Monday, December 30, 2013

Book Some Time in Your Family's Schedule for Reading

Before my first son was born, a co-worker (and mother of a bright preschooler with a huge vocabulary) told me that the best advice she'd received was to read to her child every day.  Now that I’m a parent I can say I agree wholeheartedly.  This wasn’t a new concept for me or my husband, we’d grown up in reading households with parents who read to us and took us to the library.  I recall trips to our town’s local library with my mother and sister fondly.  My mother in law would tell her son (an avid bookworm) to get outside, even with his book, just get outside!  He would go climb a tree on the family farm and read there.  From the very start I read to my son.  I would read to him while I rocked him to sleep, while in the swing, during tummy time, and by the time he was able to talk he would ask me to read "a big pile of books".  Both of my boys knew from a young age that if they asked mom or dad to read to them we'd drop whatever we were doing to read to them.

It makes me cringe to hear a parent say that they don't read to their child.  “He or she doesn't have the attention span...yet,” they’ll say.  Where do you think they learn to have an attention span?  Or to hear parents say their child is too young, that they're afraid their child will rip up the pages.  How do you think they'll learn to treat a book gently unless you show them and let them practice?  I think a great gift for a new parent is a picture book with a roll of tape.

This fall I was volunteering at my son's school book fair when I came upon a book called the Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.  I just finished it and found it to be interesting.  Most of the studies and statistics support the importance of reading aloud to children were not surprising to me and supported what I already found to be true with my own young children.  I did learn some new concepts like the fact that children have a reading level and a listening level, and that you should continue reading to your child long after they can read to themselves.  It also rekindled my passion for reading to my children and introduced me to some important ideas that I'd like to implement in my household.

Be a Reading Role Model
Reading at the family farm over winter break

One thing that I had not considered until reading this book is the importance of modeling reading to my children.  I enjoy reading, but with all that is crammed into a typical day and the distractions that pop up constantly I have to make it a priority to set aside time to read or it just won’t happen.  If there’s no deadline, and no immediate need (like laundry, dishes and feeding my family) then it easily gets pushed to the side.  But this book reminded me that being an adult reading role model for my kids should get just as high a ranking as the other important tasks of daily life.  It doesn’t have to be an extended amount of time, and it can be any reading material: book, newspaper, magazine etc.  I know this to be a problem in other households too because I tried to start a book club/playgroup for moms and toddlers.  I had a tough time finding other moms that liked to read.  Then once I had a small group going, one of the reasons it fell through was because the majority of the group couldn’t find time to finish a book!  Even moms who enjoyed reading!  Isn’t it sad?  A book discussion where one or more of the participants is sharing based on the reviews they read about the book on amazon is not sustainable!  There were also some personality dynamics that didn’t work within that group, then one devoted member moved out of state and that was the end of that.  The thing I was benefiting from the group was that it created a deadline for me.  My personal issue with reading isn’t that I don’t like to read, I do, it’s because I don’t make time for it unless I have a deadline, and a monthly book group created the deadline I needed.  I’m still keeping my eye out for a group that might be more successful.

On Limiting Screen Time

“…the greatest academic damage done may not be by the content of the shows viewed but by what is not being done during those hours…the games not played, the chores not done, the drawings not drawn, the hobbies not worked, the friends not made or played with, the homework not done, the bikes or skateboards not ridden, the balls not caught, the books not read, the conversations not held.” –Jim Trelease

I noticed friends with older children had different methods of limiting their screen time.  When I was expecting my first child I devoured any information on parenting I could find and one tidbit that stuck was that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not allowing children under two years of age any screen time.  When my son was an infant I would seat him facing away from the TV when it was on and once he was big enough to move on his own he would reposition himself to see whatever was on the screen so I would only have it on if he was napping or after bedtime.  Once my boys were two we allowed them a set limit each day (and many days they watched less than the maximum limit).  I found that I preferred kids programming on PBS best, my kids did learn while being entertained and the plot lines and concepts spilled over into their playtime in ways that were creative, making meaningful connections.  I love the quote above because it makes such a great point.  No matter how good quality the programming is, when they are watching TV they are not doing other things and are missing out.

Not Sure What to Read-Aloud?

The last section of the book is devoted to a “giant treasury of great read-aloud books”.  They are categorized by length (picture books, short novels and novels) with a short description and recommended age range.  A smaller version is available at his website: along with excerpts from his handbook.  If you are curious about this Read-Aloud Handbook the website will give you a good preview of what the book has to offer.

