Things to Make & Do

Tutorial: CD envelope

Published by Lori Pickert on November 25, 2007 at 02:04 PM


I'm in kind of a NaBloPoMo coma. We are going to winterize the Airstream today. Then I am going to putter in the craft room with the boys and make some cards and ornaments, or we'll just pretend to make cards and ornaments while we watch movies.

So here's a look at the little project I did yesterday while browsing online. You might wonder how someone could read blogs and trace and cut at the same time; you just have to believe me that it can be done, as long as you're not in a hurry. I need to ponder what I read, after all.

And yes, this project is so simple it doesn't even need a tutorial, but hey, it's all I've got!


Start with a CD envelope/sleeve. These come with the software for your computer, your camera, computer games, etc. You should be able to find one somewhere in your house.


Carefully peel it apart and open it up. Now you have a template.


Lay it on the paper of your choosing and trace it with a light-color pencil. I used pages from a vintage children's music book that I bought at the thrift store for a quarter. The cover was ruined and the pages were falling out. (I still had a hard time cutting it up. If you want to preserve a book, you can also make color copies of the pages you want or take a digital photo and print it out on an ink-jet printer. Your template will fit on a regular 8 x 11 sheet of paper.)


Cut it out.


This is the good side. Now flip it over.


Fold up the bottom. Note the "top" has the biggest flap. Refer to your template if you get confused.

cd_env-9.jpg cd_env-8.jpg

Apply glue to the two side flaps and glue them down.




And there's the front, to which you can now add a title however you wish — alphabet stamps, Sharpie, etc. If you are using plain decorative paper (e.g., scrapbooking paper), you can print out your CD title and song list (if it's for music) or text (if it's for photographs) before you cut, fold, and glue.

Hope you enjoyed that little project. Have a great Sunday!

Holiday resolutions

Published by Lori Pickert on November 16, 2007 at 09:46 PM


Holiday Resolutions, 2007.

I will not make a holiday village out of gingerbread and royal icing.

I will make sugar cookies and let the kids decorate most of them.

I will not make my own, fabulous yard decorations out of dried grapevine and fairy lights.

I will let the boys hang the loud, multicolored lights they like.

I will not make all my gifts.

I will lay on the floor and watch "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "The Grinch" with the boys.

I will not take the boys to see "The Nutcracker".

I will play board games with them on the floor under the tree.

I will not organize a ski trip for friends and family.

I will sled with the boys in the backyard.

I will not take a special holiday portrait of the kids and send it out to friends and family with tasteful letterpress cards.

I will recycle a vacation picture and order 29-cent cards online. And I'll send half as many as last year.

I will not take tins of homemade cookies and fudge to our friends, neighbors, and service people.

I will invite my friends over to eat cookies and hang out.

I will not go to a different party every weekend.

I will stay home and make paper chains.


Cardboard dollhouse

Published by Lori Pickert on November 7, 2007 at 08:53 PM


Who knew cardboard could look this good?

Another homemade dollhouse

Published by Lori Pickert on November 5, 2007 at 10:50 PM

In the dollhouse

Published by Lori Pickert on November 4, 2007 at 01:00 PM

hoth1.jpg Construction of the Jedi temple has not quite begun. The research period is in full swing, which involves a lot of stop-action watching of the second trilogy.

In the meantime, a small box was added to Jack's birthday LEGO set, the Hoth base, to enhance it to his standards. (Empire Strikes Back is my favorite Star Wars movie. All we need now is an AT-AT.) There is also going to be some painting of the old corkboard he's using as the ground -- white, for snow, of course.

Soon the temple will begin to be built for real. So much debating about what will make the best elevator, etc.

