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DIY Holiday Window Clings

I love the 4th of July. It probably ranks as my favorite holiday. I love America. I love our freedom. I love to think about all of the sacrifices that people have made to make this country great. And I love fireworks. :)

I found this cute idea on Pinterest, and thought it would be perfect to adapt for the 4th of July. It originally comes from Merry at Merry with Children. I found a comment from a Kindergarten teacher on Merry’s blog that made this project WAY easy, and very fun. Teachers are awesome!

Materials:

  • Glue
  • Food Coloring
  • Liquid Dish Soap
  • Plastic Sheet Protectors
  • Templates (if desired)

Step 1:Take your glue bottles (about half-full) and add several drops of food coloring. I probably added 35+ drops of red to my “red” bottle because I didn’t want it to end up pink.

Step 2: Add a few drops of dish detergent to your glue.

Step 3: Shake well. Take the lid off and squeeze the bottle to “knead” the color into the glue. Let the glue sit overnight (or at least several hours) to let the color settle in. In the picture at the top, you can see the white on the bottom – that’s what it looks like with just shaking and not waiting yet. If you look to the picture just below, you can see how letting it sit for a few hours makes a big difference – the color went the whole way through.

Step 4: Put your templates into your sheet protectors and go to town! To me, things that “scream” 4th of July are stars, the Flag, fireworks, and the Founding Fathers. Benjamin Franklin and George Washington are two of our family Founding Father heroes, so I googled to find silhouettes of them that I could print off and have us fill in.

My husband and I were excited to try out our project, so we worked on Ben and George and added a few decorations of our own. I also wanted to see how long it would take for them to dry.

My husband’s handiwork.

My work – I wrote the letters for “America” backward so the writing would look the right way for people looking at it from the outside.  The part of your window cling that is touching the sheet protector is the part that will stick to the window.

The kids woke up bright and early and were excited to make their own window clings. Squeezing the glue directly from the bottles made it a project that they ALL could do – even my 2-year old. No paintbrushes required.

Here is how our final clings turned out:

I LOVE how the silhouettes turned out – SO awesome. And yes, I did flip this picture so “America” is a little bit more readable. That’s what the neighbors see. :)

We’re still waiting for the kids’ work to dry as we speak. They had some fun (and some very abstract) red, white and blue creations.

The clings all pretty much dried overnight, except for the very middle of George Washington. The thinner the glue, the faster it will dry. HOWEVER, the thicker the glue, the sturdier the clings will be.

You could modify this easily for any holiday, or just to do for a fun summer project. Add glitter. Whatever. Seriously, this was an easy, fast, fun project.

Enjoy! :)

avast

Protect Your Computer (and edit your pictures) – for FREE

A few years back we had decided that we didn’t like the antivirus software that we were using and started asking around as to what software to buy. The tech guy at my husband’s work recommended that he use an open source antivirus program, and recommended that we use an open source malware software program as well. Open source software has the upside of being FREE, but in the years since then I have found that I enjoy a lot of open source software as much or MORE than the software that you pay for. The first two have the option to upgrade and pay for them, but for us the free versions have been more than adequate.

I thought I would pass on some of our favorite open source programs – 3 that protect your family and computer, and 1 that is for photo editing:

Avast! is the antivirus program that we have liked the most. I had been using another antivirus software program, and when I installed this one it caught a couple of viruses that the other program hadn’t. Yikes! The downside of this program is that there is a little box that pops up on the computer whenever it updates, but that is something that is only a small thing to me. You can also download for your iPad, iPhone or Android.

Malwarebytes is the malware software program that we like. This is the program that will look out for “malware”, which are things like worms, Trojan horses, rootkits, etc.

