Category Archives: presents

Upcycle Your Kids Old Toys or Shoes into Planters

Last week I was invited by Goodwill to visit Sumner, to see how small businesses there are upcycling thrift store purchases into desirable and unique household goods and clothing. I’d never been to Sumner before and was surprised to find a pretty little High Street full of independent shops selling art, antiques and other unique and interesting finds. I will definitely return, especially since it is the Rhubarb Pie Capital.

We started at Goodwill and my upcycling advisor Juli from Junkers Nest, helped me choose interesting items that could be turned into planters. The great thing about buying from Goodwill is that all the store profits go to helping career path job training for the unemployed and disadvantaged.

Goodwill Puyallup Treasure Hunting 01

I wanted to choose something that would appeal to my kids or would be cool decor for a preschool so we went for the toy section.  Old toy cars, toy animals with a hole cut in them or small dolls houses would all make great planters. It would also be a great way to save the environment from the multitude of plastic toys thrown away every year.

I plumped for a Halloween theme and chose a Monster High coffin. I also chose a pair of baby shoes. Sadly, I threw out all my baby shoes when I moved to the US (including the ones featured in my logo), if only I hadn’t, I could have turned them into something like this.

 

shoe planter

At Blue the Goodwill Boutique, I found this little table and chairs and an old tea set at Junkers Nest.

small table and chairs

My intention, once the rainy season is over, is to plant in the little cups and put it out in the garden. For now the girls have commandeered it for their American girl dolls.

We spent the day gaining inspiration for upcycling goods from Inta Vintage . By the end my mind was racing with ideas of how to upcycle some of my old furniture.

At VanLierop Garden Market the ladies worked their magic to turn our items into planters.

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The kids helped me make some extra embellishments and here is the finished article displayed (a little early) ready for Hallowe’en.

coffin planter made from toy

Inspired by some of the other bloggers projects, on our thrift shopping trip to buy birthday presents for their dad, the girls looked for items to turn into planters

We chose a pot and my daughter painted it with her own design.

upcycled planter

I’m looking forward to many more trips with the girls as we find fun items to upcycle for family and teacher gifts.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, sponsored by Goodwill WA.

pinterest upcycling toys and shoes

 

 

 

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How to Find Treasures for your Classroom with Goodwill Online.

Disclaimer: Payment was received for writing this post and a gift voucher to try out what Goodwill online has to offer. All opinions are my own.

Teachers make the best treasure hunters. An early years teacher will always find a use in the classroom for bizarre objects you would otherwise throw away and they’re always on the lookout for bargains. If you have a list of weird and wonderful objects you have always coveted, then Goodwill Online could be the answer to all your wishes.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to visit Goodwill to find out more about their online auction site ( think Ebay, but where the money goes to a worthy cause) and learn tips about how to win an auction bid. We were given a chance to look around and I was amazed by all the cool things for sale.

A huge selection of musical instruments.

Bulk bags of Russian dolls

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Rock collections

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Old curiosities

and a whole warehouse of books

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Tips For Thrift Store Treasure Hunting

Tip 1: Patience and a long list is a virtue. Dee Arneberg, America’s top treasure hunter from Spanaway, never enters a thrift store with a specific item in mind. The key to brick and mortar thrift store treasure hunting is a large wish list and multiple visits to many sites over time.

As fun as it may be to spend hours browsing interesting items, teachers are short on time so use the PERSONAL SHOPPER to help. The personal shopper allows you to set up alerts for items you are looking for and get emails every time one becomes available in the Goodwill inventory. Let’s say you were looking for Lego ( which by the way they often auction by weight) then you would enter Lego into your personal shopper and an email would notify you as to which new Lego was available.

Search key words and try properly and improperly spelled words, to catch typos that might lead you to a treasure no one else has found. Program the personal shopper to scan both item titles and item descriptions and create your keyword list accordingly.
Tip 2: Comparison shop to know the treasure’s market value. Develop your list of online comparison sites such as E-bay and specialty sites for specific categories to know the market value of an item.
Personal considerations – such as a collector looking for the last item to complete a collection – can create an artificially high auction sale, so know your item’s value and
how much you are willing to pay.
Tip 3:  Household donors will often donate categories in groups,so check to see if one specific Goodwill is listing a group of luxury fashion brands or vintage lamps, or collectibles – all indicators of an estate donation of similar items. With knowledge of a specific Goodwill treasure chest, you can call up the inventory from that region and find other obscure items of interest!
Tip 4:  Knowing how to maneuver the site allows you to know how many bidders you are in competition with. You can also activate a cyber ‘proxy” to always
top the leading bid up to a confidential limit you establish. And if you
really want the specific item, plan to be online during the final half an hour
of the auction, as that is when new competitors and a flurry of
bids come in. Real-time bids go down to the last second on some
items so you want to be ready to override your proxy bidder if you
simply must have an item.
Tip 5: When you lose, you still learn … about the field of regular
competitors who are interested in your categories. Each completed
auction lists the bid history which reveals the beginning/end letters
of an email which you can track as unique and learn that bidder’s
tendencies over time. As an example, those same nine bidders for
say “vintage board games” will have two or three who bid in the final minutes and are willing to spend X% of retail market value. Learning the field will sharpen your competitive edge in the final frenzied minutes of some bids. And don’t worry, most of the time another of the same item will surface over time and you will have another shot.
Tip 6: Support your local Goodwill. Each participating Goodwill has a virtual “storefront” where their current auction items are listed ahead of the offers across the rest of the site. Each Goodwill maintains their own auction inventory and benefits only from their item sales. Goodwill’s local online helps support an $8.9 million career training and initial job placement effort across 15 counties in our region.

