Friday, February 28, 2014

February at Our House

M: "The snow looks fresh and nobody has walked in it. It's so smooth and it tastes better!"
Oddly, she said this while we were on the way to church, so I have no clue how she knew it would taste better. I guess, of course, that fresh snow must always be better.

After getting herself dressed for school, Mia showed me this outfit consisting of striped shirt, striped skirt, and striped leggings.

Me: "Wow! Those are some stripes."
M {giggles}: "That don't even match!"
Pretty sure I will miss these days come junior high.

M: "Mom, are unicorns real?"
Me: "I don't know. What do you think?"
M: "You should Google it!"
When in doubt, Google it. Funny that I taught her that without even trying.

L: "Can you give me a snot tissue?"
Yep. Although, I usually just call them "tissues."

L {backing up into my lap with a picture book in hand}: "Beep! Beep! Beep!"
Love him!

M {watching women's figure skating during the Olympics}: "I choose my favorite based on how much I like their outfit. I can also choose by their hair and name... and right now, my favorite is Gracie Gold!"
And this is why they don't have this event judged by seven year old girls.

L {at Walmart}: "Wait. Go that way. I think I saw a tiara for you!"
See, he knows me so well. 

L {noticing Olympic coverage on the TV at the library}: "We have that on our TV, too!"
What a coincidence!

L: "Can we build a skate park at our house?"
I guess we technically could. I am just not sure how or why we would do that.

L {in bathroom}: "Door, I command you to stay!"
Let me know how that works out for you...

L {at dinnertime}: "Are we praying to Jesus... and Santa?"
Well, I don't know. I guess I can't blame him for keeping his options open.

M: "Mommy, the car stinks to me."
Me: "I don't know what you mean."
M: "Well... I've been gassy."
I think this one is self-explanatory. Don't you?

The kids are sick of this winter!
M: "When will the snow go away? I want to catch butterflies."
Me: "Well, there aren't too many butterflies in February."
L: "Yeah! I want to wear my boots and jump in mud."
If only I could make that happen...

L {explaining what snack he ate at preschool}: "I had a yogurt cafe." (parfait)
Sounds delish. 

L {While headed out the door in the morning}: "Mom, you're the line leader for our house."
Obviously. In fact, I am the leader of ALL things at our house -- or if I am not, then I should be. Maybe he was on to something with the tiara suggestion.

L: "I know why they call those Craisins. 'Cause they're crazy."
I imagine so. About as crazy as a dried fruit can be.

L {after tumbling off the ottoman, comes and shows me his boo-boo}: "I hurt my bender part."
Me: "That is called your elbow."
L: "Elbow starts with 'L.'"
Clearly, he was not hurt badly.

M {putting on her apron to help make pizza for dinner}: "Aprons are made of apes and wrens."
Great. I am so glad we cleared that up.

100th Day of School Shirt

Remember earlier this year when she got to wear a poodle skirt for the 50th day of school? Well, today was Mia's 100th Day celebration at school, and she was very excited to wear a special "new" shirt. We made it last week when school was closed. (Again.) Fortunately, the note had come home the day before so we knew that we were supposed to design a shirt, and this was a great snow day activity.

{Finished Flower Shirt}

Mia found a slightly stained shirt to use, and she told me that she wanted to cover it with flowers. I helped her collect all sorts of flowers from my craft supplies. She selected her 100 favorites, a mix of silk, felt, and paper flowers. Next, she arranged them on the shirt, making various designs, and layering smaller flowers on top of larger flowers. Finally, I hot glued them in place. Very simple.

{Cheese! She was happy with the results.}

This morning she chose to dress herself in flowered leggings, flowered socks, a skirt, and her "special" black shoes. She added a butterfly necklace and butterfly hair tie. Even though we had counted exactly 100 flowers, she felt certain that there were actually a "gazzillion" of them to go with what she called her "garden" theme!

{My Garden Girl}

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Easy Dinosaur Cupcakes

Logan was my summer baby. This means that he will never celebrate his actual birthday at school. Since it is his first year of preschool, I decided that we could have the class celebrate his half birthday today. (Celebrating half birthdays is not something we have done before at our house, but it seemed appropriate in this instance, and the teacher agreed that it was a perfect idea.)

He even lucked out in that they ended up planning a field trip to the bowling alley! After the cupcakes had been handed out, someone announced his name and said it was his "birthday" over the P.A. system. I think he thought this was odd, but it didn't seem to stop him from gobbling up his cupcake while they all sang "Happy Birthday."

