Saturday, December 31, 2011

Paper Plate Noise Makers!

Here is a quick and easy way to create a Noise Maker for your New Years Eve festivities tonight! It really just takes a couple minutes to put together this project, and I pretty much guarantee you have everything you need. So read the instructions now and go make it before it's midnight!!

Gather two clean paper plates per noise maker and have your kids decorate each one on the bottom with markers. Molly (4) and Ben (1) were both able to do this part so it's truly for all ages! Also, I enjoyed decorating one for myself... lol

Set several dry beans, or uncooked rice or pasta (we used pasta) on a plate and cover it with the other one. Staple around the edges so the pasta (or whatever) doesn't fall out. Now shake and make some noise!!

I got this idea from my totally creative friend, Colleen, who made these over the summer with her own kids and I thought they were great! She has her own blog so check it out: See you next year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Paper Plate Santa Project

This is a project I've done with Molly (4) for three years in a row now and it's so fun to see how different she does it each year! It makes a great decoration to hang up and she always like working with lots of glue! Here's what you'll need:

Paper Plate
Red Construction Paper
White Cotton Balls
Craft Pom Poms

In the past, I've cut out a Santa hat from red construction paper for Molly, but this year I simply drew one and had her cut it out and glue it on by herself. Then I let her go to town gluing on cotton balls. I always buy a big bag from Walmart or a dollar store because we go through a lot! Have your child glue on cotton balls for Santa's beard, plus a lining on his hat and one more on the tip of the hat. Use craft pom poms or markers or whatever else you can for Santa's face.

I tape a loop of curly ribbon to the back so I can hang it up easily and be sure to put the year on the back so you can compare them from one Christmas to the next! Here is a photo of Molly's Santa plate from last year, plus her new COLORFUL one from this year! (So sorry it keeps uploading sideways!) Next year I'll start Ben on making them, too! I can't wait to have a big collection of Santa plates!

Rice Crispy Treat Wreath

Here is a super fun, yummy, EASY treat to make for any holiday party! Molly (4) and I made this for a Christmas party we went to and it was a big hit. It would also be good for family get togethers or a class party too. Or just for fun, of course!

Here's the ingredients you need for this Rice Crispy Treat Wreath:

6 cups crispy rice cereal
4 cups mini marshmallows OR 1 package of large marshmallows
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
green food coloring
chocolate candies

First, melt your butter with your marshmallows in a glass bowl in the microwave. Molly loves watching the marshmallows get big as they're cooking in there! You'll need to "nuke" them for about three minutes, stirring partway through. Then carefully mix in the cereal. Enjoy tasting the melted marshmallow. Add the vanilla extract and about 4-5 drops of food coloring, or until it reaches the shade of green you want.

Once it's all stirred together, use buttered hands to place it on your serving dish and shape it into a wreath. I'm not gonna lie - this part was fun! ;O) Finally, use some red frosting (I tinted some plain white store-bought frosting with red food coloring) to make a bow. Put the frosting in a zip lock baggie, cut a corner off, and pipe it on to make it easy. Lastly, have your kids decorate the wreath with red and green candies, like M&M's. We actually used little Hershey's Pieces which are just as delicious.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dish Towel Angels

I wanted Molly (4) to make a special gift for her preschool teachers, but I also wanted it to be something they could use and not just another nick-nack for their classroom. Together, we made Dish Towel Angels and they turned out so sweet! I hope her teachers liked them! I found this idea while I was going through old magazines and came across a December 2005 issue of Crafts'n'Things Magazine (it's one of my favorites!). Here's what you need:

1 pot holder
1 dish rag (or hand towel)
1 dish towel
Rubber Bands
Pipe Cleaners

We got all our supplies from the Dollar Tree. I knew they would have holiday dish towels and they were a lot less busy than Walmart next door! Molly picked out the designs she wanted for each teacher. We used Christmas ones, but it actually might be cooler to use non-seasonal ones so the person you're giving it to can display it for Christmas, and then undo it and use the towels for regular every-day use!

Start with your pot holder and wrap a rubber band around the middle of it to create the wings. Then, fold your dish towel accordion style, long ways. Fold it in half and wrap a rubber band around the folded edge, about 2-3 inches down to create the head. Finally, roll up your dish rag (or hand towel, like we used) long ways. Wrap rubber bands around each end, about 1 inch in to create hands.

Now you're ready to put your angel together! Use pipe cleaners to attach the arms behind and slightly below the neck, then attach the wings just above the back of the arms. Loop a rubber band around the hands to hold them together. Finally, create a pipe cleaner loop in the back for hanging... or use the loop on your pot holder if it has one!

You can finalize it by tying ribbon around the neck and hands to cover the rubber bands so it looks nicer. You can also attach something to the angel's hands like she's holding it, such as a gift card, recipe card, a cookie cutter, or a package of soup mix. We attached a wooden spoon and a gift tag to ours. Molly was so proud to give her hand-made gift to her teachers the next morning at school. I hope we can enjoy making these for years to come - I think I'll make it a traditional teacher gift with something different attached each time!

Banana Peanut Butter Chocolate Holiday Treats!

