Friday, June 25, 2010

Mailbox Makeover

Yikes...seeing it in a photograph really makes me wonder how and why it took 8 months to replace our mailbox. A new home is always full of so many projects, big and small and somehow the mailbox was overlooked for quite some time. I am not so concerned with the wild and woodsy growth around the mailbox that would look very out of place in many communities. It would be very unusual to have a manicured lawn where we live. But the paint-peeling, attached to the post by a bungee cord mailbox, could not be ignored any longer. At first I thought we would strip and repaint this mailbox, but decided to start with a fresh clean white new one.
I love when we can create something functional that the kids can contribute to. These projects are not only the most fun, but are so meaningful. What better way to tell your child you think they have good ideas or you like they way they paint than to allow them to paint the mailbox or a similar project. I felt like I was able to tell my 5 year-old the "I trust you and your ideas and think you are really creative capable of important things" with this project...yet I was still able to control it a bit.
I realize that sounds a bit manipulative, but I had to find a balance. If I let it totally be up to her we would end up with a pooping moose or worse, a Disney Princess mailbox. But with a little bit of conversation and brainstorming, she happily came up with the bear in the blueberries. I painted the branches and then gave her a round and a leaf shaped sponge for the berries and leaves. She drew the bear with pencil first then painted it. I did some little touch ups and now we have a super cute mailbox.It is basically the same design on both sides.......with a cheery surprise for the mail carrier inside.

I used acrylic paint directly on the metal mailbox and sealed it with a clear spray paint to seal it. We actually made this as a Father's Day surprise and Daddy loved it. We have received lots of compliments which have been very well received. I love the way she wants to show our friends and loves to go fetch the mail. She talks about what the neighbors must think of it and has been talking about inventing a roaring bear sound effect.
This project turned out to be so much more than simply painting a new mailbox.
How does your mailbox look? I bet your kids would love to paint one!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

More Magnets

A few months ago I wrote about making magnets
I made some more last month only this time I used little drawings and photographs as well as small pieces of fabric. Each magnet is representative of an experience or place and collectively they tell the story of the places our family has lived in the last 10 years. My husband and I met in college in Virginia, moved to Maryland, then to Alaska, Georgia, Michigan, back to Maryland and finally back to Alaska. Each place became home--we made friends, took walks and bought groceries. Each time we would move I felt a strange longing for the aisles of a former grocery store or the familiar streets where I would walk. Missing people is a given, but I wanted to honor in some way the places and experiences that are so significant to daily life, but when you move away are simply not to be part of your life any longer. 
A few of the pieces are bits of old curtains that used to hang in our windows, some are representational drawings of particular places or objects and a few are a bit more abstract as I tried to capture the sounds and smells that connect me to a place.
Most of the time they live on the refrigerator but they can also be a fun toy for little hands.
Regretfully I did not take any pictures, but Hollin did make some of these for her teachers as an end of school year gift. She drew some cute pictures and designs. They were really cute.
Thanks for looking:)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Upcycled Plastic Lid Flowers

I often wish that I had some gardening skills, and I do try and will probably continue to try...but for now I have decided to make some flowers that will not die. I know that I am not the only one out there with plastic yogurt containers. We cannot recycle them here and I really don't need anymore, yet we go through so much yogurt that I have an endless supply of containers and lids just waiting to be repurposed. I also have a handful of Tupperware lids that have become mysteriously separated from their matching bottoms. Well, I cannot recycle those, can't really donate a random lid, and I cannot throw them away so I had to think of something. The excess lids combined with my need for flowers that will survive my black thumb led to these adorable flowers. I cut the flower shapes from the lids, painted one with acrylic paint and attached buttons and painted dowels using wire (poked holes in the plastic with a thumbtack first). I filled a tub with soil and rocks and planted my flowers. The four you see here are just the beginning. So far, this was a mommy project, but it inspired the kids. Just last night they started cutting and painting a few more. The plan is to make a new flower with every lid we use. Be on the lookout for a full flower bucket in a few weeks. 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Our Fantastic Tipi

Our yard needed a tipi. For a brief moment I even considered purchasing one for almost $200. Thank goodness they did not ship to Alaska because the one we made is wonderful and was made entirely from things we had. It was so easy too. We have so many trees in our yard, including many saplings that were too close to one another or to the house. Still, I used mostly branches that had already been cut. Finding the branches that were the right size and hauling them over the hill to our designated tipi spot was quite the adventure. It was a lovely way to spend a sunny morning. I used seven sturdy branches, each is about eight feet tall. If you do not live in the woods, you can purchase bamboo poles at a a hardware store for about $2.00 each.
I dug a 6" hole for each pole, stuck them in and then tied the tops together. I dug a trench around the outside because I thought we might plant beans, but decided to go with fabric instead so that we could enjoy the play space right away. I wanted to use some sort of water repellent yet breathable fabric, but ended up using curtain liner instead simply because I had about 6 yards of very basic liner that would never be used for curtains (I need blackout liner for our curtains). I very roughly measured the height and the circumference of the bottom. I stitched together about 4 panels of equal length and then hemmed the top. The important thing is to make the bottom wide enough to stretch the entire way around the widest part of the tipi. I threaded a piece of rope through the top and gathered it. There are better ways to custom fit your fabric, but this was easy and will allow us to reuse the fabric next year if the structure needs to be remade.

Watered down acrylic paint in a spray bottle took care of most of the decorating. We did experiment with hand and leaf stencils which and loved the results. Simply hold a leaf or your hand up to the fabric and spray over it. We did some beautiful shirts using this technique--more info in a future post! Hollin also used a brush with some undiluted acrylics. She so enjoyed painting her tipi and said over and over again how much fun it was. We hung a string of beads from the top on the inside and put down a blanket.
Our campfire is just outside so the kids can cook and sleep tell stories and more.