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How awful is that? I did not sew a thing in the month of January. Oh wait, I forgot about the dance practice skirt I made for the girl. I blocked it out of my mind because although it fits, and the girl likes it, it did not turn out how I intended at all. Like the difference between turning left and turning right.

She got this sweet doll for her birthday. Originally the doll had blue and yellow socks/shoes that were sewn on which was a problem to the girl because we don’t wear shoes in our house. Therefore she does not want her dolls to wear shoes in the house either. So I did some surgery and the doll now has permanent pink tights. I also made a pink flowered dress at the same time. Apparently I neglected to take a picture of that.

So anyway, the girl has been pestering me for doll clothes. I don’t remember making doll clothes as a kid, I made lots of things but I don’t particularly remember making doll clothes. And I don’t remember my mother making clothes for my dolls either. Now I know why. It’s annoying.

But about the sewing of the moment, raglan sleeve pink shirt with picot edging repurposed from little girl’s turtleneck. White tutu made by cutting the foot off a ruffly toddler sock. No sewing. Instant gratification. Tutu wins.

doll shirt repurposed from little girl's turtleneck and doll tutu made from cut off toddler sock


Rather close to Christmas, the girl and her daddy went to see Santa and she asked very seriously for a toy soldier. We knew that what she wanted was a toy soldier as seen in the Nutcracker ballet which has been very popular in our house this fall. I had already looked everywhere for a set of Nutcracker dolls or ornaments and while there were many sets out there, nothing seemed quite right. Or affordable for that matter.

So I added another project to my list and worked surreptitiously in my notebook (lots of math) and on the miter saw in the basement. The dolls are made of wood and the style is influenced by old-fashioned clothes peg dolls but made mostly with dowels and wood pieces I already had on hand.

wooden toy soldier with working drawings

Later I completed a few more of the characters—Clara, Nutcracker Prince and the Mouse King—and she got them on New Year’s Day when we shared Christmas with my parents. The girl and her brother have been merrily humming Tchaikovsky and acting out bits of the Nutcracker ever since. What more could artistic/musical parents want?

Clara, Nutcracker Prince and Mouse King wooden ornaments

I may need to add wood-working as a category to my blog, I enjoyed this project very much (except for those pesky safety goggles). I could probably use some earplugs and a shop vac as well.



Admittedly, this photo is about a month old but I just realized I’d never shared it. The boy in the leaf pile. We had a great time that day, jumping in, playing leaf monster, piling on dad, etc. There’s some other things I’ve missed as well but I’m just going to offer some random favorite photos here until I get myself reorganized.

sleeping cats

Lila and Duke, curled up on the couch, just about every evening. Sometimes they let us sit with them too.


The girl, as Rudolph, with her ballet teacher, as the Nutcracker, after her very first performance. She was thrilled to be on a real stage although she did say more than once that she would have preferred to be Clara so that she could dance with her teacher. And of course she was quite enamored with all the beautiful costumes. The Maine State Ballet has a cute tradition of Father Christmas and his reindeer (the youngest ballet class) pulling the sleigh with Clara in it off the stage at the end of the ballet. It has nothing to do with the story and they are only on the stage for about 20 seconds but everyone loves it. Her brother and a special friend attended with us and all three of them sat in rapt attention through the performance. Tchaikovsky has such a universal appeal.


The girl cleared the top shelf of her bookcase of all its usual oddments and carefully arranged this sweet vignette. I had to snap a picture of it. The rose her daddy gave her after her performance in the Nutcracker, her well-loved kitty, given to her by her Nana, and Abby, her little Lego girl that I handpicked the pieces for and assembled to look like her.

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If you have small children and you’ve watched the Wonder Pets too many times I have now gifted you with that song stuck in your head. You’re welcome. At least I’m giving you a cute image to go with it, yes?

polymer clay sheep

The boy helped me make these little polymer clay sheep (about 1 to 1.25 inches long) for a game we played to go with a lesson at church. I made a felt pasture with a gated fence and a pool of water, there were also two different colors of felt stepping stones which the kids could arrange and rearrange into paths. A cliff and a little lion puppet provided dangerous distractions from the goal of following the shepherd’s voice to reach the pasture. We played it similar to “Simon Says” but instead I would say “The Shepherd Says” because sheep will only listen and follow their own shepherd, did you know that?

The game, and the sheep, met with giggling approval from the K-1 kids at church but I realized that with a few tweaks the game could be improved so that they could play it themselves. I haven’t quite worked out the mechanics of the game but my friend Jan made some suggestions similar to Candyland which would make it easier and more fun. When I work that out I’ll show you the improved game board.

The kids named the sheep Chocolate, Coffee, Vanilla and Cinnamon (left to right). There are no purely black or white sheep because we are running out of Sculpey but you can always mix whatever you have to make shades of brown!

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This cut-and-color activity was originally created to accompany a lesson on the parable of the mustard seed (Mark 4:30). I found the wonderful black and white illustrations on an educational site allowing use of the images for personal or educational use. I chose pairs of young and adult animals and plants that have fairly different looking forms.

random-charm's cut-and-color matching game, young and adult animals and plants

I did this activity with several kids ages 4-7 and it was challenging enough to all of them to make and to play. If you are making these with more than one child in the same house, use different colors of cardstock for the backing so that each child will know which set is theirs. You can play at least two different games with these cards and I’m sure they will spark interesting conversations, walks outdoors and field trips! Enjoy!

