Sunday, June 18, 2017

Myrtle Gets a Facelift

Hello!

I have one of those compulsive personalities that requires many (many) lists, properly labeled plastic bins and planning. I like things a certain way and in a certain place. Owning Myrtle has taught me that despite all the lists I make of what order the remodel will go in and what I want to accomplish, she has much different plans. I suppose remodeling her is much like motherhood in that respect.

When she was all shut up for winter, I made all these detailed plans. This year I was going to tackle the windows, roof and paint her one of those Pinterest worthy paint jobs. I spent all my snow days reading about how to properly seal windows, how to DIY paint on a vintage camper and how to coat a roof. I was anxious to get started the minute the tulips started peeking up.

On the first stretch of nice weather, I pulled out the first window. I was going to clean it up, seal it up with butyl tape and put it back in. Easy peasy. I wanted to complete all the windows so I could move on to painting. The framing was still solid around the window, and with a lot of elbow grease, the old caulk was gone and the window was ready to go back in. Except it wouldn't. At least not to the point where it was sealed properly. I realized after much cursing and wiggling, that these replacement windows weren't going to cut it. So, despite all my plans, I learned the lesson Myrtle keeps telling me...I have to be willing to be flexible. So, I started hunting for original windows to put back into the camper (still searching by the way). I decided to leave the old windows, buy some new metal door awnings to go over them to keep the rain out (thanks Amazon!) and move on to resealing the sheet metal pieces and j-rails.

I pulled the first piece of sheet metal that was covering a hole that used to be a vent. I didn't need the vent, but to make it look nicer and ready it for painting, I did paint the sheet metal white. I was pleasantly surprised the caulk came off really easy and there was minimal wood to replace. I got that project done in just a few hours. Fresh off this good news, I removed a piece of j-rail. It also came off easy and didn't seem to have any damage to repair. Heck, why not keep going? So, I removed the next piece of j-rail by the cab over bunk area.


Myrtle started laughing at me. And by laughing, I mean the skin practically fell off her because the bunk area is all rotted away. Son of a gun! I should have known that this was going to happen considering the cab over bunk area is the only part of the camper with the original birch wood which is a strong indication that it's the only area the previous owner didn't reframe. So, this is what Myrtle looks like in the front right now until the Hubs and I take off the front skin to see what we're dealing with. (Here's hoping it's just a couple pieces to replace by the j-rail)




So, that brings me back to that paint job. The cool eye catching paint job that I've been planning since before I got her. It would seem that isn't going to happen this summer. In fact, with the search for windows and the slow moving resealing, there's a chance it will be a couple of summers away. I was bummed. I know it's superficial and the paint has little to do with her ability to take our family camping, but dang...I wanted that eye catching vintage look now.

Late one night as I cut vinyl for a father's day gift (blog post coming soon), I pulled out some vinyl from an outside project a few years ago. Then I think an actual light bulb came on as I had my epiphany. If I couldn't paint Myrtle yet, that didn't mean I had to forgo decorating her. I ordered some vinyl, and now I have the pleasure of introducing Myrtle's mini-face lift.



The supplies you need for this project are quite simple. Two 5 yard rolls of Oracal 651 outdoor vinyl did the trick for me (I buy all my vinyl from Expressions Vinyl and have been very happy with their pricing and quick shipping). I put the rolls through my Silhouette paper cutting machine. I made a very simple cut file with 2 inch wide circles with a couple of rows of half circles for the top.

While my machine was cutting all that vinyl, I prepped the surface for the vinyl. I gave Myrtle a bath and then wiped all the blue areas (where my dots were going) with rubbing alcohol.

Once all the vinyl was cut, I used a old school ruler to measure out the top row. I did half circles every 6 inches. Once the top roll was done, I just eye balled the rest of the rows. The aluminum skin is a great way to keep the circles level. I just used the horizontal lines in the skin as my guide. I didn't use transfer paper. I just peeled the circles off and placed on the skin slowly to avoid bubbles. I would use a spare credit card to get any extra bubbles out of the vinyl and to stick it to the skin. When I got to an obstacle, I would place a circle over the skin and obstacle and use a dull Exact-o knife to cut around the obstacle.

