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.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Celebrate Dr. Seuss

My son had a half day of school earlier this week.  Usually I try to keep to my normal afternoon routine, but in reality my kindergartener will want my undivided attention and his little brother won’t nap because he’s so excited.  This usually results in me struggling to stick to my regularly scheduled Thursday while feeling guilty that the little one isn’t getting his nap and frustrated that the older one isn’t just playing quietly.  This Thursday I tried something different.  Since Dr Seuss’ birthday is this weekend I prepared a list of fun activities based on a few of his many books, planned a fun Seuss themed lunch and threw my normal looking afternoon out the window.  The night before I picked up a couple extra items at the grocery store, boiled eggs, set blue gelatin in the fridge and gathered some simple craft items that I already had around the house.  

Yertle the Turtle Stacking and Counting Cups:
During the morning my younger son helped paint a paper egg carton blue (I had cut the individual cups apart and trimmed the uneven edges so they stood evenly) and while it dried we read one of my favorites: Yertle the Turtle.  Once the paint had dried we added some designs on the cups with black marker.  I drew some samples of patterns that Dr. Seuss used in his illustrations to give him ideas (polka dots, stripes, zigzags, checkerboard etc).  Then we glued a number to each “turtle shell” and a turtle head that I had sketched to look like the turtles in the book.  Number 12 is King Yertle, the only turtle who is smiling.  When the cups are stacked in chronological order Yertle ends up on the top.
egg carton, cut apart
blue paint
paint brush
newspapers to cover the table
black marker
white paper (for the numbers and turtle faces)

Making Oobleck:
Who can resist an excuse to mix up some water and cornstarch? Mix 1 cup of water into about 1 ¾ cups cornstarch add some green food coloring (if you desire.)  We played in it for about 30 seconds before my 2 ½ year old said, “This is fun! Mommy, I’m gonna go wash my hands!”  He came back to play some more when I drizzled a little onto a rimmed baking sheet and added a couple of spoons for scooping.  At that point it was time to head to the corner bus stop to pick up my kindergartener.  The oobleck was a big hit with both kids.  They played in it, adding a couple of plastic dinosaur figurines, while I put together lunch. 

Green Eggs and Ham Car
My boys are crazy for hard boiled eggs and both like avocado so I mixed up some avocado in with the yolks and a touch of mayo and dill relish to make these green deviled eggs.  I added ham and cream cheese pinwheels for wheels and topped it with a sketch of Sam I am and his friend in the car.  You can stick the wheels on with pretzel sticks or a little cream cheese.  My son enjoyed this lunch so much we packed it the next day to take to school!
6 hard boiled eggs, cut in half
1 ripe avocado
2 tsp dill pickle relish
2 tsp mayo
1 slice of deli ham
whipped cream cheese
pretzel sticks and alphabet pretzels

1 Fish, 2 Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish Gelatin
I found this on a blog called simple girl at home.  Just prepare the blue gelatin in 1 serving sized cups and gave each child a few gummy fish to press into the gelatin.

Sight Reading Cards
My son is always telling me that he needs to practice his sight words more often so we flipped over these unconventional flash cards we saw on the purple haired homeschoolerWe spread the eggs yolk side up and as he reads each word he flips them into a play frying pan with his spatula.  I cut circles out of green paper using a scrapbooking punch and then glued the circles onto white paper leaving space around each one and then cut, freehand, around them to make the white of the fried egg.

green and white paper
toy spatula
list of sight reading words

Gertrude McFuzz Sculptures
This is also a favorite of mine and can be found in the book Yertle the Turtle and other stories.  It’s a great story about the consequences of greed.  We used aluminum foil for our structure and decoupage tissue paper which gives a great shimmering effect.  Start with about a two foot long piece of foil.  About 1/3rd of the way pinch the sides of the foil toward the center.  The long side will become the tail.  Form the small side into the body of the bird.  Dab with Mod Podge and lay tissue paper down and dab the top of the tissue with more Mod Podge.  Allow to dry, attach googly eyes with glue and use a marker to draw a beak.  At this point you can also cut the tail into feathery shapes so it isn’t as boxy and triangular.

aluminum foil
Mod Podge (we used glossy finish)
tissue paper
googly eyes

The Big Brag Finger Puppet:
My guys are crazy for putting on puppet shows.  I created this finger puppet for the last story in the Yertle the Turtle collection: The Big Brag. I drew the characters onto craft foam and cut a hole for the worm and made a loop on the back of the worm’s head to fit my son’s finger.
craft foam
permanent marker
googly eyes

Green Eggs and Ham Pretzel Sweeties:
To finish off our day of Dr. Seuss fun we made these pretzel sweeties in the shape of green fried eggs (shared with us by a friend on facebook).  Melt about a half cup of white chocolate chips in a mug in the microwave (30 seconds at a time stirring in between until melted, about 1 ½ minutes)  Spoon onto parchment paper and press a green m&m and a pretzel stick broken in half.  Allow to cool to set and enjoy!

white chocolate chips
green m&ms
pretzel sticks
parchment paper
cookie sheet

I had that list of activities thinking that my son would choose a couple things from it, but he kept going until supper time and was disappointed that supper wasn’t Dr. Seuss themed!  We had a blast bringing some of our favorite Dr. Seuss books to life and hope you try out some of these fun themed foods and crafts with your creative little hearts.