Pillowcase Quilt

I’m going to start off this post with a celebration: IT’S TIME TO START THINKING ABOUT HOMECOMING!!!!!!!  WAHOOOOO!!!!!!!  Now that I’ve done that…

It is a long-standing tradition in the VP community that we make gigantic pillowcase quilts for our sailors’ homecomings.  I know it sounds a little weird, but when you’re decorating a huge hangar it’s a fun way to make it more festive!  Historically, volunteers would use about 10,000 safety pins (that may be an exaggeration, but I’m sure that’s what it felt like!) to put it all together, but it would sag and not look so pretty.  Last homecoming, though, one of our more brilliant wives thought of sewing them together instead, and the result was amazing!  The down side is that we don’t get them back, but for me, as long as I have a photo of it, I’m happy.

It can be a little difficult to get started.  You want to make something unique, but words and pictures need to be visible from a good distance, so you’re sort of limited in what you can do.  In this post, I’m going to share what I did this year, and some other inspiration from last year and others’ pillowcases.  I’ve also hosted a couple of pillowcase parties in the past, which are a ton of fun and a great source of new ideas!

This year I kept the message simple – Welcome Home!  I added my own twist by making his name out of different fabrics that are special to us, or that represent something in our lives.  I drew each letter on a 3″x5″ note card and cut them out.  Then turn them upside down and trace onto the paper side of some Heat N Bond Lite.

IMG_3525Trim around the edges, but don’t cut the letter out completely.  Iron onto the wrong side of your chosen fabric (pay attention to where the patterns are compared to the letter you traced).  Then cut out your letters!  Iron them onto your pillowcase, then add details (drawn, painted, etc).

IMG_3526Usually, these quilts tend to be a sea of white, with a few colored cases among them, so I choose to be one of those colored cases!  Monster insisted on the dark red when we were at Walmart, so I had a little more trouble – only light colors would show up.  That’s why I went for the fabric iron-ons, and I used light blue and white puffy paint to make the Welcome Home letters (you know, like red, white, and blue).  Puffy paints are definitely one of the best ways to put your message on a pillowcase!

IMG_3530Another easy, cheap way to decorate your pillowcase is fabric markers.  But these will only work if you have a light-colored case.

IMG_3529If you’re not particularly crafty, you can get printable iron-on transfers to create your design (note: they’ll only work with an inkjet printer because lasers are too hot).  Or use hot glue to add embellishments – googly eyes, pipe cleaner letters or shapes, the sky is the limit!  Since it doesn’t have to go survive washing, you’re only limited by your imagination.

If you have kids, it’s so special to let them make a pillowcase for Daddy or Mommy.  Regular old craft paint (97c at Walmart) works great – it doesn’t have to make it through the laundry, so it works just fine.  Monster totally went to town on his pillowcase for Daddy, and had a BLAST doing it!  I learned from painting pumpkins at Halloween, though, that I need to offer only one color at a time, or it all ends up being a grayish mess.  If your kid is younger, or not so much into painting, hand and footprints are always popular, too!

IMG_3528Here are some more pillowcases from last homecoming.  The first is a flag motif, just glued onto the pillowcase with spray glue.  On the second, I thought my sign idea was pretty clever!  The third one was made by a friend of mine for her husband, playing on his call sign.  And the fourth was made by my in-laws for Radar – we are a little Georgia Tech crazy in our family!

Last YearIf you’re looking for more inspiration, I don’t recommend searching for pillowcase ideas; instead, look up homecoming signs.  A couple of my favorite lists of inspiration are here and here – you may just find some ideas for yourself there.  Just remember, you’ll want to keep it G-rated!

I’ll take a moment here to acknowledge the ugly white boxes all over my photos.  I am protecting my own privacy, as well as the privacy of others I made pillowcases for, both for OPSEC (operational security) and just because we don’t all want our names splashed all over the internet!  Sorry it’s not pretty, but I think you can still get the point 🙂

At home, we had a banner waiting for Radar, made by Build A Sign.  It was free, I just had to pay shipping (it was somewhere in the $10-15 range).  If you’re getting ready for a homecoming, definitely take advantage of this offer!  Just keep in mind it can take 4-6 weeks to receive it.