How do you encourage your creative little hearts to fall in love with books and reading? What results have you observed from reading to your child?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Survival Guide to Baking With Your Kids

Christmas is almost here.  There are still things to wrap, a gift for my nephew that I still have to finish making and last minute shopping.  But when my son asked me to pull out our family recipes and make his great-great grandmother’s pierogi recipe, I couldn’t say no.  It’s a recipe I remember my grandmother making each Christmas growing up and when I was in my early twenties I tried to make it.  It was an epic fail.  So my sister and I asked our grandmother and aunt to teach us how to make them.  We needed to see someone make them and then have them watch us and help us fix what we were doing wrong.  It’s one of those handed-down recipes where you have to add “enough” flour and knead it ‘til it “feels right”.  Perhaps now I could search you tube for a tutorial video, but that day of “Pierogi School” was so much more meaningful.  We learned our family’s recipes from our family. 

However, the idea of cooking or baking with children often seems like a wonderful idea until you are in the middle of the actually doing it.  You know that moment when you wonder what on earth possessed you to do this!  There’s a great cartoon by Amber Dusick of floating around facebook where the top picture is what you imagine baking with your children will be like – it’s ideal, everyone is smiling and clean… then the bottom picture shows the reality, one child is squirting frosting in their mouth, everyone is covered in sprinkles.  It’s so true!  And it’s painful to watch a three year old make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich never mind roll out dough!  But before you reach for the slice n’ bake consider what is gained from making something from scratch and check out my survival guide below.  

  1. Safety First – Remind them about kitchen safety and set guidelines.  For example: when I’m about to open the oven I announce it to my kids and they have to touch the doorframe on the opposite side of the room until the oven door is closed.  When we use any small appliance I remind them that it’s my job to plug and unplug it and any other rules to keep them safe.
  2. It’s about the process, not the product – It may not be the prettiest, but letting your child make something without you following behind “fixing” it will give them a sense of accomplishment and show that you have confidence in their abilities. 
  3. Show by example - And then let them have a go at it, don’t be afraid to help them if you see something that they can improve on that’s not just aesthetic (like sealing the edges of a pirogues so the filling doesn’t leak out). 
  4. Give them one step at a time – If you give a child too many steps at once they will get confused.  Take it one step at a time.
  5. Be specific, very specific – When my son was five I asked him to grease a bowl for bread to rise in and he did.  He greased the inside and the outside.  Be very specific.
  6. Set aside enough time – Squeezing a batch of cookies in between activities will surely stress you out.  It always takes more time when you have “help” from a child so plan on it.
  7. Don’t overwhelm yourself – Cut a recipe in half or put half the cookie dough in the freezer to be baked on the next snow day.  You don’t have to do it all today.  I should have halved my recipe today, but I guess it’s not so bad that we have 75 pirogues in the freezer now.
  8. Reinforce math and reading skills -   Let them help you read the recipe and count the amounts of ingredients as they are added.  It’s easier for me to measure it out – obviously, but when I remember what they gain it helps me ease up.
  9. Expect some mistakes – Let them crack open the egg, but do it in a small dish so you can

    easily fish out any pieces of shell.
  10. Use the timer to your advantage – You have 8 minutes til this batch comes out of the oven?  See if you can sweep the kitchen before the timer beeps!
  11. It’s going to be messy – get over it.  After the kids are in bed pour a glass of wine, turn on some music and do the dishes.  You might also have to wash the floor…and your hair… but it will be ok.

My son thought we had the best supper ever.  He was all smiles.  And you know the reality is probably going to look like the bottom picture on the cartoon, but when you look back on it, you’ll both remember it as the top picture.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

2 Ingredient Puff Paint

 This week everyone at my son’s school came home with a gingerbread house to decorate.  My son colored it with colored pencil, decorated it with glitter glue and then we whipped up some 3-D paint for snow.  It’s super easy and only takes two ingredients!  Simply mix equal parts of original shaving cream and white craft glue.  Stir and apply with a popsicle stick.  Allow this fluffy white stuff to dry overnight.  The results are so cool!  Great for winter pictures of snowmen on colored paper too.

2 Ingredient Puff Paint:
Original Shaving Cream 
White Craft Glue

Monday, December 9, 2013

Snow Painting

The first snow of the season fell yesterday.  The snow was good for sledding yesterday, but overnight the weather changed and freezing rain coated the fluff transforming the surface into a slippery crust.  My first grader had a school delay and as he pressed his nose to the sliding glass door sighed, “Ice is no fun.”  That is, until I broke out the food coloring!

small containers, a plastic egg carton or a foil lined paper egg carton
food coloring
drinking straw or eye dropper
fresh water for cleaning brushes between colors

Drop food coloring into the small containers and add drops of water to dilute.  Then find a nice patch of icey snow and make your masterpiece! This is a fun project for practicing color mixing too.

