This Innovative & Space-Saving Table Offers 8 Ways to Play


If you’re looking for a kid-sized table that doesn’t sport trains, planes or automobiles you’re in luck. Part creative play space and part functioning table for mealtime, the [MU]table from Italian retailer Mukako is the answer to your design woes. Scroll down to discover the innovative, stylish piece of furniture that’s taking the parenting world by storm.

What It Is

Recently launched on Kickstarter to huge success, this multi-functional table provides kids ages one to eight the creative play space they need to thrive while offering parents the organizational tools they crave.

What You Get

The table has four adjustable heights and will be offered in five different colors: Mauve, Mint, White, Dove Grey and Tiffany. Chairs can be purchased at an additional cost and are also adjustable. 

The top of the table consists of four stackable, double-sided playboards: blackboard/magnetic board, DUPLO/LEGO base, city/natural landscape, and the puzzle base/wooden cover, which comes with one round puzzle. There are multiple storage containers strategically placed around the edges of the table, perfect for art supplies, extra toys, or anything else your kid needs to keep close. The roomy, removable canvas bag attaches easily to the inside of the table via kid-friendly metal hooks.

Good to know: There are more boards in the making, so be on the lookout for the train/garage set, the vanity mirror, the dollhouse, and the music band baseboards. Each additional board, however, must replace one of the original four boards, when stacking on the table.

The Fine Print

The table has already met and moved beyond its pledge goal. It will be manufactured and shipped to investors by Fall 2017.

You can learn more, and pledge the [MU]table on Kickstarter by clicking here. Prices start at $126.

Will you pledge this project? Share your thoughts in a Comment below.

— Gabby Cullen



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6 Phone to Frame Photo Apps Perfect for Busy Families


If your household looks anything like ours, the best family photos are probably stuck on a device or floating around in the Cloud somewhere. It’s time to get those pictures off your phone and onto your walls. Nix pricey professional photo framing services and do it yourself with one of these user-friendly apps. Read on for the scoop.

photo: Keepsake

1. Keepsake
It will probably take you longer to get the kids to sit still for a family photo than it will to pick the perfect frame and click “order” on this easy-to-use photo framing app. Keepsake only offers photo framing and photo-to-canvas printing, which means you won’t have to worry about too many options confusing your agenda. Just choose your photo, adjust the filters and cropping dimensions, then preview it in a variety of tasteful frames (or canvases) to see what look best suits your image.

Cost: Frames are $29 and up, and shipping is free (within the U.S.).

Available from Google Play or iTunes, free. 

photo: Brushstroke

2. Brushstroke
Do you want your latest, greatest shot to look more like a painting than a photo? With Brushstroke, you can turn photos into art on canvas with just a few clicks. Pick an art filter—styles aren’t attributed to specific artists, though most of the filters have a Monet or Van Gogh-style slant—then swipe left or right to change the saturation, density, and color of the image. Finally, sign your print, choose a product (poster, framed print, or canvas print), and click “Ship.”

Hint: If you’re not ready to put your work on the walls, you can still upload your creations to social media, e-mail, or instant message with the click of a button.

Cost: Products start at $26, and are printed via a partnership with CanvasPop.

Available from iTunes, $3.99.

photo: Mixtiles via Facebook

3. Mixtiles
Mixtiles is like the real-life equivalent of Instagram. This app takes your photos and turns them into adorable, stylish little squares you can stick to the walls as easy as you can slap a magnet on the refrigerator. The tiles adhere via four double-sided tape squares designed to come on and off your walls without damage, which allows you to easily move them around to suit your whims. Click on a whole slew of pictures, and you’ll have a ready-made tableau to dress up your walls in no time.

Cost: $49 for 3 tiles, $9 for each additional tile. Shipping is free.

Available from iTunes, free. 

photo: Art.com via Facebook

4. Photos to Art
The coolest thing about the Photos to Art app is that it lets you superimpose your selected image onto your wall to get a sense of whether or not it’s worth printing in the first place. Upload photos directly from Instagram and Facebook, as well as from your phone’s camera roll. Then, choose from a slew of options for your finished product, including photos on metal, wood mounts, acrylic prints, canvas or framed prints.

