Thomas Edison National History Park: Laboratory and Home Tours

I first heard about Thomas Edison’s Laboratory being in the U.S. park service after seeing a picture of it on Mike’s Photo Blog. My eight-year-old son is fascinated by all things chemistry and has dreamed of being an inventor since he learned the term, so I knew one day we’d make it over in that direction.

Before my sister & brother-in-law’s visit, where we hiked Kaaterskill Falls and Sam’s Point in Minnewaska, my stepsister, Allie, came for a visit as well.

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We spent most of the time relaxing, sharing girl talk, and cooking together. After I dropped her off at Newark Airport, I thought I’d check and see how far the Edison Lab would be before returning home. It turns out that that the museum and park are only twenty minutes from EWR!

Please excuse the quality of the following photos; I had only my phone with me and the weather was absolutely miserable on this particular day.

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It was nice that the weather wasn’t that great, because the park wasn’t busy. Not at all. Anti-intellectualism could be the reason that there were only a handful of people at any given time during the hours we were there, but I’d like to think it was the weather.

After paying my $10 entry free (Tobias, and all children under 16 are free), we first made our way over to the lab for a demonstration about chemistry.

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Did you know that Thomas Edison not only made advancements to the light bulb, but he also created a rubber alternative from genetically modified Goldrenrod? How about that he was once known as the Wizard of Menlo Park, because when he invented the phonograph, people were so astonished by hearing recorded voices played back that they deemed it magic?

With all that it takes to impress someone these days, isn’t that just the quaintest thing?! A magician for playing back sounds! Continue reading

Guitar-Shaped Chalkboard DIY

I always admired Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie window displays. They’re always so creative. So once, back in Houston, when I saw that some things they used for displays were on sale, I jumped at the opportunity. One was a painted plywood troll that’s taller than the ceilings of my current house, and the other was a raw piece of plywood shaped like a guitar.

Something like a million years later, I decided to turn it into a chalkboard for Tobias’ room. I assume you don’t have a piece of plywood shaped like a guitar hanging around the house, but you can always mimic the idea with a plain rectangle, or try your luck at advanced jigsawing.

Materials:

Tools:

Steps:

1. Prep the wood surface by filling any holes and sanding. Then, paint. I liked this color so much that I bought it before I knew what project it’d be used for.
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2. Trace outer edges. I just rubbed the crayon’s side along the sides of the wood.diy-guitar-shaped-chalkboard-with-attached-chalk-2

3. Freehand draw inlay, cut out, trace onto craft plywood.diy-guitar-shaped-chalkboard-with-attached-chalk-3

4. Apply liquid nails, smooth over with a spackling knife.diy-guitar-shaped-chalkboard-with-attached-chalk-5

5. Use a vice or something heavy to keep it in place while the adhesive dries. During this time, I also planned out how the chalk would attatch to the board.diy-guitar-shaped-chalkboard-with-attached-chalk-6

6. Drill small holes for the strings.diy-guitar-shaped-chalkboard-with-attached-chalk-7

7. Use a pipe cleaner to help shove the twine through. diy-guitar-shaped-chalkboard-with-attached-chalk-8

8. I abandoned this project for several months, as I couldn’t figure out what to use so that the chalk would lay horizontal. During my craft clean up, I came across a business card holder that was left behind by our Houston real estate agent, Judy St. Julien. It was perfect! I used wood glue to adhere. diy-guitar-shaped-chalkboard-with-attached-chalk-12

9. When it came time to hang, I bought these guitar hooks and painted them black, to match my son’s room.diy-guitar-shaped-chalkboard-with-attached-chalk-9

10. All hung!diy-guitar-shaped-chalkboard-with-attached-chalk-10diy-guitar-shaped-chalkboard-with-attached-chalk-11

Tobias uses the chalkboard to make a mark every time he spends 10 minutes practicing his guitar. Once he reaches a certain amount of marks, he gets a treat! Though he’s the one who wanted to begin to learn the guitar, learning something new is tough. And it’s really tough to start new habits, practice something that you’re not quite good at yet, and stick with it. I don’t usually use incentives as a parenting technique, but once he’s in a habit it’ll be much easier (and far less painful) for him to keep going.