Meanwhile, I was just happy to see that he was devouring the whole cupcake since he usually has a habit of eating just the icing, and he had wanted me to make frosting shots for the party. (He didn't call them that, of course, but can you imagine giving cups of frosting to a group of preschoolers?!) Anyway, I was glad that these cupcakes were such a hit.

{Happy half birthday to my future paleontologist!}

To make them, I did a double batch of my favorite white cake recipe and a single batch of my favorite buttercream frosting recipe (which was not quite enough -- I had three cupcakes that didn't get frosted, but that was okay since there were plenty for the class. If I had used my angle spatula instead of piping the frosting it would have been plenty.). I tinted the frosting green, to simulate grass and topped them with dinosaur fruit snacks from Kroger. The most important part, though, was the dinosaurs.

I had been to several stores looking for gummi dinosaurs, and it turns out that nobody carries those in our area. I could have ordered some online, but that would have required more advance planning, and I wouldn't have wanted to pay the shipping cost, anyway! Fortunately, someone gave me idea of fruit snacks, which worked great. I placed three on top of each cupcake, mixing up the colors and types of dinosaurs so that there weren't duplicates on any one cupcake. (Yes, this is anal and unnecessary... I was happy with the results, and more importantly, so was my favorite future paleontologist.) I also discovered that fruit snacks hold up very well as cupcake toppers, all of the kids liked them, and as a bonus, they were very affordable. I bought two boxes at $1 each and still had a few packages left over.

Monday, February 24, 2014

DIY Paper Chains Photo Backdrop

After a month, I am getting around to sharing some of Mia's birthday photos! These were taken by Erin of E.K. Photography, so be sure to check her out and give her some love. In my opinion, some of the cutest pics of Mia were the ones that Erin took using the paper chains that I made for a backdrop.

I saw a photo on Pinterest, which of course, always makes things look easy. This is easy, but there were no directions on how long to make the chains, how many chains to make, or how wide to make the strips, all of which I feel are kind of important to the success of a project! Here are the steps I used to create this paper chain photo backdrop.

  1. Each chain was made using 4 pieces of 12" x 12" card stock, cut into 2 inch wide strips with a paper trimmer. (I had previously tried 1" and 3" strips and found them to be too skinny and too fat, respectively. The perfect width, after trial and error, was 2" strips.) 
  2. I stapled each strip into a ring, linking them as I went along. This wasn't hard, but it did take some time. In total, there were 14 paper chains for the backdrop. Ideally, I would have made more chains for a wider backdrop, but I ran out of card stock -- or at least enough of the same color so that I could make chains that were long enough. (They had to be taller than Mia, of course.)
  3. To display the chains, Erin and I slipped them onto her backdrop holder, arranging them in a sort of rainbow.

All photos used with permission of E.K. Photography.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

White Chocolate Popcorn Treat

Mmmmmm is the only sound you can clearly make when your mouth is full. Coincidence? I think not -- especially if your mouth is full of this white chocolate goodness! Warning: This is delicious and dangerously addictive!

{Do I even need a caption? I mean, really?}

  • popcorn -- about 8 cups 
  • 2 cups tiny pretzel twists
  • 1 cup dry roasted peanuts (I use unsalted.)
  • 1/2 cup Craisins (M&Ms are tasty, too!)
  • 12-oz. bag white chocolate morsels (I definitely recommend using actual white chocolate and not "vanilla" baking chips, which do NOT melt as well and are more likely to scorch.)
  • 1 Tbs. cooking oil (Optional. I use EVOO. Vegetable oil also works)

  1. Pop popcorn. I add 1/2 cup kernels to my air popper. (You can also use a bag of plain white microwave popcorn.) Make sure to remove all unpopped kernels. You don't want to break a tooth!
  2. Combine popcorn, pretzels, peanuts, and Craisins (or M&Ms) in a very large bowl.
  3. Place the white chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl. You might also wish to add a tablespoon of cooking oil, which helps eliminate scorching. (Trust me, you don't want to scorch your chocolate. Smells terrible, and such a waste!) Begin cooking at high for 30 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir. Continue cooking for 15 second intervals, stirring in between, until white chocolate is melted. (This is about 1 minute 15 seconds total for my microwave.)
  4. Pour melted white chocolate over popcorn mixture and stir to combine until it is evenly coated. Spread onto wax paper and allow to harden completely. Store in an air-tight container (if you happen to have any left over!) Perfect for parties -- or just to enjoy, because you know you want to!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Less Mess Finger Painting

I am not sure of the origin of this idea, but I am pretty sure it was floating around on Pinterest. The basic concept is to cut up a sponge into smaller pieces and let kids use them as ink pads for finger painting. Here is what I did for this less messy version of finger painting, which could also be considered printmaking or stamping of fingers, depending upon how the child uses the tools. No matter how you do it, this is a brilliant that gets two thumbs (or fingers) up from this crafty mama!

