Creative Cardboard Halloween Challenge!


You guys this is my favorite time of year! I love the end of Sept. which ushers in the beginning of fall while still being a warm with hints of colder weather on the horizon. I love prepping for Halloween but mostly I LOVE dressing up & creating costumes. Of all the costumes I’ve created I have to say some of my VERY favorites include simple materials yet can be worn over again. And it’s probably come as no surprise but I’m crazy for cardboard when it comes to costumes! It’s either free or relatively inexpensive, durable and easy to work with (and as an online shopper, working on renovating my home, i’ve got boxes in abundance around here!).

I know a lot of you are lovers of cardboard as well and make amazing creations for your kids for Halloween and just everyday dress up. So I thought it would be fun to start a Creative Cardboard Costume Challenge! Basically make a costume for your kids or yourself using cardboard, post it on Instagram using the hashtag #creativecardboardcostume and you’ll be entered to win prizes worth $500 including 2 signed copies of my book PLAYFUL! You have until Halloween Day, Oct. 31 to enter a cardboard costume. I will announce the winner on Nov. 1.


You might remember my juice box costume and cardboard fairy wings from last year. Well I did a gorgeous shoot with Trisha Zemp last year which never got published and I’m excited to share some of those amazing photos here. My niece ended up wearing the juice box costume for Halloween last year and let me tell you it was a hit! (I still want to do a group of kids with different flavored of juice boxes as an ensemble costume. Maybe the next time I go to the Halloween taping of The Ellen Show ).

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Birthday Wish List for Miss M


Little Miss M’s birthday is coming up, and fast! She’ll be three!! My baby. Wasn’t it just yesterday when this day happened? Last year we had a little house theme birthday party for her with just a few family members. But this year I think we’ll have an official party for her with guests and the like – aaaand….she’ll LOVE that! Which sort of makes me giddy excited about it as well.

I’ve got my eye on a few birthday wish list items that I think she’ll just go nuts for:

01  the dear ones bears. So sweet and simple and perfect little playmates

02  Wooden Popsicle. Because a wooden popsicle, i mean really. I want all of them.

03  KAPLA blocks in black and white. She loves blocks and I love the many play options with Kapla blocks. These striped ones are perfect.

04  Twig Pixie Camera in Into the Wild. We love Twig’s cameras and think we need their latest model with push button and viewfinder.

05  Solly Dolly Wrap. I’m dying for her to have a Solly Dolly Wrap for her to carry around her Mer Mag dolls!

06  Tortoise and Hair linen Rabbit Cape. She’d love to dress up in this – like every day

07  Lessing – The Wall Game. Fun stacking game she’d love to play with her brothers.

08  Zuzi Oxford in dove stripe. Miss M is obsessed with shoes and she’d love these ones.

09  Sugar and Snow Wooden Makeup Case. And speaking of obsessed, well she’s over the moon about make up. Digs through my purse everyday, puts on whatever she can – anytime she can. So a pretty wooden set for her would be just the ticket.


Now to start planning the par-tay! Gathering ideas for the shindig here.


Making an Animal Habitat with Play-dough, Leaves and Twigs

1Creating an Animal Habitat 5 | MerMag

We have a collection of animal figurines (we have a tradition of acquiring one for each kid based wherever we go on vacation-read more about it here) and last week we decided to make a little habitat for some of them using play-dough, scavenged leaves, twigs, etc. This activity is great for toddlers and preschoolers but when my older boys came home, they loved digging in and playing around with it too.

Creating an Animal Habitat 1 | MerMag

It was easy making a little teepee by simply sticking a few twigs into the play-dough, tying off the top and wrapping some fabric around it all. There’s something really satisfying and sensory about little fingers squishing and sticking animals, twigs and more into the dough.

Our bears have a penchant for teepees 😉 but you could go authentic by molding bear caves from the play-dough which is lots of fun too.

Creating an Animal Habitat 7 | MerMag Creating an Animal Habitat 8 | MerMag Creating an Animal Habitat 3 | MerMag

We made apricot and cherry scented play-dough which was also very sensory and fun. (Miss M really notices scents – more than her brother did at this age.)

We decided to try a jello play-dough recipe and this is the one we liked best:


  • 1 cup of  flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbs cream of tarter
  • 2 Tbs salt
  • 2 Tbs oil
  • 1 package of Jello (we used apricot and cherry jello flavors)

Making the Dough:

Mix together all ingredients on the stove over low. Stir constantly (I used a bamboo spatula that worked great) until dough forms a ball. Take it off the stove and let it cool for about 20 min.