Food coloring isn’t washable so I sent my son out in an old coat just in case;)

If the snow cracks as you walk on it, it's the perfect consistency for snow painting,
anything thats too fluffy will simply stick to your brushes.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Burlap Table Runner with Woven Ribbon & Stenciling

My son recently had a day off from school, so I was looking for a project that might be fun for Thanksgiving.  We worked together to make this table runner. 
He was able to choose the pattern for the ribbon and weave it into the burlap while I cut out a stencil for the words and ironed on the freezer paper.

First measure the table and add on your desired length for the runner to hang off the edge.  We made ours 13”x54” so we were able to make 3 runners out of a yard and a half of bolt that was 36 inches wide. 

Decide where you want to weave the ribbon through and remove a couple strands from the fabric to make room for the width of the ribbon you have chosen. 
Decide what you want your pattern to be for the woven ribbon.   My son made each ribbon pattern different – the first was over 4 under 2 etc.  Decide if you want to remove any of the strands at the edges to make fringe.  Machine sew the edges to prevent further unraveling and to hold the ends of the ribbon in place. 
Trace your text onto the dull side of the freezer paper.  Place the template, shiny side down, on your runner and iron without steam. 
Dab acrylic or fabric paint onto the stencil with a foam brush being careful not to work the paint underneath the edge of the stencil. 
Once the paint has started drying (if you are a very patient person you can wait until it is completely dry, but I’m always curious and too excited to see it to wait that long!) peel off the paper stencil – if you are careful you can reuse this stencil once the paint has completely dried.

I hope you enjoy this tutorial.  It makes a great project to do with a young elementary aged child and reinforces some math skills with repeating patterns to boot!

Materials: Burlap Scissors Ribbon Kids Plastic Large Eye Needle Freezer Paper Exacto knife Cutting mat/Old magazine Iron Fabric or Acrylic Paint Sewing Machine (I sewed mine, but if you are more of a no sew crafter you might  be able to do this step with fray check.) Brown or Tan Thread

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Getting Crafty with Class: Halloween Classroom Party Craft

Yesterday I provided a craft for my son’s classroom party.  My ideal craft for a party like this is something that doesn’t make a huge mess, doesn’t have to dry, and has a high success rate.  We made Jack-O-Lantern sun catchers.

I folded  black construction paper and pre-cut a pumpkin shape so that the outside stayed intact. Then I stuck clear contact paper to one side and replaced the sheet I’d peeled to protect the sticky surface (leaving an overhang one edge so that its clear where you need to peel it off.)  Be sure to stick the same side that was originally on the sticky adhesive – if you flip the sheet you peeled it will stick to the contact paper and ruin your craft.  After applying each sheet I double checked to make sure I had done it correctly and had to redo several pumpkins!  But better to discover that before-hand instead of at the party!  Next I precut black shapes
for eyes, noses and mouths.  This eliminates some creative license but kids won’t have time to cut their own at the party.  If you are doing the craft with a small group and don’t have a time constraint I would recommend letting them work on their cutting skills and giving them some room for creativity here.  I cut one inch squares out of orange tissue paper, but after doing the craft with the kids, I would definitely make the tissue paper squares larger next time so the kids can move quicker and get to all the games and food too!
At the party all we had to do was write their name in white crayon, peel the protective sheet and toss it in the garbage, stick the facial features on the sticky adhesive cover the whole sticky surface with orange tissue paper and take it home!  

Not too much of a mess, just a few stray pieces of tissue paper to chase down and no messy glue to wait on.  Each kid’s pumpkin came out great!

Materials List:
clear contact paper
black construction paper
orange tissue paper (cut into 3 inch squares)
white crayon

I got the contact paper from a factory outlet that gives free surplus items to schools so the cost of this craft was less than 15 cents per student!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

From Farm to Gallery: Creating A Seasonal Still Life

Permanent Marker and Watercolor Still Life
With all the beautiful fall produce this time of year, it’s the perfect time to set up a still life.  We had a bunch of colorful peppers in our CSA box* this week, so I let the boys divvy them up and choose an art medium.  Please note that the peppers in this post are spicy!  I did most of the handling and were careful to have my little ones wash their hands after touching the peppers!  My younger son chose to draw his own rendition of the peppers using an ultra-fine permanent marker and then filled in the colors with watercolor paint.  Some colors were observational and some from his imagination.  I did get him to take notice of the shadows and he added them quite nicely I thought!