2 page PDF 5.5 MB download

random-charm's cut-and-color matching game, young and adult animals and plants random-charm's cut-and-color matching game, young and adult animals and plants

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The boy asked me to make Hoho the monkey from the children’s show, Nihao, Kailan. He wanted me to make it out of Sculpey but I wasn’t too keen on that, images of broken tails and such coming to mind. So I decided to turn to felt instead. I drew my pattern, cut it out of felt, then needle felted the details on and blanket stitched the pieces together with a little cotton stuffing.

I thought that I ought to make the girl a little character too so I chose Hello Kitty, a famous icon from Japan that I remember as a little girl. Also done up in felt, I forgot one little detail, can you tell?

Hoho monkey from Nihao, Kailan and Hello Kitty handmade felt mascots toys

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pinchworm (as used by the boy)

  1. an inchworm
  2. inchworm

  3. a chenille stem inchworm with pony bead eyes as seen below
  4. chenille stem inchworms

I hadn’t seen a picture of an inchworm recently when the boy asked me to make some. We were not at home so I grabbed what I could find which happened to be chenille stems and pony beads. Notice that the real inchworm has six legs on the front segment and four legs on the rear segment, and no neck or tail as well. He pointed out to me the discrepancy in the number of legs immediately although he also graciously said that it was okay and that he liked what I had made. Fast foward a week when a real inchworm happened to catch our attention on the back of someone’s shirt. I picked it up to show the kids and you know what was the first thing the boy said, don’t you? Attention to detail, that’s my boy.

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Lego creatures with hand drawn instructions

Lego creatures with hand drawn instructions

The boy spent the weekend creating super hero “bats” out of his Mini Racer Legos (first rate sets BTW). First came “Redbat”, complete with a hand drawn instruction booklet! (I drew, he colored and wrote in the numbers of pieces needed just like in the booklets from Lego.) Redbat was quickly joined by Blackbat, Yellowbat, Bluebat, Whitebat and Greenbat.
Among the adventures of the bat heroes was celebrating Whitebat’s birthday with a foam bead birthday cake. I don’t remember when we made that but it’s gotten a lot of pretend play use.
Lego creatures having a birthday party

Lego creatures having a birthday party


lego play tray

lego play tray

I’m not exactly sure when I built this but within the last month or so. I think I’ve mentioned previously that it was a Lego Christmas and then after Christmas my husband dug out his old Legos and added those to the pile. Soon we had far more Legos than would stay neatly on my favorite bankrupt airline food service-turned-crafting trays. But with a tile top kitchen table and wood floors everywhere we desperately needed something with a lip to keep stray Legos from skittering away into oblivion.

So I went down into the basement and dug up an old corkboard and an old artist’s canvas that happened to be the same size, about 2 feet by 3 feet I think. I’d been meaning to recover the corkboard with fabric and paint it or something but that hadn’t happened in several years so I decided to get over that idea and use it. The canvas was rotting off the frame so it was quick work to pull that off, a little slower to remove all the staples and the corner braces. I cut a piece of spare neoprene to fit the depression on the corkboard and then glued some leftover nylon boat canvas on top of that and screwed the emptied frame on top of that into the corkboard’s frame.

The whole thing is light, , super easy to clean, fits behind or under the sofa and can hold a lot of Legos. Don’t ask me why I have spare neoprene, I don’t remember but it comes in handy! I’ve been very pleased with how well this tray works for the kids, especially considering everything I used was leftover or salvage. I suppose it might be nice to paint or seal the frame . . .

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We got the boy his first set of Legos for his birthday. Huge hit! The girl was quite interested as well, if only because it occupied both her brother and her mother. So we had a rather Lego Christmas as well. After Christmas, my husband dug out his old Legos to add to the fun. What to do with thirty year old Legos? Give them a bath of course! The kids enthusiastically scrubbed away!


The girl got a really nice set of metal pots and pans for Christmas from her grandparents. Problem was, she needed a stove, and she needed it now! Rather than using a cardboard box that wouldn’t last long, I looked around for something that wouldn’t take up extra room but would be appealing to the girl. I decided to use the top of a plastic storage drawer unit that held the kids’ art supplies. I rearranged the contents to empty the top drawer to hold the new pots and pans and the girl’s tin tea set. I layered several colors of craft foam to make the stove top. For a long time I despised craft foam but I’ve finally decided that it does have its uses on occasion. I made the stove knobs from some wooden craft pieces glued together and painted red. I used my snap press to put snaps through the foam pieces and glued the other side to the bottom of the knob. Once snapped together the knobs are secure but able to turn smoothly. I love it when I can take stuff I already have around the house and turn it into a completed project!

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My mother went to Japan for a visit with her family and brought back a cute little doll for the girl. I had asked for something more little girlish than what is common here in the States. So Blythe needed a bed or so I was informed by the girl. So since petite Blythe had made the trip from Japan I decided to make her a futon as her bed and a pillow and blanket to match. All were made from scraps, and I do mean scraps. Both of these were left over from making a toddler dress out of a 1/2 yard of fabric so you know there wasn’t much left!

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Meet Junkyard Bunny. (Trying singing that to the tune of Jukebox Hero ;-) The boy brought me this little bunny and asked me to make a super hero cape for him. It had to be brown so I used a piece of grosgrain ribbon and some hair elastic. This is a good way to make superhero capes for small figures. The elastic makes it easy for little fingers to put on and for the cape to stay put. And it’s very easy to make, you don’t even have to sew. I suppose I should post a pic of the cape itself huh? Anyway, the boy then put said bunny into the junkyard truck and Junkyard Bunny was born! Expect to see more of this character, he’s captured my imagination.

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