March 30, 2012

Felt Story Board

My daughter loves story time at the library. And she desperately wants to be the story lady. She used to gather up her stuffed animals, set them on place mats and read them stories. These days the audience is mostly just me. Even though she calls me "you guys." Usually after the REAL story lady is done reading a couple books to the kids she gets out a felt board and tells another story or does a rhyme or song involving felt characters. So, last week we decided to make our own story board and a few figures to go along with it.

A while back at a garage sale, I bought a bag of large felt pieces in basic colors (for $1). I also bought a BIG stack of smaller pieces in all different colors (also $1). I didn't know what I would do with all that felt but I can't resist cheap fabric, and I LOVE it when I end up putting it to good use!

We started with a large piece of cardboard then cut out two large pieces of felt. We thought it would be fun to have two colors for backgrounds so we cut out enough of each color to cover one half of the board. I left a couple inches around the edges to wrap around and blue on the back. Here we are gluing-

Our colors were deep navy blue and bright yellow. Perfect for nighttime & daytime scenes! Here is the final product-

I had some Sesame Street flannel in my stash so I cut out a few of those characters (flannel clings nicely to felt as well). Then we cut a few simple objects, the sun, moon, stars, cloud, tree, flowers and some furniture for Elmo's room. It's so fun and the possibilities are endless! I'd like to do some basic shapes and also letters & numbers. My daughter is in seventh heaven with this thing. It folds in half and she totes it around then sits down and tells stories, rearranges the objects and invites me to sit & listen. I never imagined it would be such an easy project!

March 22, 2012

Frozen Chocolate Banana Bites

Ooooh, these are so yummy. And decadent tasting too! They remind me of those little Dove ice cream miniatures that my Grandma always had when we came for a visit. But, instead of ice cream these are made from bananas. And if you use your imagination a bit you can almost talk yourself into thinking they ARE ice cream since the frozen banana ends up resembling vanilla ice cream in color & texture.

HERE is where I got the recipe and here's my quick summarized version:

I melted about 1/2 cup chocolate chips with 1/2 cup peanut butter in the microwave in 20-30 increments till it was smooth & runny. I cut the bananas up into chunks and dipped them in the chocolate mixture, then put them on a greased pan. Sprinkled some with coconut and some with walnuts then slid the pan into the freezer for a couple hours.

Here they are shortly after dipping-

Here they are chillin'-

And here's a few of them all done-

Don't they look fancy & sinful? Of course all that chocolate isn't the healthiest, but they are much better than Dove minis! And for a tasty dessert, one is more than enough to satisfy me.

March 20, 2012

Soggy Spring Break

It just figures that last week (winter) would be lovely (summer-like) weather and this week for spring break it is chilly and rainy. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE rain! Especially this early spring rain that, once the sun returns, will make everything extra green. I can't wait for that! It's just a shame that when there's no school or schedules it would be so cool & dreary. They say the sun will return by Thursday or Friday. In the meantime we are trying to make the best of it. At least it's not snowing like it did last year!

Yesterday especially rainy & stormy. The kind of day when no one was motivated to do much of anything. We slept in late, wore our pj's most of the day and didn't go anywhere. The kids played in the rain-

and we did some crafts and a couple activities that I found on a blog via Pinterest. The blog is "Come Together Kids." It's got some great (& easy!) activities for kids.

First of all, we made a variation on the slime we made a couple weeks ago. This recipe for 'Make Your Own Bouncy Balls' was similar but included corn starch. According to the instructions, with the proper mixing & shaping, it would transform into a bouncy ball. No matter how we mixed & kneaded & squished & squashed the stuff, it did not turn bouncy :( It was still a nice putty-type consistency that we loved playing with but I'm not sure what we did wrong. Oh well.

Next is a little art project that my son & I did during sister's nap time, Optical Illusion Handprint, a fun 3-D drawing of our hands. He only finished about half of his, it is kind of time consuming and takes a little patience, but I think it turns out pretty cool. Here's mine all done:

Two other activities that we want to try soon are the Marshmallow Shooters and the Crystal Snowflakes (but maybe we'll do those in flower shapes for spring).

And lastly here is a little springtime scene that my daughter created yesterday (with just a little help from mom). She was especially proud of the crumbled up tissue paper "apples" on the tree.

