Saturday, February 26, 2011

Upcycling Baby Food Jars

A few weeks ago I posted that I was looking for ideas for all the glass baby food jars that are piling up on my kitchen counter. Some are being reused to keep the baby food that I'm making, but I seem to have more than anyone needs. And I hate to simply throw them in the recycle bin. They are such a perfect little size. Cute as they are, I really don't need 20 pin cushions or even more votive candle holders.

So when I was fumbling through my spice rack the other morning, I hit upon an idea. My spice rack is a mismatch of jars and bags. We buy our spices two ways - either in bulk or on the fly. This leaves big bags and little plastic spice containers cluttering our spice rack. Why not reuse those baby food jars as spice jars? Their uniform size would make finding our spices easier and de-clutter our kitchen.

By painting the lids of the baby food jars with chalkboard paint, I can easily label what is in each container and later reuse the container for other spices without having to scrape off a label first.

And the jars are perfect for my crafts, too. I can use chalk to label my crafting supplies and then wipe away the label when I need to use the jar for something else.

I'm loving this chalkboard paint! I see many more chalk-inspired upcycled projects in my future!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fabulous Finds Friday: I Couldn't Do It Without You

This Friday I thought I would share some of the wonderful online stores and sites that help me be a crafty and creative mommy. Okay, so these are the stores I love to buy from but sometimes don't find the time to use all the very cool things I find. Doesn't stop me from visiting them online regularly!

  • Stitch Simple has a fabulous collection of pre-washed, pre-cut fabrics which are great for quilting. But what I really love Stitch Simple for is their pre-washed organic knits. Their fat quarters are perfect for making bibs and baby accessories. And you need to check out their Great Knit Experiment. Stitch Simple worked with six crafty bloggers, giving them their choice of organic cotton knit fabrics to play with. The catch? They had to share their experiences sewing with the fabrics and post FREE tutorials for what they made. Find them all connected to the Stitch Simple website. And, if you sign up for their newsletter, they'll let you in on a little secret - Fat Tuesdays. Buy a fat quarter and get a fat quarter free using the coupon code from your newsletter. A great deal!

  • You also get great deals and are entered into weekly giveaways when you sign up for Shipwreck Beads' newsletter. Their site has a gigantic collection of almost every type of stone, gem, and bead imaginable - everything you need for creating your own jewelry. They ship quickly and usually have a deal on their shipping for newsletter subscribers. I couldn't make my nursing bracelets without them!

  • Turns out, I'm a newsletter junkie 'cause MyGrafico is another one that is good to sign up for. If you use digital images for scrapbooking, cards, or crafting, you need to check out MyGrafico. They are a super connected group of designers with a Facebook page, Ning, blog, and various websites for their designs, challenges, and promotions. The designs are cute and affordable, and you get a free download as a newsletter subscriber. I recently submitted my Dino-Mite birthday set to one of their challenges and won second prize in their random drawing. How cool!

  • Each week my RSS reader is filled with hundreds upon hundreds of great tutorials and post that I don't always get a chance to read them all, but I always find myself reading AlphaMom's posts. The site is filled with everything from tutorials and craft ideas to parenting advice (seriously, Advice Smackdown is the best parenting advice column!). And all the posts are well written, humorous, and down to earth. I appreciate the thoughtfulness and wit of each post.

  • Craft Gossip is why my reader is so full. Seriously, this is one overwhelming site! It is PACKED with great tutorials and finds. Although I don't get a chance to read through all the finds, this site is great for finding inspiration and ideas. And if you like giveaways, check out their giveaway page.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gifts That Give

I had so much fun yesterday. While my little one napped, my two year old and I sat at the dining room table for our "art class." This is what my little man calls our arts and crafts time together. While he dabbled in finger paints, I played with enamel paint.

I put together these two coffee-inspired new baby gifts yesterday. One is decorated with humorous mommy quotes, my favorite being "A Freudian slip is when you say one thing but mean your mother." The other features one of my favorite quotes by Emerson, "We find a delight in the beauty and happiness of children, that makes the heart too big for the body." Inside the mug is swirled a complete newborn outfit in shades of mocha and latte.

And the best part? Half the profits from the sale of each of these items will go to Kiva. What's Kiva? Kiva empowers individuals to lend to an entrepreneur across the globe in hopes of eliminating poverty. Currently, Babee Crafts is lending to a small group of women in Paraguay who have established a cooperative to sew clothing they can then sell. Half the profits from these two gift sets will support the Mburukuja Group.

