Fun Stuff

Crafts, games, educational activities and other fun stuff for all ages.

My panacea: The Thirty-Second Hug

Improve your mood, strengthen your relationships, and be a happier, more vibrant you, all in 30 seconds a day! How, you ask? Hug it out!

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Behold the power of the thirty-second hug!

Sometimes we just need a hug. Life’s pressures and challenges always seem to add up, weighing on our spirit and body, not to mention our relationships. Humans have countless remedies—exercise, meditation, massage, therapy, and a variety of substances to take us to an altered state. These are all valid and effective, but I present another idea: the thirty second hug.

Who doesn’t love a hug? Humans are programmed to crave physical touch and affection, and hugs are where it’s at! Hugs make us feel secure, loved, and important. They renew our soul and calm our nerves, reminding us that somehow “it’s all going to be okay.” And while normal, two-second embraces are great, holding on for thirty seconds takes the healing power of a hug through the roof.

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Maybe you’re thinking, “Really?…thirty seconds? That’s way too long.” Perhaps you can’t shake the memories of those awkwardly long hugs when some creeper wouldn’t let you go long after your body language clearly said “we’re done now.” Fear not—when it’s with someone special and both huggers know what to expect, it’s amazing.

When was the last time you hugged someone for that long?  When you allow yourself to embrace a loved one for thirty full seconds (or more), there’s no stopping the powerful charge of positive energy that surges through both of you, leaving you feeling calm, happy, and loved. Giving a thirty second hug is like dialysis for the soul.

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There is no better feeling in the world.

How can two people stay connected with so many things to distract, stress, and take time away from their relationship? When times get tough, a thirty-second hug is an incredibly powerful start. Start by trying to commit to three thirty-second hugs per week.  Whether you’re hugging a spouse, partner, family member or friend, you will be amazed at the impact it can have.

But… how can you really allow yourself to enjoy the moment with someone if you are counting to thirty in your head? Don’t worry about that. You can set a timer, or you can just let go when it seems right. Usually Simon and I end up hugging much longer, often over a minute. And while I can’t say we have a superhug every day, I can certainly tell you that when we do, we always think “we need to do this more.”

Just imagine how our world would be if every human being gave and received one thirty-second hug daily, or even weekly. Seriously, though, imagine it! The earth would be such a more loving, open, understanding place.

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Let’s change the world through hugs!

With that being said, I invite you to take part in a HUG-IT-OUT challenge. It’s simple: each day of this month, engage in one thirty-second hug! Let’s change the world little by little, starting with ourselves!

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If you can, hug the same person every day at the same time—make a routine out of it. As you’re hugging, focus on peace, calmness and gratitude, allowing the positive energy to flow between you and your fellow hugger.

If you don’t have a partner, close friend or family member for a daily 30-second-hug, hug-it-out as much as you can with someone else—your dog, your cat, or your friends.

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Ellis and Mac have been cuddlers since the beginning.

Remember to try to have a superhug  EVERY day, and don’t be ashamed to set a reminder on your phone. If you miss a couple of days, don’t worry, just try to get as many hugs in as possible.

At the beginning of the hug-it-out challenge, reflect on your mood and general attitude and afterwards, reflect on how the hugs worked for you.

If you plan on taking part in the challenge, let me know in a comment below. Now go! Find someone to hug! You’ll thank me later!

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What’s the best gift for a child? The coolest books ever.

Sometimes choosing a gift for a child is such a bewildering task. It’s hard to know what their interests are, where they’re at developmentally, and it seems half the toys a child receives are forgotten within a week or two.

As an educator, I’ve always felt that books are the greatest gifts a child can receive. They foster a love for learning, they teach language and bolster vocabulary, and they get parents and children interacting in such an important way. But even with books, sometimes it’s hard to know which to choose.  Look no further! Today I present to you a foolproof series that kids of any age will enjoy for years–and all for less than twenty dollars per book.

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Published by Silver Dolphin Books

When my son Ellis was about nine months old, his aunt and uncle gave him what soon became his favorite book—Sounds of the Wild: Nighttime. In this amazing pop-up adventure, a chorus of wildlife serenades the reader through a nighttime journey starting at dusk in the fields and ending with the early morning sights and sounds of the jungle. The illustrations are breathtaking, the sounds are captivating and realistic, and each spread comes with a beautifully written description of the scene. If that weren’t enough, the back of each page provides fascinating descriptions of the animals and their role in their habitat. This book simply could not be better.

