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Play Dough - Play 2If you are like me, you are always seeking easy and inexpensive ways to entertain the kiddos on long, rainy days! Homemade play dough always seems to be a big hit and a great one for the little ones to help you make, too! This 5 ingredient DIY play dough is made with all-natural, non-toxic ingredients, and you have the option of adding in food coloring for color and/or peppermint or vanilla extract for scent. What I love is that if your kids actually ingest it, it is made with edible, all-natural ingredients and won’t harm them!

Play Dough - Play 1Homemade play dough is softer than store-bought play-doh, and much easier for tiny hands to squish, mold and create. When stored properly, it can last quite a while!

Play Dough Ingredients“Mom’s” No Fail DIY All-Natural Homemade Play Dough

Ingredients

1 cup unbleached flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/3 cup salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup water
All-natural food coloring* (optional)
2 drops Vanilla or Peppermint extract** (optional)

Preparation

In medium saucepan, place 1 cup unbleached flour, 2 tsp. cream or tartar, and 1/3 cup salt. Stir to combine.

Add the wet ingredients (water and canola oil). Turn burner on low to medium/low heat. Start mixing ingredients together, making sure to scrape the sides of the saucepan as you stir.

Play Dough - Coloring

Continuing stirring, and once the dough becomes more solid, add the food coloring and essential oil (both optional). Continue to stir until the dough becomes thicker and starts to stick to the spoon, lifting away from the pan. When it starts to do so, the dough is ready.

Play Dough - Done

Place the dough on parchment paper or wax paper to cool. Once cool, it is ready for little hands to create and play!

Store in a glass container, such as a Mason jar or glass bowl with lid, or a plastic Ziploc bag, when not in use.

* “Mom” prefers India Tree’s all-natural food coloring for a non-toxic play dough.
** Want to add a light scent to your play dough? Both peppermint and vanilla extract lightly scent the play dough by simply adding two drops to the dough when cooking.

Please note: Recipe can be easily doubled or tripled depending on how much dough you want to make.

How to Make Recycled Material Christmas Ornaments With Kids

One of the true pleasures of the holiday season for many parents is taking the time to sit down with kids and create cards and gifts for family and friends, as well as ornaments to hang on the tree and treasure in the years to come. And for many families, the craft store can provide nearly unlimited options. But if you’ve decided that it’s high time you started living more sensibly and doing your part to protect the planet for your tiny tots, then perhaps you’re on the prowl for craft materials that do less harm this year. In other words, you might be looking for a few good ways to create Christmas ornaments using recycled materials. And here are some cool ideas to get you started.

If the majority of your crafts tend to be of the paper variety, you’re in luck. You can find all different kinds of recycled paper products to make your Christmas crafts more eco-friendly this year. For one thing, you could start by using the scrap paper in your own home. Have the kids color on it to cover any print and then fold and cut to create unique snowflakes to hang on the windows, walls, or even the Christmas tree. Even old magazines can provide you with fun paper options here. You might also look online for recycled card stock if you need something stiffer for ornaments like holiday theme photo frames to hang on the tree or seasonal cutouts (snowmen, reindeer, etc.) that the kids can decorate.

Of course, you might want to do something a bit more three-dimensional. Popsicle sticks are one handy craft item that can be used in a number of ways and if you are the planning type you might save them from the kids’ summer obsession with frozen treats. This way you’ll have them on hand to create God’s eyes or even a miniature manger for your nativity scene. Another fun and easy craft that kids of all ages can do involves using leftover twist ties that comes with your trash bags or recycled ones from your bread bags. All you have to do is make a bunch of about twenty, tie one around the middle, and then fan them out in all directions to make a starburst. Add a string and you can hang them on the tree or mantle. You might also put them in a hurricane glass with some tinsel for a table centerpiece.

And if you save spaghetti and jam jars, these can also be used in a variety of ways. For example, you can throw in pine cones and small pine branches that you pick up outside your house to create rustic, decorations to place around the house. Or if you’re looking for a little extra illumination (but you’re not quite ready for solar power from Brisbane to Boston), you can use a little decoupage glue and colored tissue paper salvaged from presents throughout the year to make opaque designs on your glass jars. Then all you have to do is place tea light candles inside for festive, custom lighting. As you can see, there are all kinds of crafts you can do with the kids to create holiday ornaments and décor with recycled materials. You’re pretty much only limited by the scope of your imagination.

Do It Yourself: 3 Eco-Friendly Projects for Your House

Going green around the home can mean a lot of things. Some green additions require major home improvements such as installing solar panels or upgrading to a tankless water heater, while others are just small tasks like converting to CFL or LED bulbs and conserving water by taking shorter showers.