Cost: Products start at $2 for small poster prints, $50.99 for framed prints.

Available from iTunes, free. 

photo: Framebridge

5. Framebridge
Framebridge has one mission: To get your treasured things and favorite photos up on your walls. That means you won’t find any coasters, photo books, or tote bags here—only frames. Upload photos from your phone or Instagram account, choose from a selection of 40 styles and then let the team custom frame your piece. Not sure what frame style will look best with your piece? Framebridge’s design team will mock up some options for free. You can also do it yourself by choosing the size, matte, and frame style, with previews of your finished product every step of the way.

Good to know: Want to frame something other than photos? The Framebridge folks say they’ll frame anything, from your child’s artwork or kindergarten diploma to your baby’s baptism dress or first blanket.

Prices start at $39, and shipping is free.

Available from iTunes, free. 

photo: Snapfish via Facebook

6. Snapfish
The advantage of choosing a heavy-hitter like Snapfish is the sheer number of options available, as well as a consistency that has garnered the site more than 40 million members over more than 15 years. Along with an assortment of gift-minded photo products (mugs, pillows, iPhone cases, etc.), you can put your prints onto several different sizes of canvas, including panoramic-sized canvases and wooden-framed canvases, and even metal wall panels. The app also offers four different styles of frames for various photo sizes.

Hint: Check the site regularly for a revolving door of discounts and seasonal specials; some offer as much as 60 percent off your order!

Available from iTunes, Google Play, and Windows Store, free.

Have you ever used a phone-to-frame app? Tell us about your experience in a Comment below.

— Melissa Heckscher



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The Force Is Strong with These Cool New Star Wars Products


This is no Jedi mind-trick: Star Wars is turning 40 this year! There’s a whole new generation of Star Wars fanatics (and their parents) who are excited for all of the cool new swag. Here are some of the highlights that are perfect for younger kids who really need to tap into the force. Scroll down to discover the picks.

1. LEGO Star Wars for 2017

LEGO has debuted several new sets for 2017, including the recently released (and fan favorite!) Yoda’s Jedi Starfighter which includes folding wings, a cockpit for Yoda minifig (included) and space for R2D2 behind (also included!) as well as Yoda’s lightsaber and spring-loaded shooters.

Buy now: $24.24 on Amazon.com

Coming Soon

You’ll also discover the 75178 Jekku Quadjumper, $49.99; and the 75180 Rathar Escape, $79.99 (this set includes Han Salo, Chewbacca, Bala-Tik and two Guavian Death Gang soldiers!). Both available June 1. Also available in early June, LEGO will be adding five new characters in the build-your-own action figures sets including a buildable Stormtrooper commander. And if that’s not enough to get you excited, keep your eye out for the 2017 LEGO Star Wars Advent calendar, which will be out in time for the holidays.

2. Star Wars Pool Toys from SwimWays

Up your game this summer with these sweet Star Wars themed pool toys, including a BB-8 pool toy ($19.99), an inflatable “ride on” Millennium Falcon ($39.99),  and our favorite: Pool Noodle Light Sabers ($3.99). The battle for good and evil just got splashier.

See more at swimways.com/star-wars and shop online at Toys R Us. 

photo courtesy Gap

3. Gap Star Wars Clothing Line

Your favorite kid’s clothier has done it again with a sweet line of Star Wars clothing that doesn’t look too commercial or gimmicky. With boy, girl and gender-neutral designs, you will be asking if they make that in grown-up sizes. (They do: check out some options perfect for Father’s Day).