I am extremely impressed with how this turned out considering the amount of time it took (just a couple of hours over several days) and the amount of money (around $30.00). The Oracal 651 is rated for around 6+ years of durability outdoors. I really hope it doesn't take that long to get to painting or I might go completely crazy. The vinyl should come off with some heat and scraping. Since it will only be removed when it's time to paint, I won't worry about any scrapes it may leave in the surface of Myrtle.











Tuesday, May 30, 2017

DIY Watercolor Scratch Off Map

A couple of weeks ago I saw a sponsored post on Facebook that featured a scratch off map of the United States. As you visit a state, you scratch off the state to reveal a pretty watercolor underneath.

I was about to purchase one when I thought to myself, "I think I can make this with what I already have in my house." I watched some videos, read some blogs, and I decided to give it a try.

I tried a couple different methods I found online so I could give the best recommendation and directions. I would first recommend a quick reading through the directions, because I do give many alternatives to listed materials. So even if you don't think you have or can find the supplies listed, you might have an alternative option available.

Materials

Heavy Card Stock (I used 100 lb, 8.5 x 11)
Watercolors (I used basic Crayola watercolors from my daughter's leftover school supplies)
Paint Brush
Water, Cup and Paper Towels
Carbon Paper (or another method to transfer the mock up to the card stock)
Printer Paper
Computer (with word or photo editing software)
Self-Sealing or Heat Sealing Laminating Sheet (or Contact Paper or Packing Tape)
Large Chalk Pen
Sharpie

Directions

1. Create Mock Up

Using a simple map image, fonts I've downloaded, and Photoshop Elements, I created a mock up of what I wanted my map to look like. I hand lettered the state names, but you could easily add that to your mock up as well.


However, there are alternatives if you don't have these resources available to you. Instead of Photoshop Elements, you could easily use Microsoft Word or Paint to create your mock up. If you don't have a computer, you could free hand draw the map right on the card stock.

If you wanted to make a larger version of the map, you could also use these programs and print on several sheets and tape together. Instead of card stock, you could use foam board or poster board.

2. Transfer Mock Up

Now, I thought about just printing my mock up right on to the card stock and moving on to the next step. However, the more I thought about it, I thought it was likely the watercolor would cause the printer ink to bleed. Really, graphite (i.e. pencil) would be a better option. If I wanted to get really crazy, I suppose I could have hooked up my Silhouette to draw the image with a pencil.

What I did was grab some carbon transfer paper and sandwich it between a printed version of the document (on regular printer paper) and the card stock. I kept everything in place using a clipboard (but you could easily just tape everything down to the table or desk). I just traced the image with a ball point pen, and it transferred the image over. If you don't have carbon paper (it's inexpensive, reuseable, and available at craft stores), you could also try using your laptop as a light box, pushing hard enough to make an indent in the card stock or even just trying to print straight on the card stock.


3.  Paint

I'm no artist, but blending two colors is something I can do. I did each state separately. To blend the colors, I would start on one end of the state so the color was bright and then lightly move towards the center. I would then clean my brush in some water and blend the other color from the opposite side towards the center. Sometimes the colors would mix on their own beautifully. Other times I had to add a bit of water or dab up excess water with a paper towel. I worked around the entire map until each state was painted.



4. Sharpie

After the map was all painted, I waited for it to dry. If you happen to have a mistake (I had a couple), you can clean it up with some White Out or even try to wipe it away with a clean damp paper towel. Since the card stock is heavier, the watercolors shouldn't bleed through or distort the paper. Once the paper is dry, you can color in the lettering with a Sharpie. I also took the Sharpie marker and traced the outline of all the states. I then added the names of each state with a Sharpie.



5. Laminate

After I was done with all the painting and was satisfied with my map, I needed to laminate the paper. I have a heat laminator, so I simply put the map through my machine to laminate it. You can use many different methods to laminate the paper. You could use contact paper that's clear, self adhesive laminating sheets, or even packing tape.

6. Paint Over Map

So this is where I did some experimentation. I found many tutorials online that suggested using acrylic paint in a 3 to 1 ratio with dish soap. So, I thought I would try that out with some paint I had sitting around.





