Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve

Not only did we spend our big night out for the year with Melissa and Tim, we get to ring in the new year with them too! And we could use an excuse to get out and live it up, we spent most of today moving around furniture, sorting through toys and books, and organizing. I exercised on the elliptical so I am free to indulge a bit, and ER took a nice long nap!
Their basement has been finished and Brad calls it the Ultimate Man Cave. It's quite a lot of fun and a great place for a party with several video game machines, a jukebox, popcorn machine, big screen tv, and bar. ER really liked the popcorn machine a lot and playing the video game machine that had a touch screen. It took her a little bit to figure out how to blow the party blower, but once she got going she didn't want to stop! Note Brad's hand in the top picture, that's how he reacted when I told him to make sure she doesn't fall of the stool when blowing into the party blower, what a big help! Our hostess, Melissa is above with our friend Sara holding her baby. What happens when a bunch of couples in their late-twenties to early thirties get together? G rated fun with the kids on New Year's Eve! We almost made it to midnight, but ended up ringing in the New Year on the car ride home; the fireworks off in the distance made it festive!

Our Big Night November

My very good friend Margaret and her husband Eric are heading out to a big shindig tonight for New Year's Eve, complete with a fancy dress, sparkly jewelry, high heels, and no children! It's a fun night out on the town as a couple; for awhile I was feeling a bit jealous, because even though my husband Brad and I would probably spend most of the night talking about ER, it would be nice to have just us time. Then I stopped my pity party and remembered I had quite the big night out, and it was only last month when I was a bridesmaid in my dear friend Melissa's wedding. I wore a lovely chocolate brown silk "princess" dress, at least according to my two year old, had on glittery jewelry, the highest heels I've ever owned, and enjoyed a big splurge...getting my hair and make-up professionally done for the first time. I didn't even get my make up done for my own wedding!
New Year's Eve comes along every year, but only once do I get to participate and witness my friend since high school marrying the man of her dreams. Plus I got to dance with my husband, here are some pictures from the our REAL big night out this year! As ER would describe it, me getting all "fancy", as my make-up is airbrushed on. I highly reccommend it, that makeup stayed put all day. Even the lipstick was on at the end of the evening. My friend Sara, the beautiful bride Melissa, and me all in our wedding finery. Tim and Melissa, now Mr. and Mrs. on our way to the wedding reception. And what a lovely reception we went to, weddings take so much effort and planning; Melissa did a wonderful job. I loved the wrapped chairs and the cake was stunning. It was truely a memorable evening! To help Melissa and Tim remember their big day, I made a sprial bound photo book from Snapfish of the all my photos from the various wedding events: shower, bachelorette party, etc. Melissa really likes it and it only took me a few minutes to make online.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Celebrating Babies

Today has been the first day that we stayed at home since Christmas. It has been a whirlwind of events: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, the day after family visit, Karen's baby shower, and a baby baptism...whew! I had planned on picking up, cleaning, organizing, running errands, but in reality we all just needed a breather today. So we didn't go anywhere at all! My Godbrother Matt and his wife Karen, our former "neighbors" (they live in CO and we used to live in NM both right off of I25 albeit five hours or so apart but that's close when the rest of the family is in MI), were in MI over the Christmas holiday. Their first baby, a little boy, is due in March. I was praying that there wouldn't be an ice storm or snow on the day of their shower, and while there was a lot of fog that wasn't enough to keep me home! It was so nice to see them, it's been about a year and a half. Karen gave me a big bear hug and threatened my mom that she was going to kidnap me back to CO because she misses me so much. ER's first road trip was actually to their house, and the running joke is that she was conceived in CO too. I am 100 percent sure that's not the case, but it makes for a much more interesting story to say she was:) I always wanted little girls with all the pink and frilly stuff that involves, but I have to admit it was a lot of fun shopping for their little baby boy. The bedding is a ship's ahoy theme with a pirate ship, an island with a palm tree, a whale, and a monkey. It's so adorable, and they've already begun the cuddly monkey collection to go along with it. All the snugly baby clothing...some of which had little bear ears attached to the hoods were so cute! It makes me want another one too!
The day after the shower we all drove across town to a baby baptism. Literally, we drove the exact same drive as the one I took to the day before, but this time we stayed on the highway a few more exits. My friend Sara's baby was so good during the ceremony, she didn't cry a bit when the Minister poured the holy water on top of her head. Even more surprising, to us anyway, ER was the best she has ever been during a service. We think maybe she was too tired from being woken up early and carted across town to be her usual boisterous self. There was only one outburst, when she declared, "I hungry, I thirsty!" Sara's mom and aunt said it was so pitiful sounding and joked that one was ready fish a mint out of their bag and the other was going to the corner store to get her a snack. What had happened was she had just spied her juice box and chocolate teddy grahams in my purse, which I wouldn't give her during the service. After the ceremony we all went back to Jeff's parents' house for lunch. It was really fun catching up with Sara's mom, sister, and aunt whom I haven't seen in quite awhile and talking with Sara and Jeff, we haven't seen them since Melissa and Tim got married last month. That's the happy couple below, Sara and I were both bridesmaids in the wedding.
ER usually sleeps into nine or so in the morning, and she hasn't been taking a nap with all the fun events we've been to since the Christmas festivities began. She still has been staying up til her normal bedtime of ten; we had to get her up at seven-thirty to make 9:30 baptism, so her sleeping pattern has been really thrown off. She was so exhausted that she fell asleep on the ride home. We got stopped in traffic, part of the highway was closed down and we had to get off and go through downtown. So I snapped this one of her, so precious!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