Happy Spring!!

March 18, 2012

Better Than {insert your very most favorite thing here} Cake

Another recipe found on Pinterest. What did I ever do before Pinterest? Who knows. I think I finally understand the hype. It's so fun! And I love having all my favorite things & recipes right there, with pictures too.

Well, this cake that I found is called "Better than Naptime Cake" but it was actually originally called Better than....something else. A little something a bit naughtier that starts with an 's' and ends with an 'ex'. But the blog I was linked to was a nice wholesome mommy blog and she thought a more appropriate name would be, "Better than Naptime Cake." Because for a mom of a little one, naptime is better than just about anything else, including that word that ends with an ex. Anywhoooo, call the cake 'better than' whatever you want, it's good. Very good. And easy too.

We had a big party weekend here, my husband turned 40 last Thursday and it ended up being a 4 day celebration, a party for each decade I guess. Thursday we celebrated just the four of us. Then Friday with some of my family, then Saturday with his family & friends, then tonight it was just the two of us out to dinner. Whew. I think I'm tired of celebrating. And I feel like I'm about to explode from all the party food.

For Saturday's celebration, I made this naptime cake and everyone loved it. The recipe called for using a boxed cake mix for the chocolate cake part. I decided to make one of those "wacky chocolate cakes" that calls for no eggs or dairy. I've had good luck with those, they are so moist. This is the recipe I used this time, it's a keeper.

So, after you bake the cake, you let it cool for a few minutes then poke some holes in it.

The holes I made were probably bigger than necessary, but it still turned out time. After poking the holes, you pour 1/2 a can condensed milk and a few tablespoons of caramel topping on top.

Sprinkle some crushed Heath bar on top. Let it cool completely before spreading on a tub cool whip and topping with rest of the Heath bar.

Yesterday I assembled the thing during naptime and today I enjoyed eating my fair share during naptime. I think it tastes best during naptime, especially after being chilled for a day. It's was even moister & yummier than it was yesterday. This is a great special occasion cake!

March 16, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Art

I found this idea by subscribing to Cut green peppers in half, dip them in green paint and make your own shamrock print painting! Sounded simple enough and I thought it'd be a fun holiday craft. Well, it was just okay. The peppers I got weren't the best shapes, both resembled flowers more than shamrocks. And it was rather difficult to get the pepper cut so flat that the print would be a solid shape. We still had fun with it.

My daughter decided to make them into purple flowers:

A few of our green pepper prints:

And my final project:

I think we'll try potato prints next time!

Lastly, I'll share this Irish Blessing that I love. Origin unknown, but some attribute it to St. Patrick.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Smiling Apples

Another fun little idea I discovered on pinterest! A silly toothy smiling apple snack. Peanut butter is the glue, the teeth are marshmallows. Looks best when you use ruby red lipped apples, but still cute & silly no matter what apples you choose. Here's ours:

They look like they need some serious dental work, no?

The kids actually found them difficult to eat in this 'sandwich' form. We separated ours and ate them open face after admiring and giggling at them. The marshmallows add a sweet, different taste to them. They almosted tasted like caramel apples to me. The kids thought they were lots of fun to make and to eat. Much more fun than plain old boring apples.

March 13, 2012

Two Day Quilt

It is soooo me to think up these things at the last minute. My brain starts cranking & spinning....I actually think I thrive under the pressure. Hence, my two-day quilt.

Some friends have a new baby in the family. They will be coming over this weekend. I knew I needed a gift for the baby and I really wanted to give it to them when they came over. I figured I'd buy something adorable, but then I thought, no, I'll make something! I've been honing my quilting skills lately making some blankets to donate to Project Linus. One of them was my first attempt at free motion quilting. And I have to say that I LOVED making it! Here it is in progress, it has since been bound & completed-

The quilting was easier than I expected and I especially love the end result. It just looks more 'quilty,' more bumpy and cozy. For this gift quilt I knew I didn't want to attempt anything complicated since I had a time crunch. I decided to just make a simple squared patch quilt with 6 inch squares in a smaller baby quilt size. I received a couple small hand-made quilts like this for baby gifts. They are so perfect for spreading out on the floor and letting the baby lay down on or play have tummy time. Also great for changing clothes or diapers on when you don't want to set the baby right on the floor. And they make nice keepsakes too.

