How to Turn a Composition Notebook into a Personalized Journal

School supply sales are starting and among the items usually on discount are the composition notebooks. These normally sell for around $.99 but you should be able to find them for $.50 or less during school sales season. With a few simple items, you can take a plain covered composition notebook and turn them into a personalized gift for someone–or just a special notebook for the kids for school. You can see one of them that I made in the picture above. I was so excited to be able to use this type of paper as it was a perfect match for one of my coffee mugs so I now have a journal to jot down ideas while relaxing with a cup of tea! You can always use the notebooks with other items, such as a mug, to make a super cute gift basket set.

Composition Notebook
Scrapbook Paper
Glue Stick

As I mentioned, the composition notebooks cost around $.99 at regular price at stores such as Target. You’ll find them in the office supplies aisle and they look like the picture above. What’s nice about them is that they tend to have a nice thick cover.

When it comes to the scrapbook paper, you can find them in sets, sheets or even a giant book with several patterns.

Now, if you aren’t much of a scrapbooker and/or only plan to make a few notebooks, I recommend that you check out your local craft store for single sheets. At the time when we made ours, I found a bunch of single sheets on sale for $.25 and others for around $.69. Don’t forget to check for any Craft Store Coupons before you shop!

As far as ribbon goes, you’ll only need as much as the length of the cover if you want to give the notebook a split image look using two different sheets of scrapbook paper. (Will talk more about this in a minute…) You should be able to find ribbon on clearance/discount–don’t forget to check the scraps bins at craft stores.

To personalize the book even more, I recommend finding some stickers. You can find sheets like this one at Target for around $.99 a sheet. Dollar stores typically sell varieties of stickers, too.


1) The first thing you’ll need to do is pick out a design/theme that you want to make. You’ll need to pick up corresponding sheets of scrapbook paper, stickers and ribbon.

2) You’ll then need to cut your scrapbook sheets to fit the notebook. For a lot of mine, I put the sheet on the back cover and wrapped it around. Some fit perfectly halfway down the front, others I had to cut to fit halfway. Having it only wrap halfway around the front will allow you to use another sheet to split the front cover image.  (You can also use a separate sheet for the front and back and then glue a ribbon around the top to help secure them more. Either way, you’ll need to trim off some of the paper as it will probably be taller than the notebook.)

3) Next cut your second sheet to cover the other half of the front cover. You’ll add ribbon to cover where the sheets meet.

4) Once you have everything cut, you’ll use the glue stick to glue on the sheets, starting with the back cover and wrapping around the front. After that is on, add your second sheet and then glue the ribbon down the middle to cover where the sheets meet.

5) All that’s left is for you to personalize it for the person you are making the gift–or to let the kids go to work making their own creation.

Here are several pictures of some that we’ve made. The steps above should make more sense once you see them:

This is one my son made. He loves trucks so he was excited when we found a truck-patterned paper and some truck stickers. I added some letter stickers to personalize with his name. You can see what I mean by the split-image cover on this one. We used a truck scrapbook sheet and a red/white striped one. My son picked that one out because it reminded him of popcorn. :)

This is one my daughter made. We did this one differently by cutting a different sheet to fit the front and back. Instead of wrapping the ribbon down the middle, I put it across the top to help the sheets hold together better on the notebook.

This is the backside to my daughter’s notebook. She had a blast adding all the stickers!

This is one I made for one of my friends that lives by the beach….

..and this is the back cover to it. As you can see the backside is all one sheet that wrapped halfway around the front. (see above)

This is one I made for myself. I did another split paper image in the front with a ribbon divider. And….

…this is what the back looks like.

This was the notebook that they made in the class I attended where I learned about these.

And this is another one from the class. Instead of plain ribbon, they used ones with a circle pattern. As you can see from this one, the paper is divided halfway down the middle horizontally.  Yet another way you can make them.

