Sunday, January 31, 2016

Make Your Own Lenten Ressurection Eggs

Swap-happy me has been at it again:

After realizing what NOT to do for a peg doll swap... 

...sniffing all too many sharpies while making ornaments for a Jesse Tree swap...

...and modge podging like mad for a 12 Days of Christmas ornament swap...

..I decided I would teach myself how to wood-burn for an upcoming Lenten Resurrection egg swap.

(Note:  Some of the links below are affiliate ones.  Should you click through these to make any purchase we may receive compensation at no extra cost to you as per our Full Disclosure.)

How I Made Our Lenten Resurrection Swap Eggs

First, I broke our our brand-new woodburning kit, which we got at a discount around Christmastime in preparation for this project, and the bag of wooden eggs, which a friend purchased in bulk and divided with swap members.  I searched for the smoothest of the eggs since I wanted to dive in for the first time without having to sand.

Then, while the woodburning tool was heating up, I began searching for and sketching images of my assigned image:  nails.  An easy image, I know, but I wanted to land on a design that had a bit more oomph than a single nail or two.  So, the kids and I set to brainstorming.

Once I settled on an image, I drew it on a paper, turned the paper over, and colored the backside with pencil. I did this on scrap paper so the pencil markings from the drawn nail side would not transfer onto my table.

I then flipped the paper over on the image, and traced it.  Thereby transferring the image of the nails I had settled on -- old style nails in the shape of a cross -- into the egg.

Image drawn, it was time to woodburn. 

My first go went well, but I did end up learning something that I passed on in our swap group page:

When aging with long hair, pull your hair back before wood burning. As my developing need for bifocals got the best of me, I leaned close to my woodburning tool and egg. A bit of hair told me how close I was when it gave a singe scream (a quiet one) and sent off a putrid smell to break the silence of my woodburning concentration. Pony tail holder now in place! LOL

After burning just two eggs, my kids joined in the craftivity at our kitchen table by beginning to paint peg dolls for a kids' swap.  So, that was the end of my woodburning.  I simply could not concentrate on my project while helping them with theirs. 

The next day, Nina, grateful for my help the day before, offered to help me sand the rougher wooden eggs in my bag. 

We sanded and sanded, using multiple grades of sandpaper, but many of the eggs just would not completely smooth.  So, after consulting with several swap members, including the swap coordinator, I gave up on the sanding and added this tip to my future swap brain file:
Accept rough surfaces or buy Grade A eggs.  The "seconds" we bought just did not want to get smooth!

At that point, it was time to transfer the image onto the 11 eggs I had yet to do.  (All of us in the swap are doing 13 eggs so we can each keep one full set while donating a full set to a local mom!)

Then, it was back to my woodburning, with my hair tied back to avert further singing and my neck craned forward to make up for my aging vision. (Learning humility and acceptance is a BIG part of these swaps for me.)

Since my daughter wanted to help with this part, I let her play photographer, and, then, after she had been watching me carefully for some time, I allowed her to use a hand-over-hand method to burn some of the eggs with me

And, yes, before I let her delicate hands get so close to the ultra-hot tool, I said a prayer to both of our guardian angels.  For, while she had proved her patience and I was confident that she could burn the wooden eggs with me, I was nervous while guiding her little hand.

After letting her do a few eggs with me, I suggested she go back to being our photographer.


Between my daughter's efforts and mine, this is what our eggs looked like once they were all burned.

So, it was time for painting

The acrylic paint color I chose to paint the eggs looked like it was going to be a muted, almost pastel, "blood" color.  However, once I got it on the egg tops, I realized it was much darker.  I decided to go with the color even if it was dark since it seemed fitting for the nail image.

So, I after the tops dried enough, I did the fronts of the eggs, the back, and the bottoms, all leaving drying time in between.

The hardest part was the oval around the burned nail image.  I started these ovals quite wide around the images because I do not have the steadiest hands, and, then, each time the line of an oval looked too uneven, I simply closed the oval in a bit.  I found by tipping a paint brush on its side, holding it close to an egg, and rotating the egg around slowly, as opposed to moving my paint brush hand, I had the most luck.

Finally, all the eggs were done.  They were not perfect, but they were as good as I could get them and I was afraid if I kept trying to improve them, they would end up worse, not better.

I let the eggs dry for a day, did a few minor touch ups, let them dry again, and then set to sealing them. 

I had used layers of Modge Podge to seal things in prior swaps, but had since been told that it was not the best sealer.  So, upon a recommendation, I purchased Triple Thick glaze spray for this project, thinking it would be quick and easy to apply, with beautiful long-lasting results.

