Memories... Like Mom Made!

Memories... Like Mom Made!
Out of dark moments, flowers grow.

Friday, May 25, 2012

How to Entertain Your Preschooler: Noodles and String

Yes, you read it right! The second post in the "How to Entertain Your Preschooler" series involves TWO key things...

Noodles and String.

Remarkably simple, yet again... But still wildly fabulous.

This idea was born slightly out of desperation, and slightly out of a weird grade school flashback...

Landon had already played with the Bean Bucket for a couple of hours, played with trains, eaten lunch, played with blocks, had a snack... Basically he had done it all and still wanted more! So I ran to the pantry, rummaged around, saw some lonely pasta hanging out and a light bulb went off! Remember all of the zany art projects we were all subjected to as grade schoolers? Like gluing pasta on paper plates, making noodle necklaces, and even rolling penne in glue and glitter? I do!

I took another tupperware style tub just like in the Bean Bucket tutorial (these things are GREAT for easy, portable activities that you can clean up and store in a snap) and dumped in a half empty box of penne I had on the shelf. Then I cut two long pieces of cotton cord and knotted one end of each string.

You can leave it at that, or you can dip the end of the string into candle wax to make it easier to push through the noodles. I had some Scentsy warming on the counter so I just dipped the tip in about an inch, set it in the freezer to harden completely, and then put it in the tub with the noodles.

Then I placed the whole thing in front of Landon, showed him ONCE how to do it, and he was off. Creating noodle necklaces, noodle trains, noodles worms....

It is amazing how the mind of a 3 year old can work, right? Mind you these were all pretty much identical since I haven't yet dyed the noodles (COMING SOON!!!), and because I only had penne on hand. Since dried pasta is only a buck or two a box, I plan on picking up some more the next time I head to the store. Different shapes and sizes will be more interesting and also provide an opportunity to sort, compare relationships of size, and talks about differences.

Isn't learning fun?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How to Create a Weathered Finish With a Household Material

Have you ever been working on a project and thought "Man! This would be perfect if only I could get just the right amount of distressing on this without having to buy expensive distressing paint, or without accidentally sanding through my second layer of paint!"?

Don't lie. You KNOW you have said those exact words in your head, or out loud...

Ok, maybe I am paraphrasing a bit.

But you know you want to know the trick already... right?!

The trick is so simple, so cheap, and so readily available that when I tell you what it is, you will either want to kiss me, or want to immediately run to your craft room (or garage, kitchen, living room... where the crafting magic happens... ok?) and use this little trick.

Should I draw this out any longer or should I go ahead and tell you what the household item is?


It is....

Drumroll please....

A candle!!!

Wax in particular. Any wax candle will do the trick. I grabbed an old votive candle that hadn't seen the light of day, let alone a match, in years and went to town on a project I have been working on: a mason jar key holder.

First start with a clean piece of wood.

I used a 12" x 4' board that I picked up from Home Depot for under $5. Since they will do up to 2 cuts for free, I had it cut into three separate pieces: this 12"x12", a second 12"x12", and a 12"x24" board that I will be using to make an adorable bench for Lorelei's room later. Make sure it is clean and sand the edges if you have to.

Next paint an even coat of the color you want to show through on your finished project. I used a bottle of acrylic paint I had on hand. Any old paint will work for this trick. After you cover the surface with your first paint color, let it dry completely before moving on to the next step.

After the first coat dries, take your candle (I said I used a forgotten votive candle, but forgot to mention that my husband had carved it into the shape of a 1 for our son's first birthday when we couldn't find the 1 candle for his cake, but any candle or wax will work) and rub it on the edges and any place you want the original color to show through. I paid extra attention to the edges and corners, and then rubbed it sporadically through the middle of the board.

Next you will paint the entire surface with your top color. Obviously this is the color of your finished project. When you cover the entire project with paint, determine if it needs a second or third coat or not. When you achieve the color you want it to be, let it dry completely and then grab some sand paper.

