Monday, February 28, 2011

Meet Me on Monday (YAY!) #36

A big THANK YOU to Java from Never Growing Old for hosting this again! I have so much fun hopping to different blogs to see how everyone else answers. And, sometimes, the answers I come up with let me get to know myself a little better!

So, here we are again:

1.  What are you wearing right now?
      Why, nothing , of course!  NOT! It's like 30 degrees out and it is an understatement to call our apartment "breezy." I've got on an undershirt and two thermal shirts, jeans, undies!, and my new slippers I got from CSN this week thanks to a giveaway I won!
I'm "mooning" you right now!

2.  Do you have any freckles?
      Yeah, everywhere. Worse in the summer. I used to hate them - I mean HATE them. I went so far as to attempt to bleach them  with actual bleach (LOL) - when I was 14! Now, when they come out in force in the summertime, I love them! They make me look younger, at least I think so!

3.  What is your favorite Lifesaver flavor?

      The white ones. I think they're pina-colada. Do they even make them anymore?!


4.  What is the last movie you saw in the theater?
      Umm... Let's see now. I think it was Monsters Inc. We lived in North Hollywood at the time and, for my son's birthday, I bought tickets to opening night at El Capitan Theater. They had an organ player and clowns entertain the kids before the movie and after there was a little party. They had the monsters from the movie walking around and a huge area that looked just like the Monsters, Inc. factory. You could play games, get your picture taken, etc. It was a lot of fun! I must have saved up for weeks for that but it was worth it!

5.  Would you rather live without tv or without music?
     Hmm... good question. I love music. I just don't get much chance to listen to it (unless it's The Wiggles or Yo Gabba Gabba!) anymore. With the TV, I watch mostly Turner Classic Movies with the closed captioning on while I'm putting little guy to bed. I love old movies!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Like Cadbury Eggs But Hate the Chemicals? Make Some!

I love Cadbury Eggs. I mean, I usually buy enough each spring so I can hoard them. I hade them everywhere - kitchen cupboards, the shelves on my desk, waaaay back in the closet... you get the picture, right? Well, last year, as I was stealthily stuffing my face so the kids wouldn't hear, I happened to turn the package over to check out the nutrition information. Now, let me just say that I am one of those shoppers you inevitably end up stuck behind in those ever-shrinking grocery store aisles who is carefully reading ingredients and nutrition labels from every can and box she comes across. But there are some things I just don't look at - Pepsi, Oreos, and Cheez-Its are just a few. Included in that list is candy. I have a sweet tooth and I don't want my enjoyment of the rare 3-pound bag of gummy bears or Cadbury eggs to be ruined with the guilt I'd feel knowing just what I'm putting into my body (and my kids' if they happen to see the chocolate smeared on the side of my mouth and insist on their fair share!)

Well, I'm happy to announce that I can now have my Cadbury eggs and eat them, too - sans guilt! There is this Web site that everyone should check out. It's called Instructables and has instructions on how to do everything. I've used the site to lean how to fold paper for cards that pop up flowers when you open them, make a solar oven out of cardboard and tin foil to dry fruit, and get ideas for pranks to pull on my husband for April Fool's Day. When I saw the "Instructable" for Cadbury eggs, I just had to check it out! It looked so easy - and the ingredients were all ones I can pronounce! I'm not going to relate all of the instructions because the author, "scoochamaroo", has done so beautifully. I did make these, and they're perfect! You could do a blind taste test and not know the difference. See? Chemicals aren't necessary to make everything taste better! Here's the list of ingredients and tools you'll need to get started:
  • 1/2 c. light corn syrup** (don't worry - it's not the high-fructose stuff you're trying to avoid!)
  • 1/4 c. butter @ room temp (that's 1/2 stick of the real stuff - unsalted)
  • 3 c. powdered sugar (hey, I didn't say it was healthy, just not as bad for you as the ones you buy in the stores!)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (try to get the pure stuff - the amount of alcohol, spread out, isn't going to make your kids drunks)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt (I used Kosher)
  • yellow food coloring
  • 12 oz. bag of chocolate chips (get the milk chocolate ones if you want these to taste more like the real thing)
  • Egg Chocolate Mold ($2)
  • Parchment paper (don't try foil or waxed paper - trust me when I tell you it does NOT work!)
**Now, if you're really not liking the corn syrup, you can make your own alternative (I ran out of corn syrup and used this - it works wonderfully!) You'll need: 2 c. sugar, 3/4 c. water, 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar, pinch of salt. Mix it all together in a large pan (it's going to "grow" during cooking), bring to a boil, simmer with a lid on for 3 minutes, remove cover and cook until reaches 236 degrees Fahrenheit (soft ball stage), stir often. Cool and keep in a tightly-covered container (canning jars work great.) It'll make 2 cups, so maybe you'll want to use the rest to try your hand at fudge or caramels?

