6th Annual Handmade Valentine Swap for Western MA Families

Hilltown Families 6th Annual
Community Handmade Valentine Swap

Hilltown Families 6th Annual Community Handmade Valentine Swap! Free to sign up and open to all. Deadline to sign up: Jan 31st. Join us!

It’s that time of the year again! For the past six years Hilltown Families has coordinated a community Handmade Valentine Swap — and we’re doing it again! Making handmade valentines is a great way to push against the commercialization of yet another holiday, while being creative with your family and friends. Sign up below!  It’s free and open to all families in western Massachusetts!

A handmade valentine swap gives local families an opportunity to be creative together while connecting with other families in Western Massachusetts.  Through the swap, participating families mail out handmade valentines to ten assigned addresses, and in return, they receive handmade valentines from ten other participating families.  The cards can be handmade by any combination of child and adult, so if you’re kids aren’t completely up to the task, or if an adult would like to make their own design, there’s flexibility.  All are welcomed!

Deadline to sign up (below) is Friday, January 31st. On Saturday (02/01/14), you will be emailed your assigned names/address of participants to mail your handmade valentines to.  Everyone is kindly requested to mail your valentines off by Feb. 7th.

Here are a few samples of valentines swapped in years past to stir your creative juices:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If interested in participating, the information below must be filled out and submitted by Friday, January 31st.  If you have multiple children and would like each one to receive their own list of families to swap with, please register each person separately. Click here to sign up!

New Year’s Resolution… To Enjoy Life!

New Year Memory Bank

This New Year, rather than making a resolution to change something, why not make a commitment to find deeper appreciation for wonderful moments and shared time with friends and family? Throughout the year, write little notes of appreciation and deposit them into a memory bank to open up next year on New Year’s Day.

Along with the first of the year comes the annual onslaught of New Year’s resolutions – pledges to ourselves to be more organized, read to our children more often, spend more time outside, and eat more healthy food. In theory, the resolutions are meant to help us change ourselves for the better and become more satisfied with our lives. However, resolutions can also be challenging, especially for families. Often, we set our sights on doing more, more, more – which is challenging and may not always be realistic.

Instead of requiring ourselves to change the way that we live every time the calendar changes, perhaps we can make a conscious effort to shift our focus and perspective instead. This year, don’t resolve to make changes – choose only one thing to have more of. As a family, challenge yourselves to enjoy more. Rather than resolving to take a family walk twice a week and becoming frustrated when you aren’t able to, resolve to enjoy and savor the family walks that you do get to take, no matter how often they are. Instead of putting lots of effort on creating changes, spend more time enjoying the things that you wish that you could do more often… Read the rest of this entry »

DIY Cinnamon Ornaments for the Holidays

Cinnamon Ornaments. A Simple Craft for the Holiday

During a time of year when mass produced, environmentally unfriendly, and personality-free items are consumed more than ever, it’s incredibly refreshing to keep things not only handmade but simple! This becomes especially important once kids are involved, due to the unique combination of immense creativity and short attention span that the youngest of us often have.

Homemade apple cinnamon ornaments make a great craft for families with kids, and are particularly fun for young children – they’re simple to make, easy to personalize, don’t involve glitter or glue, and the dough is harmless if it’s accidentally ingested. An added bonus of this DIY project is that the ornaments smell fantastic, and will continue to add cinnamon-y goodness to your home during the holidays for years to come… Read the rest of this entry »

5th Annual Handmade Valentine Swap for Western MA Families

Hilltown Families 5th Annual
Community Handmade Valentine Swap

Hilltown Families 5th Annual Community Handmade Valentine Swap! Free to sign up and open to all. Deadline to sign up: Jan 31st.

It’s that time of the year again! For the past several years Hilltown Families has coordinated a community Handmade Valentine Swap — and we’re doing it again! Sign up below!  It’s free and open to all families!

A handmade Valentine swap gives local families an opportunity to be creative together while connecting with other families in Western Massachusetts.  Through the swap, participating families mail out handmade Valentines to ten assigned addresses, and in return, they receive handmade Valentines from ten other participating families.  The cards can be handmade by any combination of child and adult, so if you’re kids aren’t completely up to the task, or if an adult would like to make their own design, there’s flexibility.  All are welcomed!

Deadline to sign up (below) is Thursday, January 31st. On Friday (02/01/13)  you will be emailed your assigned names/address of participants to mail your handmade Valentines to.  Everyone is kindly requested to mail your Valentines off by Feb. 7th.

Here are a few samples of Valentines swapped in years past to stir your creative juices.  Click on the thumbnail image to see a larger image:

If interested in participating, the following information must be filled out and submitted by Thursday, January 31st.  If you have multiple children and would like each one to receive their own list of families to swap with, please register each person separately.

SIGN UP:












Be sure to click on the submit button above!  You should receive a personal confirmation within 24 hours.  If you do not receive a confirmation within 24 hours, email us at hilltownfamilies@gmail.com to inquire.

Get Crafty with the Kids & Spread Holiday Cheer in Your Community

Homemade for the Holidays
Spreading Seasonal Cheer in Your Community

Looking for a creative way to participate in community service this holiday season? Does your family make holiday decorations together? Maybe you make garlands of popcorn & cranberries, pomanders (clove studded oranges), salt dough ornaments, mini gingerbread houses out of graham cracker, or decorate your home with paper snowflakes?

