Our DIY Advent Calendars

Every year as December begins, we prepare advent calendars for our kids. Sometimes we take the easy road and get some of those chocolate count down calendars as well, what can I say!

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Our book advent calendar

It has become kind of a family tradition to make a book advent calendar. It’s easy and kind of inexpensive, since we use a lot of loved and treasured books as well as a few new ones. I also include some Christmas activity books and even a Christmas Recipe booklet for kids – we will be making a lot of cookies I can tell you! You just wrap the books up and number them and open one book each day! It’s super fun and the kids really love it!! And so do I to be honest!!

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You can use whatever paper you want to wrap them…after all, it’s the book that counts!

The other advent calendar we made this year was my husband’s idea and he did all the work! He used cardboard and toilet paper tubes to make it! In each tube he placed a couple of treats, chocolates mostly, and a small piece of paper. On the paper he added a variety of “coupons” and activity suggestions that we can do on that day. The first was to decorate the actual calendar! We have coupons to watch a movie, make some DIY ornaments, bake Christmas cookies, sleep all together in the big bed, make some Christmas crafts and so on. The kids are really excited and can’t wait to open all of the surprises!

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These calendars are really easy to make and all you need is some inspiration and to put love into them! Here are some other ideas to make DIY Advent Calendars, there is still time!!!

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Rustic and easy DIY Advent Calendar (image source: Pinterest)
advent calendar buckets
DIY Advent Calendar using cute buckets (image source)
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Beach Decor Idea: DIY Framed Heart Stones

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While summer is coming to its end – slowly here in Greece, thankfully – I am starting to implement some ideas I had before we started going to the beach. I love beach decor in houses and I saw some super cute heart shaped craft ideas on Pinterest that were perfect to make with the kids. I thought that they would make some great summer keepsakes as well.

framed beach heart stones
Framed beach heart stones

I am not that much of a swim-in-the-sea person but I just love days at the beach. I spend most of the time – when I am not enjoying the sun and sound of the ocean – walking along the beach and looking for things worth picking up. Such things are mainly sea glass pieces, heart-shaped rocks, sea shells, driftwood and so on. My son comes along when he is not in the sea playing, as he is a collector of all things rare and special! So we managed to gather a few pieces and they are just enough to make the things I wanted. Here is how to make the first of the super easy summer crafts I was going for: Framed Heart Stones.

The most time-consuming part is finding some nice pebbles in shape of a heart, naturally. My sweet boy always comes running to give me his hearts as soon as he finds them (and of course my heart melts every single time he does it). And I make sure to give both of my kids a couple of heart stones when I find some. So we ended up with nine colorful heart stones, perfect for our craft idea.

Heart shaped pebbles
The heart shaped stones we used for our craft

Craft Materials Needed To Make Framed Heart Stones

  1. A simple box frame (I prefered a white one, cause: beach!!). It was a very cheap one, to be honest!
  2. A glue gun or some other strong craft glue
  3. Heart-shaped stones or pebbles you found on the beach (you can buy some online, but I prefer imperfect self-gathered ones!)
  4. White sturdy cardboard and scissors
how to make framed pebbles
Easy how-to make framed pebbles instructions

Instructions On How To Make Framed Heart Pebbles

  1. Take apart your boxed frame. There should be a filler board inside the frame. Use it as a measure to cut the cardboard to the same size.
  2. Aling your pebbles on the cardboard. You can try to divide it into a grid if it helps you place the pebbles nicely apart.
  3. Heat up the silicon gun. Glue each pebble to its selected place (this should be made by an adult to keep those little fingers from burning!).
  4. Reassemple the frame, without using the glazing in front. I inserted the glazing behing the cardboard to keep the whole thing from moving to much.
  5. And that’s it! You can decorate your frame with some beach decorations, but personally, I like it simple and clean!
diy framed beach pebbles
DIY framed beach pebbles

I love how it turned out, it’s really so simple but beautiful and so full of love and memories! The next thing I want to make is a sea glass craft and a sea shell craft, both framed to make a set (I bought three identical white frames!!!). So stay tuned for more!!!

How to Decoupage A Plate And A Bottle – A Beginner’s Story!

