Junk Drawer Projects for American Girl Dolls

Right before Christmas last year, a coworker very generously gave me three American Girls dolls that had belonged to her when she was a child. I was awestruck by this gift; she was apologetic that they weren’t in “the best shape,” and I asked over and over if she was sure she wanted to part with them, interspersed with a whole bunch of “wow”. It was an awkward exchange, at best. North Dakotans are so weird.

The dolls were beautiful and in excellent condition, considering their age and the obvious love they had endured. All they needed was a good hair treatment just in time to make it under the tree for Christmas.

A cursory internet search informed me that this American Girl thing is an obsession, with websites dedicated solely to American Girl DIY projects, YouTube channels made by mother/daughter teams with thousands of followers, doll clothing that costs more than my grown-up clothing, plus books, movies, and accessories for days. It’s a sight to behold.

And I can’t afford any of it.

Or more accurately, I cannot afford to invest in it without first testing the obsession level on my kids.

So I did what all good Makers do – I improvised.

Scraps of paper, toothpicks, felt pieces, a compact from the dollar store,and a variety of other miscellaneous items, and, VOILA!, I had doll accessories!

Notebooks, Clipboard, and Pencils

Notebooks are made of small bits of scrapbook paper with lined paper inside, held together by a single staple in the middle. Clipboard is a thick piece of chipboard, a sticker, and a tiny binder clip. Pencils are toothpicks cut in half and colored with Sharpies.

Writing Instruments in a Box

This writing set is made of toothpicks cut in half and colored with Sharpies. Box is a simple origami box. It also has a lid to keep the tiny writing instruments contained.

The Lunch Box

My favorite junk creation is this lunch box from an Altoids tin. I covered the outside of the tin with cute tape, then filled the inside with tiny food. Food comes from a set of miniatures and dessert-shaped erasers, food buttons and a delicious-looking sandwich made of make-up foam and felt.

The Doll Computer

This is my kids’ favorite creation – the doll computer. It is a small make-up compact with the make-up removed. I did an image search for a computer screen and keyboard and played with them until I got the size right. The compact is painted black and the computer images are decoupaged; a few stickers complete the look.

I spent exactly $1.08 on the compact at the dollar store because I wasn’t ready to sacrifice my Mary Kay compacts, but the rest of the items were scavenged from around the house.

Here are a couple of other tips I’ve learned to make American Girl more affordable:

  1. Don’t be fussy about the American Girl brand. Joann’s sells 18 inch doll clothes, sometimes on sale for 40-50% off, but there are always coupons if the clothes are not on sale. (Coupons cannot be used on sale items.)
  2. A lonely sock can be fashioned into a no-sew dress for an American Girl doll. If you cut it just right, you can also get a pair of underwear and a matching headband.
  3. Have the kids ask for doll clothes or doll accessories for Christmas or birthdays and let someone else pick up the tab.

Help me think of some low-budget, no budget ideas in the comments below!

 

Pinterest Success – Kids Version

Our family recently spent a  week-long staycation together. It’s was a great week, full of sleeping in just a little bit later than usual, being outside as much as humanly possible, and, of course, knocking a few of my pins off the list.

I love Pinterest, I love doing arts and crafts with my kids, and I have zero shame when it comes to borrowing creativity from someone else. There, I said it. I’m one of those crazy Pinterest moms that everyone seems to hate so much. But I excel at almost nothing else, so there’s no need to dislike me.

As I was planning the crafts and activities for the kids, I had a realization that it’s somewhat possible that maybe I’m the one who wants to do the crafts and activities and perhaps my children are merely along for the ride.

It also occurred to me, toward the end of the week, that I may have overdone it – my kids started demanding an activity whilst in the middle of an activity. KIDS!!

I put together activities and crafts using things we already had on hand or could acquire cheaply and easily. I love upcycling, especially when I can upcycle something into an artwork or a play thing.

Without further ado (because you know I’ve got a lot of ado in me), here is a tour of our staycation activities:

The Dollar Store Pool Noodle Sprinkler!

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Materials required: pool noodle, drill, duct tape. (A cheap, dollar store pool noodle works just fine.) Drill multiple holes into pool noodle at a variety of angles, then duct tape one end. Shove hose into other end, hang, and watch the kids play.