If you’ve done the little things, but aren’t quite ready to start redesigning your house, there’s also a middle ground: DIY eco-friendly projects. With a little bit of environmental awareness and some willingness to get your hands dirty, there are plenty of DIY fixes and tweaks you can complete around the house that are also great for the environment.

Here are three of our favorites:

1. Make Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products. Everyone likes to have a clean house, but it turns out that many store-bought cleaners rely on powerful chemicals like ammonia and bleach to get the job done. These products may remove dirt and grime, but they can also leave behind traces of these chemicals wherever they’re used. To keep the toxins out of your house, try making your own cleaning products! With a few common household items like baking soda, lemon and vinegar, you can build an eco-friendly cleaning arsenal in no time. Visit the BrightNest blog for seven specific eco-friendly recipes.

2. Make a Compost Bin. Composting has increased in popularity over the last few years, and for good reason! Using compost on your lawn is a great eco-friendly alternative to synthetic fertilizer, which can pollute your groundwater and put you at a higher risk for serious illnesses like leukemia. Making a compost bin only takes about 30 minutes, and can be done with nothing more than a garbage can, drill, two bricks and some duct tape. For a step-by-step guide, read: Make a Compost Bin.

3. Upcycle Dryer Lint. You might not consider the fuzz you pull out of your dryer’s lint screen an eco-friendly tool, but it is! Instead of tossing the dryer lint you collect, keep it around and use it for a number of mini-DIY projects. If you stuff some lint into a toilet paper tube, it serves as a great piece of kindling for fires. If you already have a compost bin, add some lint to the mix to give your DIY fertilizer some weed prevention qualities. For a few more ideas, read: Upcycle This: Dryer Lint.

About BrightNest

BrightNest is a free online service that provides people with the tools, tips and motivation they need to keep their home in great shape and save money. Sign up for personalized tips and weekly reminders and visit our blog for more ideas and inspiration on home decor, cleaning, organizing, DIY projects and much more.

Simple and Natural DIY Beauty Products You Can Make at Home

When it comes to the wide world of beauty products, you may find two aspects rather disturbing: the fact that most of the lotions, potions, and cosmetics you use are filled with chemicals, as well as the often outrageous prices manufacturers charge to poison you with these toxic wares. If you’re looking for ways to save the environment (and your own health) even as you save a little cash, there’s no reason to purchase beauty products that are laden with harmful chemicals. It turns out that looking beautiful can start at home. With just a few simple, inexpensive, natural materials you can make all the toiletries and cosmetics you might otherwise spend an arm and a leg for. Here are just a few of the products you can make on your own.

1. Shampoo and conditioner. These are actually some of the easiest natural, at-home products to concoct. For example, you can easily make shampoo with boiling water (3 cups), soap flakes (1/2 cup), and glycerin (3 tablespoons). In a pinch you could just add about ¾ cup of Ivory soap shavings to the boiling water since it already contains glycerin and is largely chemical-free (although it does contain some fragrance, according to the label). From there you can add ingredients like rose water or a few drops of essential oils for scent. As for conditioner, all you need to do is massage oil into your scalp (olive, coconut, or safflower, for instance), comb it through your hair, and leave it wrapped in a towel for an hour or so before washing it out.

2. Deodorant. You might be surprised to learn that all the ingredients for natural deodorant can be found in the average kitchen. By mixing equal parts baking soda and cornstarch (try ¼ cup of each) and then adding ¼ to ½ cup of coconut oil (for desired consistency), a tablespoon at a time, you can create a basic bar of deodorant that can be placed in a dispenser or jar and applied with your hands.

3. Lotion. Many people opt to simply rub on olive or coconut oil immediately after a shower for maximum moisture absorption (and adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil will give your skin a lovely scent, as well). But if you’re looking for something a little less oily, think about ordering some natural shea butter online and adding a bit of oil to it until it’s the consistency you prefer. It will make for a rich and creamy lotion that is free of the chemicals normally found in such products.

4. Lip/cheek tint. You may have noticed that certain food items tend to stain your lips naturally when you eat them (berries for example) and you can use this to your advantage when creating a tint. Beets are one good option because of their rosy hue, so chop up a couple, microwave them for 30-60 seconds to draw out the juice, then discard the beets and mix the juice with a couple drops of olive oil and some powdered sugar or cornstarch (the former will be rather tasty). Simply add the powder a bit at a time until your desired consistency is reached (although a product that is too thick may be hard to apply, especially to cheeks).

