Saturday, December 22, 2012

12 Days of Crafting- A Bit of Baking

My aunt promised Simon she would come over and bake cookies with him. We made traditional gingerbread cookies, using Mrs. Field's recipe.  He was sooo excited to roll out the dough and cut out the cookies.  The morning turned into a family affair with four generations baking together.   My grandmother, my mom and aunt, me, and the kids.  What a great memory for all of us!

What special holiday memories have you created this year?

Friday, December 21, 2012

12 Days of Crafting- Masterpiece Christmas Cards

If you are like me, you have piles and piles of your child's artwork.  In our case, we have piles of watercolor paintings on heavy watercolor paper.  An interesting way to honor your child's artwork, it to recycle it onto a Christmas card, or make a brand new masterpiece.  We chose to make tiny heart cut outs, and glue them onto Christmas cards.

I picked a Christmas tree motif, but I think these look great when the kids glue their shapes in an organic way.  There are no mistakes here.  I plan on putting gift cards in these little masterpieces.  Just a small way to make a gift card more personal.  How do you honor your child's artwork? 

12 Days of Crafting- Paper Snowflakes

Nothing is prettier than making your own paper snowflakes and hanging them around the house.  I received this book about 7 years ago, and I used it constantly in my classroom.  Since we had a dusting of snow last night, I thought it was appropriate to pull this book out and make some more snowflakes.  Unfortunately this book is out of print, but there are a couple of used copies on Amazon.


*A tip to get your snowflakes to hang nicely, iron them at a low setting.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

12 Days of Crafting- Silhouette Portrait

One of my favorite stores is The Paper Source in Oak Park, IL.  Ever since my art student days, I would buy beautiful printed paper and decorate books, make books, or other crafts.  I saw this adorable project for a silhouette portrait, using decorative paper decoupaged on top of a frame.

I put my own twist on this project, by decoupaging precut oval mat board. Further, I used my handy iPhone to take pictures of the kids, and printed the images out on 8.5"x11" paper.  I cut this image out, and used it as a template to trace their faces onto black card stock.

This project turned out adorable, and would make a great grandparent gift.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

12 Days of Crafting- Coconut Body Scrub

Ever since I discovered Virgin Coconut Oil at Trader Joe's, I've been in love.  I use it for everything.....eye makeup remover, face lotion, body lotion, baby lotion, baby butt paste, etc. While perusing Pinterest, I discovered an awesome recipe for Coconut Sugar Scrub.  Tonight, I tried this basic recipe, but I added a couple of twists.  There are two basic ingredients:  Coconut Oil, and Sugar.  Mix two parts sugar to one part coconut oil.  I put my coconut oil in the microwave for one minute.  This made mixing much much easier.  A couple of ways to spice up this recipe is to add one or two drops of your favorite essential oils, and also add orange and lemon rinds.  Finally, pour the mixture into some cute mason jars, stick on labels, and it is ready to go.

Monday, December 17, 2012

12 Days of Crafting- Felt Monogram Gift Tag

My craft closet is filled with felt scraps from our mod felt tree.  I created felt monogram gift tags, to go along with our handmade wrapping paper.  Just use fabric glue and let your imagination go wild!  If a monogram is too difficult for your child, a mini felt collage is another great option.  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

12 Days of Crafting- Homemade Wrapping Paper

A nice way to personalize Christmas gifts is to decorate wrapping paper.  We used white Ikea paper, but butcher block paper is fine or any large sheet of paper would do.  I allowed the kids to use Dot Art Markers to stamp the paper.  Other ways to decorate wrapping paper would be to stamp it, paint it, or even just draw with markers.  The point is to have children personalize the wrapping paper.  Friends and relatives will receive a bonus piece of art with their gift.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

12 Days of Crafting: Hip Paper Weaving

An easy way to recycle left over wrapping paper, ribbon, and other materials from Christmas, is to make art out of it.  I love paper weavings, it is a great way to introduce children to the principles and elements of pattern, repetition, and texture.

From my art education experience, a target age for this project is age 8 or 9. Third or fourth graders will love exploring their materials, and will better grasp the weaving concept.  Preschoolers and Kindergarteners will need plenty of assistance and pre-preparation.

The Weaving Concept

Take some time before beginning to explain to your child how fabric is woven.  Show them a diagram of a loom where there is a warp (vertical lines) and a weft  (horizontal lines).  

To begin, gather any paper that has a pattern, text, or cool texture. I found some shiny tape, fun wrapping paper, ribbons, yarn, etc...

Use 12x12" card stock to make a paper loom.

Cut the warp lines with an Exacto knife.  *Do not let any child use an Exacto knife*

Leave the warp blank, or embellish with fun tape.  I bought patterned masking tape at the local craft store.

When finished, add a dot of hot glue on the end of each weft.  This ensures loose end will stay secure.  Finally, frame the masterpiece and hang on the wall.