Once cool, your dough should be ready to kneed and play with!

cherry + apricot playdoughCreating an Animal Habitat 4 | MerMag Creating an Animal Habitat 5 | MerMag Creating an Animal Habitat9 | MerMagCreating an Animal Habitat 6 | MerMag

We want to try a few playing around with a few natural play-dough recipes. I really like the idea of adding essential oils too as I think that would really therapeutic for some of my kids (and me!).

Our Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie

Mer's Fav Choc Chip Cookies   Mer's Fav Choc Chip Cookies

I recently mentioned on IG that we have a Sunday tradition of trying out different Chocolate Chip Cookie recipes and playing around until we find exactly what we like. Well this last Sunday we struck gold! We adapted Tara O’Brady’s recipe and discovered a cookie we just can’t get enough of.

1 c of butter cut up and melted on the stove (low temp, do not boil or bubble)

3 1/2 cups of flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 1/4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda


1/2 cup of granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups of dark brown sugar (we really loved using dark here instead of light)

2 eggs

1 tbsp vanilla

12 once bag of nestle’s dark chocolate chips (I normally swear by Ghirardelli but was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved these. With a sweet cookie I love the contrast of the dark chocolate – We also tried a variation with half a bag of dark chocolate combined with 1 milk chocolate bar cut up which was also amazing)

sea salt to sprinkle on top


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

In a medium size bowl, mix together dry ingredients (from the flour to the salt) and set aside

In another bowl whisk the melted butter with the dark and white sugars. Whisk in each egg, one at a time. Add the vanilla. Mix in the dry ingredients in (being careful not to over mix). Fold in your dark chocolate chips until everything is just combined.

We used a 1/4 c measuring cup to scoop up the dough up and then place on parchment covered cookie sheets. We only did two rows, making 6 total cookies on the sheet. This makes them large and delicious. Sprinkle a bit of sea salt on top of each cookie before cooking.

Bake for 12 min. Cool and consume! We love these straight out of the over but they continue to be amazing the next day too!

Mer's Fav Choc Chip CookiesMer's Fav Choc Chip CookiesMer's Fav Choc Chip Cookie Recipe

Child’s Play by Martha Hatfield


Have you seen the darling images from designer Martha Hatfiel and photographer Jacqueline Hayward’s Child’s Play shoot over on Small Fry? They are so lovely. I love these two sisters and Martha’s perspective on play. You can read more about it here.

The Banister House was lucky enough to share it’s walls and love with these girls for part of the shoot.


You can see the home’s namesake “The Banister” in these two photos (above and below). You can also see the work we need to do, but then again I’m also fond of old aged look of things. So happy to have Jacqueline document these imperfect walls before changes are made.

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Models: sisters, Swayzie and Eliza
Locations: Our home (the Banister House) and Squaw Peak, Provo Canyon (seen in the post here)
Children’s Clothing: BOHEM | @bohemstore and Hum Stitchery | @hum_stitchery


DIY Nature Mask with Leaves and Flowers

Floral Leaf Mask | Mer MagFloral Leaf Mask | Mer Mag

We recently drove up to to visit my sister and her family who have left all semblance of urban living behind for the open fields of Idaho. They live a simple life on a farm with tons of room to roam and explore. Making it a perfect spot for us to play and get crafty with nature!

With a few flowers still in bloom we thought it would be fun to take advantage and make a simple floral and leaf mask. My niece Lizzy played along with me and joined in on the creative fun.

Floral Leaf Mask | Mer Mag

The mask was really simple to make. We’re sharing our version but feel free to play around and come up with whatever nature inspires in you! (I already have more ideas in mind using gorgeous autumn leaves!).


  1. Begin by making a mask template based on your child’s face. Cut out eye holes where their eyes will be. Punch holes for string.
  2. We started by gluing leaves to the outer areas of the mask
  3. We then glued pink flower petals around the eye area
  4. Lizzy wanted to add the yellow petals to look a bit like lashes and then put one right in the center of the eyes. Love it! You can then tie your string in the punched holes and place the mask on.

Floral Leaf Mask | Mer MagFloral Leaf Mask | Mer Mag

Floral Leaf Mask | Mer MagFloralLeafMask12b_MerMag

I loved getting to know my niece a bit better throughout all this (a bonus that comes out of crafting together!). She has the best imagination and perspective and thought you would enjoy getting to know a bit about her today as well!

