Monday, December 27, 2010

Storage Solution Odyssey: Part 2


Here is my latest storage solution for my boys' room. As you can read in this post, I've had a hard time finding cheap and sturdy storage for the Closetmaid shelves I purchased at Target. I had a bunch of diaper boxes about the same size and decided they'd fit the shelves. I began by cutting the flaps off the top of the boxes. I wrapped them with gift wrap like a present, leaving enough paper (about 2'') to fold inside the boxes. I used double sided tape on the outside for a cleaner finish. I then cut and wrapped clear contact paper around the boxes for extra durability, wrapping the bottom and a few inches inside the box. They have held up really well. This is also a great way to incorporate their interests without a big investment. As their preferences change, so can the boxes. And if/when they do get destroyed, I'm only out a couple of dollars.

Merry Christmas!

So, I was not as dedicated to craft-making this year as I was last year. I did manage to make a few things. But a nasty cold and the usual demands of the holiday season delayed my posting of holiday crafts. So, here they are... a few days late.

I was suddenly inspired one late night while watching The Wrestler to make a fabric Christmas tree using a styrofoam cone I had. Not entirely sure what those two things have to do with each other, but this was the result. I'm not blown-over by it, but it is something I can put out and not worry if it gets destroyed.


We moved our tree to the den/family room this year. Usually, we put it in front of the big picture window in the living room, so you can see the lit tree from the street. But we figured it would be easier to corral toys if we had them in the den. The fireplace is in there too, so we can do stockings and presents all in one room. It worked out relatively well. Some ornaments broke, some were rearranged. I don't think any ornament higher than 4 feet stayed put. My little elves love to rearrange them. Oh well, it was worth it to have both boys get the Santa Claus thing this year. These are the magic years, and I know they'll go faster than I'd like.

Anyway, back to the crafts. I hung this green wreath in front of the window. I used a bunch of green ribbon I had on hand.

I hung some snowflake garland and green ornament balls from the chandelier for a festive touch.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Puppets


I'm blessed to have friends that completely overestimate my crafting skills. However, it does encourage me to stretch myself a bit. My newest challenge is creating puppets for a puppet ministry at church. I found this very helpful series of videos online. What I love about this guy is that he thinks and explains things the very same way I would. I know it drives left-brainers crazy, but he provides just enough foundational information to let you experiment.

So, I decided to give it a try and made one from stuff I had around the house. And, yes, it does concern me a bit that I already had the supplies I needed to make a puppet. My husband's reply when I told him? "Not surprised." I'm a bit of a pack-rat.

I did use regular fleece, but I'd recommend (as do the pros) anti-pill fleece. The boys christened him "Nicky." I have no idea why. I'm working on the actual puppets I need to make, now that I have some idea what I'm doing. Note I said some idea.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Autumn Themed Shower: Li'l Pumpkin

I made another of my diaper cake/taggie blanket combos for another expectant mom. Her shower was in October, so we had a lil pumpkin theme. Here are the favors I made:

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I took mini pumpkins (jack-be-nimble, I think) and painted them with glitter paint. I found some glitter tulle that I wrapped around them, and then tied with an orange organza ribbon. I believe there are very few things that can't be improved with glitter. :)

Here is the autumn-themed diaper cake, adorned with sunflowers:

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And here is the taggie blanket I made for a girl, but I it could be for a boy, too. Pretty gender neutral:

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pressed Leaf Placemats

This is a fun and super easy project.

Materials:
construction paper
clear adhesive shelf paper
scissors
rule
leaves

The boys and I went into the backyard and collected leaves. I cut four sheets of the shelf paper of the same size slightly larger than the construction paper. I pulled the backing off two of the shelf paper sheets. The boys arranged the leaves on the sticky side. I laid a piece of construction paper on top, then peeled and arranged the other shelf paper on the back. I sealed it by attached the overlapping shelf paper. Trimmed edges.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Superhero Party

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Tater had his big 5th birthday party this weekend, and I must say that it was a smashing success! We had a superhero theme party at our house in the backyard. We saved a lot doing things ourselves. Thank goodness the weather was nice. Here are some of the things we did (and didn't) do...