Such was not the case...
  First off, I thought our home was well-ventilated enough when I went to spray the eggs, but it was not.  I almost asphyxiated us all, I think.   Second, as soon as I sprayed, paint began to run off my eggs. Disaster!

Seeing my hard work at painting ovals arund woodburnt images dissolve, I tried to pick one egg up to wipe the running paint off with a rag, only to realize the was super sticky.  So, I did a quick wipe, used soap, water, and alcohol on my hands to wash the stickiness off, and, then, grabbed a plastic bag to use as a glove.

With speed, I "saved" as many eggs as I could and, then, transferred them all onto new bags to dry, so I could throw out the other smelly, sticky, paint-glaze pooled bags in the outdoor trash.

Since I did not want anyone to face the same near-demise my eggs did, I immediately posted in our local swap group about what happened and also asked about others' experiences in a national swap group.  I learned that many use Triple Thick, but few ever use spray, while others prefer Minwax.  I also learned that our local swap leader, indeed, uses Triple Thick spray for projects, and has for years, without any incident.So, after another 24 hours or more of letting the eggs dry, I bravely took the eggs outside on a tray and gave them a second coat to cover over anywhere my first effort at sealing may have failed due to my handling the eggs to wipe off running paint before the eggs had dried. 

This time, the spraying went much better.  No big runs happened and, after leaving the eggs on the stoop for several hours, I was able to take them in, let them dry over night, and transfer them to a carton.I was sad as I did so over the eggs that had been ruined.  However, I cheered up when another swap member who'd stopped by to return my woodburning tool, which she had borrowed, took a look  and said they were fine.  She could not believe how smooth my ovals were.  (Really?!?)  And, she thought the eggs had homemade character.  (Such a sweet and encouraging friend!)

So, now, my eggs sit ready to be swapped.  I cannot wait to see what the other moms did and to get my whole set of wooden Lenten Resurrection Eggs.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Sarah, from Frugal Fun for Boys, inspired our local swap coordinator to suggest this swap.  Head on over to her DIY Resurrection Eggs post to checkout her wonderful work!

No Time for Crafting?

If you don't have time for wooden egg crafting, you can easily whip up some sensory smart Holy Week/Resurrection eggs like I have done in the past.

You can also purchase ready-made ones, like this set we found at a thrift shop a couple years ago and enjoy annually.

Or, dispense with the eggs altogether, and enjoy some hands-on Holy Week art instead.

There are so many ways to bring the Resurrection Story alive for children.  How do you teach and review it with your kids?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

When the Art-n-Nature Hiking Club Does No Hiking Nor Art...

Sometimes things do not go as planned and that is A-okay!

Last August,
we re-initiated our Art-n-Nature club, planning to organize at least one outing each month for local friends to get together to hike and enjoy art outdoors.  That plan worked well in August and September, took a bump in October, came back strong in November, lost its art portion in December, and, found us planning to "sled and sculpt" this month, only to have us drop the sculpting idea last minute.

For our sixth meet-up since re-initiating the club, our game plan was to enjoy "hiking" up a favorite sledding hill and sculpting forms in the snow using whatever tools and natural decorations that people brought or found.

However, when we got to the sledding hill, we realized the sun had gotten there before us, leaving us just enough snow to sled upon, but not quite enough for sculpting.

No one minded this one bit!  The weather was warm.  The day was ideal for sledding, so the four families that joined us simply delighted in chatting, sledding, and picnicking outdoors together.

No hike.  No art.  No problem.  There were still plenty of smiles shared outdoors by adults and children.   

Smiles and sledding! Got to love when everyone enjoys simple pleasures together, no matter what age!

New friendships form.

Old friends enjoy one another's company.

Mamas and their children smile, knowing life is what happens when you're making other plans... and life is blessed!

I cannot wait to see how the blessings of our Art-n-Nature club continue to unfold.

We're excited to continue our Art-n-Nature initiative and welcome YOUR suggestions for cold-weather art projects that can be enjoyed in February and March.  Please leave links and ideas in a comment or at the
Training Happy Hearts Facebook page.  Thank you!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Make Your Own Maple Syrup {A Tap Your Trees Review}

"Whoo hoo!" my kids cheered when I told them that we would be able to review the Starter Kit with Aluminum Buckets from Tap My Trees. They love maple syrup and for years have been asking if we make some ourselves.