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Text and illustrations by Maurice Pledger, Silver Dolphin Books.

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Our favorite spread. Ellis loves howling along with the wolves! From Sounds of the Wild: Nighttime by Maurice Pledger, Silver Dolphin Books.

As you can imagine, the “nighttime book,” immediately jumped to the #1 spot in our home. Ellis was enthralled. I was obsessed. Within days he was hooting like and owl and perfecting his wolf howl, not to mention drastically increasing his vocabulary to identify everything from bullfrogs and raccoons to tapirs, beetles and peacocks.

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So many educational opportunities to explore, from counting the beetles to describing the colors and position of each part of the scene. From Sounds of the Wild: Nighttime by Maurice Pledger, Silver Dolphin Books.

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One of my favorite parts–the descriptions of each creature. It’s crazy to think that something as commonplace as a chicken and rooster originated from an exotic Malaysian jungle bird! From Sounds of the Wild: Nighttime by Silver Dolphin Books.

It was no secret that I loved this book as much as Ellis did. So as you can imagine, it didn’t take long for me to look to see if there were others like it. Oh boy were there! The Sounds of the Wild series contained ten more adventures for us to explore, all with outstanding reviews online! Yippee!!!

Here’s the list of all the different Sounds of the Wild pop-up books available online:

Sounds of the Wild: Jungle

Sounds of the Wild: Ocean

Sounds of the Wild: Forest

Sounds of the Wild: Desert

Sounds of the Wild: Bugs

Sounds of the Wild: Nighttime

Sounds of the Wild: Birds

Sounds of the Wild: Seashore

Sounds of the Wild: Safari

Sounds of the Wild: Dinosaurs

Sounds of the Wild: Mythical Creatures 

I wanted them all. I NEEDED them ALL. Oops, I mean Ellis wanted them, yeah. I instantly added the entire series to my Amazon wish list and pondered which to buy next. Luckily Christmas was just a few months away, so I endured the painstaking wait for Sounds of the Wild: Bugs and Sounds of the Wild: Forest. I had high expectations, but the new books did not disappoint.  And the best part? Ellis was just as excited about these new books as he was with the original.

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Yay! They finally arrived!

He instantly became a bug enthusiast, and I learned some crazy ass stuff about bugs. Seriously, some of the facts I read sounded like they came straight out of a horror movie. Take the “assassin bug” as an example. This thing stealthily creeps behind a bee before stabbing it with a poker, injecting it with venom that liquefies its insides, which it then slurps out like a smoothie. Or how about the “tarantula hawk wasp?” It stings a stings and paralyzes a massive tarantula, drags it to its nest, and lays its eggs on its back to give the freshly-hatched larvae a fresh, still-living meal. I also learned about a pink praying mantis that disguises itself in orchids, bugs that prey on fish, and ants that eat so much that their abdomens become massively engorged with food to later be enjoyed by the rest of the colony.  Also, who knew dragonflies were carnivorous?

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Check out that assassin bug giving his bee friend a love squeeze!

 

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Winter in the Russian forest. Ellis loves this spread’s sounds so much it was the first time he ever used the sign for “more” to hear it over and over.

To me, these books are pure perfection, and best of all, they’re great for any developmental age. When Ellis “reads” them, we point out the pictures, imitate the sounds, and I describe all the things happening in each illustration. Once he has a little more patience, I will read the beautifully written descriptions of each scene. As he gets even older, we will explore the fascinating facts provided on the back of each spread.  No matter his age or developmental stage, there is no doubt he is internalizing the books’ important message of valuing, respecting and protecting nature

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From Sounds of the Wild: Bugs by Silver Dolphin Books.

Besides being beautiful to the eyes, ears, and mind, these books are actually incredibly durable. I was really hesitant to have my one-year-old son reading them, but after about a year, they still look virtually new. Ellis has walked on them, thrown them, and generally been rather rough with them, and they have held up wonderfully. Now I need to revisit my Amazon wish list to start plotting my next purchase!

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Each illustration is so detailed. The more you look, the more surprises you find. Did you notice the little ladybugs? From Sounds of the Wild: Forest by Silver Dolphin Books.