Why not make a few extra this holiday season and then take them to your nearest nursing home, children’s hospital or food pantry to add some holiday cheer there too? Get the kids thinking about how to share the joy that happens at home out into their community.

Want to start a new tradition in your home? Here are some links to get you started:

[Photo credit: (ccl) Crazy House Capers]

DIY: Repurposed Planters for Paperwhites For Giving

DIY Pictorial: Yarn Wrapped Tin Can Planters

By Amber Ladley

When Hilltown Families asked Knack: The Art of Clever Reuse to come up with a creative (and decorative) way to help families plant Paperwhite bulbs donated by Hadley Garden Center at the first ever Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night, we put our clever minds to work. Our goal was to have an activity that was easy enough for people of all ages, and messy wasn’t an option. Families would be traveling with their Community Passports to help out at a total of five volunteer stations, so we wanted to keep things simple yet creative. Our solution was yarn wrapped tin can planters… and it turned out to be quite a success!

Yarn wrapping tin cans is the perfect small group activity. After decorating the cans, families filled them with one-third gravel, set a Narcissus papyraceus bulb on top, and attached an eco-friendly gift tag & care instructions. Families got to take home lovely decorated tin can planters to donate to a community center or give to a person of their choice. Everyone really loved the activity and Macey and I enjoyed facilitating the Winter Blossom Station, answering questions and seeing all of the colorfully wrapped cans that went home with participating families.

If you don’t have any bulbs to plant, you could also make cans to be used as an organizer for the…kitchen (chopsticks)…office (pens, pencils)…kids’ creative space (crayons, markers)…craft space (buttons, corks, glue sticks, paint chips)….share any other thoughts or comments you may have below. Also, you don’t have to stick with yarn– try fabric scraps, twine, or ribbon!

DIY Tutorial: Yarn Wrapped Tin Cans

Here are the instructions, so you can do-it-yourself (DIY) or with your friends, family, or classroom. Enjoy!

Materials Needed

  • Clean & empty tin can*
  • Yarn (great project for leftovers!)
  • Double-sided tape
  • Scissors
  • Gift tags (optional)

*Be careful when handling can, edges may be sharp. It is helpful to grind down the inside rim with a grinding stone or dremel, or you can pinch the rim with needle-nose pliers, or cover it with duct tape. Adults should handle removing sharp edges before giving the can to a small child. Older children should be reminded not to stick their hand in the can to prevent getting cut.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amber Ladley – Amber enjoys creating everything from food, to crafts, to websites. She is a mom of two young boys, Jack and William, who are currently being homeschooled by her husband, Tim. Amber and her friend, Macey, are co-founders of Knack: The Art of Clever Reuse, a new socially responsible for-profit business on a mission to open a creative reuse center for the Pioneer Valley.

4th Annual Handmade Valentine Swap for Western MA Families

Hilltown Families 4th Annual
Handmade Valentine Swap

Handmade Valentine Card Swap

Hilltown Families 4th Annual Handmade Valentine Swap. Deadline to sign up: January 30th. Open to all Western MA families.

It’s that time of the year again! For the past several years Hilltown Families has coordinated a community Handmade Valentine Swap — and we’re doing it again! Sign up below!  It’s free and open to all families!

A handmade Valentine swap gives local families an opportunity to be creative together while connecting with other families in Western Massachusetts.  Through the swap, participating families mail out handmade Valentines to ten assigned addresses, and in return, they receive cards from ten other participating families.  The cards can be handmade by any combination of child and adult, so if you’re kids aren’t completely up to the task, or if an adult would like to make their own design, there’s flexibility.

Deadline to sign up (below) is Monday, January 30th. On Tuesday (01/31/12)  you will be emailed your assigned names/address of participants to mail your handmade Valentines to.  Everyone is kindly requested to mail your Valentines off by Feb. 7th.

Here are a few samples of Valentines swapped in years past to stir your creative juices.  Click on the thumbnail image to see a larger one:

If interested in participating, the following information must be filled out and submitted by Monday, January 30th.  If you have multiple children and would like each one to receive their own list of families to swap with, please make a note in the comment field.










Swedish Paper Hearts For Valentine’s Day

Hilltown Families Valentine Social: A Look Back

(c) Hilltown Families - Making Swedish Paper Hearts

Weaving Swedish Paper Hearts (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

With classroom rosters in hand, several hilltown families set to work on making Valentines during a Hilltown Families Valentine Making Social on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2007. Families from Ashfield, Chesterfield, Cummington, Plainfield, and West Chesterfield gathered together with red and pink construction paper, glitter glue, white doilies and an assortment of stickers to set forth on the venture of making Valentines for friends, family and classmates.

Making 20 Valentines can seem daunting. Making nearly 50 seems unreasonable. But when you have two children in school, that’s what the tally can add up to. Never mind having more than two children attending the same school! Some might say, “That’s what Hallmark’s for,” but we’re talking about hilltown families – motivated, creative and expressive folks who take on the task of Valentines with excitement and enthusiasm, letting the glitter fly!

Preceding the cutting, glueing and glittering, children were shown a five-minute video which demonstrated how construction paper was made. Narrated by Fred Rogers, children took a video tour through a construction paper factory, illustrating how red construction paper is made – from log to shrink wrapped product. This video tour can be found as an extra feature on the DVD Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood: What Do You Do with the Mad That You Feel?

