Friday, September 30, 2011

Pinterest Project Friday: Ballerina Tutu Painting

We've been slowly redecorating Lilah's big girl room with her chosen theme of ballerinas/fairies for awhile now, and now I'm just working on finishing touches such as lamps and artwork.  I knew I wanted to hang something on the wall that she helped to make, but that also fit with her theme.  That's why I was so excited to pin this idea from the Meet the Dubiens blog (which I love - especially Fun Food Fridays!).  It incorporates the ballerina theme perfectly, as well as one of our current favorite art projects: painting with our hands.

Here is a link to the original project in case you want the step-by-step tutorial.  I was lucky enough to find canvas 40% off at Michael's, and I wish I had picked up more, because I have lots of ideas to do some projects with canvas.  Fingers crossed that they are on sale when I go there again tomorrow!  I had some pretty pink and green card stock left over from making Lilah's birthday banner, and we mixed up our own custom pink paint with our Crayola stash.  Lilah decided she wanted glitter on her painting, so we sprinkled a little in our pink paint.  The only thing I wish that I had done was to paint the whole canvas a shade of light pink before doing the ballerina tutu, just because I have a second project coming up that we used a second canvas for, and we painted that one a pale pink all over.

Here is our finished project:

I'll post more pictures when we hang it up, along with the other canvas project we did.  I'm already excited about next week's Pinterest project - it's something for one of the boy's rooms!  Happy Friday, and happy pinning!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Meet Mr. Squirrel and Friends

Gluing on the super-fab tail I made.

Introducing...Mr. Squirrel
Sometimes I plan out projects ahead of time, and get my materials ready the night before or during nap time, so that everything is ready to go when the kids feel like doing something artsy at the table.  More often than not, though, I fly by the seat of my pants and throw us into an activity or craft with no prior planning.  This means that we do a lot of easy projects, like tracing hands with markers or making a magazine cut-out collage.  But the other day, Lilah said she wanted to make puppets, so I figured it was fairly easy to throw together at the last minute.  I dug in my craft supplies and found some teeny tiny paper bags, the good old Elmer's glue, and some felt scraps.  I asked Lilah what she wanted to make, and she decided on a squirrel first.  A squirrel, really?!  I had no idea how to make a squirrel, but usually I can put something together that sort of resembles what the kids ask me for, so I went for it.  (I mean, Lilah thinks my stick figures of our family are beautiful, so what do I really have to lose, right?)  I cut out some circle shapes from white felt, and smaller ones from black felt for the eyes, some ear-shaped pieces from brown felt, and a red tongue.  Then I of course had to make a squirrel tail.  Eeep.  Not so pretty.  Lilah thought he was cute though, and christened him Mr. Squirrel.  She's nothing if not creative.

We then proceeded to make a bear and a bat, Bubba and Batty, respectively.  Meanwhile, Mr.Grady was bop-bop-bopping away on his construction paper with the Bingo daubers.  He likes to do projects too, but puppet-making was a bit beyond his attention span.  Give him something to bang on the table with, though, and the boy is happy, especially if he can make a mess with it and attempt to eat it.

Once Grady saw Lilah playing with her puppets, he decided that he needed one too, so Lilah made him a dinosaur.  He makes a guest appearance in Lilah's creative story, but he didn't actually last thirty seconds once Grady got his hands on him.  I found an eye stuck to the couch and I'm pretty sure his tail ended up in  my laundry.

Since Lilah is very into making up stories lately, she said she wanted to tell me a story about her puppet friends and I would have to write it down.  So here it is, unabridged and completely in her words:

"Once upon a time there was a squirrel.  his name was Mr. Squirrel.  He had a friend Batty the Bat and a bear named Bubba.  They went on an adventure.  And one day, a dinosaur saw them.  He gobbled them up.  So they cut out his leg and climbed out.  Then he was their friend too.  We'll call him Mr.Dinosaur.  They all go to the zoo.  He didn't really gobble them up because he was just a teeny-tiny baby one.  That was their imagination.  They decided to go on a picnic and swimming too.  They ate bread or something, and some cake after their lunch.  They lived happily ever after."

