Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Painted Tree Silhouettes

I love painting, but having small children hasn’t made it easy to paint very much, other than the occasional finger painting extravaganza.  Therefore, I was overly excited about painting the boys’ room. I have always wanted to do something creative on the walls and I finally had a good idea and was ready to begin.
I’ve always found trees fascinating and thought that you could stare at them for hours.  I decided to make some tree silhouettes on two walls in the room with the trees white and the walls blue. I didn’t paint the whole room blue, because I didn’t want it to feel too small and I like the contrast of the white walls in between. 

After planning everything out, I waited until my mother-in-law came up for a week, so that I would be able to work in their room as uninterrupted as possible.  Unfortunately, Jonas got the flu that week.  Luckily, he was happy to lay in his bed in his room, watch Little Red Tractor on the Ipad and watch me paint.

I went online to see what info I could find about how to do silhouettes neatly, but could only find how-to’s on how to do patterns like chevrons.  This still proved very helpful and taught me what I needed to know in order to make crisp lines without any leaks.

I was very pleased with how the room turned out and the boys like it as well.  Jonas loves cats, and his stuffed Baby Kitty often tries to climb up the tree or catch a bird. At night when only a nightlight is on, it is easy to imagine being outside.  Even though blue is usually a cold color, the trees and dark color seem to add a bit of warmth to the room that was much needed. 

Here’s the How to:

1.  Decide what wall or walls you are going to paint, and make sure they are clean.  In Germany, almost all walls have Raufasertapete, which is a kind of textured wallpaper with a paper-like consistency that is usually then painted over with white paint.  I used a cloth to wipe down the walls and make sure they were dust and spider web free.

2.  Get out your masking tape!  There is a difference when it comes to masking tape.  If you can afford it, buy the good painter’s tape that doesn’t over-stick.  I began with this tape, but ran out and finished my project with plain old masking tape.  Both worked well, but the masking tape pulled off some of the wallpaper, which I had to touch up later. 

I drew out my drawing in a sketchbook first and then freehanded it with the masking tape on the wall.  If you want to make a rounded edge, you will need to just tear many little pieces of tape and lay them over each other like a fan. If you would like to make shapes, like my birds (and don’t want to free-hand them), you can put the tape in strips on wax paper and then cut out patterns with a scissors or knife.    

The most important thing is that the outside line of your silhouette looks sharp.  Use your finger to press the tape down along this entire edge. Don’t forget to do this also on the sides of your wall.

3.  Time to paint.  In order to get clean lines, it is very important that you follow this step.  You will need to first paint along the outer edge of your masking tape silhouette using your original wall color, which is usually white along with the sides of your wall.  This seals the tape on the side and prevents those little color drips.

Now you can take your background color (I used blue), and begin painting.  I used a professional roller made for details.  It is somewhat like a sponge and doesn’t hold as much paint as a traditional roller, but it also doesn’t splatter.  You will just need to press a bit harder and roll over some areas a few more times.  You may also want to buy a little roller for getting into tough spots.  A roller will leave a much nicer finish than a paint brush.  If you have areas that are too detailed, use more masking tape or paper to mark off the wall so that you can roll over it. It will save you time and look better.

4.  Finally, pull off the tape carefully while it is still wet!  This sounds a lot easier than it is, as masking tape is really sticky and now wet with paint.  I wear those plastic gloves like doctors wear when I paint a big project, so my hands don’t get covered. Then once your wall is dry, you can go in and do touch ups with a paintbrush.

 I think you will be amazed how easy it is to make beautiful silhouettes on your walls that look like they were professionally done.  Here is a picture of both finished walls.  I have now put Jonas's bed in front of the wall on the left and a white dresser on the left side of the wall on the right. 

As always, good luck and have fun!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Nesting, Planning, and Blogging

Lukas and Jonas 
Now that my second son Lukas just started German  Kindergarten (he's now 2 1/2 years old), I have three months without any children at home in the morning to get things done before baby number three arrives sometime late January.  I have been nesting like crazy this time around, going through every room and cupboard in the house, organizing and planning.

