Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Toilet Paper Tube Stamping

Today was snow day #3 and this was the second activity we tried since we were trapped indoors. The first one was science experiment. As another aside, just once I wish we would have a "snow day" during which the kids can actually be allowed to go outside and, you know, play in the snow! These insanely cold no-school days are getting quite old.

Happily, the kids were much more enthusiastic about this stamping project than yesterday's potato prints, which we tried kind of late in the afternoon when they were tired and crabby. I was smart enough to introduce this craft earlier in the day before they had a chance to get cranky. This idea (from Pinterest) is super simple and it's a perfect way to use up some of those toilet paper tubes that you have saved up (if you're anything like me you have a large stash of them -- They are such great craft items and they are completely free!) It reminds me a bit of the toilet paper tube octopuses that we made before, but I really love this one even more than those fellows. Plus, this one can be done with any age group from toddlers and up.

{Here are our stamps before paint was added...}

  • empty toilet paper tubes
  • scissors
  • paper (finger print paper works nicely)
  • tempera paint
  • paint trays (or bowls or plates)
  • black Sharpie marker (optional)

  1. Cut notches along one end of a toilet paper tube. They can be any size or shape: rectangles, triangles, rounded "petals," or whatever else you can think of. My cuts were all around 3/4" to 1 1/2" long.
  2. Protect kids' clothing and work surfaces, if desired. My children each have their own paint shirts, which are just old t-shirts that used to belong to me. I use a clothespin to secure Logan's at the back of his neck. For the table, they each had a vinyl place mat to work on.
  3. Pour some paint onto trays. We used six colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple, with two colors on each Styrofoam tray. Note: In retrospect, I think this would have worked better if there was more room per color, meaning that I should have only used one color per tray.
  4. Have kids dip the toilet paper tubes into the paint and then press them onto the paper to make impressions. Note: They can also invent their own techniques for painting. For example, Logan liked to swirl the tubes around on the paper and Mia discovered that she could used the tips of the cut-outs to make smaller designs. Both of them figured out that the paint was occasionally drippy so they used that in their paintings, as well.
  5. Let paint dry completely before displaying their artwork. Note: I used a black Sharpie to write their names and ages before they were finished. This is mostly so I won't forget who made each one! Note: Kids may also wish to go back after paint has dried and add more details with markers. I know Mia mentioned adding green stems to the "flowers" and some faces to the ones that reminded her of a lion's mane.

And, if you haven't done so already, please check out the Livingston Parent Journal's crowdfunding page! There are just a couple days left to contribute to a very worthy cause.

Snow Day Science Experiment

We are on our third snow day in a row. And once again, it was because of the extreme cold not the snow that school was canceled! Since it was too cold to venture outside, we ended up doing some indoor activities. First up was a science experiment: inflating a balloon with vinegar and baking soda, which I had heard about here. Our first balloon worked great. The second one was a flop, and we were done after that.

{We successfully inflated a balloon using science!}


  • empty plastic bottle (with a small mouth, preferably)
  • vinegar
  • baking soda
  • balloon
  • 2 funnels


  1. Using a funnel, fill the bottle about 1/3 of the way with vinegar. (Note: I first drew a line with a black Sharpie so that the kids would have a visual for when to stop pouring.) One child held the funnel and bottle while the other one poured the vinegar. (Note: Our bottle was an old teriyaki bottle that I pulled from the recycling bin. The neck is warped from the dishwasher, but it had the narrowest mouth of any bottle I could find in the bin, so it was the clear choice.)
    {Pouring the vinegar into the bottle}
  2. With a second funnel (or the first funnel, assuming you have first dried it completely), add baking soda to a balloon, filling it about half way. They switched roles so that the first pourer was now the holder of the funnel and the balloon, and the first holder was now the pourer of the baking soda.
    {Pouring the baking soda into the balloon}
  3. Carefully stretch the balloon's opening so that it fits over the mouth of the bottle. (Note: They can tear, so watch out for this.) Be sure not to spill the baking soda into the bottle while you are doing this. I did this step myself.
  4. Kids can now lift up the balloon, allowing the baking soda to spill into the bottle. The chemical reaction makes the balloon inflate, which is fun for everyone! (Note: If your balloon happens to break apart while doing this, try to stop them from pouring in any more baking soda. Otherwise, you wind up with a volcano instead of an inflated balloon. While fun, too, this was not the science experiment I was going for, so I wasn't prepared for it!)
    {Adding the baking soda to the vinegar}
{I love his excitement!}

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Frozen Water Balloons

Well, I only pinned this idea a year ago... Maybe I am on the ball, because, really, how many things do people pin and how many of those pins do they actually accomplish? (I've never thought about the rate of attempting vs. just saving ideas, but I bet my track record is pretty good compared to most people.) Anyway, this wasn't something that the kids could really help me with, which was a bummer, but we all enjoyed the results. It was just something fun for yet another "snow day," which was really a "way too cold to go to school day and, therefore, you can't go outside and play day" -- of which we have had far too many this year! I lined them up along our porch railing so that we can easily see them from the living room window.