  1. I originally cut my sponge (brand new) into six pieces, one per color of paint: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Then, I thought better of that idea and cut each section in half again so that each child would have a set! (Also, cutting it into twelve sections produced segments that were just the right size for fingers so there was little waste.)
  2. After cutting the sponge, I began completely soaking each section in a color of tempera paint, before realizing that only the top section of the sponge needed to be saturated with paint. Once I realized that, I added less paint to each piece of sponge. As I soaked each section of sponge, I then set it on a Styrofoam tray which became the paint palette. 
    {Sponge Paint Palette}
  3. I laid a cereal box liner on my table to protect it (like free wax paper!). Then, I set some finger paint paper on top.
  4. Mia put on her paint shirt and dipped pressed a finger or two onto the paint-laden sponge and then applied the paint to the paper. (It turned out that Logan was not interested at this time, but I will have the sponges for another time, and can easily add more paint as needed.) When she was done, she had barely any paint on her fingers, so the clean-up was a breeze! As a bonus, I didn't have a messy tray to rinse off because the paint was contained in the small sponge pieces. Overall, this is brilliant, and gets two thumbs (or fingers) up from this crafty mama.
    {A Finger Painted Flower Garden}

Valentine's Projects - 2014

I've recently chatted with a couple other people about how I do not make the kids' valentines. (That may actually surprise you since I like to make just about everything else!) For what they are, though, and considering how little time children actually spend appreciating them, this is not worth it to me. (I do understand what a friend said, though, about a child wanting a certain theme or character that wasn't readily available. It was smart of her, in that case, to make them herself!) For my kids, I just run out after Valentine's Day,-- when stuff is on clearance -- and pick up one or two boxes that I know they will like to set aside for the next year.

This year, for example, Mia had a choice of Disney fairies or princesses and she selected the fairies. (I found her a box of princess valentines that came with suckers to use next year. I figure suckers don't really go bad. Any other candy I would worry about, but suckers should be fine.) Logan chose Cars, so he will have either the Toy Story ones or the Hot Wheels that I just picked up the other day. They still get choices, but I don't have to spend 20 minutes in the store while they debate among a million options. So far, it has worked for us. (And for the record, I'm not knocking anybody's choice to make the cutesy homemade kind. I have seen some really awesome ones! It's just not something I care to do as long as my kids are fine with the current system.)

That said, we did do a few Valentine's Day related crafts this February. Mia's teacher sent home a note a few days before their class party that said they needed to have a valentine holder of some sort. I was trying to figure out what sort of box to use when I remembered the cute felt envelopes featured in the February issue of FamilyFun magazine. We had everything we needed at home, so this was a good choice. I showed Mia the picture, and she loved it, so it was decided. I downloaded the Special Deliveries Envelope pattern and then traced it onto some pink felt that I had left over from making the poodle skirt. (My only complaint is that they don't tell you how much felt you need, so let me tell you. I measured it to be about 41" by 28.5" so allow a bit extra, just in case my measurements are slightly off.)

{Finished valentine holder is 91/2" x 141/2"}

For embellishment, we added a red felt heart, and Mia selected 2" blue self-adhesive felt letters. (We didn't have a "M" so she decided an upside down "W" would work in its place.) I skipped the step for cutting holes and threading ribbon through to make this a chair back valentine holder since I wasn't sure if they would fit the chairs at school, and this seemed like unnecessary effort. It turned out great, and she was very happy. I was also glad that it could easily fit inside her backpack for the bus ride home, which would not have been the case if we had gone with a box of some sort!

{This is the great heart garland!}

As Valentine's Day approached, Mia felt that we needed some extra decorations and I showed her how I had made some heart-shaped chains inspired by this blogger's photo that I had seen on Pinterest. Her directions are great, and I wish I had actually read them first. One important step that I missed was starting with folded paper to get that nice edge at the bottom of the heart. I just gave Mia some 1" strips of red and pink construction paper and showed her how to invert them before stapling (as opposed to overlapping them for traditional chain links). Then, I suggested that she pinch the bottom segment to form the base of the heart. Mostly, she skipped that so her hearts are rounded and sweet-looking instead of crisp and precise. She was happy with the results, so I couldn't have cared less. Besides, they looked kid-made, and that was the point! Mia quickly used up the red and pink and asked me to make more strips out of purple and blue paper. By the time she was done, we had a garland that draped nearly all the way from one side of the dining room to the other. (Some of the chain links were regular circles interspersed among the hearts.)

