School Projects

Fun Projects

Monday, July 28, 2014

Vacation Tee Shirt Saga

You know how when you have had a big event planned for a long time, and you feel like you have all the time in the world to get ready for it (like Christmas) and then suddenly the big thing is only a week and a half away and there isn't much time at all?  Well, that's what happened to me again this summer, and the big thing is our road trip out to Yellowstone National Park.  So, this weekend I started assembling my lists: things to pack, things to do before leaving, things that need to be ready for when we get back, things that need to go on other lists that I haven't thought of yet......

But don't worry, this post isn't about lists of things to do, it's a post about one thing I managed to get done for our trip, despite a number of setbacks along the way.  So, here's the story:  
I thought it would be fun for the kids to have themed tee shirts for this trip.  Since my husband keeps track of our kids in public by counting them, I thought that putting their number in the birth order on the back would be a helpful element for him, while on the front I would put a little reminder of their chosen "Thing I Really Want to See in Yellowstone."  My plan was to create stencils to set on top of the shirts and then use bleach in a spray-bottle to give the area that was uncovered by the stencil a sort of tie-dye affect.  It seemed simple enough.  Turns out it wasn't.  Here's my first effort:
Even a little bleach goes a long way, and simply setting a stencil on top of the shirt did not stop the bleach from bleeding through underneath.  I re-thought my method a bit - mostly using significantly less bleach - but the results still weren't great.
At about this point I realized that I was either going to have to spend a lot more money on this project or I was going to have to work with what I had.  The lower price tag and lower labor convinced me that option number two was superior and I pulled out my Sharpies to solve my problems.  Thankfully my Sharpie collection contained markers that almost perfectly matched each of the four tee shirts, and I simply colored over the bleached out parts of the numbers.
For the front part of the tee shirt I gave up on the idea of stencils altogether.  I just sprayed it with bleach (in a couple of stages so that I didn't overdue it again) and then wrote out the words with Sharpies.
The tee shirts turned out totally different from my original vision, but that didn't seem to worry the children at all.  They are all getting more and more excited about our trip!
From left to right: "I want to see the Upper and Lower Falls", "Yellowstone Valley", "Old Faithful", and "Bears".
And now I better get back to those lists!
Happy road tripping everyone!

Friday, July 25, 2014

The First Lemonade Stand

Summer is just flying by, isn't it?  This week, the kids talked me into having a lemonade stand in our front yard.  It was their first step into the business world and they were hoping to earn "tons and tons of money" so that they could each buy a camera before we leave for vacation to Yellowstone National Park in about two weeks.  
First, we made signs (I wrote them so that potential customers could actually read them and then the kids pumped them up with color).
Then they set up shop at the end of our driveway.  

We live on a fairly busy road, so I was hopeful that we'd get a drive-through customer or two, but after the first hour of selling the only customer was me and the kids were rather disappointed.  However, things perked up after that with a few cars stopping, some bicyclists pausing in their journey, and all our generous neighbors walking up and even tipping.  At the end of the day, after waving and smiling for almost three and a half hours, they decided they were hungry enough for supper to close up shop.  Grandpa Steve and Mrs. Ore arrived just in time to get the last cups of lukewarm lemonade and round out the money-making part of the venture at about $10!  That's big money to little kids!
Happy lemonade drinking and summertime relaxing everyone!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Weekend Treat-Making

Pinterest has such delightful looking recipes, doesn't it?  I've made quite a few of them myself, and they have all turned out just fine.  This weekend, however, I experienced my first "Pin-saster."  Here is the story: I went to Aldi and found strawberries for a really good price, so I bought a lot.  Then I needed to figure out what to do with them, besides make jam that my kids won't eat, so I turned to Pinterest.  Up popped a number of recipes for "Oven-Dried Strawberries" with lovely pictures that looked like candy/fruit snacks:
Image found here
The recipes were all pretty similar: Bake for three hours at 210 degrees.  Friends, the smell was delightful!!!!  I was very nearly drooling by the time the dried berries came out of the oven.  Sadly, they looked nothing like the pictures - they looked like this:
And they weren't dry either - they were just softer and maybe a bit jelly-ish.  They did taste good to me, although opinions among the rest of the clan were mixed, so it is unlikely I will ever waste three hours on that one again.

To comfort ourselves after that botched treat, we made something else yummy over the weekend.  The girls had great fun making their first batch of Monkey Bread.  It turned out just as sticky and tasty as you could hope for.
Cam like his with his first very own mug of coffee.....
which two minutes after this picture was taken ended up dumped into his breakfast cereal.
You win some, you lose some.

Happy baking and treat-making, everyone!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Project At the End of the Camping Trip

