Dollar Tree Anniversary Celebration

I am excited to be partnering with Dollar Tree to share their special Anniversary Event Bonus Buys with you!

If you have been reading along with Holy Craft for even a second you will know how much I love Dollar Tree.  We live far too close and I visit Dollar Tree far too often!  I am unbelievably excited about the Dollar Tree Anniversary Celebration and you should be too.  You won't believe what you can pick up for only a dollar!
Dollar Tree's anniversary celebration is going on now through October 11, 2014 with tons of new Bonus Buys with up to 58% more FREE for each item!
You can still pick up your name brand favorites but for a limited time, they are available in larger sizes and are still only $1 each. 
Over two years ago, I shared with you a post on things that I buy at Dollar Tree that I think are a good value.  I was overwhelmed with the response!  So many of you love the bargains you find at Dollar Tree too!  I've become something of an expert on Dollar Tree and I am still a frequent shopper.


Here are a few things I will be stocking up on at the Dollar Tree Anniversary Celebration.
You should get a pen and start a list.  You will want to buy these things too. 
Promise.

I use Dollar Tree's bottles of L.A.’s Totally Awesome® Window Cleaner and  L.A.’s Totally Awesome® Ammonia and I've heard from a lot of my readers in the comments section of my Dollar Tree posts that they use those products too and are amazed at how well they work.  
I pick up snacks like packs of Snyder’s® Mini Pretzels, and boxes of Pepperidge Farm® Goldfish®
and I almost always use Hefty® Gallon-Size Zipper Bags for food storage at home.
And it's stock up time on things like Crest® Toothpaste,  Dial® Bar Soap, and Tide® Simply Clean & Fresh™ Detergent.

Did you know you can use coupons at Dollar Tree?  You totally can!
Pair a coupon with these great Bonus Buys and you are having your own little celebration because of how much money you saved!

Quantities are limited, so head to your local Dollar Tree today and stock up!

Keep up to date by subscribing to weekly e-mails from Dollar Tree.
Follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest

Now go. 
Leave.
 Head to Dollar Tree and stock up!
That's where you will find me!

disclaimer: this is a sponsored post as part of a campaign by Blueprint social.  You never have to twist my arm to write about my undying love for Dollar Tree though. All opinions are 100% my own.
1

Stenciled $10 rug update

I not only write a blog, I am also an avid blog reader.
I see tutorials all the time and love the finished project but I constantly wonder how those projects have held up over time.  Especially ones that get used often.
Over two years ago I stenciled a Big Lots rug that I got for $10 and shared the tutorial with you.
I used regular paint can paint that I had on hand that I had gotten for free and even I was concerned at how well the paint would hold up over time.
This is a picture of the rug from March 2012

I'm happy to report that while the rug has faded, it has held up remarkably well.
The room that the rug is in receives the most light and is one of the highest traffic spots in the whole house.

The stenciled rug is by far one of my favorite projects to date.
So go ahead, use leftover wall paint on a low pile rug and paint away.
You will have a custom rug at a fraction of the cost in no time!

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5 tips to stay connected when your family schedule is busy

Part of back to school that I like is that our family gets back to a routine.
Albeit a crazy sometimes circus like routine, but a routine.
We have kids {and parents} with activities nearly every night of the week.
I like to be as involved in the kids schools as I can be, but that means that I could also be sitting in a school committee meeting nearly every night of the week.
In the wise words of Sweet Brown
It's hard sometimes to stay connected as a family when we have five different schedules to coordinate.
Here are 5 ways that our family stays connected, even with our busy schedules.