There is nothing like a child to bring the magic back into Christmas! My Dad tried to bring the tricycle that was ER's big gift from the basement and hide it behind their love seat. He thought she was distracted and not looking. She saw it immediately, ran over, and took it for a ride. I think she was happiest with the "trunk", a basket in the back that she proceeded to fill with all her babies. It was hard to get her to open anything else! That was the kick off of our holiday festivities. We celebrated Christmas Eve with my extended family at my parents' house. I love a big family gathering with all the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. It might end up being that last time the elderly relatives are there, because it's no small feat to bring my grandparents and great aunts with their wheelchairs and walkers from their various retirement communities and nursing home. So that made it a little bittersweet, next year we may have to gather at one of their residences for awhile before the rest of us head to my mom's or aunt's. We weren't even all together, since my Aunt and Uncle along with my cousin, his fiance, and her kids aren't flying in until the beginning of January from NY.
But the meal was still delicious as always, we made veggie pizza again and brought my favorite splurge appetizer...creamy spinach, artichoke, and jalapeno dip with chips. It's very decadent and comes in a huge tub from Costco, so I don't get it unless it's for a big gathering like this. There was ham, chicken, the strawberry jello salad that it wouldn't be a family gathering without, cheesy potatoes, green bean casserole, salad...and tons of cookies for dessert too, we were stuffed! There is nothing like the traditional meal with the dishes we've come to love and expect. Sometimes we try new things like ordering pasta or making a beef dish but we always end up back with the familiar favorites.
This Christmas morning was very special because it's the first one where we opened presents at our own house. The first time ER has come down the stairs and seen the tree lit up with presents underneath it. She was so cute, "Santa come, I sleeping, and leave presents for me!" I was worried that she wasn't going to have very much to open this year, as our main present to her are the Music Together classes we take together and that she loves. I have been stashing things picked up through out the year, and I guess I had more than I thought because we had to take an intermission while opening gifts. She was so excited over the first few gifts she couldn't put them down long enough to finish opening the rest. This was the second time we hosted Christmas Day with Brad's family. Lucky for me, my mother-in-law helps a lot with the meal. She made the turkey, stuffing, and brought a huge platter of cookies this year. We made the appetizers, potatoes, salad, cookies, and banana cake. I get stressed out when planning "The Big Meal". I went back and forth a million times about the vegetable to make and settled on a salad I got from my friend Arlene in CA. It's baby spinach, Mandarin oranges, feta cheese, red onion, and brown sugar candied walnuts with champagne dressing. I wanted something light to go with all the heavy starches in the meal, but didn't want to have the same vegetables that were in the veggie and dip tray I put out for snacking on. I think it was well received, or at least I was told it was a good salad!
We didn't have as much luck with the desserts. I was never a cookie and cake kind of gal, I like my fried and salty foods! Baked goods were fine if someone else made them, but I don't have an arsenal of recipes to pull from. Now that I have a two year old, who really likes measuring and mixing up treats I am scrambling to find some good and easy ones to make. We tried raspberry steusel bars from Betty Crocker. They looked pretty yummy, but were just okay. They were too sweet with not enough buttery flavor. We also made a banana sour cream cake from Kraft Foods and I was disappointed in it because although the flavor was fine it wasn't what I expected. I wanted a cake that had some banana flavor, but it was more like a really big dense banana muffin. ER loves banana muffins, so that was fine with her!

Christmas time has been the only time during the year that we see Brad's brother Jeff and his wife Jody, who live in Philadelphia. So we try to see them as much as possible while they're in town. We visited with them again the day after too. Jody and I escaped to the mall for some girl time along with my friend Margaret, and the boys opened up ER's new playdoh kits and had fun playing. We also went on our annual family dinner out to Antonio's Italian Restaurant, it's where Jeff was a bartender for years. It's a fancier place than we normally take ER to, no crayons here! She had a bit of a hard time sitting the whole time, it's a good thing we went early so she could get out and walk about without disturbing other patrons. Oh how life changes with a toddler; I think Jeff and Jody aren't used to going out to dinner so early!
Yes our babycakes had a very good I have to find room for the bouncy horse, vanity, trike, Dora the Explorer Talking Backpack, doctor kit, cash register, computer i.e. the previously owned - okay used Leapfrog alphabet toy she's holding above, books, etc., etc., etc!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Last Minute Craziness

Tomorrow we celebrate with my side of the family. Which means we'll need to finishing up the chocolate covered peppermint candy canes and wrapping them along with the pretzel rods we've already done.

We're giving those along with the heart embroidered ornaments and a photo desk calendar as our gifts to each of my mom's four siblings and their families, The Aunts (my Grandpa's two sisters), and my Grandparents.

The photo calendars were a really simple and inexpensive gift to recreate several copies of. I uploaded a picture of each family to Shutterfly, edited them by adding a border or in this case a monthly calendar to each one, and made enough copies for everyone.

I put them in 4x6 plastic frames I got for less than two dollars at Target. Done. Now everyone can set their calendar on their desks and each month look at a different family picture.

I also made this cute vase to give to my mom as a hostess gift. I was very easy, print out picture on a transparency. Cut out and run through a Xyron machine to add permanent adhesive. Attach and add rub-ons.