These are fairly easy to make and you can turn it into a fun activity to do with the kids. It’s a great way to get them excited about back-to-school by creating a notebook that’s just for them. I’ve been making a lot of these as I plan on giving one to each member of my family as a holiday gift. If you watch for sales and use coupons, these really can be a nice inexpensive gift–something unique for people such as a bride, mother-to-be, etc.

Hope you and your family have fun making these, too!

Simple Kid’s Craft: Firefly Tealight Jars

I took the kids to Storytime at our library yesterday and they had a Firefly theme for the day. They also made a Firefly Tealight Jar. The kids thought they were pretty cool so I thought I’d share this simple craft that you might be able to do on a rainy day with the kids.

You’ll need: (You should be able to find all these things at your local dollar store.)
Plastic Jar with lid
Piece of Tin Foil
Tealight – The flickering, flame-less, battery-operated kind like these

You simple cut a piece of tin foil that’s big enough to wrap around the inside of the container. Take a pencil (or something that has a sharp point, but is still safe for the kids to use) and poke small holes into the tin foil. Have them go slow so they don’t rip the tin foil.

Place the tin foil inside the jar so that it wraps around the inside. Turn on your tealight and place it in the middle of the jar.

Put the lid back on and then find a dark spot in the house. The flickering tealight creates what looks like fireflies inside the jar:

We let the kids turn these on when they went to bed so they could fall asleep to the light of fireflies–but we shut them off as soon as they fell asleep. Never leave them on unattended just to be safe.

Want to turn it into a firefly themed day? Here are a few books that you can see if your library has:

The Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle.

Amy’s Light (A Sharing Nature With Children Book) by Robert Nutt

Fireflies for Nathan by Shulamith Levey Oppenheim

Hope you have fun making these with your kids if you try it!

Recycle/Reuse: CD Cases

One of the things a lot of us probably have lying around are CD Cases. We’ve put most of our music on some iPod type gadget or have the CDs in a case that holds several CDs at once.

This is a simple project that you can do to turn a CD case into a cute little photo frame. I thought this might be an idea for the kids to do for a Mother’s Day gift for a Mom/Grandma. All you need is a CD case, a photo and some crafty type items, such as beads, sequins, stickers, pom poms, ribbon, foam sheets, glittery paper, etc.

You can see the picture above of two that my sister and niece made together.

And here’s how they look from an angle, set-up as a photo frame:

They simply taped/glued the edges of a photo inside and put in a backing of a foam sheet or glittery paper that looked like this:

Next, they designed the outsides. The orange one is kept real simple with pieces of leftover foam sheet, glued on sequins/bead and silver ribbon that was curled.

On the other one, the picture background is a shiny piece of glittery paper. There are sequins/stickers around the photo. Ribbon is added to the top edge of the case and the outer edges are cut up pieces of colored straws and pom poms in each corner.

I love how simple this project is. I’m going to find some cute photos and materials and have my hubby sit down with the kids and design me some for a gift. The kids will love the time with Daddy and have fun making them, too. I’ll probably do the same for him for Father’s Day so he can have one for his desk at work.

Another idea is to decorate the inside of the cases, too. You might be able to cut out a circular piece of posterboard, tape it inside and have the kids write a special message like, “You fill my heart with music. Happy Mother’s Day!”

Here are a few places you might be able to sign-up for as a new Customer to get some free photos:

~Kodak Gallery

Hoping you have fun if you end up making them! A special thank you to my sister for the idea and for letting me use her examples in my posting!

Recycle/Reuse: Juice Boxes

Every so often, I will order the Tropicana Juice Boxes from Market Day for my kids. They love them and go through them pretty fast and I like that Tropicana advertises 2 servings of fruit per carton. I also like supporting our school with the sale.

The last time we bought them, I decided I was going to find a new use for the containers, rather than just recycling them. I had also kept an Earthbound Farm baby spinach container at the same time. I happened to put the juice box inside it to wash later and then I thought what a perfect little garden kit it might make for the kids. Totally one of those right place at the right time ideas.

