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Monday, July 30, 2012

Rainbow Fruit Skewers

For my daughter's second birthday, I decided to serve some fruit as part of our lunch, but I wanted something more fun than a fruit tray or fruit salad. I found our leftover skewers from our mini caramel dipped apples and decided to use them on fruit. These are great because they are shorter than traditional skewers, just about five inches long. Purchasing colors to make a rainbow, I selected strawberries, cantaloupe, mango, green grapes, and red grapes. I was going to get blueberries, but they were out of the organic ones. Those would have been cute!

I wanted a fun way to display the skewers, so my husband suggested the cantaloupe. After scooping out all the melon balls, I turned one half over and used a leftover skewer to poke holes all over it. I then carefully inserted the fruit skewers to create our fun side dish. And here you go...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Boys' Emergency Paracord Bracelets DIY

My middle son was invited to attend another church's Vacation Bible School two weeks before ours. While there, he got to spend time with several of his friends from school, some he hadn't been in the same class with since first grade, so he was thrilled to get to spend time with them. One of those friends gave him the coolest bracelet that he had made. I examined it and realized it was very similar to one the Boy Scout store sells. The store advertises it as an emergency cord bracelet that can be unwoven to provide up to ten feet of cord. The difference between that bracelet and the one my son came home with was the absence of a plastic clasp. Instead, it had a loop and knot to close it.
Our inspiration bracelet is on the left.

I figured if his friend could make one, so could we. We just needed to research where to buy the cord and how to do it. A quick search gave us the answers we needed: DIY paracord bracelet. This website describes what to do and links to two videos to further help. Sometimes I wonder how I managed to grow up without the Internet!

Now all I needed to do was visit one of my other favorite sites: I found several places that sell the paracord, but they come in either lengths of 50 feet or 100 feet. You only need 12.5 feet for one bracelet. However, since I was able to find a few colors for about $8 for 100 feet with free shipping, I let the boys pick out two colors. They agreed on dark blue and bright orange. Since the 200 feet of paracord I ordered could make 16 bracelets, we could make them for $1 a piece, assuming we'd want that many bracelets. All that is required is a good pair of scissors, one to three colors of paracord, and a lighter.

I promised my three boys along with the two boys who invited my son to VBS that we'd make these bracelets once the order arrived, so on the second day of our church's VBS, I gathered the five boys into my room to make these bracelets. Okay, so it wasn't that easy. Let me back track...

These bracelets are easy to braid, but if you want to let your child make it, you'll need to do some of the prep work yourself. For instance, I pre-cut the cords, knotted them, and fused them the day before. Let me explain. To make these bracelets, you can use one, two, or three colors. You can also use either two or three pieces of cord. No matter what, you must begin with a 2.5 foot piece of cord. The first step it so knot it, which you can do very simply with a standard knot or by making a much neater looking yet much more complicated lanyard or friendship knot. Of course, I chose the latter. Click on this link for an excellent tutorial:

The next step before you can get to braiding the bracelet is required only if you want to braid two different colors together. It will weaken the bracelet, so I don't recommend doing it if you think you'll ever untie this bracelet to use in an emergency situation. Two of the five boys chose to braid with a single color, so I only had to prepare three bracelets. To fuse the two strips of cord together in preparation for braiding them, watch this Youtube video: how to fuse paracord together. If you don't like the idea of lighting the paracord and pinching it repeatedly with your fingers, just cut one ten-foot long piece of paracord to braid. You can cut an alternative color for the 2.5 foot portion to create a slight contrast. So, to summarize, you'll either have one ten-foot long piece of paracord OR two five-foot long pieces fused together for this step.

Okay, now we are ready to make this into a kid-friendly craft. To begin, I had three eight-year-olds, one seven-year-old, one ten-year-old and one toddler on the floor of my bedroom with over 55 feet of cord strung everywhere.  Within seconds, I realized we had to remove the toddler from the equation, so I put her down for her nap.

Remember, by this point I had already cut strips of paracord into 2.5 feet and knotted them for each bracelet using the friendship knot video. I had also cut strips of 5 feet in blue and orange and fused them together for three of the boys and cut strips of 10 feet for the two boys who wanted a solid-colored bracelet, so with just two colors of paracord, we really had six options: all orange, all blue, orange braid with blue knot, blue braid with orange knot, blue and orange braid with blue knot, and blue and orange braid with orange knot. 