I had a craving for chocolate and bananas one afternoon, so I came up with these fun and tasty snacks for my kids: Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Ornaments and a Chocolate Peanut Butter Snowman!

First, I melted about 1/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips and mixed it together with 1/4 cup of peanut butter. (yummmm!) Then I sliced a banana and dipped each slice into my chocolate mixture. I didn't want it to be too chocolatey or sweet so I only dipped the tops and scraped off any access. Of course I covered my treats in sprinkles because who doesn't love sprinkles!?

I stuck a toothpick in individual slices along one side, so those are the ornaments. The toothpicks also make them easy to eat without making a big mess! I used toothpicks to hold together three different-sized slices to shape my snowman and then decorated him with white chocolate chips. This was such an easy snack to make - Molly (4) could have done it if she'd wanted to, and Ben (1) loved waking up from his nap to this yummy treat!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Glitter Tree Decoration

Here's a quick and fun project for your kids - and the result is a professional looking decoration!

Start with a foam cone. I found mine at the Dollar Tree (score!). Lay out some newspapers or an old table cloth and have your child paint the whole thing green. I had Molly (4) use a foam brush and it worked out great - didn't take so long that she lost interest! I really liked just getting out one color of paint and cleaning just one brush!

While the paint is still wet, sprinkle it all over with glitter. Do this over a sheet of paper or a paper plate so you can save any extra glitter that spills! We made a single tree that's about 6 inches tall and I love it! If your child has the attention span for it, create a whole forest of these wonderful sparkly trees to display!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Recycled Christmas Card Ornaments

I hate to throw away any Christmas card I get, but only a few special ones really need to be saved. I love to find uses for rest of them! Here are two more ornament ideas to reuse your old Christmas cards:

Dig through your pile and find some cards with cute or pretty designs on the front and cut out that design. It's best to use a regular shape like a circle, oval, square, or rectangle around the design. This was a great exercise in shapes and cutting for my daughter, Molly (4). Now you have the option of gluing a second design on the back in the same shape, or a piece of colorful scrapbook paper or construction paper instead. If you use paper as opposed to another card, you can add your own message or your child's name and the year.

Draw a line of glue all the way around your shape, preferably along the very edge. Sprinkle on some glitter and shake off. Let this dry and then attach a string to the top! Try using old-fashioned looking Christmas cards and some course silver glitter for an antique look! We also started using glitter to decorate the designs themselves, like adding decorations on a Christmas tree.

While we were working on these, Molly came up with a wonderful idea: to use the old cards as frames!! She cut out a frame from a metallic card and used it to frame a picture of a kitten she cut out from another card! Right now her creation is taped up on my living room wall, but meanwhile I took her idea and applied it to real pictures! I found some old Christmas cards with frames on the front: the kind you can see through to the image on the inside of the card. I cut them out and taped my photos to the back. Then I added glitter like normal and included the year and my kids' names. I was so happy with them and couldn't believe it was all Molly's idea!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Wrapping Paper Game!

Wrapping presents with Molly (4) has been so much fun this year! The wrapping paper I bought has a grid printed on the back side which is so nice for Molly to practice cutting on. After I measure the size of sheet we need, I start cutting on one side and Molly starts cutting with her little scissors on the other side until we meet in the middle. She's also really good about putting on the tape just right. I love having my little helper; someone to take over my childhood job as "tape lady".

In the past, Molly happily crumpled and ripped the paper, hiding under it and stepping on it.... much like Ben (1) is doing as my other little helper this year! Ben's addition to the tasks however is pulling out lots and lots of tape!

After we finished wrapping, we talked about how you're supposed to say thank you and act gracious and happy when you receive a gift - no matter what it might be! Later, we played the "Wrapping Paper Game" to emphasize the lesson:

I wrapped a piece of candy for each of my kids... in about 15 layers of different wrapping paper! (This is a great way to use up those extra scraps!) As they unwrapped each layer, I had Molly AND Ben say "thank you!" and had Molly act excited about her pretend gift. At the end, they each got to enjoy some candy but the real gift is *hopefully* their smiles and thank you's as they open that classic sweater with one sleeve longer than the other from their great aunt that everyone can relate to!

Other variations of this game include wrapping up several different objects (in just one layer each). Objects should be plain things from around the house, or toys the child already has played with. It takes a real actor to be thankful for an old toothbrush or your own socks! Also, you could start with the one present in many layers - and toss it back and forth between two siblings or yourself and your child. Each player unwraps a layer on their turn and goes through the gracious thank you's and such.

A version you can play at parties with several kids is like musical chairs: wrap a prize in several layers of paper and pass it around the circle of friends while music plays. When the music stops, whoever is holding the present unwraps one layer. Play continues until all the layers have been revealed and the final person to unwrap the prize gets to keep it. If you have enough time, that person should be out and then you start another round with a new present until each player gets a prize! Just stock up on that tape!!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Two Festive Winter Breakfast Ideas

Here are two fun and festive winter breakfast ideas for your kids! These are so quick and easy to make - it only takes a moment to make your morning special!