First time decoupage
First time decoupage

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The first time I tried decoupaging (is that a word?) was a few days ago in a beginners class and we started decorating a plain plate and an old bottle and they turned out quite beautiful, allthough I really need a lot of practice in order to get it right! We used the materials described below. You don’t need to use special decoupage supplies, just experiment a little to find what other things work for you. My little one helped, too. But make sure to use child appropriate materials if you want your kids to help! So, as you can imagine, I don’t claim to know anything about decoupage! I will try to describe how we went about it on our first try, following our teachers instructions!

Decoupage supplies you need for decorating a plate and bottle

  • Paint brushes (a wide brush and a small brush preferably)
  • Paint (mocha color) – you can use acrylic paint, or some other liquid craft paint
  • Paint (white color) – you can use acrylic paint, or some other liquid craft paint
  • Clear Crackle paint
  • Mod Podge or clear, liquid decoupage glue
  • Old newspapers to protect our working surface
  • Paper towels
  • A small bowl with water
  • Paper napkin with bird motif and paper napkin with butterflies’ motif (or choose whatever motifs you like). Try to get napkins where the motif is on white background for better results. You can use special decoupage napkins and decoupage paper, but it is more expensive
  • Clear sealer paint
  • An old, clean and plain plate and an old clean bottle
  • Twine

First time decoupage
First time decoupage

Instructions for decoupaging a plate amd bottle

The steps might seem like too many, but they repeat themselves 🙂

  1. Lay out the newspapers on your working surface and arrange all your materials in front of you. Open the mocha paint container or empty some paint into a separate container.
  2. If your paint is thick and you can’t work well with it, first dip the brush into some water, stroke off the excess water and then dip the brush into the mocha paint and paint the surface of the plate and of the bottle. Don’t use to much paint, just enough to cover the surface with a nice layer of paint. If your plate or bottle has any details or tough to get to spots, use the small brush to paint them.
  3. Let the paint dry completely. Use a gentle hair dryer if you are in a rush. While drying rinse your brushes under running water. Dry them with a paper towel as good as you can.
  4. With the clean, wide brush, apply to the plate’s and bottle’s surface a thin layer of the crackle paint with quick strokes. Use the small one if necessary, too. Again, let it dry completely. Use hair dryer if needed. Rinse your brushes and dry them.
  5. While waiting take your napkins and carefully rip around the motifs you want to use. Don’t let any straight edges unripped and don’t use scissors. Separate the napkin’s layers (if you bought a 3-layered napkin, make sure to separate all of the layers). Keep only the layer with the motifs and set them aside.
  6. When your plate and bottle are dry, dip your wide brush into the white paint and with very quickly strokes apply one single layer of paint. Try to not repaint a spot, rather make quick small strokes to cover the whole surface. Use the small brush if necessary. Once again let it dry. As it dries, you will notice that small cracks are formed on the surface. That is the effect we were going for. You know the drill by now… use hair dryer, wash brushes, dry them, and wait a little longer. Close all paint containers or wash the containers you used. You won’t need the paints any more.
  7. Once dry, it’s time to apply the napkin motifs. Empty a small amount of glue into a clean container, or just use it directly from its container. Arrange your motif onto the plate to decide where you like what. When you are satisfied, lift one motif from the plate and apply glue to the spot you want the motif to go. Use any brush works for you. Apply only a layer of glue, not too much, but you don’t need to worry about the area you apply it to. Just make sure that you cover a little more area than your motif needs. Lay down the brush and pick up the motif, face up. Gently lay the motif onto the area you applied the glue. Using your fingers or a sponge, carefully straighten it out, making strokes from the center to the edges. Be careful not to rip the napkin, it is very delicate.
  8. Repeat the same thing with the other motifs and let everything dry. Apply another layer of glue over the motifs. Let everything dry. Do the same with the bottle. Rinse brushes and containers. Use glue and twine to decorate the bottle.
  9. Now it’s time for the final step. Just apply a layer of the clear sealer paint on the plate’s whole surface. You can apply a second layer after letting the first one dry completely for better protection. Let everything dry. As you can imagine, these are not to be used with food or drinks, since we didn’t use food-grade materials.

And there you have it! A nice plate to beautify your home or to give it to somebody who you care about!  The whole thing took us about two hours to complete. Isn’t the end result nice? Other decoupage ideas I am thinking of are decoupage on wood, furniture, boxes, vases and on Christmas I will try decoupage ornaments!