Firstly, I know exactly how uncomfortable the last two months can be and I wanted to make sure that I got all of the annoying jobs out of the way first, like sorting through boxes in the attic for all of the baby stuff, washing clothes that haven't been worn in a few years, building IKEA furniture, etc... Secondly, since I was on bed rest the first three months of this pregnancy, I wanted to plan for the slight chance that I might get put on bed rest again at the end of it. I don't want to have to delegate from my bed to my husband, or in-laws for that matter, exactly where they can find every baby item in the attic, especially when I am probably the only one who knows where all of the baby stuff is, because I packed it in the first place.

Now that I have all of the baby stuff ready to go, I can concentrate on other neglected areas.  I have so many blog entries that need to be posted and a zillion photographs that need to be sorted before I make Christmas calendars for Grandma and Grandpa and photo books of the kids. I apologize for not having posted anything the last few months and thank you in advance for your continued support!


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Simple Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese

After we came back from the US last Christmas, all my son Jonas wanted to eat was Kraft Mac and Cheese.  Unfortunately, the few packets we had brought along didn’t last forever.  And, even though I was thrilled that Jonas finally ate pasta, he refused to eat any other pasta that you put in front of him.

I decided I was going to try to duplicate Kraft.  I soon got the taste down, and found mini macaroni, but I couldn’t get that infamous yellow color.  

Jonas is a very picky eater.  For the past two years it has been almost impossible to get him to eat any vegetables whatsoever, not even carrots (Thankfully, he eats fruit). Adding sweet potatoes to the mac and cheese killed two birds with one stone.  I finally got that bright yellow color and I got to sneak in some valuable vitamins and minerals into Jonas’s diet.

This simple sweet potato recipe has become Jonas’s favorite.  Over time, I have increased the sweet potato without any negative repurcussions.  My first successful recipe contained Velveeta.  However, Jonas often complained of a stomachache after eating it and when I added shredded real cheese instead, his tummy aches disappeared.

One day I found a leftover packet of Kraft  Mac and Cheese.  I made if for Jonas thinking he would be thrilled to have the original again.  He didn’t want it and asked for mine.  I couldn’t ask for a better complement.

Here's the Recipe:

Simple Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese

2 C Milk
1 t salt
1 1/2 T sugar
2 T butter
2 T flour
½ to 1 C Sweet Potato puree
1 C shredded cheese
1 C macaroni noodles

1.  In a frying pan, melt the   Add flour and mix until the flour is thoroughly dissolved in the butter. 
 butter.  Add milk and while stirring constantly, bring just to a boil and remove from heat.

2.  Add sweet potato puree, cheese, sugar, and salt.  Mix until smooth.

3.  Add cooked macaroni noodles to the frying pan.  Use a spatula to mix noodles with sauce until completely covered. Give Mac and Cheese to kids and wait for them to say, “Yummy!”

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Grow With Me - Movable Door Height Marker

When did you get so big? I remember hearing that line when I was a kid all the time.  I never realized just how true it is.  Kids really do grow amazingly fast.

When my boys were born I was amazed just how tall they were.  Was it really possible for them to grow so much in only nine months inside of me? Then at their first birthday, I was amazed again at just how much taller they had become.  Now that they are two and three they have already become little boys and no longer look like babies anymore. Where did the time fly?

I started this movable door height marker over a year ago.  By changing the fabric every year, you can see exactly how much your child has grown each year.  You can also see which of your children will probably be taller.  Already at three, I can see that Jonas will be taller than his brother, even if it is only a little bit.

Hopefully someday, when they are over six feet and have stopped growing, have gotten married and have their own children, they can hang their door height marker up again and their kids can compare themselves to daddy.  

Lukas just had his two year check up where he had to stand up against the wall and get measured.  At home, he stood against his door marker and said, “so big!” Maybe someday, his son will do the same.

For the how to, see  http://kelley-donner.blogspot.de/2011/04/movable-door-height-marker.html from April of last year.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Baby Kitty's Underwear

Underwear is a big thing in our house.  My three year old Jonas not only loves to pick out which undies he wants to wear in the morning, but he also decides which ones his stuffed animals Baby Kitty, Mama Kitty, and Airplane get as well. 

I love Baby Kitty, because Jonas speaks through her.  When Baby Kitty doesn’t feel well, I know Jonas doesn’t either and when Baby Kitty is tired, I know Jonas is, too.  Baby Kitty even tells me all about Kindergarten.

So when I saw that Jonas’s underwear were way too big for Baby Kitty, I knew what to do. One morning while he was at Kindergarten, I sewed up a pair of undies for his beloved stuffed animals.