Today I finally set aside time to try fabric paint stamping. I used a favorite stamp set from Stampin' Up and some towels I got at Ikea. I had planned on using little red buttons for the berries on the holly wreath, but mine were too big and the scale didn't look right.

Unfortunately, I made a beginner's mistake and added too much pressure so they are a bit smeared in places but otherwise I am happy with them. I think they'll make fun little stocking stuffers. I'm keeping one to see how the paint holds up with washing, think I'll handwash em'.

And as my last holiday craft before the giving begins tomorrow, here is the cute felt die-cut necklace I made for my daughter and her little friends too. I used Sizzix die cuts by Ellison.

Cut four of each die out of felt. Sandwich the ribbon between two of the same die cuts and hot glued together. Stitching around would be cuter, but the hot glue gives the felt some stabilization.

The initial medallion is made with a wooden circle from the craft store, Brad cut a hole in it for me. I painted it, decoupaged on some scrapbook paper, and attached a foam alphabet - still the same red ones from the dollar section at Target.

Then I put a thin layer of Diamond Glaze on top of the whole thing. It can be tricky to use, pop as many bubbles as possible with a needle. After it set for a bit, I sprinkled on some glitter and then added another thin layer of Diamond Glaze.

These are quick to make and good for little girls learning how to wear jewlery as the ribbon is hard to break. I make mine very long too so it's easy for little hands to take them on and off independently.

Have the Happiest of Holidays!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Last Minute Holiday Gift - No Sew Fleece Blanket

Today we were pretty busy running around grocery shopping and stopping by Costco to pick up the last few odds and ends for the various Christmas celebrations we're going to. We stopped at one of my favorite stores, J. Jill but I still can't find anything I want to wear to the baptism and baby shower we have coming up the weekend after Christmas. Which means I'll be running around in a panic right before the event trying to throw an outfit together. This always happens to me, I wait too long and then can't find anything that fits and looks good. I can't believe how fast December has flown by, every year I say that and every year it goes by quicker. I finally started wrapping our gifts during nap time and got about halfway through so I feel a bit calmer about getting everything done.

I thought I'd share a quick craft I did a few weeks back. If it hadn't gotten so cold here in MI earlier this month, it would've been a Christmas gift for ER. It would also be a fun gift for anyone on your list when made with patterns and colors that the recipient likes. There are so many choices in fleece you can get patterns and colors to match anyone's interests or decor, and everyone can use a new throw for the couch. I finished mine during ER's nap time and still had time to do some cleaning. I think it took me maybe half and hour to forty-five minutes to complete. I bought all the materials at Joann's and made it in the same afternoon.

I'm actually glad we needed a "big kid" blankie sooner rather than later, because it was fun and interesting shopping with ER. I let her pick out the patterned fleece and was surprised by her choice. It's actually the one I'd have chosen, thought for sure she'd pick the princess themed one. I have a thing for fruit prints; she has a myriad of strawberry, apple, tropical fruit, etc. printed clothes. I just can't resist. I guess my love of strawberries has rubbed off on her!

Begin with two different types of fleece. You can do one patterned and one coordinating solid or two patterns. I think it might be fun to have two completely different looks in one reversible blanket, but I would try to get two different prints that have similar colors or colors that look good together because you will see both prints in the ties, which are seen no matter which side you're using. The important thing is to get two different types of flat patterned fabric. Don't make the mistake I did, the strawberry fleece we used is an embellished fleece, meaning the strawberries on it are like patches on top of pink fleece. Whe you cut through the strawberries there is some fraying. The strawberries themselves are not fleece material. I don't think my blanket will hold up to as many washings as it should because of this. Get the kind where the design is printed directly onto the fabric.

I got two yards of each fabric. I had the lady at the fabric counter lay the fleece down on the counter and then show me what one, one and a half, and two yards would look like. Then I chose the amount I thought I'd need to give ER plenty of space to lay completely underneath and still have room to grow. Lets just say two yards is plenty of fabric, I can lay under it on the couch with her and cover myself from neck to toes and I'm 5'2".

Lay the two fleeces on top of each other, wrong sides together. The lady at the fabric counter shared this trick with me, the end of the fleece will roll under toward the back or wrong side of the fabric. Not that it really matters with fleece, just pick the sides you want to look at and make sure they are on the very top and very bottom of the stack of fleece before you start.

Trim along all the sides to even out the edges. Make a five by five square template out of scratch paper. Lay the square down on each corner of the blanket. Cut out. Starting next to where you cut out the square begin making cuts five inches into and about an inch to an inch and half apart from each other. Cut through both layers of fleece at the same time. Your cuts will begin to look like fringe. How far apart you make your cuts will decide how big you want your ties to be. Go from one side of the blanket to the other. Then go back and begin to tie each top and bottom together. I double knotted mine to keep them from slipping out. When you wash your blanket for the first time it'll set the knots and make it hard to take them apart. Go all around all four sides, one side at a time. Give each of the four corners a bit of a tug to help the blanket regain it's rectangular shape. Then snuggle and enjoy your blanket on a cold winter's night!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Handstitched Ornaments

I was really inspired by Plum Pludding's embroidered hand prints because as you know, I LOVE hand print projects. Her version had her children's prints all inside a 12 inch embroidery hoop. It makes a nice keepsake because you can hang the hoop on the wall as is.