Since I've made these using the Instructable, I have a few tips for you:
  • You add the salt to the powdered sugar mixture (it's not in the instructions)
  • I highly suggest using twice the amount of chocolate chips and double-coating the molds. The sides of the eggs on my first batch were too thin and we had a mess when we ate them!
  • Put the filling in the fridge for at least a couple of hours. My second batch was in the fridge overnight and it was much easier to work with. Oh, and I highly suggest NOT having a toddler help you with this! Yeah, just use your imagination - it happened.
  • Put the molded, joined eggs in the fridge to set up
Good luck! Please let me know if you've tried these. I'd love to hear your thoughts, tips, etc.

Here's the link, once again:
Instructable for Cadbury Eggs

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Crazed Fan Weekend Blog Hop

Super-cool Blog Hop Button
I know I'm a little late in getting in on this, but I just had to. I mean, look at the button! How cool is that?!

Here's how it works:

1) Go to The Blog Entourage or The Unexpected Mother and grab a button of your own. Put it in your post and/or sidebar. I'm having trouble getting it into this post with the link, so I'm putting it in my sidebar, too.

2)  Follow The Blog Entourage and The Unexpected Mother - the two host blogs.

3) Follow me! GFC, Twitter, Facebook, Networked Blogs... however you'd like. (They're all in the sidebar)

4) Please leave me a comment with the links where you'd like me to follow you!

5) Don't forget to link your blog in the linky list at The Blog Entourage or The Unexpected Mother.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ready for Spring? Make Seed Bombs with Your Kids!


Now, you may be aware of these sweet little gems but, if not, here's a quick explanation. Seed bombs are small balls of clay, compost/soil, and seeds that you can easily plant (or even toss) into your yard for some pretty flowers. These are great gifts for spring - Easter, Mother's Day, birthdays, or "just because." They're also a wonderful two-fold activity for kids. First, you can make the bombs and then, later, your children can have their own little patch of yard or even a pot to grow them. Another use for these, and this is what they were actually created for in the first place, is to create pretty and natural spaces in vacant lots. Just carry a few with you wherever you walk and toss one or two into that abandoned yard.
One point to remember is that you should choose seeds that are native to your area. First, they will grow better with little or no care. Second, they will be appropriate for the birds and insects in your area. Introducing new plant species can be hazardous to the ecosystem in the long run, so make sure you check online or with your local parks service to make sure the plants you choose won't do any harm. Many times, park systems even have native plant seeds available for free or a nominal fee.

You will need:
1/2 c. mixed seeds
3/4 c. compost or garden soil
1 1/4 c. powdered clay (red or brown)**

1. Either cover your work surface and the floor with lots of newspaper, or work outdoors. Wear old clothes and be ready to get a little dirty. Don't worry - it'll ALL wash off!
2. Mix the seeds with the compost. Gently stir in the powdered clay. Be careful not to mix the powdered clay to quickly because, while it's just clay, you don't want to breathe it in. (The clay isn't toxic, but your lungs don't need all that dirt in there!)
3. Add the water so the mixture is just moist enough to form into balls about 1" in diameter, or the size of a walnut.
       **Don't use too much water. You run the risk of soaking the seeds too much and either starting them growing or rotting them. Using too little water, on the other hand, can lead to the balls crumbling apart. Try to get a consistency like play dough.
4. Set the balls about 1/2" apart on newspaper-lined baking sheets to dry. Depending on the humidity, it should take about 24 to 48 hours. You want to make sure they're completely dry all the way through before storing or giving.

