Category Archives: Craftopia

Less messy bird feeder craft for kids

We are loving homeschooling right now! There have been some tricky parts like when H climbs on the table and sits on J’s work (so we started doing most of our schooling during his nap) and working through her perfectionism is always a challenge too. It’s magical to watch her brain put things together though.

She’s reading some three letter words now with the “short” sounds for a, i, and o. Last night we read books together, me pausing to let her sound out words she can read now in some of her favorite stories. It is very exciting stuff.

I am also really loving the Garden of the Theotokos curriculum we decided to do this year. I’ve always loved doing art projects and crafts with the kids and this lends itself really well to that. Much like Five in a Row, I am doing a bit of picking over, but I love that it it is all laid out for me, matching up with the Liturgical year for when I do want to do it.

We are currently in the “Book of Creation” section of that curriculum. We learned about the birds and the fish for the fifth day of creation. One of the extra activities is to make a bird feeder. Just about every bird feeder craft I know of has some sort of nut butter mess involved (including the one in the book). Not only did I not want to deal with that, but we were also pretty much out of ours. So I started thinking up an alternative.

Less messy bird feeder craft for kids

-toilet paper roll
-markers/crayons/paint for decorating
-hole punch
-about 12″ or so of yarn
-bird seed (we used raw sunflower kernels from our pantry)

Step 1: Fold end of toilet paper roll as shown below:


Step 2: Do the same thing to the other end. The folds should be on the same side of the roll. This creates a little tray for the seeds.

Step 3. Cut out a rectangle/square/oval above the “tray” in the middle of the TP roll as shown below:


Step 4: Punch holes in either end of the roll as shown below:



Step 5: Decorate!


Step 6: Tie yarn on to each end using the punched holes.

Step 7: Fill with seeds.



Step 8: Take them outside and hang them.



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DIY toy censer that won’t give someone a concussion

A few weeks ago, we took a trip to the beach for the weekend.


My boys picked up some seaweed and started “censing” things with it singing ding-dong-ding-dong as the seaweed didn’t have any bells like the priest’s censer.

For those of you totally unfamiliar, during several parts of the service, the Orthodox priest uses what is called a censer with incense in it. Orthodoxy is known for incorporating all the senses in worship. The sense of smell is not left out!


Since that beach trip, my boys have pretty much been using any swing-able object they can get their hands on as a censer to go around the house and cense with.

I decided I wanted to make them a toy version of the priest’s censer. If my boys want to be priests when they grow up, I have no problem encouraging this now. I had heard of these “toys” among seminary student families and in a few Orthodox children in churches articles I had read.

I still wasn’t completely sure if this was an OK thing to do or if a toy censer was irreverent. So I did what I always do when I have a slightly silly question about something in Orthodoxy and asked my friend that is soon to be ordained. He said, “Censers are great play items for little boys! You can use a little block of wood, maybe with a little cross on it, and then a little rope, with a bell. Something like that works wonderful. Our friend’s child would literally ‘cense’ each icon in the house, and then he would turn to each person, and each person needed to bow when he ‘censed’ them. It was really cute! I think he even had it hanging by a little hook on the wall.”

Yay, on it being OK for role playing, but the wood block suggestion was so not happening around here. See, the current problem is, many of the objects they have picked to use in this endeavor they either wind up hurting themselves or someone else with.

So, I was thinking of something a little softer and maybe slightly more decorative like an actual censer (some are so beautifully detailed, Google image search it).

Now I have to admit, normally toilet paper roll crafts gross me out. I mean that thing is in your bathroom and people touch it when… yeah. So when I see TP roll crafts all over Pinterest I can never bring myself to do them.

I made an exception because I knew I’d be covering it in felt and I couldn’t think of another more perfectly sized or shaped object for this project.

Here goes:

First I cut a TP roll in half. I traced the end and then gave myself about 1/4″ extra around that to cut circles for each end. I embroidered a cross in silver embroidery thread on one of the circles.


I punched holes at one end on opposite sides of the roll. I tied my bells inside using these holes and also tied the censer string through these holes. Normally the bells are all along the chain of the censer, but we aren’t worried about grown male priests sticking bells in their mouths. So I decided to be safe and stick mine inside.


