Mar 29

A few years ago, we dyed eggs with some natural materials we had around the house: onion skins, berries, turmeric, and spinach. We tried two different methods for dyeing:

1. Boiling the natural materials in water, and then soaking the hard-boiled eggs in the liquid

and

2. Wrapping the eggs in the natural materials with cheesecloth and boiling them.

Boiled berries

Boiled red onion skins

Boiled turmeric (with spinach? I don’t remember what’s up with the green flecks)

All the eggs steeping in the already-boiled dye baths. It’s suggested that you let them steep for an hour or more (overnight in the fridge is probably good).

Wrapping an egg in red onion skins and cheesecloth.

All wrapped up.

Wrapping an egg in spinach leaves.

Wrapped up.

Wrapping an egg with berries in cheesecloth.

Uhhh, this one looks kinda scary all wrapped up.

Eggs in the pan.

Eggs heating up in water.

Eggs after boiling for about 12-15 minutes. We probably should have used a separate pan for each type of egg.

Unwrapping the eggs was suspenseful. I love unpredictable crafting!

The boiled eggs looked kind of tie dyed. The onion skin egg was the boldest: looks like a rusty slate! The other two were pale purplish. The berries definitely permeated the spinach egg!

The soaked eggs were only soaked for an hour or so, and probably would have done better overnight. The “dye” was delicate and probably would have rubbed off with too much handling.

I was kind of disappointed when we first pulled everything out, but once we had them all in a bowl together, they looked pretty!

Natural Egg Dyeing Resources:

Other Egg & Dyeing Resources:

Mar 26

A couple weeks ago, Marie posted instructions for how to grow wheatgrass at Make & Takes. Marie made it sound so easy that I rushed out to the grocery store to pick up some hard red wheat berries (you can get them in your local health food store in the hot cereal or gluten-free section. I got Bob’s Red Mill brand).

I let my 3 and 2 year-old boys help, so the planting process (which is simple) was hilarious. We planted about 12 pots of seeds (mostly tiny 3-for-$1 pots from the dollar store). “Planting” doesn’t really describe it, because all you have to do is spread some soaked seeds on the top of some dirt. When my 3 year-old and I transported a few of the larger containers to the kitchen, the 2 year-old stayed outside with the pots and supervised.

We arrived back to the scene to a few broken pots and every container emptied into our bag of potting soil! I haven’t checked in two days, but there is probably wheatgrass growing in the bag of soil. I reclaimed as much of the soil and seed mess as I could, but the pots definitely don’t look as perfect as they did!

The wheatgrass is sprouting along, two days later, but there isn’t too much to see yet. I’ll check back with an update in a few days when we get some green!

Resources:

Mar 22

Oh, so cute! Dana from MADE made these adorable Peeps bunny buntings. I love them so much!

Get the tutorial here, at Vanessa Christenson, and check out my Peeps crafts and recipes roundup, too!

Mar 13

Here’s an idea for fooling your kiddos on April Fools’ Day: Make Edible Crayons (by Gourmet Mom on-the-Go).  (via) These will make a sweet and funny dessert for a lunch box.

Mar 1

March 2nd is Dr. Seuss‘s birthday! He would have been 106 years old in 2010. Don’t you think the man who wrote Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat (and one of my favorites, but much lesser known Mr Brown Can Moo! Can You?) would have enjoyed a whimsical party? Celebrate this beloved author’s birthday with these fun activity and snack ideas! (Or use these ideas to celebrate Dr. Seuss all year long, or on your child’s birthday!)

Snacks:


Thing 1 and Thing 2 Cupcakes
by Kitchen Dough Dough:
Mmm, these red velvet cupcakes with cotton candy tops look sooo good. What a brilliant idea!

Green (Key Lime) Cupcakes by Kara’s Party Ideas:
Kara made these cute cupcakes for a baby shower, and three other kinds of Dr. Seuss-themed cupcakes.

Green Eggs & Ham:
When I was a kid, the cafeteria at my grade school served Green Eggs & Ham once a year – I wonder if it was on Dr. Seuss’s birthday? If you want to serve the titular meal from Dr. Seuss’s most famous book, I think all you need is food coloring and some ham and eggs cooked your favorite way. Of course, that doesn’t sound very appetizing OR particularly healthy. How about getting your kiddo to eat some extra veggies by making the GREEN part out of spinach, like in this food network recipe that uses Spinach Pesto.