Watch out for shipping and handling costs and remember to add the price of shipping to what you are prepared to pay. Shipping varies according to weight, size and distance of travel but can also vary according to the chosen carrier. One of the items I ordered, had priority shipping, so the shipping costs were greater than other items using ground delivery. If you support a local Goodwill you can eliminate shipping costs altogether.
Tacoma’s operation is prototyping several new attractive features such as one-cent shipping, and an instant purchase price for an item (“buy it now”). Every local Goodwill offers pickup at their operations with only a small service charge eliminating shipping costs altogether.

My experience of shopping with Goodwill Online

Firstly, be warned, it is highly addictive and you may find multiple items you simply must have.  I decided to ask my personal shopper to look for puppets as this is my children’s current fascination.  I wasn’t prepared for the search to bring up such amazing quality puppets and it was really difficult to choose the ones I wanted most.

My first bid was for a Muppets Wotnot puppet. I am a huge muppet fan and after a little research, found that FAO Shwartz in New York, used to have a Wotnot Studio where fans could go and make a custom puppet. The reserve on the puppet was $9.99 and postage and handling around $10.  As this is a totally unique item, I wasn’t certain how far I would go with my bid but 5 mins before the auction ended, I joined the auction and decided to try a maximum bid of $35.  I was really pleased to win the item at this price.

puppet muppet

An even better surprise was when the puppet arrived. It totally surpassed all of my expectations. It looks just like a muppet, was larger than I expected and came complete with original booklets and receipts.

My 2nd puppet George was bought for $9.99 and I was the only bidder.  There were a number of similar puppets available at this time so I decided on my maximum bid a few hours before the end of the auction.  If I didn’t win the item, I would bid on a similar one later. The postage on this one was more that the puppet so be careful to check before bidding.

puppet

By this point I had to begin to be really selective about the puppets, as there were so many great ones. I decided only to bid on unique items or collections of puppets. I chose a Big bird and Bert puppet and my girls chose a pair of girl puppets because they wanted more female puppets. Both of these were won for under $20 with postage.

Just when I thought we were finished a 1970’s Kermit and Miss Piggy puppet came up on my personal shopper search. We have a Kermit puppet and a good Miss Piggy is hard to find so I couldn’t let this one pass. With an extra Kermit we can turn one into the evil Constantine.

Now I must stop looking at puppets because each new one that arrives is as irresistable as the one before.

What other interesting things could teachers find?

  • Building blocks
  • Overhead projectors
  • Old typewriters
  • Outdoor play equipment
  • Toy cars/trains in bulk
  • Globes
  • Beakers and test tubes
  • Maps and charts
  • Balance scales with weights
  • Shells
  • and my personal favourite, browsing the vintage section to find weird and wonderful old  objects like washboards, apple corers , record players, old cameras etc.

If you don’t want anything for your classroom or preschool Goodwill online is also the perfect place to find unusual and unique gifts for the people in your lives who have everything. I think this will be my go to place from now on.

Home-Made Teacher Gift: Reindeer and Chocolate Sleigh

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At Christmas time I always like my teacher gift to be home-made to add a personal touch.  This is a simple gift we made last year.

 

The reindeer were made from wine corks, with tooth picks for legs and pipe cleaner antlers.

Push the toothpicks into the corks at an angle to make legs and cut them to an equal length.

base-reindeer

 

We joined the necks to the body using craft wire. It is Easier if you push holes into the cork using  a skewer or knife before adding the wire. Add the Antlers and draw a face adding a pom pom nose if desired.

body-reindeer

To make the sleigh, tape bars of chocolate together with two candy canes taped to the base.  Wrap the sleigh in gift ribbon and attach to the reindeer.

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A simple inexpensive gift for a teacher, neighbour of friend.