{Close-up of Heart Chains}

Today was yet another snow day. (Well, technically, it was an ice day.) Anyway, I had some project ideas in mind and one was stamped hearts from toilet paper tubes, which came from this blogger. (I had wanted to try this before Valentine's Day, but then Mia's school needed lots of TP tubes for science night and I sent in all that I had at the time, around 50!) Mia was not interested, but Logan happily created some stamps with the heart-shaped tubes that I made. We had two tubes to work with since I no longer had a big stash of them: one to dip in pink paint and one to dip in purple paint, both of which I poured onto a Styrofoam tray. These stamps were quick and easy to make using the directions found on the Rust & Sunshine blog. My only suggestion would be that you could also cut the tubes in half to make more if you wanted to do this with more kids but were short on tubes.

{Art in Process...}

{Finished Stamped Art}

{Close-up of Tubes, After Stamping}

Monday, February 17, 2014

A 7th Birthday Puppy Paw-ty

For Mia's 7th birthday party, she requested a puppy theme. This sweet and simple party was one of my favorites to plan, and it was a big hit with the guests and the birthday girl alike. The colors were primarily brown and white with touches of red and black. I made everything myself, and it was very inexpensive to pull together. Outside of food, I don't think I spent more than $10!

My favorite part was that in lieu of gifts, we asked for donations to the local Human Society.  Despite it being quite snowy on that particular Saturday, several friends turned out with doggie-friendly donations. This seemed to go over well, and now we have a large stash of items to deliver when the weather gets better.

{Friends brought donations for the Humane Society.}

The Invitations:
Being a planner, I made these invitations and sent them out about 3 weeks prior to the party.

{Puppy Paw-ty Invitations}

The Food:
I did not serve a full meal. (Go, me! Way to keep it "simple" -- at least for me!) For snacks, we had a bowl of "pupcorn," which was just air-popped popcorn. I did add some melted butter and salt, but that was not enough to tempt people when "puppy chow" was an alternative snack. (Note: I was running low on powdered sugar after making the cake, so I just made a half batch, and that was the perfect amount.) To round it out with some slightly healthier choices, I made up a tray with crackers, cheese, carrots, and cucumbers. At about 5 minutes to party time, I decided these looked bare and needed to be dressed up, so I grabbed some left over kraft paper and rubber stamps and made little placards that read "pupcorn," "puppy chow," and "bone appetit." (Yes, I know that "bone" is spelled incorrectly, but you know what I'm going for, right?). We also had the stamped napkins, good ole IKEA plates and bowls, and Capri Sun juice pouches. (I typically come up with a themed drink with an appropriately themed name, but I just didn't have anything for this one, so I made it easy on myself.)

{Simple Puppy Paw-ty Food}

The Decorations:
{Easy Centerpiece}
I made a table runner out of kraft paper and hand-stamped it with a homemade paw print stamp. (Directions can be found here, but I later discovered that Dollar Tree carries a roll of wrapping paper that is pretty doggone similar, if you're not into DIY projects!) Also for the dining room, I made these adorable puppy balloons, which I taped to the chandelier. For a quick and simple centerpiece, I just filled a canning jar with dog biscuits -- two items I already had on hand for everyday life.
{Paw-ty Decor}
To welcome guests, I made this front door decoration, again using the homemade paw print stamp on kraft paper. After cutting out each paw print, I "laminated" them all between two pieces of clear contact paper. For the wording, I typed "The Paw-ty is Here!" in Microsoft Word using the free Puppy Bellies font. Then, I cut out each word, affixed it to kraft paper, and "laminated" them all with contact paper. I taped all the pieces to the outside of the front door with clear tape.

{Front Door Decor for a Puppy Paw-ty}

The Cake:
The cake that was served for this party with friends was actually the third batch of puppy-themed baked goods that I made. Mia requested a white dog, to look somewhat like our dog, Ritzy. (My first attempts were these kind of complicated chocolate "pupcakes" that I served at the family shindig. After that, I simplified and went with these paw print cupcakes for school.) This puppy cake was not actually the way I had envisioned it due to what could have been a cake catastrophe when one of my rounds broke apart as I tried to get it out of the pan. I was planning on making a cake similar to the Care Bear cake from last year, but I think this turned out even better than I previously imagined! My brilliant husband suggested that the broken round pieces could still be used for something so they turned into floppy ears.