5. Fruity facial masks. While some women like anti-aging products filled with retinols (or a lunchtime trip to the dermatologist or plastic surgeon for Botox or a thread lift), you can endeavor to keep your skin looking smooth, firm, and wrinkle-free with a facial mask that includes specific fruits. The acid found in strawberries and citrus fruits will help to slough off dead skin cells and dry up excess oil, the antioxidants in blueberries will combat free radicals produced by sun exposure, and the oil in avocados will help to hydrate your skin without clogging pores. When mixed with oatmeal and honey, these items could also aid in exfoliation and kill bacteria that play a role in the formation of acne.

DIY Baby Nursery Décor Ideas

You’ve got a baby on the way. Could there possibly be anything that’s more exciting? And as you’ve been counting down the months and weeks, you’ve been understanding more and more what nesting is all about. You’re up in the middle of the night boiling bottles, knitting booties and washing all of the clothes that you’ve gotten from your child’s baby shower. And while you actually have the nursery pretty much to your liking, you figure that you could put some of this extra energy to use by making some decorations for the room. The thing is, DIY projects are not really your area of expertise and so you need help coming up with some great ideas.

This is your lucky day parent-to-be. Here are five simply beautiful ones:

How about a crib skirt? Crib skirts are the perfect way to dress up the space where your little one will be spending a lot of time over the next several months. To make one on your own, first measure the width and length of the crib. Cut some fabric to go along all of the sides of the crib (15? x 33? may be what you come up with for a standard size one). Then, “hem” the borders with some hem tape and just like that, you’re done.

Create your own canopy. If you’re having a little princess, a cute and easy addition for her room is a canopy. All you need to do is purchase an embroidery hoop (with about a 15″ or so diameter), mount it to the ceiling and hang some sheer curtains from it. For a bit of extra “girly-ness”, you can even stream some pink ribbon that can hang all the way down to the floor as well.

Blow up a picture and decorate the frame. It could be your child’s first sonogram, a picture of you pregnant, a letter that you wrote to your child in anticipation of s/he’s arrival or even the note that you wrote to your partner to let them know that a little miracle was on the way, but a beautiful sentiment that can also serve as a special piece of art is to scan one of those items, have it blown up to poster size and then put it in a frame to hang over the baby’s crib. You can even decorate the outside of the frame with little boats or trucks if you’re having a boy or gemstones if you’re having a girl.

Make a crayon monogram. When it comes to decorating the walls, some people have a mural painted, others put up pictures, others use flower and tree decals and still others post up a monogram. A cool twist to that last idea is to make a crayon monogram. All you need to do is print the first letter of your child’s name onto a scrap sheet of paper. Then, arrange the crayons to fit inside of the letter, cut them down to size (based on their placement), glue the pieces together and frame it.

Diaper Box Storage Bins. If “going green” is your thing, here’s a creative way to recycle your diaper boxes. Cut off the tops, decorate the sides of them with bows or stencils and then use them for storage containers. It’s quick, it’s cheap and it’s a great way to get your child used to living in a loving eco-friendly environment!

Fun and Easy DIY Summer Green Projects

The Summer is a great time to get outdoors and enjoy nature, and it is also a great time to get out and do something useful. The beauty of Summer inspires in us a love of nature, and a want to be as green as we possibly can, just to ensure that the beauty of nature never fades. Thus, Summertime is the perfect time to pick up some fun, easy do-it-yourself green projects around the home and around the neighborhood. Here are a few ideas:

Natural Sunscreen

With the sun being out, it is only natural to want to bask in it and soak up as many rays as possible. Of course, we all know how dangerous that can be, as it raises the chance of skin cancer among other things. But, that can all be taken care of with a little sunscreen. In order to be green and to do it yourself, you can make your own natural sunscreen and it will make you able to soak up those rays and absorb all that vitamin D, which does wonders for the body – not to mention getting a great tan in the process.

Here are the ingredients you will need:

● an 8 oz. bottle or container of some kind
● some type of oil (i.e. olive oil, sunflower oil, jojoba oil or soybean oil)
● 1 oz. of emulsifying wax
● some kind of sun blocking agent (i.e. zinc oxide or titanium oxide, etc.)
● any kind of essential oil (depending on what smell you like, it can be orange, geranium, or anything else that is available at the local shop.)