Jonas was so happy that his Kitty now had underwear that he showed everyone in his Kindergarten.  I think I am going to have to start making more clothes for Baby Kitty…

How to:
Unfortunately, I cannot show how I made these underwear.  I had such a limited amount of time and I had never made underwear before, so I did everything in the wrong order. Seriously, I've never found a project to be so difficult, which looked so simple.  Luckily, I’m pretty good at covering things up, so they still turned out pretty cute. 

If you want to make underwear for your kids stuffed animals, you could buy a pattern.  But, what would be the fun in that?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Big Boy Bedding

Before I had kids, I thought that you only lost sleep the first six weeks after a child was born.  Boy, was I na├»ve!  I never realized that sleep problems continue and change as children grow and their world expands.

My first born Jonas is already three.  He used to be a great sleeper, and then last summer the nightmares started.  First he was scared that a truck was going to drive into his room, then later he had a horrible fear of elephants.  In addition to this, his blankets were always falling off his bed and he would call out a few times a night, “Mama, tuck me in!”

The bedding issue was more complicated then it sounds.  Three year olds are picky!  Jonas has three blankets, one fleece, one fake down blanket and one crocheted.  He needs to have them on in that order, too.  Like I said, three year olds know what they want.

I finally decided to make him a new blanket that combined what he loved about the other three.  I knew that I would have to sell it well, or he wouldn’t accept it, so I worked hard at making it perfect.  I got blue fleece for the underside of the blanket and construction vehicle material for the other side.  I put a slit on the bottom where a down blanket could be put in for more warmth in the winter and added a piece of extra material that could be tucked under the mattress so that the blanket wouldn’t fall off. 

Luckily, the nightmares have gotten a bit better as he has started to understand the difference between reality and dreams and he’s not waking up as often as he used to. Jonas also loves his new blanket.  He is entirely capable now of tucking himself in, although he prefers to do it with one leg always on top of the blanket and one underneath. I don’t mind, as long as he falls back asleep.

I also decided that since I had the sewing machine out, I might as well make a blanket for Lukas, too.  He is now getting old enough to like a blanket and be capable of keeping one on at night.  Lukas's blanket is a bit smaller and can also be used as a duvet-cover, only I did not add the extra flap on the bottom.  As you can see on the pictures, both boys loved their comfy blankies.

1.  This blanket was actually very simple.  First, measure the duvet that you are going to cover and add at least an inch and a half around the side.  The underside of your blanket, I used fleece, will be this size.  Then measure the top of your blanket, I used construction material, but add an extra 18 inches to the length (this is the flap that you tuck in under the mattress later).  For an added touch, I cut a strip of the construction material and sewed it on to the length of the fleece before I cut it, so that when the bedspread is folded over, you see both fabrics. 

2.  Now, sew the bottom end of the fleece and the flap of the top material by folding over the edges of the material twice and making a nice seam. 

3.  Lay the two pieces of material on top of each other with the good sides facing each other.  Pin all edges.  First sew the bottom of the fleece where you have made the seam to the top material about 10 inches in on both sides.  This hole is where you can add the duvet later when the weather gets cold.  You can add snaps if you want so that the duvet stays inside.  Then sew the other three sides of the blanket together and turn back righ-side-in.  For a finishing touch, iron the blanket flat and sew around the edges from the outside one more time.  Your blanket is finished!  Good job!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Plague, Supermom, and the Promise of Spring

Thank goodness for spring.  I love spring.  It is the one thing that helps me get through winter, and this past winter was extremely long.  From November through February, our house had the plague; Someone was always sick.

It's amazing how the Mom-mobile can go on auto-pilot.  Having little kids meant that I also sick, too and was constantly running around like a zombie.  Even though I hadn't slept in days, I somehow managed to change one child's sheets for the third time at three in the morning, clean up the mess from my other child,  get them both to stop crying and sleep and still make it through the day.  Through all of the dirty diapers, medicine giving, and finally finding time to do laundry, clean the house, and make dinner, I had no time to blog, much less check my social networks for birthdays and messages.

And then.... my flowers started to come up.  My kids noses stopped running and they quit being so cranky.  My house finally got clean and my laundry got folded.  The sun came out again.  And finally, I turned my computer on and checked my blog and realized I couldn't wait to get started.

Thanks for sticking around.  Have a wonderful spring!