{A row of pretty frozen "eggs" on my porch railing}

  • water balloons 
  • food coloring
  • water
  • pan to hold balloons (optional)
  • scissors (optional)

  1. Stretch out your water balloon. Add a few drops of food coloring. (I used 3 drops per balloon. I made one balloon for each color of pure food coloring: red, yellow, blue, green, neon pink, neon purple, neon green, and neon blue plus I mixed a few colors. For example, orange = 2 yellow + 1 red.) Tip: Do NOT use regular balloons. Trust me on this. You will just end up with a mess of colored water!
  2. Fill the balloon with water. (Mine came from Dollar Tree and the package included a little nozzle to attach to the faucet. It didn't stay well, though, so I secured it with packaging tape. If you decide to do that, have a towel handy! Actually, you may want a towel handy, anyway, since a few of the balloons are bound to leak. We lost two at this stage.) Tie the end of the balloon in a knot.
  3. Place filled balloons outside to freeze. This takes a few hours. Be careful not to move them too soon, or they may pop. (This happened to me when I was checking on them about 2 hours later. I figured with the sub-zero temperatures that they might be ready. They weren't. One popped and made a mess on the front porch. I didn't check again for another 4 hours or so just to be safe!)
  4. Remove the balloons and display your frozen "eggs." You could use scissors for this. I just peeled them off with my fingers. (Here I lost a couple that had become frozen into the purple puddle from the popped balloon that I moved prematurely. They ended up cracking when I tried to chisel them away with my boot.)
{Neon colors are surprisingly less vibrant.}

NOTE: If you enjoyed this project, you might also like making Colorful Frozen Ice Shapes. On another note, there are just a few days left for the Livingston Parent Journal's fundraising efforts. Please stop by their crowdfunding site and see if there is a way that you can help out! Thanks so much.

Easy Cookie Cutter Potato Prints

Here's an oldie, but a goody: potato prints. I am not sure where I came up with the idea to use cookie cutters to make this process even quicker and easier, but it came in handy today when I was trying to prep for dinner and needed something to keep the kids occupied! Getting some potatoes out for roasting reminded me that I had just purchased some new cookie cutters that I found on clearance at Walmart -- a total steal, 6 of the little ones that are meant for fondant or something along those lines, and they were just $1.50. (Shhh! Don't tell Brett. I'm supposed to be cut off from buying any more.)

Have I mentioned that cookie cutters are one of my most favorite craft items? Really, they have so many great uses! I have always thought the small metal kind were nice for cutting cute cheese and fruit shapes, and, of course, for crafts. It turns out that they are quite handy for making potato stamps with precise edges in no time flat. Yep. Cookie cutters. What's not to love?!

{A finished potato stamp and a stamp in progress...}

  • potatoes
  • small knife
  • small cookie cutters (metal preferably)
  • Styrofoam trays to hold paint (or plates)
  • paper (finger paint paper works well)
  • tempera paints
  • paper towel/damp cloth
  • paint shirts/smocks (optional)

  1. You may wish to protect clothing and work surfaces. My kids each have an old paint shirt that they wore. Plus, each of their work areas was covered with a vinyl place mat. If messes don't bother you, proceed to the next step.
  2. Cut potatoes in half. I used 4 small red potatoes.
  3. Press a cookie cutter into each potato half. You don't have to press it entirely into the potato, but you can press it that deeply if you want. Remove the cookie cutter, and use a knife to carefully cut away the outer edges, leaving the shape of the cookie cutter. It's faster and more precise than trying to freehand the shape! (We used a star, some hearts, some fall leaves, and an apple.)
  4. Pour some paint onto Styrofoam trays and let kids dip their potato stamps into the paint and then press it onto paper. Tip: You can sterilize Styrofoam meat trays by running them through the dishwasher on the top rack. Tip: If you have more than one child, it is helpful to give each one his own tray. I just sat them next to each other so that they could share paint colors and potato stamps. Tip: It is helpful to have paper towels or a damp cloth handy for wiping the stamps off before switching colors (unless they want the colors to get mixed). Plus, you will need this for wiping hands when they are all done stamping.
  5. Let paintings dry completely before displaying them. This technique can also be used to making greeting cards or gift wrap.

Here are 10 More Fun Uses for Cookie Cutters:
By the way, please stop by the Livingston Parent Journal's crowdfunding site and see if there is a way that you can help them with their mission! Thanks ever so much.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Make Your Own: Kool-Aid* Finger Paint

If you have been reading my posts for any length of time, you likely know that I adore homemade art supplies, particularly paints! I had wanted to try out this recipe for a few months and with the weather we have been having... Well, you know, no time like the present, right? (On a side note, was there ever such a thing as a polar vortex when we were kids? Doesn't seem like it to me. It's cold, people! I don't know if we need a special term for that. I believe it is used to be known as "winter.") So, back to the topic at hand. You need a "winter" weather activity to do with the cooped-up kids who don't have school again? This ought to do the trick!

