Friday, April 8, 2016

Adding Built-In Bookshelves

The space between the stairs and a bathroom in the family room seemed to be a great spot for more shelves.

I have found built-ins to be sometimes  too limiting for me, but this seemed to be a perfect place for floor to ceiling and wall to wall bookshelves.

  Our family room is used as our library and we have had many bookshelves that hold thousands of books.

 The family room is long and rather narrow and the extra bookshelves made the room look smaller, so this seemed a good way to add more storage space and then free up floor space at the same time.

This wall has been rather useless to us even though it looked nice... it had 2 wall lights (the places where the cut-outs are) that were in an awkward spot. We have had a large mirror on this wall or a picture, even a small desk.. and we also tried having bookshelves here, but the lights tended to glare in our eyes, making it hard to see the books. This spot just always ended up being not too useful to us.

Our oldest son agreed to build the shelves for us. What a blessing!

Here he was removing the paneling to access the wiring to change the lighting... I hadn't taken a before picture, so he's holding it for the picture. :) 

The wall is open... he had closed off the wiring from the other light fixtures and will put 2 recessed lights in the ceiling above and in front of the area the bookcase will go. 

 There wasn't any secret treasure inside the wall.... we looked.  :)

The wire hanging down had to be taken down to remove the wall... it is wiring for cameras that another son installed outside.

After this picture, they just hooked it up a bit to get it to stay out of the way until the family room project is done.

Son #1 put the new lights in... you can see one of them in this picture. It sure added a LOT more light to the area.

He started the bookshelf with putting the frame up.

He added shelving and we talked of how to make sure it would be sturdy. He is very good at working with wood and it was a delight to see the work he did. We rarely get to see the work he does since he does it on his job.

 It was  treat to have him here at our house more often and to see the wonderful work. 

He put supports in the middle of each shelf and then added a slim board along the front of each shelf as a finishing touch. He also arched the top of each side so that it would match the built in shelves that are beside the fireplace in the same room.

The bookshelves are 6 feet wide x 8 feet tall and are wall to wall and floor to ceiling. This picture shows them before they are totally finished... there will be more to come.

This will be my resource library... for books on health and nutrition, herbs, cookbooks, and much more.

These shelves allowed me to get rid of several freestanding bookcases in the room and should help to give the room more space. What a blessing.

The family room project will continue in future posts as we make more changes in paint, ceiling and fireplace. I hope you will return to see what these shelves look like all painted with the new paint colors.

Thank you for visiting.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Old Fashioned Toys-Pattern Blocks

If you haven't heard of, or used, pattern blocks, I want to show you what they are and how they are used.

Pattern blocks come in a set with 6 shapes and each shape is a different color. Some sets have variations in the color which is what we have since we have many sets now, and they are all used together.

The shapes can be fitted together to form patterns. These patterns can be simple as little ones make trucks, people or other things with them, using lots of imagination, of course.

More complex designs can also be made... many times just by accident as a child (or adult!) just starts moving the pieces and experimenting. 

There are hundreds of possibilities... probably even more.

It is also possible to buy cards that have colored patterns on the cards and then the child can put the pattern blocks on the cards to reproduce the pattern.

You can also buy books with patterns that are only black and white and then child puts the correct pattern block on the page(without having the color to help them) and reproduces the pattern.

These can be done at a slower pace or as they get faster, they can be timed, to make it more fun.

In these patterns, you can see the optical illusions that are possible... the cubes that seem to stand out.

My kids enjoyed the structured play with these blocks... using the patterns on paper, but they REALLY enjoyed the free creativity with them while they made their own patterns. 

This pattern is a continuation of the pattern above-not the one right above, but the one before... she added to the existing design above and created one that looked even different.

We have taken these pattern blocks outside for playing with the neighbor kids. The neighbor kids go to public school and always seem to wonder about our homeschool. The funny thing is that they love the simple toys like this even though they have many electronic and modern toys to use. 

We have also brought these out when we have had company and it is surprising how many people have never seen these, but enjoy using them.

Sometimes, my kids like to try some building designs.   :)

This looks like a mosaic. There are many ways to use these blocks for learning. Kids can learn about symmetry in design. They can learn to appreciate the art of their siblings. 

I have used these pattern blocks years ago, to design a simple quilt pattern. It was nice to see and play with the possibilities before I started cutting out fabric and sewing it together. No, this isn't the design I used. :)

We bought our first set of pattern blocks about 20 years ago for about $20.00. At the time, we chose to buy the foam blocks because they were quieter and we had a child with special medical issues and needed the quiet. Those were nice (although some of them ended up with teething marks from the toddlers! :)  

 We have also had plastic blocks and wooden ones. The wood ones are, by far, our favorites, so we sold the others and have added to our original set of 100 blocks or so. I have found them at garage sales and I buy them when I can. We now have a large set and can make lots of designs, even when we have several people using them at the same time.   :) 

We first bought these as they were required for our math curriculum manipulatives... the set offered for the curriculum only had a small amount of these blocks, so we decided to buy a larger set. It was hard to pay that much as money was very tight, but we have not been sorry. It was one of those great purchases. Some of you have parents and grandparents who want ideas of what to buy for your children... this is a great one... especially as a family "toy". Smaller sets would be fun, but a larger set that you can add to is even better.