1. Have a no TV/electronics rule before school
If my kids are distracted by the TV or the computer, I can repeat myself 100 times and no one will hear me.  My voice gets louder and louder and our morning starts off with screaming and tears {sometimes from the kids, usually from me}.  My kids can't seem to focus on getting ready for school if they are too busy wondering what crook the meddling kids from Scooby Doo will catch next. It's just easier to have this blanket rule for us in the morning and it allows us to spend time starting off the day on the right foot.  Sometimes we play games, sometimes we read a few chapters in a read out loud book, sometimes we tell stories and sometimes the kids spend extra time in the bath. Regardless, the kids know that if they ask to play the computer or watch TV the answer is no.
2. Have kids help
It's not rocket science, and I'm not quite sure why I didn't think of it sooner, but asking for help from your kids can not only ease your burden, but it can let them feel a part of the family and encourage responsibility.  About a year ago, I was frustrated with how dirty the bathrooms were from daily use.  We have three bathrooms and three kids, seriously, why did it take me so long to think about using them as child labor!  They not only have become cleaner bathroom users {I have two boys, I'm not going into details!}, but it has freed up some of my time so that I can do a puzzle in the morning before school.
3. Eat family dinner
Family dinner is one of the most important parts of our day. It's getting harder and harder to make it a priority with kids schedules, but at this point with a 16, 12 and 9 year old, we are still able to have a home cooked family dinner at least six nights a week.  It's the one time of the day that all five of us slow down and are in the same place at the same time. It's a time for us to connect, check in and plan the evening and the next day. It helps that my husband's work schedule is very predictable and that he is home every day like clock work at 5.
4. Plan family activities
There is a magical time in a child's life when there is a shift from wanting to spend time with your family to wanting to spend time with your friends. Remember those days when your kids couldn't get enough of you and were tugging at your leg and sitting on your hip and 
couldnotbesetdownforevenasecondortheywouldscream?  
Well, those days do come to an end. 
As parents, we have to be intentional about including every one of our kids in activities or we could be racing off with one kid, while the other two are with the other parent. We plan things like family movie night {thank you netflix!}, hikes {my kids least favorite-but if we tune out their constant whining we are sure they will look back on those hikes as fun family time}, and time at the beach.
5. Cancel everything
Before you think I'm talking crazy talk, hold on just a second to let me explain myself. I don't mean that you should cancel every activity that your family is a part of, not at all.  I just think that for one day, sometimes changing things up and spending time as a family is the best thing that you can do. The earth will still spin if your child doesn't go to her soccer practice and the PTA will still exist if you don't volunteer at the rummage sale. Sometimes, if your family has been running in all directions, you just need a family mental health day. 
Pull the shades, stay in your jammies, and just enjoy one another.  
Watch a series on Netflix {I recommend Saved by the Bell}, share a movie that you enjoyed when you were a kid {Ferris Bueller's Day Off is one of my favorites}, make a blanket fort {inspiration here}.  Your kids won't expect the change in their routine, but they will think that it is the coolest thing ever and will actually want to hang out with you and hunker down for the day.
Do you have any tips to help keep your family connected when you are busy running in all directions?  I would love to hear them.
disclaimer: all opinions are 100% my own.  I do receive a Netflix subscription in exchange for my monthly participation as a stream team member.
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I and Love and You

 Our four year old Golden Retriever Sophie is a part of our family.
She's been with us since we adopted her when she was 12 weeks old.


We watch her when she sleeps,
{it's so cute to see her old man eyebrows smoosh together when she has her eyes closed and is resting her head on her paws}
we take her with us when we go places,
{it's the cutest thing watching her swim out in the Puget Sound trying to keep up with the kayak full of her kids}
and we do our best to find the highest quality food and treats for her so that Sophie can stay strong and healthy for as many years as she can be!

Our local Fred Meyer and QFC
{Kroger affiliates}
has started carrying the high quality pet food and treats by I and Love and You.
It's hard to find good quality pet food at your local grocery store, so I am so excited about this new partnership!


Now I can get high quality food for our whole family
including high protein, grain free food and treats for the furry member of our family.


Sophie will do anything for a treat.
It's our job as humans to make sure it's the best most high quality treat for her.


You can download a coupon for I and Love and You products today.
Click here to find the retailer nearest you.
In no time, your dog will be licking their lips as a thank you too!

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post for “I and love and you” Total Pet Care.  All opinions are 100% my own.  I wouldn't tell you about something that I didn't love.  Promise.
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Why I don't buy school pictures

I have three school age kids.
Since my kids have been attending school, 
I have been getting those packets of information at the beginning of the school year from whatever local photography studio has been commissioned to the task of photographing every single child with the most hideous backgrounds available.
{this year there was a video game background.  Barf.}

Each year, I throw the packet away.
Straight to the trash it goes.
And every year, I feel like I have to explain to the school staff or to the photographers or to my children or to other parents why I don't buy school pictures of my children.
I thought I would throw my reasoning out there into the world
{o.k. at least to my little world}
in the hopes that maybe I could explain myself and quite possibly help another parent not feel guilted into buying cheap
 {and by cheap I don't mean money cheap, I mean cheaply done}
 pictures of their children that will end up in a drawer in an uncut sheet of wallets and "mini's".