{The cake turned out cute!}

To make this cake, I did a double batch of my favorite white cake and a batch of my favorite buttercream frosting. I made two round, one that was 7" and one that was 8" (the one that broke apart), plus a half dozen cupcakes. The small round became the face and the broken round was trimmed to make the ears, which were attached with frosting. Then, I frosted it all with my angled spatula. For one cupcake, I removed the wrapper, frosted it all, and stuck it to the face. The nose is a mini peanut butter cup and the "freckles" are brown mini M&Ms. The eyes are brown Reeses Pieces and the eyebrows and mouth are piped with black decorating gel.

At this point, it was looking somewhat like a deranged Easter bunny and very little like a dog. Then, two cupcakes were frosted and bumped up against the bottom of the face to make paws. To show definition of toes, I just piped some lined with black decorating gel. The remaining cupcakes were decorated with paw prints made from mini peanut butters cups and brown mini M&Ms. This started to help make it look like a puppy. Then, I realized that I had a red bow left over from Christmas that might look right, and fortunately, it really helped. The addition of the bow made it look more and more like a dog, or at least not like a weird looking lop-eared rabbit.

One final addition did the trick. The tongue is cut from a strawberry Fruit Roll-Up. This last touch was what truly made it look like a puppy. I am thankful to my little man for asking, "Where's the tongue?" on the morning of the party!

{The bow hides the indentation -- bye-bye rabbit ears!}

In case you're wondering, my cake board is just a scrap of cardboard. I covered it with my roll of kraft paper and taped it to the back. In the past I've used aluminum foil for this, which doesn't show grease as much, but the brown went with the party colors better. Plus, it covered easily without having to use multiple pieces.

The Games and Activities:
I had other ideas, but decided to keep it fairly low-key this go-round. We had the dog house photo prop which worked overtime as decor, party activity, and souvenir photo included in the thank you cards.

{Inside of the Thank You Card}

The only game I did was Puppy Bingo. (The rest of the time, they played, so this was just fine.) I created 6 Bingo cards on white card stock. I made the blank template myself in Microsoft Word, but in retrospect I probably could have found one online and saved myself some time! For the pictures, I found various clipart on the Internet, pasted it into Word, printed 7 copies, and cut them all out. (Tip: A paper trimmer saves you time.) One set I kept in a baggie to the the calling cards. The rest, I glued onto the cards, making each one different. There were a few extra images, so I just omitted different puppies from each card. I "laminated" all of the Bingo cards between two pieces of clear contact paper. The Bingo markers were just squares of kraft paper that I made with a 1" square craft punch. We played for fun, so there were no prizes awarded. (I figured they already got enough sweets and they were getting these homemade puppy ears as a take-home gift -- simple!)

{Homemade Puppy Bingo Game}

Extra Credit Points:
Oh, and just for fun, Brett wore his Snoopy costume (without my even asking him to). This was, of course, cute and sweet. What a good daddy!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Photo Thank You Cards for a Puppy Paw-ty

I once read that thank you notes should be sent within three months of the event. I think for busy folks, the sooner the better, so my goal was to get them done within three weeks. We just celebrated Mia's 7th birthday with a puppy paw-ty on the first, so I am going to meet that goal with these photo thank you cards. As a bonus, they serve as a fun and inexpensive souvenir from the party.

{Front of Card}

  • card stock weight kraft paper (mine was 8 1/2" x 11")
  • paper trimmer
  • photos from dog house photo prop
  • scrapbooking adhesive
  • scalloped scissors
  • black ink pad
  • date stamp
  • "Wonderful Times" stamp
  • computer and printer

1.  During the party, I took pictures of the guests wearing puppy ears and posing in the dog house photo prop. Then, I had them printed at Meijer. For family members who sent gifts, or for kids who didn't want to pose, I used pictures of Mia, so I had extras printed for this reason.

2.  Next, I folded a piece of kraft paper in half, width wise, and cut along the fold. Then I folded each piece in half again, width wise, to create two cards.

3.  In Microsoft Word, I created a fill-in-the-blank template for the inside of the cards. This fit four to a page in landscape setting and I used this free font. It read:

Dear ___________________________,                     
Thanks for helping make my 7th birthday                           
a doggone good time! Thanks also for the                     
______________________. It’s paw-fect!
Your friend,                                                                

At the bottom right corner of each, I included a red paw print clip art. I used scalloped scissors to trim these to size and then adhered them on the inside of the cards, on the right.

4.  I trimmed the photos to fit inside the cards and then adhered them to the inside, left of the fill-in-the-blank template.

{Inside of Card}

5.  For the front of the cards, I printed off several of this cute puppy holding a cupcake clip art. Again, I cut these out with my scalloped scissors and adhered them to the center of the cards. Then, I added the date of the party and the phrase "Wonderful Times" with stamps and a black ink pad. Tip: If you don't have this sort of thing (both are the dial type of stamp that you see at libraries), you can type anything into your computer and print it out. This would give you more choices of font style, size, and color.