 These red "arms" almost look braided. There are so many possibilities for using these blocks. I hope I have shown you enough to spark your interest in them.

By the way, I am a mom who doesn't really like battery operated toys or electronic toys much at all. I love the kinds of toys that stimulate my children to think, to experiment, to learn... as they play and have fun. That is why I am so in favor of these blocks.

Yes, as my kids get older, they do use computers and cell phones and other electronics, but I am glad we focused on the simple old fashioned toys the most.

We made all of these designs in the last few weeks as we listened to some Science lectures. What a blessing to have our hands busy and to also learn about Creation and the flood and more. It had been quite a long time since we had these out and we all enjoyed our time.

 Thank you for visiting. If you have used pattern blocks, I would love to hear about it. If you haven't, I would love to hear from you also. I hope you have a great week.  :)

Friday, January 1, 2016

Top 10 Gentle Joy Homemaker 2015

The top 10 posts published in 2015 on the Gentle Joy Homemaker blog are listed here.

Feel free to click on the title of each (it is actually a link) and the post will come up for you.

           Number 10

 Garage Sale Series-Hints and Tips


                Number 9

   Small Garden-Part 3-More Beds

                Number 8

   Pulled Chicken on Homemade Buns

        Number 7 

Small Garden-Part 4-Companion Planting 

      Number 6

Small Garden-Part 2-Growing UP 


                  Number 5 

 Small Garden-Part 1-Crop Rotation 

         Number 4

 Yes, I'm Sleep Deprived, So What??? Part 2 

                 Number 3

                Dress Up A Plain Cabinet 

          Number 2

8 Things To Do When Sickness Strikes 

Number 1 for 2015

Trip To The Amish Store 

It's been a challenging year, but it has also been a good year. Thank you for joining me in it. I hope you have a wonderful 2016.  

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Tumbleweed Contessa


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Hot Cocoa Cup Cookies

Every year our family takes some fun food to our "Christmas Crunch" time at church or other times during the year.   You can see some of our other fun foods here.  
Fun Foods We Have Made

This year, I had seen cute little cups made of marshmallows on pinterest, so we experimented and made some.  They were very popular-especially with the little ones. :)

The first step is to make or buy some cookies that will work as a "saucer" for the cups.  I wanted them to be about 3" in diameter and thankfully, I had a cookie cutter that size.

I used the next smaller size cookie cutter to press a design into the edge, although I ended up covering it up with frosting. 

 I wanted to have a scalloped edge of some kind... and this worked.  Plain circles would work fine... or buy some cookies at the store of a similar size. 

Next, spread some chocolate on the top, as shown in the picture. It could be chocolate frosting.... or I used some homemade fudge that didn't set up quite right.  :)

I didn't know what to do about the little marshmallows on the top... I was figuring this out as I went....  I ended up just tearing off little pieces from a big marshmallow and it worked fine. I put 3 little marshmallows into each "cup". 

Next, I used a sharp knife to dig 2 little holes in the side of a regular sized big marshmallow-not a big hole, but enough to allow the broken candy cane handle to go into the marshmallow.

 I had to shop around to find little candy canes... a couple of places had some that were too big, or the arch was too much for these marshmallows...  Finally, we found some that would work.

Just break off the end, so there is a U-shaped piece. Push into the side of the marshmallow. Yes, it can make it a bit oddly-shaped. and the bottom wasn't flat, but it worked.

See how we used the leftover pieces of broken candy cane here....
Easy Edible Doors!

I got tired of doing these one at a time, so started a bit of an assembly line method...

 I put a layer of white frosting on each cookie-saucer, then decorated it and put some matching decoration on the cup.  I did have some decorations - the stars were from some after 4th of July sales, but I did also buy a package of 4 different candy decorations. If you have time and desire to do it, you could use only frosting also, but I was in a hurry.

 I put extra frosting on the bottom of the "cup" before I put it on the saucer... and we learned to use that frosting to make the cup as level as possible.  The bottoms of the "cups" weren't flat due to the candy cane handles.

We had so many comments on these... and the younger kids LOVED them and even used them as play food before they ate them. 

 Are these simple and easy and fast? Well.... no... but they aren't hard either... just a bit time-consuming.  We got a lot faster as we went and as we figured out how to do them.  We made 29 of them, so that took a while, but we were very glad we made them.

   These are great for Christmas or New Year's, but they would also be wonderful for a sledding party or Valentine's Day or a summer garden party.... or a little girl's tea party.  :)   There are so many possibilities with these.

We served them on stands, but they would also be great served in other ways. They can be made all the same... or varied as we did.

By they way, you don't have to be too fussy with these... as my son reminded me, "It won't take long for the kids to eat them.":)

Thank you for visiting my blog today... and I hope you and your family remember to give thanks to God for the wonderful gift of His Son, Jesus, during this season. What a blessing that Jesus came, and lived, died and rose again...defeating death and sin... so that we could have eternal life. That is the best gift ever.