Until now, I admit, I have responded to my children's pleas to harvest our own maple syrup with a half-hearted, "We'll see..." For I just was not sure I had the knowledge, means, nor energy to take on such a project. However, now that we have the Tap My Trees' Starter Kit in hand, my "We'll see..." has become a "You bet!"

Yes, 2016 will be the year my kids finally get to try their hands at making their own maple syrup! 

Everything You Need for Sugaring Except a Drill and a Tree  

Although I knew what we'd be getting in our Starter Kit before it arrived, I was still pleasantly surprised when our Tap My Trees came in. For I just love a company that has personality and pays attention to detail, and, from the first moment I saw our kit all packaged up, I knew Tap My Trees is a company to love

Every item in the box was received was carefully (but not excessively) packaged and the box itself spoke of the company's story:

Joe McHale took a simple way to teach his family about nature and the origin of food and became the #1 supplier of maple sugaring supplies for hobbyists, no doubt, by making sugaring accessible through a clearly written, step-by-step guide that takes you from identifying tress to tap to boiling sap into maple syrup, and everything in between

The guide clearly describes how to:

  • select trees for tapping
  • tap trees
  • collect and store sap
  • clean and sanitize supplies
  • make maple syrup
  • use sap for purposes other than maple syrup
  • wrap up the sugaring season

The book also contains Frequently asked Questions, a Resources list, a Quick Reference Checklist, and blank Note pages.  

Tap My Trees Review

Joe McHale paired this slim, yet complete 44-page guide together with everything you need to begin your own family adventure in maple sugaring in order to make a kit that can get anyone with a drill and a tree started. The provided supplies include:

  • 3 2-gallon Aluminum Buckets to collect sap in as it drips from the spile
  • 3 Metal Lids to prevent rain, snow, and foreign material from entering the bucket
  • 3 Stainless Steel Spiles (taps) to be inserted into drilled holes to transfer sap into a bucket
  • 3 Hooks to be attached to spiles and used to hang the buckets
  • 1 7/16 Drill Bit with 3/8 shank in order to drill tap holes into your maple trees
  • 1 Cheesecloth used to filter any solids (such as pieces of bark) when transferring sap from the collection buckets to a storage containers

Getting Started 

Right on the box of the Starter Kit is a handy flow chart of how and when your maple sugaring season might progress.

As noted on it and in the clip below, ideally, you identify which trees to tap in mild weather: 

Or, if you are silly like my daughter and I, you wait until after you've got a good layer of snow and then run out, all excited to get get started, less-than-appropriately dressed for the season.

"Mean Mama" that I am, I would not let my kids dive too far into our Maple Sugaring
Starter Kit until after the Christmas season was over and I had a chance to read through the included guide (which took very little time once I actually finished seasonal hoopla and sat down with it!) So, when I finally okayed the kids to unwrap, read, and be read to, my daughter literally jumped with excitement (this the blurry picture): 

And, without pausing to put on leggings or snow pants, got right to measuring one of the trees in our front yard: 

And, then, she measured another, and another... 

After doing so, we headed back inside and referred back to the guide, where we affirmed that we could put all three of our buckets on one tree. However, for fun, my daughter would like us to tap more than one tree. 

My oldest boy, meanwhile, has been reading up on our next maple sugaring steps on his own. I dare say he'll be an expert on both the how-to's and the why's of maple sugaring in no time.  

For, having enjoyed sap straight from trees on past maple sugaring tours and at a friend's house before, he fancies the idea of drinking sap straight from our own trees. And, now, he knows it is purported to be healthy to do so as well!

Of course, he doesn't want us to drink all the sap, though. Some, he says, must be made into syrup so we can make "sugar on snow" like he did after a recent snowfall, but, this time with our own homemade sugar. 

Yes, indeed, none of us can wait to see something like this right out our own front door:

Tap My Trees Review

With the guide book read, trees picked and supplies on hand, soon the tapping and sugaring can begin! Whoo hoo! 

Learn More 

We are well-pleased with the quality of he guide and supplies contained in the Starter Kit by Tap My Trees and think other families seeking to learn about maple sugaring and to try their own hands at it would be, too. So, if you have maple walnut, or birch trees nearby and want to begin home-based maple sugaring, head on over to Tap My Trees to get started. You'll find all the supplies and information you need there and get free shipping on it all. 

Tap My Trees Review

You may also wish to read what 15 Schoolhouse Review Crew families think of Tap My Trees

Tap My Trees Review

Or, perhaps you'd like to get social with
Tap My Trees at: 

Might this be the year YOUR family begins maple sugaring, too? 

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