Mer: What’s your favorite thing about crafting with nature?
Lizzy: It looks so natural. and it makes me happy to use and appreciate Heavenly Father’s creations.
Mer: What are some things you like to do when you get bored?
Lizzy: Read
Mer: Favorite color?
Lizzy: Purple
Mer: Favorite food?
Lizzy: Soup
Mer: Do you have a favorite toy/game you like to play with
Lizzy: I like to pretend to be a character in one of my books
Mer: What do most like to do with your parents?
Lizzy: I like to make halloween costumes with my mom. I like to work on our house with my dad.
Mer: What do you most like to do with your siblings? (she has three brothers and a new baby sister)
Lizzy: I like to dress up with my siblings
Mer: If you could change the world in some way, what would it be?
Lizzy: Make more awesome books to read
Mer: What is something you like about living in the country/on a farm?
Lizzy: It is so beautiful
Mer: What advice would you give to a younger friend?
Lizzy: A life without books is like no life at all.
Floral Leaf Mask | Mer MagFloral Leaf Mask | Mer MagFloral Leaf Mask | Mer MagFloral Leaf Mask | Mer MagFloral Leaf Mask | Mer Mag


We also tried a fun variation by adding a beak. Basically just fold a tall paper triangle and glue behind the mask.

Floral Leaf Mask | Mer Mag

We loved using some of the flowers that are still in bloom but we can’t wait to try these with the beautiful fall leaves that are starting to appear! Could be so pretty!

And if you make a mask, be sure to share and tag your creations with #mermagnaturecrafts on IG or FB so we can all be inspired. I love seeing the different ways your dressing up our fairy sprites!

Sunday Night at Jolly’s Ranch – and our aim at an Urban Country Life


I love where we live. I love love love the Banister House and all that it brings to our family. And I love that we are moments away from the the mountains, and from the country and also from the “city”. As a mom I’m more content with my little family and in putting down roots more than ever. But it’s been a long time coming. I love to travel and live in different places (I’ve lived in Colorado, Hawaii, New York, Tennesse, Utah & California – to name a few) and I love to expose my children to different landscapes and cultures.


But it kept feeling like we needed to find a home base to settle into for at least more than three years (the longest we’ve ever lived in one place as family). And for the present, we’re really happy here. Particularly when we can just drive 10 min to a hidden ranch up the canyon where kids can run and frolic. Or to a reservoir 3 min away where we can meet friends for a swim and a bbq. I grew up with fields, a barn and a bit of country right on the outskirts of a city and I loved having the best of both worlds. I always wanted my kids to chase frogs, wade in ditches and dream up imaginary tales with sheet tents in vast fields as I did as kid. But then also be able to have whatever dream they schemed up realized with plenty of resources and opportunties at their doorstep – something I felt a city could often give you. Along side boutique shops, great restaurants, interesting culture, art museums, the theater and more. I wouldn’t say the city part of me is fully realized (to my liking) where we live but I’m contented (at least for now). But we are only 45-1 hr away from SLC and we continue to get more and more great restaurants around us. The University provides a lot of as well. And with the aim to travel more in the next few years all these needs with hopefully be satiated.

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So for now, we’re pleasantly happy with our sorta urban-country life.

Decorating our Midsummer Maiden with a Floral Crown

Midsummer Maiden Floral crown | Mer Mag

Just had to pop in and share our Midsummer Maiden (from last summer’s amazing Midsummer Mingle). We couldn’t just stop at fairies so we played around with giving this gal her own proper floral crown. So fun….oh and I think I’m addicted to this. When all the flowers are gone I’ll move onto autumn leaves! Yippee!

Make and Decorate Your Own Nature Paper Dolls

Nature Paper Dolls


I’ve been wanting to do something with all the flowers and green leaves that are still blooming all around us in before they all died off or changed colors for fall. So I sketched a few little friends and thought it would be fun to decorate them as little garden sprites.

Nature Paper DollsIMG_4483

Last week we had some cousins over (my brother in law is helping us finish up our bathroom so he brought over his kids to play). So naturally we went on a little nature walk around the yard and the neighborhood gathering petals leaves for a fun garden fairy craft (we made sure it was OK to pick flower petals from our neighbors first :)).

Nature Paper DollsNature Paper DollsNature Paper DollsNature Paper Dolls

The girls had fun playing with nature and decorating their little garden dolls. The littlest girls (2 1/2 years) were mostly interested in smelling, feeling and touching each petal and leaf (oh and they LOVED the nature walk and picking flowers). But my older niece was completely captivated by creating ensembles and scenes for these little dolls. I love what she came up with! Nature Paper Dolls



You can download your own garden friends here (or by clicking the image above) if you too want to take advantage of the foliage around you before it changes. But Keep these around for fall because how cute would they be covered in autumn leaves?!

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This and That


Any plans for your Labor Day Weekend (for my US friends)? We hope to go out and enjoy some of the great outdoors, play in streams, pick flowers, just enjoy this transitional weather. Maybe we’ll even take our masks along for the adventure :).

Here are a few things that have been inspiring us lately:

Happy Labor Day Weekend Friends!