Since you can adjust the length of your bracelet to fit your wrist, you will need to adjust the placement of your knot on the 2.5' loop. To determine exactly where you need the knot, tie a loose one and wrap it around your wrist. (Keep in mind, the knot will go inside the last inch of your loop to fasten it, and you'll want it a bit loose to give room for when you braid the longer cord over it.)

Braiding Steps:
Step One: Lay the knotted 2.5' loop so the knot is closest to you. (I highly recommend doing this on the floor if you will have several people making them at once or a large table for one person.)  Create a cross by laying the 10 feet of paracord about one inch from the top of the loop and under it.

Step Two: (If you do a two-toned braid, it's much easier to follow.) Take your left side of cord (blue in my photos) and make a u-turn over the 2.5' loop.

Step Three: This is actually made up of three mini steps, so let's take them one at a time.
Step 3A: Take your right side of the cord (orange in my photos) and bring it down over the blue cord.

Step 3B: Then tuck it under the 2.5' loop.

Step 3C: Then pull it up through the blue loop you had made when you created the u-turn.

Step 4: Carefully pull both sides tight. 

Now you will repeat step two. If you are using two colors for your braid, you will always have the same color for that u-turn. For instance, my blue cord was always the easy cord that simply had to u-turn. If you choose to use one color, you will need to remember if you started on your right side or left side because every time you repeat step two, you will start on the alternate side. (This is true with the two-toned bracelet too, but you don't have to pay attention because you can just remember your u-turn color.) I had one boy set a scrap of cord on his right side while he was u-turning on the right and set it on his left side when he was u-turning with his left to help him remember.

After repeating step two (the u-turn), you repeat step three. Then step four. 

That's really it. You just keep repeating steps two, three, and four until you have about 1/2 inch of space before your knot. Since we had adjusted the placement of the knots on the 2.5 strips of cord before we got started, some boys were able to use up all ten feet of paracord for their bracelets while the smaller-wristed boys had at least a foot left to cut off. The larger your wrist, the more paracord you'll need. For instance, for a smaller child's wrist, you'll repeat steps 2-4 about ten times while for a male's wrist, you'll repeat those steps about 20 times. Most of my boys repeated 12 times.       

Now we need to finish off the bracelet. You will have four leftover ends to cut and burn. While I let my 10-year-old help with this, I did it for the younger boys. Cut the cords so you have about one inch leftover. Then, using your lighter, burn the ends down and carefully pinch them together so they will fuse together. 

A final optional step but one I strongly suggest is to get a needle and thread and sew the braided portion to the looped portion by running about four stitches between all the cords and tieing off with the thread. I used navy thread, so you can't even see those tiny stitches. This just keeps the braided cord from accidentally slipping off the looped cord and helps to keep it from coming unbraided if your fused parts don't stay strong. Here are some photos of the two ends from my bracelet to show the fusing, the knot, and the nearly-impossible-to-notice threading:  

That's it. It is really quite easy as all five of my boys ages seven to ten were able to get the hang of it by the third time they repeated those three steps. Then they were very proud of themselves for creating something so cool. They've been wearing them every day since and have even made a couple more to give to some friends they made during our week at VBS. At $1 a bracelet, I'm pleased with this investment. Not only does it look neat but it teaches children some rope handling skills, gives them a sense of pride, and could actually be useful if we ever needed cords that could withstand over 500 pounds of pressure. Now that's awesome!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bucket List Activity # 12: Board Games

With a two-year-old little sister, it's difficult for my boys to play board games, but when she's napping, we sometimes take advantage of this time without her to pull out some of our favorites. To switch things up, when one of my sons asked to put board games on the bucket list, I suggested we change up a rule or two and try that out.

