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InventorThink for kids

Easy DIY Flower Press

Welcome Inventors! I wanted to make a good, old-fashioned flower press. When I was in third grade, I went to a camp where we pressed leaves, flowers, and grasses to create leaf collections, art, and cards. I loved it! So, this summer, flower presses were on my bucket list of things to introduce to my kids.

I needed:

1 – 2×4 ft. piece of ½ inch plywood

2 – ¼ in. carriage bolts (4 per press) about 2 inches long,

3 – ¼ in. wingnuts and washers (4 per press)

That was it! I was able to make four 12×12 inch presses – one for each of us! The kids helped, and here’s how:

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First, I cut the plywood cross-wise into four equal parts. I used a scroll saw because I am a big chicken with circular saws. Once I had my four pieces, I cut them in half again.

After we had all eight pieces, I let two of the kids sand the edges of their boards with sandpaper. I worked one-on-one with my third kid (in rotation) using a drill with a ¼ inch bit. We painter-taped the boards together and drilled through both at the same time. That ensured our would holes line up even if the measuring and cutting wasn’t perfect. We drilled 4 holes in each board, about 2×2 inches from the corners.

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Once each board had the holes, we pressed four carriage bolts through one board. It took some wiggling, but it worked. Carriage bolts have a square under the head of the screw that will press into the wood and keep it from shifting/falling out easily, but regular bolts will also work great.

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The presses were ready for flowers and leaves. We put newspaper down first and then put the flowers in between paper towel sheets. This was cheaper than using all paper towel, and it prevented newspaper ink from staining our stuff.

When our press was loaded, we put the top board on the other side, and secured each bolt with a washer and a wingnut. We turned the wingnuts until there was a lot of resistance and the board was slightly warped. Drying time from plant to plant can vary, but a good rule of thumb is at least 2 weeks.

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My kids and I had fun with these. They’re portable, easy-to-use, and when we make memories in the great outdoors, now we have a special way to keep a piece of them forever. Thank you for visiting, and I hope this encouraged you to invent timeless memories in your story today.

Writing

Invention on the Go

Welcome Inventors! Do you like travel stories? Whether it’s an airplane to Africa or a walk to Ben’s Pretzels, getting away from home base is an invention adventure. My latest real-life adventure was a surprise birthday trip to Cross Village, MI. Huge thanks to my Alex, who wanted to give me the stars.

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Cross Village was less than a half-hour south of a dark-sky park. This stargazer’s dream gave us a full view of the night sky without competition of city lights. To be completely honest, we brought kids, and they were not enthused to stay out past 11:00 when it really started to get good. But the park and night were gorgeous. If this idea sparked your interest, check out:  http://www.darksky.org/idsp/parks/

IMG_0565Then there was Legs Inn – a restaurant with unusual history and a gorgeous view of Lake Michigan. IMG_0585

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Traveling was wonderful for inspiration because it challenged me to think differently. The house soup at Legs Inn featured hard-boiled eggs! Adventure was delicious.

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If you venture out, you could run into people like the artists at Three Pines Art Studio. Gene Reck and Joann Condino were not only gifted in ceramics & textiles, they were also kind. They partner with other artists internationally and host classes for all ages.

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I left with this fabulous oven-safe, dishwasher-safe salmon dish that easily decorates my home as much as my table!

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Also noteworthy: we did accidentally break a piece of pottery when we were there. We wanted to pay for the piece, but Gene and Joann insisted they had a better idea. They invited our kids to help them plant the (mostly intact) broken piece of pottery in a flower pot they had out front. I want to write book characters inspired by these two.

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We had breakfast at the Old World Cafe, and the stonework, ornate paintings and enormous fireplace within gave us the feeling we’d been transported to another country. The food was as grandiose as the building. But tastier. 🙂

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My challenge to you is to make some travel plans. Let yourself be inspired by the journey, and when things don’t go according to the plan, plant your broken pieces in a flowerpot. That may be the inspiration you were looking for all along. Now go – invent your story!

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Writing

Chocolates and Writing Advice

So here I am, sitting in a pile of Dove mini-chocolate wrappers and weighing the advice I’ve been given. In case you’re allergic to chocolate and thus unfamiliar, Dove includes a message with each mini. They’re like fortune cookies, but less wise and more chocolatey.