I decided to make mine into a pillow ornament. I started by tracing ER's hand onto a scrap of light colored fabric that I got as a remnant at Joann's for less that two dollars with a disappearing ink pen. Then I started using a backstitch and got about half way through. I worked a bit more the next day too, but when I went back to it the third day to finish I found the rest of the pen markings had disappeared.

I tried to put her hand within the stitched marks and retrace it, but I couldn't get her little fingers placed right. Okay, on to try number two! This time I noticed that Plum Pudding had traced her kids hands onto paper, cut out, and used that tracing to transfer the hand prints onto her fabric. An important step I didn't take, well live and learn!

The second time I used a paper tracing of ER's hand print just in case, but didn't end up needing it as I finished the embroidery all in one sitting. I backed the embroidered print with green fleece, also from the remnant section, and added a ribbon hanger. I love how it turned out! The year is at the top, and her name is on the back. I added a Jolee's by EK Success 3D sticker embellishment from the Happy Holidays Title Wave in the corner. See my other hand print ideas by clicking the handprints label at the bottom of this post.

I was also inspired by Janna Wilson's stamped heart ornament that was featured on the Fiskars website. I can't find the link anymore, they've moved stuff around! Hers is more elaborate, it has a wire hanger with beads and a flower in the center with a J in the middle as well as some leaves for embellishment.

I began with the same fabric remnant I used for the embroidered the hand print. I used Hero Arts Super Merry Christmas Greeting, it's older so it's probably discontinued, with gold ink from Color Box's Petal Points Pigment Ink Set in Aurora. I hand cut a heart to use as a template.

Then I traced the template over my stamping. I used three strands of embroidery thread to backstitch around the heart most of the way around. With about half an inch left open, I added stuffing. Finish backstitching, tie a knot, and use pinking schears to cut out heart. Set an eyelet at the top of the heart, add ribbon and tie a bow. Embellish.

I used paper flowers from Making Memories that came with the paper pointsettias, leaves, and brads. I made seven and plan to use them a decorations on the gift bags I putting together for my extended family.

This is part of Centsational Girl's Ornament Party, and wow does she know who to make a pretty ornament! Check out her peppermint letters and the glittery ones with snowflakes on it.

Happy Birthday David!!!

It's a freezing cold and windy day today! It's also my little brother's birthday, we celebrated earlier in the month so his big day wouldn't get lost amongst all the holiday hustle and bustle. It's a good thing too, because the roads aren't in the greatest condition for the hour and half drive over to my parents'. They all came over to our house for a visit and dinner out; the snowfall on that night meant we ended up at Big Boy's. Not exactly our first choice for the celebration but close by and quick, plus for some reason I am addicted to the coleslaw. Have a great day Dave, and see you on Christmas Eve!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Package on our Doorstep

It snowed yesterday so much that when my friend and ER's Godmother Alicia went to check on the status of the package she sent, UPS said it was not delivered due to inclement weather. Now why UPS delivered our package from the Great Grandparents in MO but not one from AZ yesterday I don't know. I think the holiday backlog has them going out in the snow on a Saturday, because normally it's unheard of to get a weekend delivery. ER is such a lucky girl that today after we ran our errands we came home to find yet another big box on the doorstep. I think she might be getting a bit spoiled because she immediately began jumping up and down saying, "Prwesent, prwesnt for me!" And what was inside, surrounded by, can you believe packing peanuts...was the cutest little baking set for our junior baker! It seems someone was reading my blog and saw how much she loved the cookie making! There was a cookie cookbook, hot pink mixing bowl, and bright, colorful, bendy Fiesta Head Chefs. They are so neat with little hands and feet with suction cups, they can even be posed. They make me want to bake too! ER immediately began to play baking all afternoon. There is so much love surrounding this one! Godmother Alicia even broke down and got her Princess wrapping paper, for the book and adorable hooded sweater dress that also came in the box, something she wouldn't do for her other Goddaughter!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Have a Clippie Christmas

Today we stayed in our pajamas all day. Truth be told, my fleece top and drawstring pj pants are way too comfy and I think all the early Christmas cookies are catching up with me. A newly reinstated daily exercise program has already begun to help with that.

I planned to be very productive today. It's Brad's last day of work before two weeks off for the holiday and we were going to make chocolate dipped peppermint candy canes and wrap his presents. But it snowed quite a bit; watching the snow falling was tranquil and didn't motivate me to do too much. Because of the snow we didn't go into Brad's work for the holiday party, so I declared it a lazy pajama day.

You need these every once is awhile. Even Brad joined in, well after shoveling the drive and walk ways for the second time in one day; we had pizza for dinner.

Since we didn't do any holiday prepartions, I thought I'd share some of the holiday clippies I've made for ER and her little friends. I really like doing ER's hair, but it's too short to do much but put clips in it. It's so short that you can really only put one in on one side. So she has a whole wardrobe of them, she almost always has a matching one for whatever outfit she's wearing.

I really like the ones they sell in children's stores like Gymboree and at boutiques but they can be pretty expensive. So I've done some research and found several free tutorials online. I am not going to recreate them here, just click on the links since they've already taken great pictures and taken the time to write up detailed directions. If for some reason they don't work, email me or leave me a comment and I'll try to fix them or email the websites to you directly.

I found a cute tutorial for a ribbon tree clip at Hip Girl Boutique, ER is wearing one in the picture above. They also have free directions on how to make bug, fruit, flower, and boutique bows besides some additional holiday bows. You can also buy hair clip making supplies through them. I am considering purchasing some embellishements like the hip scotties because ER is really into puppy dogs right now and I think she'd love wearing them. I saw a clippie made with one of those scottie dogs at a specialty children's store, one was six dollars and I know I could make several for that price.