Turn all Those Bandanas into a Tablecloth

This is a great idea if you have plenty of time on your hands, and are adept at stitching things together. The idea is to make a tablecloth out of bandanas, which will be stitched together to create it. While it may not sound like an outdoor activity, that is not exactly true; as you can always take the materials with you to a park, or work on it in your backyard. In the end, you will have the coolest tablecloth in town, and you can show it off to all your friends the next time there is a bbq or a picnic in the sun.

Natural Mosquito Repellent

We all know when it is Summer, that also means it is time to go hiking, canoeing, kayaking, chilling on the beach- and most of all camping! Yet, we all know the biggest pain in the butt when it comes to camping is the mosquitos, and all those itchy bites they leave on your body. So, mosquito repellant is a must, but it contains many chemicals, but you can make your own all-natural mosquito repellent. Citronella, soy oil and cat nip can all be used.

About the Author

Tom is a writer and does ESL teaching at Online Colleges Guide.

Spring is in the air! What better way to usher in the season than with a window box garden! “Mom’s” most recent article on SheKnows.com highlights some simple, DIY ideas for creating a window box garden affordably this Spring! View the entire article here.

*Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*

DIY Glitter Ornaments

There’s no easier way to get into the holiday spirit with a craft that involves GLITTER! This sparkly ornament craft is tons of fun and very affordable. Another bonus: It’s very easy to clean up and won’t leave a trail of glitter everywhere. This craft makes for great Christmas gifts and they look awesome on the tree. Kids love it too and it’s a great way to keep them occupied when they’re home from school. Get them away from the TV and video games and into a craft that they’ll enjoy.

Supplies Needed

Floor wax – make sure it’s clear, Pledge brand with the blue cap bottle
Fine glitter
Clear glass ornaments
Cotton swabs
A paper cone funnel (or substitute an envelope with the corner cut off)

 

1. Pull the hangers from the ornaments and set aside for later.

2. Squeeze the floor wax into the ornament and swirl it around the ornament until the insides are totally coated.Be careful not to shake it, because the wax will leave bubbles inside.

3. Remove the cap from the bottle of wax, place the ornament over the lid and let the excess wax drip back into the bottle.

4. Use a cotton swab to get rid of any bubbles and wipe the excess wax from the mouth of the ornament.

5. Use the paper cone (or envelope) to funnel glitter into the ornament. Use quite a bit of glitter to cover the entire ornament in sparkles to avoid bald spots!

6. Place a thumb over the mouth of the ornament and shake the glitter all around so it coats the entire ornament. Dump the excess glitter back into the glitter container and reuse it on the next ornament.

7. And that’s it ladies and gentlemen! Put the ornament hook back in and there’s a gorgeous set of very glittery and very holiday appropriate ornaments!

These ornaments make great gifts. Add a bow to the hook to dress it up a little more and get ornament sized boxes for pretty gift wrapping. They make for great personal gifts that are very affordable, but totally glam. Let kids choose their own sparkle combinations and really get into making these their own!

About the Author

As a writer for HandbagHeaven.com, Sarah spends most of her days accessorizing with tote bags and women’s wallets, but outside of her job she spends time crafting, cooking, and shopping! She also enjoys spending time with her husband, family, and precious puppy.

Holiday Decorating Made Easy | Don’t be a Turkey, Get More Style for Less Cash

Holiday decor can drain your bank account with just a few good swipes of that debit card if you’re not careful. It can be so tempting to buy that Thanksgiving themed embroidered tablecloth. You rationalize that this is your year to host the family gathering, and maybe if the turkey or ham is dry, it won’t be as noticeable sitting amongst the stylish table settings?

Consider some of the following alternatives before impulsively purchasing expensive holiday decorations. The reality is that most these adornments will only be used for one day of the year and then be sent off to the plastic storage bin in the basement or worse the trash. You don’t have to be Martha Stewart to make these easy decorations look good, but you may get her sign of approval with them.

Cranberry Candle Centerpiece

You will need: a bag of cranberries from your local grocery store, a candle and a hurricane vase.

Chances are good that you may already have the candle and hurricane vase, if so, you are in luck. Place the candle in the vase and fill the cranberries to a level where about half the candle is showing. You’re done. Place in the center of the dining room table. Another simple creative twist to this would be to first fill the vase with cranberries, add water and place a floating candle on top.

Leaf Garland

You will need: fabric leaves from an arts and crafts store, heavy duty thread, a needle (a large plastic needle if making this project with kids) and scissors.

This is a great project to do with kids. The adult only needs to make two tiny slits near the center of the leaf; the two slits are so the leaves will have some hold on the string. You don’t want the leaves all sliding together in one bunch. Then, let the kids string them up. Obviously do not leave small children unattended with the needle or even a plastic needle. Hang the garland on the walls, over the fireplace mantle or along a stairwell banister. A fun alternative to this making a leaf garland would be to string cranberries instead.