Start sanding the edges and any place where you rubbed your wax and the wax will easily strip off, revealing your first paint color underneath. Don't press so hard that you pull off the wax and the bottom layer of paint. I like to rough up the entire project (GENTLY though!) so that I don't miss any pieces of wax. This ensures that the entire project looks nice and worn.

This trick works for any project you can imagine: dressers, shelves, tables, picture frames, etc.


How to Entertain your Preschooler: Bean Bucket!!!

This is my first activity post in my "How to Entertain your Preschooler" series.

A few weeks ago I was really in need of something I could easily throw together to entertain Landon. I needed it to be portable so I could bring it out when I needed Landon to be occupied for a few minutes (or, you know, an hour or two), easy to clean up so I didn't defeat the purpose of the activity in the first place, and something that actually challenged him intellectually (read: NOT the television).

Because of the WIC program (I am not ashamed to admit that we receive WIC: it is an incredible program and I am grateful for all that it provides!) we have a surplus of dried beans in the house. I grabbed a large tupperware container with a secure lid, and dumped three 1 pound bags into the bucket: one bag of lentils, one bag of red beans, and one bag of black eyed peas.

Then I assembled three small Dixie cups (for sorting), a coffee scoop I never use since I grind all of my coffee fresh in my  Magic Bullet  right before I brew my coffee, and a small measuring cup.

Then I placed the new activity in front of my ecstatic preschooler and he was completely content for the next THREE hours!!!

Here he was playing with the coffee scoop and various "go-gos" he decided to add to the bean bucket.

The best part is, clean up is an absolute breeze! Just swipe any of the spilled beans off the table or counter back into the tub, and vacuum any fallen beans from the floor or carpet. Snap the lid back on and store in a cabinet or shelf until your child is ready to play again!

Since beans are super cheap (or free), it doesn't matter if you have to vacuum a bunch of them up. A one pound bag of beans is under $1 at most grocery stores!

When I first presented the bucket to Landon, I challenged him to sort each kind of bean into a separate Dixie cup. When he had sorted several in to each cup, we dumped them out and counted how many he had collected of each kind.

We also talked about color, relationship of size, and texture.

Several times a week he asks to play with the beans and I am guaranteed at least an hour with a completely entertained and occupied 3 year old. And he even loves to help clean up with the vacuum hose!

**Obviously this activity is NOT suitable for children who still swallow small objects or put objects in their mouth without super close supervision. For younger children, do NOT leave them alone with this activity. My 3 year old is out of the "mouth exploration" stage so he does fine by himself with this activity. Make sure you explain to your child beforehand that these beans are NOT for eating and are just for playing! And, because I don't want to be responsible for any trips to the ER, please make sure and tell your child that we do not put beans up our noses!!!! Thank you! Enjoy!

How to Entertain Your Preschooler

Having a new baby in the house is amazing. Watching her grow and change and become interested in the world around her is incredible. I have to admit though, I had forgotten how extremely exhausting it is to be a 24/7 milk factory/bottle/pacifier, not to mention changing diapers every couple of hours while also keeping up on house work, creating delicious meals, and doing load after load of laundry.

And did I mention we cloth diaper? Yeah. We do. And I LOVE it... But the extra loads of laundry...

Well let's just come out with it:


Oh and did I mention that I have a 3 year old? A wonderful, curious, active, intelligent 3 year old who is constantly in need of things himself.

One of the most difficult things about adjusting to having a new baby is making sure not to lose sight of the other child(ren) in the house. Especially at this age. He is becoming more and more independent, which is awesome, but it can also be trouble. Because the independent 3 year old actually creates more work for mommy if not properly guided... IE: an independent 3 year old left to his own devices may pull every single snack item out of the cabinet and proceed to sit down and work his way through every cracker and fruit snack in the bunch. Or help himself to some juice, which he proceeds to pour in his own cup... and on the counter, floor, sink, etc..

Yes 3 is an incredible age, if you are prepared for it!

