Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween 2011

Happy Halloween to all you out there on the web.  Thought I'd share some photos from our recent Trick or Treating.

On Thursday we went to the NC Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores for their trick or treat under the sea.  I can't say enough good things about this event.  There were tons of decorations, lots of vendors handing out candy,

And even an underwater pumpkin carving contest in the shark tank with a bunch of staff divers.

 Those pumpkins behind her there are in the shark tank!

Hermit crab Bella!  They also had a cool maze, face painting, and a hay ride to take us back to our car.  And it was only $6 each...a crazy great deal!

We had lots of fun with our Halloween attire.  She went as Cinderella for the aquarium, and a cat for Halloween night, but a fashion maven like Bella had to have other outfits as well.  This was my favorite:

For Halloween night itself, we headed over to one of Bella's friend's, Blake's, house.  There was a whole sky rainbow that was awesome on the way there. (I'll share that in a few days)

Bella and Blake played for a bit and then we all headed out trick or treating.  They had a blast and got very worn out.

 And my favorite shot of the night:

Friday, October 28, 2011

Unreal Clouds

Since I started taking the painting class, I've been paying more and more attention to the sky.  And I've noticed one thing over all others: the real sky is absolutely unreal!

A few days ago I shared the big storm that rolled in.  Those were called shelf clouds by the way.  Then I saw these:

If I had painted these, the critique would be easy.  The real world is pretty unreal though.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Big Ol' Storm

This CRAZY big storm rolled in and I had to share the photos.

Here is the backside of it:

Oddly enough, the massive thing didn't drop one bit of rain on our house.  I think it saved itself for the coast.Very creepy.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ballet - The first year - Part 2

These photos are courtesy of my friend, Laura Yates. (here is her website) Her daughter Maddy is in Bella's class (and is awesome at it, BTW), and Laura is a professional photographer.  Yes, please!

Bella has actually been listening in class a lot better.  We have 'the talk' about how ballet class is a place to listen and learn, not to play...every time.  But it seems to be working.

I've also been taking ballet classes myself.  It looks like our adult class will also be doing the recital in May, so I look forward to sharing my own dancing craziness at some point too :) (and, yes, I tried having the talk with myself, but it didn't work.)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Real Montessori - Seasons Folders

While I was going crazy printing stuff out for the continent folders (see them here), I thought I would go ahead and make the folders for the seasons. 

Each season got its own colored folder with similarly colored construction paper inside.  There are photos in the folder associated with each season.  When she shows interest, we talk about the photos and that season and I give her the option to paste the photos on the paper.  Once the photos are pasted, I'll 3-hole punch them and put them in the folder as a booklet for her to keep.

You can always look your own photos up for each season like I did, but I thought I'd show you what I used to help get you thinking about what photos you might want to use.





Monday, October 17, 2011

Front Facing Bookcase

After building the front facing bookshelf to mount on the wall (see that project here), I decided I wanted to take on a more substantial project.  I had seen a few different bookcases and I really liked this one from Land of Nod:
I looked at a bunch of different plans, and I also looked at actual front facing bookcases in classroom type settings like the Onslow County Partnership for Children (see my post about OCP here).  Sort of like this one:

I drew up my own plans and I'm happy to share them with you (sorry about the picture messing with the webpage formatting, but I wanted it to be large enough to be readable):
1. Start by attaching A and B with a small amount of wood glue.  Then secure the attachment by using 3 screws from the bottom of the bookcase. (if you have a drill bit that will allow you to sink the screws so they are flush, it gives a much nicer finished product)

2. Attach a piece C to the board B as shown with wood glue and then with 3 screws from the back.

3. Place the next B piece 3 inches down on piece C as shown and use a pencil to mark the back of piece C.

4. Use a drill from the back side of piece C to mark the location of 3 screw holes using the line as a placer.

5. Then put the board in place and drill the counter sunk holes from the front side in the place of the placer holes.

6. Place some wood glue and attach piece B behind piece C.

7. Secure the hold by inserting screws into the counter sunk holes from the front.  If you wish to have a more finished look you can use wood putty over the screws and sand it down to make the front look unmarked.  I decided that just painting over the screw heads was enough.