As the Valentine social progressed, and the kids finished their little love-notes, running off to play, the parents settled into their own projects and conversations. Over discussions on education, winter sports and safety, parents made heart-shaped mobiles, steamers of doilies and Swedish Paper Hearts. And when the kids tummies started to rumble, muffins donated by Bread Euphoria were served with tea and fruit.

WEAVING SWEDISH PAPER HEARTS

Weaving Swedish Paper Hearts can seem difficult at first, but once a rhythm is discovered, it is a pleasant activity to unwind with while relaxing with friends and community.  These paper hearts were traditionally made as ornaments filled with goodies that went on the Christmas Tree, but they also  make a wonderful Valentine’s craft. Learn how to make Swedish Paper Hearts for your loved ones.

(Originally posted: 2/13/07)

Handmade Valentine Swap for Western MA Families

Hilltown Families 3rd Annual
Handmade Valentine Swap

Handmade Valentine Card Swap

Hilltown Families 3rd Annual Handmade Valentine Swap. Deadline to sign up: January 30th. Open to all Western MA families.

The past couple of years Hilltown Families has coordinated a community Handmade Valentine Swap — and we’re doing it again! Sign up below.

A handmade Valentine swap gives local families an opportunity to be creative together while connecting with other families in Western Massachusetts.  Through the swap, participating families mail out handmade Valentines to ten assigned addresses, and in return, they receive cards from ten other participating families.  The cards can be handmade by any combination of child and adult, so if you’re kids aren’t completely up to the task, or if an adult would like to make their own design, there’s flexibility.

Deadline to sign up (below) is Sunday, January 30th. On Monday (01/31/11)  you will be emailed your assigned names/address of participants to mail your handmade Valentines to.  Everyone is kindly requested to mail your Valentines off by Feb. 7th.

Here are a few Valentines swapped last year to stir your creative juices.  Click on the thumbnail image to see a larger one:

If interested in participating, the following information must be filled out and submitted by Sunday, January 30th:








Winter Fair in the Hilltowns: An Alternative to Traditional Holiday Buying

2010 Winter Fair Eco-Craftmaking and Book Fair
Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School
Saturday, December 4th, 2010

Parents and children can craft a variety of alternative gifts to give for the holidays, many using recycled and natural materials like these decorated candle holders. (Photo credit: HCCPS)

As an alternative to traditional holiday buying, the Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School will host a family book and eco-craftmaking fair on Saturday December 4th, 2010 from 10 am to 4 pm at the “Brassworks” building on Rte. 9 (132 Main St.) in Haydenville, MA. Parents and children alike will have the opportunity to make a variety of craft items, many using recycled and natural materials including full-sized wreaths, fabric gift bags, felt key chains, gnomes and fairies, decorated candles, lavender sachets and gingerbread people.

Concurrently with the crafts, new books from Scholastic will be showcased featuring the best of children’s literature, with hundreds of award-winning and other popular titles on display. The fair will also feature crafts from local craftspeople and a raffle. Free entrance into the fair. Small fee for craft making.All proceeds will be used to support the school library and other educational programs.

The fair will also feature entertainment throughout the day, including the Hilltown School chorus. Home made lunches and baked goods will be available.

The Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School is a public school serving grades K-8 and emphasizing mixed-aged classrooms and an arts-integrated approach to curricula. There is no tuition; admission is by lottery and is open to students throughout Hampshire and Franklin counties.

For more information about the fair, contact Deirdre Arthen at (413) 268-3421.

Handmade Valentine Swap

Handmade Valentine Swap for Western MA Families

Handmade Valentine Card Swap

Hilltown Families Valentine Card Swap, 2009 (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Last year I organized a handmade Valentine swap with friends and members of the Hilltown Families Listserv, and we had so much fun that we’re doing it again!

A handmade Valentine swap gives local families an opportunity to be creative together while connecting with other families in Western Massachusetts.  Through the swap, participating families mail out handmade Valentine cards to ten assigned addresses, and in return, they receive cards from ten other participating families.  The cards can be handmade by any combination of child and adult, so if you’re kids aren’t completely up to the task, or if an adult would like to make their own design, there’s flexibility.

Deadline to sign up is next Saturday, January 30st by midnight with the info below. On Monday (02/01/10) I will email your assigned names/address of participants you would send your handmade cards to.  You would be kindly requested to send your Valentines off by Feb. 7th.

If interested in participating, email the following information to hilltownfamilies@gmail.com by midnight 01/30/10:

  • Name of child/family:
  • Mailing address:

Read the rest of this entry »

Eco-Friendly Holiday’s (Web Reviews)

Eco-Friendly Holiday’s (Web Reviews)

Hanukkah: Let There Be (Renewable) Light: A New Look at Hanukkah

This site considers “the connection between Hanukkah [Festival of Lights], energy use, and the environment,” and provides “holiday tips and resources for families, schools, and congregations to infuse Hanukkah celebrations with additional meaning,” and “tips for what you can do save energy in your congregation/school and at home.” Includes a “CFL installation ceremony,” an essay about the meaning of the darkness of winter, and more. From the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL).

