Sunday, July 29, 2012

How to make a pinball machine from a cardboard box

If you haven't watched the story about Caine's Arcade, do it now!
After watching (and crying of course) I read a post about a boy named Ezra, who, inspired by Caine, created a cardboard pinball machine. 
So I was inspired to create my own.

Here's how I did it.

What you need:
- a box
- wooden tongue depressors or popsicle sticks
- tape
- various items for obstacles eg. toilet paper rolls, cottage cheese containers, cd's
- decorating items eg. stickers


1.  Take a cardboard box, cut off the front and tape up all the sides.

2.  Use a scissors or craft knife to cut holes in the sides for your levers.
(I mistakenly cut high at first, the ball just falls under the levers *duh) so cut them as low as possible)

3. Tape two sticks together to form the desired length for each lever. 

4.  Use toilet paper rolls to achieve the desired angle for the machine by taping/glueing them to the back of the box.

5.  Tape or glue a long paper towel tube for the ball dispensor

6.  Tape or glue obstacles

7.  Decorate and Enjoy playing !!!

Happy crafting everyone.

and if you have young children, be sure to check out my new website about Baby Signing. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Follow me on my Signing Kinderlach adventure

You may have read a previous post of mine, about Signing Time's On Demand system. 

Here's a bit of background about me and my personal Baby Signing Time experience - and my new adventure, Signing Kinderlach.

When my first daughter, Eliya, was born, I heard about baby signing and its potential benefits. I subscribed to an online course, but didn’t follow through as it was boring and not interactive. Then, a friend of mine showed me her Signing Time DVD. I loved it!! and so did Eliya. I bought the set of 4 Baby Signing Time DVD’s; we watched them together often and tried to use the signs in our daily life. Even though I wasn’t reinforcing the signs as much as I could have, we still felt the benefits.

When babies learn to speak, their first attempts at words are often difficult to interpret. “Ba-ba” can mean ball, bottle, baby… My kids are growing up bilingual, with English at home, and Hebrew at daycare & nursery school. With them, “ba-ba” can mean ball, bottle, baby, במבה-snack, בובה-doll, בטן-tummy etc. When Eliya would say a ‘word’ that I didn’t understand, she’d see my confused expression and clarify what she meant with a sign. This reduced her frustration as well as mine, and encouraged her to continue communicating as she felt understood.

I am always encouraging friends and family to use Signing Time (in fact I have a cousin who is a terrific signer) and when I learnt that there weren’t any Baby Signing Time Instructors in Israel, I decided to create Signing Kinderlach, and become the first BST Instructor in Israel so that I can spread the word of sign to more ‘dear children’ – ‘kinderlach’.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

How to make a car from a toilet paper roll

This classy car for my wooden doll, was inspired by Mama Jenn's sports car which is featured (with instructions) on  Preschool Crafts for Kids

To make it even easier for you to make your own car, I've made a video showing you exactly what to do.  You can see it on here.

What you need:
- toilet paper roll
- paint
- scissors
- pen / pencil OR push pin
- 4 bottle caps (equal size)
- hammer and small nail  OR push pin
- a little bit of playdough
- optional:  a drinking straw OR piece of cardboard & glue

Step One:  paint roll and leave to dry
Step Two:  cut square for driver, and poke 4 holes where the wheels need to go
Step Three:  (optional: put two straws in through the two sets of holes respectively), insert toothpicks
Step Four: make holes in the caps and attach them onto the toothpicks, using playdough to secure them.

Now that you have such a cool car, need somewhere to park it...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Have you run out of indoor crafts for kids?

