Friday, December 05, 2008

More Lucky Mushrooms and Thrifty Decorating

I promise not to be completely obsessed with mushrooms all month, but I can't help how much I love them. The one above is courtesy of Myra at my little mochi, who has an excellent tutorial here for a super cute felt mushroom. I bought the supplies yesterday to make a few of my own this weekend. (And don't you just love that perky frog?)
These gift tags are just mushroom prints. Cut a white or small portobella mushroom in half and use small paintbrushes to coat the top half in red paint and the stem in white (leave a little space between the colors so they don't bleed when you press the mushroom down). When you print with it, press carefully all over the mushroom so that you don't have high spots leaving unprinted areas. (I also am not above a little "touching up" with the paintbrush.) I added the dots with the non-pointy end of a bamboo skewer dipped in white paint, and the black lines are from a fine-tip Sharpie marker. I printed the grass around the shipping tag example with a slice of potato.

And now onto my super simple, nearly free, but still really beautiful decorating idea: a little food coloring added to water in a clear glass container. The ones above have a mix of red (which looks orange in my bad photo - you need lots of food coloring to get a good red) and green (not even one drop each of food coloring - I poured some water out after adding the food coloring and added even more water).

It's been exceptionally cloudy and gloomy here in Pittsburgh this year, but you can see that with even a smidge of light the effect is pretty magical. Even with my dirty, dirty windows. At night, the glasses look beautiful seen from outside, lit by the house lights.

One of my family's weird traditions is to have Coke in small glass bottles on Christmas. (Santa brings a six-pack, which is a problem because there are five of us. So one of the other quirky traditions is trying to be the first one to "forget" you already had yours and drink the extra.) These Coke bottles were reproductions of ones made in the 1890s, and they're filled with different shades of green. You could add sprigs of greens to look extra festive.
I got the idea for this from the little jars of "potions" my boys used to make in baby food jars and various other containers and require me to store out of reach of their little sister, which meant the jars got relegated to the windowsill. And since the main ingredient in most of the potions was food coloring, they actually looked kind of nice. Since then I nearly always have jars or bottles of colored water in my kitchen windows. I vary the color scheme with the season. I'll do blues and purples in January, pinks and reds in February, and so on through the fall when we have oranges, yellows and reds.
My final suggestion for the colored water theme is an activity/inexpensive gift suggestion for preschoolers. This was a project I discovered when I taught toddler daycare many years ago, and it was hands down the most frequently requested rainy day activities when my kids were small. (I also did it with the kids' kindergarten classes each year as part of science program I taught.) You need:
  • Mini ice cube trays, which you can order here if you can't find them in a local store. (You can use regular ice cube trays, but they're more limited and so kids tire of the activity faster.)
  • A few yogurt containers or something similar
  • An eyedropper or, even better, a pipette like the one in the photo above (we buy ours at Holcombs, a teacher supply store, but they sometimes come with packaged craft or science kits too.)
  • Food coloring
  • Water
  • Soothing music
  • A cup of tea and book for mom

Partially fill the cubes with water and provide two (or more) yogurt cups with water and food coloring mixtues, plus one with just water . (The reason to stick with two colors for younger kids is that otherwise pretty soon all you have is lots of shades of brown.) Show the kid how to operate the eyedropper. ("Hold it and squeeze out all the air. Keep squeezing, dip it in the water, and let go so it will suck up lots of water. Then hold it over the cubes and squeeze out little drops. Isn't that cool?")

Demonstrate how adding a little of each color or a little extra water to a color makes things change! They can suck up colored water from the little squares as well as from the yogurt cups and just kind of move things around. Encourage them to experiment with different approaches, like starting with a strong color at the beginning of a row, and diluting it a little more and a little more all the way down.

Then put on the quiet music and relax with your tea and book. You could easily have 45 minutes of peace. I'm not kidding.

This really does make an excellent gift for 2 to 5 year olds (just be sure to include instructions or the kid's parent will question your sanity). And I guarantee NO ONE else will give the kid the same thing.

I have lots more ideas like this in my first parenting book, FussBusters at Home, in case you're desperate for ways to keep your kids occupied so you can wrap and bake without "help."

1 comment:

Kensuke said...

Great idea for a simple yet cool decoration!
I'm doing it right now! :D
But I'm extracting the color of some old fiber pens :P