Kid Friendly Art Project – Toy Prints

It is a dreary, dark, rainy day today. And honestly, I’m not all that sad about it. It signals the coming of fall, and the end of summer. Fall is my most favorite time of the year! It’s like spring, but less mushy. This fall will be a difficult time for me, though, since I am returning to school and am currently in a night class that takes 12 hours a week for 7 weeks. My mom guilt is hitting hard since it keeps me from my family for 3 nights a week, and on some of those nights, the only time I will see my daughter is before work/school that morning.

To counteract that mom guilt, I’ve been trying to fit in as many family activities in my free time as I possibly can. That does mean burning the candle at both ends for me, but it’s only for 7 weeks, right? It’s all temporary! I’ve chosen the sunniest project that we’ve squeezed in recently to bring a little vitamin D to your day.

This project was actually inspired by a tangled slinky. Trying to untangle it, I ended up just bouncing the bottom of it around on the coffee table and noticed that the action was similar to stamping something over and over and over again, which led my mind into imagining it was bouncing in some fresh paint and then bouncing on a clean canvas and leaving it’s imprint behind. My mind is colorful – what can I say? It got me wondering – what other toys could be used to make unique prints on a canvas? I discussed it with my husband and daughter, and I was affirmed that this was not one of my crazier ideas, because it got them thinking about it, too. So since I already have a stash of paint & blank canvases in my craft studio, we were off to the Dollar Tree to get some toys that could act as neat prints!


This project is great for more than just busting boredom, or getting those creative juices flowing. We had a really fun time looking at different toy shapes and trying to find out if they would have a distinctive shape. Even my 4 year old daughter was grasping the concept – when she wasn’t just trying to get new toys. It made us think about things and shapes in a different way, and that kind of spatial, conceptual thinking can be hard to reign in with children (and to inspire in adults), so it’s a great thinking method to foster and develop. Yes – this toy is  a pull tractor – but what does it look like just from underneath? What kind of shape would it leave behind? Would you stamp it – like the pony hooves – or drag it – like the sand roller? How would it be distinctive – or, how would you know afterwards which toy it was that left that shape behind?

The toys we ended up choosing were a plastic dinosaur, pony, the broken slinky, a tractor with a pull behind cement mixer (though we couldn’t figure out how to attach the cement mixer to the tractor – that’s what you get for buying toys at the Dollar Tree), and a sand roller, which I guess is used while playing in sand to leave neat imprints in it? I felt a little bit like we were cheating with that toy, but it was neat so I let it slide. The only thing I put my foot down on was a rubber bouncy ball. Not only did I think it was only a ploy to get another rubber bouncy ball (how many bouncy balls does a child need), but even if we did use it, I did not want a ball covered in paint bouncing around my porch – even if it was outside! I didn’t want to try and get hot pink acrylic paint off of my siding, or out of my hair, or off of one of the high up windows. So I was mean mom about the bouncy ball 😉


Funny story – when we got the dinosaur, we were so intent on looking at the foot shape that I didn’t realize until we got it home that I have no clue if this was ever an actual dinosaur, or if this was just another Dollar Tree toy fail. Thoughts? Anyone know what this is? Duck Billed Platysaurus?


I had two blank canvases and some assorted acrylic paints. Using a piece of cardboard from our recycle bin as a palette, we were ready to go!


We did the tractor first with bright pink paint. The tires were a little too small to leave a distinctive tread – the paint seemed to just go onto them so thick that it was hard to see. But in some places if you look close enough, you can see it, and the two tracks right next to each other made it a distinctive print.


Next up was the platy-sarus, which left the two little blue foot prints on the page there. My daughter was getting pretty dramatic with the dinosaur stomps, hence how high in the air he is. He was really stompy.


The pony hooves left four distinct purple prints. I feel like this toy was chosen just because my daughter really wanted a pink pony to add to her pony collection, but that’s okay, too.