Let's be honest, school pictures usually suck.
There is a whole section in awkward family photos dedicated to bad paid for school pictures.
Why?  Because school pictures are awkward.
Kids get shuttled in to an unused classroom or gym that has been made into a faux photography studio for the day.
Each child has three minutes to sit on a box and awkwardly find a hand placement on their lap before the photographer starts snapping away.
Three images are taken 
{four if you blink}
and then the child is sent packing stage left while the photographer bellows "next".



The portrait packages are far too expensive to be buying 
{especially in multiples of three}
bad pictures that will never see the light of day outside of their paper package.
Out of the 12 background selections for my oldest son's portraits,
not a single one was a color that would match with the rest of my house.
I'm not hanging them on my wall.

Shallow?
Probably.
But does it mean that I love my kids any less?
Nope.

In fact, my kids are adequately represented in portraits all throughout our home.
We have pictures lining the walls in our den, on our entertainment center and in our bedroom.
I just choose to hire a professional that doesn't use a laser striped background to photograph our kids.


Getting professional portraits aren't cheap, but I get far better pictures of my kids.
Pictures that I want to hang on the walls.
Pictures that I want to make copies of for my family and friends.
Pictures that I want to blow up and use as art.
Show me a school picture with an outer space background that you would want to blow up to a 16x20 and then maybe we can talk.

Until then parents, I release you of guilt.
You don't have to buy school pictures.
The earth will still be spinning.
Your kids will still be represented in the school year book.
Their pictures will still be used on their ASB cards.
Take the $33 that you don't spend on {most popular} package D and save it for family photographs.
You can thank me later.
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Making unforgettable memories with your family

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Gulf County, Florida. All opinions are 100% mine.

Growing up in Indiana we used to joke that there was a pipeline that existed between Indiana and Florida.  It seemed like everyone in the area vacationed in Florida.  I've actually been to Florida more than I have been to the states that surround my current home. Shocking, I know!

While it would seem like since the mass exodus of people travel to Florida to escape the harsh winters of their homes, that you would just be chasing the crowds.  That is true in some areas of Florida, but it's not true of Gulf County.
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Gulf Country is located in Northwest Florida and it is a hidden family {and pet} friendly gem.

GCFL is surrounded by 43 miles of natural shoreline.  You won't find a high rise or busy highway running through the area, but you will find an overabundance of white-sand beaches and amazing sunsets.

This past summer, we took our first family vacation to Hawaii.  One of our favorite things to do on the island was snorkeling.  My eight year old turned into a fish every time he stepped in the water.

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Some of my favorite family memories from my childhood were all made on family vacations. As a mom of three now, I am doing my best to help my children see the world and have that shared experience of a family vacation.

Taking a trip with your family is one of the best ways to create lifelong family memories that your children will cherish well into their adulthood. The first question is always, where should we go.  My best advice is to seek out family friendly vacation destinations that have activities everyone will enjoy.

I've zeroed in on Gulf County, Florida since it seems to have a little bit of everything that we look for on family vacations.

We are always looking for family friendly vacation rentals like this one found at No Worries Vacation Rentals to make our stay more enjoyable.  Can you even imagine the stories that the kids would whisper late into the night in this bunk room?

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My ideal day at GCFL would start with a sunrise kayak on the legendary Dead Lakes.

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We would spend the morning walking on the beach, building sand castles and playing in the surf.

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In the afternoon we would snorkel for scallops that would be our dinner that evening.

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And we would cap off our day while watching an amazing sunset. Because sunsets are probably my favorite thing ever.

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GCFL is your own outdoor playground!  It's the perfect place to create unforgettable family memories.