For instance, when my 11-year-old son and I played Monopoly, we tried it with two pawns each. We kept separate stashes of money and property as though we really were playing with four people instead of two, but we'd then sell property to our other pawn at ridiculously low prices. We follow the rest of the rules correctly, but this puts a funny spin on the game. Often, one of our pawns goes bankrupt, but it has conveniently sold off everything to our other pawn, so our opponent can't benefit from it. Whether we play this way or the original game, my son always wins. His younger brothers get bored with this game rather quickly, which is actually how we came up with the idea of a four-player game played with two people.

Recently, during a very loud thunderstorm that, thankfully, our princess had no problem sleeping through, I pulled out Mousetrap. I had bought this game for my oldest son's preschool graduation, but his younger brothers managed to break a few pieces, so within a couple of years, I had to throw it out. This May, someone in our subdivision was selling games her children had outgrown, so I snatched up this one and Chinese Checkers. Her children had obviously taken much better care of their game than we had. I knew that as long as we kept it out of their sister's hands, the game could last for a long time. The only piece missing was the rubber band, but that was a quick fix as I simply tied a knot in a regular one, and it fit just fine.

While playing games, throwing the dice is always an issue. Rowdy boys often throw it off the card table, or worse yet, they throw it in a fashion that it knocks pieces over. Since I'm overly protective of this $2 board game, I ran downstairs to a stash I had saved from our last trip to CiCi's. Typically, I never let my kids buy those silly toys in the gumball machines, but that was the day we had just picked up my oldest from his week long Boy Scout camp. We were eating with his friend's family, and I enjoyed visiting with them. The gumball machines had these plastic baseball caps in them, probably perfect for a Barbie had we had any of those in our house. I gave them $5, and before long, I was having to open about a dozen plastic containers with these hats inside. Since those hard plastic containers were so sturdy, I told the boys to save them. 

They are perfect for games involving just one die. I'd heard of using baby food containers this same way, but I made my daughter's baby food, so I didn't have the containers. Well, I put the die in one of the containers, and it worked perfectly. We no longer have to scramble around in search of the rogue die that flew off the table or worry about our pawns sliding across the board as a die pushes them away.

I was the first to be trapped in that afternoon's game of Mousetrap, but that's okay. We all had fun playing the game. 

While we didn't switch up any rules in Mousetrap, we certainly did with Jenga. I bought this game for my boys for Christmas because I remembered enjoying it years ago; however, it has rarely earned a spot on the coveted game table. Instead, it keeps getting pushed further into the corner of our playroom closet as my sons grab games they deem more fun. They like things that are rowdy, so we decided to mix the traditional Jenga with Truth or Dare. I gave my youngest son a blue crayon while I grabbed one of the boys' notebooks and pencils. As he numbered all 51 Jenga blocks, I started scrawling a long list of truth questions and dares with the help of my imaginative, if not slightly silly, boys. I later typed up the list to store with the blocks.

To play our version of the game, we make sure when we stack the blocks, the numbers are faced down. We then take turns as usual but when we successfully get a block, we look at the number and match it with the list. We then must do as it says, whether it's to answer if we've ever farted in class before or to perform the chicken dance. Like I said, I have some silly boys! Here's our complete list in case you'd like to create your own version. Feel free to use as many (or as few) ideas as you'd like. It will make the game longer and louder but also loads more fun!

Truth or Dare Jenga

1. Get the next block with your other hand.

2. Stand on one foot until your next turn.

3. Wear a bow in your hair for the rest of the game.

4. Get your next block with your eyes closed.

5. Truth: Have you ever lied to a teacher? Explain.

6. Sing a silly song until it’s your turn again.

7. Make up a goof dance.

8. Truth: If you had to eat the same meal for dinner every night, what would it be?

9. Lose a turn!

10.     Use a pen or pencil to push your next block.

11.     Get your next block using only your pinkies.

12.     Keep your eyes closed until it’s your turn.

13.     Run to the front door, open it, and shout, “I love ____!”

14.     Truth: Would you rather eat raw meat or a live bug?

15.     Get your next block with only one hand.

16.     Do the chicken dance.

17.     Truth: Have you ever farted at school? Explain.

18.     Stick out your tongue until your next turn.

19.     Truth: What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?

20.     Touch your toe to your nose.

21.     Pat your head and rub your belly for 15 seconds.

22.     Truth: Would you rather pee in your pants or throw up in class?

23.     Do a thumb war with the person to your right. If you lose, you skip your next turn.

24.     Get a block while making an animal noise.

25.     Play “rock, paper, scissors” with the person to your left. If you lose, you skip your next turn.

26.     Truth: Would you rather sleep in the front yard by yourself in a tent or the backyard by yourself with just a sleeping bag?