{Little Man experiments with color mixing.}

Notes about the recipe: 
#1 I halved everything from the original (link above).
#2 When I say Kool-Aid*, I just mean any powdered drink mix. I used Kroger brand and made two batches, one with orange flavor and one with tropical punch flavor.
#3 Yes, this sounds a lot like a play dough recipe. This is almost all of the ingredients that we use to make Kool-Aid* Play Dough, although the proportions are different.
#4 It smells really nice.
#5 The paints have great vibrant colors! (And, I LOVE bright color, as you may know.)
#6 Despite sounding like play dough, the consistency is very good for a finger paint. In fact, I think I prefer this to the previous homemade finger paint recipe in that it is not at all sticky.
#7 This paint wipes up super easily with just a damp cloth, which earns high marks from this mama! (In case the other reasons stated above don't convince you to try it.)
#8 The only potential downside is that it makes quite a lot of paint, more than we need for just two kiddos. I plan to just share some with other families, so that solves that. It would work great for a daycare or a preschool class, also.

{Left: Orange, Right: Tropical Punch}

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 package unsweetened Kool-Aid*
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons oil (I used EVOO. Whatever cooking oil you have on hand will work.)

  1. Place dry ingredients in a medium or large bowl. (I used two different bowls since I was making two batches.)
  2. Add oil and boiling water and stir to combine. (I would say adults only since this involves boiling water.)
  3. Use paint right away. (Don't worry. I checked and it was cool enough to the touch.) Finger paint paper is ideal, of course, but I imagine you could use any paper you have at hand. (I finally found that roll of paper that eluded me!)
  4. The only thing I am not sure about is how long this lasts. Currently, we have it in sealed containers, and given its similarities to homemade play dough I am inclined to say it should last for several weeks or even months. (Our current batch of homemade play dough is 5 months old and still working great. Yes, you read that correctly. MONTHS! Really, I can't talk homemade play dough up enough!)
{My little realist creates jack-o'-lanterns.}

Chocolate "Pupcakes" for a Puppy Paw-ty

Once again, I saw a picture of something and thought, I can do that. Too bad mine didn't turn out as nicely as hers but at least I got to try this out for a fairly small family gathering before I attempted to make them for the entire first grade class! (Note: I will not be doing that. I have a simpler game plan in mind for the actual birthday-at-school cupcakes.)

The main problem I faced was that the cake was so wonderfully moist and the frosting was a bit dry, so those two didn't pair as well as I had hoped. While they didn't look as lovely as I had hoped, they were quite delicious! Here's how I made my chocolate "pupcakes."

Dark Chocolate Cake (makes 28 cupcakes)


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used extra virgin olive instead.)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup boiling water (recipe calls for 2/3 - 1 cup)


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Prepare pans. (Recipe says two 9 inch rounds or one 9"x13". I was planning cupcakes, so I lined two muffin tins with brown paper liners that I had found on clearance at Walmart for $1.50.)
  3. In a mixing bowl, stir together dry ingredients.
  4. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes at medium speed.
  5. Stir in boiling water by hand. Batter will be thin.
  6. Bake for 18-20 minutes for cupcakes. (Mine were done after 18 minutes, and they were filled about 2/3 full.) For 9 inch rounds, the recipe says to bake for 30-35 minutes, and about 5 minutes longer for a rectangular pan.

No-Cook Fudge Frosting (recipe from my friend Jenifer)


  • 4 3/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Mix dry ingredients.
  2. Add butter, water, and vanilla. 
  3. Beat at low speed until combined and then for an additional minute at medium speed.
  4. Allow to cool for 20-30 minutes. (Huh? Okay, I skipped this, so maybe that was why it came out dry? Also, she told me I probably shouldn't have skimped on the sifting. I started this, but gave up part way through... And now I know that if nothing else works, add more liquid.)
Decorating Pupcakes:
For the eyes: I used either brown mini M&M's or brown Reese's Pieces.
For the noses: For the faces with mini M&M eyes, I used a brown Reese's Pieces. For the others, I used a mini Reese's peanut butter cup.
For the ears and mouths: I used large pretzel twists and broke them (easier said than done) to make pointy ears. With the remaining pieces, I did my best to shape them into cute mouths (again, easier said than done. And just now, I notice that the original picture shows different types of puppy faces...)
For the tongues: I used my kitchen scissors to trim strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups into the proper shape.

All around, I had a problem with having decorated these pupcakes the day before they were to be eaten. The Fruit Roll-ups turned kind of melty. The pretzels became stale, oddly enough. And since that frosting was a tad bit dry, the eyes and noses really didn't want to stay in place whatsoever. Not my best cake ever, but probably not my worst either. Oh well, like I said, I have another idea in mind for the next round.

Puppy Paw-ty Balloons

I saw the idea for puppy balloons here and decided it shouldn't be too difficult to make them myself. There were a couple challenges, but I think my version turned out pretty well. The first issue I had is that brown balloons are difficult to find. Granted, I only checked Dollar Tree and two different Walmart stores, but I decided that was enough running around looking for brown balloons. At the second Walmart I found a single package of gold balloons, and I decided that they were good enough! The next issue was that I didn't have a way to inflate the balloons to look like the photo. I solved that problem, however, by just blowing them up with my own steam and making the faces "upside down" -- as opposed to the way they would look if the balloons were filled with helium. Then, I taped them to the dining room chandelier.

The grand total spent on this decoration = 97 cents for a package of 10 balloons. So far, I only have used three of the balloons for the family party. I am secretly (or I guess not so secretly since I am announcing it here) hoping that they will last through this weekend's party with friends, but if not, I know it will be easy to make some more puppy balloons (especially if I just re-use the ears and muzzles).