GCFLBeachSunsetVertical_web


What kind of family memories do you want to create?
Come visit GCFL
Visit Sponsor's Site
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Head lice. Prevent it. Treat it. Or blow up your house and start over

It's been about six years since our family dealt with the worst head lice outbreak ever. My adorable daughter with her flowing brown locks picked up head lice from either the jerk kid who also threw up on her in Kindergarten, or from the big comfy couch in the classroom that the kids liked to snuggle up on at reading time. Whichever, I don't care, we were infested.

She brought it home, shared it with her brothers and then continued to swap it with her friends
THE WHOLE SCHOOL YEAR. Six years later, I am only now able to talk about it. I think back on that time and cringe. Which is why I want to offer you the parent's survival guide to head lice.

school, elementary school, school age children, lice prevention

First off, let me start by saying that if your child gets head lice it isn't because they are dirty or that your house is unclean.  Dr. Hannah Chow Johnson at Loyola University confirms that head lice is actually attracted to clean shiny hair. So bonus points for you and your clean headed children.

Head lice are easy for kids to get because they are in such close contact with other kids. Kids hug with their whole body and typically put their heads together when they do. They share combs and hats and dress up clothes. Kids snuggle in with stuffed animals and flop around on bean bags and chairs and car seats. All these places are hidden spots for head lice and your child's head is the perfect breeding ground for them.

As a parent, let me tell you, it is far better if you find those little nits or lice in your child's head before the school nurse does. Every school has a different policy, but our school's policy at the time was that a child that was found infected could not return to the classroom until they were nit free.

My daughter was out of school for weeks because we couldn't seem to get the outbreak under control no matter what we did. It was a ridiculous policy because there were no bugs, only nits {like a handful if that!} and if you know anything about nit's its that they are glued on to the hair shaft and they aren't going anywhere. That is, until they hatch.

What it looks like

Kids with head lice will typically be scratching their heads more than normal. You will find small red bumps {bite marks} on the nape of their neck and by their ears. And sometimes you can feel crawling on your head.

Here is what we did

Every night we would wash our daughter's hair and every week we would use an over the counter lice treatment. Once she was out of the bath, my husband would read a book to the kids while I took a fine tooth comb and literally combed through every.single.strand of her head.

If I found a nit {a small white egg}, I would cut it out of her hair at the scalp {believe me, we thought about shaving her head!} along with the handful of strands next to that were next to the nit.
If we found a live bug, we would squish it and dispose of it.

The strands were discarded into a plastic bag that would be tied up and thrown away at the end of the evening.  The process of combing and cutting would take around an hour each night.
We did that for THREE months!

After we combed her hair, we would try whatever witch doctor treatment I read about that week.
We doused her hair with Scope, dish detergent, mayonnaise, olive oil {individually, never together}
and then put a shower cap on her head to sleep with.

In the mornings, I would strip her sheets and take her used towels and clothes
{every.single.day for 6 months} and wash them on hot.

All of her stuffed animals were stored in a plastic garbage bag until she was cleared of lice.
I also had a lice spray that I would use on her car seat and on the one spot on the couch she was allowed to sit. That child had the plague in our house as far as I was concerned.

You would think that with all of these treatments we would have gotten rid of the lice or prevented them from spreading but alas, they did not. One parent can only do so much, so if your child's fellow students are in class and their parents aren't as dedicated to lice removal as you are, then there becomes a lice epidemic.

And a child who has recently had lice is the most susceptible to getting it again within the first 6 months.

What worked

Here is what finally worked for us. Nightly treatments with lice shampoo for three weeks straight.
Most over the counter treatments say to use them every 7-10 days. Sorry, that just didn't work for us.
We were not taking any chances, so we used it every single day.

It just takes a few nits to create another outbreak. Nits can live on your head for up to two weeks before hatching, so we would treat, and then comb the hair out looking for bugs and nits.
I was checking that girls head obsessively like a monkey.

Again, we would dispose of them each night as explained above and I was still washing her sheets, clothes and towels on high every day. I would vacuum everything with an obsession. The couches, the car seats, the floor, everything.

I bought a bottle of tea tree oil and massaged it into her hair every morning because lice don't like the smell. Then we treated everyone in the house even if they didn't show any signs.

If you live in an area that has a lice treatment facility go there.