“Make the first move.”

Okay.

“Take a run on the wild side.”

Sounds exciting.

“Give someone a compliment.”

Done. (No, I didn’t compliment myself. My kiddo is in the room so I complimented him.)

“Walk to the beat of your own tuba.”

Nobody wants to see that.

And I’m out of chocolate.

Taking advice on writing can feel like eating a bag of chocolates and being left in a pile of wrappers. What do you do with this stuff? Throw it away? Keep it? Is it all just cliché and subjective anyway?

Here’s a few thoughts on sifting through advice about writing:

  1. Trust the professionals. If the advice is coming from a reputable source like Writer’s Digest, the Writer’s Market, an agent that rejected your work but shared thoughts on future submissions, or SCBWI give it your full attention. These are professionals who share your passion for excellent work.
  2. Get in a writing group. Not all of them are the same. I am in two groups with different focal points, and they’re both valuable. Connecting with other writers will expand your worldview and improve your craft. You may even make some friends along the way.
  3. Pay attention to what resonates with you. When it comes to family, friends, and other encouragers in your life, some people will have insight you may not see. This kind of advice often comes from left field, but when it hits, pay attention. Here’s a few examples from my life of advice that is not for everyone but has been valuable for me.

“You are a poet.”

See? Not for everyone. A friend told me this – not after reading my work, but after I gave relationship advice to a mutual friend. I saw a metaphor, and she saw a poet. It resonated.

“Keep writing.”

This one’s from my final conversation with my grandma last summer. That’s all I can share without crying.

“Go screw up your life for awhile.”

This is a great example of advice that’s not for everyone. Then again, a college professor gave me this advice around the time I was graduating, and it was exactly what I needed. He said to make the mistakes. Gain the experience. Don’t be afraid to fail. Since I was the kid who really wanted to get it “perfect” all the time, this was perfect advice for me.

Because I can’t give you chocolates, let me leave you with some advice. At the end of the day, be who you are and do what jazzes you. And, of course, invent your story.

Britney Dillon is the leader of one writing group I attend. She would advocate good writers are also good readers. Check out her blog at: https://bookaneerbarnacles.blogspot.com

As a Matter of Faith

Kittens, Faith, Trials, and Stories

Today I want to share a piece of my story. Less than 24 hours ago, our cat delivered her first litter of kittens, and I’d like to introduce them to you. There are four.

Kitten One was born in the hallway:

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Kitten Two came out at the top of the steps:

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Kitten Three’s head got stuck in the birth canal:

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Kitten Four was stuck even farther in the canal before gently being pulled out:

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Ginger, the little mama, didn’t have these kittens without any struggle. I saw her stand on her haunches and jump to get the second one moving along. I’ve never prayed for my cat before, but I did yesterday. And I called the veterinarian!

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Inventing a story or creation won’t come without complications. In my last post, the end product was not my original intention. Whether “something new” is a litter of kittens, a novel, or a heli-ride bike (yes, I made that up) trials are going to come. That is when you must go to the root of why you started.

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Do you have a vision for your story? I believe every individual is uniquely designed by God, is valuable and gifted. Just like each kitten is special and has a different story from birth, each person also has a treasured story. Take some time to plan your next page.

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I almost wrote about a kidney stone I had over the weekend, but the pictures weren’t nearly as cute. Things happen in life that are hard, but don’t let them keep you from inventing your story. Whatever you believe, you are valuable, unique, and so is your story. Go enjoy, and invent more of your story today. 😊

 

InventorThink for kids

DIY Bean Bag Launcher

Welcome Inventors! If Thomas Edison had a blog, do you think he would write about his failed light bulb attempts? I do. Today’s post is not pretty, but I’m sharing it because sometimes the best lessons come from the belly flops and face plants.

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I recently went to a play gym where there were bean bag launchers. Talk about fun! I wanted to buy one, but the supervisor said I could make one if I’m handy with a jig saw. Turns out “handy” is a relative term.

 

 

The launcher works – don’t get me wrong. So, if you want to give this a try, pull out a jig saw, an electric drill, some pallet wood (or whatever kind of wood you have handy) and sharpie. Measuring tape also helps, a mason jar lid, and a handful of screws. Be safe!