We used light green for the slinky, and sadly, this was the most disappointing of the toys. It didn’t bounce up and down and all over like I thought it would. Instead, the viscosity of the paint held it to the canvas once it hit the canvas, so it really had to be pulled up and then forced back down to be hard enough to stick. It did not act as bouncy as we thought it would. In hindsight, using an ink maybe, instead of a paint with a level of thickness, might have made the bouncy prints we thought it would have. But we were still happy with the “forced” placement of the green rings.


Last up was the sand roller, and since this toy was remarkably wider than the other toys, we were going to need more paint spaced out on the palette. So we used all of the colors already on the palette for a sort of muddled rainbow effect (without mixing them into an icky shade of brown). If you asked my daughter, this was her favorite tool, and the one she was looking forward to the most. It worked like a paint roller does, only it left wavy lines rather than just a solid block of color.

After that, we went back with the other tools to fill in areas that looked empty, or to add more prints from those that we thought were under-represented. Since the colors were mixed up on the palette, we didn’t stick to the colors from before and ended up using the random colors on the prints.


Our finished prints! I really like how these turn out! I am hoping to find some cheap pop-in frames to put these in and hang them on the wall in the toy/play area in our family room. You can definitely see the pony hooves and the roller marks. The dino prints are a bit more hidden, but there. What I like most about these is how I remember so vividly making them whenever I look at them. I can remember shopping for the toys and trying each one individually to see how it looked. And I can remember my daughter’s sense of wonder when we saw what they did. Maybe I’m just sentimental, though.

Clean up from this project was quicker and easier than setup. The cardboard went back into the recycle bin, and the tractor and slinky toys went into the garbage. The pony hooves and dino feet got washed off for future play, as did the sand roller for play at the sand pit next summer. If I hadn’t decided to wash them and just toss them, I would have only been out $3. Since I did this outside on our front porch, I wasn’t worried about paint splatters on anything.

Other applications I could see this for would be for remembering a special toy or item that doesn’t hold a function, but still holds a special place. If you have a certain color theme in a nursery, this would be a neat way to incorporate those colors in a fun, homemade print. A lot of baby items have distinctive shapes, too – like little baby shoes, pacifiers, teething rings… Although I wouldn’t recommend holding onto any of those once they’ve been used for painting. My daughter is old enough (most of the time) to know not to chew on toys, so I worry less about her ingesting the paint. And she’s nearly 5, so I’m sure her immune system is pretty strong by now (right?).

It can be a challenge to do projects like this with kids – they are messy, they have short attention spans, and sometimes they are just so unskilled (amateurs). Just kidding… But seriously – if you’re a perfectionist, or a naturally control-driven person, it can be hard to let go. Give this project a try, though. If your child understands WHAT each item can do, they can mimic it pretty well. Clean up is minimal, and it’s easy and quick, and if your child is like mine and drawn more to experiments than art, it can be a way of experimenting how different toys look that will still capture their curiosity. Putting art into children’s lives is so beneficial that it should never be seen as a waste of time, but an investment into their future success and creativity. I only wish there was more of an emphasis on that in schools! But I’m not a teacher, nor do I wish to be 😉

Election Season Survival Guide


My fellow Americans…

I wonder how people used to fight about elections before the internet. Would people go stand on the sidewalks and yell at the people next to them? Would they call them idiots and terrorists and other horrible terms in person because they looked at a solution to a problem from a different view than they did? Did people act as experts on events that happened an entire country away? I somehow think it was different. My, how the internet has changed things!

If you’re anything like me, you’re tired of the negativity, the falsehoods, the mudslinging – and that’s not even between the candidates,  but between the people I know! I’ve decided to put together a survival guide. I strongly believe that if we all follow this, we’ll be living in a much happier country! Continue reading

101 Ways to be Happy

Friends, my heart hurts. My heart is often heavy, but it’s positively crushed lately with all of the bad news that’s going on. What makes it even worse is how everyone treats the news – all of a sudden, everyone is an expert on what should be done to fix the problem, which leads to more anger and frustration when people don’t see eye to eye. We’ve forgotten how to sit and have civil discourse, or how to use empathy, or just to acknowledge that others have opinions and are just as allowed to have them as we are. I don’t think social media has helped us get better, but worse. But, it’s not going anywhere, and I think it is used for good from time to time…

Anger is a living thing – if you feed it, it gets bigger and badder. But happiness is the same way – if you feed into it, it will get bigger and better and overtake other emotions. This is why one of my goals in life is to put happiness out there (especially after making the mistake of sharing an opinion on facebook – one that I will not be making again).