So I am going to start a small series of posts with tips on how I entertain my precocious 3 year old in a way that still promotes fun, learning, and a few minutes of peace (read: nursing, changing diapers, doing laundry, sneaking cookies in the utility room... whatever you may need a few extra minutes to do) for mommy.

If you have any particularly useful activities that you utilize in your home, please share them here and I will be sure to try them out and include them in the future.

1. Bean Bucket

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mother's Day Ideas... Gifts, Recipes, and 10 ways to make her day special...

So Mother's Day is right around the corner... Are you ready?

Last year a group of friend's and I had a fancy schmancy tea and brunch to celebrate our important day. My husband was deployed (AGAIN), and so were many of their husbands. It was a great way to band together to make the day special, and a wonderful excuse to wear pearls, long gloves, fancy hats, and flowery dresses.

Needless to say, it was a great time.

And we are doing the same thing again this year!

Since we are doing it potluck style, I am making a few things for the occasion. I don't expect anything fancy for my actual Mother's Day, so instead I am making all the delicious things I would want for myself... It's a win-win, right?

Here is my menu:

Brazilian Lemonade
Cranberry Scones
Cheddar Leek and Bacon Muffins
Leek and Goat Cheese Mini Quiches
Spinach Mozzarella and Ham Mini Quiches
Banana Cake with Vanilla Frosting
Mini White Chocolate Cheesecakes

You COULD say I am going overboard... but like I said: things I would like to have... the list just happens to be long!!

I will of course be adding my own touch to the recipes, but just so I don't leave you hanging, here are some recipes for the above items.

Brazilian Lemonade

(Mix the sugar, lime, and water mixture in a large jug ahead of time to save time, then add to a pitcher and stir in sweetened condensed milk when ready to serve)

Cheddar and Leek Muffins

(I am adding crisp, crumbled bacon to mine)

Leek and Goat Cheese Mini Quiches

(So this is a frittata recipe... I am going to make some simple pie crust, use a drinking glass to cut circles, and press the crust into muffin tins and fill with the mixture and bake until set. I will be leaving out the pumpkin seeds. I will also be making a version of these with spinach, mozzarella, and ham.)

Banana Cake with Vanilla Frosting

Mini White Chocolate Cheesecakes
(I will be making a graham cracker and butter mixture and pressing it into mini muffin cups, then pouring the mixture into the cups to bake. Then I will be topping with a small strawberry and a mint leaf)

So there you have a bunch of brunch ideas!!! I hope you make and enjoy some of them, either as the author intended or with the changes I will be making.

So this is one of the few mother's days that my husband will actually be home for. Let me rephrase that:

This is one of the few mother's days that my husband will not be deployed for... But he has duty and has to stand watch... So I won't actually get to see him... So I don't really expect much, but if he were to do something, here are some ideas that I wouldn't mind!

10 FREE (or very close to being free) Ways to Spoil the Mother of your Children
1. A clean house
2. A nap while he watches the kids
3. Breakfast in bed
4. A handmade card
5. Some hand picked flowers from the front yard
6. A bubble bath
7. Coupons promising things like a massage, chores around the house done without asking, or an hour of whatever I want to watch on TV, etc.
8. A bottle of wine to drink while he cares for the kids (Fresh and Easy has "Big Kahuna" for $1.99)
9. To sleep in
10. A day of being told how amazing I am and reminded of all the incredible things I do.

And if you have some money to spare and want to give her an amazing present (for Mother's Day, Christmas, her birthday, or just because you love her), check out these ideas, made by ME! You can purchase these, or items like these, through my facebook business page: Decked Out: Custom Creations by Virginia Decker.

Charm Necklace with a bird's nest to represent the children in a Mother's life.

Multi-color nest necklace

Lace and Pearl Necklace

I hope you have enjoyed my Mother's Day Idea post. And I hope that you walk away (click away?) from this post with several ideas to make the Mom in your life feel like the queen she is on her special day.

Before I leave you, I want to show you the best gifts I have ever received:

My beautiful children. <3