Or Paint some Toast green to look like ham.



Green Deviled Eggs by So Wonderful, So Marvelous
:
Okay, brilliant combination of green eggs and deviled eggs! Love this idea, and they look so cute! Michelle made these for her son’s 2nd birthday party. She doesn’t give a tutorial but she says “green deviled eggs dyed green” so I think that’s everything you need to know! :) You can also use these for the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day!

Green Jello Eggs by RootsAndWingsCo:
Find out how to make these out of blown egg shells! Cool! Another activity you can also use for St. Patrick’s Day or even Easter.

greeneggcookies

Green Egg Cookies by My Paper Crane:

Frosted sugar cookies with candy egg yolks!

Activities:

Thing 1 & Thing 2 Pegs by Zakka Life:
Oh my goodness, is this not the cutest thing? You can always count on great projects from Zakka Life.

Truffula Trees (The Lorax) Craft by Craft Jr:
My friend Wendy came up with this adorable craft, and I absolutely LOVE the use of stripey chenille stems (aka pipe cleaners). So cute, simple, and fun!

Cat in Hat’s Hat by No Time For Flash Cards:
Here’s a fun and simple craft for kiddos using a paper plate as the brim of the Cat’s famous hat!

Thing 1 & 2 Pencil Toppers at Skip To My Lou:
These are yet another cute craft with the Thing 1 & 2 theme… they might just be my favorite characters for craft and food!

There’s A Wocket in My Pocket Activity at Make & Takes (by Alison):
Let your kids draw pictures of items, and hunt for pictures in catalogs to create these fun collages inspired by the funny rhymes in Seuss’s book, There’s a Wocket in My Pocket.

Dr. Seuss Fish Craft by Michelle at Muffin Tin Mom:
Let your child practice matching colors with this fun activity based on One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.



Make a Cindy Lou Who Hat with Craftastica:

Okay, so there isn’t really a tutorial, but you can use this cute idea to make antennae like Cindy Lou Who’s – use chenille stems (pipe cleaners) and attach to a headband or stocking cap (get one at the dollar store or use one from your stash). From the book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Other Resources:

Create your own Dr. Seuss printables with the Grinched font at dafont.com
Fun activities at the official site: Seussville

Seussical: The Musical Original Cast Recording CD

Book: Your Favorite Seuss: A Baker’s Dozen by the One and Only Dr. Seuss:
Find all your favorite stories in one volume!

Dr. Seuss Sculptures
Did you know there are some fantastic Dr. Seuss sculptures? I saw some in a gallery in Santa Fe. You can also find some sculptures based on Seuss’s work in the Dr. Seuss Sculpture Garden in Springfield, Massachusetts.

What’s your favorite Seuss book?

Feb 23

creamofveggie01

Last year I gave you my Lazy Mom’s secrets to being the family cook, and I alluded to one of my go-to dishes: Cream of Whatever soup. I like making this simple soup because it’s versatile, filling, and healthy (while giving the illusion of being a rich cream soup). I usually use this recipe to use up veggies in the fridge that are on their last leg (do veggies have legs?), or it works well with frozen veggies. You can use this basic principle to make cream of chicken or clam chowder, or other meaty soups, too, although our family usually sticks to  vegetarian fare, so I haven’t tried this technique with meat soups.

You can eat it as is (sooo much better than Campbell’s condensed stuff), or use it as gravy, or as a binder in a casserole. It’s nice and versatile! It takes me about an hour to make the batch, from chopping to cooking, to pureeing.

Cream of Whatever Soup

Ingredients (Part 1):

  • Veggies (such as broccoli, carrots, potatoes, celery, mushrooms, etc.)
  • Water, stock or broth
  • Seasonings as desired

Heat veggies, liquid and seasonings over medium heat until boiling. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until all veggies are tender.

Note on ingredients:

  • Use any veggies you need to use up. Mixing and matching is fine (see photo above: there are potatoes, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower). Any amount is fine, but I usually fill a 2 quart pan about 3/4 full of veggies.
  • Enough water or broth/stock to allow veggies to cook. About 2-4 cups. I usually add water & a couple spoonfuls of vegetarian soup starter (the kind that comes in a jar and is refrigerated).

Meanwhile, make Part 2 of the soup: a white sauce. You can use my recipe here or substitute your own favorite recipe.