I wasn't overly impressed with the result. The paint wasn't smooth. Perhaps I was just too impatient and the paint wasn't quite dry yet or maybe I had the wrong type of paint, but it didn't scratch off so much as rolled off in big sticky bunches.  The left behind paint was a wreck as well. I tried a paint pen, but it didn't have that soap addition so it didn't work well either.





However, the paint option did allow me to put on multiple layers.  With each layer, the top layer got less and less opaque. I decided not to get too caught up in staying within the lines since 1) it was a pain and, 2) it was fairly easy to scratch off where I went outside the lines.

I found a blog that suggested using a chalk marker as the top layer, so I tried that as well. The chalk marker worked fantastic. It's not as solid as the paint and it scratches off easily enough that you can't add a second layer. However, I actually liked that it wasn't as solid so you could see where the states were underneath. I also liked that if I made a mistake and scratched off something I didn't mean to, I could easily go back and recolor in that section with the marker. The gold chalk marker isn't quite as metallic looking. Since it's chalk, it's matte finish.






7. Mount or Hang

If you chose, the final step is to put the map in a frame. A document frame works well since the card stock is the same dimensions as most certificates. Take the glass out of the frame so you can scratch off states as you visit them.




I hope this tutorial worked for you, and please let me know if you have any questions or comments below!






Friday, May 26, 2017

Girl Scout Three Cheers for Animals Journey in a Day

Good Afternoon,

A couple of weeks ago I tried my hand at my first Journey in a Day. It was quite the learning experience as a new troop leader, but I think over-all it went well. I found it difficult to find information beyond the "Making Friends" kit that many use, so I thought a blog post might help other troops out there who are looking into completing the Daisy journey "Three Cheers for Animals" in just one day. 

To give you an idea of how I came to this schedule and activities, I'm going to explain the process I followed. I found it worked well for me and will probably do something similar in the future. First of all, I went ahead and bought the leader guide for the Three Cheers for Animals journey. I wanted to get an idea of what the requirements are, look for activity ideas and see what the traditional journey plan would look like. I decided early on that I didn't want the journey to have to much coloring. I had found that the kits available to purchase had mostly coloring and not enough movement. Not to diss coloring. I love to color. However, if I wanted a group of 6 and 7 year olds to be engaged for hours I didn't think coloring was going to do the trick. 

I also decided early on that instead of focusing on domestic animals, I was going to focus my journey on local wildlife. This was actually a hard decision for me because my husband is a veterinarian, and I could have used him...I mean use his "expertise". However, after looking at badges to come in Brownies and Juniors, I decided there was going to be enough pet focused activities that it made sense to focus this journey to something different.

To get on my soapbox for a second, my personal mission with my troop is get them engaged in the outdoors as much as possible. My personal experience when I was a scout was when our troop was more engaged in outdoor activities and education, I got more out of the scouting experience. The results of my completely unscientific survey of all my friends who were Girl Scouts as kids was they all lost interest in scouting once they ended up in a troop that only did more home based activities. I had one friend that point blank that said as a little girl she was quite peeved when she learned what her male friends were doing in Boy Scouts compared to what she was doing in Girl Scouts. So, my personal mission is to give my girls a well rounded experience. Sure, we'll do crafts. Obviously, judging by the title of my blog, I love crafts. However, I think it's important to also give them exposure to the outdoors (and STEM and leadership for that matter). It's entirely possible some of these girls come from families that aren't able to offer those kind of experiences due to a multitude of factors. While I do camp, I'm still going to have to step out of my own comfort zone as well and learn some new skills to pass along. I think that's an important part of my journey as a scout leader. Just my two cents. Back to my planning process. 

After I had a focus and did a preliminary read of the guide, I wrote down the different awards associated with the journey. In the Three Cheers for Animal Journey there is the Bird Bath Award, Red Robin Award and Tula Award. I then wrote down what the ultimate goal of each of these awards was. I read through the sample plans in the leader guide for each of these awards and noted what activities and stories I wanted to use in the journey. 