The baby is a boy so I did a bright primary color quilt with a few bug themed squares. I also did a little extra personalization, adding appliques of the baby's initial and a heart. They are done in fleece, which I've never appliqued with but it worked great. No fraying and it adds a little fuzzy tactile element to the quilt.

So, here it is all done-

(that bottom left corner isn't wonky, the wind was blowing and it wouldn't hang straight!)

Close-up of appliques-

And the back-

I still can't believe I made this thing in (less than!) 2 days. I thunk it up Sunday night, bought the fabric Monday morning at Joann's and finished it up early Tuesday evening. I'd like to thank my cooperative daughter for taking nice long naps these two days and I'd also like to thank my husband for taking the kids to the park the last two evenings. Everything came together quickly but I don't feel like I rushed it or cut corners. I'm very proud of the way it turned out. I can't wait to give it to them and I hope baby and his mama like it lots.

Now I've got a friend with a baby due in July. I have a little more time to plan this next gift quilt, but I've already decided what to make. I'm going to use this pattern and do a woodland/critter theme to match the nursery. I can't wait to make it! But, I've got a couple other birthdays in the family that I must complete gifts for first. I love having people to sew for!

March 10, 2012

Still Baking Bread

I just checked and it was almost exactly one year ago that I decided to start baking my own bread. Here's that blog post. I'm proud to say that I'm still going strong, baking 1-2 loaves a week for sandwiches. Yeah, I've still bought some store bread here & there but when it comes down to it, everyone in the family prefers my bread (yay!) and will eat even the heels & crusts with no complaints.

I have to admit, part of the reason I'm still going strong is my stubbornness. When I told my husband I was going to start baking our bread he said something to the effect of...we'll see how long this lasts. I'm famous for getting excited about something then my excitement fizzles, and I'm back where I started. Well, I was determined to prove him wrong on this! And I have, because it is NOT hard! I have one recipe that I use 99% of the time and it's a winner. I have it memorized too-

Whole Wheat Oat Bread

1 1/4 cup warm water (or milk)
2 T brown sugar
1.5 t yeast
2 T olive oil

1 1/2 cup white flour
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oats
1 t salt

I dissolve the sugar & yeast in the water till the yeast foams, then add in the oil. I dump the dry ingredients into the bread machine then add the wet.

I let the machine go through one cycle, letting it rise once. Then I knead it and put it in a bread pan, letting it rise for another hour or so. Then bake it at 350 for 30-35 minutes.

My machine will complete the process and bake the bread for me, but I really prefer the regular loaf shape that I get from baking it in my own pan in the oven. Seems more like home made to me. And the kids love punching down the dough and helping knead.

Here's my latest loaf:

Too bad it's not smellavision cause this bread smells gooooood!

March 08, 2012

Slime Time

I got this "recipe" from a friend who linked to it on Facebook. It is similar to a slimy gluey concoction that my son has made at science class a few times. I didn't even realize I had all the ingredients for it right at home! So, when my son came home from school that day we got to slimin'.

Our Best Bites is the blog that had the instructions. They have a ton of other recipes that are not only edible but delicious. My sister has their cookbook and loves it. I should check to see if it's gone down in price. Anyway, here is the blog post that contains the instructions, it's easy & fun but pretty messy. Good news is that even though this slimy stuff got on clothes and hair and table and floors, it washed off pretty easily, even after it dried. It could be because we used the "washable" school glue rather than just the regular...I'm not really sure. It also said you can use that clear or glittery kind of Elmer's glue. But while shopping for glue at Walmart today, I discovered the price difference, 37 cents for regular white glue vs $2.88 for fancy clear blue glittery glue. We will settle for the milky colored slime for that price, especially since you use a full 4oz bottle for each batch.

Here's a few pics of our slime creation-

Squirting the glue in the bowl:

The transformation begins:

Turning more slimy:

Stretchy, slimy, ooey, gooey fun:

It looks really sticky, but it's not. It mostly just sticks to itself. It's so fun to squish through your fingers, make into shapes then watch them "melt" back into a blob. One of the kids' favorite things to do with it is blow into it. They take straws and stick them into the slime and blow. It either blows big bubbles or makes the kind of noises that are popular with the 10 and under crowd. Okay, I found myself giggling too.

