Saturday, December 3, 2011

Deck the Halls with Trash & Rubbish

I was sitting waiting for Boy 3 to get his haircut, flipping through a Family Fun magazine and read an article about having a gingerbread party. While I have zero interest in throwing such a party, one of their ideas was to decorate with gingerbread people made out of brown paper bags.


Whenever I go to the grocery store & forget my bags (it happens FAR more than it should, lately) I use paper. Then we use those bags to line the bathroom trash cans and whatnot. But we still have more bags than I know what to do with. So I decided to use the template here and make a gingerbread Advent calendar!

It's so easy, it really doesn't require a tute, but:

  • Print the template, cut it out.
  • Trace it on your brown paper bags (try not to have any printing on the front or back). I got about 8-9 gingies per bag. You'll need 25 gingies when you're done.
  • Cut out your gingerbread peeps. (Ginger bread peeps! Easter idea...)
  • Decorate the front as elaborately or plainly as you'd like (I jotted faces & buttons with Sharpie. You could go all out)
  • Create or steal 25 good deeds/activities/crafts and write or glue them on the back of each gingerbread person. Boy 1 had a list of things he brought from youth group like, "Buy a package of heavy warm socks & donate them to a homeless shelter" or "Write a letter to a friend you haven't seen in a while and thank them for being in your life". We copied those & glued them to each cookie man.
  • Hang a string/yarn/rope/etc. in a visible place.
  • Clothespin (or tie up, or whatever) the guys across the string
  • Flip one each morning leading up to Christmas, and then do the activity sometime during the day.

That's it.

The important thing is NOT to buy ANYTHING. You can make this out of printer paper, magazines, used gift wrap, anything. This is about crafting, thinking about others, and wasting less.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Preempting Christmas Wastefulness

I'm prepping for the holidays and trying to avoid wastefulness. The Black Friday ads are pouring in...I am doing everything I can to resist the manic over-buying frenzy. That's bad for my wallet, the environment, and my sanity.

Usually we have the kids make Christmas lists on Thanksgiving or the day after. They think about stuff they've seen on t.v., or they flip through the Toys 'R' Us Big Book, and they impulsively make long lists of random toys. We try to choose the ones they really want, and then they end up with a bunch of things they play with once and never use again. Talk about wasteful.

This year I'm giving them a sheet to fill out with the following prompts:

  • 2 Books I’d Like to Read:
  • Something I’d Like to Learn How to Do:
  • Some Clothes I’d Like/Need (hats, jerseys, accessories, etc.):
  • 2-3 Toys I want to Play With:
  • 2 Video Games I’d Like to Have:
  • Anything Else:

My hope is that by focusing their thoughts, they'll choose a few items in each category that really appeal to them, and we won't end up with a bunch of things that 1. aren't good for them and 2. will end up in the donate pile within 6 months.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Can Game Tute

Yesterday I blogged about Fair Day 2011, and promised a quick tutorial on the can game I made. It's so easy it seems kind of silly to post a "how-to", but it's a fun way to reuse, so here it goes:

-10 aluminum cans(mine were a mix of Pepsi Max, Mountain Dew, and PBR)
-heavy duty tape (somewhat water-resistant, like duct tape)
-Water, enough to fill each can 1/4-1/2 of the way full
-Wrapping paper (or scrapbooking paper, or brown paper bags, or printer paper you drew on...whatevs.)
-scotch tape
-bean bag or tennis ball

Grab your ten tin cans (I know they're aluminum, but does that sound as fun? No.) Rinse them out, and pull off the tabs so that the top is smooth. You can recycle those, take them to Ronald McDonald House, or save up a stash and make them into accessories.

Fill each can a quarter to half full with water. This gives the cans more weight so the wind doesn't knock them over, and the game is a little more challenging.

Then you cover the hole in the can with your heavy duty tape. I couldn't find the duct tape, so I used this roll of red stuff we had in the garage. I have no clue what it's really for, but it felt kind of like duct tape, so I used it. The garage contains many mysteries for the uninitiated (like me).
Mysterious red tape...
Then you dig through all your scraps of paper. I had a sheet of wrapping paper that was getting all wrinkly in the closet. 

Cut 10 rectangles out. Each piece should be 4" by 10". This won't cover the little beveled edges at the top & bottom of the can, but it will cover the rest. I just wanted to make the cans look more festive (and hide the fact that I drink PBR. High class all the way, baby.). If you wanted to take the time to cover those little edges, more power to you. I am too lazy pants for that.

Wrap the paper around the can (make sure the can is wiped dry first!) and tape it on with your scotch tape.

Perfection, thy name ain't Aytch Rae. 
Then you stack the cans up in rows of 4, 3, 2, 1, from bottom to top. And your game is set up!

See how I put the same color can edges in each row, so it looks like I planned it? Crafty!

All you need is to decide how close your contestants can stand, give them a bean bag or a ball, and let them have at it. I gave each kid 2 throws per turn, and gave them a small piece of candy (Jolly Ranchers, taffies, etc.) for every 2 cans they knocked down. They kept playing until the cans were too beat up to stand anymore, and the water was starting to leak out.

(No carnies heckled, and no children were swindled during the course of this game.)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

That's not Fair

Today is the last day of the Western Idaho Fair. When I was younger, I LOVED the fair. I loved the churros, the snow cones, the spin art, the Zipper...all of it. I haven't been to the fair without a pack of kids in probably 15 years, so it could be that if I went as myself instead of going as "Mom", I'd enjoy it.

But going to the fair with kids is pretty awful for me. I am constantly freaked out about losing one of them. I'm always saying, "Where's Girl 1? Do we have everyone?" and doing head counts. I'm terrified of someone getting lost or stolen.