It looks cool and it’s practical.

Hiking and Ice Climbing the Catskills: Kaaterskill Falls, New York

Before we went hiking in New York on Christmas, the three of us took a different scenic day trip to The Catskills.

It was my brother-in-law, Dennis’ idea to head that way when planning their trip up here. I didn’t know much about the area, other than the name sounded awfully familiar. If you’re not from this part of the U.S. either, and it sounds familiar to you, it’s because it’s where Woodstock happened. And where Dirty Dancing took place. The area is a pretty big deal as far as pop culture goes.

A day trip there wasn’t near enough time to do all of the things that The Catskills has to offer, but we did a gorgeous hike in, and Dennis got to do a little bit of ice climbing.

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As the marker mentions, the area is historic as well. The Hudson River School was the first homegrown art movement in the United States and Kaaterskill Falls is one of the oldest tourist destinations in America. Continue reading

Large Scale Circular Woven Art DIY

It all started with a hula hoop.

Remember the blog post about making woven art with a hula hoop? I had that piece hanging above my couch for all of these months, but there was one thing that was bugging me nonstop: the scale.

DIY Circle Weave on a Hula Hoop with TinyKelsieTinyKelsie living room progress with circle weave and mid century couch

It wasn’t big enough for the space. I’ve been studying styling small spaces for quite some time, and during that time, I’ve learned that larger scale items in a room, assuming they aren’t crowding it, make it seem less cluttered and larger. So that child-sized hula hoop wasn’t going to cut it.

I eventually found an adult sized hoop, and even wrapped the outside in yarn before second guessing going forward. The nearly-begun project sat in my basement for a month or so, before I saw this guy:

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Well, not with the artwork on it. This frame, originally gold, was found at a thrift store. On their once-a-season half price day, I snatched it up along with the most hideous beginner oil painting of a swan one has ever seen in it. Seriously–it was dreadful. Surely it lowered the cost of the high quality frame it was in, so THANKS :).

After painting it and stapling chicken wire to the back, I used it to display Tobias’ ever-revolving artwork at our first house. Lacking a hallway, and frankly, any unclaimed wall, it was in T’s room before I made that over, later finding its home in the basement, right next to the hula hoop.

So, one could almost say that this project found me.

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And it was simple enough!

Tools:

  • Scissors
  • Staple gun loaded with staples

Materials:

Steps:

  1. Decide where in your frame you’d like the hoop weave. I wanted to draw the eye up, so the center of mine is as high as it would fit with the existing weave.
  2. With the frame facing away from you, pull one end of basic yarn through the hoop, closest to the outer edge of the hoop. I suggest doing so near where the original warp thread was for a cohesive look.
  3. Keep pulling until the end of the yarn and the yarn closest to the ball are long enough to reach from behind the frame, through the hoop at its desired positioning, back to the inside of the frame, with an additional 2-4 inches.
  4. Staple yarn on back of frame.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until you have as many warp threads as you did in your original weaving. It should look like this: large-circular-woven-art-diy-tutorial-6
  6. Get to weaving! Because my warp threads were so far apart, I didn’t do as many fancy weaving techniques as the last portion of the weave. I did do some finger weaving and traditional braiding off of the loom with different yarns.
  7. With each line of weaving, staple to the back of the framelarge-circular-woven-art-diy-tutorial-5
  8. When the weaving is complete, cut all excess threads.
  9. If you don’t want to be able to see the wall behind the weaving in open areas, and to prevent damage when hanging, cover the back with poster board and tape around the perimeter.
  10. Hang it up!

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The first portion of this project was far more time consuming than this was. It didn’t take long at all, and I think it’s 1000 times better now that it’s finished!