IMG_9350 I was also pretty proud of Monster’s homecoming outfit; it was semi-DIY.  Last homecoming for us was in November, so mustaches were all over the stores with no-shave-November.  I bought an adorable mustache onesie and added words with a fabric marker to make it personal for homecoming!  For anyone who doesn’t know, it’s tradition for the guys to grow mustaches on deployment (and in our household, he is required to shave it off in order to get a ride home!).

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Monster was so tiny! Just 8 months old here (and teething up a storm, hence the drool on the shirt!)

And since I’m getting geared up for homecoming, here’s my favorite photo from our last one.  Can’t wait for another “first” family photo, this time with 4 of us!!

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Monster was testing the theory that orchids are edible

If your homecoming is approaching like ours, congratulations!  If you are just at the start or middle of a deployment, I know you can do it, and that first hug and kiss are so worth the wait!!

Festive Confetti Cookies

It’s Christmas eve!  And what better time to make some delicious, simple cookies than today?  This recipe was my first go at making cookies from cake batter – and it’s definitely something I’ll do again!  The recipe makes super soft and delicious cookies, and one of my favorite things is how easy it is to roll up the dough before you lay it on the cookie sheet.  Each recipe also makes a bunch, so you’ll be able to keep a crowd happy!  I was inspired by this recipe, and have followed the same basic procedure, but added my own edits.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16.5 oz) box of your favorite white/vanilla cake mix
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 (2.5 oz) jar of sprinkles in desired colors

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line cookie sheet with aluminum foil, and set aside.  In a large bowl, use a whisk to mix cake mix with baking powder – make sure there aren’t any lumps (especially in the baking powder).  Set aside.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, and extract.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir really well until there are no pockets of dry ingredients (a fork works well for this job).  Then add your sprinkles, and mix to combine (not too much in case they run!).  Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place 3 inches apart on the baking sheet (the cookies will more or less double in size).  Bake for 11 minutes, or until they JUST start to brown.  Allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then move to cooling rack.  They puff up a lot, but will settle on their own as they cool.  Makes about 3 dozen.

If you undercook them, they end up too soft and gooey on the inside, and just fall apart.  Here’s a comparison of not enough and just right:

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The one on the left wouldn’t even hold its shape – needed another 2 minutes in the oven! The one on the right is perfectly “tanned.”

I recommend using Wilton sprinkles if you can get your hands on them – I had no problem whatsoever with the color running into the batter.  Plus, you can see in the photos that I found sprinkles that also had snowflakes in them – how cute!  I made two batches because I needed 4 dozen for Monster’s teachers at school.  We kept the ugly ones for ourselves 😛

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That’s a lot of cookies!

If you want to make these any other time of year, you certainly can!  Change the color of the sprinkles, add a few drops of food coloring, or change the flavor of the extract if you want – whatever floats your boat!  I would have liked to use mint extract instead of vanilla, but not everyone shares my love of peppermint.  You could even use a different flavor cake mix, skip the sprinkles, and add chocolate chips instead… your imagination is your only limit!

I hope you try out these cookies, whether at Christmas or when the mood strikes you!  Merry Christmas!

Sewn Paper Gift Card Holder

I always feel so lame giving people gift cards for Christmas… I feel like it’s a cop-out, and impersonal.  But for certain people, like Monster’s teachers (who I know put a lot of their own money into his education), a gift card is the perfect way to thank them for everything they do.

To make an impersonal gift a little more personal, I found this adorable idea on Pinterest!  Sewing on paper is one of those things that I always forget I can do.  And with all the cute scrapbooking paper out there, you can find just the right thing for any occasion – not just Christmas.

Standard gift cards are 3 3/8″ x 2 1/8″, but you can adjust the measurements if you have one that’s a different size – you really can’t mess it up!

Supplies:

  • Pocket paper: 2.75″x2.75″
  • Backing paper: 3.25″x4.25″
  • Thread

Place the pocket paper on top of the backing paper, leaving 1/4″ edge on the sides and at the bottom.  Lower your needle into the backing paper about one stitch length above the pocket piece.  Stitch around the side, bottom, and other side, leaving long tails of thread at the start and end.  Turn the card over and pull on the bobbin tails at the start and end to create a loop from the front, and pull all the way through.  Tie knots in both, and clip.