It's hot. It stinks. It's hot.

I have to watch the kids' intake of foods and weigh that against the spinning, hurling, flipping motion of the rides we're piling them into. Puke lurks around every spin of the Gravitron.

The heckling of the lame.

And the cost...I think we figured it would be $200-$250 bucks for all 7 of us to get in, ride the rides, and eat the food. We could do Disney for close to that.

AND think of all the electricity...

Anyway. If I could turn off my responsible brain, the fair would be a ton of fun. But I can't.

This year my friend Mia had a great idea to have a Fair Day at their homestead. Mia writes Family, Food, and God a really great blog about living simply, spiritually, and sustainably. Mia and her family hosted and fed us all (10 kids, 4 adults) and our family provided the games and prizes. I worked to make all of the games out of household items, or repurposed waste.

 I made a can toss out of pop cans and wrapping paper. I'll post a tute on that tomorrow. It was really fun.

Mmmm...Lemon Heads....

We used a set of stacking cups and they had to land a golf ball in each. Everyone got a piece of candy for trying. The winner got 4 more pieces.

We did some chillaxin'. Boy 1 has GIANT feet.

Wouldn't be the fair without face painting. This is what you get if you allow your wife to decide what gets painted on your face.


We even had rides. Sort of.

We got to pet Beefy and Jerky.

 And we all tried milking Christina. She was very patient with us.

We filled a box with packing peanuts from The Man's work and then hid prizes and candy in it. The kids had 20 seconds to grab out as much as they could.

The glasses they dug out were a hit.

Glow sticks!

The kids got to help grind the corn for the corn dog batter, they picked cucumbers and tomatoes for snacks. We had Zucca bread, organic all-beef corn dogs, homemade donuts, and TONS of candy. All the kids agree that it was so much better than the "real" fair. We're thinking about making it an annual tradition.

Monday, July 18, 2011

What Wagon?

I've fallen off the wagon. Hard.

It's so easy to make excuses say things like, "I can't line-dry, the puppy will eat the sheets." which is sort of true. But the reality is, I've lost my zeal. Stick-to-it-ness (perseverance, if you're boring) is not my strong suit. So I've slacked off. Paper plates have appeared in the house. The counter composter started attracting fruit flies. Rather than trying to find creative solutions, I've crapped out.

But now this: BP Spill in Alaska And another in Yellowstone.

It has to stop. I have to get back on the wagon  because waste really is a matter of life an death, not just for my family, but for ecosystems everywhere.

I'm recommitting. I'm not excited, but I'm determined. Maybe that's better.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Roughing It

We go camping anywhere from 2-5 times a summer. The kids and The Man like to fish, I like cooking out in the open and soaking in the sun and fresh air. Sometime between the 18 and 24 hour mark, this feeling settles in, it's a slowness, a calmness of mind. Your muscles slacken, your movements slow. It's earthy and peaceful. We abandon the world of screens. I can't do laundry. There are no phones to answer. The sound of video games or the 700th viewing of Bolt are completely missing. I don't have to think, "What should I be doing? What's on my list today? When do I need to start dinner? Oh I need to call..." In the mountains we have no Facebook, Google chat, texts, emails, no constant communication. After a day away from town, marinating in the quiet of the mountains, I am hollow.

This weekend we went to Cold Springs Campground, near Council, Idaho. We've never been there before, but at 4800 feet, the elevation is right for June. Some of our favorite camping spots are still closed this time of year due to snow. Saturday morning we headed over to the Lost Valley Reservoir. When we got there, I was disgusted. The shoreline was packed with pickup trucks and boats. That's normal for an in-town lake, but even out in the middle of nowhere, it is becoming more common. People were everywhere. The sounds of motors, the smell of exhaust...these are the things we go camping to get away from. People haul up generators, lights, some people bring televisions. RV camping with refrigerators and air conditioning are tempting, but motoring around the trails at light speed on an ATV? 

I think about the gas that ends up in the water, the smog filling the air from dozens of exhaust pipes and I want to cry. I think about the transformation that could happen if those campers were to dismount their four-wheelers, climb to the top of the pine-covered mountain, lift their face to the sky, and just...breathe. If they were to stop creating so much poison and racket, if they closed their eyes and listened to the river of wind in the trees, the chipmunks skittering through pine needles, to feel the sun slowly sink into their skin...would they be so quick to flip on their portable T.V.s? Would they tear up the shore with their trailers? Rip up the hillside with their toys? Would they be so quick to toss their cans, their Caprisun pouches, their cigarette butts on the ground?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pipe Dreams

Last summer we watered the lawn with a small travelling sprinkler attached to a hose, the kind that I used to jump through as a kid and pretend was a magical rainbow.

Talk about a water waster. We'd forget to move it, leave it running all night, it leaked at the hose bib...we are not aware enough to pull off this type of lawn watering.

So the Man and his pops spent two weekends putting in auto sprinklers in the yard. They did a great job, and now we have a timer that makes sure we don't water too long. Grass is not eco-friendly, but it is the norm. If you're gonna have it, auto-sprinklers are the way to go.

And on a pipe-related tangent, I saw this awesome summer project at Mom's Crafty Space and just had to try it. Marshmallow Shooters!

So cheap, so easy, and the whole family (except for Girl 2, who has a fever and watched Tangled instead) had a blast. We're taking these things camping, no question. If you have some 1/2" PVC lying around, this is a super fun way to reuse it. The link doesn't give lengths, so we did four 6" pieces, and one 8" piece per shooter. They really zing.