One great thing about homemade constructions — Jedi temples, car garages, dollhouses, etc. — is that there is no guilt when you dispose of them when they are no longer played with. Also, they are, of course, the ultimate green choice — don't buy new, don't buy at all! Make something out of recycled materials, which can later be recycled again when you are finished.

hoth2.jpgMost important, there is an entire creative research, materials choice, construction, and decoration that the kids get to do. It becomes art, craft, and science project in one. (Have you ever made a garage door? an elevator? a rotating helipad? Simple machines, baby.)

msk-carwash.jpgYou may remember the great Martha Stewart Kids article about making a car wash and garage out of things from around the house. (Why did they cancel that magazine again? Best magazine ever. I saw an entire set for sale on Ebay not long ago. Too rich for my blood, but boy would I love to get a hold of the issues I missed.) I have tried in vain to find it on Martha's website; it was in the MSK winter/spring 2003 issue.

Elisabeth Dunker of Fine Little Day has a fantastic flickr set of the wonderful dollhouses she and her daughter made. They are wonderful, and they remind me of a classier version of Phoebe's dollhouse on Friends.

I want to make one of those for myself.

Dutch of Sweet Juniper made his daughter a quick, inexpensive, modern-style dollhouse that I lurv.

Of course, another great thing about the homemade dollhouse/garage/Jedi temple is that you don't have to worry about those pricey dollhouse dolls and accessories. You can use what you already have on hand -- action figures, Hotwheels, Polly Pockets. Start with the people to choose your scale.

Of course, anyone who owns a dollhouse will tell you that it is inevitably overtaken by unusually large and/or small friends anyway. The Hamburglar living in the back bedroom, Strawberry Shortcake hanging out in the kitchen, not to mention plastic dinosaurs and teeny plastic jungle animals lurking around the back door.

Then there's this groovy modern plexi dollhouse from Better Homes & Gardens Gifts to Make Yourself in 1972. Love the fireplace, baby.


Not as futuristic as a Jedi temple, but still plenty cool.

Finally, our friends Pete and Tom made this amazing Dalek city. Super cool, isn't it? Show that to any medium-size child and the ideas should start popping.


Published by Lori Pickert on November 3, 2007 at 01:00 PM


Cookie Magazine has a great little online article about terrariums.

We still have the raw materials for our project sitting in a nice, neat pile (maybe with a cobweb or two) out in the barn.

I never did find the Martha Stewart Kids magazine with the instructions and photos about paludariums. While hunting for it, however, I undercovered another half-dozen MSKs in random parts of the house. So it was totally worth it.

And now, just like my favorite shelter magazines, the High and Low versions of terrarium decorating:


High (classy Cookie Magazine): Terrarium, $118. Tyrannosaurus, $12.


Low (cheap Lori's version): Aquarium, 10 bucks. Brontosaurus, $1 at dollar store.

Whatever your price point, you and the small child in your life can find happiness with a miniature jungle. Enjoy!

Working with wire

Published by Lori Pickert on October 29, 2007 at 10:20 PM


Our wonderful friend Emily gave the boys this fantastic book this weekend: Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song. It's a wonderful addition to their bird books, and the boys absolutely love it.


Jack returned to his bird sculpture this week, but set his armature aside and, using the new book as his reference photo, made a beautiful mostly two-dimensional wire sculpture instead. Running outside to find a stick for a perch was an exciting part of the process.


Tomorrow, he says he's going to engineer a wire harness to hold the bird on its perch.


Of course, the label has fallen off the wire he used, but it is an ordinary spool of wire purchased at the hardware store, thin enough to be bendy, thick enough to be strong and hold its shape. It cuts with ordinary snub-nosed kid scissors. And the only tool he used, other than his own two hands, was a pair of jewelry pliers made to curl wire (no cutters!), and he didn't need those; they were just fun to use.

Reuse, then recycle

Published by Lori Pickert on October 17, 2007 at 01:56 AM


Well, I managed to miss Blog Action Day (topic: environment) due to a sick child. And I've missed a couple nights of sleep as well, so I'll try not to nod off while I write this.

f-constr-guitar.JPGThe pile of trash up above isn't destined for the recycle center or even the garbage — yet. First it's going to the art studio. Actually, this pile is destined to be part of an action-figure-scale Jedi temple.