I hot glued the felt circles over each end of the TP roll.


Then I cut a rectangle piece to fit around the exterior sides and embroidered it with more crosses and designs in the silver thread. I hot glued this around the outside of the TP roll covering the edges of the glued on circles. I made each one slightly different. I’m on an embroidery kick lately.





So there you have it. Throw this up on the list of things I’d never thought I’d be doing. Ha!


Filed under Craftopia, Faith, Family, Kiddos

The Lenten Spring

One of the things that has drawn me to Orthodoxy is the celebration of seasons. While we are somewhat forced to embrace seasonal weather, I think more often than not the concept of seasons gets lost in a culture that has Target stores stocked full of bikinis in January.

We just wrapped up our first week of Lent in the Orthodox Church which is perhaps mind boggling for all of you in the Western Church now entering into the last week of your Lenten season. An explanation of why our Easter (Pascha) is later, can be found here.

I have had St. Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s Day decorations for quite some time now, but my Gerber Daisy spring wreath was adopted some years ago by a nesting bird and subsequently infested with bird mites. I was so busy having babies and feeding them these past few years that I really didn’t decorate much so it has never been replaced.

I’ve been following Morgan’s blog for several years now (we have a few IRL friends between us) and never really thought I would have need for one of her felt flower or wreath tutorials because knitting and sewing are more my thing. When one decides to become Orthodox and all the Spring wreaths are pastels, bunnies and such, however, something custom is needed. So I finally put those tutorials to good use. My inspiration originally came from some purple felt flowers I was helping my sister make for a practice wedding bouquet:


Way fancier than the paper plate and curling ribbon job I had 10 years ago. Pinterest has definitely taken things up a notch.

During our first week of Lent the vestments and banners in the church were purple and black so I decided to make a wreath with those colors that we could use for Lent this year and in the Lenten seasons of years to come. I made a mini bunting (with plans to make a larger version for our mantel) for the wreath by embroidering a golden cross on some felt and printing out the Resurrection Icon on iron-on t-shirt transfer paper and applying it to some felt.



I really love it! The relaxing, repetitive work of the wrapping and the flower-making was exactly what I needed during our first intense week of Lent.

We kicked off week two of Lent today with the Annunciation.

The Feast of the Annunciation of Our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary is celebrated on March 25 each year. The Feast commemorates the announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would become incarnate and enter into this world through her womb (Source:

A friend of mine from church clued me in ahead of time that traditionally children place white lilies, a symbol of purity and virginity, in front of the icon of the Theotokos at the Divine Liturgy service. So, I bought some Easter lilies yesterday and found some plastic vases (so Father doesn’t accidentally kick or trip over and break one). The kids really loved having a special roll in the service and were so excited about their lilies. E kept singing one of the hymns we sing about the Theotokos too. H has recently started saying, “Tokos” and pointing at her icons and he was saying it and pointing at the flowers too.


After services a few of us got together at one of our favorite parks to exchange flowers for making a “Garden of the Theotokos” that one of my friends got from a blog she saw, I think. In Medieval times, “Mary Gardens” were very popular. These enclosed gardens were filled with flowers, herbs and trees and were inviting places of beauty which encouraged contemplation and prayer.

Before the rise of Christendom, many flowers were associated with pagan deities — Diana, Juno, Venus, etc. — but when the “Age of Faith” ascended and superceded the pagan, these flowers were “christened” and re-dedicated to Christian themes. So many flowers were named for Jesus, Mary, the angels, holy places, etc. (Source:

My friend was able to find a list of flowers and herbs with their Medieval Christian names here. Of course the kids enjoyed the park day too.








The boys fell asleep on our way home from the park so J and I finished things out by planting our Garden of the Theotokos while they napped.





Filed under Craftopia, Faith, Family, Kiddos

Too much stuff to talk about for one post

My life the last few weeks has been absolutely insane.

First of all, we moved. I meant to mention it before hand, but things were way up in the air kind of right up until the end.

This is our cute little rental house:


As impractical as it sounds, some of the first things we did were unpack books and put up decor. Six months without these things was tough for me.