Pretty Produce

Use edible decorations and you will have a dual purpose holiday display. Simply place a couple of pumpkins and/or gourds next to each other, and you are done. Well, strategic placing of the pumpkins would be better advice. For example, set a couple of pumpkins with some friendly gourds, for accompaniment, on the front step to your home. Other decorative produce options would be to arrange red and green grapes on the buffet table, or center a large bowl of apples or pears on the dining room table. After the holiday gathering has ceased, the décor can be consumed.

Flowering Cabbage

You will need: a couple of plant containers, some potting soil and flowering cabbage.

Flowering what? In the past few years I have noticed that some of the higher end businesses use cabbage as a late fall option in place of outdoor flowers. In fact, the first time I saw this I had to look twice to make sure that the seemingly pretty bunch of flowers I just walked by was actually cabbage. Go to your local nursery and garden to purchase some vibrantly colored cabbage. Plant a couple heads in some pots and place these near your front door. The great feature this plant possesses is that the colors actually become more vivid as the temperature drops below 50 degrees Celsius, and they can survive in temperatures as low as 5 degrees Celsius. While these plants may not be entirely representative of the holiday season, consider placing a pumpkin or two next to them. Voilà! You now have a classy, autumn harvest themed presentation to welcome your guests.

The main focus on all of these holiday decoration displays is the use of color. A little intense color goes a long way. These budget friendly ideas will save you money for all of the other holiday expenses which are sure to crop up this season.

About the Author

Lisa is a writer living and working in Portland, Maine. She recommends Excellent Hotels for eco-friendly accommodations as well as luxury hotels in New York.

Thanksgiving Crafts

Preparing the Thanksgiving feast could is a fine art; the last thing cooks need to complicate the process is children running wile through the kitchen. Save your sanity and the meal by keeping the little ones entertained. Set up an art table with supplies for a few of these crafts and put the older cousins in charge so you can concentrate on the important stuff…like pie. From perfect pinecone ornaments to sock puppet pilgrims, you’ll find a way to distract your busy bees.

Thanksgiving Hats

While you prepare the feast, let the kids prepare their dinner attire—an Indian headdress or a Pilgrim hat. In addition to keeping the little ones occupied, this is a fun way to remind kids about what Thanksgiving is really about: the coming together of two different groups of people.

Materials

• Black paper cup
• Construction paper
• Glue stick
• Safety scissors
• Thumbtack
• Toothpick

To make the pilgrim hat, cut out construction paper details, like a ribbon or buckle, and glue on to cup. Poke holes on opposite sides of the cup with a thumbtack (adult job). Widen the holes with a toothpick and thread a 20-inch length of round elastic cord through the holes and knot the ends.

For the Indian headdress, cut a band out of construction paper to fit around your child’s head and glue the opposite ends together so that it makes a circle. Make construction paper feathers and glue to the back of the band so that they stand up.

Sock Puppets

Have the kids reenact the pilgrims’ trip the New World or just let them loose to plan their own show.

Materials

• Adult slouch socks
• Felt
• Craft glue
• Scissors
• Googly eyes
• Yarn

To create an Indian puppet, cut colored feathers out of felt and glue them to the ball of the sock. Use the yarn to create hair and braids and then glue the hair and eyes on the puppet. Create outfits out of felt and attach them to the leg portion of the sock.

To create a pilgrim puppet, use black felt to create a hat: cut out a small rectangle and glue ends together for a circle, cut out a small circle to top one end of the hat and a slightly larger circle for the other end to act as a brim. Glue the hat to the ball of the sock. Glue hair and eyes on the sock and add any garments you wish.

Set a time for the “play,” set out chairs for the audience, and enjoy!

Pinecone Ornaments

This craft gets the kids out of the house for a bit and is great preparation for Christmas!

Materials

• Pinecones
• Glitter paint
• Ribbons
• Newspaper

While you clean up dinner and arrange dessert, send the kids out to collect pinecones to decorate. Set up a craft table with glitter glue and paint brushes and have the kids paint their treasures—be sure to cover the table in newspaper! Let the pinecones dry, and then tie a ribbon around the top of the pinecone to hang from the Christmas tree in a month!

About the Author

Guest author, Maggie, is the oldest of four children and well-versed in the art of crafty distraction. When she’s not manning the art table during the holidays, Maggie works as a writer in Indianapolis.

*Image: Tina Phillips / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*