Shaving Cream Play!

Materials: Shaving cream, mental fortitude, garden hose. Shaving cream is very, very, very messy. We did this activity outdoors on a plastic picnic table and still managed to make a huge mess. I hosed off the kids when they were done playing and decided it counted as a bath.
Materials: Shaving cream, mental fortitude, garden hose. Shaving cream is very, very, very messy. We did this activity outdoors on a plastic picnic table and still managed to make a huge mess. I hosed off the kids when they were done playing and decided it counted as a bath. In the future, I would put the kids in bathing suits beforehand, or do this in the tub.

Baking Soda Rock Treasure Hunt!

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Materials: Baking soda, water, tiny jewels, optional food coloring. Place about 2 cups of baking soda in a bowl and add water slowly until it can be formed into a ball. Mix in small beads or jewels, form into balls, dry overnight. Food coloring can be dripped over finished baking soda balls.
Search for treasure by applying vinegar to baking soda bombs using syringes, spoons,  measuring cups, etc.
Search for treasure by applying vinegar to baking soda bombs using syringes, spoons, measuring cups, etc.
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The kids loved everything about this activity. The surprise of the fizzing, seeing the colors mix and change, playing with the baking soda with their hands, mixing and swirling when it was done fizzing. We did this activity outdoors.

Craft Foam Stamps!

Materials: Craft foam, plastic bottle caps, glue, paint, ball point pen. Cut out small shapes in the craft foam and use a ball point pen to create any patterns or designs on the craft foam. Glue foam to bottle caps. When glue is dry, put a small amount of paint on a paper plate and dip stamps, or apply paint to stamp with a paint brush.
Materials: Craft foam, plastic bottle caps, glue, paint, ball point pen. Cut out small shapes in the craft foam and use a ball point pen to create patterns or designs on the craft foam. Glue foam to bottle caps. When glue is dry, put a small amount of paint on a paper plate and dip stamps, or apply paint to stamp with a paint brush.
We discovered that a very thin layer of paint worked best for stamping. We blotted the stamps on scratch paper before using them for the best result.
We discovered that a very thin layer of paint worked best for stamping. We blotted the stamps on scratch paper before using them for the best result.

Rock Painting!

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Materials: Rocks, paint, paint brushes. I placed a rainbow of soy paints in an empty egg carton and let the kids paint rocks on front steps. The kids loved painting a rock, then digging around for another perfect rock to paint.
Full disclosure: I painted these.
Full disclosure: I painted these.
The beauty of this project is that the rocks stayed outside in the rock bed. I love seeing the little flecks of color in there.
The rocks stayed outside in the rock bed. I love seeing the little flecks of color in there.

Lego Games!

Materials: 6 cups or bowls or a serving dish with 6 sections, dice, Legos. The compartments are labelled 1-6. I had the kids fill each compartment on the tray with a variety of Legos. We took turns rolling the dice and picking a piece from the compartment matching the number on the dice. We rolled the dice for about 30 minutes, then put our creations together. Even our 2 year old was able to play this game. Another variation we tried is having a single building project and each person adding to it with every turn.
Materials: 6 cups or bowls or a serving dish with 6 sections, dice, Legos. The compartments are labelled 1-6. I had the kids fill each compartment on the tray with a variety of Legos. We took turns rolling the dice and picking a piece from the compartment matching the number on the dice. We rolled the dice for about 30 minutes, then put our creations together. Even our 2 year old was able to play this game. Another variation we tried is having a single building project and each person adding to it with every turn.
I love how different every project turned out. We will definitely be keeping this game handy.
I love how different every project turned out. We will definitely be keeping this game handy.

Dying Beans!