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Front and back for a standard size card, and the third one is non-standard – I just measured and “winged it”

Of course, you should probably use coordinating thread… I was super busy tonight and just used what was in my machine, which was black (boring, but it worked!).  Metallic thread would also be festive, or use your pinking shears on the pocket paper to give it some pizazz!

For my nieces, I ran out of Christmas paper (which Michael’s only sells in huge packages, unfortunately), so I used some Christmas-colored paper.  I also extended the height of the cardstock backing to make a flap to fold down and create a little envelope.  Super easy and cute!

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I love the metallic paper on the left one! If you have fancy Christmas stickers it would be way cuter than tape for keeping them closed.

So, if you forgot to get someone a gift and it’s the 11th hour, this is the perfect way to dress up a gift card.  Merry Christmas!

Garlic Ginger Egg Drop Soup

I am addicted to Trader Joe’s.  They just opened one here in Jacksonville, but it’s a 45-minute drive from my house, so I tend to go when I visit my parents in Naples instead.  Since I was there last weekend, I picked up some of my favorite staples – and a few new things.  One of my new purchases was their Miso Ginger Broth.

IMG_3474I have a new addiction!  I love getting egg drop soup when I order Chinese, but I’ve always been afraid to make it myself.  But this new product was just the inspiration I needed to give it a go, and boy, am I glad I did!  If you have a Trader Joe’s near you, I promise you won’t regret giving this recipe a try.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Trader Joe’s Miso Ginger Broth
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 clove garlic

Bring the broth to a boil in a small pot.  Ladle about a cup out, and whisk the corn starch into this little bit.  Return it to the pot and mix it in.  Beat the eggs in a separate bowl, and pour slowly in the pot while the broth is at a rolling boil.  Take off the heat and grate the garlic into the pot (a microplane works well for this); mix well and serve!  Makes 2 hearty bowls, and reheats well!

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Yummy soup!

You should also check out my bowl mitt tutorial so you can have a fancy holder to keep your hands from burning, too!  I hope this soup keeps you warm in the cold weather!

Back Ice Pack

When I was in Arizona back in August, my grandfather’s lower back was a little sore and he pulled out this crazy-looking ice pack that strapped around his waist.  I noticed that it was starting to come apart, and no wonder – he’s had it for about 15 years!  Since then, he has really done a number on his back, so I thought that making him a new version of his favorite remedy would make the perfect Christmas gift!  It’s a simple design, but definitely useful for anyone who suffers from a sore back.  Also, it’s filled with feed corn, so you can also pop it in the microwave for some heat therapy… I love a multi-tasker!  So read on for how to make your own back ice pack!

Supplies:

  • 1/2 yd fabric
  • 1/3 yd medium weight interfacing
  • 2 12″ strips of 3/4″ Velcro (1″ would also work)
  • Coordinating thread
  • Feed corn

Measure the waist of your recipient – if you can’t measure it, just give it a good guess; it doesn’t have to be perfect because you’ll add 12″ of Velcro later, giving lots of wiggle room.  The length of each of your straps will be that waist measurement, divided by 2, with an extra inch added; for me, that was 32″ (my Zaidy is ridiculously skinny), divided by 2 to get 16″, and add 1″ to get 17″.  Cut 2 pieces of fabric and 2 pieces of interfacing 10″x13″, and 4 pieces of fabric 4″x(whatever you just calculated).  Following the directions on the interfacing, iron it onto the back of the fabric rectangles.  Press one end of each of the 4″x(calculated) strips in 1/4″.  Then, press each strip in half long-ways, unfold, and press each of the raw sides into the center crease (you know the drill, to make a “strap” that’s 1″ wide).  Line one side of one of the 12″ Velcro pieces up with the turned in end of one of the straps, and stitch in place.  Also, stitch down the sides of the rest of the strap, just to hold it in place.

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Two pieces for the corn (with interfacing), and 4 straps

Now it’s time to start assembly.  Start with the two straps with the Velcro hooks.  Place them on the 10″ edge of one of the body pieces, hook side down, about 3/4″ from the top and bottom.  Repeat for the loop sides on the other 10″ side, but make the straps loop side up.  Baste all 4 in place.  That sounds confusing, but check out the photo below to clear it up.