I also like Girly Things: Making Riboons & Bows & Other Pretties which has a large selection of tutorials for a wide range of bows, themed clippies - I love the cupcake one, and other fun things like a bandana dress, tutu, and covering a diaper wipes case.

The last website I've used for instruction and inspiration is The Ribbon Retreat. They sell instructions but also have some basic ones for free. The link is in the box labeled Information and at the bottom of the page. I am planning on making ER some dragonfly bows and using their directions to cover snap clips, I already have the ribbon for that. That's a project for the new year.

I don't bother heat sealing or using no fray on my ribbon ends because I am not planning on selling them and ER is pretty good with hers. She doesn't pull on them. I do fold the ends of the ribbon I am covering the actual clippie with under, put on a little glue and then attach to the clippie.

I recently made some for Christmas gifts with bows as the embellishement, and I do wish I'd no frayed them. Previously, I'd only made the kind where you cover the clippie with ribbon and then attach an embellishment like a flower on top.

Now that I've shared my sources my friends won't think I'm nearly as creative, but that's okay! Happy clippie making and try not to burn yourself with the hot glue!

Below are some recent examples of mine. I made the mini Chinese take out boxes from a template from Victorine Originals, found under patterns and then 3D templates. I did manage to do one thing on my to do list, links have been added within posts! Brad showed me how, thank goodness I have such great technical support!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A New Outfit from Aunt Cheri

ER got her first Christmas gift today, all the way from South Carolina from her Great Aunt and Uncle. I think it's nice to let her open gifts that are mailed to us early, because then she can focus on just one thing. She is so blessed that sometimes she gets overloaded at the holidays. She'll open one thing and then be so happy with that one gift that she doesn't want to move along to the next. Aunt Cheri is a very talented seamstress and has made ER several lovely things from the time she was born starting with a darling little bear and the softest blanket to snuggle under.

Then the customized clothing began coming! Since ER is quite the fashionista I call these her haute couture collection LOL! Not only Aunt Cheri contributes to it, my mom has knitted her several cute hats and sweaters, her Great Aunt Denise has made her a personalized blanket and a sweater with flowers on it, my Godmother has knitted her a sweater too...but I digress. Aunt Cheri has made her a dress, and three rompers - two of which came with a matching reversible hat, and a little gray hoodie with pants. So she has certainly been a main contributor to ER's collection.

For Christmas this year she made ER a cute little corduroy outfit that's so bright and cheery. It's also very soft and snugly. ER opened the box it was in, stared at it for a few seconds, and then...and I swear this is true...she walked over to where we keep her collection of purses and pulled out the matching bag that Aunt Cheri gave her last summer when she was up from SC visiting. She ran back over to me, "My bag, my bag, wear it Mommy," and was waving her bag and pointing to the shirt made out of the same material! I had to laugh and help her change. Then she strutted all around the room in her ensemble! Too Funny!

Some of Aunt Cheri's other creations are depicted below. Gosh ER has changed so much! Oh and by the way, the dress really is quite lovely, the meltdown was because this first time Mommy had tried to take pictures of baby for way too long. She was DONE!

Chocolate Covered Pretzel Rods

Today we made some delicious no-bake treats, chocolate dipped pretzel rods. There is just something about the combination of salty and sweet...they just go together! They were super easy to make too, and made nice little additions to our gifts for extended family.

We made about a bag and half of pretzel rods with two bags of white chocolate chips. I added a shallow layer of water to the bottom of a medium sized pot, placed a glass bowl that was slightly bigger that the pot on top, and put the chips in the glass bowl. ER stood on a chair next to me as I used a spoon to cover the pretzel rods with chocolate.

This is a kind of tricky, professional sweet makers we're not; our chocolate is a bit clumpy, but trust me they still taste just fine:) I put them on wax paper lined cookie sheets and ER sprinkled decorations over them before they went into the fridge to cool.

We got a lot of sprinkles all over the counter, floor, and everywhere else so I ended up sweeping twice today, why on earth would I bother cleaning the floor before we a messy activity?

ER had a fun time, "I love bakin' with you Mommy," she said to me. Oh, sweetie...I love baking with you too!

{I added this to Maureen's Favorite Christmas Recipes Linky because it's one of our favorite holiday treats. It is simple, who doesn't love only needing 3 ingredients, and no one really needs a recipe. We love it because, it's super easy to make and get your kids involved in making, plus they are just darn yummy!}

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Seasonal Sensations Family Activity Night

We belong to a preschool play group run through our school district called First Steps. We meet with other children of similar ages for one hour a week for free play, theme based activities, art, and circle time. ER really enjoys going "to school" and I like talking to the other Mommies. We've made some great friends in our local area, and had some fun play dates. Most of my friends from growing up live an hour or more away and only one has children close to ER's age so it's nice to have friends closer by.

Besides weekly play group about once a month there are parent education nights. This month we met for a family activity night and it was a lot of fun. The theme was Seasonal Sensations and the activities incorporated using our five senses, there were a lot of great things to do. Thanks so much to Julie, Nicole, and Fifi who put a lot of hard work into making play group so much fun and for planning and putting together this fun event.