 

When protecting your computer from harmful things that could take your personal information or wreak other havoc on your computer, don’t forget to protect against all of the grime on the internet, especially if you have kids. K9 is an awesome program. I cannot say enough good about it. We have paid for programs before, and have not found one that we like better than this one. It is very well done. It blocks exactly what you want it to block and nothing else, which is different than the experience we had with the other programs. And it is FREE! It can even be programmed to block ads, which is fabulous on so many levels, not the least of which is that your kids aren’t exposed to junk on otherwise “okay” websites. It’s not a substitute for talking with your kids about internet safety and for monitoring what is going on, but it definitely keeps the door shut from a lot of stuff. You can also download for your iPad, iPhone or Android.

I wish I could explain how much I love GIMP. It is a free image manipulation software. I know a lot of people who love Photoshop, but I have been able to find tutorials for whatever I have needed to do with GIMP and have been totally satisfied. And, again, it is FREE. Round edges, blur, color enhance or shadow removing, taking imperfections out of pictures, etc. – I have been able to do all of it.

 

There you go! Four of my favorite free programs: 3 for computer safety, and 1 for photo editing. Enjoy! :)

RG 16

Make Your Own Rain Gauge

We had a couple of really good storms here last week – the kind that dump down rain for quite a while. Since we’ve been in a drought for a year and a half now, rain is a big deal. Both times I checked the official rainfall expecting to see at least an inch of rain, give or take, and I was shocked to see the “official” amount was listed as 0.25″ and 0.08″ of rain. The official gauge is across town, and apparently the storms missed that area. I did find one website that has people self-report rainfall, and the estimates in my area were more in the 1″ range. But it made me think – I need a rain gauge. I had griped about the rainfall measurements on facebook too and one of my cousins mentioned that I should just make one as a project with the kids – that was enough for me! Great minds think alike. :)

I started scouring the internet for how to make your own rain gauge, and some fairly complicated (or, at least, multi-step) plans came up, and even though some of them had sand in the bottom of the gauge to keep it from falling over, we get some crazy winds here and I was pretty sure that it would just fall over in the first storm and we’d have a mess.

Then I found this idea from the Franklin Institute website. Any place that is dedicated to and promotes Benjamin Franklin has to have good ideas, right? I modified it just slightly to make it work a little better.

Here is what you need:

  • A wire coat hanger
  • A wide-mouthed glass jar (I used a queso jar)
  • A sharpie
  • A ruler
  • Packing Tape
  • Pliers, or similar, to help you unbend the coat hanger

That’s it! The gauge itself is simple. Take your glass jar and your ruler. Line the “0” of your ruler up with the bottom of the glass jar and mark with the sharpie every so often (I did every 1/4″). Then write in some numbers so you can easily see some of your major measurements (1/2″, 1″, etc.).

I wanted my “measuring” to be visible on the back side so I wrote my numbers backwards so that when you are looking “through” the glass, you can see the numbers the right way. If you are happy with the numbers on the front of the jar, you can just write them the normal way.

Take a strip of packing tape that is as long as your jar is tall and put it over your numbers. This will help to keep your numbers from rubbing off as you take it in and out of your rain gauge holder, and will also keep them from rubbing off.

Congratulations! You now have a rain gauge! But where to put it?

That is where the coat hanger comes in. This part is going to sound a little more complicated in writing than it is in real life, so just take a good look at the pictures as you are going along and you will be able to figure it out easily. You are just basically going to use the coat hanger to make a sort of cup holder for the rain gauge. You need support on the bottom and around the sides, and you need a way to hang it up. You will are just bending a wire to do that. It really is not too tough.

Take your handy pliers (if needed) and twist apart the wire on the top to open your hanger up. Mine was a thicker hanger and the pliers definitely helped to get it started. Now you can start to make the “cradle” for the gauge.

After you have untwisted it, start from the hook side and go down to the first major bend. Open it up so the long part of your hanger makes an “L” shape (or 90 degree angle) from the hook part of the hanger. With the hook end up, place your gauge onto the long part of the hanger so it is touching the hook end of the hanger. The part underneath your gauge is what will be the bottom part of your gauge cradle. Bend the long side up so it runs parallel to the hook part. If you took your gauge off of the hanger it should look like three sides of a rectangle – two long and one shorter. The shorter one, again, is the bottom of the cradle.