If you're storing the seeds for your own garden, put them in a paper bag in a dry, cool, dark place. If you plan to give them away, there are tons of ways to make the gift look great. Here are a few ideas:
  • Recycle some old shirts by sewing simple cloth bags and tying with a pretty ribbon. 
  • Create a gift basket by putting some Terra cotta pots, a bag of soil, homemade garden markers and seed bombs into a basket. 
  • Have your kids decorate a small box with paint, stickers, or cut paper of the flowers that the seed bombs will grow. 
  •  Put the bombs into an old candy box!
  •  Try adding some pretty recycled paper into the muddy mixture for some color.
  • Press the seeded clay into silicone candy molds for heart-, flower-, etc. shaped bombs

The possibilities are endless! Don't forget to include a list of the seeds included in the bombs and instructions.

**If you do not have access to the clay powder, try using air-dry clay. I have seen quite a few instances where people have used it successfully. I looked up Crayola Terra Cotta Air Dry Clay 2.5 lb Bucket. According to the Art and Creative Materials Institute, the people who check this stuff for toxicity, it is not toxic in any way - toy you, your kids, or the environment. Use this link to read the report for yourself. This stuff is readily available at nearly any store that sells children's art supplies and isn't really expensive. Just make sure to NOT add water unless you need to!

Please share any ideas you may have for this great project. If you do make these, let me know how they turned out and add any tips you come up with.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Toddlerhood - Curiosity

Life's not been easy lately. I feel like I'm going to lose my sanity and it's just never coming back again. You know the Pink Floyd song, "Brain Damage"? It's been my favorite to play on my MP3 when I do the dishes. It's on repeat. I get a chill when I hear Roger Waters get to, "The lunatic is in my head," I kind of wonder if HE'S in my head. Now, keep in mind that I'm wearing headphones and have the volume up high enough to block out the chaos around me, so that may be where that feeling is coming from. Let me explain a little:
I have a two-year-old. He is the sweetest little guy. He LOVES helping. It doesn't matter what you want help with, he's always the first volunteer. He helps me fill up his juice cup. He helps me put all 100 of his Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars in those little slots of his car container. He helps me clean - vacuum, dust, fold laundry... he does it all and very happily. And, no matter how much of a mess I'll have to clean up after he "helps", it's all worth it because that look of pride and determination on his face while he's working is unforgettable.

I know, I've used this in a previous post,
but LOOK
at the concentration on his face!
He's also extremely curious. Not the normal curious you find in toddlers who are just learning that things do stuff and want to find out more. No. He is curious about much more. What happens when I pour juice into Mommy's keyboard? If I take apart my remote control truck, what will I find inside? What are those fuzzy things under the kitty's tail? (THAT one is still being researched whenever I turn my back for even a nanosecond.) This curiosity is a great thing, don't get me wrong. Children who are constantly wondering and finding the answers for themselves end up becoming the people in society who discover how to create light from a few filaments, gasses, glass, and electricity.

"I know you're eventually going to have to blink. And when you do...." 
The problem here is that he doesn't just have moments of inspiration - he is constantly trying to figure things out. Our living room is COMPLETELY toddler-proofed except the desk where the computer is located. I cannot leave him in there even to top off my cup of coffee or use the restroom. When he thinks I may be leaving the room, he looks like an Olympic sprinter just before the starting gun goes off. He just has got to know what I'm hiding from him in the computer desk. It must be something amazing since I'm constantly yelling at him whenever he goes near it, right?

I keep telling myself that the more he can understand and communicate, the easier it will be to explain things to him. He'll see my reasoning behing not letting him play with my Exacto knife. It's not working. He speaks in sentences now, complete with adjectives and adverbs, and can follow two- and three-part instructions. I know he understands me. Yet, he seem more intent on getting into those "NO!" things.