6.  Last but not least, I had Mia fill in the cards with the recipient's name, description of the gift (mostly donations for the local Humane Society!), and, of course, her signature.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

House Rules (for Moms of Boys)

I really want to write something, but I am too tired to say much. So, here's an amusing list of things I never thought I'd have to say at any point in my life... None of which, I have ever had to tell my daughter. Please, please tell me that I am not the only one who has said such weird things to her son!

May 4, 2013
"Wow! It's going five different directions. It's like you're a sprinkler."

October 21, 2013
"No somersaults on the sofa!"

November 23, 2013
"You're not allowed on the sofa unless you are wearing clothes."

December 3, 2013
"Don't put your head in the potty."

February 3, 2014
"We don't wipe our nose on the furniture."

February 13, 2014
"Get off the trash can. We don't sit on the trash can."

February 15, 2014
"Don't put the glow stick in Daddy's pants."

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Salt Writing Practice

While volunteering in Mia's first grade class, I noticed some small plastic tubs, each containing a small amount of sand. One child had written her name in the sand. This seemed like something I could easily "hack," and I was hoping it would get Logan interested in practicing his letters.

So I found one of many small wooden trays that we have scattered throughout the house (This one happened to come with something Melissa and Doug-related in it -- wooden beads, perhaps?) and added some salt. Why salt? Well, I don't normally have sand readily available, but salt I definitely have plenty of. (I usually buy the biggest carton I can find since we make so much play dough.)

Next, I scrounged through our alphabet magnets and pulled out one for each letter. I set them on the table and showed him how he use each magnet as a guide. I demonstrated writing the letter in the salt and then shaking the tray gently to clear it.

{He loves the tactile element.}

It worked great! He was excited and actually sat long enough to practice 21 out of 26 letters, which is darn good for someone with the attention span of a goldfish. (Note: I am not insulting my kid, here, merely pointing out what it is like to try to get a four-year-old boy to do anything that seems remotely educational.)

Once Mia got home from school, she seemed excited by the salt tray, too. She used it to practice her spelling words, which was great. The only downside was that left unattended for too long, Logan started playing in the salt the way he plays with rice and things got a bit messy. Fortunately, salt is easy to clean up. I can't say the same for sand in my dining room, though, so I am glad I went with salt!

Looking for more fun stuff to do with salt? You might like:

DIY Doghouse Photo Prop

This is the type of project that I debate whether or not to share. Not because I don't want to share. I do! I just don't want people to feel like they should be able to make this themselves. (Not that you can't. I'm sure you're very crafty!) You know what I mean, right? This is not the type of easy-peasy kids' craft that I often post here. That said, it really wasn't that hard to make, so it's totally do-able if you are planning a puppy paw-ty of your own.

{Ritzy and I get a turn in the doghouse.}

This photo prop turned out nicely and helped set the theme for Mia's 7th birthday paw-ty. Besides being fairly simple to make, it was virtually free! (My favorite kind of project, in case you didn't know.) All I had to buy was a 59 cent bottle of paint since I ran out after the first coat.

As soon as guests arrived, they received a pair of puppy ears. Once they were ready, I had them pose in the doghouse. The photos will be used in the thank-you cards (more on those later!).