7. Repeat steps 2-7 two more times

8. Add the final piece C as in step 2

9. Place boards D on either side and mark boards D in the location of boards B so that you have an indication on board D of where boards B will line up.  Make sure you mark both boards D at the same time. (note about board D: if you wish, you can use a table router to round the edges of boards D and A.  Sanding is an alternative to make sure the edges are not sharp)

10. Screw placer holes from the inside of boards D so you know where to place the screws.  Drill 2 screws into each board B.

11. Drill counter sink screw holes from the outside of boards D using the placer holes.

12.  Add a small amount of woodglue to the edges of boards B then screw boards D into place.

13. Remeasure the dimensions of the back before cutting piece E if you wish to put a back on the piece.  This is optional and there are many options.  You can use wainscoting as with boards C, hardboard painted with chalkboard paint, an upholstered piece of hardboard, hardboard covered in cork, etc.

14. Drill 3 countersink screwholes through board E and into the back of boards D.

15. Place some woodglue on the back of boards D and secure with wood screws.

16. Sand and paint
It took about 6 hours to build and paint and cost about $60.  I could have built it a lot cheaper if I had used MDF on the sides instead of actual wood, but MDF has to be sealed before you can paint it, doesn't stand up as well, and is a lot heavier.  I also had a lot of leftover wood that I've since used in other projects.

I decided to use wainscoting for the back instead of plain hardboard for the back shelves to give it some extra class. I painted it with 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of semi-gloss paint using a foam roller to get nice thin coats and to reach in all the spaces and corners.  I used a fine grit sandpaper on the piece after it dried to smooth it out.
 Bella loves her new reading space!

Any questions?  If you make one, be sure to send me a pic!

Real Montessori - Continent Folders

As part of our study of the continents (which includes our globe seen here and our continent puzzle seen here), I created photo folders.

There is a colored folder that corresponds to the color of each continent with a little shift.  There were no pink folders (which is the color for South America), so we went with a purple folder.  And we couldn't find a white folder (for Antarctica) so we went with a black folder.

Each folder contains color appropriate construction paper and a variety of pictures pertaining to that continent.  I tried to make sure I had photos of people, landmarks, money, music, animals and plants.  You can always find your own photos using google like I did.  I just thought I'd give you some types of things to think about.

The idea is to talk about each photo in the folder when your child shows an interest in it and then they paste the photo on the construction paper and make a scrapbook for each continent.  I got folders that had 3 hole brads so that I can turn the folders into little booklets easily.

So, without further ado, here is each of the folders.


North America


South America


Friday, October 14, 2011

Falling into Fall

Last weekend, we noticed that our elementary school, White Oak Elementary, was having a fall festival.  I have wonderful memories of fall festivals as a child, so I was thrilled to take Bella to one, especially one that benefited her future school.

They had a petting zoo, which is Bella's version of a million dollar jackpot.  A llama, an alpaca, goats, a sheep, a duck, a chicken, rabbits, a pot bellied pig wearing a tutu, and ponies.  These were the best behaved animals I could have hoped for.  Bella petted them, fed them, hugged them, and rode them.  Well, the ponies at least.

That's one seriously happy kid.  And how old does she look?  I think it's the shirt.  Which I L-O-V-E.  It's from gymboree.  The necklace is separate from the shirt and is knitted pearls, attached by buttons, but removable from the shirt itself.  It even has safety latches on the necklace so it isn't a chocking hazard.  Yes, please.

She also managed to win twice at a beanbag toss, rock the bounce house, and giggled like a maniac playing musical chairs (which was actually a cake walk but she didn't care).  The only thing missing from making it a mirror image of my childhood version was the fish I always caught every year that died before the next morning.  I'm ok with letting that one go.  Happy Fall!