With the unbearable heat of summer already upon us, I'm always looking for fun kids activities that can be performed indoors.  My kids love art projects, but there are only so many stick portraits one can draw.  Disney Family Fun listed a great Stick Art craft, which allows your kids (and yourself) to engage with nature INSIDE your airconditioned house - perfect!.  

crafts for kids

What you need:
- clear contact paper (in South Africa, we called it Fablon).
  (I had a lot leftover from previous projects, but you can also buy from Amazon at the above link)
  disclaimer contact paper is probably not eco-friendly, but I have yet to think of a good alternative.
- scissors
- tape
- hole punch
- cotton or ribbon to hang the finished product (we used scooby doo wire, we had in the craft room).
- leaves, dried flowers, etc  (this part may involve braving the heat outside *sorry*)

1.  tape a piece of contact paper, sticky side up, onto the surface you're working on
2.  decorate randomly with your leaves, flowers, sticks etc
3.  cover with another piece of contact paper, sticky on sticky
4.  trim with your scissors into a circle or other shape, we did one big shape and two smaller ones
5.  punch a hole and thread your ribbon through.

crafts for kids
crafts for kids
Here, I connected them to suctions caps to hang on the window

Happy crafting everyone

P.S. Let me know if you're successful with a greener alternative to contact paper.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How to make a pencil case from a plastic food bag

how to make a pencil case

I was inspired to try this project after watching a Terracycle youtube video on how to make a coin purse from a plastic food bag.

However, I like taking the easy way out and my bag already had 3 closed sides, I was definitely not cutting new pieces just to sew them back together.
My personal no. 1 rule of upcycling is take advantage of as many seams as you can. (okay so that's for clothing, but why should plastic be different?).

So here's how I did it...
recycle plastic food bag
What you need:
1.  a strong plastic, empty, rinsed, food bag.
2.  scissors
3.  a zipper that's a little longer than the opening of the bag
4.  thick needle
5.  color-coordinated thread.

Step 1:  Use your scissors to cut the bag at the height that you want your pencil case to be.
  (admission of guilt: being as lazy as I am, and not owning a ruler *gasp*, I estimated the height on each side rather than measuring equal sides, which is why the final product's a little skew).

sew a zipper

Step 2:  Tape the zipper to the edge of your bag. 

how to sew a zipper

Step 3: Hand sew the zipper to the bag with a double layer of normal thread and a thick(ish) needle.
I say hand sew, because if you have kept the original three sides like I did, it would be very difficult and probably impossible to maneuver around the sewing machine.

how to sew a zipperhow to sew a pencil case
Step 4:  Sew the edges of the zipper together and tuck them in.

And that's it!  In only four short steps, you have a fully functional upcycled pencil case.

how to make a pencil case

Happy Upcycling!

Remember, I loooove your comments:
Would your kids find an upcycled pencil case cool? or geeky?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How to Save Money by Going Green A-Z (Part Three)

I recently entered the "Circle of Moms" Top 25 Money Saving Moms blog competition.
Although this blog is all about going green, I do believe that being eco-friendly goes hand-in-hand with frugal living and saving the environment saves you cash.
In honor of the Top 25 List, I'm posting a blog-trilogy; a 3-part series on how to Save Money by Going Green A-Z.  Click to catch up on Part One and Part Two.

and now for Part Three...

R - Recycle!  I'm sure you know that recycling is an eco-friendly habit, but did you know there are many ways to make and save money by recycling.   Wise Bread lists 15 websites that will give you cash for your trash.  US & UK citizens can use Recyclebank to earn points by participating in recycling and other Green habits, points can then be used to redeem gift certificates.  South Africans can earn money with Collect a Can or search for other buy-back centres near you.  In Israel, you can return your small plastic bottles and your glass bottles to reclaim the 30cent deposit at the supermarket.

SSeal your oven dishes with lids rather than foil and use reusable covers to seal the freshness in your salads, rather than gladwrap. 
Save money with reusable bowl covers

T - Terracycle your traditionally unrecyclable waste.  You may not be able to take home the money you generate, but you can donate it to your school or charity.  Perhaps you could save money on afterschool clubs if you earn enough through terracycle.

U - Upcycle old fabrics into clothes for your kids.  You can start by reading how a friend and I upcycled old curtains and a tablecloth into a Cinderella dress.

V - grow your own Vegetables.  I'm a beginner at vegetable gardening and aside from being green, healthy and frugal I've found it to be fun and inspiring too.  (See more about my vegetable gardening).
vegetable gardening

W - use scraps of fabric to Wrap gifts.  If you don't have any scraps of fabric, Katie Redmon has another 8 Eco-friendly gift-wrapping ideas for us.