Once I did that, I then looked to see where I needed to add more content/activities. I took into account that I didn't want the girls getting all hyped up with three high energy activities in a row. So I tried to balance activities that got the girls up and moving with more passive activities. I also wrote down what the goal for each activity was. I found this helpful when I needed to keep the girls on message. 

I found this a fairly effective way to draft up my plan for the Journey. However, I knew from the start I was going to have trouble with timing. I have found through Girl Scout events and birthday parties, I don't really have any idea how long activities are going to take. It's hard to know with younger girls how long the attention span will hold before you need to shift direction. So, since every group of girls is different and you'll have to account for that, I would suggest having some back-up activities in case you speed through activities like we did. On the converse, maybe your group is really into one activity and wants to take more time on it. I would make note of what activities you can skip if you're running behind time wise.

One other note. we did have some Brownies that decided to join the Journey. Since they didn't need or had already earned the Daisy Journey badge, I looked through current Brownie badges. I didn't find a current badge that matched what we were doing. I could have done a fun badge instead, but I felt like the girls were doing a ton of work not to earn an official badge. So, I did a bit of research and found the requirements of the retired Brownie Animal Try-It badge. One little known fact is that girls can earn the retired badges and display them with their other official badges so long as they meet the badge requirements. Many local libraries and online libraries have the old badge requirement books. So, I tracked down two retired badges on eBay and ordered them for the Brownies.

Here is the schedule we followed: 

Session One
Discover – Bird Bath Award
12:00-12:15     Check-In
Game: Animal Guessing (pg. 9 of  leader guide)
Goal: Allows girls to discover local wildlife through acting and movement
                        Supplies: Notecards and hat or sack
Preparation: Print pictures of local wildlife and paste on notecards. 
Directions: Put notecards in a sack/hat. Girls take turns giving hints about the animal and the other girls try to guess what the animal is.
12:15-12:20–   Girl Scout Promise
Welcome girls to the journey. Explain that a journey is a trip. We’re going to take a journey where we learn about local wildlife/animals, how to take care of them then teach other people how to take care of wildlife. We’re going to finish up our journey will making some things to help care for wildlife in area.
12:20-12:40 –  Speaker: Local Wildlife Expert
Goal: Give girls an overview of how taking care of our environment helps take care of local wildlife and also ourselves.
Preparation: Line up speaker
12:40-1:00 –    Discussion: Decision Making Scenarios (pg. 48 of leader guide)
Goal: Girls take the information they have received from the guest speaker and the animal guessing game to make good choices to care for local wildlife.
Supplies: Notecards
Preparation: Create scenarios and put on notecards 
Directions: Read the scenarios and girls give answers on what they would do.
1:00-1:45—     Snack & Red Robin Story (pg. 17 of journey book)
                         Meal: Sunshine in a Bag or Bird Nests
Preparation: Purchase food
Directions: Read Red Robin story during snack
2:00-2:20—     Game: Fly Fly Away (pg. 47 of leader guide)
Goal: Through movement and discussion focus on how each girl is unique just like each animal.
Supplies: Streamers, iPhone, Speaker
Preparation: Playlist on phone
Directions: Each girl takes 3 streamers in each hand as their “wings,” Play music while each girl tries to fly around. Call out other birds to have girls act them out (Penguin, Hummingbird, blue bird, eagle, pheasant, ostrich, goose, and Flamingo). After dancing, have girls sit down to rest and have a discussion about what makes each bird special and what makes them special. Ask how they learned/got that characteristic that made them special.
Session Two
Connect – Red Robin Award
2:20-3:00—     Discussion: Wildlife Video 
Goal: Girls learn about how wildlife take care of themselves and what we can do to help them. 
Supplies: TV Screen or Projector
Preparation: You Tube Playlist
3:00-3:20—     Activity: Animal Care Books
Goal: Girls create books to share with community how to help local wildlife. Allow girls to lead the discussion on where to donate the finished books.
Supplies: Printer paper, crayons, pens
Preparation: Pre-print
Session Three
Take Action – Tula Award
3:35-4:00--       Activity: Bird Nesting Material Hanger
Goal: Girls create a hanging basket with bird nesting materials to take home and help birds in their own community
Supplies: Yarn pieces, leaves, twigs, dry grass, pine needles, Whisks
Preparation: Gather supplies
Directions: To read: "Most birds build some kind of structure to contain their eggs and nestlings. A bird’s nest may be as simple as a nighthawk’s or Killdeer’s depression on the ground, a hole in a tree excavated by a woodpecker, or an elaborate pouchlike nest woven by an oriole. The most familiar nest type is a cup made of vegetation and sometimes mud. Often, the outer layers are of coarse material, and the inside is lined with softer or finer material. Depending on the species, cup-nesters may hide their nests in trees or shrubs, build them on the ground, or place them in nest boxes or tree cavities. Fallen leaves and twigs left unraked make excellent nest materials for many birds. Providing nooks in your backyard where this untidy debris can collect provides a variety of material for the birds to check out when they are building nests. They may even pick through your compost pile looking for suitable nest material. You can also put out concentrated stashes of nest material. If your yard has safe nest sites and adequate construction material, it will be more attractive to birds, including those that don’t visit feeders. Where would you put the nesting material hanger?" (Source: Cornell Department of Orthnology)
Explain how we’re going to use the whisks to pack with nest stuff and how they can hang it up at home in a tree. 
4:00-4:45--      Activity: Make Bat Boxes
Goal: Girls work as a team to make a bat box for local bats. Discussion on why bat boxes are needed and relate it to the needs of each girls.
Supplies: Wood, nails, wood glue, saw, router, black paint, hammers, white paint
Preparation: Precut wood, predrill all nail holes
Directions: See handout                 
4:45-5:00—    Clean up and Friendship Circle