Interested in seeing what other Etsy sellers support Kiva? Search "kivateam" or find sellers at

Monday, February 21, 2011

Learn with Me: Blogging Basics

I've been blogging for a while in my other role as a high school English teacher, but I've always used sparse, pre-designed templates. I'm excited to have stumbled across a couple of really great resources this past week for expanding my blogging know-how and hopefully adding some professional punch to my blogging endeavors.

First, you have to check out the amazing collection of resources posted just last week over at Tip Junkie. Her post "Blog 101: How to Start, Make It Cute, and Succeed Blogging" is fantastic! I'm looking forward to really digging into all the resources and links she has posted. Whether you are using Blogger or Wordpress, she has a wealth of specific links for customizing your blog whatever platform you happen to be using.

And Heidi over at Sew. Craft. Create. started a new series today which will go through a number of questions she's received recently about blog design. So, if you're looking to punch up your blog's impact, be sure to follow along! She'll be going through how to add links into your header, create your own grab buttons, and so much more.

All that said, watch for changes here! You should start to notice some subtle (and not so subtle) changes with my Babee Crafts blog design!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day 20: When He's Home

Sunday Afternoon Couch Naps

Our Joy of Love assignment for today is to frame a moment that captures what it means to have our loved one home. This picture is it for me. My husband quiets the chaos. He is the calm center of our home.

In a poetry class a few summers back, I tried to capture this same easy stillness that my husband brings into our home. Whereas I am the frantic organizer, a million projects going at once, my husband seems to be able to put all things into perspective, bringing peace and laughter to even my most overwhelmingly chaotic moments.


It’s the warmth of June forcing us into
lazy Saturday afternoon couch naps,
(we have an easy way in summer)
and your soapy hand, wet on my back
swirling me away from sudsy dishes
to the growl of Morphine’s baritone sax.
The way you slip from the sheets on Sunday
to flip pancakes barefoot in morning light.

Not the moments trapped in photo albums
of dresses, high heels, and formal hellos,
or the specific petty squabbles
over laundry left on the bathroom floor,

but in the ordinary comfort
of your softly sleeping sigh.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Day 18: Stepping Out

It is rare to see us out without a bulky diaper bag, stroller, and two kids in tow. But we did it. Called a babysitter and hit the town...okay, the vineyard for an afternoon wine tasting with friends. And for a few hours, I was Jen instead of Mommy.

Our Joy of Love assignment for Friday, which I accomplished on Saturday, was to throw out what we'd been learning the past few weeks about photography and be spontaneous with our loved one. The goal was to hand our cameras over to someone else so that we might be a subject in the picture rather than the eye behind the lens.

So after some delightfully different reds paired with artisan chocolates at Va La, I asked our friend Rob to snap a quick photo of my husband and me. A couple again. Not a full family portrait. Just the two of us. What a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

Babee Crafts is Loved!

a little etsy loveI'm very happy to announce our next giveaway. Starting Sunday, February 20th, Babee Crafts will featured on A Little Etsy Love. Visit their site to earn entries to win a $15 gift certificate good toward anything in the Babee Crafts' shop, including any custom item! And while you are there, check out all the other cool giveaways and features from other Etsy artists.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fabulous Finds Friday: Cool Craft Ideas

  • I stumbled upon Craft Pudding this week as I scoured the web for creative crafts to do with all the baby food jars accumulating on my kitchen counter. Besides using them as storage for my own homemade baby food, Craft Pudding has a great tutorial for turning those jars into adorable little pin cushions. And, if you're looking for more ideas, Shelly Hill over at The DIY Mommy offers up 16 creative ways to repurpose all those jars. Thank goodness because my counter was quickly becoming overwhelmed!

  • Okay, these are just too cute! Made by Rae has a fabulously detailed and easy-to-follow tutorial for making these great little dragon slippers. Actually, her site has a number of great patterns and tutorials. I know that I'll be using this one to make bibs soon.

  • And since you've got the sewing machine out, why not whip up this super cute diaper bag. Amber Dusick has a great (free!) tutorial for her Detour diaper bag over at Make Baby I love the big pockets! So handy!

  • Check out this great way to give old shirts new life using a bleach pen. There's some great designs featured over at Show Tell Share. And while you're there, check out the cute tutorial for a taggie turtle.