So if you are looking for a unique gift that a child can enjoy for years, Sounds of the Wild books are the perfect choice.  They are enthralling and educational to children and adults of all ages, and I couldn’t recommend them more!  They are available online and in some bookstores, and prices vary from $12.50 to $18.95.  Best of all, there’s a whole series to collect! I can’t wait to have them all.

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What other educational kids’ books do you recommend?  Share them in the comment box below!

The Easter Beer Hunt!

 

May God give you heaven’s dew

   and earth’s richness—

   an abundance of grain and new wine.

Genesis 28

Easter-Beer-Hunt

Thanks, Easter Bunny! You really know me.

When I was a kid, Easter was probably the biggest holiday in our house.  My family would always get dressed up in our finest spring attire to go to church and then come home for the climax of the holiday—the egg hunt.

 

My family on Easter circa 1988

My family on Easter circa 1988

Talk about nostalgia. I’ll never forget the wonder and excitement of catching a glimpse of bright color in the distance, then running toward it like a crazed animal to snatch that precious egg before anyone else could.  HA! It’s MINE!!! It was my time to be viciously greedy and hoard all the eggs I could get my hands on.  ‘Cause that’s what Easter’s all about, right?

 

It's MINE!!!

It’s MINE!!!

My sister and I took our egg hunts extremely seriously. Before the hunt we’d switch our church shoes for some performance sneakers to crush our competitors.  And while my parents assumed we would some day grow out of this tradition, we only got more competitive with time.  As a teenager I even got in trouble once or twice for playing dirty and trying to body-slam my sister out of the way to insure I came out victorious. What can I say? I like to win.  Oops, I mean, the Lord is risen! Let’s be Christ like!

 

egg hunt cray

Elbow to the face in 3…2…1…

Besides fighting brutally for the win, there was another awesome part to look forward to—finding out what wondrous treasures our parents, er, I mean, the Easter Bunny, had left inside our eggs! We’d excitedly open those bright plastic eggs to sun-melted chocolate candies, pennies and ancient jellybeans, but we had the most fun with the notes and “coupons” our parents would leave for us. “Good for one trip for ice cream.” Hell yeah!!! “Good for an eternity of God’s love.” Ughh… “Come on mom and dad, we already have that!” we’d groan, feeling cheated and robbed.

Then there were the coupons we could redeem to have my dad do his famous Mighty Mouse call “here I come to save the daaaaaay!” or my mom’s demonic witch cackle, which, while not very Easter-like, required a lot of energy and never failed to leave us wide-eyed and clapping for more.  As teenagers the coupons got even better, with things like “good for one free tank of gas” or “one oil change.”  One year when my grandma was visiting, my parents invited her to write notes for the eggs, to which she mischievously inquired, “Can I write shove it?”  They vetoed her first choice but things like “Easter Bunny better run, hunter’s coming with his gun!” still made it into the mix among messages like “He is risen!” and “Jesus loves you!”

 

Four of us ready to battle it out for our Easter eggs.  At age 27, I was the youngest of the group.

Easter 2013: Four of us ready to battle it out for our Easter eggs. At age 27, I was the youngest of the group.

About five years ago, about a week before my family’s Easter celebration (which obviously included an egg hunt), some friends invited me to something truly life changing:

 AN EASTER BEER HUNT!

Luckily this bunny is hopping home, not driving.

Luckily this bunny is hopping home, not driving.

 

 Wait, what? An Easter Beer Hunt? Is this possibly the greatest idea ever? Why, yes. Yes, it is.

The Easter Beer Hunt takes all the things I loved about the egg hunt and made them even better. Now instead of competing for plastic eggs filled with melted candy, pennies and messages of love, I was competing for delicious, cold beers! Not that messages of love aren’t wonderful. But you can’t really drink those.

Ever since that day I have been an enthusiastic advocate for this new tradition.  Now it’s time for you to have one!  Here’s a guide to throwing your own:

drunkbunny

Yo bunny, that’s mine.