I'm keeping the story to put in her scrapbook, but sadly, the puppets are no longer with us.  The Elmer's glue was just not strong enough to hold them all together, so if I did this project again, I'd probably use fabric glue or break out my glue gun if possible. (Meaning, if Grady is asleep.)  It was really fun to make them and to play with them after, though, and it kept the two of them entertained for over an hour, so it was a very successful impromptu project.

Stay tuned for further adventures of Mr.Squirrel, Bubba, and Batty!  Well, maybe not...

Batty the Bat.  He was my favorite.
"Please!" - I made the mistake of giving him a sheet of stickers, prompting him to beg me for one every .5 seconds.
Yes, that's a dinosaur.  Really.
He got tired of eating Bingo dauber, so we broke out the Cheerios.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Introducing: Pinterest Project Friday

I have mentioned Pinterest a couple times recently, and if you haven't checked it out yet, you must.  Like, right now.  Actually, maybe you shouldn't.  It is extremely addicting, and I do not want to be held responsible for your obsession.

I love the way Pinterest works - you can do a search for just about anything, from "cute boys bedding" to "Halloween DIY", and tons of images come up related to your search.  You can then click on the image to take you directly to the original link where it's from.  If it's something you're interested in keeping for future reference, you can create boards to "pin" things to (for example, I have a Crafts board and a Wish List board.) So instead of using up space on your hard drive, you just login to your Pinterest account and access your boards.  Simple!  You can also "follow" people on Pinterest, whether it's your personal friend or a blogger who happens to have great taste. ;)

For the past couple of weeks, I had been toying with the idea of a regular feature here on the blog, but I was stumped.  Then I realized that I have all of these DIYs and crafts I have pinned, some that I have tried, but many that I have not yet.  So I decided that each week I'll pick something from one of my Pinterest boards to share here on the blog.  If you'd like to follow me and my boards, click here.

This week's Pinterest project was so easy, I almost feel like I cheated, but it's really cute and very useful.  I made a custom dry erase board from a picture frame and a piece of pretty fabric.  It took me less than five minutes and cost me about $6.  You can't go wrong!  The process is pretty intuitive (find a pretty frame you like, choose a fabric that works with your decor, and cut to fit.  Voila!), but here is a link to the original tutorial if you want to check it out.
Oh, and today is my dog's birthday, in case you were wondering.  Cosmo is four years old today!

I hope you enjoy Pinterest Project Friday, and I would love to see your creations if you decide to make them too.  Happy pinning!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Among all of my many cookbooks is a small collection of books that is very special and dear to my heart.  You see, from the time I was an infant right on up through high school, my mom's side of the family threw a huge Fourth of July shindig every year.  That in and of itself probably doesn't sound that spectacular; many families throw huge Fourth of July parties.  But these parties weren't merely day-long picnics with a culminating display of fireworks at night.  They were three, sometimes four days of camping out on my great-aunt and great-uncle's lawn, whether it was in a camper or a tent.  If you didn't have either one, well, there was always a free bed nearby, since my grandparents, uncle, some second cousins, and my (now departed) great-grandparents all lived within a stone's throw of each other.  I mean that literally.

Anyway, each year there was a theme for the annual party - some of the most memorable for me were Halloween in July, Down on the Farm, and Native American Pow Wow.  We incorporated the theme into everything for the weekend: the parade, the kids' and adults' games, the decorations, the food, and the talent show.  Oh, yes, there was a talent show, and we have them all recorded on VHS (and I know for a fact that my sister digs them out from time to time just to watch them.)  These videos capture the essence of our family circle, which is wide and encompasses relatives with such ties as "third cousin twice removed", as well as anyone we just happen to love enough to adopt into the family.  It's truly amazing to watch these tapes, not only for the funny and embarrassing moments, but because there are many family members captured on film who are no longer with us.  My great-grandparents, my great-aunt and great-uncle, my mom's cousin (who was like an aunt to me), and even a dear friend of mine from high school, they are all there on the TV screen, full of life and enjoying our crazy family traditions.