  • Having recently made my own tutorial for upcycling burlap coffee bean bags, I love this tutorial from Maiden Jane for creating an apron from a coffee bean sack. This lined apron is perfect for either the kitchen or the garage, versatile and durable, and gives new life to a coffee bean bag!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day 17: Staying In

As a high school English teacher, my days were filled with helping young people understand their place in an ever changing world, guiding young minds to read what is on the page and realize what is not, reminding kids that they are just that - kids - by finding humor and letting them play with new ideas, encouraging creativity, and by comforting young people when they struggled with disappointment.

Being a stay at home mom really isn't all that different.

Today's Joy of Love assignment - photograph everyday life in your home - has me reflecting on my role. I'm halfway through my maternity leave. I took this year off from teaching high school to be at home with my two little boys. I didn't know what to expect, whether I would miss teaching, being surrounded by supportive colleagues. But what I've discovered is that I'm still a teacher. My pupils are just a bit smaller that the 15 and 16-year-olds that I usually stand in front of. But I'm still passing on my love of language and literature, helping these two little people make sense of their world and their responsibility to others. And on the plus side, I have a heck of a lot fewer essays to grade!

I'm so grateful to have this opportunity to be at home with my boys, to watch them grow into these imaginative individuals, to see all their "firsts." I've seen first push-ups and roll overs, first crawls, heard first coos and words, spooned first foods, wiped away first bloody noses. Although if a person were to time how I spend my time each day, a majority of it might be spent wiping bottoms and boogies, I wouldn't trade it for all the world. Staying in means that I get to know my little men and in the process, get to know myself.

Look, A Foot!BrothersEyes of Wonder

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day 16: Self Portrait

I hate pictures of myself. I am always the one behind the camera, rarely in front of it. There is something comforting behind the lens, being the one composing rather than being a part of the composition. I enjoy the creative act of taking pictures, putting a frame around my world in an attempt to understand a moment, a relationship.

So, since yesterday's assignment had me using the self-timing function on my camera to capture a kiss with my husband (I'm still telling him the photo didn't turn out, so shhhhh!), while my two year old napped, my youngest son and I played with the self timer on the camera to capture a picture of us together. This is my self portrait, cropped tight because I am not entirely comfortable with all of me in the frame, doing what I love - loving my kids.

I am a mom.

This is me.
Mommy's Boy

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day 15: Kiss

The camera is balanced on top of a lamp and a tissue box. I have to run around an end table and chair before the self timer speeds into its warning strobe. Although the picture may be staged, the kiss is not. What a sweet excuse to kiss my man!

I'm loving my assignment for Day 15 of Willette Design's Joy of Love series- capture a kiss. In fact, I may need to tell my husband that this picture just didn't turn out. Back to my homework!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Day 14: Jewelry

My husband does not like to pose for pictures, so I had to be quick with the camera for today's Joy of Love assignment - capture our loved one's wedding band. Sitting on the couch, elbows on knees, hands clasped, my husband watched our eldest son spin circles around our living room shortly after my husband stepped through the door, home from work. My son was thrilled to see him. Daddy sat proudly watching his little boy.

This moment was fairly easy to capture. My husband's hands still for the moment. But this is rare. Tonight, camera in hand, I tried snapping picture after picture of my husband's hands as he wrestled with our son on the floor, as he put together dinner, as he cradled our littlest boy in his arms. I need a camera that can capture these moments clearly. My point and shoot is great in daylight, but I'm struggling to get clear shots of action taken indoors. But even though most of tonight's shots turned out blurred messes, I kept the pictures. The blurry photos of my husband rolling on the floor, laughing with his sons, are exactly the way I want to remember this Valentine's day. These blurred pictures are full of life, just like my husband.
Loving HandsConnected

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Day 13: Routines

Day 13 of Willette Design's Joy of Love series has me photographing the routines. I loved capturing this moment. My two year old is proudest when he has learned to do something for himself. In this case, Daddy stands behind him, supervising as my little man begins his nightly teeth brushin' routine. Back and forth, back and forth, and then he sneakily tries to suck all the toddler toothpaste and water from the bristles, casting a sly smile to Mommy behind the camera.

These are the pictures I like to take, the one's that capture the every day. These are the moments that we don't tell stories of or even necessarily recall years from now. But these every day moments are what build a life.

I took this pic a few days ago. It is not the clearest photo I've ever taken, but I love this photo despite the problems with it. I love this moment. Daddy's hands, so big, as he trims his little one's nails. I know he won't stay small for long...or stay this still, so I'm happy to have captured this moment, this routine.