 

Here’s how the Easter Beer Hunt works:

  1. Each participant brings a six-pack or more of cold beer, preferably something unique and delicious. No Natty Ice, please.  Maybe some friend with a good job will bring some fancy microbrews and high-class imports!
  2. Once all the beers are gathered, the organizer or “Beer Bunny” counts and hides them throughout the designated area (back yard, certain parts of the house, etc) while the sequestered hunters eagerly warm up for the competition.  Beers can be hidden anywhere from bushes and grass to inside a washer/dryer or even under the couch or in the recycle bin.  Get creative!
  3. Once all the beers have been counted and hidden, the Beer Bunny debriefs the hunters on the rules of the game, (no tripping, punching, clotheslining, etc) making clear which areas of the property are off-limits. At this point each hunter should have a bag or beer case to stash his or her loot.  I prefer a canvas bag to ensure I have a place for as many as I can grab.
  4. Finally, the game commences and mania ensues. The crazed hunters scatter across the yard, snatching every beer they can while laughing and squealing with delight.
  5. Once it seems all the beers have been found, the hunters count theirs to compare with the original total. The game continues until all beers are found, although people are often unsuccessful at finding them all, and the host will likely find random beers in his or her yard months later.
  6. Time to party! Everyone sits back and relaxes, taking inventory of their loot and trading with friends (this is when the serious beer snobs show their true colors). The rest of the afternoon is full of springtime merriment—drinking, talking, and eating (have everyone pitch in for pizza or ask people to bring food to share).

 Beer_Hunter_MillerAd05M

While some people might throw a Beer Hunt on Easter Sunday (before or after the kids’ egg hunt), one can host this kind of party any time in the Easter season. It’s a great in-between-holiday to link St. Pattie’s Day and Easter!  Just be conscious of the dangers of over-glorifying drinking around children, especially tweens and teenagers.

 

What's that I see? Something hidden in the brush!

What’s that I see? Something hidden in the brush!

Reasons why I LOVE the Easter Beer Hunt:

  • It’s a fun way to try out different beers without having to buy a whole pack of them.   Check out the single beer section at your local liquor store!
  • It’s a nostalgic activity that turns adults into kids again.
  • It’s the ultimate way to celebrate the end of lent.
  • It’s a competition in which the prize is BEER.
  • It’s a great excuse to be outside in Spring.
  • It extends the Easter season!

Hooray! Now someone please throw an Easter beer hunt and invite me!  Please remember to drink responsibly and NEVER drive drunk! Seriously.

 

So many varieties to try!

So many varieties to try!

Possible variations:

  • Do a “soda hunt” instead of a beer hunt. Use unique and specialty sodas, flavored mineral waters and stuff like that. Virgil’s, Hansens, Pellegrino, etc.
  • Mark one beer as the special beer, and give whoever finds it a special prize.
  • Hide a few growlers among the other beers to really wow your guests.
  • Invite people to bring other kinds of bottled alcohol to share. Mini bottles would be perfect for an adult Easter basket!
Cool sodas for those who don't drink

Cool sodas for those who don’t drink

 

Some fun facts about beer:

  •  Beer is the world’s most widely consumed alcoholic beverage, and is the third-most popular drink overall, after water and tea. It is thought by some to be the oldest fermented beverage.
  • Some of the earliest Sumerian writings contain references to beer; examples include a prayer to the goddess Ninkasi, known as “The Hymn to Ninkasi”,which served as both a prayer as well as a method of remembering the recipe for beer in a culture with few literate people.

You can make your own beer at home! Check out this website on how to do it:

http://beersmith.com/blog/2009/01/10/how-to-brew-beer-5-steps-for-making-beer-at-home-part-1/

 

Enjoy!  And remember, be safe!  A taxi ride is much cheaper than a DUI.  🙂

A cool bottle of "Lucky Buddha" beer.

A cool bottle of “Lucky Buddha” beer.

The Face Game-let’s get weird!

Are you ready for the simplest, goofiest, most dynamic activity ever? I now proudly present “The Face Game.”

“Every child is born an artist.  The hard part is remaining an artist as we grow up.” -Pablo Picasso

Ahmber says, "Hey, thexy." Drawn by Celeste, Ben and Robbie

Ahmber says, “Hey, thexy.” Drawn by Celeste, Ben and Robbie

As children, we were all little Picassos.  As toddlers we would awkwardly wield jumbo crayons or chewed-up washable markers and express ourselves through drawings, even if our creations weren’t exactly “photorealistic.”  But at some point in our life, we became perfectionists, refusing to engage in activities we couldn’t master immediately.  Once we decide “I am not an artist,” we stop drawing.  We stop dancing, stop singing, or trying new sports.