I was inspired by a recent post on the Happiest Little Pixel’s blog here that challenged everyone to come up with a list of 101 things that make them happy. This is great for me, because every once in a while, I need a reminder of the good things out there to pull me back from the horrible news that takes place daily. So here is my list of things to focus on in life:

101 things that make me happy:

  • 1 – my family
  • 2 – being a mom
  • 3 – being a wife
  • 4 – Loess Hills based wines
  • 5 – music
  • 6 – coloring
  • 7 – sleeping in
  • 8 – a good walk in cool weather
  • 9 – coffee
  • 10 – a clean home
  • 11 – cherries
  • 12 – Iced tea & lemonade
  • 13 – bomb pops
  • 14 – kitties
  • 15 – hedgies
  • 16 – pictures/videos of adorable animals doing adorable things
  • 17 – reading
  • 18 – looking at photographs
  • 19 – getting packages in the mail
  • 20 – the scalp massage you get when you get your hair washed at the salon


  • 31 – road trips
  • 32 – finding a new fun restaurant
  • 33 – seeing my daughter laugh
  • 34 – soft serve ice cream
  • 36 – Monet
  • 37 – flying a kite
  • 38 – bubbles!
  • 39 – other people’s puppies
  • 40 – putting on flip flops for the first time after winter
  • 41 – London
  • 42 – champagne
  • 43 – pretty handwriting
  • 44 – good book to movie adaptations
  • 45 – reading the book before the movie adaptation
  • 46 – book covers that are NOT the movie adaptation
  • 47 – crock pot cooking
  • 48 – internet memes
  • 49 – gardens
  • 50 – making things myself
  • 51 – throwing parties
  • 52 – THEME parties!
  • 53 – Kawaii
  • 54 – puns
  • 55 – finding a perfect gift for someone
  • 56 – when people are thinking of me
  • 57 – Harry Potter
  • 58 – mythology/folklore
  • 59 – traditions
  • 60 – tiny baby head smells (you know what I mean if you’ve held a little tiny baby and gave their head a good sniff)
  • 61 – manners
  • 62 – good grammar
  • 63 – an empty email inbox
  • 64 – things that are color coded/sorted
  • 65 – mittens & hats in the winter
  • 66 – finding constellations
  • 67 – apple cider
  • 68 – good makeup days
  • 69 – messy hair days
  • 70 – taking a really, really, really hot bath
  • 71 – with a really, really, really yummy smelling bath bomb in it
  • 72 – making a meal from scratch for others
  • 73 – organizing a space
  • 74 – dessert
  • 75 – handwritten letters
  • 76 – shopping local & supporting local businesses
  • 77 – junkin (antiquing)
  • 78 – when I have more recyclables than trash for the weekly pickup
  • 79 – finding the perfect pair of shoes on sale
  • 80 – cute purses
  • 81 – that feeling you get when you leave the office Friday afternoon
  • 82 – learning new skills
  • 83 – carnivals
  • 84 – carnival games
  • 85 – bonfires
  • 86 – costumes
  • 87 – planning trips
  • 88 – before & after home shows
  • 89 – vintage ads
  • 90 – learning about strong women in history
  • 91 – finishing a project
  • 92 – fresh pastries from French bakeries
  • 93 – nature walks (though they are rare since I am like crack to mosquitos and can get 100 bites while the people with me get none)
  • 94 – decluttering
  • 95 – getting into a freshly made bed with clean sheets and fluffy pillows
  • 96 – wedding cake
  • 97 – playing card games
  • 98 – listening to my daughter learn how to read
  • 99 – getting a song un-stuck from my head
  • 100 – being in a class – which is why I’m happy to announce that I’ll be starting courses to finish my bachelor’s degree at the end of August. I will be getting my degree in GRAPHIC DESIGN, which is a change from what I’ve worked toward in the past, but after a lot of self reflection, I feel is more in line with what I want to be doing
  • 101 – when people read my blog (even if most of you only come here looking for a coupon for a planner – I hope you stay!)