I'm cheap, but there is no price for your sanity and the time that you will spend on your own trying to get rid of head lice. I had no idea such a place even existed until my nieces came home from school with lice. It's worth it. Seriously.
Even if it costs you every penny you have in your IRA, it's still worth it.

Prevent it

My heart still drops into my stomach when my kids come home with a letter from the school saying that someone in their class has been found to have lice. I don't wish head lice on even my worst enemy.

I still have tea tree oil on hand and start dropping that on the kids if I hear that lice is going around.
Make sure your kids don't share helmets or hats or combs. And then say a prayer over your whole family that no one starts itching their heads or this whole lovely process starts all over again.
My head is starting to itch just thinking about it.

If you find yourself on the other end of a phone call home from the school nurse telling you that your child has lice, take a deep breath, and then Google head lice treatment facilities and book the first appointment that they have.

If you think you want to try treating it on your own, be consistent. And don't stop even when you think you are in the clear.

Do you have any other tips to share?
Not for me because if we get head lice in our house again, everyone is shaving their heads and we are blowing up the house and moving to a different state.
2

Nut free pesto recipe


My oldest son is allergic to nuts, so I'm always on the lookout for how to turn a typically nut heavy recipe into something that doesn't have nuts.
Pesto is notorious for containing pine nuts, and most processed or pre-packaged pesto's contain nuts,
but I knew there had to be a way around using nuts when I made pesto.

This summer, we grew basil in our garden so I had basil in abundance.
I decided to try making pesto without nuts with the basil we had growing in our garden.


You will need:
fresh basil
extra virgin olive oil
Parmesan cheese
fresh lemon
garlic


I started by putting the basil in my small food prep blender.
Chop


I added about 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese to the chopped basil in my blender and mixed well.
Add about four cloves of garlic, pressed and squeeze your lemon {about 2 tsp. of lemon juice}
Combine
You can also add a dash of salt and pepper if you would like.


Gradually stir in your olive oil adding about a quarter cup to start with and working your way up to about a half a cup depending on how runny you like your pesto.


Once your pesto is the desired consistency I heat it up and add it to pasta.
It's a crowd favorite at our house.

Pesto can even be frozen!
This nut free pesto made from scratch takes about five minutes.
That's one quick dinner idea for an evening meal when you don't have much time.
What are your favorite fast easy dinner meal plans?
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Updated Teenage cell phone contract to include smartphone usage.

Two years ago, my husband and I gave our 14 year old son a cell phone for his birthday.
He was pretty convinced that he was the last living person to not have the ability to text.
His phone was a fairly basic pre-paid phone that could text and make phone calls, but little else.
Before we gave him the phone, we created a teenage cell phone contract.


That teen cell phone contract has been downloaded, shared and viewed by hundreds of thousands of people, 
and {though I promise I am not bitter}
I'm pretty sure it's even been copied and passed off as their own
{or been the source of "inspiration"}
for plenty more teenage cell phone contracts.
One may have even been picked up by the Huffington Post.
Again, I'm not bitter.

It's totally fine!
I think the best thing we can do as parents of teens is to parent intentionally.
Know what you are up against and don't just assume that your children know the unspoken rules.

As parents, we thought that with just two short years at home left,
we would allow our son to have a smartphone for his 16th birthday.
He needs to learn how to guide himself around the wild world of the internet,
with our help and guidance of course.
Which is why you will find the updated teenage cell phone contract below.

Our son can no longer just text and call with his phone,
 He can e-mail, search the web, download apps, take videos and so much more.
This is the contract that we have agreed on and will follow.

This contract fits our family.
Feel free to use what works for yours and change what doesn't.
But as always, please give credit where credit is due.
If you want to copy this and spread it out to every student in your school,
please do, just reference my blog and where the parents can find it.
If you want to write your own article about cell phones and teenagers, that's great! We need more parent friendly articles to help navigate this technology saturated generation, just link back to me when you use my information.


I know that having a cell phone to use is a privilege. I understand that my parents love me and want to keep me safe. My parents respect that I am becoming a young adult and want the privilege of having the use of a cell phone. With that in mind, I agree that:

1.    My cell phone must be turned off by my bedtime and placed in an agreed upon location downstairs.  It is my responsibility to be sure the cell phone is being charged when necessary.