The great things about seeds is that you can grow them in practically anything that won’t emit toxic chemicals. I have more seed starters coming this week but here’s how we made the juice box set. You can use any juice box containers that you may have.

The first thing you need to do is thoroughly clean out your containers. Once they are dry, cut off the tops so they fit inside your Earthbound Farm container, or other salad container. Don’t forget to cut a couple holes in the bottom of the juice boxes so that the water can drain. The great thing about the Earthbound Farm (and other salad containers) is that parts of the bottom are raised. This helps in keeping your juice boxes from sitting in water.

After your juice boxes are clean and dry, you can fill them with dirt: (I recommend an Organic Potting Mix, if you can find it.)

You don’t need to fill them to the top as seeds don’t need that much dirt to grow. Once the dirt has been added, drop a seed in the middle, cover it with dirt and then water it. You don’t want to drown the seed but add just enough water to keep it moist. Don’t forget to label your containers if you are using more than one type of seed. Initially, we used sticks for the labels but when I had the container shut, mold started to grow on them so I took them out. So just be careful if you put in sticks with the lid closed. I ended up just using a Sharpie marker on the outside. This is what they looked like when we were done:

I kept the lid on in the beginning for just a little bit so the moisture could build up a little. I’m sure you’d be fine without the lid, though. You just need to be careful not to leave the lid on too long or the containers will get too moist inside. And here are the seeds several weeks later:

Our parsley and chives are doing well. The lavender hasn’t sprouted just yet. I could probably keep the seeds in these containers for awhile but eventually we are going to transfer them to an herb bowl. (more to come on that this week along with several other seed starter ideas!) As you can see, six Tropicana containers fit perfectly inside the clamshell container.

This is just one way to re-use juice boxes. It’s a fun activity to do with the kids and you’ll save money on fresh herbs (or whatever you decide to grow!) Keep your eyes open for deals on Organic seed packets. Our Menards stores often have them 40% Off the packet price.

What other ways have you found to re-use juice boxes?

Free Family Fun: Wildlife Webcams

Photo Credit: Snipping of Ongoing Decorah Eagles Webcam

Over the last two years, my kids and I have enjoyed several hours of free entertainment through watching Wildlife Webcams. Our favorite one to watch are the Decorah Eagles that you can see on UStream. Three Eagle eggs just recently hatched (missed them all this year!) and the kids can watch the little eaglets. Don’t they look so fuzzy right now?

Another webcam is of a Hummingbird Nest Cam. It’s interesting to watch Phoebe feeding the little hummingbirds from time to time.

You can also sometimes see Winter the Dolphin on her webcam. (This is the one that inspired the movie Dolphin Tale)

There are so many out there. You can check out UStream, YouTube, etc to find lots more.

I thought I’d share in case you were looking for something to do on a rainy day or over a weekend when money’s tight.

Have you found any fun wildlife or animal webcams that your family has enjoyed watching?

UPDATE: Here are a few more my readers have recommended. I’ll keep adding them as they are shared.

National Zoo (you may need to install a plug-in for this one)
Wild Maine Black Bear Den
University of Nebraska’s Egg Cam
Oceanside California Barn Owls on Ustream
Elephant Sanctuary in Tennesee
Sea World Shamu Cam

Fun Easter Craft Ideas

My daughter and I were waiting to pick my son up from school and she saw some of the kids walking out with these Easter Bunny egg holders made from a milk jug. She started exclaiming excitedly that we HAD to make them. I normally buy Oberweis Milk in the glass jars so it took some time to get a couple milk jugs from my neighbor.