First, start the day with a little bit of whimsy and make snowmen pancakes! Pour three circles of pancake batter on your griddle each bigger than the one before it, close enough so they'll join together as they cook. I used chocolate chips to make eyes and buttons on mine, but you can also use raisins, cereal, or pieces of fruit for that. I added my chocolate chips while they were cooking. I reckon you could take it a step further and make a hat and scarf and arms for your pancake snowman with bacon, fruit or cereal. I made mine on the spur of the moment but this breakfast can be served all winter!

A second breakfast idea is snowflake cinnamon rolls! I used prepacked cinnamon rolls and baked 'em one morning just like normal. The frosting is the fun part: draw snowflakes on each roll! Remember that snowflakes have six sides and that no two are the same, so don't be afraid to get creative. Before the frosting hardens, you can even sprinkle them with white sugar sprinkles or add on red hots or those big teeth-breaking silver balls. I wish I had thought about the sugar sprinkles and red hots when I made them! Oh well, we always have cinnamon rolls for breakfast on Christmas morning before we open presents so I'll be prepared this year to make them extra special!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Card Ball Ornaments

Here is one of my very favorite projects ever!! I originally read about these in a special issue Martha Stuart Holiday Handmade Gifts Magazine from 2006. These make great gifts, great decorations, and they're a great way to re-purpose your old Christmas cards!

Start by cutting circles out of old Christmas cards, about 1 1/4 inch in diameter. I actually have a large hole punch so it was pretty quick work, but in the past I've cut them out by hand and it's not so bad! You can also make really big ones by tracing around a glass to make your circles. Each ornament has 20 sides so you'll need 20 circles. That equals about two cards, unless you really mix it up and use lots of different designs.

Next, use your scissors to score an equilateral triangle into the back of each circle, with corners touching along the circumference. Fold the edges up on the front.

Now you're ready to build the ball! Start by gluing two circles together, points touching. Glue a total of five like this to create to the top - all tips touching in the center point like a star. Then glue five more together that will be the bottom. Just use regular glue but you'll need to hold each connection for a few seconds to be sure it stays put!

Next, glue 10 more circles together - side to side - with the tips alternating up and down. Connect them like a ring because this will be the middle.

Finally, glue your top and bottom to the middle. You can use a needle and thread to make a loop in it for hanging... or use a hole punch and add ribbon or yarn. I actually don't have a regular size hold punch. What's up with that??

Anyway, when when your Christmas Card Ornaments are dry, they will be so sturdy and last for years! You can hang them on your tree, tie them onto wrapped gifts, toss them around with your kids, or display several of them in a large vase or bowl. Try making themed ones by cutting out circles from only cards with trees or snowmen... or coordinate colors... or just use colored card stock if you want! I love these!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Paper and Felt Stocking Craft

Today our calendar said to make a stocking! Ben (1) got to decorate one I cut out of construction paper. He used washable markers and stickers. Then he colored on the stickers! I taped a piece of tinsel along the top for extra pizazz.

Molly (4) got to "sew" her own stocking. I bought a kit from Target for $2 but you can make your own with two sheets of felt and some yarn. I knotted one end for her so it wouldn't pull through and she stitched it all the way around! I wrapped the end of her yarn with some tape so it wouldn't unravel as she sewed. Then I let her decorate it with fabric markers and she glued on some cotton balls. She even drew Santa and his sleigh and glued on a piece of cotton ball for Santa's beard!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Collage Letter to Santa

Writing a letter to Santa is a big deal... but what if your kids can't write yet? I had Molly (4) look through several catalogs and cut out pictures of what she wanted. She also cut out pictures of toys she thought her little brother, Ben (1), would like too! Then she used a glue stick to create a collage of her list. I also had her draw a picture of some things she wanted for Santa and I was so delighted to see she drew an ornament with a picture of herself on it... so Santa will bring me one! Luckily I've already ordered one from so she won't be disappointed. Meanwhile, Ben (1) drew a wonderful picture with green and red washable markers!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cupcake Wrapper Holiday Wreath

I can't believe it's already into December already!! We have our Christmas Countdown Calendar up - my mom made it for me a long time ago and it's one of my favorite traditions from my childhood! Each day has a different activity to do - some days have something specific like the 19th when we'll go see the Nutcracker (!!!) and some days have open-ended ideas like make a special craft or open a small gift. Some of my favorites every year are to drive around looking at Christmas lights and of course to visit Santa.

Meanwhile... one project we've made so far is a Cupcake Wrapper Wreath!! This was a project I found in the November 2010 issue of Family Fun Magazine and I've been waiting to make one. Here's what you'll need:

Paper Plate
Cupcake Wrappers
Mini Cupcake Wrappers or Construction Paper

First, cut out a circle from your paper plate. I just folded it in half and cut out a half circle to make it easy. We flattened out some green cupcake wrappers and Molly (4) glued them around the paper plate ring, overlapping them so no white showed through. The magazine used those silver foil ones so that would look cool too! Next, glue on some red flowers. You can make some out of mini cupcake wrappers, by folding them into thirds and cutting a triangle into the outer edge - when you unfold it you have a pointy flower! I actually have a really cool electric cutter so I used that to cut some flowers and circles (and "Joy") for Molly to glue on. Even before it was dry I taped on a loop of ribbon to the back and we hung it up right away!