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Loop pieces are on the left, loop side up; hook pieces are on the right, hook side down

Now, pin the other 10″x13″ piece right sides together on top, making sure all the straps are contained so they don’t get caught in the seam.  I pinned about 3/4″ from the edge to keep it all under control.  Then sew around the edge with 1/2″ seam allowance, leaving an opening about 4″-5″ for turning.

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Pinned and ready to sew! The pins sticking out on the left are to remind me to stop – otherwise I end up closing it all up!

Turn right side out.  Stitch two lines across the middle of the ice pack, each 3″ from the 13″ (now 12″) edge, beginning and ending 2″ from the 10″ (now 9″) edges.  Again, look at the photo below to clear up my wording!  Then fill with corn, and stitch the opening shut.

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Those tubes help keep the corn from all sagging at the bottom. It also keeps you from having to use 10 lbs of corn, making the ice pack too heavy!

Unfortunately, the feed corn (whole-kernel type) usually comes in gigantic bags – the minimum I could buy at my local feed store was 50 lbs!  The good new is that it’s cheap… I think I paid $8 for all that.  So use the rest to make some corn hole bags or bean bags.  Or you can make some fun animal ice packs for the kids!  And if you just don’t feel like dealing with it, feed corn makes good bird feed too 🙂

Van Seat Back Organizer

The other day, I was loading up the kids in the van at a friend’s house and she was admiring my van’s seat back organizer.  I didn’t make my own – it’s an Avon product from my grandmother (it looks like a puppy dog).  But she had seen a similar one through thirty-one, which cost $35!  So I knew immediately that I had my next project.  What busy mom on the go couldn’t use a little bit of organization in their mom-mobile?  Especially my friend – she has 3 little ones!  So I got to work, and here’s what I ended up with.

Supplies:

  • Fabric – about a yard total (I used coordinating prints, so it was less than a yard of each)
  • Batting – 1/2 yard
  • 1/4″ elastic – 1-1.5 yards
  • 1″ elastic – about a yard
  • Coordinating thread

I’m gong to start off with a disclaimer: you don’t have to make yours the way I made mine!  I put extra cup holders because of my friend’s number of kids, and a book holder because her oldest is 6.  At this stage for us, that’s too many cup holders and my kids don’t read yet!  You can also nix the wipes holder if your kids are out of diapers… that’s what is so great about this organizer, is that it’s totally customizable.  So my instructions will show you how to make one identical to mine, but you can make yours perfect for you.

I measured the seats of my own van, since I drive the same kind as my friend, to get the dimensions for my organizer.  I measured the width of my seat to be 18″, the height from the top to where I wanted the elastic to be was 20″, and then I had another 8″ to the floor of the van.  I also measured around the headrest to be about 11″, which should be the same for all cars.  Lastly, measure all the way around the bottom of the seat (I got 45″).  So for my car, I cut 2 pieces of fabric and 1 piece of batting 19″x27″ (so the finished size would be 18″x26″ with 1/2″ seam allowances), 24″ of 1/4″ elastic (45″minus 18″ for the organizer minus 3″ so it will be taught), and a strip of fabric 4″x12″ for the top.

Press the 4″x12″ strip of fabric in half long ways, open up, press each raw edge to the center, and press in half again, making a strip 1″ wide with no raw edges (except the ends), and stitch a scant 1/4″ up both sides to secure.  Place the two large pieces of fabric right sides together, with the batting on top.  Insert the strip you just made at the top, between the fabric layers, with the raw ends each showing about 1/2″ over the top of the fabric (place them about 7″ apart).  Also, place the elastic 20″ from the top on each side, between the two layers of fabric (make sure it’s not twisted if you’re OCD like me!).  Stitch around the edge (1/2″ SA), leaving an opening about 4-5″ long on the bottom for turning.  Turn right side out, turn in the opening, and stitch 1/4″ around the whole edge.  You can keep the top loop out of the stitching, but you’ll have to go over the elastic – that’s ok.  Now you have a blank canvas for adding your pockets to your organizer!