Art Lessons: Clay Cup Cake Pots, Inspired by Wayne Thiebaud

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Wayne Thiebaud is an American artist, known for his paintings of everyday objects.  These include many works depicting food; in particular, cakes, pies and pastries.  For our second grade clay project, we used Thiebaud’s cupcake paintings as inspiration for teaching two basic techniques for making pots.

The base of the pot was a simple thumb pot and the lid a coil pot.

Preparation

Each child was given two pieces of clay, a selection of clay tools and a damp sponge in a pot, all laid on a slightly damp cloth.

clay-set-up

Step 1.

Take one of the balls of clay and knead it to get rid of any air bubbles.  Then press thumbs into the centre to make a hole.

thumb-pot

Step 2

Push thumbs outwards to make a pot shape.

thumb-pot-2

Step 3

Smooth fingers around the top edge to make it flat and even.

complete-thumb-pot

Step 4

Carve patterns into the bowl.  Some children made lines to make it look like a cupcake case and others chose their own designs or carved names into the sides.

thumb-pot-carving

The coil pot lid

The base was put to one side and the second piece of clay kneaded to make the lid. The lid was coiled to look like frosting.

Step one

Shape the clay into a cylinder with your hands and roll it on the mat until it makes a large sausage shape to equal the length of the mat.

rolling-coil-pot

Keep moving hands along the length of the clay to avoid thin parts that will break off.  The paper moved around a bit so it was helpful to have their partner hold their mat down whilst they rolled.

Step 2

Measure the sausage around the top of the thumb pot.  Keep coiling, sloping the sides inwards until it closes at the top. Add a  clay cherry, if desired.

Step 3

Dampen the inside of the coil pot with a sponge and rub your fingers over the joins on the inside, until the surface is smooth.  This will stop it collapsing and falling apart.

Fire in the kiln

 Session 2 :The Glaze

I showed the children pictures of Thiebaud’s cupcakes for inspiration.cupcakes

The glaze colours were selected to match those used in Thiebaud’s paintings. Pastel shades, along with red for the cherries and brown for chocolate.

Each table had a paper plate with a selection of glaze colours on it and every child was given a fine and a thick paintbrush, a pot of water and a paper towel.

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They applied two layers of glaze, being careful not to leave white spaces.

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The finished results were pale and matt. I explained that the colours would become vibrant and glossy once they had been fired.

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The Finished Results

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The glazed pots are placed on stilts when fired in the kiln, so they don’t stick to the shelves.

I love the results. I think they will make a perfect Christmas gift.

 

 

The Book of Kringle: Legend of the North Pole. (Review)

When I was a child, Christmas picture books had a very special place in our celebrations.  Every Christmas Eve, my dad would settle down with us and read “The Night Before Christmas” from a tiny square book, that was his when he was a boy. Despite the size of the book, the illustrations were truly magical and it was a Christmas tradition that my brother and I would look forward to.  Books also held a special place in our gift list. Every Christmas we would receive a new hardcover book, my mother would preserve the dust cover by wrapping it in plastic and sign the book with a loving message.  To this day, I treasure hard backed children’s books. When I enter a children’s book shop, it still feels as though I am entering Aladdin’s cave and I’m compelled to cradle a new book like a baby.

The Book of Kringle could easily ignite a similar magic and love of books for young children. I could imagine its reading becoming a Christmas tradition in many families.  I have only viewed a digital copy of the book, but other reviewers have praised the look and feel of the physical book, especially its resemblance to an old leather-bound document. This would make it a very special gift that could be enjoyed by all the family. Perhaps if you have a visiting elf, he could leave it as a gift to explain the history of the elves.

The story is simple and charming, written in the style of an old fairytale. The Book of Kringle tells of the days when the North Pole was ruled by a greedy king who didn’t allow elves to have fun.  The king’s friendly brother spreads kindness amongst the elves and the story of Santa unfolds.  I liked the traditional tone but sometimes I felt the language didn’t  flow. That may have been because it was more difficult to follow in the digital format and it loses some of its magic without a physical book to hold.

The real magic though, lies in the illustrations. The soft watercolour illustrations are stunning, full of detail and fit beautifully with the traditional feel of the book. They transport me back to my childhood treasures, illustrated by the likes of Arthur Rackham, Mabel Lucy Atwell and Kate Greenaway.  A pre-reader could happily spend hours pouring over the illustrations and the longer text would keep older children entertained.

If you visit the Book of Kringle website, you can watch Santa himself talk about the book and how the legend was discovered after all these years. It will hopefully give you a taste of this visual delight. The Book of Kringle retails on Amazon at $19.99

 

Roald Dahl Inspired Clothing from Boden

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Image credit: Boden US

It isn’t often that I feel compelled to write about a product I haven’t tried out for myself, but when this new collection by Mini Boden popped into my feed yesterday, I was so excited, I had to share it.