Bird Bath Award

The first activity we did was the Animal Guessing Game. It's a pretty basic concept. You have pictures of local wildlife, and the girls have to act out the animal while the other girls guess. Some local wildlife is easy to guess like rabbits or skunks, but surprisingly, the girls even got some of the harder ones like badgers and weasels. I found a great handout from the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks which had a list of all types of local wildlife. I found corresponding pictures and printed them out. I would recommend pictures over names since some girls probably aren't the strongest readers yet or a picture is easier for them to identify. Once the girls guessed the animal I read a couple of facts from the handout I found. 


After this activity, we had a professor from our local university come and speak about how to take care of local wildlife. She spoke about maintaining habitat and sustainable practices. She was really great with the girls, and they seemed genuinely interested.



I took notes during her speech and came up with some quick scenerios to ask the girls to give solutions on. 

We had a quick snack while I read the story about the red robin and flower garden flowers telling how they got their colors. After the story we did the Fly, Fly Away game found in the leader manual. This was a favorite in the group probably because it involved moving and music. 

Red Robin Award

The first part of this session was a video playlist on YouTube that covered local wildlife. I thought this would be a nice reprieve from all the activity, but to my surprise this was the least popular portion of the journey. If I were to do this again, I would either just do a quick 3 minute or so video with an activity mixed in or just cut it all together.  To see my You Tube playlist, click here. (Note: we only watched the first 5 minutes or so of the last video)

After we watched these videos, the girls had to take what they learned on the videos to make one page of a book. The book was supposed to inform the reader about local wildlife. I found a printable book page where there's a portion for a drawing at the top and then a lined book page at the bottom. There was a small amount of discussion about where we should donate the book for people to read. Eventually it was decided that we would donate the book to the local doctor's office for kids to read. After the journey I compiled all the pages into a book, laminated it, added a cover and donated it to our local doctor's office for other children to enjoy in the exam rooms.



Tula Award

We did watch one video regarding how birds make nests which helped us with our next activity. The girls made nesting material hangers. I did a bit of research on these before we made them. I've seen them all over Pinterest, and I wanted to make sure they were actually safe for bird before we made them. The Cornell website was very helpful with what is good to put into the nesting material hangers. Dryer lint is a no go. It dissolves in the rain and therefore harms nests instead of helping them. It's no shock that natural materials are better. I did use a bit of yarn (that was a mixed recommendation on several different websites I visited). I made sure each piece of yarn was cut very short..less than 2 inches to keep it from tangling in the feet of birds. Rather than use suet cages (which can get expensive for a large group), we used dollar store whisks. They actually worked pretty well once the girls got the hang of how to pack everything in. This was one item the girls got to take home with them.