We made floom out of cornstarch with water and food coloring. ER always likes getting to play with spray bottles! The floom has a goopy texture that solid yet liquid, very fun.

There was a table with different scents in bags for the kids to smell, such as cloves, cinnamon, and clementine peels. At that table we also peeled a clementine and talked about how it feels when we bite into it and how it tastes. It was the first time ER has tried peeling fruit; she got about half way through it before handing it to Daddy to finish, and she knew it was juicy when she bit into it and it sprayed juice all over her face. We also spread marshmallow fluff on graham crackers and talked about crunchy with her. At another table we made cute ornaments, and it's a good idea for crafting with young kids. A sheet of contact paper is folded in half and an ornament shape is cut out of it. Prepare this for the child ahead of time. Peel back half and have your child lay little squares of tissue paper on top. Unpeel the second half and fold down. Press firmly to seal. Add a hole to add a string for hanging and you're done. ER thought it was neat how the paper was sticky and glue wasn't needed.

We made a second cute ornament too. Each child was given a pre-cut ornament photocopied onto heavy paper. Then finger paint was used to decorate it and some sprinkles of glitter added shine. You could cut out the center and add your child's picture but since most of ER's artwork is in the center we will be leaving it as it. We usually paint with a paintbrush so I think ER was surprised to be told she could get her hands all messy this time.

The kids even got to take off their shoes! We walked on top of a fake furry bear skin rug, snapped big bubble wrap with our toes, stepped in sand, and then stood on chalk dust before making foot prints on a paper trail.

The last one was making fun treat, Snowman Soup. Place one pouch of hot chocolate, eight marshmallows, one candy cane, two chocolate kisses, and Snowman Soup poem in a plastic bag. Here's the poem:

Snowman Soup
Was told you’ve been real good this year,
Always glad to hear it!
With freezing weather drawing near,
You’ll need to warm your spirit.
So here’s a little Snowman Soup, complete with stirring stick
Add hot water, sip it slow, it’s sure to do the trick!

I'm not sure if this was supposed to be part of the activities, but ER really liked the sensory table this week. So she took advantage of a chance to play in the "snow" one more time. I may have to give her cotton balls to play with at home too!

First Snow Play of the Season!

Brad took the day off today to spend some time with us before all the holiday craziness begins. It turned out to be a good thing, since with the arrival of snow overnight, it meant that he didn't have to get up earlier before work to shovel our driveway. Instead he could get up, shovel, and still have time to make ER pancakes for breakfast before I took her to play group at school.

We'd told her that she could play outside after we got back. She and Daddy had fun and now our front yard looks like a whole troop of preschoolers and not just one were running around it. I only stayed out a little bit, because usually it's me out there with her! But I got some cute ones of her with Daddy, trying to catch a snowball, and after leaning over to make a snowball and getting a mouthful of snow!

Wonder Pets, Wonder Pets, We're on Our Way...

If anyone's child is as crazy about those three little critters as mine is the words in the title to this post should be very familiar! We watch them on the Preschoolers' Channel Noggin run by Nick Jr. and after seeing the first few episodes ER was already singing, "What's gonna work, teamwork!"

They have a new holiday episode called Wonder Pets! Save the Nutcracker this year so Nick Jr. has a lot of tie in crafts for Christmas. The no-sew ornaments are even on a segment about crafting with your kids. I thought, okay I'll bite. No-sew sounds good to me.

I think these are best for children three and up, as I ened up doing all the work. ER has been itchin' to get her little hands on these since she saw them drying on the table. They did come out rather cute. I like Linny the Guinea Pig the best even though Ming-Ming is usually our favorite.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Foam Kit Fun

I had all sorts of plans for some crafty fun with ER this year and then all of a sudden it was the middle of December and I hadn't planned or bought supplies for anything! Whoops! We made an emergency trip to Michael's the other day and she found this kit for a Princess Snow Castle that SHE HAD TO HAVE, and I mean major begging. "Oh Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, please, please, Mommy...please...I neeeeeeed it!" It was labeled for four and up, and I could tell there were lots of itty bitty pieces I didn't want to deal with. I gave her the standard I'll think about it answer, which apparently meant yes to her as she carried it all around the store. Which is saying something, because normally she'll carry something she just has to have and loose interest in it two aisles down. It'll get put on the floor while she examines something new and then left behind. Not this time, no way. She kept pleading, "Mommy like princess castle so much, need princess castle," this got several smiles from other shoppers, but otherwise she was very good stayed right next to me and didn't grab anything else. So I caved.

We brought it home along with a much more suitable 3D tree set, both 40% off and sooo much easier then buying everything separately, cutting, gluing etc. My husband was thrilled when I told him I thought the castle was a perfect daddy daughter project! I have no idea how a four year old is supposed to put it together, I think it was hard for an adult to put together and yes there were a million tiny little pieces! Needless to say Daddy ended up doing a lot of the work, but ER did help some. She was very excited to glue the little balls on.

It took me three crafting periods to finish the trees with her, as the attention span isn't that long yet but it all looks cute on her shelf along with her NOEL letters. This morning when I was getting her dressed she looked up at me and said, "I love my princess castle, Daddy maked it for me. Daddy put on berries. Love him sooooo much!"