  • gold balloons (or brown if you can find them)
  • pencil or pen
  • black Sharpie marker
  • kraft paper cardstock (I used 8 1/2" x 11" size.)
  • scissors
  • double-sided adhesive
  • clear tape (for hanging)


  1. Inflate your balloons. I used three for this puppy paw-ty decor.
  2. Fold a piece of kraft paper cardstock in half, lengthwise. Draw a floppy ear, which is sort of a long skinny bean shape, and cut it out. Use this as a template to trace as many ears as you will need. Cut out all ears. Save the scraps for the next step. (Note: If you don't have kraft paper, you can use brown cardstock or brown construction paper.)
  3. On a scrap of the kraft paper, draw a dog's muzzle. This looks a bit like an upside down heart. After the first one, I added a sort of notch at the top for the nose, but you can skip that if you prefer. Cut out your muzzle, and again use it as a template, tracing as many as needed on the other scraps of kraft paper. On each muzzle, use a black Sharpie to fill in the nose, draw a mouth, and make "freckles" on either side (or whatever the correct term is for those spots where the whiskers originate from).
  4. Using double-sided adhesive, attach ears and muzzles to each balloon. I used approximately one inch squares, one per ear and two per muzzle.
  5. Draw two ovals for eyes with a black Sharpie.
  6. Use tape to display the puppy face balloons.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Winter Mittens Paper Craft

Here is another cute and simple preschool craft created by our wonderful library lady, Mrs. D.! Logan always enjoys using the paint daubers, so this was a hit. (Note: If you don't have paint daubers at home, you can buy Bingo markers at Dollar Tree that work very well for dot-eriffic projects.)


  • construction paper
  • pencil
  • scissors
  • hole punch
  • yarn
  • Bingo/paint daubers

  1. Draw and cut out a mitten shape. Use this as a template to create a matching mitten, and cut it out. (Tip: If you want a sturdier template to use again and again, consider making one out of boxboard -- like a cereal box.)
  2. Punch a hole in each mitten.
  3. Cut a length of yarn. Thread each end through the holes and tie knots to secure.
  4. Give your child paint or Bingo daubers and let him decorate the mittens. Allow paint to dry before displaying the mittens.

11 more Bingo marker project ideas for the rest of the year:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Request

I have already shared the sad news with my Facebook friends -- several times in fact. The Livingston Parent Journal is in trouble and they may not be printing any future issues! Yes, this is the same publication that has run a few articles for me recently, but please read on to see why I feel compelled to make one last public request on their behalf.

When I became a stay-at-home mom four years ago, I felt lonely and isolated. I no longer had opportunities for regular adult conversation. To make matters worse, our finances were much tighter, making it difficult for me to feel like I could wisely take the children to very events. It seemed like everything had a price tag, and I was worried that the cost was too high.

Enter the Livingston Parent Journal. This FREE publication became my lifeline for family-friendly events in the area, and most of them were free or very low cost! Suddenly, I was connected. We were going places, and the whole family was so much happier. I know that there are many, many other families who are being impacted in this way, and I would hate for them to lose a vital resource -- the Livingston Parent Journal!

I recently read an article about a couple that claimed to have had the first crowdfunded baby, following a successful in vitro fertilization made possible in this fashion. While I am not asking you to help me make a baby, I do want you to consider supporting an important cause! You may be wondering, How can I help? #1 Click here to go to their crowdfunding page. You have until January 31 to make a financial difference. #2 You are, of course, welcome to share, share, share. I've always believed in the power of one person to make a difference, but truly the real power is when many people join together in support of something they believe in. Thanks for listening.

In other news, since we are experiencing another polar vortex, I thought I would also share a picture of something that we tried the last time the temps were so frigid: frozen bubbles! (Yes, it is easy to make a bubble freeze. The tricky part is getting a photo of it!) We used our favorite homemade bubble solution, but I assume any bubble solution will work. In my opinion, it's a whole lot safer than throwing boiling water into the air. Of course, you will need to make sure that everyone is properly bundled up, and that you don't remain outside for too long. Stay warm, have fun, and please consider making a donation to the Livingston Parent Journal!

{Here it is! A frozen bubble!}

Friday, January 17, 2014

DIY Table Cover for a Puppy Paw-ty

Oooooh! I love it when things come together and actually turn out the way that I picture them in my head. This is the first decoration that I have tackled for the upcoming puppy paw-ty: a hand-stamped table cover. I made the stamp out of a piece of Styrofoam tray and stamped the paw print all over some brown kraft roll paper that I picked up at a garage sale. (Note: You can also find this at Dollar Tree.) I am pleased with the results and with the fact that I made this for absolutely no cost!