Shop now at Gap.com 



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The Secret to the Perfect Family Vaycay


Sun, sand and LEGO bricks: there’s no denying that a perfect family getaway can and should include all of those things. If, after a day of exploring the LEGOLAND Florida Resort, you’d like to lounge with a poolside cocktail while the kiddos splash around with floating LEGO bricks, you should book now at the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat. We did, and we’re here to tell you, it is so cool it just might make your (LEGO) head pop off. Read on for the scoop.

photo: Amber Guetebier

Where It’s At

The LEGOLAND Beach Retreat, which opened in early April of 2017,  is located near the LEGOLAND Florida Resort in Winter Haven, Florida. Unlike the LEGOLAND Hotel, the Retreat is not adjacent to the LEGOLAND Resort, but is essentially across the street. While it is walkable, do yourself a favor and save the steps for exploring the park. You can either drive over to the lot and park for the day (parking fee is included with your stay) or hop on the free shuttle service. Guests of the Beach Retreat get early admission to the park, so you can beat the crowds regardless of which transport you choose.

photo courtesy by  LOCK + LAND, Chip Litherland for LEGOLAND Florida Resort

The Lay of the Land

At the Beach Retreat’s center is the lighthouse. It lights up at night and it’s easy to see: follow it to find the pool area (which includes a big play structure and plenty of lounge chairs), Sandy’s Castle Restaurant,  Bricks Beach Bar and the gift shop, Palm Tree Traders. The bungalows are grouped around the lighthouse in horseshoe-shaped coves all with names after LEGO Minifigures, and many with water views. It’s like a little Florida village that is designed to look like it is built out of giant LEGO bricks (or to make you feel like a minifig family. You decide).

photo: Amber Guetebier

Checking In

You know what is easier than getting out of your vehicle with all the kids and luggage to check into your hotel? Cruising in through the drive-through check in. Just roll on in, give your name and you’ll get your key and a map right then and there.

Tip: If you have littles and a lot of luggage, park your car and walk to find your room first. At check in you’ll be instructed which lot to park in, but with a lot of bags and kids, it can be easier to locate the room first then relay back for bags, as the parking lots are not right next to most of the rooms (which makes it more resort-like and quieter!).

photo: Amber Guetebier

The Rooms

Each bungalow room can sleep up to 5 people: there’s one king-sized bed for mom and dad (and let’s be real, whoever else climbs in at 3 a.m.) and a smaller nook that has bunk beds for the kids. The bottom bunk also has a trundle, so you can get three kiddos in there. You’ll have a small sitting area outside your room, but the highlight is that each cove of the Beach Retreat has bungalows all facing a central grassy area and play-structure. That means you can relax with your morning cup of coffee (or evening glass of wine) and the kids can keep the party going with their fellow Bungalow buddies.

Bonus: You’ll find lots of little amenities in the room built with kids in mind. Parents will appreciate the toilets with seats that convert to a smaller size; low hanging hooks for towels and the little signs letting kids know the room has been cleared of sea monsters.

photo: Amber Guetebier

The Pool

Ask any kid what they want in a hotel and the chances are they will say “a pool!”  and LEGOLAND Beach Retreat does not disappoint. The pool area includes floating bricks for building (a LEGOLAND exclusive), a beach volleyball court (on sand!) a large play structure and plenty of chairs for lounging.

Eat, Drink & Build

Eat breakfast and dinner buffet-style at Sandy’s Castle Restaurant. There’s also a full menu with plenty of choices for kids and grownups alike. Breakfast is included with your stay. For lunch or poolside snacks, including pizza and chicken wings, hit up Bricks Beach Bar. (Grownups 21 and up: we highly recommend the “Fish in a Bag” cocktail.) The kids will love the giant LEGO sandcastle just inside. With bins of bricks surrounding the epic castle, they can build before, during or after dinner.

photo: Amber Guetebier

Don’t Forget! LEGOLAND Florida Resort

With all the reasons to chill and play at the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat, you might not want to leave. The beauty of LEGOLAND is that it is a relatively small amusement park, and you can cover it with the kids in just a couple of days. Plus the park closes relatively early, which means there’s plenty of time for dinner, pool, play and recharging for the next day’s adventure.

LEGOLAND Beach Retreat
100 Legoland Way, Winter Haven, Fl 33884
Online: legoland.com/florida/legoland-beach-retreat
Rooms start at $135/night; ticket packages are available

Will you visit LEGOLAND’s latest accomodations? Tell us about it the comments below. 

—Amber Guetebier



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25 Simple Crock Pot Chicken Recipes


If your little one’s favorite food group is chicken, you’re in luck!From taco soup to chicken parm to chicken and dumplings, we’ve rounded up the ultimate list of crock pot chicken recipes that even the pickiest of eaters will love. So put down the chicken nuggets and start clicking through the gallery to find your next easy meal. 