Monday, December 15, 2008

Making Cookies and a Nice Surprise in the Mail

Today ER had a little friend over for a morning play date. I was feeling ambitious and decided to make cookies with the girls. I am not really a baker so my secret ingredient was starting with a sugar cookie mix, and to be honest I can't remember the last time I made roll out cookies. Oh yeah, that's right it was freshman year in college and I'm thirty-one now, so quite awhile ago! I have been thinking now that I am a mommy and ER is old enough to participate, it's important to start making our own traditions. After all, I can remember pressing down sugar cookies with the bottom of a glass to form their shapes, sprinkling on red colored sugar, and laying them out to cool on brown paper shopping bags my mom would cut up.

So here we go...the girls really enjoyed mixing and mixing in the butter, egg, and flour. After that it went downhill. ER had a really hard time waiting her turn and she got so excited she began taking all the cookie cutters out and putting them randomly in the rolled out dough. But she didn't push the cutters down far enough so we were left with all sorts of random indentations all over the place. There was flour everywhere and the dough began to crumble, probably from over handling. I was thinking, I used to do this with twenty kindergartners, granted they were five years old not two but I should be able to handle this!

We did manage to get cookies cut, thank goodness her little friend is the youngest of three. I think she has a lot of experience with sharing and turn taking. She was so patient! ER definitely needs a sibling or two! I put the cookies in the oven, but somehow managed to burn the bottoms pretty good. I only put them in for the shortest time period, but they got black anyway. I debated throwing them away, but both girls were asking about decorating.

After getting out the frosting, yes it's was from a can, adding food coloring and prying open the containers of sprinkles I thought okay now I can sit back and watch them having fun. Wrong! My little darling, turned the opening on the sprinkle container to the biggest one and in less than five seconds had dumped two containers all over one cookie. I was sitting right next to her, and it still managed to happen. I startled her by calling her name when this happened and that caused her to bump her plate and knock what seemed like millions of little green balls everywhere. At this point I called my husband and told him he needed to come home for lunch so I could maintain my sanity! Lucky for me he works five minutes away from home.

At this moment the doorbell rings. What now I think. It's the UPS man, with a big box with my name on it! I carry it back into the kitchen, with two little girls covered in frosting and sprinkle bits jumping up and down around my feet calling out, "Present, present, present," at the top of their lungs. I put it on my counter, look at the mess and decide I'm opening it now! And what was inside? Well a darling little pizza gift basket by Stonewall Kitchen from my best friend Alicia in AZ. It has garlic herb bread mix for the crust, roasted garlic basil sauce, roasted garlic oil and roasted garlic onion jam for toppings, four six-inch pizza pans, and a towel all in a cute basket. I already know what I am going to do with the basket, it's the perfect new home for some of my mini-scrapbooks. I can put a few in out on an end table and have them close by for flipping through and enjoying. What perfect timing to get a surprise! I can't wait to make the pizzas, do you think Emily will like helping me:)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

NOEL Letters

I finally got around to making decoupaged letters for ER's room. I used papers by KI Memories that have traditional holiday colors with some pink to blend with her girly room. Sometimes I add additional embellishment to the letters, but decided to leave it alone this time so that the designs on the paper could be seen better. The shape of the letters decided the paper placement as I wanted ER to be able tell there are trees on one and so that the words on other papers can be easily read. They would look a whole lot cuter if I'd painted the shelves they sit on pink like I was supposed to last spring or summer...oh well, there's always next year!

To make your own choose light weight papers such as scrapbook paper in colors and patterns to coordinate with either a holiday and/or the room you want to display them. Purchase wooden letters to spell out your message. Mine are about six inches tall and I got them on sale at Joann's for about a dollar each, which is around fifty percent off, watch the ads as they go on sale fairly regularly. There are a few different types to choose from: unfinished wood, white painted wood - like mine, and ones that look like cardboard. They also come in a range of sizes. It doesn't matter what kind you get but make sure the letters are flat on the bottom so they'll stand up on their own. Some look like cursive and are better for attaching and hanging on the wall. I got the white ones because it saves me a step, I would have had to paint the sides and back otherwise. If you don't want white letters the unfinished ones give you the option of choosing a paint color that coordinates with your paper. Add time to give them a few coats and dry between.

Lay your letters down on top of the paper and move them around until you like the portion that will be viewable on the letters. I like to hold mine up in front of a bright lamp to help me with positioning. Lightly sketch around the letter on the backside of the paper, i.e. the side you don't want showing on the finished product. Trim the paper down around the letter but not too close, more like cutting a small rectangle around the letter.

I like to use a foam brush for the next step because Michael's run sales where you can buy several for very little. After a few uses the foam brush gets pretty yucky from the paste and then I don't feel bad when I toss it in the trash. Using the foam brush lightly coat the front of the letter with a liquid decoupage adhesive such as mod podge by Plaid, I use the one with a matte finish. You can find it with all the other glues at a craft store. The label is mostly yellow and it comes in a bottle with a screw top lid. Don't use too much, less is more. Too much and the paper won't lay flat against the letter. Lay the letter down on the backside of the paper using your pencil tracing as a guide. Don't press down too hard yet, use the lamp to check positioning. You only have a few seconds to make any adjustments and even if I don't get it exactly where I want it, I usually leave it alone rather than risk ruining my letter.

Press the paper down onto the letter smoothing out any wrinkles or creases and to make sure you've got the paper firmly attached to the letter. Let them dry, I like to wait at least an hour. That may be longer than necessary, but I am often doing this project in between things like loads of laundry, preparing lunch, and diapering so sometimes it's a lot longer than a hour before I get back to them. I like to lay them paper side down with a book on top to help with adhesion.