Cut a board of wood about 2 feet long and 4 inches wide (above). I just cut a board off of the pallet, but you do what works for you.

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Take your mason jar lid, and mark it at the half-way spot on both sides. I made a line all the way down the side so there was blue on the front and the back.

 

 

Use your lid to make two semicircles on another piece of wood. Trace the outside, and cut along the lines you made with your jig saw.

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Measure and mark your long board so that your two semicircle pieces are exactly in the middle. Space them a about an inch from the outside edge respectively. This gets a little bit tricky. I guessed with this part and it worked out fine.

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Choose screws that are the appropriate size to attach the semicircles to the board. That was my fail. I knew the longer screws were risky, but I thought if I put them in at the right angle I’d be in the clear.

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Two screw tips popped out the top of my launcher. Ouch. So, I cut a little piece of wood and put it on the top to make it more safe. Then one of the screws split the extra piece of wood.

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What do we know is always true? When all else fails: duct tape!

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The good news: this puppy works! My turkey bean bag can fly! Mishap modifications are all part of the fun of inventing. Not everything is going to go the way you plan the first time. Or maybe ever. Don’t let the belly flops keep you from learning how to dive.

 

Thank you for sharing your time and any comments! Until next time, enjoy this imperfect, beautiful life and invent YOUR story!

 

Invent Your Home Decor

Paint Stick Wall Sconces

Welcome Inventors! Oh yes, it’s more fun with paint sticks. It’s the snowball effect – or in this case paintball. Moving on. 😊

These paint stick wall sconces are lightweight and you can give them great personality. They cost next to nothing to make. All you need is a glue gun, paint sticks (these took seven sticks apiece) wood stain and a cylindrical object. I used a candle holder.

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Step 1: Place the glue sticks around the cylinder (if they are printed on one side, be sure to put that side facing in) and hot glue them together. I glued the tops together first and then flipped it over to glue the bottom half.

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Step 2: Stain your sconce. Go outside or to a well-ventilated area, and brush away! If you’ve never stained wood before, people usually go with the grain of the wood, but do what you like. It’s yours! You could also stain your pieces before you glue them together, but I chose not to.

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Step 3: Add your style.

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I liked these with flowers, but I also thought I’d try a night version. They are sconces after all! I mapped out a simple design with pencil and drilled holes in the middle of the sconce.

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I cut the lid of a coffee container to (more or less) make a ledge for my candles, and added a wire on top.

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And now I have a paint stick wall sconce!

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I’m going to play around with some different designs, but this was fun. Let me know how it goes and what you do with your paint sticks. Thank you for stopping. As always, enjoy your day and invent your story!

Writing

Why Invent Your Story?

 

Throughout the history of mankind, every culture tells stories. Tales delight, teach, scare, and inspire audiences world-wide every day. I am captivated by stories. That is why I called my website Invent Your Story.

Whether from fiction or non-fiction, poetry or prose, strangers or friends stories are precious. Each person on this planet is valuable, and everyone has a story. Taking time to listen, learn, and grow from experiences with others is one of life’s greatest joys.

Inventing your story means many things, but I want to list a few for the curious. Here are 3 principles of story invention that I find valuable:

  1. Live Your Story: Each day is a story and your adventure is unfolding with every breath and choice. Take hold of your story and your ability to choose what you do with the days you are given.
  2. Tell Your Stories: If you’re a writer, a mechanic, a circus performer, or my Uncle Johnny you have stories to tell. You don’t have to write them, but do share them with others. You will have an impact.
  3. Practice Invention: Invention has two key definitions: 1) something, typically a process or device that has been invented, and 2) creative ability. You are a creation with the creative ability to solve problems, dream, appreciate, develop, and explore. Use your gifts and see what amazing things happen when you invent.

Stories enrich and shape the life of each person alive today. Invention and its powers do the same thing. Some combination of these two powerful elements is my goal each day.

If you’ve read me before, you know what’s coming next. As always, thank you. Now go. Invent YOUR story.

Invent Your Home Decor

Turn Cans into 3D Wall Art in 3 Easy Steps

Welcome Inventors. What catches your eye? I love life’s unusual suspects. Metal art has texture and depth that appeals to me, so I set out to make the cheapest metal art ever.

I used four different kinds of La Croix carbonated water cans. The drink was tasty and the colors were cool – everybody wins! To make the simple paint stick backdrop, see my last post.