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Fold back one of the fabric layers to insert the top loop; do the same at the bottom for the elastic.

I started off with the cup holders.  For a full fabric cup holder, cut a piece of fabric 7″x10″ and one Cup Holder Pattern.  Press the 10″ side down 1/4″, then another 1/2″ and stitch at the bottom of the fold, making a casing for the elastic.  Thread 8″ of elastic through with a safety pin, and stitch in place on the ends.  Then pin the bottom 10″ side right sides together around the curve of the cup holder bottom and stitch in place.  Then press the raw edges in, pin in place on the seat back organizer, and stitch in place.  I made 2 of these (although if you’re using a directional print, pay attention to which way is up so you don’t have flowers growing upside down like I did!).

Cup Holder

Left: Pin the rectangle around the cup holder bottom. Center: Press the edges in 1/4″. Right: Pin in place and stitch onto the organizer.

My 3rd cup holder was made with elastic – I thought it would be more useful for a bottle for the baby this way.  It’s also a lot easier!  Cut 3 pieces of 1″ elastic, 2 that are 6″ long and 1 that’s 3″.  Use a zigzag stitch to attach the 3″ piece to the center of one of the 6″ pieces.  Then sew the other end of the 3″ piece (with a straight stitch again) where you want the bottom of the cup holder on the organizer.  Fold the two ends of the attached 6″ piece in 1/4″ and pin in place on the organizer about 4″ apart, as pictured below, and stitch it on.  Fold the ends of the other 6″ piece similarly, and stitch in place about 4-5″ higher to complete the elastic cup holder.

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The bottom of the elastic cup holder

I don’t know about any other mom, but I am always looking for a wet wipe, so I wanted to make them easily accessible for my friend (and her little helpers in the car).  I found that using elastic was the easiest and most effective way to hold it on.  I also played around with the measurements, so the directions that follow should hold a brand new pack of wipes and also one that’s almost empty.  Cut two pieces of 1″ elastic 7.5″ long.  Fold the ends over 1/4″ like for the cup holder, and sew onto the organizer 4.5″ apart (width-wise), with the height of the holders 5″ (that means 5″ high for the 7.5″ elastic, so they’ll bubble out).  A package of wipes will insert in there snugly when full, but still securely when almost empty.

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Simple but effective wet wipes holder

Next to the wipes spot I had some extra space, so I made a little utility pocket.  It’s pleated at the bottom for more space, and has elastic at the top to keep the contents inside.  If you don’t want a large book pocket like mine, you can add more of these in different sizes – they’re super easy to make and super useful!  For mine, I cut a piece of fabric 6″x9″ and a 7″ piece of 1/4″ elastic.  Press the top 9″ edge in 1/4″, then another 1/2″ and stitch in place to make a tube for the elastic.  Feed the elastic through with a safety pin, and stitch to the ends of the pocket.  Press the other 3 sides of pocket in 1/4″.  Then pin in place on the organizer, creating a pleat on the bottom.  Stitch around the edges and you’re done!

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I had OCD making my pleat – this was about the 7th try!

The book pocket was by far the easiest part of the whole organizer.  I cut a large pocket, 12″x17″.  Press the top edge down 1/4″, then another 1/4″, and stitch in place.  Then press the other 3 edges in 1/4″, pin in place on the organizer, and stitch around the 3 sides.

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The inside of the book pocket, with all the edges pressed in

One thing to keep in mind when you’re attaching your pockets and elastic to the organizer – these will take a lot of stress, especially at the tops, so be sure to backstitch for security!  They’ll have kids pulling on them for years, so you don’t want it to fall apart!

Once you put it all together, this is what you get!  It’s super handy for all those things that seem to collect in the car.  My favorite is the wet wipes – you can never have too many of those when you’re on the go!

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The cup holders are great for bottles, Playtex sippees, Take N Tosses… whatever you use! And I know my friend’s 6-year-old will love having a special place to keep her books safe from her younger siblings.

I hope you find inspiration in this tutorial to create your own car organizer.  It really does help keep the clutter down and the necessities accessible!