Materials for Making Doghouse:
  • large cardboard box
  • scissors
  • pencil
  • ruler
  • hot glue gun
  • black Sharpie marker
  • red acrylic paint
  • white acrylic paint
  • black acrylic paint
Directions for Making Doghouse:
  1. Deconstruct the box and lay it flat. Using a pair of sharp scissors (or a box cutter, if you are more intrepid -- and less accident-prone than myself), cut along a seam so that you now have 2 pieces of cardboard. Each one is two sides of the box. Trim away the smaller flaps from one piece. (In case you are wondering, my cardboard measured 35 1/2" wide by 43" tall at that point.)
  2. Using a ruler, find the center point of the piece of cardboard. Mark it with a pencil. Next, use the ruler and pencil to make vertical and horizontal lines, dividing the cardboard into quadrants. (This is not necessary, but I found it helpful). Tip: Make all marks on the "outside" of the cardboard: the part that has printing on it. Then, when you flip it over, you will have a perfectly clean piece of cardboard to work with.
  3. This was the point when I decided how the roof line should look. I decided to make a horizontal line about 1/3 from the top, all the way across, because that looked right visually. Then I used my ruler to draw angles from the outside edges of that line, meeting at the top. (Remember, I already had a center line, so this is why it was handy.) I used scissors to cut along the lines and ended up with a triangular point on top of the house.
    {The basic shape}
  4. Next up, I made the doggie door. I decided the top of the door would be my center point. I didn't want it to be very wide, just enough for kids to pop their heads through, otherwise there might be clutter in the background of the photos. I measured 10" for width, 5" on either side of the vertical center line, and then drew lines. To get the curve at the top, I traced around the rim of a large plastic bowl. Then, I cut it all out with my scissors. Tip: Since I wasn't worried about how the part I was cutting away looked, I was free to cut it into smaller chunks. For some reason, I have found small triangles to be easier to work with rather than one large semi-circle.
  5. After getting the basic doghouse shape, I flipped my cardboard over to the "clean" side and laid in on a layer of newspaper. I used a foam paintbrush to apply a coat of red acrylic paint, let it dry, and then added a second coat of paint. 
  6. Once the second coat dried, I took a strip of cardboard (one of my discarded pieces), which was the same width as my doghouse and about 2 inches tall and used this as a straight edge to make lines across the entire house with a black Sharpie. This made it look like wooden boards. I added two "nails" per board along the outside edges. These were just small black hand-drawn circles. I also outlined the rest of the doghouse with black Sharpie for a more finished look.
    {Adding the "boards"}
  7. It didn't look finished, so I took two more strips of cardboard (again about 2 inches wide) and cut each one at a 45 degree angle so that they would meet up to make the roof. These, I painted with black acrylic paint and once they were dry, I adhered them with my hot glue gun. 
  8. To personalize the doghouse, I cut an oval out of some scrap cardboard and painted it with white acrylic paint (two coats). After the paint had dried, I outlined it with black Sharpie and then added another oval set about 1/4" in from the outline. Then I typed "Mia" using this free font and printed it out, trimmed it to size, and glued it the the placard. Lastly, I hot glued the oval to the front of the doghouse.
  9. Before displaying the photo prop, I took two extra scraps of rectangular cardboard and hot glued them to the back of the doghouse on either side of the door. I had noticed it was a bit flimsy (likely because I used more then one side of a box to create it), and this served as a necessary reinforcement. To hang it, I used twine which was not elegant, but it fit with the theme just fine. I cut two lengths and used plenty of masking tape to adhere them "stitches" fashion. Then, I taped both lengths of twine to the mantel with clear packaging tape. It had just enough distance between the prop and the fireplace for the kids to kneel behind it for photos. (Note: I had taped a small section of white plastic table cover behind the opening to the doghouse, and I later wished I had covered the whole area the way I did for the Care Bear photo prop from last year. Despite not thinking of that sooner, it looked pretty good.)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

DIY Puppy Ears

These fun puppy ears doubled as photo props (for the upcoming thank-you cards) and as party favors. What can I say? I like when stuff serves double-duty -- it's just plain smart. Plus, I saved money by making them myself instead of purchasing them from this site! Here's how I made these cute puppy dog ears (I made 11 pairs total) for about $6.

{Some of the finished puppy ears}

  • tan felt (I bought 6 sheets of 8 1/2" x 11" size at Wal-Mart, 23 cents each)
  • brown marker
  • scissors
  • brown/black plastic headbands (These came in 3-packs from Dollar Tree. I bought 4 sets.)
  • hot glue gun
  • cream felt (This came in a neutral colors multi-pack at Wal-Mart, but I only used cream for this project.)

  1. Fold a piece of felt in half, width-wise. Cut along the fold. 
  2. Now, take one half piece and fold it in half, lengthwise this time. Cut along the fold. 
  3. Draw a floppy ear on one side and cut it out. Mine had a triangular notch at the top end.
    {This is how I folded and cut my felt to get started.}
  4. Use this as a template for all the other ears. Trace around it onto the felt. A brown marker works nicely, and even if it shows on the felt later, it doesn't really clash. (Note: You can either cut the felt smaller first, or just trace an ear, flip it over, fit the template ear against the tracing, and trace again. Then, cut all traced ears out. I did it both ways, and didn't really have a preference.)
    {How I laid the ears for tracing with as little waste as possible.}
  5. Lay out ears in sets of two, facing them the desired direction. (I made each one curve toward the center.) Then, using a hot glue gun, adhere each ear to a plastic headband. Lay them flat while the glue cools.
    {Here is my triangle tip + hot glue, before folding.}
  6. Cut spots from cream felt. Mine were all shapes and sizes, but you can make basic circles if you prefer. Apply the the ears using the hot glue gun. I took my triangle tip, turned it over, applied the glue to that area, and then folded it over on itself around the plastic headband. Again, lay flat while glue cools. Tip: If glue strings bug you, use your fingers to remove any glue strings.
  7. Your puppy ears are now ready to wear!