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Step 1: Cut the Cans. Take a pair of sharp scissors and puncture the can, then cut the metal into your desired shapes. I like flowers and wanted a spring theme, so I made long, thin strips for green stems, and I cut fatter pieces in white and pink for petals.

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I did not cut myself while handling the metal, but I would not recommend this project for kids. If you want to do a similar project with kids, you can use these same techniques with paper and get amazing results.

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Step 2: Shape the Pieces. To make your can art really pop, (it had to be punned) use a variety of markers, pencils, and whatever is handy to shape the cut metal pieces. I wrapped my green strips around a pencil to make curly stems.

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I cut circles of yellow and wrapped them over the flat top of a pencil to create the centers for pink flowers.

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For the bigger petals, I used a marker to make a softer look.

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Step 3: Glue the Metal. After your pieces are ready, hot glue them to your backdrop. For the large flower, I started with a big circle (pictured above) to serve as the full circumference of the flower. Working from the outside in, I glued the rows of petals (about half a flower at a time) until I reached the center. A small petal finished the piece.

For the pink flowers, I glued the pink petals in a small circle first, and then I dotted the yellow centers with hot glue to secure them in the middle.

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Glue a wire or string on the back, and it’s ready to hang on the wall! Like all art, this has endless possibilities. Have fun using your imagination. Enjoy your day, and invent your story!

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Invent Your Home Decor

Paint Stick Placemats: 3 Cheap Materials, 3 Easy Steps

Welcome Inventors! The weather is warming up and we’re ready for fun times outside. After playing with paint sticks in my last post, I had an idea to make art out of them. But as I made the art, I thought: these could be cool placemats. And now they are both.

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This is not inherently a kid’s project, but kids could easily help make the placemats. If your kids are too young to use a hot glue gun, they could decorate/paint/handprint them after they’re done. Or you can invent something new to share! 😊

 

All you need for this project are 15 paint sticks, hot glue, and wood stain. It’s literally a 3-material project for pennies if you have leftover stain and hot (or regular) glue. I used a lot of hot glue.

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Step 1: Line up 13 paint sticks. Alternate the indented sides to create a kind of rustic pattern. If your paint sticks are printed on one side, make sure that side is facing the back.

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Step 2: Hot glue the 2 remaining sticks cross-wise to the back of the lined sticks. I put a strip of glue down across the lined sticks first, placed one cross-stick down, did the same to the other side with the second cross-stick, and then reinforced them with more hot glue along the top and sides.

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Step 3: Stain or paint the top of your placemat. Boom! You’re done!

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I hope you like this project and it spruces up your spring table. Just in case you are wondering, I did stage our deck table with two desserts (above) and then ate them both for breakfast. See, this blog helps everyone!

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Also, if you’re curious about the art I was going to make before I got sidetracked with the placemats, check out my last picture. I’ll write more about that next time. Until then, enjoy your day and go invent your story!

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InventorThink for kids, Uncategorized

Think Spring! Spring-action race car launchers.

Welcome inventors! This past week was spring break, and to celebrate I bought a box of springs. After brainstorming with my kids, we created our own spring-action race car launchers and gate. Check it out!

Here’s how we did it: First, we gathered all of the same size springs together. You could experiment with different strengths and sizes of springs, but in the spirit of good sportsmanship, we opted to keep them the same for racing. We used these materials and painter’s tape.

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To make the launchers, we cut a paint stick into small pieces and sanded the edges. Then we super-glued (and doubled security with hot glue) the springs onto the back of our paint stick pieces. Launchers!

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After that, we needed our starting gate. We ran out of hot glue, so we used painter’s tape to frame the sticks into stalls. This wasn’t hard, but the sticks moved quite easily.

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The ends of the stalls were floppy, so we secured two screws together that faced opposite directions to the end of the starting gate to keep them equally separate. This is shown in the video at the end. We also taped the outside walls to our table.

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Ready, set, launch! For our race, we used more painter’s tape to create a finish line for the winners. We also experimented with some interference for our race cars to navigate. My son made a display for our winning cars.

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I think it turned out pretty well!  Here’s our big race. Give it a try and see what you think. And whatever you do this spring, don’t forget to enjoy life and invent your story.