I'm considering taking the time to show him the stuff he keeps trying to get into, piece by piece, so it's not all a big mystery to him. It'll go one of two ways: Either he won't be so curious about it anymore and will find other things to try to get into, or showing him will just make him want the stuff even more. I can't put these things up - I need them next to the desk. I have cut the amount of things I have there to the bare essentials. Any suggestions on how I might go about getting him disinterested in my stuff???

Friday, February 18, 2011

Homemade Poster Paints (non-toxic, too!)

I have really wanted to buy some poster paints for my toddler's craft projects. We have watercolors, but they're not the best when you want full coverage. I looked online and came across quite a few, but they were either too expensive for the amount you get or they were made with a ton of chemicals. Neither is a good thing when you have a little one who likes to sample his art supplies every time your back is turned!

So, having the internet at my fingertips, I did what every mommy who needs to know how to do something NOW does, I Googled "homemade poster paints." Now, it took me forever to find a recipe that didn't include powdered Tempra paint. I kept thinking, why on earth would I even need a poster paint recipe if I have the stupid powdered version RIGHT HERE? Am I right? I'd absolutely love to have powdered Tempra paints. You can do a million things with them, but they're a huge expense at the beginning. Look:
Red, Sargent Art Gothic 1# Powder Tempera PaintThis stuff is $4.34 for a 1 lb. jar. Yeah, that'll make a lot of paint, but you need to buy at least one of each: red, blue, yellow, black, and white. And then there's the $4.89 each shipping fee (I got this info from, so you might find it cheaper, but not by much.) Oh, and while it's labeled "non-toxic" you have to ask yourself if you want your kid getting any in his mouth. The stuff reeks of chemicals.

All right, enough complaining... I finally found my recipe that uses stuff you should have in your kitchen at Bukisa from Darlene Michaud. It is not washable, so make sure you use newspaper, old clothes, etc. If you're the type of person who can't deal with your little one running around looking stained for a day or two, this recipe isn't for you!

Here's what you'll need to make about 7 baby food jars' worth of paint:

3 T. sugar
1/2 c. cornstarch
2 c. cold water
Food coloring I used Wilton's gel colors and they worked fine, just needed more stirring
Dishsoap We skipped this - you're using food coloring, soap's not going to make clean-up easier!
Medium sauce pan

1) Mix sugar and cornstarch in the pan until well-blended.
2) Add the cold water and stir with a spoon over low heat. I used a wire whisk. It ensures the lumps are annihilated! I also heated over meduim until the water was luke warm, then turned it down to low. *If you have an electric stove, just keep it on low!   
3) Keep stirring until all ingredients are blended and sugar is dissolved. Here's where the recipe gets sketchy. Do you let it thicken? I did it both ways. The first time, I waited until it got pretty darned hot and started to thicken.Made for some great, slick paint but it was better as fingerpaints than poster paint. Just too thick to use a brush with. The second time, I heated and stirred just until I noticed a little thickening, then it came right off of the stove. I stirred and stirred until it cooled enough that it wouldn't burn me when I dipped a finger in. This ensured that it was mixed well and I wouldn't have any surprise lumps later.
5) Divide the mixture into baby food or small jelly jars. Add food coloring until you reach the desired color, then add a drop or two of dish soap. If you're using baby food jars, MAKE SURE THE LIDS FIT SECURELY!!! If not, you'll have paint everywhere during the next step. As I said earlier, I skipped the soap. 
6) Put the lids on the jars and shake well. Each time you use the paint, shake well first. This is where my toddler helped! He was the "shake-it guy" and loved watching the colors mix. This is why I made sure that the mixture had cooled to the touch before I poured it into the jars. The glass can get very hot. This is also why you need those tight-fitting lids!

So, how do they work? GREAT! The paint is thick enough to cover well, yet thin enough to eliminate those ghastly brushstrokes. We've kept our paints in jars on the counter for three weeks now and there is no sign of spoilage that you often find with homemade, chemical-free craft supplies. Do not be alarmed if your paints separate - they're going to. Just shake them up before using them.