The face game after two passes.

The face game after two passes.

I must admit, I have definitely been guilty of the “If I’m not immediately good at it, I don’t want to try” attitude.  This fear of failure and imperfection has kept me from taking risks that might have paid off in the end.  I could have mastered an instrument, gotten good at a sport, or enjoyed riding a bike (instead of avoiding it due to my fear of falling).  While I always loved art, animals, and cooking, who knows what I could have achieved if I hadn’t been so afraid to fail?

Mr. Floatabout says, "I can see you, my sweet." Drawn by Celeste, Ben and Robbie

Mr. Floatabout says, “I can see you, my sweet.” Drawn by Celeste, Ben and Robbie

This type of attitude limits human beings in so many ways–both personally and professionally, and it is one of the worst behaviors we can model for younger generations.  As I have grown up I have gotten much better at this, but I still have room to grow.

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We can learn a lot from children.  Once we start taking ourselves less seriously, we can start to appreciate things more and realize how fun and enriching “failure” can be.  Even if our final outcome isn’t total perfection, can’t we learn and have fun in the process?

Now enough with that “I’m not an artist” attitude. When was the last time you sat down to doodle for fun?   Well, grab some paper, a pencil, and some friends, and let’s play THE FACE GAME!  It’s a fun, goofy activity for all ages.

Here are a few reasons why I LOVE the face game and why it’s my go-to activity in many situations.

  • It is not competitive.  In fact, it’s collaborative (a great skill for all to practice).
  • It has absolutely nothing to do with screens or electronic devices.
  • Anyone can play it, no matter how young or old (ok, they have to be able to physically hold a crayon or pencil). I have literally played this with people as young as three and as old as eighty-five.
  • It brings the creative, goofy and bizarre side out of people.
  • It gets people drawing–sometimes for the first time in years.
  • It can be a great vocabulary builder (in any language).
  • It can be made dirty, if you want.  Not that anyone out there has a dirty mind…
  • Everyone ends up smiling and laughing by the end.
  •  It is an amusing yet calming activity that can last one round (about 3-8 minutes) or several rounds.

Here’s how the face game works:

Objective: Create a collaborative series of faces with friends.

Materials: Paper and a writing utensil for each person

Rules: Have fun! Use your imagination. Be open minded about how the faces turn out.

Number of players: Best for groups of two to six, but it can be done with more people (and you can even do it by yourself, if you want! Even without other players, it’s still fun).

Age: All ages, best for ages 3+

How to play:

  1. Each person gets a writing utensil and a piece of paper (you can cut or tear a sheet of paper in half or in quarters).
  2. One of the “artists” announces a part of the face for everyone to draw, let’s say, the eyes.
  3. Everyone draws their interpretation of “eyes.” One eye, three eyes, cat eyes, alien eyes, anything. This is your time to be as simple or detailed as you want.
  4. Once finished with the eyes, everyone passes their paper to the person to the left.
  5. Everyone now draws the nose, then passes to the left.
  6. Players continue drawing and passing, one part at a time. Little by little, the faces develop into quite intriguing characters, some cute, some grotesque. Don’t be surprise if you laugh or gasp in horror at the hideous creatures that you and your demented friends have created. In my opinion, the more bizarre and frightening the faces become, the more amusing they are!
  7. Once the face is mostly complete, each person makes “finishing touches” on the final paper he or she receives.  This is the time to add anything extra to the face such as a neck, body, clothes, background, etc.
  8.  Finally, give your person a name and create a thought bubble or quote to allow it to express itself.  The quote tends to be the most difficult part, but remember, don’t take it too seriously.  When finished, pass to the left.
  9. Finally, each person introduces the one-of-a-kind character the group to the amusement of the other players.
  10. Now everyone flips the drawings over or gets some more paper to continue with another round!
Step nine: Name and quote. It's easy to get stuck on the quote. Don't think too hard!

Step nine: Name and quote. It’s easy to get stuck on the quote. Don’t think too hard!

You can divide the parts of the face however you like, but these are the categories I usually use:

  • Eyes
  • Nose
  • Mouth
  • Face shape
  • Ears (plus optional earrings)
  • Hair
  • Eyebrows and facial hair
  • Finishing touches,
  • Name, and thought bubble or quote.

Here’s an example of how the faces develop.  It’s crazy to see how much they can change from one step to another!