Okay, back to the cookbooks.  Among all of these traditions, we also put out a yearly cookbook that tied into the theme of the weekend.  At some point a few months before we all pulled up in our campers, my mom's cousin, or "Aunt Cindy", would ask everyone to submit recipes for the cookbook.  It didn't matter if it wasn't gourmet, or new, or even very complicated (I'm pretty sure a recipe for toast is included somewhere).  Everyone was encouraged to participate, and the more creative you got, the better.  In the "Down on the Farm" cook book (1991), for example, there are recipes for Rhubarb Cobbler, something called "The Fruity Farmer", and my very own recipe for "Elysha's Chocolate Meadow Muffins".  And in "The Magic Book of Potions" (Halloween in July, 1995), the creativity reached new heights, with Graveyard Mystery Cake, Ghoulish Malted Milk Cookies, and "Witches Brewski".  These books not only include dozens of great (and some not-so-great) recipes, but drawings that us children did pertaining to that year's theme, as well as little nuggets of information about family members and traditions.  Most of the books were created before computers were in every household, and are photocopied pages of type-written recipes (and some hand-written), that are stapled together with a single sheet of colored photocopier paper as the cover. I love them.

Now that I've dug them out, there are tons of recipes I want to try.  A legendary family recipe is one that my great-grandpa used to make, called "Burn Your Guts Out".  I think I'm going to put it on my weekly menu list for next week, and if all goes well, I'll take some photos and post it on the blog very soon.  It's a perfect cold-weather dinner, similar to chili, but...well, different.

I'm happy to say that my second-cousin (or is it second-cousin once removed?  I have no idea.) now lives on the land that my great-aunt and great-uncle used to live on (his grandparents), and he has revived the tradition.  We had a good old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration this year at his place, and he built a brand new stage just for the talent show.  The food was great, the weather was perfect, and memories were made and reminisced over.  It's a tradition I had been missing, and I am so thrilled that my children will get to experience it just like I did.  Now I might have to get to work re-creating the cookbook...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Suprise Cookies

Most of the recipes I try, I get from the internet, usually from one of three sources: How Sweet It Is, The Pioneer Woman, or Tasty Kitchen.  But occasionally, I'll go old school and dig out one of my cookbooks (I actually have quite a library of them and should use them more often).  I decided to do that this week, both because I wanted to test out my new super awesome oven and because I really wanted cookies.  So I went to my tried and true Pillsbury Baking cookbook, and found a stack of hand-written recipes that I had stashed in there.  Chances are, if it's handwritten, I've copied it from one of my grandmothers' or my mother's recipe cards.  I found one that I had written on the inside of a blank card that was definitely a cookie recipe, but it had no title.  I was intrigued.  Since I happened to have all of the ingredients on hand, I decided to give it a shot and see what I ended up with.  Here's an idea of what you'll need if you decide to make them too:

The Wilton bottle behind the butter is almond extract.  Whoops, my bad.  And you don't need wine glasses, I just forgot to move them.

Don't mind my crappy dinosaur-age phone.  It's really time for an upgrade.

I rather liked the assortment of cutters Lilah and Grady picked out from my stash.  

Fueling up before dance class.

Grady is always a fan of cookies!
The full recipe is below, but I won't keep you in suspense.  They turned out to be gingerbread cookies, and they were goooooooood.  Sure, it might be a little early for gingerbread, but my kids really didn't think so.  Besides, gingerbread cookies are my favorite part of summer visits to Santa's Village in New Hampshire, so I think gingerbread works for any time of year.  We didn't frost them this time, but I did include a basic frosting recipe in case you want to.  I have no idea which grandmother I got this recipe from (I'm pretty sure it's not from my mom, but I could be wrong), so I'll have to ask them each some tricky questions to confirm whose it is.  In the meantime, enjoy the photos, and make these soon!  They are super-easy, and they turn out so perfectly chewy and spicy.  I wish we had some left...

