Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Popsicle Stick Jewelry

Recently, the girls and I made bracelets from popsicle sticks.  I am always on the hunt for craft ideas that are easy and require few materials.  Simple! 
Disclaimer:  I avoid anything that may include glitter.  If you are looking for glittery projects, you will not find them here. I have nothing against the stuff, but simply can't stand seeing everything, and everyone, sparkle weeks after a project's completion.  (This slight glitter-phobia may stem from a poorly designed Halloween costume I encountered years ago.)

I found the idea for popsicle stick bracelets online a long time ago.  However, I don't know who to credit because, well, it was a long time ago.  I love that the project gives each child complete control, and allows them to express themselves. No two bracelets are the same, but they are all lovely.   This craft is also fun for everyone!  I enjoyed decorating a bracelet with my girls, and their eleven-year old friend.  Ours were very pastel and covered in jewels, but I could see a boy having fun with this too!  Some ideas the girls and I have come up with since decorating the bracelets, (and which might appeal to both boys and girls) are:

* Paint a dotted line "road" on the bracelet and decorate with car stickers.
* Make a superhero bracelet.  Paint a vibrant color and decorate with a superhero emblem.  I'm sure the 
   bracelet could have "super-powers", too!
* Design the bracelet to look like a watch.
* Make a bracelet to show support for a favorite sports team.  Paint team colors, use mascot stickers,    
   college initials, etc.
* Make a chalkboard bracelet.  Paint with chalkboard paint.  Tie a small piece of yarn to small piece of 
   chalk and then tie to the bracelet.
* And, of course, lots of jewels and shiny stuff!  Boys and girls love shiny stuff and jewelry!

Tutorial for Popsicle Stick Bracelets
Supplies:  Popsicle sticks (I used large craft sticks)
                glasses/cups (choose a diameter that is a little smaller than size of child's wrist)
                decorations (craft jewels, stickers, ...)
Simmer the popsicle sticks in a pan of water for approximately one hour.  Take a stick out of the water and see if you can bend it easily.  If you can't, continue simmering the sticks until they are pliable and bend easily.  Once this is done, let the sticks sit in the pan of water until the water is warm, not hot.  Take the sticks out of the water, and bend them to fit just inside the top rim of a glass/cup.  I made several bracelets at once, so I used all of our small juice glasses and sippy cups.  You will want to use a glass with a diameter slightly smaller than your child's wrist, because the bracelets will expand a bit when paint is applied.  
Let the bent sticks (bracelets) sit in the glasses overnight, or until completely dry.  Once dry, remove bracelets and decorate!  We used puff-paint and acrylic paint on our bracelets.  The puff-paint made a very nice foundation for the bracelet because of its smooth texture and shiny base.  To speed along the paint-drying process, I used a heat gun, but you could just let them dry on a piece of waxed paper. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Soup Is...

Excerpted from: I'm a Lutheran           
Garrison Keillor

We've got chow mein noodles on tuna hot dish
And Jello with cottage cheese,
And chocolate bars and banana cream pie,
No wonder we're on our knees.
This is the church where we sing Amen
At the end of every song.
The coffee pot is always on
Cause the meetings are three hours long.
The blessed tie that binds our hearts
Is cream of mushroom soup.
We do not walk through the door alone.
We wait and go as a group. 

I think this poem is an appropriate reflection of our recent Meal Swap theme.  Soups and stews.   Comfort and fellowship.  As a group, we decided to skip our usual casseroles and frozen meals in favor of making soup.  The holiday season is a busy time of year, and while preparing a soup does take time, it can be whipped up a little faster than most dishes.  

Sitting down for a warm meal with my family, on a cold evening, is a simple joy.  
Just like soup improves with time, it takes restful moments and extra time to appreciate the finest qualities family has to offer.  The sounds of slurping, sipping, and clinking spoons on old pottery are truly pleasing sounds. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Coloring a Cookbook!

I enjoy preparing and consuming foods that are a little out of my comfort zone.  I've discovered some of my favorite recipes are those which send me on a multi-store hunt for ingredients, or make me Google a new cooking term.  I've cooked with herbs, cheeses, and vegetables that I would otherwise not have touched with a ten-foot fork!  Some have been successes and some, well, have not.

My husband and I believe it's important for our children to leave their comfort zones, too.  We ask them to try new foods, and give us their honest feedback.  In doing so, I've had to learn to accept not-so-constructive criticism regarding my recipe experiments.  A five-year old and two-year old give VERY honest feedback and sometimes follow that up with a disgusted face, pretend gagging, or enthusiastically tossing food to the dog!  It's a good thing we always have a sunflower butter and jelly sandwich option.