{Close-Up of Table Cover}

  • Styrofoam (left over meat packaging, run through dishwasher)
  • pencil
  • carving tools (I used a small screwdriver and my fingernails. A screw, nail, butter knife, or similar item would likely work as well. I don't suggest anything that you could easily injure yourself with, though!)
  • scissors
  • roll of brown kraft paper
  • brown ink pad (or black)
  • rocks to weight paper down (optional)

  1. Cut away the sides from a Styrofoam tray to make a flat surface.
  2. Using a pencil, draw a paw print. Mine was a kidney bean shape (or an upside down heart) with four circles on top. Tip: After my first trial did not turn out as I had hoped, I learned to make the circles for the toes larger than I expected to need them to be, and placed everything fairly close together.
  3. Use your tool (I liked using a small screwdriver for this.), repeatedly go over the outline of the paw print design to make it deeper. Then, using your tools, start carving out the extra white space around the parts that you want to be raised up for the stamp. (I resorted to using fingernails, but I don't necessarily recommend doing this. I bent one nail back slightly and eventually tore it a bit from this.) Tip: Don't worry about making it perfect because a) This is impossible! and b) The imperfections look nice on the final product, more realistic, in my opinion.
  4. Press your Styrofoam stamp onto an ink pad and test it on some scrap paper. If it doesn't look as clear as you would like, go back to step 3 and carve away more. Test and repeat carving as desired.
  5. Once the stamp creates a print you like, you're ready to make a table cover. Measure out the kraft paper to more than cover your table and cut it to size. Lay it out on a flat surface (I used my kitchen floor because a) the table was covered with... stuff and b) this was easier on my back since I could just keep scooting along as I went rather than bending and stretching over my table). Tip: Weight it down if it is trying to curl back up. (I used some painted rocks that were handy.) Stamp paw prints however you would like. I chose to make it look like a dog had walked up one side of the table cover and back down the other. You could do random paw prints if you like. This didn't take too much time, even with re-inking between impressions, which I felt would ensure the crispest prints. Again, I didn't worry if some of the prints didn't turn out "perfect" because this adds to the charm. 
  6. When I was done stamping, I made sure the ink was dry before rolling it up to store until party time. I anticipate that I will need to tape it to the table. It should be a cute and low-key table runner, perfect for a puppy-themed paw-ty.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Puppy Paw-ty Invites

{Front of Invitations}

Mia decided that her upcoming birthday party will have a puppy theme, which is fun. One nice thing about this theme is that it's not a specific character so that gives me plenty of flexibility for creating the menu, decorations, and party activities. First, I made the invitations using kraft paper card stock and my computer.

  • 8 1/2" x 11" kraft paper card stock (1 piece makes 2 cards)
  • paper trimmer/scissors
  • circle punch
  • adhesive
  • red and yellow card stock scraps
  • scalloped scissors
  • scrapbooking marker (with calligraphy tip)
  • gold eyelets
  • eyelet setting tool

1.  I folded a piece of card stock in half (width-wise) and cut along the fold. Then I folded each piece in half again to make two cards. I did this a total of four times.

2.  For the wording, I used a free font called Puppy Bellies. It includes the bone and paw print icons that I used. The front of the card reads, "Come. Sit. Stay. Mia is turning 7 and you're invited to a puppy paw-ty!" (Yes, I used a punny spelling. Couldn't resist. Also, the i's are dotted with paw prints which is an adorable feature of this font.) This was done in Microsoft Word so that I got 4 per page in landscape format.
{Inside of Invitation}

The inside of the invitation features the party details on the right side. The row of doggie silhouettes was created using another free font called Can Dog TFB. I did this in Microsoft Word in portrait format, yielding 4 per page. On the left, we are asking for donations to the local humane society in place of presents. (I'll let you know whether or not that works out. Last year, I wrote "your presence is your present" but we still wound up with way more Barbie dolls than one little girl possibly needs. I am hoping that this new idea leads to useful stuff for charity. When I presented the idea to Mia, she was enthusiastic.) Again, I formatted this in Microsoft Word. Using the landscape setting, I was able to fit 2 per page.

3.  After printing off all the necessary pages, I trimmed them down with my paper trimmer and then gave all the pieces a decorative edge with scalloped scissors. Then, I adhered everything with scrapbooking adhesive squares.

4.  The cards looked a bit plain with just brown, white, and black, so I decided to dress them up a bit by adding paper collars using some red card stock scraps. I cut them to fit the paper but waited to adhere them until after the next step.

5.  The last step was personalization. I continued the collar idea by making dog tags out of yellow card stock scraps. I used a circle punch to make them round. Then, I used gold eyelets and my eyelet setting tool to attach the tags to the paper collars. Next, I adhered the collars and tags with my adhesive squares. For a final touch, I took my calligraphy-tipped scrapbooking pen and wrote the name of each invitee on a tag. I made 8 invitations using materials I already had which meant that I didn't have to spend any money!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Snow Day Craft Fails

Things have been hectic around here these last few days. Sickness, sickness, and more sickness. We're falling like dominoes, and I really hope that I am the last domino in the line. I should probably be resting, but I feel the need to be writing for some reason. (Probably the fever. As you may recall, that's what happened the last time I had a fever.) Anyway, it seemed like a good time to share some snow day activities from last week -- the ones that were less than stellar. (I do try to keep it real so you know that not all of my craft endeavors are home runs!)

First up, we tried something that this website referred to as "Sparkle Snow Paint." For the record, this does make a good homemade paint. In fact, while mixing it up, I thought to myself, Haven't we made this before? Yep, pretty sure we added food coloring and called it "puffy paint." Yes, it turned out to be the very same recipe: 1/2 cup water + 1/2 cup salt + 1/2 cup flour, mixed together and put into squeeze bottles. While this works well for homemade puffy paint, my complaint is that it is not sparkly. Also, if you are using unbleached flour, it's not even white! For future reference, if I want it to be sparkly, I will add some glitter.