Suprise Gingerbread CookiesMakes about 5 dozen cookies; recipe can be halved easily
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup butter
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 cup molasses
3/4 tsp. vanilla
3/4 tsp. almond extract
4 1/2 - 5 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare cookie sheets. Melt butter in a small bowl, let cool 5-10 minutes.  In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, spices, salt, and baking soda.  Mix in melted butter, evaporated milk, molasses, and extracts.  Stir in flour one cup at a time until you have a nice workable ball of cookie dough.  Dough can be chilled for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator for ease in rolling out and cutting shapes, but it's not necessary.  Roll dough onto floured surface to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut shapes with cutters and place 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  (I took mine out at 8 minutes and they were perfect, but you may need to adjust baking time depending on what size cutters you use.  My cutters were about 2 inches across, average.)

Frosting:1 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup milk (or less, for thicker frosting)
food coloring, optional

Just mix sugar and milk to desired consistency and spread on your cookies!  Can top with sprinkles, chocolate chips, whatever you choose.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nature Walk

Attempting a stroller escape.
This guy?  This guy's chill.
I accomplished a major feat today.  I laced up my sneakers, made sure the girl went potty, changed a couple of diapers, and took all three of my little ones on a walk.  By myself.  Three miles of walking on a nature trail, pushing two twenty-something pound children in a huge jogging stroller, plus carrying a fifteen pound baby strapped to my body, made me feel like a superhero.  And as I was huffing and puffing up the impossibly long hill on the way back, Lilah asked me, "Mommy, can you sing a song?".  I told her that I can't until we get to the top of the hill, because I'm out of breath.  "But, Mommy, you're not out of breath.  I hear you breathing!"  True, kid, very true.  So I panted my way through my version of "Raindrops Are Falling on My Head" with some nice back-up from Lilah.  When I got to the top of the hill, I wanted to snap a couple of shots of these mushrooms (with all the rain we've had, wild mushrooms are EVERYWHERE up here!).  Lilah and Grady were both annoyed that I stopped pushing the stroller for ten seconds to take a picture, and both of them immediately tried to escape.

Besides feeling like my lungs were going to collapse, it was really a great mini-adventure.  The air was cool (I feel fall in the air, yay!), everything was freshly washed from the rain, and all was peaceful and quiet in the woods.  The kids seemed to enjoy it too, although Lilah was hoping to see something more exciting than "boring trees".  We heard lots of birds and bugs, but there was no wildlife to be seen today.  I was fine with that.

Speaking of wildlife, we saw a gigantic caterpillar outside today like none I've ever seen before.  I didn't have my camera with me at the time, so no photo, but if anyone knows of a humongous bright green caterpillar with black and white markings, I'm curious as to what kind it was.  It was about six or seven inches long and as big around as my thumb.  Gross.  Lilah thought it was cool, and Grady wanted to poke it.  I think Cosmo wanted to eat it.  Ick.  I much prefer them after they turn into butterflies (or moths, as the case may be.) 

It's nice to have days now and again where you feel like you've got it all together.  I don't feel like that very often, and some days I'm a frazzled mess and can't seem to brush my own hair, never mind take three children aged three and under on a walk in the woods.  So I'm giving myself permission to be proud of myself for such a simple task today.  All too often I think that parents beat themselves up for not doing enough or doing things "right", and I'm trying to change that about myself.  Today, I was an awesome mom.  And you know what?  Tomorrow I will be, too, even if I don't comb my hair, take the kids on an adventure, or read "Barn Animals" 57 times. 