This was fun, EASY, and festive! You can make one in colors for any holiday too so
it's not just for Christmas.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Turkey Cookies!!

Here is a fun Thanksgiving dessert for kids to make AND eat! This is the second year I made these and they are fun and cute and delicious and EASY! Turkey Cookies!!
This year I made two dozen refrigerator sugar cookies just bought from the store. Feel free to make your own... or see my picture below from last year for a slightly different variation. Bake the cookies as directed and let them cool. Spread some frosting onto one cookie and add another cookie on top to make a sandwich. We made some of ours with vanilla frosting and some with chocolate frosting!

Next, use some fresh candy corn and poke four in a row to make the tail feathers. The frosting will hold them in as they dry! Then I added a smudge of vanilla frosting for the face. Molly (4) had her special job of sticking on two chocolate chips for the eyes, a candy corn for the beak, and a red hot candy for the waddle. You can also use colored M&Ms for the face, like I did last year - it just depends on what you have on hand! For the beaks, I like to dig through and find candy corn pieces without any white on them. Another option is to just dip each piece into frosting so you don’t have extra frosting showing; I just thought it would be easier for Molly if I spread it first.
Last year I made these turkey cookies for Molly’s preschool Thanksgiving party. Instead of making my own cookies and frosting, I just used vanilla Oreo Cakesters. It was the easiest thing in the world to stick on a few candy corns and bam! Cutie Turkey Treat!
(Here's a picture of last year's. They looked a little cleaner because I didn't spread frosting for the face; used Oreo Cakesters; and made them myself instead of having my little helper!)
P.S. This year I am thankful for my schedule allowing me to be with my kids almost all day everyday. I am thankful for this blog for keeping me busy with my kids most of those days and most of all, I am thankful for my amazing kids!!!!Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chalk Outline Pictures - Fall Leaves!

Molly(4) had a little friend over today so I wanted to try a quick and simple art project! I found this one in an AWESOME library book around Halloween time, called Fun-To-Make Crafts for Halloween by Tom Daning. There were so many great ideas in this book, and many of them good not just for Halloween! The one we did today was originally supposed to be ghosts but I made it leaves instead so it would be appropriate for Fall.

First, I cut out some leaf shapes from a paper grocery sack (the book called for poster board but I used what I had, in my usual fashion!). I just drew mine out and cut them, but one fun idea to extend this project in warmer weather is to gather some leaves from a nature walk or your neighborhood and trace them on your paper to cut them out! Next, I had the kids draw on the leaf shapes with chalk and try to fill the whole thing up. You kinda need to use a lot of chalk for this.Finally, place the shapes on plain paper (we used white but this would look really cool on black construction paper!) and hold them in place!! Use a wadded up paper towel and rub from the center of your shape out onto your paper. When you've gone all around your shape, lift it up and what's left is a neat outline!

To keep the chalk from rubbing off when you're done, lightly spray it with hair spray. It dries super fast.

Reasons this project was so fun for the kids: they get to wad up a paper towel; they get to scribble hard all over the shapes; and I also let them tear up the paper we used as a table protector afterward! ;O) My son, Ben (1) got to participate in this project quite a bit, too! Although he mainly chose to take the chalk out of the container.... and put it back in.... then tear up the paper. LOL!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

[not too] Messy Activities for Kids

I am not afraid of making a mess. I admit I'm pretty messy myself and always have been. You just have to be prepared to clean up a bit. Well, sometimes a lot. But for me, the time I get and the fun my kids have is WORTH the time and energy to clean up after them! Here are a couple messy projects I let my kids do that I think are not really that messy, but my kids think they're great!

About once a month or so, we bust out the markers and COLOR ON THE WINDOWS! I have two great picture windows in my living room and they are always decorated with holiday or seasonal pictures drawn by my favorite artists: my kids! You can buy special Window Markers by Crayola but we also just use our regular markers because they wash off so easy! This is a fun project for both my kids - ages 1 and 4. The best part? My 4-year old loves to help me clean the window afterward! NOTE: neither of my kids try to write on the walls after the windows so don't be afraid of trying this!

Another fun and messy activity I love is mostly for my one-year old. I give him a large plastic container of uncooked rice to dig in! He digs with a couple plastic mixing spoons and loves to transfer rice from the big container to smaller ones. Ben has always been good about not trying to eat things - never tried to put sand or dirt in his mouth, so he knows the rice is for playing with and not eating! You might want to wait until your child is closer to 18 months to try this if they are more likely to put things in their mouth though. Also, set down a plastic tablecloth beforehand so it catches the loose rice. Afterward its easy to fold the tablecloth in half and dump the rice back into your container or just in the trash. This is a great activity for the kitchen while you're trying to cook dinner!!