DIY Penguin Finger Puppets Craft for Kids

ready pinguins
DIY penguin finger puppets

This one was shared by a close friend of mine and her kids! They did a wonderful job, I can tell you that! Thank you so much for sharing!!! We can’t wait to make some craft together, soon!

So, it is quite simple to make the penguins and a lot of fun, too!!! You will need stuff that you will have probably already in your house:

–          Black cardboard or paper for the pinguin’s body

–          White cardboard or paper for the eyes and belly

–          Orange cardboard or paper for the nose

–          Other colors of cardboard or paper  and yarn if you’d like to add some more details

–          Paper glue

–          Scissors

–          A black or other color marker for the eyes

–          A pencil for tracing, if you need to

To get started, you’ll need to cut out of the black cardboard the pinguin’s body and cut out two holes for the fingers. The shape of the pinguin’s body is quite simple, you will not have any trouble with it, but if you want, first trace the shape of the body with a pencil and then cut it out Out of the white cardboard cut some oval eyes and the belly, like shown in the image. Also, cut a small triangle out of the orange cardboard.

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All ready items to be glues on the penguin’s body

Now, you can glue all elements on the pinguin’s body. You can make him take on any expression you can think off.

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One penguin
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Second penguin

Now, take the marker and draw some details on the eyes to make your penguin alive, and ready you are to begin playing with them!!!

You could also add some other decorations to them, if you would like to. A scarf, a hat or funny hairs out of yarn, would be a funny addition, don’t you think?

Have fun!!!

The original inspiration came from here: http://www.mamakid.gr/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1107:2010-11-11-21-05-39&catid=97:2011-02-24-21-29-16&Itemid=164

Great hand-made gift idea: DIY Heart-Shaped Mini Album

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Heart shaped mini album (image source)

This idea is just beautiful, especially as a gift for the grandparents. It has some work involved, though, but I guess it is worth the effort!
I guess you could make it somewhat more long-lasting, like covering it with some self-adhesive foil? I don’t really know.
Anyway, you will need some 12×12 kraft cardstock, glue, a scissor, patterned papers, photos and embellishments.
Fold the cardstock four ways and draw a half heart and then cut it out. This you will need to do two times, so in the end you will have 4 hearts. The next step is to make hearts out of the patterned papers, using the cardboard hearts as a base. Then, glue the cardboard hearts together, so you will have a 3D heart. Now you can glue the patterned papers onto the cardboard hearts. Finally, decorate your pages with photos, dried flowers, whatever you think would look nice and are worth being there or are telling a story. Now you could ( Note: this is just an idea that I thought of, I haven’t tried it or seen it!!!) use self-adhesive foil in order for the album to become longer lasting.

Step-by-step instructions
Step-by-step instructions (image source)

Is that a great gift for Christmas for your loved ones or what?
For the original post and detailed step-by-step instructions and images, click on this link:
http://americancrafts.typepad.com/studio/2011/03/heart-shaped-mini-album-tutorial-by-leslie.html

DIY balance beam for toddlers using carpets

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Carpet rolls (image source)

This one was discovered by my kids. Here in Greece, most of us have winter carpets and – not that necessary – summer carpets. So, the time came for us to roll out our winter carpets, as annoying as it is to try to get some play dough out of it. We rolled the first one out, but, something – I don’t remember what – happened and we let the second one rolled up on the floor. The minute the kids saw it, the fun began! Up and down, back and forth, crawling, running or balancing, they couldn’t get enough of it!!! It is kind of safe, since it has almost no height and we have it on the other carpet, so even if they should fall – which has not happened yet – it won’t be a hard fall.

It is so funny! You go out and buy all this stuff for them, only to find out that an everyday item could be so much more entertaining. And it is good for gross motor skill and balance skill development, too!!!

So, we let the carpet a few days rolled up, luckily the weather is warm enough until now. And also, the carpets are so old, we don’t mind if they get fed up some more… after all, it’s highly unlikely that they will survive the next few years.

If you have somewhere an old carpet, bring it into the room, tie the ends with some tape so it doesn’t roll open, and let your kids enjoy it!