Materials: Dry beans (pinto, navy, great northern - our are pinto), food coloring, resealable bags, and paper towels. Place about a cup of bean in each plastic bag, drip in 15 drops of food coloring, seal bag and shake away. Dry on paper towels overnight. Repeat with as many colors as you want!
Materials: Dry beans (pinto, navy, great northern – ours are pinto), food coloring, resealable bags, and paper towels. Place about a cup of beans in a plastic bag, drip in 15 drops of food coloring, seal bag and shake for 30 seconds. Dry beans on paper towels overnight. Repeat with as many colors as you want!
Had to get a rainbow shot before they dug in.
Had to get a rainbow shot before they dug in.
The beans are all mixed together. All three kids enjoyed filling eggs, spooning up beans, filling bowls and other items with beans. They concocted some kind of bean birthday party.
The beans are all mixed together. All three kids enjoyed filling eggs, spooning up beans, filling bowls and other items with beans. They concocted some kind of bean birthday party, too. As long as the beans are kept dry, they will keep indefinitely.

Chalk Paint!

Materials: small, broken pieces of sidewalk chalk, resealable plastic bags, hammer, plastic cups or bowls, paint brushes, rinse bucket. To make the chalk paint, crush chalk with a hammer in a resealable plastic bag. The finer the crushed chalk, the nicer the paint.
Materials: small, broken pieces of sidewalk chalk, resealable plastic bags, hammer, plastic cups or bowls, paint brushes, rinse bucket. To make the chalk paint, crush chalk with a hammer in a resealable plastic bag. The finer the crushed chalk, the nicer the paint.
Place about 1/3 cup of crushed chalk in each cup or bowl.
Place about 1/3 cup of crushed chalk in each cup or bowl.
Fill with about 1 -1 1/2 cups of water. Then paint!
Fill with about 1 -1 1/2 cups of water and stir. Then paint!
The paint goes on thin and somewhat lifeless. The real treat is when it dries. The colors become vibrant!
The paint goes on thin and somewhat lifeless. The real treat is when it dries. The colors become vibrant! Use a rinse bucket to keep the kids from mixing up the colors in the cups.
One of several art pieces made with chalk paint.
One of several art pieces made with chalk paint.
This was my favorite activity we tried, so much so that we did it a couple of times.
This was my favorite activity we tried, so much so that we did it a couple of times.

At the end of the week, we accomplished all of the planned activities and only bought two items at the dollar store to make our fun. I think we can call this Pinterest-inspired week mission accomplished!

Rummage Sale Find Update

Last summer, I came across an interesting knick knack shelf shaped like a hot air balloon at a rummage sale. It was exactly $1 and the kind of thing that is just so unique and interesting that I have to buy it even though I have no use for it. It’s been hanging in my bedroom, empty, ever since.

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The original purchase.

 

Fast forward, a few weeks ago while helping my folks get ready for their own rummage sale, we found my mother’s miniatures tucked away in a dresser. When I was a child, I loved looking at her miniatures. I especially loved the tiny speckled enameled coffee pot and coffee cups. To this day, I love tiny anything, as evidenced by my Dollhouse Pinterest board.

I didn’t immediately put two and two together with my shelf and her miniatures, but I recently decided to update our bedroom a little bit. I spend a fair amount of time in our bedroom, reading, writing, thinking and watching TV. It’s a comfortable, relaxing place to be and I want to surround myself with beautiful, inspiring things, things that bring me happiness.

And so Mom’s miniatures have a new home.

 

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Filled with pretty things.

 

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My favorite was the little blue coffee pot way on the right.

 

 

 

I had a chance to do a little rummage sale shopping on Saturday.  I bought a bird garland for no reason other than its sheer uniqueness. It was $7.50. I didn’t even try to negotiate.

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Everyone needs a garland of birds.

 

 

 

 

 

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A close up.

 

 

 

 

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I realized I loved it so much because it matches this quilt.

 

Saving Seed

I never set out to save seed when I began gardening. It didn’t even cross my mind until a couple of years ago when I let the green beans go after growing weary of the constant picking. I let the bean pods dry on the plant and saved the bean seeds for the next year. Imagine my surprise when I planted them the next spring and they actually grew. Who knew?

One year I planted pumpkins specifically labelled as “pumpkin pie” pumpkins. They grew well, but the cooked pulp was quite stringy and the color was a dull orange. I probably would have been none the wiser except a friend gave us pie pumpkins and the cooked pumpkins had a superior texture and color. So I saved the seed from the nicer pumpkins, knowing it would be difficult to find the same variety at the store.