FamilyFun: Have a Happy Green Holiday

Collection of children’s craft activities for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve that “give a gift to Mother Earth … [by turning] holiday and household surplus into festive decorations and eco-friendly packaging.” Includes instructions for a bubble packaging advent calendar, new uses for old greeting cards, fabric wrapping (inspired by Japanese furoshiki), and more. From FamilyFun magazine.

Eco-Friendly Kwanzaa

Craft ideas for making your own Kwanzaa celebration supplies. Includes instructions for making a Kwanzaa candle holder and mat. Also describes how to create other Kwanzaa symbols. From Care2, an activist organization.


Source: Librarians’ Internet Index, http://www.lii.org

100 Links (October/November 2009)

100 Links (October/November 2009)

Nearly every day I add recommended links to the Hilltown Families bank of on-line resources.  Some of you might find these links well suited for your family, others, maybe not so much.  But it’s a fun and useful list worth perusing!  If you have a link you’d like to share, post it in our comment box.

Where are these links? You won’t find them on your blog reader nor via email if you subscribe to our newsfeed.  But if you visit the blog on-line and scroll half way down, on the left you will find the column, “Links We Recommend,” with a list of our most recent recommended links.  If you haven’t been visiting the site regularly to peruse these great resources, not to worry – below is the last 100 links we’ve posted in the past two months: (you will need to use the “back” button to return to this page).

Archived Lists of 100 Links: If you’d like to peruse our List of 100 Links from months past, click HERE and then scroll up or down.

  • Energy Kids: Resource For Teachers
  • The Olive Press: How Olive Oil is Made
  • Hanukkah Music for Kids: Celebrate the Festival of Lights with Music!
  • Study: Preschoolers watching TV at home-based daycare may spend hours in front of TV screen
  • How to Host a Preschool Christmas Party (article)
  • The New WIC Food Package
  • Handmade Christmas Stockings and Tree Skirts made from Recycled Sweaters (DIY)
  • Eco-Friendly, Handmade Advent Calendar for Green Kids (DIY)
  • Toy for Joy Campaign in Western Mass
  • ThinkGreen.com
  • Braille Bug
  • National Park Service: Archeology for Kids
  • Holiday Food Safety Success On-Line Kit
  • Make a Gratitude Cake
  • Thanksgiving Gratitude Tree: A Fun and Easy Activity For The Kids (article)
  • Parenting 101: Talking about money with your kids and teens
  • Ark of Taste: Growing and Eating Endangered Foods
  • Largest crib recall in U.S. history announced
  • Puzzles.com (Resource for Puzzling on the Internet)
  • The War on Soy (article)
  • Virtual Field Trip: How Wheat Works
  • Moms Against Mercury (advocacy group)
  • American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life (MOMA)
  • USDA Backs Rewarding Schools Serving Healthy Food (article)
  • Massachusetts Home Learning Association
  • eFieldTrips.org
  • 10 No-Sauce Foods (Parenting.com)
  • Ditch The Characters For The Classics (Article from Tampa Tribune)
  • Putting the Book Back in Book Fair (Article from mothering.com)
  • Taking consumerism out of school book fairs (article)
  • Kids Craft Weekly: An Advent Challenge
  • Charity Directory of Massachusetts
  • Shriners Hospital (MA Charity)
  • Children’s Miracle Network (Charity)
  • Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society (MA Charity)
  • American Cancer Society (Charity)
  • United Way of the Pioneer Valley (MA Charity)
  • Raise Healthy Eaters (blog)
  • Carrot Museum
  • Virtual Tour of Cranberry Bog
  • Learning A-Z : Free Flu Resources
  • Getting Boys To Read
  • Hadley Neighbors for Sensible Development
  • Kids Craft Weekly: Fancy Holiday Cards
  • Dr. Goodword’s Word Wizard
  • Earth from Space
  • Video: A Vaccine Primer. Health Professionals Speak Out
  • Rules of the Road for Parents in a Digital Age (article)
  • Mathematics Lessons That Are Fun
  • Read the rest of this entry »

    Make a What-I’m-Thankful-For Placemat

    Make a What-I’m-Thankful-For Placemat
    by Danielle Wood

    With a table laden with turkey, gravy, stuffing, and pumpkin pie, it’s easy to come up with reasons to give thanks this holiday season. But Thanksgiving is a great excuse to pause and give thanks for more than what’s sitting on the table. This activity gives kids a chance to make a cute collage of things that make them happy, and it’s perfect décor for holiday dinnertime, or any day of the year!

    READ MORE:  Make a What-I’m-Thankful-For Placemat

    2009 Winter Fair in the Hilltowns: An Alternative to Traditional Holiday Buying

    2009 Winter Fair Eco-Craftmaking and Book Fair

    As an alternative to traditional holiday buying, the Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School will host a family book and eco-craftmaking fair on Saturday December 5, 2009 from 10 am to 4 pm at the “Brassworks” building on Rte. 9 (132 Main St.) in Haydenville, MA. Parents and children alike will have the opportunity to make a variety of craft items, many using recycled and natural materials including full-sized wreaths, fabric gift bags, felt key chains, gnomes and fairies, decorated candles, lavender sachets and gingerbread people.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    DIY: Mexican Sugar Skulls

    HOW TO MAKE MEXICAN SUGAR SKULLS
    A Culinary Folk Art for Day of the Dead
    By Sienna Wildfield

    Making Mexican Sugar Skulls-52.JPG

    In the studio with Hilltown Families Guest Artist Marie Westburg of ArtStar in Williamsburg, MA making Mexican Sugar Skulls for Day of the Dead.  (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    What better avenue for children to explore and discover different cultures than FOOD?!  Right? … We all eat.  And whether it’s a yearly birthday cake, fish on Friday, pancakes on Sunday, or a couple of loaves of challah on a Friday night, most of us routinely and joyfully participate in different food traditions.  The culinary experience of exploring food customs from around the world can bring families an integrated course of study on cultural traditions and arts.