Day 12: The Eyes Have It

Capturing a close up of a teething monster is no easy feat. My little one grabbed for my lens every chance he could. I've accidentally been able to capture some great shots of my five month old in the past, but today I had some difficulty. Mainly due to his increased mobility. In order to get a nice tight shot of his eyes with my little point and shoot camera, I had to get right in close. I imagine this to be a bit like what lion tamers feel - a little too close and my lens would have been one slobbery mess.

That said, I have noticed some difference with the photos that I've been taking since starting the Joy of Love series. Most importantly, I'm learning how to work a camera! Words like metering and cross lights, ISO and spot focus crowd my brain. Even though it still takes me some time to get a shot that I'm reasonably happy with, it is definitely taking a lot less time that before I started this project. So not only am I having fun photographing my loved ones, but I'm learning a lot as well!
What's UpLovely LashesLittle Lashes

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Day 11: Dreams

This photo assignment took some time. On Friday, our Joy of Love focus was on the dreams of a loved one - what is it that a loved one dreams of accomplishing or doing? My husband dreams of many things, most of which involve wished for time. Time to travel as a family, time to read the Saturday paper uninterrupted, time to run, time to cook. I struggled with how to capture just one of these dreams in an interesting way. In fact, I had to wait until Saturday for an opportunity to present itself.

Instead of eating with the kids, my husband fed the children first, so that we could spend some time savoring a quiet meal together. We both love to cook. Look forward to moments spent together talking and creating in the kitchen. And as a Valentine treat, my husband picked up the ingredients for my favorite meal - lamb chops in mint sauce. So with the kids in bed, we cracked a bottle of wine, and I looked over his shoulder as he worked his magic in the kitchen.

This was actually a much more difficult moment for me to capture on film than I anticipated. The smoke rising off the frying chops interfered with how my camera was reading the lighting and focus. It took a number of tries to get just one or two clear shots. Which is too bad, because this pic does not capture just how delicious this dream turned out.
Dreams Realized

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fabulous Finds Friday: This Week's Cool Finds

So many great tutorials and projects! So little time!
  • I found this great (and FREE!) little pattern for a newborn's knit hat connected to my favorite place to find organic fabrics online - Stitch Simple (they have a great Tuesday sale - free fat quarters - for their newsletter subscribers). They recently ran an experiment to see if pre-washed organic knits were easy to work with, asking five sewing bloggers to test the fabric and offer their findings and patterns online. Tie Dye Diva took up the challenge and posted her pattern for making this newborn top knot hat.

  • All you need is a camera, some lollipops, and a cooperative little one to make these great little Valentine cards. Jen Parker over at The Smile Report posted a great tutorial for creating these memorable cards.

  • I haven't fully committed to the scrapbooking craze yet. Okay, so I have baskets and bins of decorative brads, beads, and buttons. And I've bought two albums, one for each of my sons, but I haven't actually created a page yet. Instead, I use all my supplies to make gift tags and cards. Recently, I stumbled across a number of great digital scrapbooking sites that offer a ton of free doownloads for personal use. Check out Shabby Princess, Digital Freebies, and O Scraps Freebies for lots of great ideas and free downloads.

  • Here's a great project for a nursery or toddler's room found on the Design Mom blog. Create very cute (and easy) framed alphabet art using a stencil plate. Actually, walking through the stencil aisle of your local crafts store yields a million variations on this idea. You could easily use a scroll or botanical stencil to create beautiful art for any room in your house.

  • I love this quick and easy Valentine's banner by DIY Dish because it can so easily be adapted to other holidays and celebrations. A great idea! I never thought to distress the edges of a cut-out using dark ink. I guess I haven't been doing enough scrapbooking!

  • And this great little craft to do with the kids can also be easily adapted. Found on Alphamom (I LOVE Alphamom's blog), these homemade Valentine patches are so easy and cute to make with little ones.

  • Heidi Vetter over at Sew, Craft, Create has a very cool tutorial and free printables for creating your own fabric using an inkjet printer. By using your printer, freezer paper, an iron, and fabric, you can design a limitless number of cool embellished project. Heidi includes a very cute Valentine printable for this tutorial.

  • I was scouring the JoAnn Fabric website this week to read reviews on personal screen printers. One of the reviewers mentioned Fibra Artysta over on Etsy as a great place to get personalized Thermofax screens without having to hunt down a Thermofax machine. I love this idea! And you have to read her shop announcement. A very well written piece on why she does what she does. Now I just have to decide on what images I'm going to send her first!

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