Similarly, I bought a packet of popping corn seeds a couple of years ago at a Pride of Dakota show from a local seller. Popping corn is not available in at any of the stores I usually buy seeds, so, again, I saved the seed so I could grow popping corn all the years of my life.

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Black popping corn. Just beautiful! I pulled seed from the biggest, nicest cob. Very excited to see if that makes a difference in next year’s crop.

And so my seed collection has grown, year by year.

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Clockwise from top: Bush cucumber, black popping corn, pea, pinto beans, green beans, dill. Center: pumpkin.

This year I did something really smart and intentionally saved seed. I saved green bean seed and popping corn seed, and added some new ones: pea, cucumber, dill, and pinto bean seed. (I also tried to save zucchini seed, but I didn’t dry the seed well enough and it molded when I packed it up. Lesson learned there.)

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Pinto beans, a new addition to my garden this year. Easy to grow, low maintenance. Saved quite a bit of seed for next year for a larger crop.

I think back to one year when I grew about a million beautiful, large Roma tomatoes. I haven’t been able to grow anything near the same quality since then and I wish dearly that I had thought to save the seed from those tomatoes. If ever I grow a tomato as beautiful as those Romas from years ago, I will definitely be saving the seed. Until then, we try, try again.

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Peas. Vigorously produced pods with 6-10 peas, grew a lot taller than expected, so I’ll plan more upward growing space next year.

I’ll probably still slip in new varieties of vegetables from time to time, to make sure what I’ve saved is still the best variety. Half the fun of gardening is trying new things, and now that includes saving new seed varieties!

Quick and Easy Busy Bags for Traveling with Kids

In a stroke of genius at 9 pm the night before we would be traveling, I decided to throw together some busy bags for the car ride with the kids. I scoured my Pinterest boards for 30 minutes looking for some fun ideas that would keep the kids occupied for 4 hours, then I pulled out all my craft bins, dug through the junk drawer, and searched high and low for interesting things the kids hadn’t played with before.

I was in full supermom mode. My creativity could not be stopped! The ideas just poured out of my head and into those ziplocs. I’m such an efficient human being that I even had time to photograph everything the next morning before we left.

I didn’t spend any money on the busy bags. I just went through some of the more neglected areas of my home to find things the kids would think were interesting and put together some little crafts from items already on hand. I’m sharing what I came up with as a jumping point for putting together your own busy bags with items already on hand. You know, in case you get the idea 5-10 minutes before leaving on a 4-hour road trip.

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Draw our family on craft sticks with colored pencils.
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Pipe cleaners and clothespins for open-ended play.
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Tiny stuffed animals they had never seen before.
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Small book made of colored paper with a sewn seam and an upcycled Johnson’s first aid kit crayon holder (with new crayons!).
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Colored paper, foam shapes, a glue stick and a couple of small markers for open-ended arts and crafts.
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A couple of Highlights magazine, a coloring book, 2 notebooks, and one read-aloud book.
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Some easy readers.
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A small collection of junk drawer items….keys, phone, a small timer.
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A fix-it/McGyver bag with more junk drawer finds.
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Drawing prompts and colored pencils. I cut out some pictures from magazines and glued them to some paper as a jumping point for a larger drawing.
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A story-telling bag. People, animals, and other small items.
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Busy wallet – my favorite! This thing is stuffed with all sorts of goodies….pen, notepad, “business cards,” pictures, coins, play money, coupons, etc, etc…
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Miscellaneous “back-up” items, play-doh, thread, dental floss.

 

And how did they like all this cool stuff!? I wouldn’t know! They didn’t play with any of it. About 3 minutes before we got into the car to leave, my husband informed me that the DVD player was working, so they just watched movies the whole time.

*sigh*

I DID give each of them a dental floss and they got a huge kick out of pulling it all out of the container.

I have used some of these items in subsequent road trips and also added a small bag of Legos. My 6 year old especially liked the little books and crayons because she’s into writing right now.

My children are still at an age where everything is interesting, so perhaps the busy bags were a waste of my time. I know some of our best car rides happen when we just point out neat stuff (cows!) and listen to their ideas and answer questions about those things.

But I’m still keeping this stash of busy bags. I anticipate we’ll be able to take our children out in public again soon and it will be nice to have something to keep them, well…busy!