    This time of year in Central and Southern Mexico, in preparation for the Mexican holiday El Diá de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), mounds of Sugar Skulls are sold in open air markets.  The Day of the Dead is on November 2nd and we’ve explored this Mexican holiday in a previous post: El Diá de los Muertos (Video & Resources).  Making Mexican Sugar Skulls with your kids is a creative hands-on project that can aid in the exploration of this traditional Mexican Folk Art while affording an opportunity to discuss and participate in one of the various customs of this Mexican celebration.

    Hilltown Families Guest Artist Marie Westburg of ArtStar, an art enrichment studio in Williamsburg, MA, recently invited us over to make this sweet Mexican culinary folk art.  In her cozy studio our kids got together and crafted skulls out of sugar and meringue powder and decorated them with bags of colorful icings, beads and sequins.  It’s a fun project to make with a group of friends, but give yourself enough time.  The skulls take 12-24 hours to harden before they can be decorated. To follow is a DIY for this fun seasonal activity:  Read the rest of this entry »

    100 Links (August/September 2009)

    100 Links (August/September 2009)

    Nearly every day I add recommended links to the Hilltown Families bank of on-line resources.  Some of you might find these links well suited for your family, others, maybe not so much.  But it’s a fun and useful list worth perusing!  If you have a link you’d like to share, post it in our comment box.

    Where are these links? You won’t find them on your blog reader nor via email if you subscribe to our newsfeed.  But if you visit the blog on-line and scroll half way down, on the left you will find the column, “Links We Recommend,” with a list of our most recent recommended links.  If you haven’t been visiting the site regularly to peruse these great resources, not to worry – below is the last 100 links we’ve posted in the past two months: (you will need to use the “back” button to return to this page).

    Archived Lists of 100 Links: If you’d like to peruse our List of 100 Links from months past, click HERE and then scroll up or down.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Letterboxing: Adventure, Art and the Great Outdoors

    Letterboxing: A Crafty Outdoor Adventure
    By Jessica Branciforte

    Letterboxing in Goshen, MA

    Letterboxing at the DAR in Goshen, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    Letterboxing involves a mixture of artistry, adventure, navigation, and secrecy. All in all, it’s a great big treasure hunt with art lying in wait where the “X” marks the spot. It’s very similar to geocaching, except with clues instead of coordinates, and when found, a letterbox contains a tiny piece of one of a kind art – a hand carved stamp. Mix stamp making and treasure hunting in the great outdoors and you’ve got yourself a fun and creative pastime.

    Legend suggests that letterboxing began in 1854 when calling cards were placed in jars found outdoors. Upon finding a jar, others were encouraged to leave their card as well. Modern letterboxing follows the same guidelines using hand carved stamps and the World Wide Web.

    What you’ll need before you start:

    • A thirst for adventure and the outdoors
    • Your own trail stamp, which should be a hand carved image that you think best represents you
    • Letterboxing clues
    • A small inkpad and a logbook
    • A compass (optional but fun)

    The Art of the Letterbox Hunt

    Step One: To begin, you’ll need to carve your own signature stamp. You can always use a pre-made stamp that you’re especially fond of, but many find it fulfilling to carve their own mark. Using Speedball tools and an eraser or some carving rubber, create the image you would like to represent your trail ID. You can also use this great tutorial on stamp carving.

    Step Two: Use the Internet to find some clues! Folks who create letterboxes publish the steps it takes to find them online. It’s hard to go on a treasure hunt without the map. You’d be surprised where letterboxes are located, since even the smallest of towns can have hidden boxes. You may have even discovered one while hiking in the past and didn’t quite know what it was. To start finding letterboxes close to you, check out www.letterboxing.org.

    Step Three: Some letterbox hunts will take all afternoon while others only fifteen minutes. Choose a set of clues that suits your schedule for the day, and your hunting style. Some clues are posted in poem form while others cut right to the chase and tell you how many steps to take and in what direction. It all depends on what you’re in the mood for. You can find letterboxes in state parks, campgrounds and even graveyards. Either way it’s rewarding when you find your way to the end of the hunt. Picture yourself nearing the end of your journey. You might read something like, “Take ten paces to your right” “Look for the tree with the double trunk” or “Dig into the ‘V’ of the tree until you find the box.” Woo hoo! You’ve found a letterbox! Inside you should find a logbook, a carved stamp, and some ink.

    Leave Your Mark

    Here’s your chance to make your creative mark in the world. Open up the logbook to a clean page and use your own stamp to leave your mark. Write a few notes about your trip and what you saw while hiking and sign your name. If you’d like to you can even write the date and where you’re from. It’s especially interesting for others to discover leaf though the log book and read other entries. Some books take you years into the past!