Round one: Eyes.

Round one: Eyes.

Round two: Nose

Round two: Nose

Round three: Mouth

Round three: Mouth

Round four: Face Shape

Round four: Face Shape

Round five: Ears (I sort of drew hair on one... oops!)

Round five: Ears (I sort of drew hair on one… oops!)

Round six: Hair. Steps five and six can really change the personality of the face!

Round six: Hair. Steps five and six can really change the personality of the face!

Step seven: Eyebrows and optional facial hair

Step seven: Eyebrows and optional facial hair

Step eight: "Finishing touches." Neck, body, etc.

Step eight: “Finishing touches.” Neck, body, etc.

Step nine: Name and quote. It's easy to get stuck on the quote. Don't think too hard!

Step nine: Name and quote. It’s easy to get stuck on the quote. Don’t think too hard!

Some more thoughts and variations:

  • Try drawing the parts of the face in a different order.  Why not start with the ears, nose, or face shape?
  • It’s fun if people have different colored pens/markers/crayons because you can look back and know who did what part of each face.
  • Make this into “the body game” and do the same thing, but with feet, legs, torso, arms, head, and face.

Ready for more fun? Save the drawings to use as a jumping off point for another creative activity like these:

  • Have a child look at a drawing and ask him or her to describe it in detail.  Encourage the use of vivid adjectives and nouns to increase vocabulary.  This is a great foreign-language activity as well.
  • Use one or more drawings as inspiration for an imaginative short story.  What’s the back story on these creatures? Are the drawings friends? Siblings? A couple? What are their personalities like? How did they meet? Often with just a few drawings one can make up some pretty fun and amusing stories, which can be short or long.
  • In pairs, have one person look at a drawing and describe it to another person who can not see the original.  Person #2 draws another picture based on the description from person #1. In the end, laugh about how funny the faces look.  This can help kids to focus on listening intently and on being thorough.

The possibilities are endless! This simple, awesome “game” has been my go-to activity when I need something fun and easily adaptable for different situations.  The hundreds of characters created over the years have brought me many laughs, and no two faces have ever been alike.  I hope you will give this activity a try. 🙂

Remember to keep taking risks and to stop taking yourself so seriously! Oh, and embrace your weird side!

Jason Mitchell says, "I want to go to there!" Drawn by Celeste, Ben and Robbie

Jason Mitchell says, “I want to go to there!” Drawn by Celeste, Ben and Robbie

Ahmber says, "Hey, thexy." Drawn by Celeste, Ben and Robbie

Ahmber says, “Hey, thexy.” Drawn by Celeste, Ben and Robbie

Don’t forget to comment, like, share and subscribe!

Funky, festive, free: Paint Swatch Valentine’s Day Hearts

It’s all about love.  That’s my mom’s mantra in life.  And I think she’s onto something.

A whimsical wall dotted with festive paint swatch hearts.

A whimsical wall dotted with festive paint swatch hearts.

Some people say “Ugh, Valentine’s Day…” “It is just a commercial holiday.” or “What about the single people?”

Since when does love only apply to romance?  In Mexico, Valentines Day is often called el Día de Amor y Amistad, or the Day of Love and Friendship.  To me, that’s what it’s all about.

Even if you don’t have a “valentine” this year, never forget that you are loved and appreciated.  And maybe even take this day (and every day) to express love to those around you.

I have wonderful childhood memories of Valentines Day.  I remember eagerly running into the dining room to find a gorgeous and festive Valentines Day meal, full of fun and surprises.  Multicolored conversation hearts were perfectly scattered across a freshly pressed red tablecloth, and each place setting came complete with a personalized name tag and a Valentine’s Day card.  Everywhere you looked there was something to be appreciated, from a simple but beautiful flower arrangement to a small gift for each of us.  Sometimes we celebrated at breakfast, sometimes at lunch, but it was always delicious, nutritious, and beautiful.  Red salsa over chicken tacos, a pink strawberry smoothie with a whimsical garnish… my mom thought of every detail and truly filled our world with wonder.

My parents never let my sister and I forget how much they loved us, and February 14th was no exception.  And you know what? It feels really good to be told that you are loved unconditionally.  “I love, like, and appreciate you” was something we heard a lot. Those simple words have had a powerful impact on us throughout our lives.
Now as an adult, I strive to fill my house (and life) with love.  And part of that means taking advantage of this fun and festive holiday to liven up the bare walls that just weeks ago were covered with Christmas snowflakes.
Snowflakes left over from Christmas.

