Unscented wipes
  • Unscented laundry detergent (think All Free and Clear)
  • White noise machine- If it’s your first and you have no other kids in the house you will want some noise going all the time so your baby isn’t startled by noisy environments.
  • Flat (not fitted) crib mattress pads for your bed if you plan to nurse your baby there. (Sometimes a good idea anyway right out of the hospital.)
  • Boppy or other nursing pillow
  • Infant Tylenol- Your baby won’t need this right away but you won’t want to run out of the house in the middle of the night to get it when she does.
  • Rectal thermometer- Gotta have one for newborns. Sorry.
  • Car seat
  • Stroller
  • Diaper bag- Look for lots of pockets and space for a change of clothes. Should be stain-resistant or easily washable!
  • Lansinoh nursing pads- These won’t look like headlights under your shirt like some do.
  • Nursing bra- Easy access is most important in the beginning, support later.
  • Baby socks

For (circ’ed) boys*:

  • 1 box extra gauze squares
  • 1 small tube of Vaseline

* The hospital should send you home with these things but it doesn’t always happen.