What's your favorite fall activity?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Front Facing Bookshelf

I wanted to make Bella some front facing bookshelves, so I used Anna White's plans for this wall mounted bookshelf. (here is the link to the plans)

I used the base woodshop and built the small 24" shelf.  It was a nice simple set of plans, and I painted it white for a nice clean look.  The guys at the woodshop suggested 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of paint.  I used a foam cabinet roller to apply the paint, which was pretty nice because it could get into all the corners.  It left a somewhat rough feeling surface to the shelf though, so I ended up using a fine grit sandpaper to smooth the whole thing out after I painted it.

I have another bookshelf project for you in a few days so stay tuned!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Eye can see clearly now

Can you figure out what happens next in this picture?
Looks a bit like a scene from the Darwin awards or America's Funniest Home Videos doesn't it?  Well, if you answered, "I think you were using this random pile of objects to hold up the lamp while you change out the optical eye," then you would be absolutely correct!
The lamp post has this old optical eye on the side:

Vinny has been asking me if I can fix it for a while, so I decided to buy a replacement optical eye and try to fix it.  So, first I had to remove the old one.  In the photo above, I was removing the old nut and then the old washer:
  Then I had to get it open from the top to get the body of it out.  Here is where it got squirrely.  The lamp on top wasn't screwed in to the post anymore because the screws were rusted out.  So when I pulled the top of the post up to access the wires inside, the lamp was teetering precariously.  So I needed to prop it up with something so it would stay in place while I worked.

It should have been as easy as removing the old wires and replacing the new optical eye in the same way (after turning off the power of course...that's very important).

Unfortunately for me, whoever put in the lamp post made sure that they only allowed enough wire for an elf to get in and work with it.  So it took a lot longer than I anticipated.  Then I dropped 1 of the electrical caps down the hole.  Oops.  Then I did it again. (haha) So I used some electrical tape to keep the wires together.  Then I took the new nut and washer off:

Put the new optical eye into the old hole, and put everything back together.  That night, the lamppost lit up as soon as it was dark out.  So exciting!

So, would you ever have guessed that was what was going to happen?  Have you ever created a tower of random objects to prop something up?

Friday, October 7, 2011


 See that growth on the bottom of the can?  Yep, those are barnacles.

A few weeks ago when we had an impromptu party, we filled the cooler full of sodas.  The cooler was inside, and people went in and out of the house to grab food and sodas.  Just that little bit of salt air seeded the cooler water with barnacles, so that when we went to grab the sodas from the melted ice a few days later, they had barnacles growing on them!  Crazy fast!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pump it up Part 2: Chalkboard Pumpkins

I saw the idea of chalkboard pumpkins in a magazine and I decided to try to make them myself.

I grabbed some black pumpkins from Michaels so I could make them for some of Bella's buddies too.  Then I propped them up on small glass bowls so that I could get to as much surface area as possible. 

The chalkboard paint was about $14 from Lowe's, but I only used a TINY amount, so if you can chip in with others to share the cost of the paint, it would be good.

Use a foam brush so that you get a very thin (VERY THIN) coat of chalkboard paint on the surface.

Let it dry and many times as possible.

I had three pumpkins, so I would paint each one and by the time I finished, I could flip them over and paint the again.  So half the time I was covering the top and middle of the pumpkin and the other half I was covering the bottom and the middle.  SO the middle got tons of coats (which is where the kids will decorate them the most anyway) and the top and the bottom got about half as many. 

We were watching TV, so I didn't actually count the coats, but the middle probably got at least 8 thin coats.

The only difference in appearance after you paint them (if you buy them black already) is that they aren't as shiny after they are painted.
I let them dry for at least 48 hours.  In order to prime the chalkboard surface, I covered it in chalk and then wiped it down.  The purpose of this is to give the surface an even coat of chalk dust.  If you don't do this, you risk having the first thing you draw on there being permanently there in the if you didn't have a screensaver on and left a picture on the computer screen too long.

This is the same picture from the top, you can see the nice even coat of dust and an un-primed one next to it.

Now you can hand it over to the kiddos.  You can write messages on it, or draw jack-o-lantern faces.  Let the kids get creative!

If you make one, be sure to send me pictures of your creations!