From this point on you will be working with the long portion you just bent up. Keeping that part running parallel to the hook part, measure up a couple of inches and bend your wire sideways. If you had your hook piece on a wall, the other end should face either directly to the right or directly to the left. Take this part and start bending it into as much of a spiral as you can around the rain gauge. Mine ended up going around about 1-3/4 times. I had to keep sliding the gauge in and out to make sure that it fit snugly in the wire, but not so tight that I couldn’t get it out again. The idea is to make a safe place for the gauge to hang up so it isn’t blown over, but you have to be able to take it out to dump your rain water out after a storm.

Your gauge holder is now done! Wahoo! I took mine to my back fence and hammered some nails on either side of it to support it along one of my fence boards. As you can tell, my fence has seen better days so I didn’t feel too bad about hammering it into the board directly. You could also find more creative ways to fasten it if you’re worried about your fence, or if you think you may want to move it to another spot someday.

When you are looking for a location to put the rain gauge, make sure it isn’t directly under something like a tree or a roofline that would cause it to give an inaccurate reading. It’s good for it to be in the open. That being said, we’ll probably need to move ours up so the gauge itself is near the top or over the fence so the fence board itself isn’t blocking rain.

I’m planning on printing out a sheet, or having a notebook where we can record the daily rainfall and have our own household annual rainfall recording. Go us! :)

There you go! Super simple rain gauge. Fairly easy (and cool-looking) gauge holder. Now we just need to add some rain and we’re in business.

Enjoy! :)

The Piano Guys

The Piano Guys

If you haven’t heard these guys – I promise that listening to them will make your weekend. If you have heard them play, go and enjoy them again. They are so, so good.

John Schmidt (piano) and Steven Sharp Nelson (cello) have teamed up to create The Piano Guys. They take popular songs and put an amazing classical twist on them, or will take classical songs and put an amazing modern twist on them.

I am a little bit obsessed with them right now. To the point that I have had to limit my “Piano Guys” intake. But I still wanted to share their awesomeness with all of you.

 

These are a few of our family’s favorites:

A Thousand Years (Christina Perri) – this is their newest one and is beautiful

 

Peponi (from Coldplay’s “Paradise”) – my 2-year old says this one is her “favite” (favorite) – mine too.

 

Happy Together (we have watched this probably 20 times – it still hasn’t gotten old):

 

Bourne Vivaldi – they are on a TRAIN for part of it

 

You can go to their You Tube channel and watch/listen to all of their videos by clicking here.

John and Steve, thank you so much! Your music is incredible.

We Give Books

I just had to share this website because it is pretty cool – wegivebooks.org.There are a bunch of books for kids that they can read online in their “print” format. I love that. A lot of these are the ones that you can find on the ever-popular book orders (especially the non-fiction), so you can even “test drive” some of the books before you buy. Or just enjoy them for free.

This is not only a great resource, but you actually GIVE a book each time you (or your child) reads one online – as in, Penguin Books and the Pearson Foundation will donate a book for each book read online. See? Super cool! There is no limit to your book-giving from your book reading, and if your child has a favorite that they read over and over again, each time they finish it counts as a new book to give away. (Here is a link to the FAQ.) They have given away almost 1,000,000 books since April 2010.

They have ongoing “campaigns” that you can support with your reading (here is a list of the campaigns, current and completed), so you can choose your “cause”, and you are free to switch at any time.

If you’re looking for a fun book to start out with, I would recommend Goodnight iPad. We just checked it out from the library and all got a good laugh over it. That grandma is great. The cultural references are hilarious too.

So – go read a book! And GIVE one too by doing it. It’s a win-win. :)

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