Chalk Pastel Still Life

My older son, who can be a bit of a perfectionist, started drawing with pencil so he could erase any mistakes and then filled in the color with chalk pastels.  He added a little surrealist spin by filling in the background with blue so they looked like they were floating in the sky.  It was fun to start from the same subject then branch out, seeing how different each piece of artwork became.  

Never having bought or eaten Hungarian wax peppers I adapted a recipe with things I had on hand.  They were pretty good, a little spicy for the boys, but fun to transform them from the art subject to a side dish.  The recipe for cheese stuffed wax peppers can be found below.

Find some seasonal fall produce and let your creative little hearts set up their own still life.  Pumpkins, apples and mums are easy to find and offer lots of colorful possibilities! 

Our Still Life Gallery

Spicy Cheese Stuffed Hungarian Wax Peppers
Substitute sweet peppers for a milder dish

12 peppers, seed and pith removed
1 c. cottage cheese
¼ c. parmesan cheese
1 egg
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
dash garlic powder
¼ c. shredded mozzarella cheese
drizzle of olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray.  Cut off the tops of the peppers and remove seeds and pith.  In a small food processor combine cottage cheese through mozzarella cheese and process just to combine.  Place in a zip top storage bag and snip the corner with kitchen sheers.  Fill each pepper and place on prepared sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Bake 30-40 minutes until cheese is hot and peppers are golden. (notice I didn't say they were particularly pretty after baking;)

* Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer.  Each week CSA shareholders pick up a box of fresh produce.  This creates a closer relationship between the food you eat and the farmer who grows it.  It also sometimes exposes you to new vegetables.  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Wax Resist Watercolor Postcards

I love taking some art supplies when we go on our family vacation each summer.  This year we combined watercolors with a little wax resist to create postcards to mail back to our friends.  It was a hit!  (An added bonus: it gave our budding first grader a chance to practice his writing skills too.)  We drew things we saw at the lake or on hikes using crayon.  Some of our favorite subjects were water lilies, kayaks, turtles, ducks and misty white waterfalls.  Once your subject is drawn (using a good amount of pressure on the crayon to build up a waxy layer) paint in the water using a wet on wet technique.  Just brush a thin coat of water over the whole area where you want paint color, load the brush with watercolor and dab it onto the wet paper.  Then watch the colors spread and mix creating beautiful reflective water without sticking to the wax crayon, it’s like magic!

Watercolor Paper Postcards (you can buy them precut or cut your own 4”x6” rectangles)
Paint Brushes
Shallow Container for Water
Watercolor Paint
Postcard Stamps

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Birthday Party Gift Dilemma

Cheetah racer tag was a big hit! 
The kids took home their tails
as a party favor.
Focus on the Fun!
Last year we held our first official birthday party for our son with all his friends from preschool.  It was a blast.  I loved planning it since I had done birthday parties for kids at a local art center before he was born and it was even more fun to do a party for my own child.  But when it came to gifts I had a dilemma.
Like many American households we suffer from an overabundance of stuff.  I struggle to keep the toys from overwhelming our modestly sized home and the thought of bringing more toys into the house seemed distressing.  So we opted to have a “no gifts please” policy, figuring that we needed to establish this for his first party so that he and his younger brother would expect that to be the norm for our family.  I would have loved to have him choose a charity and ask for donations toward that in lieu of gifts, but he didn’t really warm up to the idea and I didn’t want to force it on him so instead we just did “no gifts”.
We had the party in the early afternoon and followed it with a family gathering at our house where he opened gifts from mom and dad and Grandma and Grandpa etc.  You get the picture, the kid was not deprived.  I included him in all the party planning; he helped choose the theme, plan the games, picked out cupcakes with plastic ring decorations he loved, and had a piƱata that he desperately wanted. 
I had a few conversations with parents reassuring them that yes, we really did mean no gifts and we really were okay with it and so was our son.  Some thought it was great and wished they’d thought to do it too, others felt awkward.  Some slipped us gift cards which was nice of them and yet, it wasn’t that we wanted to pick out the stuff he got it was that he really didn’t need anything.