27.     Make a funny face. If no one smiles or laughs at it, lose a turn.

28.     Hum a song. If someone guesses it, you can go again.

29.     Truth: Would you rather drink expired milk or lemonade that your brother had spit in?

30.     Put clean underwear on your head for the rest of the game.

31.     Try to lick your elbow.

32.     Get a block with socks on your hands.

33.     Truth: If you had to give up either sodas or gum for the rest of your life, what would it be?

34.     Kiss your knee.

35.     Tell a joke. If someone smiles or laughs at it, go again.

36.     Put on a dirty sock for the rest of the game.

37.     Truth: Would you rather chew on a stranger’s fingernail or a family member’s toenail?

38.     Sing a song as though you are a frog.

39.     Gurgle a cup of water.

40.     Truth: Would you rather eat a whole fried worm or a chicken’s eyeball?

41.     Crawl around the room like a baby until it’s your turn again.

42.     Touch your toe to your ear.

43.     Truth: Would you rather smell a dirty diaper for 10 seconds or a smelly shoe for an hour?

44.     Only speak as though you are singing for the next two rounds.

45.     Put your shirt on backwards for the rest of the game.

46.     Get a block from the bottom three rows only.

47.     Truth: If you could only eat the same breakfast every day, what would you eat?

48.     Put this block back in its original spot.

49.     Don’t speak for the next two rounds or you will lose your turn.

50.     Do jumping jacks (not near the table) until it’s your turn.

51.     Truth: If you could only watch one channel for the next year, what would it be?

Can your family think of some creative changes you've made to traditional board games? If so, I'd love to hear about them so we can try them out too. Years ago, we would play Blokus in various ways, and sometimes we would simply treat the pieces like a puzzle. That's a great game I haven't pulled out at all this summer. I think I know what we'll be playing tomorrow!  

For other bucket list activities, click here.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Glamorous Life of a SAHM

As a stay-at-home mom who works part-time for two online companies, teaching writing, I sometimes get into a slump. After all, nobody hosts glamorous award shows for stay-at-home moms where we get to wear elegant evening gowns and priceless jewelry given to us. Heck, I'd have no interest in winning a coveted SAHM award, I'd just want a night off looking pretty. Yup, being a mom lacks the glitz of other roles we could play. Deep down, we know it's worth it, but some days, it's hard to remember why we have chosen this path.

Mid-summer I often feel deflated. Boys are fighting, baby won't nap, laundry is piled on the sofa waiting to be folded, and I haven't even thought about what I'm cooking for dinner. Ugh! It's during that time in the summer when the weather is too hot or too wet to kick the kids outside to play, it's in between any vacations we plan on taking, and we've already blown our entertainment budget on fast food and indoor activities to keep the kids from killing each other. Yup, one of those days.

"It's mine!"

"No, you lost yours! This one is mine!"

"Mom! He said the H word."

"I did not!"

Yup, that's what I hear from the upstairs. The boys are fighting over their football helmets. Why didn't I make them write their names in them so they'd be able to tell them apart?

"Give it to me!"

"Make me!"

"I'm telling Mom!"

Yup, here they come.

And that was an epic failure. Apparently I don't know anything about football jerseys because that's what the fight moved to, and I was of no help at least to my seven-year-old who has now been sequestered to his bedroom for an indefinite amount of time simply to save my sanity. Why did God give me three boys in less than four years? Oh, yeah, because He has a crazy sense of humor.