Ingredients (Part 2):

  • 2 Tbsp. butter or oil
  • 3-4 Tbsp. flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • Seasonings as desired (I usually use onion & garlic powder)

Heat butter on medium until melted. Stir until it stops bubbling. Gradually mix in the flour. Gradually mix in the milk and seasonings. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer or remove from heat.

Putting it together (Part 3):

When veggies are fully cooked, puree them. You can use a stick (immersion) blender if you have one, or use your countertop blender. If you do that, only fill the jar half full so it doesn’t explode when you blend it! You might have to do two or three rounds of blending to get all your soup blended. This is the most annoying part of the process, but it’s worth it.

After everything is blended, return soup to pot and add cream sauce. Mix up until thoroughly incorporated and enjoy! You can serve it with sandwiches, bread, or whatever your favorite accompaniment is.

creamofwhatever

Dec 9

Today my (almost) 2 and 3 year old and I made our first batch of holiday cookies. I say “first” but it might also be the last. Baking cookies with kiddos can take it out of you!

We made Raspberry Window Shortbreads from Sunset Magazine. It uses their Butter Shortbread recipe – what’s not to like about butter, sugar, and flour? The recipe was simple, but we did have to mix it for a LONG time (like ten minutes) to get the dough to transform from crumbs into slightly stickier crumbs! The recipe calls for chilling the dough for 30 minutes, so while we did that, we made a second batch of gingerbread dough. All of these recipes are new to us!

The raspberry window shortbreads are so pretty, and they taste great! We only made a very small pan of them (both boys were going wild at that point, plus the baby was crying. I had to power through the last five minutes). When I finish the batch (by MYSELF, later), I am going to make the rest of them the smaller cookie size shown here (about 2″) and make sure I roll the dough out thin enough. They’re rich!

Ingredients

  • 2  cups  flour
  • 1  cup  cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/2  cup  granulated sugar
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 2  tablespoons  coarse sugar (sometimes called sparkling sugar)*

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Put flour, butter, granulated sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed until blended, then increase to medium and mix until dough is no longer crumbly and just comes together. Form into disk, and chill 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough 1/8 in. thick. Use a selection of 1½-in. decorative cutters to cut as many shapes as you can, making sure you have an equal number of each shape to form a top and a bottom, and rerolling scraps as needed.

Arrange cookies 1 in. apart on baking sheets. Use a variety of smaller cutters to remove center from half of cookies (the tops). Chill on sheets 15 minutes; then bake until light golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool.

Spread each whole cookie with about 1/2 tsp. raspberry preserves. Sprinkle powdered sugar over cut-out cookie tops, or glaze them with a mixture of 1 cup powdered sugar and 21/2 tsp. milk. Set tops on jam-topped bottoms. Makes 26.

(From Sunset Magazine)

Baking with toddlers and preschoolers is always kind of stressful, even if you make an effort not to worry about things like flour on the floor and more dough going into mouths than onto the cookie sheet. I always plan for us to make a mess when we bake, but the real problem I’ve found is that the process is just too long when you have helpers, and their best behavior begins to wane about 45 minutes into the process (just as the sugar rush from licking the spoon begins to take effect).

Here are my suggestions for having fun while baking with toddlers:

  1. Make it an event. I put on fun music, make sure everyone has an apron, and make a big (fun) deal about washing hands/getting ready to bake.
  2. Know that you are going to make a mess. Knowing before you begin is key to allowing the mess to happen without frustration. If you tell yourself you won’t worry about a mess before a mess happens, things will be less stressful for you.
  3. Let the child help as much as possible. If you have more than one child, let them take turns measuring (or split the measurements: if you need 2 cups of flour, let each of them measure one, etc.). Let the child get ingredients or utensils out, if they are able.
  4. Plan for it to take at least twice as long as it would without kids!
  5. Consider splitting it into two activities for two different days: The mixing of the cookie dough the first day, and the rolling and making of the cookies the second day. If you do this, you might want to sneak a small pan into the oven while your kids finish playing with the dough mixing, so they can get a reward for their hard work (like eating copious amounts of raw dough isn’t enough!). If you are going to decorate the cookies, you might want to add a third day in there. Yay, a whole week’s worth of activities!
Aug 13

I rarely have parties, and when I do (usually just my kiddos’ birthdays), I like to do it up right. This year, I guess I was just pregnant and disorganized enough to not do too much. I did make a cake, though! My son and I spent a couple hours poring over Flickr photos of birthday cakes and tractors. I found a lot of cakes I liked, but a fairly simple design is what caught my son’s eye. His favorite elements: The giant 3 road, the actual toy tractors pouring “asphalt” on the road (he is an expert on all things construction, and even knows how a road is made), and the background color: green (“beause green’s my favorite!”)