Finally, the messiest activity is making "potions" or fake cooking! I set out the same tablecloth and give each of my kids a big plastic bowl filled with some flour. They each get a spoon and I set out a variety of old cooking spices in plastic jars. Parsley is our favorite because it's so visible! I let them sprinkle and mix to their little heart's content. Ben likes an extra little bowl so he can transfer his concoction just like the rice. Molly makes potions and will even make up stories about what they'll do if you eat them, like turn you into a frog!! Same with the rice, just fold the tablecloth and dump the spilled ingredients into the trash. This is a great activity for the kitchen during your meal prep too!

Turkey Napkin Holder

We all have empty toilet paper rolls - and if you don't have one now, then you'll have one in a day or two! Here's a little something to make with them for Thanksgiving with your kids - napkin holders!

This is a project we made last year and have saved to re-use again this Thanksgiving. First cut your tp rolls into smaller pieces - one roll can probably make three napkin rings. We painted ours brown, but you can skip this step if you want. Next we painted some craft sticks with fall colors. I cut them myself and Molly (4) glued them onto the tp turkey as a tail in back, and a neck and head in front. Add two little eyes and some red pipe cleaner (or marker or paper) for a waddle. I hot-glued ours on for good measure.

Now you have a cute and special napkin holder! Make one for everyone at your Thanksgiving table and you can also write their names on the turkey as a place card too. Hopefully talking about your toilet paper roll turkey is the only "potty talk" at your big family dinner this year!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Candy Centerpiece

Did your child get too many suckers for Halloween? Or maybe there's suckers on clearance that you can grab. Either way, ignore your sweet tooth and use those suckers for this super fun, kid-friendly project!!

Here's what you need:
Lots of suckers!!! I bought mine from Dollar Tree. I got five bags with 33 pops in each bag. Little ones like "Dum Dums" probably will work the best. We used about 140 total.
A 9" foam ring, like for floral projects. I found mine at Dollar Tree also (score!)

My job was to cut the sticks so they were about 2-3 inches long. Molly's job (age: 4) was to poke them into the foam ring and create a masterpiece! Keep the suckers close together so there's no gaps in color. We kept the wrappers on because I thought the clear cellophane looked cute with the colors showing through. You don't have to keep them on though - but if you do take them off, spray the final product with a few coats of lacquer so it will last.

Our foam ring actually broke at one point, so I just hot glued it back together. You might want to find a thicker one from a real store. LOL! After all the suckers were in, I gently pulled on each one to make sure they were snug. A few were loose because they had bigger holes, so I put a dab of hot glue on those sticks and pressed them back in. Voila! A beautiful centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table!

This project was inspired by a wreath craft I found in the October 2011 issue of Taste Of Home Magazine. They hot glued all the candy on their wreath, but I wanted ours to be kid-friendly. I also think ours was too heavy to be a wreath so we modified it that way, too. ;O)

Thanksgiving Tree Topper - Party Cup Turkey!

Yes, we have a holiday tree in my house year 'round! We decorate it for each holiday - just about something new every month. For November it's covered in lots of gourds and one turkey made out of jingle bells. What our tree was lacking though, was a tree topper! I came up with this cute and easy craft for my daughter (4) to make and add to the top of our tree. Of course, you don't have to have a holiday tree to make this one - your paper cup turkey can rest anywhere!

Here's what you need:
Party Cup (we used a clear one, but yours could be any color - especially brown would be nice!)
Construction paper - white like we used or different colors
Googly Eyes

First, I drew templates on construction paper for my daughter to color and cut out. I used all white paper but you can certainly use colored construction paper to take away one of the steps. I drew several feathers in two different sizes, a waddle, two wings, two feet, and a diamond to fold in half and become the 3D beak. At first Molly cut out the feathers by herself, but after a while I took over when her hands got tired.

Next we glued all the pieces onto our cup, being careful to place the feathers on so the color showed in the front! We happened to have sticky googly eyes so that was a fun touch, but you could glue on paper ones too. Finally, since all I had was a clear plastic cup to use, we stuffed the inside with a piece of wadded-up brown paper bag. Otherwise, you could use a brown cup, color your cup brown, or cover your cup with brown construction paper.

Our Party Cup Turkey sits atop our holiday tree, but yours could sit on the edge of a shelf with his little legs dangling over!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

FUN and DONE! Quickie Thanksgiving activities

Today can be a collection of small things we've done at our house the past few days! Nothing big, but enough to mention I hope. :O)

As we put away our Halloween decorations, we discovered there's not a lot of Thanksgiving decor around the house. My daughter (4) put it upon herself to draw a WONDERFUL turkey that she cut out to hang up in our bathroom. I LOVE IT!

The next day, she was drawing pumpkins and all of a sudden traced her hand and made a turkey out of that!! I was so amazed that she remembered that project from when we made them LAST year!! We also made a mini one with Ben's hand (age: 1). Please use Washable Markers so they're easy to clean off! Here's what you do (so easy!) Trace your hand. Connect it at the bottom where your wrist would be. Color each finger a different color if you'd like to make feathers. Draw a beak, eyes, and gobble (that red thing!) on the thumb for your turkey's head. Then add legs at the bottom. Fun and done!