2.    During family meals, my cell phone will be turned off or silenced and in my pocket or placed away from the table.  I will not check texts or take calls during meal time.

3.    I will practice proper etiquette when using my cell phone in public places, and be conscious of how my usage affects those around me.  My phone will be turned off or silenced when I am in church, restaurants, or other quiet settings, and I will not place or take texts or calls during those times.

4.    I understand that having a cell phone is a means of communication, and is not a replacement for actual face to face interaction with my friends and family members.  Therefore, when I am with others, I will make the people I am with my priority.

5.    I am responsible for knowing where my cell phone is and for keeping it in good working condition.

6.    I will obey all rules my school has regarding cell phone usage on school grounds.

7.    I will never text while driving, and will not ride in a car with someone who does.

8.    I will not use my cell phone to take pictures or video of nudity, violence or other unlawful activity.

9.    I will not use my cell phone for malicious purposes, i.e. bullying, spreading rumors/gossip, etc, nor will I send or forward text messages, pictures, or videos that are vulgar, obscene, violent, or sexual in nature.  I understand that such things are both highly inappropriate and potentially illegal.

10.  I am responsible for ensuring that my internet usage and that the content and apps on my phone comply with the standards of appropriateness set forth by my parents.  In addition, I will request permission before downloading any communication or social media related apps.

11.  I will alert my parents if I receive suspicious or alarming phone calls or text messages.

12.  I will alert my parents if I am being harassed by someone via my cell phone.

13.  I understand that my parents can go through the contents of my phone at any time, with or without my knowledge.  I agree to surrender my cell phone immediately to my parents if asked.  I will not delete my texting history without permission, and I will fully cooperate in showing my parents the contents of my cell phone, including contacts, pictures, videos, text messages, etc, stored within.

14.  I will always respond to my mom or dad’s texts/calls as soon as possible in the given situation.

15.  I understand that I do not have unlimited calling and that each call over the limit is charged by the minute.  I am accountable for my call usage, and am responsible for any overage fees.

16.  I understand that I am required to manage my time in such a way that my phone usage doesn’t interfere with my responsibilities, and that my phone may be taken away for failing to complete school assignments or not maintaining a sufficient grade point average, as defined by my parents. 

17.  I understand that my cell phone may be taken away for disrespectful or disobedient behavior, including (but not limited to) back talking, inappropriate sibling interactions (i.e. fighting, hitting, name calling, etc.), and failure to complete responsibilities at home when asked or required.

18.  I understand that failure to follow and respect any of these rules can result in the loss of my cell phone for any length of time determined by my parents.

4

Dog hair bow tutorial

It's no secret that our dog Sophie is a part of our family.
We couldn't imagine family life without her.
This month, we celebrate her 4th birthday,
and just like one of our kids, 
it's hard to imagine life without her.

Sophie often times gets mistaken for a boy,
mostly because she's such a big girl.
 I don't know why it bothers me, but I like to set the people straight,
just like I did when my bald headed daughter was an infant and was called "him" several times.
I decided just like I used to Velcro hair bows into the fuzz on my little baby girls head so that people wouldn't confuse her for a boy, 
I would to do the same thing and make some hair bows for my pooch.


Here is what you need:
one piece of 5 inch long ribbon
one piece of 4 inch long ribbon
a small rubber band {I got them in a pack of 500 for $1 at the Dollar store}
and a crochet hook or pencil to help you loop the rubber band around


Loop your longer piece of ribbon around and overlap and meet the ends in the middle


Do the same thing with the smaller piece of ribbon and put the loop ends together in the middle facing each other.


Take your crochet hook or pencil and place your rubber band on top.


Twist the rubber band and pull it over the bottom of the crochet hook making an x.


Pull the bottom of the rubber band over the back and to the top.
Then slowly remove your ribbon, holding the back of the loop with your finger.
Twist the loop and bring one end of your ribbon around the rubber band.


Find a sleepy puppy and a small tuft of hair and slip the rubber band on.


Now there is no mistaking that this puppy is a girl.
A tough girl, but a girl.
Red is her color don't you think?

I am participating in the 2014 Dog Fence DIY Hackathon
and I created this project as a part of my participation.
disclaimer: I did receive compensation for this post.  All opinions and ideas are 100% my own. 
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