    You’ll also want to make a record of finding this letterbox for yourself. Take the stamp provided inside the letterbox and stamp it into your own logbook. Jot down a few notes about your travels and remember to record the date and location of the box. These extra anecdotes are a great way to remember a trip away from home, as letterboxes are generally hidden in state parks or forests that represent the natural identity of an area.

    More Letterboxing Adventures

    Letterboxing in Goshen, MA

    Letterboxing at the DAR in Goshen, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    There’s a HUGE letterboxing world out there! Interested in finding “hitchhikers” “microboxes” and “mystery boxes?” Learn more about lingo and letterboxing etiquette at www.atlasquest.com.

    Letterboxing combines your creative abilities along with the fun of active exercise and adventure in the great outdoors. Once you get started with this addictive activity, you’ll soon find yourself with a logbook full of recordings of great hunts and hikes—as well as full of great memories. You’ll want to look back over your findings and compare what you’ve recorded with others as well.

    Recommended Reading:

     


    Originally published in Handmade News. Reprinted with Permission.

    Create an Eco-Savvy Basket for Spring

    Eco-Savvy Basket for Spring

    Celebrate Green by making an easy Easter basket that can become an heirloom

    This basket is simple to make and as cute as they come. Children as young as three can help and most six or seven-year-olds can make it themselves.

    Find out how at Celebrate Green.

    Eco-Family Annual Winter Fair in Haydenville

    Eco-Family Annual Winter Fair

    As an alternative to traditional holiday buying, the Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School will host their annual family book and “green” craft fair on Saturday December 6, 2008 from 10 am to 4 pm at the “Brassworks” building on Rte. 9 (132 Main St.) in Williamsburg. Parents and children alike will have the opportunity to make a variety of eco-friendly craft items using mainly recycled and natural materials including full-sized wreaths, fabric gift bags, piggy banks, jewelry, vases, candle-holders, and cookbooks.

    • Eco-Family Annual Winter Fair at the Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School
    • Saturday, December 6, 2008
    • 10 am – 4 pm
    • Brassworks Building (Route 9), Haydenville, MA

    Concurrently with the crafts, new books from Scholastic will be showcased featuring the best of children’s literature, with hundreds of award-winning and other popular titles on display. The fair will also feature crafts from local craftspeople and a raffle. All proceeds will be used to support the school library and other educational programs.

    The fair will also feature entertainment throughout the day, including the Hilltown School chorus. Home made lunches and baked goods will be available.

    What is the HCCPS?

    The Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School is a public school serving grades K-8 and emphasizing mixed-aged classrooms and an arts-integrated approach to curricula. There is no tuition; admission is by lottery and is open to students throughout Hampshire and Franklin counties.

    The Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School in the Brassworks building on Rte. 9 in Haydenville, MA is hosting their Annual Winter Fair for Families on Saturday, December 6 from 10 am – 4 pm. The fair includes eco-friendly crafts and gift-making for all ages, performances, book and craft sales and great home-made foods.  For more information: Call the school at 413-268-3421 or go to http://www.hilltowncharter.org

    Discovering Gingerbread Houses

    GINGERBREAD HOUSES: SITES TO VISIT & BOOKS TO READ
    by Sienna Wildfield

    Hartsbrook Winter Fair 2007-8

    Gingerbread houses at the Hartsbrook Fair in Hadley, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    Every year I send my parents a gingerbread house for their solstice dessert party, complete with their last name iced on the front door. The door with their name is left for the host and hostess, but by the end of the evening, their guests have demolished the rest of the house, leaving behind little red hots and coconut snow. It’s become a fun tradition. If you’re looking to make a gingerbread house for the holidays, check out A Charming Candy Cottage over at epicurious.com where Kari von Wening, the owner of Takes the Cake Bakery in Pasadena, CA, gives instruction on how to make your very own. Included in the instructions are a shopping list, template and an illustrated tutorial.

    Gingerbread House Auctions at Hartsbrook (c) Hilltown Families

    Gingerbread houses at the Hartsbrook Fair in Hadley, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    At the Hartsbrook Winter Fair in Hadley, MA, they always have an auction of gingerbread houses (and libraries, castles, churches, windmills …) that the families have made (photos featured with this post are from the auction). Structures that can be made out of gingerbread are only limited by your imagination. Over at verybestkids.com they give directions and a template on how to make a gingerbread sleigh. On BobVilla.com they give instructions on how to make an A-Frame, Colonial, Saltbox, and Side Gable houses. And if you really want to get inspired, on flickr.com there are over 400 photos posted to the Gingerbread House Showcase.

    GRAHAM CRACKER HOUSE

    Another option to making a gingerbread house is to make a miniature graham cracker house. Every one in the family can make and decorate their very own. Kaboose.com offers instructions on how to make this miniature version, as does organizedchristmas.com with a few photo images.

    Gingerbread houses at the Hartsbrook Fair in Hadley, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    GLUTEN-FREE HOUSES

    If you or your kids have allergies and want to make a gingerbread house, check out Only Sometimes Clever’s gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free and peanut-free gingerbread house recipe, or you can buy an allergy-free gingerbread kit from kidsallergystop.com.