We read Madeline and learned about France.



We cleaned our apartment.


My sister came down for one last hurrah visit before she and her husband head back to Korea for a few years (because there are no jobs here, get it together United States). We had a fun weekend with her and we took some sister pictures. So cheese ball.


Henry and Avory got sick. So much snot and drool and coughing and Vicks and sticky cough syrup and for my sister breathing treatments and ER trips to deal with.




The kids drew on their pumpkin patch picks and I carved them along with a couple drawings of my own.


I made an owl costume for Henry in two days with a hoodie, lots of felt, feathers and hot glue.





My kids did not cooperate for a group costume photo. Mainly because Henry will not be told what to do or be forced to stand in one place.



My sweet nephew joined us for some trick-or-treating after he said goodbye to Mommy that had to go to work.




This guy got promoted at work, but he’s still humble enough to help with chores and crazy kids.



We love him so much. He’s kind of a big deal around here.

I keep waiting for this whirlwind roller coaster we’ve been on for the last year to stop, but it just never seems to. I want to catch my breath and stop feeling so worn down and not in control. I suppose this just might be life for awhile though. I am learning to cope with it day by day.


Filed under Craftopia, Family, Kiddos, Parenting, Ramblings

On why I can’t stop writing.

The thing is I have had plenty of friends that have had blogs and abandoned them. Basically they just stopped writing, never intentionally, but stopped just the same. I think it speaks volumes that I wrote out a whole explanatory post about why I might stop writing. Who am I kidding? I can’t stop. It is just the way I process life. An oddity in this is that I would really like to be a journaler and have attempted several times to do so. I have a whole drawer full of half-filled (sometimes less than that) journals. It wasn’t until I started blogging, however, that I finally stuck with it. I think there are many reasons for this. Convenience being one (as I write this from my iPhone while simultaneously watching over my playing kiddos with a load of laundry going). The ability to intersperse text and pictures easily is also key. At another phase in my life I plopped down a ridiculous amount of money on scrapbooks and scrapbooking supplies that mostly never got used. This blog is my journal, my free therapy session, my scrapbook, my photo album, my recipe book, my testament, and my record of my life and the life of my little family, for better or worse.

So, for posterity’s sake and the sake of all the other reasons I just mentioned, this is what we’ve been up to in the little over a week since my last post.

Lots of dress up:


Lots of reading:

A trip to the new doctor:


A birthday:

A trip to Disneyland:


Lorax crafts:


Crafting with sister:

The dictator, being a dictator and demanding “Mao!” (more) and “mines!” (mine):

A trip to the circus courtesy of my dad:


Lots of raspberries, it’s Sparrow’s love language:

More proof I should have been born in the 1800s:



Filed under Craftopia, Family, Gourmet Lisa, Homeschooling, Kiddos, Parenting, Photography, Uncategorized

It’s time for another edition of, “I sewed a bunch of stuff”

These days my late night habit is sewing.

So here are some more projects I’ve made as seen in grainy Instagram iPhone photos in poor bathroom lighting (I finish these things late and it’s just about my only option).

One night Stephen spent hours on Facebook trying to organize his social media life. He reports he was successful and he now spends less time trying to sort through all the crap to get to the good stuff like family updates and photos. I am still firmly in the, “It’s a waste of time!” camp and chided him the entire time. I also was super productive and made this skirt which made me feel even better about deleting my account.


It is a basic elastic-waist a-line skirt with two layers. I used Simplicity 1807 as a guide. The bottom layer was a Target dress that I used for my Wendy costume and didn’t care much for wearing because it made me think of PJs and it was slightly see-thru.

Stephen spent more time on Facebook that night blocking apps and certain types of updates and figuring out who his real friends are. So then I decided that my skirt would be better back as a dress and reattached the top.


I love this mustard yellow fabric with the little white blossoms.



Sprout kept asking me for a satchel because Flynn Rider (of Disney’s Tangled/Rapunzel fame) has one. I just signed the kids up for their fall dance classes (don’t judge, he’s been begging to be in dance like his big sister all year long, this isn’t me imposing on him) and figured a satchel would be perfect for him to carry his shoes in.

