Guinea Pigs with Houses

IMG_0906Anyone have a kid beg them for a pet, and promise, promise, PROMISE they will take care of it all by themselves? Have them make their own pet guinea pig, and no one has to remember to feed and water, clean a cage, or pick up poop! This project has been a hit with both boys and girls, ages 4-12. The beauty of it is that you can whip it up with the kids in about an hour, or you can hand older kids a pile of construction paper and recycled materials and let their imaginations run wild as they build a little habitat for their hamster. (I can’t decide which rodent this creature resembles more…guinea pig or hamster?)

I came up with this project to help a group of 20 elementary kids aged 5-12 celebrate Earth Day. We had gathered toilet paper and wrapping paper tubes, berry crates, egg cartons, shoe boxes, and anything else we could think of to create an environment for their furry little friends. The guys tended to concentrate on crazy structures, while the girls often decorated the dens with stickers, markers, and glitter glue. But they ALL raved about how much fun they had doing this, and each student left the room with their new pet named and housed.

You can find the supplies to make these at Jo-Ann’s or Michael’s. I could not find pom poms at Walmart this summer when I went hunting for supplies to lead a kid’s project at a family reunion. Jo-Ann’s had variety packs with gray, white, tan, black, and brown pom pom’s in various sizes, which was fairly cheap. Michael’s had the packs sold in color and size groupings, so then you can buy exactly what you need for this. Aleene’s tacky glue is your secret weapon for this project! Do not attempt it with Elmer’s—you need the tacky glue to get fibers to stick together. Save the Elmer’s for back-to-school bags.


1½-inch pom pom (head)
2-inch pom pom (body)
½-inch pom pom (tail)
Mini pom pom (nose)
2 small black pony beads (eyes)
1 sheet pink or tan felt
Aleene’s tacky glue

Shoe box for house, jewelry box for bed, egg cartons for food dishes, construction paper, etc. Use whatever materials—recycled or otherwise—that would make a happy “home” for your new pet!

Cut a disk with little feet sticking out of it from the felt, and 2 tiny triangles for ears. Set aside. Working on a paper plate (to keep glue from your tables and counters), fluff up the 2-inch ball and the 1½-inch ball, and separate each one to get a sort of flat place to glue the two pom poms together. Use about a quarter-size glob of Aleene’s tacky glue, and set on plate to dry. (Convince your charges not to touch this while it dries for 10-15 minutes! Or else you have to keep starting all over again and will have more glue than pom pom, and a big, sticky mess.) Glue on ½-inch ball for tail.

Using toothpick, separate fibers on a head pom pom, back near the neck of the critter, and dip bottom edge of triangle pieces in Aleene’s tacky glue, and place ears in crevasse. (If you fold the triangle in half before placing in pom pom, it will look more like an ear.) Use toothpick to fluff some fur around and into the center of the ear. Use the toothpick again to dig out a spot in the pom pom for the eyes. Pick up a small pony bead with the toothpick and dip in glue. Place eye on pom pom, trying to get eyes towards side of head, as that’s where real guinea pig and hamster eyes are. Add mini nose pom pom with glue. Glue felt feet disk on bottom of 2-inch pom pom, towards head pom pom, but not onto head pom pom. Let critter dry while kids build out house.




Wheatgrass Pots

IMG_0800“Grass” and “pot” in one blog title—I’m just asking for some serious ribbing from my offspring with this post. But the teasing will be worth it, cause I love these charming little winter wheatgrass table toppers. The first image shows grass seeds that were grown indoors for 2 weeks, and have been trimmed once to even out the wheatgrass growth. Before I show other photos, let me give you instructions for growing these. It’s not hard, but you have to plan ahead a couple weeks if you want these on your table for a specific event. Some people love to have wheatgrass on hand to throw in smoothies, or to juice and drink just plain. My reason for growing it was for the pop of bright green on the table, and not for nutritional benefits. I don’t think my husband would tolerate me putting grass in his food. If he knew, that is.

For wheatgrass pots

Terra cotta pots
(I used 5″ azalea or orchid pots, which are more squat than other pots, and give more surface area for growing grass.)
Terra cotta saucers to fit pots
Potting soil (with peat moss and vermiculite, etc.)
Winter wheatgrass seeds
Large clear plastic bags
Twist ties

Loosely cover hole in bottom of terra cotta pot with a stone or shard of broken pot. This will keep the dirt from leaking out when watering the pots. Add dirt to pot to about 1-inch from top. Sprinkle generous amount of seeds onto dirt, covering 75-85% of surface. You do not want area completely covered with seeds or they will choke each other out. But a decent amount of seed is needed, or the grown grass will be sparse. Top the seeds with a sprinkling of dirt, just enough to cover the seeds, about 1/4-inch.

IMG_0734Water the pots and let them drain in the sink for a bit. Put pots on saucers, then fit clear plastic bag over top of pot and saucer, fill with air, and secure bag with twist tie. Make sure bag is loose to allow for sprouting of grass. Place in sunny spot. Bag will create a mini-terrarium, and these will not need water until the grass is a few inches long, about 7-10 days.