    READING LISTS

    I’ve put together a list of cookbooks for families interested in making their own gingerbread creations at home. If you do make one, take a photo and send it our way to share with our readers:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Making Homemade Playdough

    Homemade Playdough for Children

    Kids are amazed when they learn how easy it is to make playdough with this kids activity. The children can store their playdough air tight containers, or left to air dry to save a finished creation. [To follow are eight] recipes for modeling clay and playdough:

    LIST OF RECIPES: Making Playdough

    Video Review: Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

    Happy Dyeing!

    Curbly.com posted this video demonstrating how to dye eggs using natural ingredients, including red cabbage, beets, yellow & red onion skins and turmeric:

    It’s a Wrap!

    CURING THE WRAPPING PAPER BLUES

    Seed Wrapping Paper from GaiamIs the guilt of throwing out all that wrapping paper, tissue paper and greeting cards getting to you? It’s too late to start over with the wrapping paper, but next year consider reusing this year’s wrapping paper, making fabric bags or selecting eco-friendly papers, such as Gaiam’s Seed Wrapping Paper or Recycled Holiday Wrapping Paper offered over at My Green House. As for now, here are some ideas on what to do with all that pretty paper:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Hilltown Families Gets Crafty with Kids Craft Weekly

    IN GOOD COMPANY ON KIDS CRAFT WEEKLY

    Kids Craft WeeklyOver at Kids Craft Weekly Hilltown Families (that’s us!) is featured in their Holiday Favourites Issue. Editor Amber Caravan has selected our DIY: Christmas Spider Holiday Cards project which includes a video of Persephone (age 5) demonstrating how to draw a Christmas Spider – and we’re thrilled! And we’re in good company too. Other featured projects for this issue include Gwyn from My Kids Art’s Paper Plate Holiday Decoration, Meg McElwee from Montessori by Hand’s Holiday Accordion Cut-Out, and Jessica Wilson from scrumdilly-do!’s Paper Sack Holiday Cards. All fun projects to do with the kids this holiday season, and great web sites worth checking out if you’re looking for some inspiration.

    If you like doing craft projects with your kids, definitely check out Kids Craft Weekly. Amber Caravan, a mother of two who lives in Australia, is the heart and soul behind KCW. She does an excellent job of putting together ideas and projects for inspiring both parents and young artists to create. Each project is illustrated in a pictorial “How to” style with a list of supplies and directions. She writes:

    Each issue of Kids Craft Weekly outlines a selection of activities for young kids. The ideas are intended to be cheap, educational and fun and can be used as suggested, or simply as a starting point from which you can develop your own plan of attack. Every issue draws inspiration from a particular theme because I’ve found that my kids seem to love the focus and sense of continuity that it provides. Also, from a learning perspective it reinforces key ideas and helps little minds to put two and two together.

    The Holiday Favourites newsletter is Issue 46. Click here to see all her archived issues.


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    Kids Sell Their Kids-Made Crafts

    KIDS-MADE HOLIDAY BAZAAR

    Last Friday, Hilltown Families and CAM sponsored a Kids-Made Holiday Bazaar at the Children’s Art Museum in Shelburne Falls, coinciding with the town-wide Moonlight Magic Celebration. Kids ranging from ages 4-13 participated in the event, giving them exposure to the field of cottage industries. Each young vendor sold and bartered their kids-made crafts, rewarding them for their creative pursuits.


    | View Show | Create Your Own

    For both Rafael (age 13) of Northampton, MA, and Meghan (age 11) of Goshen, MA, this wasn’t the first experience with a craft fair. Meghan expressed her excitement of being able to sell her sculpy clay and beaded jewelry, clothespin people, and cards in a craft fair that was just for kids. “The last craft fair I participated in was all adults and I felt so out of place,” she commented.

    Having a venue for kids to get crafty while having a real world experience and exposure to commerce through the artisan field was the mission of this event. A big congratulations to all vendors for making it a success. And a hearty thank you to everyone who stopped by to shop locally, supporting the event. Hilltown Families and CAM look forward to hosting this event again next year!

    DIY: Christmas Spider Holiday Cards

    How To Draw a Christmas Spider
    By Sienna Wildfield

    For the Kids-Made Holiday Bazaar, my daughter (age 5) drew Christmas Spiders for her holiday cards to be sold during the event. Here she gives a video tutorial on how to draw the Christmas Spider:

    MATERIALS:

      Christmas Spider design by Persphone (age 5).

    • 3″ x 3″ squares of white card stock
    • black (non-toxic) ink pad
    • Thin black Sharpie (or something comparable)
    • Red marker

    STEP BY STEP:

    Christmas Spider design by Persphone (age 5).Step 1

    Take your thumb and press it onto a non-toxic black ink pad. Then press your thumb into the middle of a piece of paper, making the body of the spider. (Try to get your kids to wipe off their thumb before proceeding or smudges will most certainly happen).

    Christmas Spider design by Persephone (age 5).Step 2

    Take a thin black Sharpie and draw four dots down each side of the spiders body. Then draw “L’s” or “7’s” out from each dot to create eight legs.

    Christmas Spider design by Persphone (age 5).Step 3

    Draw a triangle just above the spiders body as a hat, then add a circle to the top for a pom-pom.

    Christmas Spider design by Persphone (age 5).Step 4

    Color the triangle in with a red marker, leaving the pom pom white.