Dog Friendly Pumpkin Picking & Corn Maze in Fairfield County

SUPPOSEDLY, it’s still fall until December 21. Supposedly. The weather outside is frightful and the Christmas decor is delightful here in New England, so it’s easy to forget. But when the leaves were just beginning to change color, Tobias had a day off for Yom Kippur & we took advantage by heading over to Castle Hill Farm in Newtown, with our dog Laser in tow.

newtown-connecticut-in-fairfield-county-ct Continue reading

Cape Cod Style Sugar Cookie House (Gingerbread Alternative)

I’ve come to the realization that the only projects I do again and again are Halloween costumes and cookies. One is worn only once, and the other is EATEN, for crying out loud. I feel crazy for spending so much time on both because they’re  gone afterward, but I realized last night that it’s part of the appeal. I’m a perfectionist in many ways, so it’s fun to put a lot of work and creativity into something while at the same time not having the pressure of having to look at it forever.

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Continue reading

No-Cost DIY Natural Christmas Wreaths

I love how in New England there are natural wreaths everywhere through the holiday season. Back in Texas, there were a lot of Christmas lights that looked good at nighttime, and artificial wreaths on many doors, but nothing like it is here. It’s like Oprah stood on the corner of every business and residential street and was like:

Last year, we had signed the paperwork to our house two weeks before December first. If you think I was out decorating the front of my house, you’re CRAZY. This year, I’ve gotten a little obsessed with minimalism, budgeting, and making sure my money is spent traveling the world & making art. Though the wreaths being sold at Dairy Queen, the grocery store and, ahem, everywhere you look, weren’t that expensive,  nor are traditional wreath forms, I realized I already had all that I needed to make my own.

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Though my yard lacks color during the other seasons, the landscaping is prime for winter. If you don’t have the same plants as I do, no worries! I’ve noticed this year that magnolia leaf wreaths and boxwood wreaths have gotten very popular.

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Tools:

  1. Yard clippers
  2. Scissors
  3. Wire cutters
  4. Pliers

Materials:

  1. Wire hangers
  2. Thin wire
  3. Ribbon
  4. Paper clips (not pictured)
  5. Yard clippings

How to make a natural wreath for FREE:

  1. Unwrap the wire hanger.

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2. Begin rounding it out.diy-natural-christmas-wreath-with-wire-hangers-or-a-hula-hoop-5

3. Create the circle with overlap from each side of the wire. Twist it around as much as you can, then clench both pieces with the pliers and twist it around the form. Repeat on each end.diy-natural-christmas-wreath-with-wire-hangers-or-a-hula-hoop-6

4. Do this again for a second circle that is either slightly larger or slightly smaller. Here’s what you’ll have:diy-natural-christmas-wreath-with-wire-hangers-or-a-hula-hoop-7

5. Use paper clips to hold the circles in place. diy-natural-christmas-wreath-with-wire-hangers-or-a-hula-hoop-8

6. Wrap around with wire. This will give your greenery a place to slide in and keep the hanger wire in place.diy-natural-christmas-wreath-with-wire-hangers-or-a-hula-hoop-9

7. Gather small bouquets of greenery, then wrap them around the sides. diy-natural-christmas-wreath-with-wire-hangers-or-a-hula-hoop-11diy-natural-christmas-wreath-with-wire-hangers-or-a-hula-hoop-12

8. Make sure to alternate between putting the bouquets on the inner and outer wires, for full coverage.diy-natural-christmas-wreath-with-wire-hangers-or-a-hula-hoop-13

I used a hula hoop to make the wreath above the door. Here, you can see I used only one type of greenery for the bouquets and the way it looked when wrapped. I still made sure to attach in an inner/outer pattern, though it was only one frame.diy-natural-christmas-wreath-with-wire-hangers-or-a-hula-hoop-14

9. Continue all the way around. Make sure to lift the leaves of your first one and tie a bouquet under  the leaves of that first. You want to make sure all is covered.diy-natural-christmas-wreath-with-wire-hangers-or-a-hula-hoop-15

10. Tie it up!

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My exterior Christmas decor this year cost me ZERO dollars, unless you count the ribbon I bought on Halloween at a major discount. Similar here. I love the look!

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If you’d try out this DIY, let me know in the comments!