{Puffy Paint Snowflake by Mia, Age 6}

The second homemade craft material experiment was making paste. I had never before made any sort of glue, but it was on my mental to-do list for the past few months, so I decided it was time to test this out. I have an older edition (from 1994) of The Little Hands Art Book, which is where I found this recipe for "Flour Paste."

Following the directions, I combined 1/2 cup flour with 2/3 cup water. The problem is that this seemed to be too watery of a consistency. It was wet for glue, and certainly too wet for "paste," which should be quite thick, at least the way I remember it from my elementary school days. The other problem I encountered is that it called for "oil of peppermint or oil of wintergreen," and I was not 100% sure was meant by that. I took it to mean essential oils, so I used a few drops of peppermint essential oil since I had that on hand for the homemade bath salts. I may be entirely wrong, though.

This "paste" smells delightful, but it looks disgusting. I put some into an old glue bottle and gave it to Mia to test out. She found that it did work as an adhesive, but she agreed with my assessment that it was too thin and watery. I hoped that it would eventually "set" but no such luck. There is a layer of putrid looking paste topped by a layer of liquidy goo -- and I have a half-pint canning jar full of this gross-looking "paste" which is supposed to last a couple of months. (Evidently, the oil -- if I used it correctly -- acts as a preservative of some sort.) That's what I call a craft-astrophe. Really, it's so nasty looking, I have decided to not include a photo!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

ABC Scavenger Hunt

With three snow days this week and extremely cold temperatures (think negative 35 degree wind chills!), we were all starting to get a little nutty with cabin fever. Fortunately, I came up with a relatively simple (and secretly educational!) idea the keep the kids occupied for a bit one afternoon. They helped me sort through our alphabet magnets to find A-Z. (Remember, I mentioned before that we have a LOT of these?) This in itself ate up a few minutes. Score one for Mama!

Then, I arranged them around the perimeter of our dining table and sent them off on a scavenger hunt to find at least one item for every letter of the alphabet. At four years old, my little dude isn't all that great with letters just yet, but he was very good at finding things and his big sister was especially nice about helping him find the correct placement for each item. Teamwork! Score another point for Mama.

In the end, some letters were notably easier to find corresponding items for. For example, B and C were starting to crowd into the spaces that were assigned to A and D. On the flip side, some letters were downright tricky to find things that matched up with them. This sparked resourcefulness on Mia's part. She began asking questions like, "How do you spell vulture?" and then she wrote the words on slips of paper and placed them near the appropriate letter magnets. I could have told her this was "cheating" but it seemed like a pretty smart solution to me! Problem solving! Add one more point to my tally.

Also, it was interesting to see what types of unusual things they came up with for each letter of the alphabet. Yes, A is for alligator and Z is for zebra. Those are pretty standard. But when you think of M, do you come up with maze, maraca, or minion right away? Probably not! How about W is for wrench and wave bottle? Doubtful. So, I am considering this little game to require higher level analytical thinking skills, and again I say, score for Mama! (The teacher in me is quite pleased with herself.)

My friend Kim said that she did a similar scavenger hunt before but instead of collecting physical things she just had her kids take photos of each item. Maybe we'll do it that way some day, too, but not until we own a kid-safe digital camera. It seems like that would be ideal for an outdoors nature-themed scavenger hunt. (Find an orange leaf, find a nut, find a purple flower, find an insect, and so on...) Something to think about for when the snow finally disappears. At this rate, I am thinking that will be around June!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Colorful Ice Shapes

I found this idea here and I had been waiting for the right time to give it a try. While this would probably make more sense if I had done it in February, another snow day (third in a row!) was the ideal time for creating these pretty outdoor decorations. Plus, I had heart-shaped molds, so that was what we used. This was simple and fun for the little ones and for me, too. The finished ice molds are quite lovely, and they seem to sparkle and shimmer in the sunlight.

  • silicone muffin cups (or a candy/brownie mold -- aluminum would also work)
  • water
  • food coloring
  • fishing line (Dental floss will also do the trick!)
  • clear tape
  • scissors
  • cake pan or cookie sheet (optional, but very helpful)

  1. Cut several lengths of fishing line (or dental floss), one for each mold. Make each one into a loop and then secure it inside the bottom of your silicone (or aluminum) mold using clear tape. Tip: We used 12 heart-shaped muffin cups, so I placed them in a cake pan for easy transport. If you are using a candy mold, you might wish to place it on top of a cookie sheet for the same reason.
  2. Add colored water to each mold. We had snow paint at hand, so we didn't need to do any mixing. I just poured some from each bottle into small paper cups so that the kids could easily fill the molds. If you don't already have colored water, just place some water in each mold and then add a drop or two of food coloring to each one. Tip: I don't recommend filling them more than 2/3 of the way if you are using muffin cups. Full cups were a bit bulky and took considerably longer to freeze than the ones that were only 1/2 - 2/3 full. 
  3. Place your molds outside to freeze. (Alternatively, you can put these in your freezer, but with cold winter temps, it just made more sense to use the outdoors.) The shallower ones were set up in about 3 1/2 hours, while the fuller cups were done in about 6 hours.
  4. Remove the colored ice from the molds. With silicone, it is simple to just peel the mold away from the ice. For aluminum, it may be easier to run some warm water on the bottom of your pan to help release them. Remove and discard any left over tape.
  5. Hang your colorful ice shapes outside and admire them! 