Side note: Cute itty-bitty feet in tap shoes!


He picked Thomas the Train fabric for it and I found some canvas for the sturdy main body of the bag.


I used McCall’s M6176 for the pattern. It turned out much bigger than I expected, but it will work. Oh and we’re not supposed to call it a bag. Sprout is very insistent, “It’s not a bag! It’s not a purse! It’s called! A! Satchel!” He also does the, “Whoa-ho-ho where’s my satchel?” line from the movie incessantly now whenever the thing is out of his sight.


Saturday night Stephen did some work and I did some sewing.


I made this dress which finally used up the last of some fabric my friend Talia gave to me years ago that I think she said she got at a yard sale for fifty cents. I combined my a-line skirt pattern (Simplicity 1807) with the military style bodice of a shirt pattern I used previously (Simplicity 2254).


I think Bean just went through a growth spurt because suddenly half the items in her closet seem too short. Most importantly, her favorite brown “church dress.” It’s about dang time though, because seriously, she’s going to be four in a few weeks and that dress along with the others were meant for two-year-olds! Pipsqueak!

Anyway, I started looking around at dresses for her because she only ever wants to wear dresses. I made up a little board of inspiration in my Stylebook App on my iPhone.


And I promptly got started knocking off what looked like the easiest for me to accomplish, the GAP Bow Bubble dress:


I used Simplicity 5695 and instead of doing the hemmed ruffle on the bottom of the drop-waist body, I used a fold of gathered satin. It actually made this dress somewhat easier because I didn’t have to do a hem. The bow was my arch nemesis though. I definitely need to take some lessons in bow-making from my friends that make awesome ones (ahem, Morgan) Bean is in love with it this morning.

I have more projects, as always, in the works. For now, this is it.


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Prince Charming

On our first anniversary (almost eight years ago), we decided to spend a few days at Disneyland. In the shop that now is home to the Bippity Boppity Boutique in Fantasyland, there used to be a shop that had costumes and things for princesses AND princes. I remember thinking that the Prince Charming costume and other boy costumes they had there were so adorable. I remember seeing a couple siblings dressed up in the park that day as well as little boys all on their own as their favorite prince (and a couple dragons). Since then everything has become princess-only for girls and the boy stuff revolves around Cars. The boy fairytale costumes are non-existent. Obviously this decision is profitable or Disney wouldn’t do it, but it bums me out.

A couple weeks ago I decided I wanted to make Sprout a Prince Charming costume. I realized I pretty much had almost everything I would need. I kind of had an idea of what I would do and how it would work, but looked around on the Internet for some tutorials as a reference and came across this great one by Ashley at Make It and Love it. I read through it, headed to the craft store for all of our embellishments and then got to work cutting out the pieces right away.


My advantage for this project was that I already had a suit that fit Sprout to use as a pattern guide (Thanks Cara for all your great hand-me-downs, as always). I used cream colored felt for the jacket because I had a ton of it from when I thought I was going to make hand embroidered Norweigan slippers for all the girls in my family one year. I also had a bunch of red fabric that I had been planning to use for various boy sewing projects, some of which I used for the cape and hat in the Prince Philip costume.

I did decide to do some slightly different things than she did in the tutorial. I backed all my gold stripes with some of the blue sparkly fabric I had leftover from the Cinderella costume. It was kind of a way to tie the two character costumes together, which is an old theater/movie trick where two characters that the viewers are supposed to associate together wear similar tones or the same colors. I also used some pre-made “frog” closures for the front of the coat (notions were on sale that day at JoAnn’s and I took full advantage). I also had trouble making the epaulets the way she described and wound up reading a few different tutorials on the subject in order to make mine.


All the thick fabric layers and notions definitely gave the machine quite a workout. I don’t even know how many different needles broke during the course of the project. Sometimes it seemed like one every few minutes. I was getting pretty frustrated. I finally found some heavy duty needles and stopped having so many problems.

Sprout and his cousin were fighting over who got to be Prince Charming this morning so we did photo shoots with both of them in between wiping noses 500 times due to our second round of summer colds. Fun times.


Filed under Craftopia, Homemade, Kiddos