Actually, it is during times like these that I forget to turn to God for wisdom and support. Silly me, thinking I can handle the insanity of motherhood alone. Instead, I've given myself a challenge. Years ago, I taught high school English, and one of my favorite units was teaching about the Holocaust and reading The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. Yes, it was depressing at times, but if you've never read this autobiography, you should. Corrie and her sister were amazingly optimistic with the help of God. One of the many scenes I'll never forget is when Betsie tells Corrie to praise God for the fleas. Corrie thought her sister was rather foolish, but the Bible tells us to give thanks in all circumstances, and that's what Betsie and Corrie did. I can't even begin to compare my greatest hardship with anything those two brave women endured at the hands of the Nazis, so if they can remember that Bible verse, I should be able to as well. Here it is: "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

And this became my challenge for myself today. Instead of complaining about my circumstances, I needed to consider the positives and praise God for them. Here's how I started. As I was vacuuming our entire upstairs, which is over 1500 square feet, I praised God for blessing my family with a large house that gives us plenty of room to play. As I was changing a dirty diaper, I praised God for blessing me with a healthy daughter who doesn't have any digestive problems or food allergies (been there/done that). As I was cooking dinner, I praised God for providing us with healthy food. As I was finally folding five baskets of laundry, I praised God for providing us with the means to purchase so many articles of clothing and linens. You get the point. Right now, I'm praising God that the rain has stopped so my children can finally play outside while I type... and that they are actually all getting along right now. This challenge isn't always easy. I still had an ugly moment when my kids moaned and fought over doing their lessons for the day. I guess I forgot to praise God for blessing me with children who don't have any learning disabilities.

Will you join me on this challenge? We can begin by focusing on doing this for a full day. Then when you have accomplished that, try it for a week. That's my goal. I can't promise I won't get frustrated or upset, but I'm hoping I'll spend more time feeling blessed and will be happier as a result because we all know that "if momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!"      

Friday, July 20, 2012

From T-shirt to trendy summer top

I never knew just how versatile t-shirts were. I'm a t-shirt kind of gal. I love wearing them, and I have a large assortment of styles from the XL sorority party shirts from my college years that I now sleep in to the fitted blinged out ones. However, until recently, I never thought to do anything more with them than wear them and, once they were worn out, cut them up and clean with them. Now I'm enjoying my latest hobby of turning them into other attire.

My first project involved turning one into a cute dress for my daughter: t-shirt sundress. I also had some plans for turning scraps of t-shirts into scarves and other useful items, but when I was reading through a magazine at my doctor's office, I saw the cutest shirt that I knew I could make from a t-shirt. I discreetly photographed the picture; it was of Chelsea Handler wearing this red shirt that even she said in her interview was cute.

It reminded me of the t-shirt sundress I had just made for my daughter a couple weeks ago, so I found an old t-shirt I no longer cared about and decided to cut it up and figure out how to duplicate this top. I did just that and slipped it on over a fitted work-out top while my kids were waiting for dinner. Well, dinner was in the oven, so it's not like I had no plans to feed them. My princess saw me slip on my mock-up top and immediately fussed and gestured that I was not to wear the shirt, but she was. I really believe she thought I was trying on her dress. I glimpsed at myself in the mirror, took a few mental notes about how to adjust the cut in the front, and pulled it off. She immediately held up her arms for me to put it on her and happily posed for a quick picture with my phone. She wore it until bath time. I didn't have the heart to tell her it wasn't hers. Now I'm wondering how she'll react when I buy a new t-shirt and cut it up for myself. Maybe I should buy two.

Since the idea of clothes shopping with all four of my kids practically brings me to tears, and my husband has been working insane hours, I went though my closet in search of an old shirt I could re-purpose into this cute top. I simply couldn't wait until I'd have a chance to shop alone. I found an old long-sleeved t-shirt from Old Navy that was several years old but hadn't been worn in a couple of years. It was perfect. Okay, it wasn't perfect. It was going to be shorter than I would like, but I already had an idea to fix that, which I'll show you in a later blog. And I was desperate. My sewing machine was shouting for some lovin' and I was in the mood to sew.

So here you go...
The first step is to cut off the sleeves at a diagonal. I basically followed the original seam.

Next, make a straight cut across the top, making sure to cut off the entire seam on the back of the neck.

Then cut the front neckline into a low V. Mine ended up being five inches deep, but I kept it as narrow as possible because when I made my original mock up, I realized making too broad of a V-neck will prevent it from hanging right.