I'm Back!

Thank you to everyone who visited, followed, and left me comments over the last couple of weeks. It's been really hard to get it all together again. I had a zillion emails to wade through. (BTW - does anyone know what an email fax is?! I had at least 25 of those lovely spams! Along with a few from "Paul the Internet Guy.") My dishes are done, my family has had a few real meals, and the red gooey stuff is scrubbed up. Heck, I even got to take a few naps with my little snuggly guy!

Since that crisis has been hurdled, I had a new one last Sunday. The computer that we had gotten fixed crashed - again. ARGH! I hate using my hubby's old laptop. You'd think that the stupid "D" key not working wouldn't be a problem. It isn't until you realize just how many times you actually use the thing. Going back to fix every missing "D" takes forever and I always miss a few, especially when I've meant tp type "and" and it shows up as "an."

So, we had a friend who fixes computers on the side throw me a computer together using all of the parts he had laying around. So far, the only problem I've had is the screen scrambling from time to time. No big deal, really. Well, except it tends to know when I've had some kind of inspiration and want to write - it will scramble over and over. Each time it does that, I have to turn it off and then restart it, taking precious minutes from my writing time. By the time the thing wants to stay put, I've lost the creative spark. Hopefully, this will all be over by the middle of next week.

I wanted to tell everyone who has followed, commented, etc. over the past couple of weeks to please let me know if I haven't reciprocated. I think I got back to most of you, but I have this nagging feeling that I've left a few out. I really do want to follow you all. I love reading your blogs. They give me inspiration and goals. It is so neat to see so many creative people writing about the same things I'm interested in. So, PLEASE, if I've missed you, leave a comment with your site address in it so I can get back to you!

Thursday, February 10, 2011


UGH. That's all I have to say about being sick. I don't get ill very often, so when I do it always feels like the end of the world. It's been nearly five days. You ought to see my house! I think that every possible dish is either in my sink or sitting somewhere near it. My husband had the nerve to ask me if he should buy paper plates, bowls & cups an some plastic ware when he went to the store last night. I know that the man knows how to wash a dish, so does my 12 year-old son. They have even used my casserole dishes, mixing bowls, and pots to eat out of!

Now, I am so glad that I thought ahead months ago an froze small portions of leftovers for my toddler. At least I know he'd been eating somewhat balanced meals. I finally had to make my husband give him a bath last night. He has been feeding himself and the food that he's been saving in his long, fine blond curls finally managed to coagulate to the point where his fingers actually got STUCK! I don't know how much bath water he drank or what shampoo was used, but he smells better and his hair has gone from multi-colored and straight back to golden and curly.

I'm sorry to everyone who is waiting for a follow-back or comment from me. I'm just now getting up and around. Looks like I'll be doing ALL of my dishes for the next three days and scrubbing the red gooey stuff (no, I'm NOT asking what it is!) from the ceiling and walls of the kitchen AND bathroom. Maybe by Monday I'll be all caught up online and off.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Meet Me On Monay (#34)

I didn't think I would be able to make it this week. My computer finally blew up. Literally BLEW UP! It was quite interesting and the smell of ozone an burnt plastic is still hanging in the air... But, my husband recently bought an old laptop (old as in when lap top first came on the market!) and I'm attempting to use it. The "D" an space bar work only when they feel like it and, every once in a while, the Caps Lock magically decies to start working. Oh, and if you see a random "b" or "n" it's beacuse they enjoy jumping onto the screen without my knowing it! On to MMOM....

Here are this week's questions and my answers:

1.  Did you watch the Superbowl?
     The super what??? Ohhhhh.... I see what you mean now. :D
2.  What is the last book that you read?
     "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. Changed my (and my family's by default) grocery shopping and eating habits!

3.  What is your favorite kind of cake?
      Big Mountain Fudge Cake from Stuart Anderson's Black Angus. Haven't had any since I lived in L.A. seven years ago. (If anyone out there would like to send me some, just leave a comment here and I'll send you my address! LOL) I always give the ice cream away - it gets in the way!