My decorating isn’t professional-level or anything, but my son loved the cake, and everyone else at the party agreed that it looked good. It’s simple, but it still took me about two hours to decorate (including mixing up the buttercream frosting). I was pleased with the blackness of the frosting (I used black food coloring and cocoa powder to darken it) – when I first mixed it up, I didn’t think it would actually look black. It looked grey-brown. But, frosting darkens over a short period of time, so it settled into an acceptable level of blackness by party-time. The asphalt crumbles are ground Oreos (I used my coffee grinder to make them into crumbs), and I got the trucks specially for the cake (they came in a pack of 3, and I saved one for my younger son to “open” during the party so he would have a present as well).

I didn’t do any other decorating, but we had the party at a nearby Antique Tractor Museum (outdoor), and we picnicked among vintage tractor equipment, which was a huge hit with the under-3 set!

Jun 9

So Snyder’s is sponsoring a Pretzel Coaster Build Off in which you can win a trip to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, PA. I’m not eligible for the contest because I live on the West Coast, but I thought it would be super fun to build a pretzel coaster.

It took me a few hours, a glue gun, and a few episodes of Veronica Mars Season 1 to build my coaster. I think my hours of Roller Coaster Tycoon came in handy a little as I worked on my coaster. I started with the loop because I thought it could be the most challenging part.

Here’s a little more progress. I mostly stuck to using the pretzel twists for curves and the Snaps for straight track.

And, the end result.

Since I’m not submitting it to the contest, I added cereal wheels to the little coaster cars.

I made a little place for pretzel people to get on the coaster, with a little covering and steps.

Here’s a better view of the loading area.

And the little coaster car going into the covered area.

Another view of the whole thing.

Some other super-crafters are making pretzel coasters too!

May 16

For my first son’s first birthday party (in 2007), I had a pirate-themed party. I asked all the guests to come dressed as a pirate. Here’s grandpa and the birthday pirate boy. I made the boy’s swabbie stocking cap out of a sleeve from a thrifted shirt. He wore a striped onesie he already had, and some pants with elasticized ankles that sort of look like short breeches or something. I put some of my own striped socks (pulled up tall) on him.

Pirate boy later got an eyepatch, a parrot finger puppet, and a plastic sword to round out his outfit.

Dressing up as a pirate was fun! One of the reasons I chose the theme (besides liking pirates a lot) is because everyone should be able to cobble together a piratey outfit from things they can find in their closets. For mine, I used a blue bandanna, a stripey shirt covered by an old work vest (turned inside out), rolled up pants, a chiffon tie around my waist, white knee socks and black buckled mary jane shoes. I also added a funky plasticky necklace because it had funny pirate charms on it.

Everyone interpreted the pirate look differently, which just added to the fun.

I used the back porch as our “ship” and made a sail out of two small wooden “boards” (but way smaller than boards) I got at Home Depot for less than a buck. I stapled a plastic tablecloth to the boards for a sail. I got the pirate flag garland, and some of the other piratey decorations at the dollar store. Also, I swear by using crepe paper and balloons to decorate for a party because they are easy and cheap, and make a huge impact for very little money.

I decorated the party table with “booty” displayed in decorative bowls and baskets we already had on hand. Some of the party booty: Gummy fish (bulk from Winco), gold coin chocolates, dollar store jeweled rings, dollar store eyepatches and spyglasses. I put tropical fruit from the grocery store in the basket to add to the atmosphere.

Pirate ship cake made out of cake (baked in a loaf pan) decorated with cookies and candy to make it look more piratey. I had long gold candles that I stuck out of the sides of the cake to look like cannons. Bamboo skewers were threaded through paper sails, and a paper cup became a crow’s nest. Plastic pirates from the party store manned the ship.

Since I love first birthday parties to have a special cake for the special guest, I made a small loaf cake and cut it open to make it look like a treasure chest with M&M treasure in it.

You gotta have that gratuitous first birthday cake shot!

I know my son won’t remember his first birthday, but I had a lot of fun planning it, and it was a great way to start out my birthday party giving traditions!

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