Snowflakes left over from Christmas.

Here’s the thing.  I love holiday decorations, but I am too cheap to invest much money into them.  My remedy? I turn to the cheapest option–paper.  Paper is a great way to decorate for any holiday without spending more than a dollar or two.  I made crow and pumpkin cutouts for Halloween, delicate white snowflakes for Christmas, and now it’s time to spruce up the house for Valentines Day!

When searching for Valentines Day crafts, I came across this cool blog post on using paint swatches and a heart punch to make cute cutouts. This blogger turns hers into amazing art pieces.  Check it out!
Inspired by the idea, I headed over to Ace Hardware to pick up a ton of FREE swatches in several colors.  Who says Valentines Day needs to be all about pinks and reds?
Assorted paint swatches as a craft inspiration.

Assorted paint swatches as a craft inspiration.

Too cheap to buy a heart punch and too impatient to cut out tiny hearts by hand, my husband Simon and I cut outside the lines.  What came next was a fun and quirky collection of hearts, many of which had an ombre effect due to the different paint colors.  Some had the traditional rounded heart shape, and some we cut into a geometric “robot heart.”  I actually love the boxy hearts, as they are easier to cut out and have a modern, funky look.  And you can fold them in half, make a few cuts, and voilà.

We used some hearts as a stencil, and others we cut freehand.  The great thing is that the hearts can be imperfect, and you can always keep trimming to even things out.
Boxy "robotic" hearts.  I folded some of these over to make them symmetrical.

Boxy “robotic” hearts. I folded some of these over to make them symmetrical.

Curvy free-form hearts.

Curvy free-form hearts.

I recommend letting loose and cutting a variety of shapes and sizes.  When choosing paint colors, think of what background you might use, if you plan to adhere them to something later.  You can stick with a specific color palette or just do the whole rainbow like us.
A fun and funky assortment of hearts.

A fun and funky assortment of hearts.

To make the hearts more meaningful, we flipped them over and wrote or drew something on the back of each.  Goofy, sappy, sincere, fun–each heart is unique.  We made sure to date them, because these sturdy little hearts will last for years.  Each year the collection will grow, until we have an army of hearts–or until the people at the hardware shop cut us off from the paint sample sheets.
Those same hearts flipped over to reveal notes and doodles.

Those same hearts flipped over to reveal notes and doodles.

Now what to do with these happy, colorful hearts? You can tape them up on the wall, string them together to make a banner, glue them to a blank card to make a handmade valentine, or even just scatter them across your festive table and have a fun activity of flipping each over to reveal the messages of love.  Get creative!  In the blog post I mentioned before, the blogger used adhesive foam pieces to stick her hearts to a white canvas.  Those adhesive pieces add dimension, making it look even better.
Paint swatch hearts.  Fun, festive, funky and FREE!

Paint swatch hearts. Fun, festive, funky and FREE!

This craft is a great activity for kids.  In addition to being free, fun and calming, it is great to develop fine motor skills and help children reflect on love and friendship.  They could even make their own unique valentines for their classmates.  Stick some legs and arms on them and you’ve got some love monsters!
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Can you think of any other ideas of how to use these hearts? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below!

Don’t forget to share the love this Valentine’s Day and EVERY day! You never know what impact you might have on someone.  Remember, “IT’S ALL ABOUT LOVE!”

To end, I’d like to quote the immortal words of the one and only RuPaul.

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Some other fun stuff:

While you’re doing this craft, get a chuckle out of the ridiculous names of the paint colors.  Some of my favorites are Vicky’s Vanity, Ruth’s Best, Temptation and Pillow Talk.  I think I am going to submit “Chafed” and “My Overgrowth” as ideas for the next color updates.

All of the following Spanish expressions are used to mean “sweetheart, honey, baby, etc.”  Try them out on a stranger today! Just say, “Hola ____.  ¿Cómo estás?”

-mi corazón (my heart)
-mi vida (my life)
-mi alma (my soul)
-mi cariño (my affection)
-mi cielo (my sky/heaven)
-mi rey, mi reina (my king, my queen)
-mi amor, mi amorcito (my love)