Snow Ice Cream Success!

We have tried at least a couple of times to make snow ice cream, but it has never worked until today. Honestly, I don't know which recipe or recipes we used, so I can't compare them. So, I am merely posting this recipe for future reminders to myself! If it helps someone else out, all the better. I goofed and added too much vanilla this first time around, but the kids didn't seem to mind at all. The consistency was actually very good, so overall it was a resounding success.

{More brown than it should be since we added extra vanilla...}


  • 4 cups snow (clean, of course!)
  • 1 cup milk (We used skim, and it worked surprisingly well.)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (not tablespoon, Meg!)


  1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix with a spoon for a couple of minutes, until all ingredients are combined. 
  2. Enjoy some fresh ice cream right away! Toppings are optional, but we used sprinkles (Mia) and mini M & Ms (Logan). 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

3-Ingredient Homemade Face Paint

Today was our second snow day in a row and it seemed like as good a time as any to test out this recipe for homemade face paint that I had seen here. (I've mentioned it before, but I love trying out new paint recipes, so I am always up for new ideas.) It was simple enough since it only called for three ingredients, all things that I keep in the pantry. These face paints were quick to make, and easy to apply with a regular paint brush.

{She requested a colorful bird on one cheek.}

I know some folks may be concerned about the safety of food coloring, but personally, I see no problem with applying it externally, especially since they kept it on for only a short time. I can't tell you how long it lasts since the kids got bored with their painted designs before they were even completely dry! I can tell you with certainty, though, that this face paint wipes away readily with nothing more than a damp cloth, so it gets high marks for that alone! Feeling optimistic, I covered my muffin tin with saran wrap and popped it in the fridge to try again another day...

{Yes, it's that easy to make face paint!}


  • 1 tablespoon shortening (I used Crisco)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • food coloring (I used 1-2 drops per color)
  • mini muffin tin (or similar, to hold paints)
  • bowl and spoon/s for mixing
  • paint brush (or sponge, for paint application)


  1. In a bowl, combine the shortening and cornstarch, and mix until smooth.
  2. Spoon into the compartments of a mini muffin tin (or other containers, such as bowls.) I made 6 colors total, so I used all the sections of my tin. If you only want one color, you can skip this step.
  3. Add food coloring. Spoons work well for blending the food coloring into the shortening/cornstarch mixture, and can be quickly wiped clean between colors. (I used 1 drop of each of the following: red, yellow, green, and blue. For orange, I combined 1 drop red + 1 drop yellow. I planned to make purple with 1 drop blue + one drop red, but wound up with gray instead. Weird! For purple, I would try the neon purple food coloring, straight up, next time.) 
  4. Apply face paints to clean, dry skin. To remove paints, use a damp cloth. Soap was unnecessary for us.

{Color mixing snafu = adorable puppy face!}

Cookie Cutter Birdseed Treats

Here is an idea that I saw a while back that combines two things that I love: birds and cookie cutters. Of course, we needed to try it! Admittedly, I was skeptical that this would work. These are sort of like homemade "suet cakes," and I had never heard of anybody making their own before.

However, I don't want to call them suet cakes, and mislead you. There is no actual suet involved. I do, however, think that the gelatin serves a similar purpose both in holding the treats together and in providing the birds with a fat. The blog where I found this idea said to use Knox gelatin. To save money, I used Kroger brand unflavored gelatin, which is essentially the same. You do not need to buy a specific name brand for this to work.

I am thrilled to report that this project turned out very well! This is especially true since we made the treats on the day that everything was going wrong. These birdseed treats held up very well in extreme cold, wind, and heavy snowfall, which makes them great for wintertime bird feeding.

{This chickadee actually latched onto the treat to eat!}

One downside is that they were kind of messy to make and the kids weren't thrilled about getting their hands all sticky. Also, unlike other bird feeders* we have made in the past, there is a waiting period for the gelatin to set up. So, I wouldn't consider this to be the perfect kid-friendly bird feeding project  (although it is still a good one, and I would make them again). *Note: For more homemade bird feeder ideas, see my previous posts about birdseed biscuits and other assorted bird feeders.

This made 3 cookie cutter birdseed treats that stayed together and one that fell apart. (The little tree was the one that fell apart. It just did not have enough stuff to make the bakers twine hold it up on the tree branch.) For future reference, I would double the recipe so that both of the kids could each make two to three treats.
{Finished Cookie Cutter Birdseed Treats}

  • 3/4 cup birdseed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • small cooking pan
  • twine/string/yarn/baker's twine
  • scissors
  • cookie cutters
  • wax paper/parchment paper
  • cookie sheet