I created a "spot $5" graphic in the style
of the theme for the party to go on the invitations.
Then I had a conversation with a friend who had struggled with the same thing and done something different.   She’d seen in a magazine something called a “Spot 5” birthday.  Party guests were asked to bring a card with a five dollar bill inside.  The money given at the party was then split and half was given to a charity and the other half was combined for the birthday child to spend at a toy store.  They sent out a thank you card with a picture of the child in front of the store holding his new toy and a picture of him handing a check to the woman at their local pet shelter, which was the charity he had chosen to give to.  How smart is that!  The guests don’t have to feel guilty for not bringing a gift, the child is not deprived and my house doesn’t explode at the seams!  My friend said she actually had people thanking her since in early grades kids often invite the entire class and going to 20 or even 30 parties in a year can add up to a hefty amount. 
click here for my tutorial on making personalized postcards
We planned a spot five birthday party for this spring and it went wonderfully!  No one questioned our request; no one felt pressure to slip us gift cards.  My son and I decorated a shoebox with a slot in the lid where his guests slipped cards that they had made or bought.  My son had a blast opening his birthday cards, adding up the money and splitting it between his spending fund and his charity.  He chose to make a donation to nothing but nets which provides bed nets to protect families in Africa from contracting malaria carried by mosquitoes.  The trip to the toy store was a blast.  He perused the aisles before selecting a variety pack of hot wheels track and several race cars for it. 
This was a wonderful alternative to asking for no gifts; allowing guests the opportunity to come to the party with something to give to the birthday kid, preventing an influx of toys and giving an opportunity to teach your child about giving to a worthy cause. 
I hope more people hear about this awesome idea so spread the word and perhaps plan a “spot 5” party for your child!  If you do, let me know how it goesJ

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day Themed Lunch

This morning when I asked my son what he’d like for lunch he said, “I wish I could have an Earth Day themed lunch.  Mom, can you think about that?”  At first I thought: what?! I meant do you want grape jelly or strawberry jam on your PB&J?  But this is what I ended up making for him in a pinch.
I mini whole wheat bagel
2 wedges of spreadable cheese (or dollops of cream cheese)
blue and green food coloring
turkey deli meat
Reserve a corner of the cheese to be left white for the arctic and Antarctic.  In separate bowls mix in 2 drops of green food coloring into one wedge of cheese and 2 drops of blue in the other.  Spread one half of the bagel with blue colored cheese and then dab the green colored cheese to look like continents.  Dab the reserved white cheese on the north and south poles.  Spread the other half of the bagel with a little mayo and place a piece of deli meat on top – Pack in a reusable container (it is Earth Day after all)  open faced so your child can see the decorated bagel. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Branching Out With Some Observational Drawing

My son and I set aside a beautiful spring afternoon for some observational drawing.  Our subject: Trees.  Spring is the best time of year for this since the weather is warming up and the buds are just beginning to pop in our neighborhood.  Without the leaves, you can really see the structure of the tree. 
My son chose his artistic media, oil pastels.  I attached a piece of heavy paper to a clip board and we ventured outside with our camp chairs.  If you don’t have folding chairs available an alternative, that also works great for groups, is to put a folded newspaper into a plastic grocery bag and you are good to go!  It’s waterproof, inexpensive and portable!
I sat with my son in our front yard and we talked about what we saw.  Where is the thickest part of the tree?  Where is the thinnest?  Notice how the branches divide and new branches grow?  I keep it light with minimal instruction.  I mostly ask questions to get him started in making his own observations.  I am intentional about pointing out what I see on the tree, not what he needs to do on his paper.  We are not striving for photorealism here.
To celebrate spring, I encourage you to take your little ones outside to observe the wonders of nature and create some masterpieces of your own! 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sugarless Easter Basket Ideas

 (that are just as sweet!)  
 I’m not a complete scrooge when it comes to candy and sugar, but I know that my kids will accrue plenty of sweets between church and Grandma’s house on Easter Sunday.  They really don’t need me to give them chocolates and candy too.  Do they really need a mountain of sweet treats that will last until Halloween?  There are lots of fun alternatives to sugary treats like outdoor toys, art supplies, gardening tools and bath items.  This year I plan to fill plastic Easter eggs with puzzle pieces in lieu of chocolates. As they find their eggs they can put the puzzle together and when the puzzle is complete, they’ll know when they’ve found all the eggs! (I’ve found that pieces from a 48 piece puzzles are the right sized to fit a jumbo plastic egg.  Oh, and I’m going to put more than one piece in each egg!) 
Below are a few lists I’ve compiled plus some project tutorials for chalkboard paint flower pots and felted soap eggs that you can do to surprise your little ones on Easter morning.   