1. No presents. The no-present party is more controversial topic than I imagined. On the invite I put, "No gifts, please. Your presence is the greatest gift." Some think it flat out rude to request no presents on the invite. Some think it's false-altruism, "we're less materialistic than you." Others think its perfectly fine. Here's my main reason: I'm lazy. I just didn't want to deal with the opening presents thing. Tater wanted a lot of friends over, and we didn't even get to invite everyone he wanted. We can only hold so many preschoolers! But I told him that if we invited lots of friends, we'd open presents the night before. He was fine with it. We had a family party the previous night where Tater opened gifts from family. He got a lot. He and Monkey are the only grandkids on my husband's side. And my parents give them loads of stuff. Christmas is just around the corner, and my mom alone gives them more stuff than they can play with. Plus, they fight over everything, especially when it's new. And I just didn't want to deal with the "hey, that's mine!" arguments. They are also hard on toys, and I'm just so tired of throwing out broken toys. I wanted it to be one big play date, where the kids can run around, have fun and pretend. I did have a few parents mention that they would have liked an opportunity to remind their children of the importance of giving by picking out something for their friend. I get and appreciate that. But with the economy so bad, I didn't feel comfortable with folks feeling they had to bring something. I wanted to come across as saying, "Hey, parents, let's save ourselves some money and a trip to Target. Besides, they just want to play with one another anyway," but there wasn't enough space on the evite for that. A couple of people brought gifts, and they were greatly appreciated. We opened them after our guests left. I think we won't do the "no presents" thing again. Live and learn.

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2. Paperless invitations. We went with an invite on the newevite.com. Worked well with our superhero theme and FREE!

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3. Wearable favors. I made capes for our guests to wear. No, they are not that hard. I found this site with suggestions on a pattern. I appliqued a gold felt star on the back of each. The kids really liked them. I got a lot of, "you made those!?" But they aren't exactly that complicated. Sew two pieces of fabric together. Leave an opening. Turn inside out. Press. Stitch around the edge. Add velcro. And I don't think they cost more than other favors to make. On average, I spent about <$2/cape.

4. Superhero games. I'd love to take credit for this as well, but another creative mom came up with these games. I printed out the little jpegs she had online. They were very low-res, but no one cared.
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- Lava Pit - filled an old sandbox with red balloons. Kids had to cross a bridge over it. This is a post-party shot. Most of the balloons had been popped.

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- Leap Tall Buildings - we set up boxes for the kids to jump over.

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- Kryptonite in the Batcave - We draped our swingset with tarps and black tablecloths creating a "batcave." The kids had to retrieve the "kryptonite" which were glow stick bracelets. They loved this.

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- Mighty Muscles - I made barbells out of styrofoam balls. The kids took turns testing their strength. Here's Monkey demonstrating his strength.

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- Vaporize a Villian - This was probably the most fun. We tacked pictures of villains on the wooden fence and gave each child a can of silly string. Some had a hard time pressing it down, but with a little help, they got the hang of it. Our bad guys were Darkseid, Syndrome, Emporer Zurg, The Joker, The Green Goblin, Catwoman and Mr. Freeze. I found pictures online and just printed them out.

Other than the balloons, silly string, and tablecloths, there were no other expenses. I had everything else already.

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5. Superhero cupcakes. I love cupcakes. I found a website called superherostuff.com with jpegs of superhero pins. I printed some off of Batman, Spiderman and Superman, cut them out and glued them to little flat sticks I found at the craft store. The toppers were about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. I topped the superman ones with yellow frosting and sprinkles. Batman had chocolate icing; he is the dark knight, after all. And spiderman cupcakes were frosted white, and then I drew three concentric circles in black sparkly icing. Taking a toothpick, I began in the center and dragged it through the icing several times to the edge, forming a web. They were very fun to make. And they were very popular with our guests, especially with ice cream.