There you have it! 101 things that make me happy to reflect back on when I’m getting too sad from current events.

Spread the happiness – create your own list and encourage others to do the same. Even just trying to come up with the list will lighten your mood!


What are you reading?

I love reading – and sadly, it’s one of my hobbies that gets the least amount of time. Or the most. I tend to binge & purge – I’ll get on a binge where I read 3 books in a week and can’t put them down. Then I’ll take a few months off because nothing sounds good to read.

Have you noticed that summer is for some reason the season of reading? There are always summer reading lists around. What about a winter reading list? I’d think that season would be more reading heavy since people don’t want to leave the house. But maybe it has more to do with lying by the pool (these people don’t have preschoolers – there is no pool lazy time for this mom). At any rate, I’d love to know what is on your summer reading list this year! Here is a peek at mine – I’ll likely complete about 10% of this lofty goal, especially since I’m starting school up shortly:

Summer Books

1 – Odd Thomas, by Dean Koontz

2- Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides

3- No One Knows, by J.T. Ellison

4- Trigger Warning, by Neil Gaiman

I’m saving No One Knows for my upcoming 10th anniversary trip to a beach with alcohol and no responsibilities 😉

I received this book through my new Book of the Month club subscription:

Each month, you receive an email with the 5 book of the month choices, and you have 5 days to review and choose which book you’d like. If not, you get the default book of the month. I’m really, really picky what what I’ll read, so I was pleased to find two books this month I was interested in.

If you want to try it, use this link to get 50% off your first three months:

As a final plea, I’m putting this thought out into the internet world:

One of my most favorite books is American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. It’s such a favorite of mine, I actually spent a weekend up in Wisconsin for the books 10th anniversary at a book themed weekend at the House on the Rock. You may or may not know that a Starz version of this show is currently being produced. I’m pretty excited. And I’m also imagining that at some point, this show will be filming up at House on the Rock in Wisconsin. So my plea – nay, my BEG – is that I be invited to be an extra while they are filming. Now, I am not asking for anything for free, of course. I make great cookies, so I can totally handle stocking the Craft Services table. I can also drum up some publicity with my 10’s of blog followers for the show. So, show producers – let me know when you’re ready to film up in Wisconsin and I’ll be there with bells on! PS – I’d make an awesome Easter.

So – share my plea, and let me know what books you’re looking forward to reading this summer!

My family trip to Ikea

Ikea Cover Picture

If you haven’t been to Ikea, it’s a surreal experience that’s difficult to explain. But, I shall try.

I don’t plan road trips around where Ikeas are located, but I do stop at one if they happen to be where I am. Ikea is a store that’s not just a furniture store, though that’s primarily what it is. It’s a Scandinavian store that sells modular furniture (build it yourself), but it has so much more.

Need a lamp? Got it. Bulbs for the lamp? Got those, too. Need a throw pillow to cover the ugly stain on the couch that you can see because of the lamp? No problem. Along with a rug to match the throw pillow, some vases and fake flowers, a new kitchen cabinet, dishes, bathroom storage, and while we are at it, here are some new toys for the kids. Oh – and did I mention the grocery area at the end? Yeah, it’s got that, too. Needless to say, I was excited to try out the new Kansas City Ikea on our most recent road trip. Continue reading

How about a quickie? Here are some life hacks – enjoy!

Life moves at a freaking fast speed. Freaking. That’s how fast. And as many blog posts as I have in the planning stages for you, my double digit subscribers (thank you btw – you make me so happy!), what I have lacked lately is the time to execute.

So I bring to you, without further adieu (I’ve always wanted to use that phrase…), some quickies. Enjoy these life hacks! Continue reading