This past weekend we spent camping in southeastern Iowa - Lacey-Koesaqua State Park to be exact.  "But Dana," you say, "camping isn't a project.  Camping is an adventure.  Camping is fun.  Camping is RELAXING.  Camping is not a project."  To which I would kindly respond: "You are wrong.  Camping is most definitely a project."  Still, if you persist in your notion that camping is a project, then you can scroll through the photos of the camping trip until you get to the end and find the photos of the project at the end of the camping trip.
 On Saturday we visited the Civil War Battlefield of Athens, Missouri.  We even got a private tour!  Then we had lunch in their lovely picnic shelter (Camping lunches are projects - see?  I told you so.)
Next it was on to a Burlington Bees Minor League Baseball Game.  (Note: taking children to baseball games counts as a project - think of all the bathroom trips).  The game ended up getting called due to rain, after a VERY impressive lightening show.  There was a lot of rain (even a tornado warning), but thankfully our tent stayed nice and dry.
The next morning we had breakfast in the soggy campsite, and then began to put all the damp stuff back in the van (see, yet ANOTHER project).
Then we squeezed in a quick walk in the woods before hitting the road for home.
And now we have reached the portion of the posts that all you skeptics will have to acknowledge is a real project: Cleaning Up After the Camping Trip.
Tent parts and sleeping bags need to be dried and aired out.
Other damp paraphernalia also needs to be de-mudded, de-bugged and dried out.
And, of course, there are piles and piles of laundry to wash, dry and put away.
But, as consolation for all this projecting, I discovered that my raspberries bushes are just starting to produce, so I took a little snack break before writing this blog post.
Happy camping, everyone!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Strawberry Farmboy

During strawberry seasons of long ago, when I was a kid, my dad would wake me up early on a Saturday morning (he not being a believer in sleeping in past dark-thirty, EVER) and we would go strawberry picking.  Berry picking was serious business for him, and if I wanted to keep up I had to learn to pick fast and well, but the work was interrupted with an occasional taste (or maybe getting pelted with a squishy over-ripe berry), so it was still a lot of fun.

Now that Ian is old enough to not tromp on every berry in a row, I decided it was time to share the joy that is strawberry picking with him.  I still pick at the same farm that my dad took me to, so there is a little bit of nostalgia in this first trip together.

First you ride the wagon out to the field.
Then you get assigned your row - I told him he had to pick ten berries before he tasted one.  Busted!
After you finish picking, you wait for the tractor to come back, and as you wait you sample your produce.
I decided to go easy on the rookie this time and only pick one tray.  During my teen years, my mom and sisters and I started going to the farm together, and we went for volume.  We'd each pick a couple of trays and then take them home and process them.  I have no idea how many pounds that was, but it was a lot.  We had fun working together, although our fingers were stained red for several days afterwards.  
This time I let Ian off the "Strawberry Cleaning" hook and he mixed us up a batch of muffins to snack on instead.
Happy strawberry picking everyone!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Painting Flower Pots

Earlier this spring, I volunteered to lead a project for the Cloverbuds (K-2nd grade kids) in Ian's 4H group.  I decided to have the kids paint little terracotta flower pots and then let the pots dry and carry over the project to the next month when they could plant marigolds in the pots.  It was me vs. 6 high-energy boys and 2 cheerful girls, so I didn't have a chance to take a single photo, BUT, I had some leftover pots that I let my own kids paint on as well.  My kids know the rules and routines of painting, so you do get to see pictures of them.
It should not surprise any of you to learn that since the kids were having such fun painting flower pots, I was motivated to give it a try as well.  When it comes to colorful flower pots, I am of the opinion that there are never enough!
Never one to measure or plan very far ahead, I just free-handed these, which was fun but not very precise.  If you are of a more perfectionist bent, you'll have to figure out the measurements and angles on your own.  Sorry, I'm just not a very helpful blogger today.
The best part, of course, is filling the pots with dirt and flowers and arranging them on the patio to enjoy all summer long (if your children don't drown them with swimming pool water, which is the more likely of the two outcomes).
Happy flower pot painting and planting everyone!

Linked up at: Be Awesome Link Party

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Watercolors and Stamps

To say that it has been extremely soggy and damp around here is not really an understatement at all, so my kids have been stuck inside a bit more then is usual for the summertime.  Over the weekend, I asked the kids if they wanted to do a project, and I heard hoots of joy (except from Ian who had his own "things to do") and I got faces like this one:
The inspiration for this project came from a pile of craft supplies that had been sitting on my bedroom floor for too long.  I know I originally brought them upstairs from their proper storage area for a specific purpose, but I have since forgotten what that purpose was, so it only seemed right to let the kids use the watercolor paints and rubber stamps to decorate the leftover blank greetings cards I had so carefully saved before returning them to the basement.
The girls decided that they wanted to both paint AND stamp their cards, so the project ended up being both a morning AND and afternoon event, which I think was masterful management of time AND energy.  The girls were entertained almost all day, but I only had to clean up one mess!
After the all the paint dried, out came the rubber stamps.  Blair picked her favorite letter "B" and and monogrammed all her cards using the high-speed, high-power, low-accuracy "Wham" method of stamping.  My ears are still ringing!
Brynn's method was much more careful, using multiple stamps and ink pads, and often asking for spelling confirmation.
I only managed to get a picture of a single finished card, because the girls whisked their completed treasures away as soon as all the ink had dried.  I think they were hoping that doing so qualified as enough help cleaning up.  It did not.
I did take a few pictures of the cards I ended up making.  I hadn't intended to get involved in the project, but as I watched the girls work during the morning, I was inspired to mess around with my own set of watercolors, and although I really have no idea what I am doing technically speaking I tried different things like getting the paper wet first, dropping globs of paint and then adding water, and also mixing varying amounts of water into the paint.  Most were utter flops, but a few turned out to be aesthetically pleasing, so I joined the stamping party as well.  By the way, my stamping method falls somewhere between Brynn and Blair's: less painstaking then Brynn's and less violent then Blair's.
Happy painting, stamping and card-making everyone!

Linked up at: Be Awesome Link Party