Condensation will form on the top of the plastic, as you can see in the photo. (You can’t really see it, but the grass seed has sprouted and is almost ready to be uncovered.) Once most of the wheatgrass has sprouted and is about 3-inches tall, you can uncover the pots and leave them in a sunny spot to continue filling out. At about 14 days you will probably want to trim the grass evenly. This is the point the pots should be ready for displaying on your table or counter top. Water the pots every couple of days, when the dirt feels dry on top. The grass tends to start dying off about 4 weeks after seeds were started, probably because it gets root-bound in small containers.

Once your grass is grown, you can jazz these up a bit. The first time I grew wheatgrass was for my son’s wedding. We grew a couple dozen 8.5″ pots of grass indoors, and used them on the tables at his summer wedding reception. My daughter-in-law hand-lettered numbers onto cute little signs to stick in each pot, but I don’t seem to have a picture of the finished product. (In know, I know…bad mother-in-law!) Oh, they were darling! And they fit our frugal-wedding budget—roughly $5 per centerpiece.

Then I grew these one spring when my youngest son was drumming up clients for his lawn mowing business. I made signs that said, “Mitchell won’t KEEP OFF THE GRASS. He’s ready to mow your lawn for you…” with his contact information at bottom. I cut out the signs and glued them to corrugate (one of my favorite crafting materials), and stuck a bamboo skewer in the signs. (You have to be sure the channels for the corrugate are running straight up and down on the signs in order for the skewer system to work, so double-check corrugate direction before gluing the signs down. Learned that the hard way.) We brought these to his current clients, and those who had expressed interest in his services. I’m sure these—as well as his magnetic personality—helped secure a couple extra clients that year.

The versatility of the sign-on-a-stick is shown in other pictures. There’s an example of a birthday party centerpiece using the three little pots, breaking up “birth” and “day,” because after all, you are celebrating the day of one’s birth, right? You could also do a sign with a poetic saying like the Maya Angelou quote here, “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” I personally couldn’t get away with this. There’s too much testosterone around my table for me to indulge in feminine whimsy. But go ahead and try an idea like this in YOUR home!




Flower Power

tissue flowers IMG_0115Cheap can be chic. Trust me—I’ve done dozens of table tops on “we have no budget,” and sometimes the lack of funds forces creativity where a big budget wouldn’t have. Here’s an example of some items I’ve mixed and matched for use on several different occasions, and they might spur you on to other ingenious ideas. To start with, the photo at right shows a tissue paper flower centerpiece made with materials I had on hand. Supplies needed and how-to details below.

IMG_0703Let’s start with the base to this theme. I purchased 1 1/4 yards each of the red and white geometric print, and the mini-floral teal print. I quartered the yardage to make four napkins of each print, then rolled the edges and hemmed them. I also bought 1 1/3 yards of daisies with bright-colored centers on a teal background. This piece I left whole, just trimming the yardage as necessary to create a perfect square, then rolled and hemmed the edges. (These fabrics were all found at Jo-Ann’s—during a sale, of course.) This square can go over a solid white tablecloth, or a mini-checked lime gingham, or just about anything that coordinates. It was much cheaper than buying a full-size tablecloth, and adds a pop of color when laid diagonally on a round or rectangular table. (Unfortunately, a couple napkins fell into bleach in my laundry room sink, so they’re ombré now—white on the edges, gradually moving into teal floral. But ombré is super hot now, right? Ugh.) The plates pictured here are Fiesta—turquoise (purchased recently) and cinnabar (a discontinued color bought several years ago).

The other element to this decor scheme, was a vase of tissue paper flowers (pictured above and below). I made these using tissue paper I keep on hand for stuffing gift bags. With no money allotted for centerpieces for a ladies tea event at church, I cut organic shapes from tissue, and scrunched and taped the pieces with floral tape onto green floral wire. I started with a fringe of tissue for the “poppies,” then added overlapping petals, pleating at the base of each petal, and rolling them onto the stems with the floral tape. Then I wrapped the stems in floral tape to give them some heft. The pom-pom flowers were just large fringe pieces cut and twirled onto the floral wire stems. You could also do this by pleating the tissue like shown on this HGTV video of “how to make a tissue pom pom“. The leaves are just two leaf shapes cut from tissue, with the floral wire running down the center between the two pieces. I glued these together with one of my son’s left over glue sticks (which fortunately hadn’t dried out yet). The wire helps to be able to shape the leaf when putting it in an arrangement. I tried to do other types of flowers, too, but these were the only ones fit for public viewing. My attempts at daffodils and tulips were pathetic.

flowers and banner IMG_0202I added some orange “poppies” to the mix for a summer bridal shower, and used the square daisy print on the table top again (not visible in this image). Cut from simple construction paper, the ubiquitous pendant banner pieces were tied together with twine. Hand-lettering is not my forte, so I ran off the letters needed in black, 220+ point type on my home printer, cut out the letters with an X-Acto, and glued them on the triangles with the aforementioned glue stick.

Then I think I used these flowers and the table topper again for my Dad’s 80th birthday party. OK, now I’m starting to sound just plain miserly… (But no worries. Dad took no offense to the pre-used adornments—he wouldn’t notice “decor” if it bit him in the behind.*) At any rate, if you happen to stumble across a versatile decorating scheme like this one, don’t be afraid to re-use elements of it, mixing and matching to suite your celebration.

*For those of you concerned I’m sounding disrespectful to my father, be assured I say this with the utmost love. I 100% guarantee he said “Get outta here,” with a big grin on his face when he read this.