When everything is dry, you can check by lifting the paper gently. The paper should not lift from the edges of the letter or do so only a very little bit. Lay letter down on a self healing cutting mat and use cutting blade like an x-acto knife to cut around the letter. I like to hold the letter on top, place the blade against the side of the letter, and then use the side to guide my blade using a few cuts as possible. This takes some practice. I used to use scissors with a fine tip but found that using the cutting blade I could get smoother cuts and get closer to the letter.

Once your letter is cut out, use a small piece of sandpaper to smooth away any over hanging paper from the edges. When using the white painted letters do this very carefully or you'll rub off some of the paint finish. You may want to intentionally do this to get a distressed or aged look. You can also add ink to the edges to give it more definition. If I decide to ink, I use a cosmetic sponge and a Q-tip to help me get into the nooks and crannies of the letter.

Repeat for all the letters.When you are done put another thin coat of decoupage adhesive on top of the letter and paper, going a bit down on the sides to help all the edges get glued down. Let dry. Check for dryness by barely touching the side, touching the top can result in a fingerprint being made in the finish. When dry embellish with ribbon, buttons, 3-D stickers, a tiny wooden clothes pin to attach a picture or quote with, or whatever you can think of.

Another technique is to trace the letter onto the backside of the paper, cut out, and decoupage that onto the letter. I haven't had as much luck with this. It's hard to get the true shape of the letter traced and I don't like for there to be too much of the front of the letter showing on the sides underneath the paper in the finished product. To me this looks like a mistake and it bothers me so much I end up redoing the letter. I also had a hard placing the cut out letter shape on top of the wooden letter correctly without having to peel up the paper and try to move part of it around.

Below is another version of decoupaged letters I made for Independence Day with extra embellishments added. The flower I die-cut out of felt, there is a button in the center, hot glue was used to attach. I used foam letters from American Crafts to spell out 4th, the dark blue star on the Y is a button attached with a glue dot over a star in the paper's pattern, and I used plain old Scotch tape to attach the paper flag to the back of the Y. A set of personalized words would make a nice gift made with papers that match your receipent's decor. Spelling out BABY for a shower gift is also a nice present for a mother-to-be.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Have a Handprint Holiday

I don't know about you but there are few ways to capture a stage in a child's life more precious then with hand and feet prints. The first handprint impression we made of ER was as at three months old. That chubby little hand was so kissable and has already changed so much. To show how little she really was, I like to incorporate handprints into as many different projects as possible. I can't wait to have her hold her "big kid" handprint up next to the baby one in the years to come and to watch the growth. This post and the next few are of some favorite projects I've done.

For Thanksgiving ER and I made little decorative door knob hangers. I painted each finger a different color and the palm and thumb brown. After adding some details to our handprint turkey, cut it out into a rectangle and used eyelets to attach it to craft felt. At the same time as I attached the handprint I attached a Thanksgiving poem to the back. Some ribbon was strung through the eyelets for a hanger and the gift was done. I mailed these to out-of-state family, but had to have them handcancelled due to the metal. I am going to recreate these with a Santa handprint, see my handprint calendar below to see the print and poem. It would also be fun to do the prints on muslin or another light colored fabric and then use it for the front of a small pillow or pillow ornament. If you do that, use fabric paint.

If you don't want to create a door knob hanging you can also put the handprint project into a frame and display it on a shelf or counter to add some seasonal flair to your decorating. We have one in our kitchen and I plan on eventually making twelve different handprints so I can change them out each month. I think it's a great way to involve your child in personalizing your space meaningfully. Even at two years old ER proudly points to her framed turkey print and says, "I make it!"

UPDATE 12/16: I decided to go ahead and make the Santa handprints. I really like how they came out. Since I wasn't going to be mailing these I added 3D embellishments. In the frame, I used foam letters I got at Target in the dollar spot last summer. I knew I'd have a lot ways to use the red and I am so glad I snagged a few sets. They took up a lot space within in the 5X7 opening, so I couldn't use them on the hanger which is smaller. I cut in half a Jolly Old Saint Nick phrase sticker for that. I also used a bit of cotton ball to give Santa his fluffy red hat on both.

Handprint Calendar

When I taught kindergarten the gift I made every year with my students for their families was always a handprint calendar. I had to make some shortcuts because I was producing twenty or so a year. I would cut construction paper down to fit in a copy machine and print out pages with the poem and clip art already on it. Then I would print out blank copies of each month's grid on white copy paper and glue on the back with glue stick. It's very important to use "dry" glue, as white school glue would leave creases and sometimes lighten the color the backside of the construction paper. I always got great compliments on the calendars and some parents carefully took them apart and laminated them at a copy store so they could be used for more than one year and other used them as date books to keep track of birthdays and anniversaries. However they used them they let me know they became very important mementos which made the hefty time investment worth it to me.
I haven't made this with ER yet, but plan to when she gets a little older. Right now we make Shutterfly photo calendars each year for the grandparents. A scrapbooker could easily recreate the calendar using color cardstock paper. The poems could still be printed onto the paper and either clip art or other embellishments such as thematic stickers or 3D stickers like Jolee's by EK Success would look cute. The calendar pages could be created on a computer program printed out with the dates already on them and with special events noted. We had a comb binding machine at school that I used but a copy store can do it too. I used clip art and fonts by DJ Inkers the poems are from various sources. Below are the month from January to December.
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