We've made another batch since then in purple. Both batches have been kept fresh in Ziploc bags and are still very 'playable' even after a week.
What a great project for spring break or for the upcoming lazy days of summer!

March 06, 2012

Vegetarian Buffalo Soup and Moldy Cornbread

I made a yummy Buffalo Chicken Soup a while back. And I've seen recipes for similar soups floating around Pinterest the past few days, so I really wanted to make a batch. But this is one of those weeks where I'm trying hard to use what I've got and not spend too much at the store. Right now that means we're meatless. So, I got creative and I really hit the jackpot. I'm not just saying that. Everyone loved my creation and I made careful mental notes of how I made it just in case I wanted to make it again. Here it is-

Crock Pot Vegetarian Buffalo Soup
2 cans stewed tomatoes
1 small can tomato sauce
1 can chicken broth
1/3 cup hot sauce (more or less to taste)
2 small or 1 large sweet potato, peeled & diced

1 can or about 2 cups black beans
4 oz (half brick) cream cheese
2 T blue cheese dressing

Place tomatoes, sauces, broth and diced sweet potatoes in crock pot. Cook approx 4-5 hours on low or 2-3 on high, till potatoes are tender. Mash the mixture with a potato masher to desired consistency.

Add the beans, cheese and dressing and cook on low for another hour or so, till melty & creamy.

We served ours with shredded cheese and green onions on top. Both my husband and son commented on how spicy it was. Then I look over and my daughter and she's shoveling down with no complaints. She ate two bowls full and that is unusual for her. So, she definitely approves. And when hubby was done, he asked if there was enough leftover to have some in his lunch tomorrow. So he approved as well, even though it contained sweet potatoes (gasp!) and beans (the horror!). All was well disguised in spiciness ;)

And I wanted to make cornbread to go along with it so I googled "Best Cornbread Recipes" and found this one. It immediately spoke to me since deep down I want to be a Hillbilly Housewife AND the bread was made in an iron skillet. I'd never baked in my skillet so I was anxious to try! This was AWESOME cornbread!! Best I ever made. It was so moist and just the right sweetness. But, it was definitely not the best looking cornbread I ever made. That is because I ran out of yellow cornmeal and had to use some blue cornmeal as well. And of course, yellow + blue = green. So when cut up, this cornbread looked like moldy cheese or something that had been growing in the refrigerator for months. That actually made it more fun for the kids to eat. And they both vote that I make it again for St. Patrick's Day!

Here it is in the pan:

And here it is next to the soup:

The only changes I made in the recipe were the cut down on the butter by about 3 tablespoons and instead of buttermilk, I used one cup of milk and half cup of plain non-fat yogurt. It made a pretty big batch so we have some leftover, I've always wanted to try a cornbread salad, so that is on the menu for tomorrow!

March 01, 2012

My Creative Kid

I love to brag on him. He's so smart and innovative and confident to boot. He loves to draw. And lately his subject of choice is rocket ships. With really cool names. He said other kids in his class were impressed with his drawings and wanted him to draw some for them. Well, he came up with this awesome idea. He decided to make bookmarks featuring his artwork for the other kids. AND he was even bold enough to ask the school librarian if he could make some for the school library and allow all the kids to take one when they checked out books. She said yes of course. He was so excited and got to work right away. I helped by sectioning off a blank piece of paper to allow 6 bookmarks per page. He drew them in and gave them each names.

I scanned the page, rearranged the spacing a bit and cleaned up some of the smudges via photoshop. Then we picniked the text onto the image. I let him choose the fonts.

In case you can't read them, here are their names: The Big One, Mastermind, Ghost Bomb, Dynamite, Rocket of the Sun, Star Speeder and (my favorite) Dawn of Awesomeness.

I bought some brightly colored cardstock paper at Target and we printed off about 60 bookmarks, cut them up and he took them to school.

Of course, I'll never really know for sure what the level of excitement & gratitude of the students was. But he told me he had to disguise himself at recess by taking his glasses off to avoid the throngs of kids coming up to him to thank him for the bookmarks. Yeah, 9 year olds are prone to exaggeration but I played along because I could tell how proud he was. Now, he said the other kids in his class are trying to come up with bookmarks ideas too. My trendsetting's a wonder he's related to me ;)