    TAD-DA!!! You now have a picture of the Christmas Spider that can be tacked onto a blank greeting card. But before adding it to the card, a holiday greeting can be written (by hand or with your printer) on the bottom of the front. We wrote “Holiday Greetings from the Christmas Spider.” On the backside of the card we printed the legend of the Christmas Spider. There are several variations that can be found on-line, including here and here.

    Photo credits: Sienna Wildfield

     


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    The Christmas Spider & the Legend of Tinsel

    COBWEB CHRISTMAS
    By Sienna Wildfield

    eNewsletter

    Click here to subscribe to the Hilltown Families weekly eNewsletter!

    For the Kids-Made Holiday Bazaar my 5yo daughter made holiday cards using the Christmas Spider as her motif. Why the Christmas Spider? Well last year she decided that the Christmas Spider would be coming to our house instead of Santa Claus. She explained that the Christmas Spider was Santa’s southern counterpart who gave out presents when Santa was busy. The Christmas Spider wears a hat like Santa and likes to give out squishy pretend spiders that hang on the wall, along with books, pencils and sea marbles … Something to look forward to.

    I asked her if the Christmas Spider had a sleigh and flying reindeer like Santa and went down chimneys to get indoors. She said that the Christmas Spider actually climbs up houses and then down the chimneys to get inside. Then she crawls on towards the next house with her fast skinny legs.

    Cobweb ChristmasShe then proceeded to run around and around the house in her stocking feet on at top speed saying that her legs were skinny too, so she could run as fast as the Christmas Spider. That was before she wiped out on the kitchen floor. With a bruised elbow and a tear-stained face she snuggled up on my lap. She looked up at me and told me that the Christmas Spider wasn’t allowed to snuggle with me when she came to our house. I reassured her that she was the only spider I’d ever snuggle.

    A friend of the family made a Christmas Spider hat for her to wear, and the Christmas Spider quickly became her obsession. So I did a little research and discovered that there were several legends about the Christmas Spider, often explaining the origin of tinsel or lace. And last year we discovered the perfect book to read to her, Cobweb Christmas: The Tradition of Tinsel by Shirley Climo & Jane Manning. You can also read about the legend on a variety of sites, including over at myteacher.net.

    Other books available on the Christmas Spider include:

     


    CHRISTMAS SPIDER CRAFT IDEAS

    More Holiday Craft Ideas for the Kids

    KIDS-MADE CRAFT IDEAS (PART 2)
    By Tony(a) Lemos, HF Contributing Writer

    Colorful Tissue PaperWe’re getting pretty excited about the Kids-Made Holiday Bazaar (sponsored by Hilltown Families & CAM) that’s coming up the day after Thanksgiving. How is the crafting going? Need a few more ideas? I’ve compiled a few that might help inspire:

    • COASTERS
      Coaster can be made by using ceramic tiles, which can be purchased at Home Depot for next to nothing. I recommend sticking felt underneath them to protect furniture from being scratched. Kids can paint them with acrylic paints. Or they can decoupage a tile with colorful tissue paper or their favorite image. (Remember to coat well with “Modgepodge” to waterproof.) They can also be made with fabric, cardboard or cork. The ideas are really endless.

    • PHOTO FRAMES
      Another project with endless possibilities is the simple gift of photo frames. Again, try decoupage: you can use old photos, newspaper /magazine clippings, used postage stamps, special finds from your nature walks, kids art, etc.

    • STILTS
      For a fun project try Martha Stewart’s Tomato Can Stilts. Click here for a tutorial.

    • CRAYON ROLL (For older kids)
      Over at Skip To My Lou there’s posted a crayon roll tutorial. For variation you could also try a pencil roll, marker roll, knitting needle/crochet hook roll, or even a needle holder book.

    THE KIDS-MADE HOLIDAY BAZAAR

    Please do not forget to let us know that you would like to be part of the Kids-Made Holiday Bazaar. Click here for an application and email me at tlemos@noho.com. I will email you all the pertinent info. Click here to read more about CAM’s Holiday Raffle.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Wool Angels, Gnomes and Dwarves

    Craft Ideas: A Child’s Seasonal Treasury

    (C) Betty Jones, A Child's Seasonal TreasuryWhile looking for holiday craft ideas to do with my daughter for the Kids-Made Holiday Bazaar, I rediscovered Betty Jones’s book, A Child’s Seasonal Treasury. This DELICIOUS book has 100 ideas that include songs, crafts, poetry, recipes and more. I found a few crafts from Jones’s book that I’m familiar with but never had the directions for. I’ve included them here to share:

    WOOL ANGELS
    Wool Angels (c)A Child's Seasonal Treasury

    Materials:

    1. White Wool Fleece
    2. gold thread
    3. gold star

    Take a piece of clean white wool that has been carded smooth (approximately 1 foot in length). Tie a firm knot in the middle of the wool to form a head. Gently separate and pull half the amount of wool that’s left on either side of the head and tie it off at the waist with gold thread to form the lower body, leaving the remainder of the wool fleece as wings. Lightly tease this wool, spreading the fibers into the shape of wings, and sew to maintain shape with a few stitches as possible, securing the wings to the angel’s back. Attach a star on the angel’s forehead, if desired. Read the rest of this entry »

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