I spent little on the cupcakes, as well. Liners, wooden picks, cake mix and store-bought icing. Although, this project might have convinced me to get a circle cutter!

6. Yummy appetizers. I went with primary colored paper goods. I made some sausage pinwheels and spinach dip. I picked up some ginger cookies, hummus, pita chips, tortilla chips, salsa, fruit and veggies at the store. We served tea, lemonade, water and apple juice (in boxes). It was pretty simple.

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7. Handmade decorations. I made "pow!," "zwapp!" and "bam!" signs out of poster board and hung those up inside and outside. I'm sure they'll spend some time on the boys' room walls.

In all, it was a great time. And we didn't spend that much to do it. A little online searching and planning, and we had a memorable day. My big guy had a great party and lots of fun with his friends. That made it all worth it - just to see that smile!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Storage Solution Odyssey: Part 1



So, I've had an ongoing and unsuccessful search to find the most indestructible, attractive and affordable storage solution for the
Closetmaid Cubeical shelving units.
Product Image Closetmaid Cubeicals® 9 Cube Organizer White
I purchased 2 units, one 6 cube, the other 9. The obvious first choice was the fabric drawers that fit nicely into the 12 x 12 x 12 inch cubes. So, I bought some. And they worked... for a while. Now, the drawers are just fabric with some flimsy cardboard, which of course was no match for the boys. I swear they could be product testers. Those wouldn't do. I went about looking for more options, and found a few, but none met the necessary requirements:

1. Would not cause major bodily injury if item was thrown and struck a child. Notice I added "major." Bodily injury of the milder sort is too often an occurrence here. That disqualifies all heavy, rigid materials like wood or metal. I looked high and low for plastic bins, but couldn't find any the right size.

2. Affordable. Yeah, I'm not paying 40 bucks for storage that will hold my boys' matchbox cars.

3. Not ugly. This is when handmade storage can go bad. But did I let that stop me? No!

I concluded one day that the diaper boxes I buy would fit into the holes. So, I went out and bought some gift wrap. I wrapped the outside and bottom, and left a few inches to fold over into the inside of the box. The diaper boxes come with the cut-out handles, so I cut and glued some red foam sheets around the handle to reinforce it.

Thus far, it is an adequate storage solution. The gift wrap has held up longer than I thought. In subsequent projects, which I'll add later, I wrapped clear contact paper around them to protect the paper. It is inevitable that the boxes will get destroyed, but I'll only be out a dollar or so for the tape and gift wrap.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My New Favorite Online Cookbook

Herb-Grilled Chicken With Watermelon-Feta Salad
I've found myself in a cooking rut lately. I've got about a dozen recipes memorized that I put into circulation, mostly to make grocery shopping easier - the same things, every week. Then I discovered myrecipes.com, and more specifically, their 1 list, 5 meals under the "quick and easy" tab. They put 5 tasty and easy meals together and a shopping list that you can print out! I'm on my second week. I can recommend weeks 5 and 10. I made watermelon and feta salad (see above) last night (it's really good, I promise), which beat having chicken casserole or spaghetti for the umpteenth time. And it's encouraged my boys to try more things. They're actually not very picky, but this helps.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dyed Noodle Necklaces


I've seen several blogs and websites with instructions about dying noodles. I decided to make some for the kindergarten and 1st grade classes at VBS, and they loved them! I divided up the noodles in plastic veggie trays, so the kids could reach them.