Felted Egg Shaped Soap
(not for little ones who are allergic to wool)
Felting Wool is fast and fairly easy.  Wool roving is available at most craft stores now, it is wool that has been cleaned, carded and dyed but not spun into yarn.  Felting wool is an amazing process.  Seriously, it’s like magic!  The fibers are transformed by heat and friction.  As you gently rub the wool with warm water tiny barb like structures interlock (think Velcro) and the process shrinks the material until it mats together into an entirely new medium.  I made one on a plain bar of soap for myself and love it!  It’s great for gently exfoliating and I will be totally ready for flip flips when the weather finally decides to warm up!  The felted soap is nice for kids because it’s a little easier to grip and the bright colors make them easier to find in the tub.
I started this project by making my soap into an egg shape.  I grated one bar of my family’s favorite soap.  Then I divided it in half, sprayed it with warm water and pressed it together to form the shape I wanted.  I got two, life sized, eggs out of one bar of soap.  I let my soap dry over night before continuing the project. 

The next day I started by pulling the fibers of wool roving apart.  Do this by grasping the wool with my hands about 5-6 inches apart and pulling.  (If the fibers don’t pull apart easily your hands are too close together.)  Then using small pieces of the wool I covered the soap with thin layers, criss-crossing them in different directions, until there was a layer of wool in an even thickness (about an inch thick) around the whole thing.  (You shouldn’t be able to see the soap through the fibers or you’ll have holes in the felt.)  Then I put my hand into a nylon knee high or cut off portion of panty hose, gripped the wool covered soap gently with my hand in the toe of the nylon and pulled the nylon inside out over the soap encasing the soap inside.  I wrapped the excess nylon around the soap and set in a bowl of very warm water (not too hot to touch) for about five to ten minutes. 

Then I gently massaged the soap, (imagine it’s a fragile egg), by rolling and spinning it around in my palms and changing directions every so often. 

After about 5 minutes I carefully removed the stocking.  Some of the wool fibers migrated through the nylon.  Gently, I pulled them back through and continued the felting process in my hands.

At this point I used more pressure, without the stocking.  Occasionally, remember to dip the soap into the hot water to keep the temperature from cooling too much.  Once it was complete the wool was snug and did not shift around over the soap.  Let it air dry.  This project is easy enough to do with a child or is great as an easter basket stuffer.

Flower Hooded Towel Available at
Chalkboard Flower Pots
I tried a fairly inexpensive recipe for chalk board paint and mixed up three bright colors in glass lidded jars.  I used the recipe below to paint 10”diameter terracotta pots.  Be sure to seal the inside of the pot to prevent moisture from seeping through and causing your paint to bubble and peel! (Apply a few thin coats of Thompson's Water Seal which is specifically formulated for sealing terra cotta pots so they can be painted.)  The kids will get these as Easter baskets this year along with a pack of marigold seeds, some gardening tools and cute gardening gloves.  I’m going to write their names on the pot with chalk for Easter Morning, but a swipe with a wet cloth will clean it away and then they can draw and write whatever they choose. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Tractor Cake Pan Repurposed

Our friend’s son turned four years old yesterday.  When we were invited to the party I asked what we could bring.  The answer: a veggie tray. "And", her husband added, “make it blog worthy.”  I laughed and had no intention of making it blog worthy, until I went to assemble the tray.  My beloved plastic dollar store veggie and dip platter has been MIA since our last youth group potluck and so I had to think of what else I could use to transport it.  Then I thought, he loves tractors… maybe I could arrange the veggies into a tractor shape?  That's when it hit me, I had a tractor shaped cake pan used from my boys first birthdays!  So, I dug it out of storage and got to work.  It was a big hit.  The next time you are asked to bring a veggie tray, consider the shaped cake pan, formally thought of as a uni-tasker. 

Empty cake pan awaiting a new life!

A little creamcheese served as cement to level out the
surface for the container of dip and keep it from sliding

Another alternative would be to hollow out a
bell pepper and use it to contain the dip!

Small black olives make the wheels.

Roughly cut the veggie sticks to fit the space.

Colorful finished product

Dill Dip:
2 1/2 tsp dill weed
2 1/2 tsp dried minced onion
2 1/2 tsp dried parsley
1 1/2 tsp beau monde seasoning
Mix dry ingeredients with 1 cup mayonaise and 1 cup sour cream.
Veggies: baby carrots, celery, small white mushrooms, small black olives (1 1/2 cans), red and orange bell peppers, grape tomatoes, and cucumber.
cream cheese to hold dip container in place.