Today, we decorated our Holiday Tree -- a mini fake Christmas Tree I keep up in my house all year around that we decorate for each holiday. For November and Thanksgiving, we decorated it with little gourds I bought years ago at a store like Michael's. I also have some small pumpkins that were given to me from a friend and some neat gourd garland from a garage sale. In other words - just shop around for whatever will fit on your tree!

Here's an idea we'll use for next year: remember our Thankful Countdown Calendar? Each day we've each been adding one new thing we're thankful for on a strip of colored paper. I plan to keep those and hang them on the tree by punching holes in them and tying on ribbon. Too impatient to wait for next year? Write what you're thankful for on strips of ribbons you can tie on to branches of your own tree. OR you could draw pictures of what you're thankful for, or cut them from magazines like we did the other day, and attach those to your tree with ribbons too!

Also, we came up with the perfect post-Halloween snack: s'mores! I'm a mega fan of s'mores, in case you didn't already know... so why not make them out of leftover Halloween candy?? We made ours out of a mini Hershey Bar, but Hershey Kisses, Crunch Bars, KitKats, or anything chocolate will work! YUM! Build your s'more, minus the top graham cracker, on a cookie sheet covered with foil. Broil on low for about 2-3 minutes. Squish on the top layer and let cool. Enjoy!

Maybe the best part of today's blog? My new catchphrase I came up with: FUN and DONE!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thanksgiving Tray

Yesterday, Molly (4) and I looked through some old magazines and cut out pictures of things we were thankful for. We cut out some fun items and some meaningful ones, like a picture of a clock for time spent with family; a picture of a fan because I'm thankful for our new air conditioner and heater; and a picture of the beach because I'm thankful for our trip to Myrtle Beach this summer! I also was sure to cut out a few pictures for Ben (1) including a toy truck, toy train, and a picture of his toddler formula because I'm sure he's thankful for his "baba!" Molly mainly cut out pictures of animals that she liked, and I thought it was so smart that she cut out the captions too so we'd remember what they were - like a crowned lemur!

Molly decided that was enough work for one day, so we put it aside to finish later. Really it didn't take too long at all so you could easily finish it all in one day. Or take a break to play like we did and make it a two day project!

The next day, I cleaned up an old wooden tv tray whose legs had broken off and used it for our canvas. Molly liked painting it with decoupage glue and then helped me arrange our pictures into a collage on the tray. We used Aleene's Instant Decoupage, which is a water based glue, sealer, and finish - ours was a matte finish. After the collage was set, I painted over it again with the decoupage to seal it, which actually dried really super fast!

Even though our tray features a giant snake for no apparent reason, I love our special Thanksgiving Tray! I'm so proud to have something that Molly and I worked on together that we can now use every year at Thanksgiving - and we re-purposed something old instead of just throwing it away!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Counting Down to Thanksgiving

As you know, I always do a countdown calendar each year to Halloween and then Christmas, with a special activity or recipe planned for each day. I'd like to count down to Thanksgiving, but have always thought another calendar like my others would be too redundant. Happily, this year my friend gave me a great idea for a countdown to Thanksgiving!

Basically, everyday of November up until Thanksgiving, each person in your family writes down one thing they are thankful for and adds it to a pocket in the calendar! My friend made a homemade calendar to use that is so cute! You can read about hers on her blog:

Life Sprinkled With Glitter

I decided to use a pre-existing countdown calendar that my mom made for me a few years ago. It has an animal theme so we use it for any countdown we want, like birthdays and the first day of school. Ours has thirty pockets, so we just used some number stickers to label the ones we needed. This was a fun counting activity with my daughter, Molly (4). On the 24th pocket, we put a turkey sticker, and I let her decorate the top with more Thanksgiving themed stickers.

We cut construction paper into skinny strips, and chose a different color for each family member. My daughter loves using her scissors so I drew 23 lines on her paper for her to cut. Later, she decided to make hers into confetti so I just made a new set for her! We did a color for myself, Molly (4), Ben (1), and Daddy. Now each day we write down one thing we are thankful for and add it to our calendar. On Thanksgiving, we'll be able to read off everything we're thankful for! (I just choose things for Ben, such as his bottle and not being sick anymore!) THANK YOU, COLLEEN for such a great idea!!

Oh! Remember the confetti that Molly cut out? After having a mini celebration, and then making it snow in our living room, she used them like mosaics and made a picture!! I had to snap a picture and share it because I was so proud that my little 4-year old came up with such a great activity!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Spider Games!

As you can tell from my previous post, I used spider rings quite a bit for my 4 year old daughter's spider-themed Halloween party. Luckily I found packs of 100 for sale at Walmart for just $1.89. Each pack included black, orange, green, and purple spiders. Once all the black spiders were used inside for treats and decor, I hid all the brightly colored ones out in the backyard before the party guests arrived. Literally 150 spiders. During the party, I had the children decorate lunch sacks with Halloween stickers and then use them to collect all the spiders they could find. Spider rings were actually really fun to hide because they could wrap around so many things, like the leg of a patio chair or our chain link fence.