Materials

Hemp string (it's stiff and strong which makes threading much easier)
Food coloring
Baggies
Assorted noodles
Rubbing Alcohol (this sets the color so they don't bleed and noodles keep their shape and firmness)

Put the desired number of noodles in a sandwich baggie. Poor in about 1 - 2 tablespoons of alcohol. Add a few drops of food coloring. Seal the bag, swish around the liquid until all noodles are coated. Leave in for 5 - 10 minutes, until desired color. I poured the noodles into a colander and reserved the dye. Dry the noodles on a paper plate. It might take a couple of hours to dry.
Repeat process for as many colors as you like.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Another Monk's Bag


Well, I decided to make a smaller monk's bag. I love the first one I made, but I had some fabric I wanted to try. I made some throw pillows for the guest room bed out of the floral. My husband claims it has a Korean design influence. I'll take his word for it. He's the one with the Asian History degree. I used three kinds of fabric. The floral and dot printed fabric are Alexander Henry designs from Jo-Ann's. The red is a poly-cotton blend I already had with a little stretch to it. The inside strap is the dot fabric. I do like it, though it is flashier than what I usually wear. I added pockets to the outside and inside, four in total. These are really easy bags to make.

Monday, June 28, 2010

VBS Crafts


My blog's a little dusty, since I've been neglecting it recently. I've been wrapping up my moms club duties, and it's taken some time. And now I'm gearing up for Vacation Bible School! I'm the craft lady. That's what you get for starting a craft blog. I'm so thankful I did, because in addition to using the crafts that came with the curriculum, I'll be mining my blog archive for craft ideas. Nothing like using old standards. I like the ease of use with the curriculum crafts, but they're not that open-ended, and I want to give kids some options. The theme is Planet Zoom, with a "bee" figuring prominently in the visual aids and crafts. The age is kindergarten through the 6th grade. I'm going to have a craft associated with the Bible story for each day along with two stations. One for card making, which I'm going to send with my next package of stuffed animals to troops stationed in Afghanistan. The other station is for pom-pom bugs, especially bees.

For the K - 1st grades, I'm going to be working on the hive/bee thumbprint craft. This should be lots of fun with minimal mess. One of the days will focus on Jesus feeding the 5,000. I thought this would be a good time to work in my pom-pom sundae crafts, using them as an opportunity to show Christ's love by making a treat for someone they love. I might also use the craft foam sandwiches too, since one group can make sandwiches, while the other makes sundaes. I'll probably do this bee craft with them as well. Or this, which might be easier.

The older kids will do the curriculum crafts, but with the option of making keychain critters from pony beads. Of course, I found instructions for a bee. I also need to rummage through our halloween supply for my bee costume. I thought that would go over well with the kids.

Well, I'll let you know how it goes. Bee good.

Deuteronomy 31:6 (New International Version)

6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."


Joshua 1:9 (New International Version)

9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Potty Power: Part 2

So, Monkey's getting around the potty-training age, so I dug up the potty chart I used for Tater. See here for more info. I had all kinds of frustration trying to train him, but this really worked. I'm not as stressed about Monkey getting it. I got way too wound up in the fact that other kids were potty trained, and Tater wasn't. I needed to just take a chill pill, because it's perfectly normal for some kids to take a little longer. In retrospect, I think I felt my inability to potty train him reflected poorly on me as a mother - as if I needed something else to feel inferior about! Tater got the potty thing by 3 1/2, thanks to this chart. Monkey's only 2 1/2, so I know he'll take an interest in it when he's ready.

I think a lot of the hesitancy with Tater was his need to assert his independence and control over the situation. I've no doubt Monkey will be just as strong-willed and assertive. I'm ready this time. I added some things to the new chart. Here's the updated version. Click on the image for the full size:

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Taggie Blanket #2

I made this one for a girl...


See here for another example. Some folks have been telling me I should make and sell these on on etsy or something. I actually think that would be fun, since they are quick and fun to make.

Diaper Cake


I made this and a taggie blanket for a very sweet expectant mom. It's so lovely to make pretty things for wonderful people, isn't it? After two boys, she's having a girl. I decided to go with a bug theme, using the butterflies on the invites for inspiration. It's a gender neutral theme, too. The baby shower was so much fun. I was so glad to be a part of it.

Here's how you do it...