Do you recycle your Christmas trimmings?  If so, share your project ideas.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12 Days of Crafting- The Mod Felt Tree

A few weeks ago, Simon and his cousin were playing with felt figures at the library.  I sensed he needed something like this here at home.  I decided to make the kids a felt tree.  I kept the shape of the tree simple and modern.  I found a pack of fun Christmas felt, and kept most of the ornaments a basic circle.  I added some dimension, by gluing smaller circles in a different pattern on top.  The felt tree resides in the laundry room, affixed to the back of our chalk board.  This simple project took me a half hour to make, and the kids simply love it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

12 Days of Crafting- Permanent Markers and Ornaments

Happy Holidays! For the next 12 days, I will share some easy Christmas crafts the kids and I have created.   A few weeks ago, I found pre-glazed ornaments at the craft store.  I  dug out multi-colored permanent markers and I let the kids go crazy.  Once the ornaments were colored, I placed the ornaments in the oven on 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  This will allowed the marker to set in place.
So anytime I need to occupy the kids, I drag out the unfinished ornaments, and they are distracted for at least a half hour.  So watch out friends and family, you will be receiving some precious artwork!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Greek Avgolemono (egg lemon) Soup

Yesterday, when my daughter came down with an ear infection, I decided to make one of my favorite soups, Greek Avgolemono (Egg Lemon) Soup.  I grew up with my mom making this every time we were sick.  This soup is also a staple dish when we go eat at local Greek restaurants.  There are a couple of variations to this recipe. One variation is with carrots and celery and thickened at the end with a bit of cornstarch. The consistency is like a velvety cream of chicken soup.  The other variation (which my mother made) is without carrots or celery and the consistency is not as creamy.  Both are yummy, but we prefer our Avgolemono Soup a more thick and creamy.  Here is the recipe I used:


8 cups of Organic Chicken Broth
4 cups of water
2 carrots
1 celery stalk
1 medium yellow onion
2 tbsp olive oil
2 bay leaves (optional)
2 garlic cloves (optional)
1 pack of chicken thighs, chicken breast,
 or chicken tenders
Cornstarch (optional)
1/2 cup arborio rice
3 eggs (room temperature)
Juice of 1.5 lemons

Coarsely chop the carrots, celery, and onion and pulse them in a Cuisinart and finely chopped into what is  called a tritto.  Next, saute the tritto in olive oil on medium heat.  Once softened, add the chicken broth and water.  Add two bay leaves and two whole garlic cloves.  (These are optional). 

Next, add your chicken pieces.  Some people choose to make their own broth using a whole chicken.  I am usually pressed for time, and it's easier to use pre-packaged chicken broth and pre-cut chicken pieces) 

Once the chicken is cooked (half hour - 45 minutes) remove the chicken, garlic cloves, and bay leaves from the pot. Once the chicken has cooled, shred with your fingers or two forks.

Next, add  four tbsp. of cornstarch.  MAKE SURE YOU MIX THE CORNSTARCH IN WARM WATER FIRST! Then add the aborio rice.  While the rice is cooking,  beat the 3 eggs in a small bowl, and add the juice of 1.5 lemons.  Keep them handy because once the rice is cooked, you have to TEMPER the eggs.  

Most people of scared of this part because no one wants scrambled eggs in the soup.  The easiest way to temper eggs,  is to spoon a bit of broth into bowl of beaten eggs and lemon.  Keep beating the eggs as you spoon bits of broth in the bowl.  Next, slowly add the TEMPERED eggs into the pot.  Keep stirring the pot as you add the eggs.  

Finally you can choose to add the shredded chicken back in the pot, or you can eat it on the side.  

This soup is amazing on a cold winter day, or when ever we are under the weather.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!  

Friday, November 30, 2012

'Tis the Season

As we begin to decorate, my heart is heavy for a friend who lost her little boy, Henry, the other day. This Holiday Season, hug your children and keep them close.  Tell those near how much they are loved.  I am thankful for God's grace and the peace he gives to His children.  

To learn more about Henry's journey or to make donations for the family:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chicago and The Dinosaurs

A Trip To The Field Museum

This weekend we played tourist in our hometown.  I had not visited the The Field Museum since, ( I honestly can't remember) probably 10 years old?  Our visiting cousins wanted to take a ride, so the kids and I joined them.  (Unfortunately, Dearest Husband had to work). Here are some highlights of our visit.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Going Native

Thanksgiving Craft- Native American Headdress

Last week the kids caught part of Pocahontas on T.V. Simon was enamored by Pocahontas' father, the Chief, and specifically his headdress.  I explained that these were the first people who lived in America, and the headdress was a special hat.  I further explained that each feather, on the headdress, was earned  for an act of bravery.  Well, my little guy must be pretty brave, because we went a little overboard with our feathers....

Here's how you can make your own Native American Headdress:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mean to Serene

My son has crossed the 3.5 year old threshold.  For those of you with kids, you know what I mean.  Let me explain, it is a developmental phase where preschoolers test EVERYTHING.  They do not have the emotional and cognitive maturity to communicate what they need in a calm and rational way.  My preschooler, chooses to whine, yell, hit, and throw tantrums.  I have been at my wits end.  This seemingly happy,  easy child has turned into, for lack of a better word, a devil!
Yesterday, I asked his Montessori teacher if a behavior chart would work.  Coming from a public school, these worked for us, but I wasn't sure if it would work for my son.  Simon's teacher suggested something even better, A Calming Jar.  Simply fill a mason jar with water, food coloring, and glitter.  The theory is, when the child is frustrated, give them the jar.  Have them watch the glitter fall to the bottom.  The visual cue, will help the child calm down.
We just made our Calming Jar this morning, so I'm hoping (with all of my digits crossed) that this will work.

Has anyone made a Calming Jar?  What other calm discipline techniques have you tried?  Let me know!!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The 30 Day TV Detox- Days 26-30

Chair Run

     Yesterday we spent an unexpected day with daddy.  When he his home, our day is usually colorful, and filled with little squeals of joy (at least from Vivi).  Daddy introduced the "office chair" to our repertoire of things to do without TV.  First, they chased the dog around the house.  I caught poor Bingo hiding on his couch, begging me to protect him. Next, they twirled around until they were dazed and confused.  Last, Dustin ran them up and down the kitchen as fast as he could.  
    I hope you enjoyed following us on this TV detox journey.  I believe this forced me to engage my children with creative thinking and we had a better flow and structure to our day.  Has this series inspired your family to limit TV?  I'd be interested in hearing about your adventures!  


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