DIY balance beam
DIY balance beam

Ikea Hack: How To Make A DIY Kids Bookshelf

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Our children’s new book shelves

Ikea Hack: How To Make A DIY Kids Bookshelf

I didn’t have any place to arrange my children’s books, and I certainly didn’t want to spend

Our DIY books shelvesa lot of money to store them. While surfing the web one day, I came across this idea and the day came to make it! In that post they painted the shelves white, we on the other hand thought to make them cheerful and colourful!

What did we do to make these kids bookcase?

First of all we bought some inexpensive selves used for storing spice containers. We used the ones from IKEA, which cost 3.49 € each here in Greece. I am sure there are other selves suited for this as well, but those were used also in the original article I got the idea from, so I used them, too.

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Ikea shelf (image source)

Next, we bought some plastic colours – they were cheaper than the made for wood ones. We went for the colours green, yellow and red and our super-dad painted them.

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Everything is ready to start painting

After they were complete dry, our dad put them together. Although first we wanted to make one shelf green, one yellow and one red, our dad assembled it using different colors – brilliant!

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All colourful, dry and ready

Then he got his drill and put them up on the wall. Come to think of it, all the hard work was done by my hubby. Thank you so much for that!!!

And here is the result! Colorful, vibrant kids bookshelfes, perfect for any kids room! Aren’t they great?

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All ready children’s book shelves

The kids loved them, they immediately wanted to start reading their books!!!

Perfect gift and craft idea: DIY snow globes

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Hand-made snow globes (image source)

Here is such a great idea for handmade Christmas gifts!!! Make your own snow globe, even with a picture in it! Isn’t it the perfect gift for the grandparents or to put on your desk? I love this idea! The kids can help choosing the items to put inside and the colour of the glitter! I am sure going to make some of these! This will be fun!

All you need are some jars with lids that it seals good. You can use any jar you have in the house, any size, any width.

Then you will need some water-resistant items, like from plastic etc. that will fit easily in your jar.

You can even laminate a picture and put use that as decoration! Make sure you have a tied lamination, so they will not be penetrated by water.

Next you will need some water-resistant glue.

Glue the items on the jar lid, taking care to leave room, so that you can screw the lid easily.

Let the glue dry and check that everything sticks to its place. Next, fill the jar almost to the top with water.

You can add (optional) some glycerine or baby oil, too. Add glitter or artificial snow.

Now, screw the lid tightly on the jar. You can glue it or put some insulating tape around the lid, but keep in mind that you will not be able to open it if you want to make some corrections or change the water.

Now, decorate the jar – even paint on it – and you are ready!

step by step snow globes
Step by step instructions for diy snow globe (image source)

For step – to – step instructions and pictures of the laminated picture version, visit this link:
http://www.ourbestbites.com/2011/12/how-to-make-a-homemade-snow-globe/

Also, look at those super-ideas:

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Trees in snow globes (image source)
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Kids in snow globes (image source)

Amazing Dried Fruit Christmas Ornaments

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Dried citrus fruit ornaments (image source)

Making our own christmas ornaments with my kids is one of my favorite activities this time of year. One cheap but awesome and beautiful idea is to make some Dried Fruit Christmas Ornaments using citrus fruit peels! Sooooo nice!

You can use any citrus fruit you like; oranges, mandarins, limes, grapefruits or lemons. Then, you have two choices. Either cut the fruit carefully into thin slices or peel carefully the skin off the fruit.

If you choose to slice the fruits, arrange the slices on a lined baking tray and put the tray in a preheated oven at about 90-100°C. They should not touch each other. Bake them for about 2-3 hours, depending on how thick the slices are, while turning them on the other side every 30 minutes or so. You should check every slice separately and when one dries out, get it out of the oven and let the others dry some more. Let them cool down completely and then pierce a hole in them. Now you can use anything you like, some yarn, cord or a nice ribbon, depending on the use you are planning for them. Even paper clips or ornament hooks could do the trick.

If you choose to use the peel, take some nice cookie cutters, like for example a star-, moon-, tree- or heart cookie cutter and cut the shapes out. Now, do the same as above. Isn’t it easy? Here is another awesome use for citrus peels: making citrus peel roses!

You can use also some spices or essential oils for more aroma, and even decoration!

For more ideas and information, read our related articles.

 

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Dried citrus fruit ornament with cinnamon decoration (image source)
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Dried citrus fruit ornaments on hooks (image source)