Materials:
Diapers - size 1, you'll need the 100 + count
Big piece of corrugated cardboard
Aluminum foil
Grosgrain ribbon, 1 1/2 inches wide
Wood shapes or artificial flowers (3)
Cellophane
Curling ribbon
Hot glue gun and glue

Instructions:
Cut out a big cardboard circle. I used a big platter as a template. I covered it with aluminum foil.
I used size 1 diapers, since babies grow out of the newborns so fast.
Fold diapers in half and group into three's, tying together with curling ribbon.
Arrange the sections with folded sides out.
Tie sections to each other with ribbon.
Once you have a nice circle that covers your cardboard base, fill the center with diapers.

Begin a second tier using the same method, but make smaller.
The top tier is a little trickier. I alternated two diapers tied together with individual folded diapers. This helps better control the roundness. But don't stress too much; it all comes together with the grosgrain.

Wrap the bottom layer with the grosgrain ribbon. Make it snug. Use opaque ribbon to hide the curling ribbon. Glue ends together with hot glue. Repeat with other layers.

I picked some adorable little bugs to decorate the layers and cover the overlapped raw edges of the ribbon. You can also use large fake flowers like gerber daisies, as well. Adhere the embellishments to the ribbon with hot glue.

Wrap that sucker with cellophane and tie off with curling ribbon. This makes a really big statement without much expense. The ribbon was about $4. The wooden cut-outs were about 6o cents a piece. Altogether, it costs about $30 to make. It can also make for a nice centerpiece at a baby shower.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

15 minute Super Hero Cape

The boys have been into super heroes lately; Superman, Spiderman, Batman, The Incredibles have all come up during their play. And honestly, what boy hasn't wanted to be a super hero? Sure a towel and a clothespin could do, but I wanted something with a little more finish.

A few years back, my husband and I agreed we needed a Christmas tree skirt. I bought a simple red felt one for 5 bucks. He bought a nicer red and green velvet-type one. We use his. The red one's been languishing in the bottom of a box of holiday decorations until recently - when I got the idea to make capes out of it. It took me 15 minutes to make 4 capes for the boys.


I began by cutting four equal wedges out of the tree skirt. You'll notice it has some decorative edging, but I didn't really mind that. I like felt because you don't have to worry about finishing edges. I knew there was a pretty good chance these would be destroyed in a couple of weeks, so I gathered some old ribbon from a gift we received some time ago. The ribbon's yellow with red writing that says "thank you." I figured that was appropriate for a super hero with all the rescuing they do. You can also add embellishments like initials or emblems, but I haven't gotten around to that yet.


I took the point of a cape and folded it over about 4-5 inches. I created a channel about 2 inches wide for the ribbon to slip through.

Then, I secured the ribbon by stitching it to the cape at the ends of the channel openings.

It is a great size, because it's not too long and it fans out... very cape-like.

Voila! Here's Tater modeling it...

And here it is in action...

Another addition to a fun and growing dress-up bin full of pretend-play potential. A few moms pointed out the choking hazard of the tied straps, so I ended up cutting them down and adding velcro to the ends.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sleepers Awake!

I hope I shall never tire of the arrival of spring, when perennials peek through the soil and return like old friends for an extended visit.

lambs ears

pink rose

siberian iris

hosta

Friday, April 30, 2010

Horn Tooting...

I'm in the Washington Post. But the photo is terrible and it was a local edition, so it isn't that exciting. My local paper did a story about my local moms club. I happen to be serving as president this year, so they interviewed me for the story. I guess my town newspaper is an affiliate of WashPo or something, so it ran in the county edition. Believe me, my county could use all the the positive press it can get.

I thought I dodged a bullet when the article appeared in my local paper, since it featured our event performer and another club member with her baby. But a few days later, a mom in our group says to me, "Hey, you're in the Post." Crap. Nothing like the entire world knowing you still haven't lost the 50 lbs you gained from your first pregnancy. And don't you just love florescent lights? My boobs look huge, so maybe that takes away from my enormous double chin. Oh well, this is how I look. It's given me motivation to go to the gym more.