X - skip your traditional printed family Xmas (or other holiday) card and use recycled gift tags..  Here's a picture tutorial on how to use old cards to create new gift tags.  If you don't have any saved cards to cut up, what about buying a reusable chalk cloth tag.
Y - do what works for YOU, if your eco-friendly habits aren't fun and feel like a sacrifice, you're not going to maintain them. So find one step that seems enjoyable and start there.  (If you're thinking that I only wrote this because I couldn't find a way to make money by going green with a Y... you're wrong, there's also )
upcycled pencil case with used food bag
Z  - add a Zipper to a used food bag and make a pencil case.
Here's a picture of a frozen chicken nuggets bag that I turned into a pencil case with a zipper. 
And here's how I did it.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

How to Save Money by Going Green A-Z (Part Two)

I recently entered the "Circle of Moms" Top 25 Money Saving Moms blog competition. (You can see my profile and vote for me at this link).
Although this blog is all about going green, I do believe that being eco-friendly goes hand-in-hand with frugal living
and saving the environment saves you cash.
In honor of the Top 25 List, I'm posting a blog-trilogy; a 3-part series on how to Save Money by Going Green A-Z.   You can read Part One here.

and now for Part Two...

Involve the kids squeezing orangesJ - squeeze your own Juice. Orange juice from freshly squeezed oranges is much healthier and cheaper than store-bought - sugar and preservative added - juices and requires no damaging plastic packaging!  You can also use your squeezed orange juice to make your own popsicles.
home-made popsicles

K - get your Kids involved.  Many of us spend money every month on afternoon, educational stimulating activities for our little ones. Gardening, upcycling and recycling with your kids, are all educational, fun and free activities.

use a shopping listL - shopping with a List can ensure you purchase only what you need and will use.  Personally, I love walking up and down all the aisles in the grocery store, musing over what would look nice in my kitchen cupboards.  Even when I do write a shopping list, I inevitably forget it at home.  I do, however, understand the importance of using a shopping list in order to avoid overbuying items that are going to go bad before you have a chance to use them.  I recently started using the Shopper app on my i-phone, which means I never forget my list at home anymore.  The items are automatically arranged according to the aisles and there are several customisable features even on the free "lite" version.

M - Make your own toys.  Collect a variety of items destined for the trash and use them to create something fun, like this play kitchen.
cardboard box play kitchen

how to fold a napkinN - cloth Napkins are reusable, saving the money and carbon footprint attached to paper napkins.  An as an added bonus, they can be folded in many fancy ways adding elegance to your table-setting.  On the right is my Bishop's hat napkin.

I'm adding an additional N here, for Nappies (Diapers).  Cloth nappies are another great way to save money and be green.  I'll admit, that I haven't been brave enough to try them yet.  But I'll definitely let you know once I do.  Meanwhile, you can check out details at Applecheeks recommended by a Going Green reader.

O - sign up for Online bills and reduce paper wastage.  How can this save you money?  Some companies offer incentives to sign up to online bills.  Our mobile company offers free smses on signing up.

P - be conscious about your Packaging choices.  If you can, choose a product with recyclable packaging.  Clean out your used plastic jars, and buy the paper bag refill next time.

Q - Quit smoking.  Not an easy task for a heavy smoker, but one that offers many rewards.  Save your money, save your environment (from the packagin waste; the actual cigarette butts) and most importantly save your health (smoking increases your risk of suffering a heart attack, a stroke, several types of cancers, as well as increasing the risk of asthma and ear infections in your children).  If you want to quit but feel that you can't do it on your own, ask your family doctor for advice and/or pharmaceutical assistance.

Are you ready for Part Three ?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

How to Save Money by Going Green A-Z (Part One)

I recently entered the "Circle of Moms" Top 25 Money Saving Moms blog competition.
(You can see my profile and vote for me here).  Although this blog is all about going green, I do believe that being eco-friendly goes hand-in-hand with frugal living and saving the environment saves you cash.  
In honor of the Top 25 List, I'm posting a blog-trilogy; a 3-part series on how to Save Money by Going Green A-Z. 