To mark Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday, Boden have created a limited edition children’s clothes range, inspired by Roald Dahl’s most loved books.  Every piece in the Roald Dahl collection is beautifully thought out and the attention to detail is exquisite.  I’ve always loved Boden clothes. I don’t often buy clothes in this price range for my kids but this range would make extra special Christmas gifts for my kids and our friends and family.

I showed them to my twelve-year-old. She loved the Fantastic Mr Fox gloves and the Matilda dress. With its book themed lining, this would be perfect for her but sadly she is too tall now for the children’s range.

matilda-dress

Image credit: Boden US

We also loved the ingenious design of the golden ticket sweater with its sequined logo that can be swiped to change colour. It is even machine washable!

golden-ticket

Image credit: Boden US

My eight year old loves the girlie, sparkly rainbow drops dress.

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Image credit: Boden US

“How is it a Roald Dahl dress though?” she asked. “It is meant to be like lots of tiny sweets”, I told her. “Ah, I get it now.” she replied,” from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

We are currently reading The Twits, so my six-year-old and I loved the Twits inspired sweaters.  My personal favourite is Mr Twit, I love all the little details poking from his beard.

mr-twit

Image Credit: Boden US

The one item that really caught my eye though, is the BFG inspired cape coat.  Throughout my college years I always longed for a full length cape (I think as a literature student, I saw myself as a romantic poet, or maybe the French Lieutenant’s Woman).  I never had one, but this coat brought it all back – I so wish they made one in an adult size! I love the lining depicting a London landscape, if I were a little girl again, I would treasure this coat.

bfg-cape

Image credit: Boden US

Now all I need to do is start saving and keep hoping that one day they’ll make Roald Dahl inspired adult clothes too. Take a look at the collection. Which are your favourites?  Sadly, for my British readers, the collection is only available in the United States but browse this visual spectacle anyway; they are guaranteed to make you smile.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post.  All recommendations are personal and no payment or goods were received for writing this post.  Boden US granted full permission for use of images in this post.

Turning 40 Part 2 – Is Eeyore in his 40’s?…. and more thoughts about Eeyore.

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I picked up a book in my doctor’s surgery , ‘Forty-fied – How to be a Fortysomething’ by Malcolm Burgess.

I loved this quote

Eeyore is probably 40, seeing that his stuffing is falling out, he’s terminally depressed and surrounded by annoying energetic younger things who know that the only way to cheer him up is to give him a nice jam jar with a burst balloon for his birthday, about which he is expected to be sadly euphoric

I don’t feel like my stuffing is falling out but after having 3 kids,  I look at pictures of myself when I turned 30 and compare it to the tired woman with grey roots, developing wrinkles and a post baby tummy and wonder if we are the same person.  I love the stuff about presents which are also discussed elsewhere in the book.  I keep getting asked what I would like for my birthday but I don’t really want or need anything.  I’d quite like a boob job but at £5,000 that’s a bit above most budgets, permanent hair removal,  decent hair cut, a trip somewhere?  I’m doing quite well with presents from my husband, I have a spa day, haircut and photo shoot and tickets to see Rufus Wainwright and my neighbour has bought me tickets for the ballet – so I’m far from Eeyore’s realm.

To be honest I’m actually not that depressed about turning 40 – it’s a turning point for me.  The end of my childbearing days hence a chance to get my figure , career and social life back on track.  Maybe not straight away (I still have 2 children under 5) but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I hope I’m not an Eeyore.  In Benjamin Hoff’s wonderful book ‘The Te of Piglet’ ( a follow up to the’ Tao of Pooh’), he describes the Eeyore effect.  Those in life who enjoy being unhappy, who are so obsessed with the bad things in life that the good things pass them by.  The most poignant part of his Eeyore discussion  is that of the Eeyore educators.  These try to force too much inappropriate information on children too soon, so that children get stuck.  An Eeyore educator’s answer to failing test results would be to send them to school earlier,  taking away their creativity and play .

Piglet

picked a large bunch and trotted along, smelling them, and feeling very happy, until he came to the place where Eeyore was.

‘Oh Eeyore’, began Piglet a little nervously, because Eeyore was busy.

Eeyore put out a paw and waved him away.

‘Tomorrow’ said Eeyore. ‘Or the next day’.

I think we all recognise this in our busy lives, how we often say ‘In a minute’ but for the child who lives in the moment, that moment becomes lost. Hopefully turning 40 doesn’t mean turning into Eeyore, but rather being a Piglet or a Pooh.  As Piglet says in the closing line of ‘The Te of Piglet’

For me, it also seems like a beginning.