Bacon-Wrapped Apple Barbecue Chicken

Just in case barbecue chicken wasn’t tasty enough already, this recipe from MomsWhoThink ups the ante by wrapping it in bacon and pairing it with apples. This one is bound to become a weeknight favorite. Click here to get the recipe.

photo: MomsWhoThink

What’s your favorite chicken crock-pot recipe? Tell us in the comments below. 

— Susie Foresman



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Family Friendly Wineries


Owned by the Entenmann family (as in, yummy Entenmann donuts!), Martha Clara Vineyards is considered one of the most family-friendly wineries in Long Island. Little animal-lovers can get up close and personal with the critters at the petting zoo, enjoy horse and carriage rides, and have a picturesque lunch or snack in the outdoor picnic area.

For parents worried about muddling the winery’s peaceful vibe, there are private tasting rooms (for an extra cost) where you and your clan can buckle down and taste away.  

Online: marthaclaravineyards.com

photo: Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr



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Your Dinnertime Plan: Chicken Parmesan Casserole


Who doesn’t love the hearty taste of chicken parm? Get the classic flavors of that Italian dish all in one pan with this warm cheesy casserole by The Weary Chef. This recipe makes a lot of food, but what that really means is you probably got tomorrow’s lunch in the bag! Now that’s what we consider family cooking.

Serves 6

Ingredients:
14-16 oz. box of bite-sized pasta like penne or rotini
1 sweet onion diced
1 lb. ground chicken
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic
minced or crushed
28 oz. jar marinara sauce
8 oz. fresh mozzarella
cut into 1″ cubes
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 c. panko bread crumbs
1 tsp. dried basil leaves
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese

Method:
1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13″ baking dish with cooking spray.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions, and drain.
3. While pasta cooks, spray a 12″ skillet or dutch oven with cooking spray, and heat over medium-high heat. Add onion, chicken, salt, a few grinds of pepper, and garlic. Saute until onion is tender and chicken is cooked through. Stir in marinara sauce, and bring to a simmer.

4. Meanwhile, heat butter in a glass bowl in the microwave until melted. Stir bread crumbs and basil into the melted butter, and set aside.

5. Turn off heat on the sauce. Stir in cooked pasta and mozzarella cubes, and transfer pasta mixture to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle buttery bread crumbs over the pasta, and sprinkle parmesan cheese over that.

6. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until topping is golden brown.

Will you be making this delicious dish tonight? Let us know how it went in the Comments below!

350 logo tagline white backgroundAndi Gleeson is the author of The Weary Chef, a friendly recipe blog focusing on quick and easy dinner recipes. She is a mom of two wild little boys in San Francisco. Her obsessions are Target, glitter nail polish, and Mexican food.

 

 



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Why Birdwatching Makes Your Kids More Mindful


It’s no surprise that being outside in a natural setting is linked to lower stress and anxiety (and also improves immunity, according to this study) but even in an urban environment you can connect the kids to nature most any day with a simple practice: birdwatching. While it’s ideal to get outside to a park-like setting, you can actually do this from your own home or even through the window of a library or cafe. It doesn’t matter if it is pigeons in the square or hawks swooping in a field: birdwatching can help kids with focus, patience, mindfulness and even boost their confidence. Read on to learn more and get tips to start birdwatching with your kids.

photo: NeoQlassical via pixabay

Focus

It’s often tricky to get little ones to focus on one thing for very long (especially on demand) so setting up for success is the key: make sure you are in a place where seeing more than one bird is likely. To observe flight patterns over a longer period of time, an open body of water like a lake, pond or bay is ideal. You can just spread a blanket or pick a bench and watch as birds take off, land and flap their wings to cross the body of water.