A - change to energy efficient Appliances.  This may involve an extra investment of money to begin with, but when you start saving electricity, you'll make your money back.  To get an idea of how much you would save by replacing, for example, an old refrigerator, visit Michael Bluejay and his refrigerator savings calculator.  Additionally some countries and/or some companies offer rebates or special deals when exchanging old appliances for newer energy efficient ones. So far I've found links for the USA and Israel.  Let me know if you have more links. 

B - Bicycle and save money on gas.  Start small, have a bookclub or meeting close by? - leave the car and go by bike

C - Composting your household and garden's organic waste is great for the environment.  Check out composting 101 for all the how-to info.  If you have a plants or a vegetable garden, doing your own composting will save you from spending money on store-bought compost.  If you don't have your own garden, sell your compost to your gardening  neighbours! Cleverbean  has a great selection of composters to choose from.

D - Drip irrigation will keep your garden growing while keeping your water bill and water wastage low.  I use the simplest drip irrigation system in my garden.  I placed a long long pipe with small holes at 5cm intervals in the garden, circling it around the different plants and double around the trees.  At one end it is attached with a simple attachment to the faucet, and the other end is doubled over and tied together. The timer was too expensive, so I manually operate it - I have it on for about 15-20 minutes every day or two. 

E - reduce your Electricity usage and save. Not sure how?  Check out my Top 10 Tips for Saving Electricity.

F- Fix anything and everything you can.  We're often very quick to throw things away, especially when buying something new doesn't cost a lot.  Remember, even if it doesn't cost a lot, it still costs something and it costs even more from the environment.  A glue-gun and a sewing kit can keep many useful items out of the trash.

G - think green when creating your aesthetic Garden.  Buy only a few plants and propagate them to make new ones, you can also grow extras and swap with friends.  This way your garden can be full of beautiful plants, without relying on commercial garden stores who package in plastic trays and charge too much.
On the right is a photo of a plant in my garden, that was started from a cutting placed in water, by a friend of mine.

 H - Heat your water with solar power. (I have an advantage here, because in Israel, by law, almost all the apartments are built with solar powered boilers on the roofs), but there are companies all over the world who make solar water-heaters.  So far, I've found you links for USA, UK, South Africa, Australia

I - Invest in green companies.  *disclaimer: I am not a real investment adviser so don't take my advice without additional research*.  The future is green, many companies are already implementing more eco-friendly changes.  These forward-looking companies are probably the ones that will make your money grow, plus you can feel good about supporting them.
Can you guess what J stands for? 
Find out in Part Two.
Don't forget to vote for me here !

Happy Savings.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

How do tomatoes grow?

The last couple of months I've been busy carefully watering my tomato plants and watching them grow.  I've found the whole experience of growing vegetables from seed to be very inspiring and thought I'd share the inspiration with you.

Here's a video that I created with photos that I have taken of our plants all the way, from seedlings to bright green tomatoes. 

Lessons learned from a first time vegetable gardener:
- Next time, I think I'll try creating a tomato cage and not relying on a single stake, which doesn't seem to have done anything to keep this tomato plant from looking like a Xmas tree.
- Also, remember to remove sideshoots which are the leafy branches with no flowers that take energy away from the fruit production.

- The truss, is the group of yellow flowers eventually whither off, leaving small green tomatoes behind.  I read this and other great tomato facts on Tomato Lover.

- After a lot of online research, I discovered that inconsistent watering and calcium delivery causes blossom end rot.  Unfortunately, nobody seems to agree how much water the plant needs, some say there's no such thing as too much, others disagree, some recommend putting your finger a couple inches into the soil and if that's dry, add water.  In the end, I stopped researching and just did what felt right and hoped for the best.  (what felt right was watering every morning until the soil looked soaked).

Sharing the vegetable growing experience with my kids has been fun and educational but the sharing didn't stop there.  We shared the experience with many of our friends in the neighbourhood as after starting the tomatoes from seed, I had too many seedlings, and gave away small potted plants to anyone who came to visit us.  The kids even helped me decorate a window container, which we potted up with soil and a small plant for a friend's engagement.

You can read about how I got started growing tomatoes from seed in a previous post. 

Happy gardening!