What I liked about how they made them is that they didn’t waste the top of the lid that was cut-off. They cut circles out of the plastic and used it for the eyes. Fits in perfect with the “Use It, Don’t Waste It Challenge!” The ears are made out of construction paper. I opted to use white for the middles so they could use markers to make them any color they wanted–and it added more time to the project! The nose is just an upside down heart made out of construction paper that we glued on. The mouth and whiskers are just drawn on with a black Sharpie. (Don’t forget to add eye brows and eye lashes with the marker, too!) I chose to staple the ears and eyes on so they wouldn’t keep falling off. Overall, these are easy to make. I can even remember having made something similar as a kid, so it was fun to pass down the fun project to another generation. Just make sure your cuts on the top are even so the kids don’t get scratched. And then be prepared to have to do hundreds of egg hunts when they are done! :)

We made these Scuba Diver Eggs at our local library. The kids just dyed the eggs and the volunteer helped transform it. The face is just a water bottle lid. “Scuba gear” is a small hair rubber band and part of a straw. The feet are just a piece of posterboard. Everything was glued on with a glue gun.

This one is just a piece of clean pizza cardboard that we cut into a shape of an egg and glued on crumbled tissue paper. You could cut it from a box, etc. Use a hole-punch towards the top and add a piece of yarn to hang it. Or glue a sheet of paper on the back and turn it into an Easter card for someone special like a grandparent, etc.

We made these at the library, too. You just wet tissue paper squares on a piece of white paper. Once they are dried they will look like this…..

The darker colored tissue paper seems to work best. Hang them up as decorations or turn them into a card.

If crafts aren’t your thing, check your stores for these Growing Pet egg hatchers. My husband treated the kids to these. I think they cost around $2-3 for the two of them. (Jewel has them 2/$3 this week.) They are pretty big eggs that you put in water. As the water soaks in, the eggs start to crack and something hatches. (They have various ones. We ended up with a chicken and lizard.) It takes several days and my kids had a blast watching them slowly hatch.

Fave Crafts has a Free Easter Egg Dyeing eBook right now if you are looking for new ideas. They have a few things listed on how to dye them naturally, too.

There are so many wonderful craft ideas out there. Just do a Google search or check Pinterest. Hope you have fun making some Easter crafts, too!

How to Make Frog Pizza

Earlier in the week, I had my husband stop by Costco to pick up a few things. He came home with what was on the list and this gigantic cheese bread to which I said, “What’s that for?” He said, “I have no idea but it looked good.” LOL. OK, so this may or may not be the reason why I do the majority of our grocery shopping.

The next day after school my son excitedly said, “Mommy, we played this pizza game where you put frogs on top. But please don’t make that for supper because that would just be gross.” Of course, immediately I start thinking how I can make frog pizza. The only thing I had on hand that was green was spinach but I figured it could somehow be configured into a frog. I ripped some spinach leaves in half for the legs and used one bigger leaf for the body. And of course one of the main features of a frog is their eyes.

So I balled up some shredded mozzarella and topped each with a slice of black olive. And presto, we have frogs on a “pizza.” (which was really just cheese bread.) Here’s what it ended up looking like:

I just put them in the oven at 425 degrees just long enough to heat everything up. Midway through, I had to re-apply an eyeball as it slid off. So make sure that your “eyes” are rounded, yet still flat enough to stay on. For my husband’s, I hid some pepperoni under the sauce and added more cheese. It kind of created a hidden frog so it turned out OK. His looked like this:

The kids loved these and going forward, I might make them on English Muffins for a quick lunch or on some real homemade dough for a true pizza–one that’s a little healthier than the cheese bread! I’m thinking that I’ll have to cook the dough first and then put on the toppings and heat them up, as I fear that the spinach will wilt too much if subjected to too much heat.

Of course, once your stomach settles, you’ll have to hop around because you now have a frog stuck in your belly. :)

Just thought I’d share our silliness in case you were looking for a fun dinner/lunch with the kids. If you are looking for a book to pair with your dinner, you can try Frog in the Kitchen Sink. In the middle of the book are rolling eyes and my kids have always loved this one. You might be able to see if your library has it.