Tip: If your kiddos are learning to use binoculars, have them practice inside on a wall. Find a picture or object they can focus on. Once they are comfortable actually seeing through the binoculars, pick something obvious outside, like a tree or fire hydrant, and have them get used to seeing and adjusting the binoculars on that object. This will greatly improve their odds of being able to spot a bird with binoculars.

photo: USFWSmidwest via flickr

Stillness

Keeping still is often key to being able to see birds in their habitat undisturbed. That doesn’t mean the kids have to be statues, though. The key is to have a calm body and quiet voice, as sudden movements and loud noises will disturb the birds or chase them off. You can still have a calm body while moving on a walk, but loud voices and crazy moves will not only be more likely to scare off birds, you won’t be able to hear the different calls. Kids will figure out pretty quickly how they can see and hear more when their own voices and actions don’t get in the way.

Tip: Lure birds into your own backyard and observe them from inside at first to get kids used to the excitement of spotting birds in action without requiring quite as much “stillness.” Encourage children to watch quietly and think about what they can see and hear as they are waiting for birds. Check out these cool bird feeders that the kids can make themselves and then place in the yard in a visible spot. They’ll be checking for birds all the time! 

photo: DroolingDogs via pixabay

Patience

Waiting for the birds to come, searching in a tree to spot a bird or trying to explain to a sibling where the bird you can see is: all of these require patience. Birdwatching rewards that patience fairly immediately. Birdwatching is like the Hidden Pictures of the natural world and kids respond to the challenge of trying to find something that isn’t always obvious at first.

Tip: Download and print out an easy birdwatching scavenger hunt that focuses on actions and more obvious terms (nests, birds in flight, birds bathing) instead of specific bird species. It’s a great way to get kids used to looking for birds and patterns before you move on to ID.

photo: rubylia via pixabay

Observation

Taking the time to note different bird calls, colors, patterns and behavior is the perfect way to acknowledge the wonder and diversity even in one square block, plus it helps kids stay present as they observe. Who knew you could hear six different bird calls all at once, even with cars going by? It also teaches kids to look for signs, patterns and “typical” behaviors of certain birds (ducks near ponds, crows near garbage, etc.) and develop hypothesis about what they think they might see on their next birdwatching excursion.

Tip: Create a birdwatching journal where children can record date, time, location, color, size, sounds and behavior of birds. It’s a great way to learn the patterns and find your favorite spots, watch animals as they build nests and grow, and notice the seasonal changes.

Do you go birdwatching with your kids? What are your tips and tricks? 

—Amber Guetebier



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Cool New Ways to Use Old Toys


If you find yourself cleaning out the toy box for what seems like the thousandth time, wondering what you’ll do with the bits and pieces littering the bottom—stop short of making a desperate grab for that garbage bag. Instead of tossing well-used playthings, consider dusting them off and using in a totally different way. Plastic animals = awesome new wall hooks. Random puzzle pieces = super cool fridge magnets. Scroll down for more ideas on how to give old toys new homes.

photo: Jasmine Orchard Styling

1. Firetruck Lamp
Use your old trucks and cars to convert into an awesome lamp. Hop on over to Jasmine Orchard Styling to take a peek at her props and for more ideas.

 

 

animalhoooks_tsukifox_littlegrayfox_springcleaning_national_redtricyclephoto: Tsuki Fox via Little Gray Fox

2. Magnetic Animal Hooks
The dollar animals your kid had to have just got interesting (at least, for you!). Crafter Tsuki Fox came up with several ways to use those little creatures—we especially dig the magnetic jewelry hooks! Head over to Little Gray Fox for the how-to on a super unique way to display your baubles.

 

 

playmobilclock_jennykearny_oldtoysnewideas_springcleaning_national_redtricyclephoto: Jenny Kearney via The Gingerbread House

3. Playmobil Clock
What time is it? Time to use Playmobil people to make a kitschy clock. These little guys are awesome for imaginary play and, it would seem, a totally cool addition to counting the minutes go by. It’s an easy project—we promise! Find out how it’s done by heading over to The Gingerbread House.

 

 

dinobookends_natalieshaw_oldtoysnewideas_springcleaning_national_redtricyclephoto: Natalie Shaw via Doodlecraft

4. Dinosaurs as Bookends
A dino-tastic way to keep books in order. Your budding paleontologist will get a kick out of seeing his favorite prehistoric pal propping up his go-to nighttime stories. We love the bright colors and easy (hot glue gun alert!) DIY for this project. Pop on over to Doodlecraft for the entire tutorial.