Another spider game we played inside was one that I came up with myself, after bouncing some ideas off of my friend and my dad. The day before the party, I taped a huge spider web on my living room floor - the size of the living room! At first I tried white electrical tape but it was too stretchy and didn't stick very well so I ended up using strapping tape, and then a bit of plain scotch tape when I ran out. For party favors, I had bought large inflatable spiders for each guest at the Dollar Tree and had them all ready to go. Only one spider had a red monster sticker on the bottom that I put on before the party, but I didn't tell the kids which one! Everyone stood off of the web and closed their eyes as I scattered the spiders all around the giant web. When I said "Go", they all ran onto the web and placed their hand on a spider. When I counted to 3, they flipped their spider over to see who had the red monster sticker. Whoever had it got to keep a plain spider for themselves, but were out of the game. Then the game continued with one less player and one less spider for each round, until only one child was left!

Pulling up all the tape after the party was fun for Molly and her little brother, Ben (1) so I loved having the clean-up help! I put all the tape into a big ball and now, days later, Ben is still playing with it!

**The friend that helped me come up with my spider game also has a blog! Check it out:!

Halloween Snacks with Spiders!

Every year since my daughter Molly(4) was born, I've had a Halloween Party for her. The first year she was only seven months but I wanted it to be an annual thing so we started out with a "Mummy and Me Party" and made it mostly for the moms. Every year has had a different theme, including "Little Monsters" and "Candy Corn - Yum!" When planning any party, it is so much easier to pull everything together when you have a central theme!

This year's theme was chosen by the hostess herself (Molly!) which was spiders. Just like me, Molly is totally into spooky things and loves Halloween, so I was only a little surprised when she requested such a creepy theme. I was more surprised when she requested a fake spider web right above her bed!!

We had fun decorating the house with fake spider webs and spiders everywhere! My favorite places are in the bathroom where we covered all of the mirrors, and a complete wall in the living room which I used as a backdrop for photos at the party. Mostly I use existing anchors to create the webs, including picture frames, nails and furniture. Whenever I needed a little extra something, though, I just used a clear thumb tack and tried to stick it in an inconspicuous spot or a smaller hole that was already in the wall. Since most packs of fake spider webs don't come with enough spiders, we used black spider rings and I just snipped off the ring part with scissors. Molly did a great job putting on the spiders; for the highest ones she simply tossed them up and they stuck!

As a special spidery treat we made spider cookies! We started with layered chocolate cookies, such as Oreos and twisted them apart. I added extra chocolate frosting on one side, as Molly pressed on four strips of licorice (we used Twizzlers Pull & Peel). When the licorice hangs over each side, it becomes eight spider legs! I replaced the top part of the cookie, then attached two candies, like M&M's, with white frosting for eyes. This was such a fun project to make and delicious to eat!

We also had a second cookie at the party: my mom's famous sugar cookies in the shape of spider webs! She happens to have a spider web cookie cutter... I think between the two of us we literally have at least 250 cookie cutters! She frosted each cookie black so Molly and I could pipe on some spider webs (and other designs, thanks to Molly's creativity) with sparkly frosting I found in the baking aisle at Walmart. The tubes of sparkly frosting didn't last very long - one tube frosted only six cookies - so I'd recommend buying a couple packs. The sparkle was worth the price, though - about $2.80 for a pack of 4.

For a salty snack I served tortilla chips and homemade guacamole. I put the guacamole in a large orange bowl and piped on sour cream in the shape of a large spider web to keep with our theme. To pipe on the sour cream, simply spoon some into a plastic baggie and snip a corner off to act as a pastry bag.

Finally, I served a very simple yet yummy punch which consisted of green Hawaiian Punch mixed with Sprite. I sprinkled some black spider rings in the punch bowl for effect and also had made ice cubes with spider rings inside of them! Making those ice cubes was a very fun and easy project to do with Molly a couple days before the party.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Spooky FAST meal ideas

I keep having the master plan to make one big, scary meal for dinner one night where everything has a spooky theme. Well, that master plan has yet to fall into place, so in the meantime I decided to do a little hint of spooky whenever I could manage. Isn't that how things usually go, though? For me, at least! LOL I'm always throwing something together at the last minute... and you know what? That's just fine, too.

One night, I think I served sloppy joes ("slop sloppy joes...") and decided to make some instant mashed potatoes to go along with them. Last minute, I remembered something I read in a small Halloween Cookbook from several years ago and I made spooky mashed potato snakes!! I mixed in about eight drops of lime green food coloring (or you could use maybe 6 drops of green and 6 of yellow to get a good shade of green) and spooned my prepared mashed potatoes into a plastic baggie. I snipped the corner with scissors, about 3/4 of an inch, and piped it onto my kids' plates in the shapes of snakes! I made the heads a bit larger and added some cut-up green olives for eyes. If you pull the pimento out of the olives, it's actually like a V shape so it was perfect for a snake's forked tongue! Molly (4) got a big kick out of this meal, but little Ben (1) hesitated to eat it: we joked that he thought it was "real" snake!