After years of building with recyclables, I can no longer throw anything away without hesitating and thinking, Would this make a good steering wheel? bird beak? rocket fin? robot brain?

All of our clean, no-sharp-edges trash gets set aside for making models during projects, sculptures, toys, artwork, etc. Actually, once you have adopted this mindset, it's hard to ever look at a plastic cookie tray or mesh fruit bag the same way again.


Not only does this save things from the garbage and the landfill, but it saves money because you buy fewer art materials, so you saved the energy to make, distribute, and sell those items as well.

Of course, there's the added benefit that your children stop clamoring for sequins and googly eyes and instead start asking for more bottle tops and spaghetti sauce lids.

And eventually, when you are all done with the model/sculpture/toy/art you made, then it can be recycled. Or better yet, go to grandma's house.



Project: Tepee

Published by Lori Pickert on October 4, 2007 at 10:14 PM


I whipped up a tepee for younger son yesterday. He was talking about how much he wants a treehouse, and I pointed out that the upstairs deck is very much like a treehouse.

He was quite dubious.

I bought three six-foot-long pieces of bamboo a couple years ago for about $7.00. I was planning on making a tepee for school — maybe out by the garden, or maybe an inside tepee for a special reading nook.

So today I fetched those never-used pieces of bamboo, rooted around in the closet for an old canvas duvet cover, produced a pair of scissors and announced I could make him something cool, something super-cool, that would be even better than a treehouse.

tipi2.jpgThe pieces of bamboo were tied together with twine in three spots. I removed two of the twine "bracelets" and left the remaining one to hold the top of the tepee together.

I cut one corner off the duvet (did I mention this is a no-sew project?) and popped it over the top, then cut along one seam so it would be tepee-shaped.

tipi4.jpgI cut straight up one seam to make the door, then I cut out a window and rolled it up, securing it with a little clamp. (I traced a magazine to make a more-or-less rectangular window.)

We threw an old pillow on the floor and younger son found a plastic bin to hold art supplies and a pair of binoculars; he was delighted that the bin also made him a little table.

tipi5.jpgFinal result: For $7.00, we have a fantastic play structure that will entertain him all fall. And if it rains, we can pop the fabric in the washing machine and dryer. (The pillow comes in at night.)

He says it's better than a treehouse, for sure.


More tent & tepee goodness:

Eren's cowboy camp on her blog, This Vintage Chica

Plains Indian Tepee

HGTV's much more complicated DIY tepee

Grow a Beanpole Tepee

Kids and photography

Published by Lori Pickert on October 1, 2007 at 08:18 PM


Cameras are an important homeschooling tool for us.

The boys' photographs never fail to impress me. They notice and focus on things I didn't see. They capture the experience from their own kid perspective. And they never fail to highlight the things that mean the most to them.


Invariably, I think their pictures tell a more accurate (and more humorous) story than mine.



We use cameras for snapshots, making art, communicating with friends and family, field trips, journaling. We also use them just to help us focus more — taking them on a walk in the woods, for example. We notice so much more when we bring our cameras, because we're really looking — looking to see what's there, searching for things that are interesting — instead of just talking and walking.



I notice that they tend to zoom in closer than I would sometimes, and often they step back and take much more in than I would.



They are very creative, and they come up with ideas I'd have never thought of.



Like other types of artwork (drawings, paintings), photographs give us a starting point for interesting conversations and the boys have a different, non-writing way to take notes. They can catalog interests, questions, ideas. The boys' photographs become a jumping-off point for conversations that might lead to something as simple as looking up a type of tree and as complex as what the symbols on cemetary markers mean. The cameras are our tools, and their photographs become our resource materials.

All photographs except the top one were taken by my sons, at ages 4 through 10.