Paw Print Cupcakes for a Puppy Paw-ty

The first batch of "pupcakes" that I made were tricky, and they didn't hold up as well as I had hoped. So I decided to make a simpler design for the cupcakes that Mia took to school for her birthday. To start, I made this chocolate cake recipe for the second time. This time I was careful to not fill the cups more than 2/3 of the way, and I let them bake a bit longer, 20 minutes instead of 18. This seemed to help. Also, our baking took place on a snow day, so I had two eager little helpers in the kitchen.

For the frosting, I used this recipe, from my friend Jenifer:
Butter Frosting (Chocolate)
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 4 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • additional milk, as needed
  1. Beat the butter until fluffy. 
  2. Slowly add 2 cups of the powdered sugar, beating well. (Admittedly, I am lazy about sifting it first. I can't tell if it makes a difference or not.)
  3. Add 1/4 cup milk plus vanilla. 
  4. Slowly beat in the remaining powdered sugar plus the cocoa powder, adding additional milk as needed to get a good consistency for spreading. (For me, I think it was another two or three tablespoons. Add one at a time, mix, and continue from there.)
{Finished Cupcakes}

To decorate the cupcakes, I spread the frosting on with an angled spatula. My inspiration for these cupcakes came from this picture (which appear to use Jr. Mints and chocolate chips, inserted point-side down). Using candies I had purchased for the previous "pupcakes," I added a mini Reese's peanut butter cup (the kind that comes in a stand-up bag and doesn't have a wrapper -- perfect for baking) to the center of each frosted cupcake. To finish the paw prints, I added four "toes" made out of brown mini M&M's (I had to first pour them into a bowl and then sort out the ones I wanted, but it wasn't that much work, certainly quicker than when I sorted them for the Cheer Bear cake.) That's it! They were cute and very delicious.

DIY Stamped Napkins for a Puppy Paw-ty

I have done a post about DIY themed napkins before (Shark party) but I figure it is worth mentioning again. This is a super quick, easy, and inexpensive way to coordinate with any party theme. Most everything else I use is reusable: cups, plates, bowls, but for kids' birthday parties it seems like a necessity to have napkins on hand.

To make my own, I simply bought a package of 30 white napkins from Dollar Tree. Then I used dog stamps and ink pads that I already owned (in red and brown) to personalize them for Mia's recent puppy paw-ty. Mia helped choose which stamps to use, although I narrowed it down some based on the size of the stamp and whether or not it looked right on the napkin. In the end, we chose 5 designs, so each one was used 6 times.

{Easy DIY Napkins for a Puppy Paw-ty!}

Sunday, February 2, 2014

14 Valentine Jokes-of-the-Day for Lunchboxes

The Christmas joke-of-the-day went well so I decided to make type up some jokes that I found for Valentine's Day. I included 14 of my favorites from around the web, although she will not have that many days of school this month before Valentine's Day. Plus, they don't even have school on Valentine's Day this year (and that's not even counting any more snow days that might crop up...)!

I just typed these in Microsoft Word and included some related clip art, printed them, and cut them out. (Decorative scissors are optional.) Each time I pack a lunch, I will tape a joke to her sandwich holder. P.S. If you prefer getting jokes without the DIY effort, just Google "printable Valentine's Day jokes for kids." The only problem is that you won't get to hand-pick the jokes, although most of these were repeated on various sites, so that may not be an issue for you. Enjoy!

Q: What did the stamp say to the envelope?                      
A: I’m stuck on you.

Q: What do you call a very small valentine?
A: A valentiny!

Q:  What did the chocolate syrup say to the ice cream?
A: I’m sweet on you!

Q: What is a vampire’s sweetheart called?
A: His ghoul-friend.

Q: What do farmers give their wives on Valentine’s Day?
A: Hogs and kisses!

Q: What did the boy octopus say to the girl octopus?
A: I wanna hold your hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand.

Q: What did the boy squirrel say to the girl squirrel?
A: I’m nuts about you!

Q: What did the boy cat say to the girl cat?
A: You’re purr-fect for me!

Q: What did the boy rabbit say to the girl rabbit?
A: Somebunny loves you!

Q: What did the boy elephant say to the girl elephant?
A: I love you a ton!

Q: What did the boy bat say to the girl bat?
A: You’re fun to hang around with!

Q: What do you call two birds in love?
A: Tweethearts!

Q: What kind of flowers do you never give on Valentine’s Day?
A: Cauliflowers!

Q: What did one monster say to the other on Valentine’s Day?
A: Be my valenslime!