Another night I made Mummy Pizzas ~ They were so quick, so easy, and so delicious. I got this recipe from a recent issue of Family Fun Magazine. The actual recipe called for italian bread but I chose a fresh loaf of french bread instead. I cut the loaf into 8 pieces and laid them out on a foil-lined pan, then toasted them for 2 minutes in the oven on low broil. I topped each piece of bread with some pizza sauce (from a jar...) then cut some slices of mozzarella cheese into strips and laid them across each pizza like the strips of cloth on a mummy! For eyes I used some sliced black olives. They look really cool when you overlap a little cheese over them too. Broil your pizzas for about 3 minutes and your Halloween meal is ready.

I was so impressed at the speed of the meal... not only how fast it was to make it but also how quickly it disappeared off my family's plates!! I may not make mummies unless it's October, but I will definitely be adding french bread pizzas to my repertoire of meals.

Easy Outdoor Halloween Decorations

One day while just playing outside, my daughter and I decided to begin decorating outside for Halloween. I didn't have any real decorations with me so we had to improvise. Here's what we came up with!

First of all, anyone who knows me knows I freaking love sidewalk chalk. So naturally we were already outside with chalk and were taking turns drawing Halloween things and having the other person guess what they were. Our driveway was filled with ghosts, witches, Frankensteins, and more. Then I got the idea to draw spooky eyes on the dark bricks of our house. This was easy for Molly (4) to draw herself and they won't wash away in the rain because they're right under the roof!

Next, I grabbed my rake and made a small pile of leaves for Molly and Ben (1) to land in at the foot of their slide. I hurried and grabbed a couple large yellow trash bags and filled those with some leaves (a quick task in my yard because I have a TON of leaves). When they were filled, we used permanent markers to draw faces on them and set them out as decoration.

These decorations were so easy and fun... and now my house is a little more festive outside! My favorite part, though, was pretending with Molly that we were on a walk and saw all these spooky things! We held hands and pretended to scream and run away, only to be scared by the witches and monsters we'd drawn earlier with chalk. What a fun day!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

It's A Great Pumpkin Patch, Charlie Brown!

Saturday we went to pick our own pumpkins at a local pumpkin patch! It was in our plans so when Molly (4) pulled it from our countdown calendar she wasn't surprised... but she was happy! The past several years we've visited the KC Pumpkin Patch in Gardner, KS. It has been very fun, but also very expensive. They boast fifty activities, such as big slides, duck races, mini petting zoo, giant jumping pillow (which is actually really cool), and two different kinds of train rides. Plus apple cider slushies. However, it costs $10 per person... including anyone over age 3, and pumpkins are charged by weight, so we opted for a cheaper version this year.

We got back to the basics of pumpkin picking and chose to visit the Powell Pumpkin Patch in Louisburg, KS. Entry is free and pumpkins are priced by size. None of ours (even our biggest) cost over $5. They offer free hay rides out into the pumpkin patch. It had a very personable feel... your wagon would drop you off in the field then wait to give you all a ride back with your pumpkin(s) of choice. Out in the fields, we set Ben (1) on a pumpkin for a cute photo op, and then he started sitting on all the pumpkins! Needless to say, we got several cute shots on our visit. I love that it wasn't crowded at all!!
Powell Pumpkin Patch also has a corn maze, which costs just $4 per adult; kids 6 and under are free. There was a series of letters and Kansas trivia hidden in the maze for you to find and decode. Our kids were too young for that, but enjoyed taking turns leading the way and Ben just liked picking up and throwing the dirt. Just outside the maze was a great hay playground for kids. They had a hay maze and giant hay piles to climb on, a tunnel to crawl through, and a slide to go down. There is also a big, clean sand box filled with great trucks and diggers.

We all had a great time and I'd highly recommend this pumpkin patch! Keep in mind, however, that they only serve some candy and canned drinks because it's basically a little "pumpkin shack" out in a field! Nothing fancy, but that's part of why we liked it so much!

For more information on either pumpkin patch mentioned in this blog, please visit:

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Easy Halloween Lunch Ideas!

I took a personal break on the fifth day of our Halloween Countdown, and sneaked a little surprise into the pocket that day. It was easy for me and fun for the kids: a win-win situation! I picked up a few little things from Target and Walmart just for this purpose. This time they each got a little plastic skeleton, sold from Target in a pack of two for just $1.

The next day our note said to have a spooky Halloween lunch. I made the kids some Halloween shapes Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (5 for $5 at Target) which was really cute. It has jack-o-lanterns, bats, and ghosts in it. I also made some hot dog monsters... so easy. I sliced a hot dog to have eight tentacles and added eyes and a nose using a dab of mustard. This idea is also great for summer because it can be an octopus! I'm pretty sure I saw this in a magazine once and just stashed it in the back of my head for another day... probably a Parents or a Parenting: the Early Years magazine.

Here's a second spooky lunch idea that we had one day just for fun! I took grilled cheese sandwiches and cut out pumpkin faces in one slice of bread before cooking to make a jack-o-lantern. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the cheese did NOT seep through the holes and make a mess on my skillet! Secondly, I served tomato soup and piped some concentric circles onto it with sour cream using a sandwich bag. Again I was happy to find it didn't sink! Then I dragged a toothpick through it to create a spider web. Yummy and yucky at the same time - Halloween success!