  1. Cut a few lengths of twine, string, or yarn. We used both yarn and baker's twine. Tie each one into a circle and make a knot to secure the ends.
  2. Place the water and powdered gelatin into the pot. Simmer until the gelatin is dissolved.
  3. Remove from heat and stir birdseed into the pot until combined. Kids can easily help with this step.
  4. Line your cookie sheet with wax paper or parchment paper. (We actually used parchment since we had just baked. I flipped it over and used the reverse side of the parchment. Otherwise, I would have used wax paper since I usually reserve parchment for baking.) Place cookie cutters on top of the wax paper/parchment paper. Then, start spooning the birdseed mixture into the cookie cutters. Have children press the mixture in as tightly as possible. Fill about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way.
  5. Lay the twine/yarn/string on top of each. Now, fill the cookie cutters the rest of the way with the birdseed mixture.
  6. Place in the refrigerator for about two hours. Then, allow to dry overnight, flipping over occasionally so that they dry all the way through.
  7. Gently remove the treats from the cookie cutters. They are now ready to be hung outside, which children can do with some help. Enjoy watching the birds! (Note: I have noticed that most birds prefer to perch on a branch beneath the treat and to eat that way, so place the treats in a tree accordingly. The chickadee pictured above was an exception; it just climbed aboard to eat!)
{Our feathered friend enjoys a meal on a VERY snowy day.}

Friday, January 3, 2014

What's the Opposite of the Midas Touch?

Today was not my day. The dog threw up on the carpet. Logan peed on the sofa. (Some day, I will tell the story of what a pain it has been to get him fully toilet trained, but that tale will have to wait.) I had a pomegranate catastrophe. (That video I saw a few weeks back in which the guy claimed he had an "easier" way to cut them without having to have your hands in a bowl of icy water... and I thought, must try that. Yeah, let's just say I am glad this worked for him, but it was NOT at all a good idea for me!) Did I mention it was beyond freezing and we were cooped up ALL DAY?

So, obviously, almost all the activities we tried went wrong. I don't know if there is a word for the exact opposite of the Midas Touch, but I think that is what was going on. We couldn't find the bird identification book because I wanted to set up a bird-watching basket, so of course, that would be unavailable. (Although, Mia did make some nice drawings for the cover of our bird watching notebook, so even though we can't tell what we're looking at, at least we're on the right track to having our bird-watching basket...)

I have a brand new roll of finger paint paper somewhere in the house, but it was nowhere to be found. I realized this after I got all the powdered tempera paints mixed up. I had (or attempted to make) four new paint combs (inspired by this). When I got the kids set up to paint on some brown kraft paper, Mia was excited, "Mrs. M. (the art teacher) has some of these!" Almost immediately, though, she was disappointed because my homemade version -- made from two Cool Whip lids -- just wasn't the same. I guess it's one of those "good idea in theory" moments, not a total craft-astrophe, but still it was a let-down. They eventually got the combs to make some scratchy marks in the paint, but it was pretty anticlimactic at that point.

We waited all day -- 8 hours -- for some glue to dry. This was my BIG brilliant idea for the day, the one I was sure would work. I had wanted to do some Styrofoam art prints. Instead of carving out a design like we did before, I thought we could make a relief using glue. Actually, I still think this would have worked. If only the glue hadn't flaked off from the surface of the Styrofoam after it finally dried.

It's a travesty, really. Mia had a cool snowflake design and Logan had some interesting abstract art that would have looked cool with the white paint on blue paper that I had in mind. This is the only one that sort of kind of worked out, although it looks nothing like what we were hoping for. If you squint, you can probably make out the tree and the falling snow, although who can really tell with all that other "snow" all over the sad looking print? This one definitely counts as a craft-astrophe in my book.

{"Christmas Tree" by Mia}

I know what you're probably thinking. Why didn't she just take it easy instead of trying to direct all of the activities for the day? I should probably mention that Netflix was not wanting to stream anything. And, left to their own devices, the kids created a couch cushion/blanket fort, which ordinarily would not be a problem. But once this became a "bounce house" and they were "boinging" down the "slide" repeatedly, I had had enough of that activity. Couldn't I catch a break?!

It's days like this when a mama really appreciates bedtime. So, if you need me, I'll be soaking in a hot bath with some homemade orange bath salts. And, I may also treat myself to some of our Dragonberry Bacardi. I think I've earned it.

S'mores in the Oven

Being stuck inside today with the extreme cold temperatures (at the start of the day, it was below zero, and with wind chills, this continued all day) meant LOTS of activities to entertain the kids. Unfortunately, it really was not my day. Pretty much everything we tried was a flop... except for this idea to make s'mores in the oven.

Thank heavens this recipe worked because I really needed the late afternoon chocolate pick-me-up. While it's not quite the same as roasted over a campfire, it is the best indoor approximation I have found, much better than those made in the microwave. Now we can have a little taste of summer, even on the coldest wintry days!

{Gooey goodness -- even in winter!}

  • 8 graham crackers, broken in half
  • 3/4 cup mini marshmallows
  • 3 tablespoons chocolate chip (I used milk chocolate)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Set 8 graham cracker halves on a baking sheet. (I lined ours with parchment paper first, just in case there were any overflowing messes.) Cover each cracker with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips and then top each with the remaining cracker halves to make 8 sandwiches. Kids can definitely help with this! 
  3. Bake for 5 minutes. The chocolate and marshmallows should be just melted enough. Cool for about a minute before serving.
{One started with chocolate chips, one got marshmallows, and then they switched.}