A surefire way to get our girls interested in trying healthy new meals, is to ask them to help with the preparation. Kids love being in the kitchen, and take pride in sharing their kitchen creations with family and friends.  I have several resources I use when our girls put on their aprons.  My favorites are:  Food & Family magazine, Disney's Family Cookbook,  The Royal Recipe Collection (Disney Princess Cookbook), Family Fun magazine, and Taste of Home magazine/website.

My youngest daughter and I were browsing the TOH website this morning, and discovered a coloring cookbook.  There are many free coloring pages available for download.  Not all of them are healthy, but most of them do look tasty.  My daughters are very excited to "cook" Veggie Christmas Trees (who cares it's just now September?!), and the Festive Tomato Wedges.  They'll enjoy coloring the little pictures on the recipe page, and I'm excited because this means they will try herbs on tomatoes and might give cauliflower a second a chance!
I love the idea of combining coloring and cooking.  A great way for kids to have fun and be adventurous in their eating habits!

Now...if only some brilliant person could figure out a way to combine the things I enjoy with foods I don't.  Handbags and raisins?  Oil painting and jalapenos?

If you have a favorite kid-friendly recipe or recipe source, please share!  I'd love to know where you gain your inspiration. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

An Evening with Earl Grey

The Meal Swap group celebrated one year of success! We decided to throw ourselves a party, and do something fancy and fun. We gathered with our LHWC small-group friends and had a tea party!

The women in our group wore scarves, hats, and necklaces that definitely would have met the Queen's approval. We sat at a decorated table and sipped tea from beautiful china cups. When our cups were empty, we crafted colorful flowers from paper napkins. We enjoyed delicious desserts and delectable conversation.

"A Proper Tea is much nicer than a Very Nearly Tea, which is one you forget about afterwards." ~A.A. Milne

Needless to say, our tea was a proper and unforgettable one. Thank you for an amazing year of meals, fun, laughter, and most importantly...friendship.
I can't wait to see what our future brings. No doubt, it will be wonderful.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Just Found Gold!

Make-ahead-meal gold, that is! The Once A Month Mom (OAMM) catalogs her incredible array of recipes by month, and it's the perfect way to find a tasty meal using what's available in the garden and at the grocery store. Another thing I liked about the blog is almost all the recipes include detailed cooking, freezing, and reheating instructions. Perfect for our Meal Swap!

OAMM links to several websites and blogs, and even has a section of baby food recipes (arranged by age). While that section doesn't apply to me, I know it will come in handy to some of you! After visiting with my sis-in-law, who prepares yummy homemade baby foods for her son, I was reminded of how much healthier, tastier, and cheaper homemade baby food is. Such a great way to feed a little one! Matter of fact, I might prepare some of the recipes for my vegetable-hating toddler. It would be a great way to sneak in the good stuff without her knowing!

Many of OAMM's springtime recipes looked delicious, and I wish it were even looking like spring here, but I think I'll have to wait a while for my herb garden to catch up with my recipe trials.

Happy Browsing and Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cup Cakes (aka Genius in a Mug).

My parents sent our kids a package for Valentine's Day. Among the goodies in the box was a large coffee mug, and many tiny packages of cake mix. I know. "Huh?" was my first reaction.

My Mom had divided boxes of store-bought angel food cake mix into little baggies (1/3 c. each). She then typed instructions so the girls would know how to turn those baggies of cake mix into amazing little microwaveable treats, using the large coffee mug!

Our girls wanted to have a tea party with their aunt and uncle (and baby cousin, of course) who were visiting for the weekend, so they decided to make Cup Cakes. The cakes were a hit and what I like the most is, aside from handling the hot mug, the girls can make the cakes all by themselves. Tasty, and a great way to include kids in the kitchen!

**Put 1/3 c. angel food cake mix into a large (microwaveable) coffee mug.
**Add 3 tablespoons water to the cake mix. Stir.
**Microwave for 60-90 seconds. (MAKE SURE AN ADULT HANDLES THE MUG. VERY HOT!!)
**Let cool (usually only takes a couple of minutes). Eat directly from mug, or take it out and add frosting, whipped cream, powdered sugar, etc.

In about one minute, you will have a warm cake to eat! Enjoy!

A Valentine Party!

Sorry this is late but I've been playing a serious game of catch-up lately. I'm hoping to win this game, eventually!

When discussing themes for our February gathering it was impossible to avoid things like hearts, valentines, and candy. (Plus, who would want to leave those out?!)

We decided to honor our childhood days and have a Valentine party. A party complete with homemade mailboxes, Valentines, and candy! So. Much. Fun! What an incredibly creative group of women. Those mailboxes were works of art! We enjoyed a delicious DQ ice-cream cake, and as always, great conversation.
We also learned cheap, dollar store, utensils are no match for an ice-cream cake.