On a side note, I have no idea what's up with blogger today, but I can't get my photos to go where I want on my post.  If you can fill me in on what I'm doing wrong (or just commiserate with me) in the comments, I'd be eternally grateful.  Good night, darling readers!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Re-learning How to Play

When I was a little girl, I was an expert at playing Pretend.  Imagination is one thing I have never lacked, and even now at almost thirty years of age (!), it runs a little wild sometimes.  The crazy things that I think of when Matt is working nights are quite embarrassing in the light of day, but alone in the dark I can convince myself that some sort of creature is in my basement and can break in and eat my dog before I'd ever know a thing.  And now I'm sure you think I'm a total kook, but suffice it to say that my daughter comes by her wild imagination quite naturally.

Since we have had so much opportunity to run around outdoors while here in Vermont, the kids have come up with a bunch of games that they like to play when we are outside.  I have already mentioned our little re-enactment of the Three Little Pigs, and now we do Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk too.  Recently, Lilah has branched out to making up her own stories, which more often than not include me in the plot line.  Let me tell you, playing Pretend isn't so easy as an adult.  You have to suspend all sense of propriety, throw inhibition to the wind, and just go with it.  This is one aspect of life that children are much better at than adults, and if you want to do it "right", just follow their lead.

Let me walk you through a typical Pretend session in our outdoor time.  We walk out to the ball field behind the house, and Lilah decides that the soccer goal is a cage for trapping animals.  She leads Grady inside, and informs me that they are unicorns who have been trapped by a nasty goblin, and I am the mommy unicorn who must set them free.  I ask her if she knows where the key is, but apparently there is no key, I must use my "snippers" to cut the net.  I set them free, and we run over by the vineyard to hide from the goblin.  We nibble some grapes from the vineyard (or pretend to), and then seek refuge beneath the crab apple tree from the pursuing goblin.  I say something to Lilah, calling her by her name, and she lets me know that her name is not Lilah, it's Sparkle, and Grady is Baby Unicorn Awanna, and I am Mommy Unicorn Ahanna.  She runs to the play tower/sandbox and says it's time for the Fairy Festival.  Apparently we are all fairies now and I must sew her a sparkly blue dress, and a shiny purple one for myself before the "games begin".  Grady will be a prince and wear a "handsome shirt with a silver crown", and we have to get our faces painted like animals. 

The face-painting area is beneath the maple tree, which is where we get sidetracked for a mini-science lesson about slugs and worms, both of which gross me out, and both of which are crawling on the wet ground beneath the tree.  Grady, of course, proceeds to try to alternately squish them and pick them up, while Lilah is more fond of poking at them with her fairy wand (a small branch).  She tells me that slugs are really "cheeky snails with no shells" (thank you, Peppa Pig, for giving my child an English accent).  I tell her that worms have five hearts.  They do, right?  I think that's what I remember from biology class.  Anyway, I rescue the slug one last time from Grady's stomping sandal, and it's back to the sandbox to play Bakery.  Lilah is still a fairy, and she needs to order a wedding cake for the party.  It must be strawberry flavored with white frosting and purple flowers.  And it costs fourteen dollars. 

Soon we are riding on the rides at the fairy festival, which include a carousel of unicorns, a log ride, and the Humbug Adventure (courtesy of Santa's Village).  Just as I'm about to take my turn on the log ride, though, we hear Reed on the monitor waking up from his nap, so it's time to go inside.  Surprisingly, both kids cooperate really well and race me to the back door with promises of juice and a banana at the "snack bar". 

How crazy is it that for an entire hour the only thing that was required to entertain them was for me to open up my own imagination and truly play Pretend?  Sure, we used a soccer goal as a trap and a pail and shovel to make our wedding cake, but if we hadn't had even those things, it wouldn't have mattered one bit to the kids.  They love their toys, to be sure, but it's nice to know they don't need them in order to have a good time.  I am more than happy to participate in these games of Pretend with them, for I know that the years of childhood play are fleeting, and I won't ever have a chance to do it over again.  Let me tell you, though, at the end of the day, this momma is sure ready for quiet time after the kids go to bed!