The final activity was the big one and probably took up the most prep time. The girls got into teams of two or three and made bat boxes. Instead of bog this post down with all the details of how to make them, I did a separate blog post. You can check that out here. I pre-drilled all the holes so the girls could build them easier. The girls had a blast hammering at them. Prior to handing out hammers, I did remind each girl about how to properly hammer, and all the girls did a great job with small taps on the nail head. I had several small person hammers (how I have five of them I do not know) so they didn't have to worry about the weight or the huge claw on one end.  After the Journey, I did take their boxes home and give them a bit of TLC before donating them to a local nature park.





Since we were running about an hour ahead of schedule, we took the opportunity to get outside and do some geocaching. We held our journey at a great local resource, a large nature park. I was actually surprised by how much the girls loved it. My own daughter has asked to go several times since.


That's the story of how we put the entire Daisy Three Cheers for Animals journey in one (long) day!







Wednesday, May 24, 2017

DIY Bat Boxes for Kids

A couple of weeks ago I organized a Daisy Journey in a Day for our local Daisies and Brownies. I'll have a full post on that experience here in a few days, but one aspect of the project that deserves it's own long winded explanation is how we built 4 bat boxes with 6 and 7 year olds.

First of all, I used this handout from Wild About Gardens as the guide for building the bat houses. One caveat is the measurements are in metric. I decided not to convert them and just grabbed an old fashioned meter stick and ruler. You will want to print off the handout to get your supply list and cut list.


While I bought all the supplies at once, I didn't make all the houses at once. I wanted to cut and make one sample one before I started cutting boards for the other boxes. Couple things about the supplies. You will want to make sure the wood is not treated. Treated wood has all sorts of chemicals that wouldn't be good for bats. Also, before you search the entire store, the rubber flaps you need for the hinge are in the plumbing section. You could use a nail gun if you're doing this for personal use. Otherwise you will want to pick up some nails. You will see I used huge roofing nails which aren't the ideal type of nails. This was a conscious decision since the large head on the nails would be easier for the young girls to hit. Also, I did bring wood glue, some small bowls and a bunch of q-tips and had the girls glue each piece before nailing it together.



I made all the cuts for the first sample box. If you're making extras for little kids to build, you will want to take a moment between attaching all the different pieces to measure and record where the nails are going in. That way you can predrill all the holes on the other bat houses. If you have older girls, you can skip this step because they don't need to be predrilled.

Also, if you plan on painting the outside of the box, it might be easier to paint the pieces prior to building the box. I painted all the pieces that would be facing out but left the inside a natural wood. I used black since the color adds extra heat.

First step: Attach the front piece to the side pieces. The front piece will sit inside the side pieces. Please see the handout or pictures for examples. The side pieces and front piece will slant towards the front.


Second step: Attach the bottom piece to the bat house. This piece will also be set inside the side pieces. It will sit flush with the front piece leaving a 10 cm gap in the back for the bats to enter the bat house.

Third step: You need to rough up the back piece. I did this by using a sharp nail and pressure. Then attach the bat house to the back piece.


Last step: Attach the rubber flap to the top piece. The angled portion will go towards the back. Then attach the top to the back piece.



Ta-Da! You have a wonderful bat box to make the local insect eaters happy. Mount the bat box at least 10 feet from the ground in a sun location facing east or south. Bats are happiest when there's at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight.





Thursday, May 18, 2017

Featured on Wayfair!

Hello!

The rain has finally stopped, and I have 100 projects to complete outside before it starts again. So logically, I'm sitting inside writing a blog post. I just had to share that my home office was recently featured on Wayfair. (Click here for the link) My home office was a labor love. We took space that we had nothing but a bunch of random toys sitting in it and made it a 100x more functional. For all the DIY projects, including the amazing countertops my husband made from scratch, check out my blog post here.

Screenshot office featured on Wayfair dot com


I've got lots of goodies scheduled over the coming weeks including all the projects from my Girl Scout Journey in a Day, an outdoor art center, and the completion of two huge projects on Myrtle the vintage camper.

Thanks for tuning in!