4.  Do you snore?
      Only during allergy season,which is pretty much all spring, all fall, and half the summer!

5.  Do you play an instrument?
      Do the kazoo or over-turned pot with wooden spoon count?

Thanks for stopping! Don't forget to leave a comment for a follow-back!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Any Business-Savvy Crafters Out There? I Have an Idea for You...

I love crafting with my kids. Nearly every day, we are doing something that involves paint, construction paper, glue, and/or pipe cleaners. Last week, I noticed that craft supplies are dangerously low. I went to, eBay, etc. to look for a single collection of basic supplies. The only things I can find are from Alex, and the reviews are telling me that the price is WAY too high for what you get.
I'd love to find someone who is an artist, WAHM, Etsy-type of person who sells a nice collection of the type of craft supplies that kids use most. Here's a list of things I'd love to have in a kit for my toddler and 12-year-old:
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Glue-on rhinestones
  • Paper - different colors/textures (craft paper, tissue paper, construction paper, handmade paper, etc.)
  • Glue - small bottle of craft glue, stick glue
  • Stickers - maybe a few for each season and the holidays that go with the seasons
  • Sequins
  • Glitter and/or Glitter glue
  • Pom-poms
  • Beads of various colors and sizes
  • Feathers
  • A few sheets of foam in different colors
  • Blank cards and envelopes
  • Colored sand
  • Various types & lengths of ribbon
  • Fabric swatches
  • Tape (double-sided, masking, Scotch)
  • Ruler
  • Paper fasteners (I can't remember what they're called!)
  • Wiggly eyes of different sizes
  • Buttons of various colors and sizes
  • Clothes pins
  • Heavy thread or lightweight wire for beads
  • Little springs, wooden shapes, nuts, bolts, etc
I'm not suggesting a kit with all of these in it. And I'm sure I've managed to miss some very important supplies. Maybe a starter kit for parents of toddlers, a "stock-up" kit with those items that tend to get used up quickly, and an "Ultimate" kit, filled with a little of everything. Perhaps even a personalized kit, where people can choose five items, or so,  for a flat price? How cool would THAT be?

If anyone takes this idea and uses it, please let me know. I'll be ordering and I'll write up a post. If you see I've missed any items, add them in a comment. I'm sure that someone out there would be interested in doing this!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

***UPDATED!*** Wordless Wednesday - Blizzard or not, here I come!

So, since I live in Michigan and The Weather Channel is freaking out over all of this snow, I thought I'd do this week's Wordless Wednesday about that. I took a photo of a part of my backyard on Tuesday at 5:30pm, just as the snow began to fall in big, fluffy, sporadic flakes. I will take another in the morning of the same part of the yard to compare just how accurate these guesstimators meteorologists really are.

UPDATE: No big blizzard here! Yes, we got snow. Yes, it was layered with ice on and off through the night. The wind was blowing terribly, so maybe the majority of the snow blew into the lake??? There's more falling as I type this, so maybe it'll pile up throughout the day... the great predictors say 2-4" today... I'll bet it's closer to 10"! LOL

We ended up with about 4" of snow.

5:30pm Feb. 1, 2011
Take note of the knots and nails in the fence!

So, there it is, I'll update as soon as I've had at least 2 cups of coffee and fed the kids something that resembles breakfasat.  STAY WARM!!!

Amazon Toy Deals Today

AMAZING Toy Deals on Amazon today!

OK, I don't usually post about deals on here, but I found the one toy that I wanted to get for my kids at Christmas and didn't because of the price for only $7.25 today. See, my toddler LOVES cars and my tween loves creating and painting. This Made By Me Cast and Paint Cars kit was perfect for them. But I had other things that I needed to get first. While "window" shopping this afternoon, lo and behold, what did I see??? This:  Made By Me Cast and Paint Cars

Now, what else could I do but use some of those SwagBucks Amazon cards up?
Go HERE now before the prices flip!