 

 

 

tricycleasflowerpot_oldtoysnewuses_springcleaning_national_redtricyclephoto: Shelly Kannon via A Southern Belle with Northern Roots

 

 

5. Tricycle as Garden Decor
This could be our favorite idea of the bunch! Old tricycles are an easy upcycle for your garden. It’s a perfect perch for a flower pot filled with spring blooms. Opt to paint or leave rusty—either way, the kids will get a kick out seeing their old gear serving a new purpose. Head over to A Southern Belle with Northern Roots for more on this simple-but-awesome idea.

 

 

legocharger_stevengoodwin_oldtoysnewideas_springcleaning_national_redtricyclephoto: Steve Goodwin via Marquis de Geek

6. LEGO Charging Station
We’ve already determined LEGOs are awesome, but let’s be honest—the little pieces that find your bare feet in the middle of the night are not cool. In fact, parents might often find themselves secretly plotting a clean sweep of the entire building supply. If you’ve got a surplus of colored bricks, or your kids have outgrown their stash, then this totally rad device charger is gonna be right up your alley. Builder, blogger and dad Steve offers up an easy-to-follow tutorial over at Marquis de Geek.

 

 

 

gameboardshelves_vanessaalverado_oldtoysnewsuses_springcleaning_national_redtricyclephoto: Vanessa Alvarado via Thrift Core

7. Board Games for Shelves
The Candyland game has lost all its gingerbread men. The shiny car and boot are missing from the Monopoly set. No one wants to play the game of LIFE. Whatever the problem, Thrift Core has the solution. Make your own shelves out of game boards no longer getting any play. With simple tools and a few brackets, bump up your house’s cool factor in no time. Head over to Thrift Core for a full list of materials and the easy tutorial.

 

 

 

puzzlepiecemagnets_lizstanley_oldthingsnewideas_springcleaning_national_redtricyclephoto: Liz Stanley via Momtastic

8. Puzzle Piece Magnets
Puzzles are a great way to pass the day but make no mistake, they are a recipe for mess-making. How many sets do you have at home missing an animal, car, plane or train? By creating magnets, you’ll open up a whole new world of play. This is upcycling at its finest! To get the details on the games and the how-to, head over to Momstastic.

 

 

 

photo: Sewing with Knits via eHow.com

9. A Treasured Stuffed Animal Made of Outgrown Clothes
Since most infants double their body weight within the first five months, it’s likely that your little bundle never got a chance to wear half their adorable ensembles. Don’t fret! The clever seamstress over at Sewing With Knits created this sweet stuffed animal using outgrown infant clothing. Cute and cuddly, it’s an adorable way to repurpose your little one’s unworn attire. For an added touch of nostalgia, use your favorite outgrown outfit. You’ll likely have enough fabric to remove the milk-stained portions.

 

photo: The Homes I Have Made


10. Bubble Wand Airplane
By adding propellers, wings and a tail, The Homes I Have Made transformed a Dollar Store bubble wand into an awesome party favor. Pop over to the blog for the tutorial.

photo: mcleod via flickr

11. Toy Wreath
What to do with all of those old toys and figurines? Make a fun toy wreath! You can use either a wire wreath from your local craft store or an old hula hoop. Affix the figurines and old toys with wire and hot glue.

photo: quinnanya via flickr

12. Succulent Guardians
Provide some protection for your plants by positioning a few old toy soldiers around the house. We love the idea of making this a scavenger hunt—how many can your kiddos find?

photo: Indigoamethyst.com

13. Lamps in Toyland
Light up their life with an enchanting toy lamp. Head on over to Indigamethyst for the scoop.

photo: davidwithacamera via flickr

14. Toothbrush Holder
Make their nightly brushing routine even more fun with a cool toothbrush holder.

 

Have you used an old toy for a new purpose? Tell us about it in a Comment.

— Gabby Cullen, Lauren Hill and Erin Lem

 

 

RELATED STORIES:

Cool Projects That Give Your Trash a Second Wind

5 Ways to Upcycle Your Scrap Paper

10 Clever Ways to Upcycle Your Old Baby Gear



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