The story is nice, though I told them my husband's out of the Navy now. It says some nice stuff about our club, and we do try to make an effort to welcome and serve people in our community. I'm proud of the things we did this year and enjoyed serving on the board, but I'm looking forward to my time being up in June. Now, I'm off to do some crunches...


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Azaleas


We moved into our home 5 years ago during the late winter, before the azaleas' bloomed. We were surprised a couple of months later to discover that previous owners planted four different azalea bushes in the front beds in four different colors: coral, lavender, fushia and purple. I love color, but it might have annoyed someone who preferred a simpler color scheme in her flower beds. The rest of the year they are evergreen shrubs, but in early spring, they bless us with a dazzling array of color.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Recycled Fire Truck


A few days back it was raining. We had picked up Tater from preschool, and I was racking my brain trying to come up with an activity to help pass the afternoon. Monkey has been crazy for fire trucks lately, so I decided we should try our hands at building one.

I came across this website a few weeks ago and was really impressed with the things she does with her kids. It did make me feel like an underachiever, but the blogosphere tends to do that. At least it's not Facebook, a perpetual high school reunion that doesn't serve alcohol. I've never made my kids a giant space ship out of foil and boxes. I don't make my own play-doh. If that makes me less than a terrific mom, so be it. I decided not to be too hard on myself, because I've embraced the fact that crafting with kids will be yet another thing someone else does better than me.

I gathered some boxes and went through the recycling bin. I assembled paint and brushes. I told the boys to get to work. I knew they'd get paint all over the floor, but it was due for a cleaning. We painted a packing box and shoe box, and I glued them together with my glue gun. We painted small plates for wheels, a steering wheel and headlights that I glued on. And I hot-glued various gizmos on one side and added a ladder made from craft foam to the other.


We had a couple of larger boxes that served as the fire station. I swear Monkey spent 30 minutes moving the fire truck in and out of those boxes. Tater observed that any decent fire station had an ambulance. So he set to working painting another moving box, but he puttered out by the time he got to the third side. Our fire truck lasted about 2 days before they started ripping things off. A day and a half longer than I thought it would.

Almost Guilt-Free Key Lime Pie

I made this last night, and my guys loved it...

Ingredients
1 reduced fat graham cracker crust
1 (4 servings) package sugar-free lime gelatin
1/4 cup boiling water
1 (8 ounce) container fat-free whipped topping
2 (6 ounce) key lime pie yogurt
Directions

1. In a large bowl, dissolve gelatin in boiling water.
2. Stir in yogurt with wire whisk.
3. Fold in whipped topping with wooden spoon.
4. Spread in crust.
5. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Camilla



My mom sent me a camilla bush for my birthday last year. I planted it in the front, since it likes shade. It took a beating with the snow, and I had to cut some broken branches. I was afraid it might not make it, but it put out a few beautiful white flowers. I cut one for the mantel. I can't decide between the camilla or peony as my favorite flower, but I certainly appreciate the resiliency of the camilla.

Taggie Blanket




A dear friend just had her second child, so I decided to make him a little taggie blanket. I had about a yard of black watch tartan fabric that I had purchased a while back for some reason. I guess I just liked it. Being a child of the 80's, I've got a thing for plaid. Being Scot-Irish helps too, I suppose.

I cut a 22" square piece of fabric (pre-washed, of course). I cut 4 inch strips of ribbon. I folded them in half and pinned them to the fabric. I lined the raw edges of the ribbon up with the raw edge of the fabric, loops toward the center. I stitched all around the edge about 3/8" to secure the ribbon.

I cut out a wonderfully soft minky dot fabric 22" square. With right sides together, I sewed around the edge using a 1/2" stitch. This hides the ribbon stitches. I left about a three inch gap to turn it inside out. I pressed the edge so the fabrics lined up nice, then stitched around the it again with a 1/4" stitch. The finished blanket is about 21 inches square. I also made a matching burp cloth using the same technique.


I hope baby A enjoys it. My boys loved tags. I even made one for Monkey.