Teacher Christmas Gifts

It probably comes as no surprise that  love making Monster’s teachers presents for Christmas.  This year, he is in the bumblebee class at school, and I found the perfect fabric for a bumblebee teacher – it has apples and bees!  I’ve noticed that all of the teachers wear their ID’s on a lanyard around their necks, so I thought it would be nice to make them some to go with their class theme (I blame all the different animal squadrons we’ve been in for making me use a theme in everything!).  I also made them each a clip keychain, because I have one myself and it’s super handy!  And since it’s Christmas time, I wanted to give them each a bumblebee ornament (which Monster got to help me make).  Plus a gift card to Target.  Can you tell we love our teachers??

So without further ado, let me show you how to make some gifts to spoil the teacher (or friend or relative) in your life!

I made the lanyard and the keychain at the same time, since they use basically the same supplies and methods.  To make both, you’ll need:

Cut a strip of fabric 4″x36″ (one yard) for the lanyard.  Save the scrap from the end (since the fabric you bought was 42-45″ long).  Then cut a piece 4″x11″ for the keychain.

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Not pictured: the scrap from the lanyard piece that you will use

Press the short ends of the lanyard fabric towards the wrong side, then press in half longways.  Open it up, and press each of the raw edges into the center fold you just made.  Fold it back in half again to make a 1″ strip with no raw edges showing, and stitch a scant 1/8″ around the whole border.  Repeat for the 11″ strip, but don’t press the ends in (the raw edges will be covered later on they keychain).  Repeat one more time for the 4″ wide scrap, again making a 1″ wide strip.

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Folding up the lanyard. It’s the same for the keychain and the scraps except for turning in the raw edges at the ends.

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1″ strips for lanyard, keychain, and the scrap

For the keychain, loop the 1″ strip you just made onto the swivel clip.  Then use a wide zigzag to make a loop from the raw ends.  Move the zigzag connection down towards the clip, and cover with the scrap that you sewed, trimming and tucking the raw ends between the layers of the keychain.  Stitch around the scrap to secure and complete the keychain.

Key Ring Construction

Left: Zigzag to hold the ends in place. Right: See how the scrap covers the zigzag right next to the clip? And the raw edges are tucked between the layers to be hidden.

To complete the lanyard, slide the 2nd swivel clip onto the 1″ yard-long strip and stitch in place (think about making a V shape that will accommodate the wearer’s neck comfortably).

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Pin and stitch the swivel clip in the center, making a V shape

Then, loop the back like a necklace and stitch on the Velcro – I was careful to make the hook side face away from the neck so it won’t be scratchy.  You could just sew it, but many schools require that teacher’s have a “quick release” on their lanyards in case of strangulation (crazy, but we want our teachers to be safe!).

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Completed lanyard and keychain!

Last year, Monster was too little to help with making anything for his teachers.  But this year, he is obsessed with painting!  Anytime I ask him what he did at school, that’s the first word out of his mouth.  So I knew when I saw this adorable bumblebee ornament made from a light bulb, it was the perfect craft for us to do together!

I used a box from our favorite “fruit squeezes” to hold the bulbs.  The box comes with one hole which was perfect for the bulb, and I just used scissors to cut out the 2nd.  Then I laid down a paper bag with some paint, handed the toddler a brush, and he went to town painting them!

Paint Lightbulbs

He did a really excellent job, I only had to touch up a couple of spots later on – and he had a blast!

Once the yellow paint dried, I added black stripes and a black head (where the screw part was inserted into the box – an egg carton comes in handy for drying).  Then I used a glue gun to add googly eyes, pipecleaner wings, stinger, and antennae, and a pipecleaner to hang it by.  And don’t forget to sign your work!  Monster can’t help with that yet, but maybe next year!

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I signed Monster’s name and the year on the bee’s butt!

I feel like the ornament will be much more meaningful to his teachers, knowing that he actually contributed to it rather than me doing everything or buying them things.  And I hope that the lanyard and keychain are useful to them!  At the very least, I don’t know that there is a human on this earth who wouldn’t like a Target gift card, and especially a teacher, who I know puts her own money into my child’s schooling.

Feel free to steal my ideas to make your own teachers something nice and useful for Christmas, and let them know how much you appreciate them!