The final cuts that are necessary before ironing is a 3/4" slit in the very center of the back neckline and 1/2" slits at both arm pits and the bottom of the front V. The back slit will allow you to tie your ribbon, but if you'd prefer to have the tie in the front or at one shoulder, you can skip that cut. The other slits are necessary for when you fold down the seams.

Speaking of folding down seams, that's the next step. Fold down the back neckline for a 1" seam and iron. Then fold down each of the arm holes for 1/2" seams and iron. Lastly, fold the front V neckline 1/2" and iron.  (Don't bother with the front shoulders yet.)

We are ready to head to our sewing machine. With the shirt inside out, sew along the back slit if you'd like. It will not show once you are finished with the shirt, so I just did a simple straight stitch.

Now you can sew all your seams for your arm holes. I recommend sewing as close to the edge as you feel comfortable with a clean straight stitch. Then do the same with the front neckline.

We now need to head back to the iron to create the casing for the ribbons to go through along the shoulders. With your shirt inside out, fold your top fabric over 1" and iron.

Next, sew a straight stitch along the bottom of the back fold to allow a 3/4" space for the ribbon to pull through. Don't stop at that 1" slit. Just keep sewing from one side to the next.

For the front, I only sewed the two inches where the fold was instead of sewing all the way from the arm hole to the V. It's up to you.

Now, let's get our matching ribbon and safety pin it so we can fit it through our new casing. (You'll want about 36-40 inches of ribbon depending on your size.)Once in, carefully try on the shirt and determine exactly how tightly you'll want to tie it and where you want to have the bow. Since I have long hair, I plan on hiding it by tucking it into the back of the shirt. I figure if it comes out, my hair will cover it anyway.

Here's one of my first pictures. I used red ribbon because it was already cut and I needed to play around with the length. I didn't want to mess up my blue ribbon by cutting it too short or wasting some by cutting it too long. Can you tell I'm frugal (aka cheap)?
I wasn't wearing make up, and I'd taken a walk in misting rain, so you don't want to see my face and hair. I promise!

And here are two more pictures I had my seven-year-old son take for me. Yes, I specifically asked him to cut off my head in the picture because I hadn't put on make up yet. You can adjust the opening in the neckline a little, which is why I'm showing you a couple pictures. Looking at it next to the original, what do you think? I figure it's not a bad imitation for such a novice, especially considering it didn't take much time to make and was free. If you make this top, please share because I'm love to see it!  

Candace Creations

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bird Seed Biscuits Attempt #2

Yesterday, during a break in the thunderstorms, my daughter requested (okay, she insisted on) going for a walk in her ride-along car. Despite the horrible humid air, I agreed. Cabin fever had been setting in. Just as we got to the sidewalk, I noticed a small white egg cracked in half. Looking up the tree, I spotted a bird's nest and the blue tail feathers of a bird sitting in it. I rushed inside to get the boys to take a look.

They were intrigued and decided we needed to make sure the momma bird had enough food. One of the boys ran to the backyard to find the bird feeder he had built during a trip to their grandparents' house this past spring. It was a rather cute wooden feeder, but I had never hung it because he had spray painted it neon orange and yellow. I didn't think our homeowners' association would be pleased with the color scheme, so it had sat perched on the fence in the backyard since we have no trees there. Thankfully, the colors have faded during the bright summer sun, so it's not too bad; however, I figure I better make those bird seed biscuits soon.
Since our first batch of bird seed biscuits didn't survive, it was a good time to try the other recipe. In my original post, I mentioned the ingredients, but here is the actual recipe:

  1. bird seed
  2. Knox Gelatin
  3. water 
  4. wax paper 
  5. cooking spray
  6. large metal cookie cutters of simple shapes
  7. straw
  8. cookie sheet
  9. measuring cup
  10. small pot 
  11. String, twine, or yarn
This recipe requires the use of a stove too. My middle son helped me pour in the two packets of Knox Gelatin and 1/2 cup of water into the pot. I had the stove set on medium heat.
 Then I stirred as the gelatin dissolved. After turning off the stove, I helped my son fill a measuring cup with 1 1/2 cups of bird seed. We had plenty leftover from the previous attempt, but on a recent trip to the dollar store, I found smaller bags, so that may be a good place to go. My son stirred the mixture together until it was well blended.
Next, I set a strip of wax paper on the cookie sheet and lay out four cookie cutters we had selected while I had my son cut a straw into four pieces.
Then we sprayed the wax paper, cookie cutters, and straws with cooking spray so the bird seed mixture wouldn't stick. I carefully poured the bird seed mixture into the cookie cutters.
We determined a good spot to stick the straws into the shapes, knowing the hole must be toward the top but not too close to the edge that it will create a weak spot.
It takes a good eight hours for the biscuits to dry.
I could immediately tell these were much hardier than our last recipe. I cut twine and tied a loop through each hole after removing the straws. I needed them to fit over branches easily for our new bird family.
We were going to wait for the rain storms to end before we hung them because I figured they wouldn't withstand such weather, but based on the forecast these pesky storms were over, so I hung one of them in the morning. Now I'm watching a downpour. Seriously, is 10 inches of rain in one week not enough?
I'm excited about feeding our newest neighbors with these, and I'm sure our other neighbors will be happy to see cute hearts, stars, and Texas-shaped feeders replace our bright orange one, but before I go, I must thank the bloggers at eighteen 25 for their recipe, which looks to be working though I made modifications in attaching the twine.
With a good recipe, we can re-evaluate this bucket list activity...
  1. It's a fun way to review math skills like fractions and measurement conversions.
  2. It's something consumable, so you can make it and remake it without feeling guilty about waste.
  3. It feeds birds.
  1. It requires a stove, so the kids will need you to do part of the work, which isn't really a bad thing, right?
  2. And because of the stove requirement, we couldn't make this outside as I had promised I'd do in the last post, but with caution, it wasn't that messy.  
Cost: I bought the smallest bag of bird feed possible without getting the cheapest quality. That one was full of corn. As you can see in the photo, the bag I bought will feed birds all summer long and probably all year too. It cost us about $5.00, but, as I mentioned above, I found a bag big enough to make at least eight of these for $1 at a dollar store. I bought the generic brand of the gelatin to save a little money, and it has four packs in it, which is enough to make six to eight biscuits, depending on the size of the cookie cutters you use. I'd say each bird biscuit can cost you under $.50 to make.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bucket List Activity #11: Parachute Soldiers

This morning, we were prepared for a day of flag football games, four actually. I was washing out the boys' water jugs, they were dressed in their uniforms, and I had bags of blueberries and grapes ready to go when we heard the sound I'd been dreading all morning: a huge thunder clap. Great. Just great. After having a week off for the 4th of July followed by another week off due to daily thunderstorms, the boys were ready for more football, and I was ready to get out of the house. I opened all the blinds to discover a steady stream of rain. This was not how I wanted to spend another day. At home. With the kids. While hubby was at work.

After a a couple of lazy hours in front of the television, I announced that I was making the parachute soldiers from the bucket list. It seemed like a good rainy-day activity. My 11-year-old found his Harry Potter Lego and thought he'd be a good candidate while the rest of us dug through a box of army men of various sizes and poses. My 7-year-old also thought we should parachute an army tank. Why not?

After constructing them, I thought the activity would be more fun if we created landing targets, so I grabbed some leftover cake plates from April and wrote numbers the 10, 25, and 50 on seven of them. My oldest two lost interest after one jump, probably lacking the energy to bound up and down the stairs repeatedly. Raining days will do that to you. However, my seven-year-old and I enjoyed ourselves, and so did the toddler who insisted on trying it herself after watching us a couple of times. Overall, I thought it was much more fun than doing the stair machine at the fitness center. I've saved everything for us to play it again. I'm hoping the older two will join in. They seem to have more energy on the sunny days where they've been running around all day.

If you have a balcony or second-floor landing and some bored children who can't go outside, this is the perfect activity. All you need is the following:

  • plastic shopping bag
  • scissors
  • yarn or string
  • permanent marker
  • army men, Lego people, Little People, or any other small action figure  
To make your parachutes, you will want larger openings, so cut an arc in each of the four sides of a shopping bag. You won't need to cut much out of the front and back as you will the sides.

Next, cut your yarn or string into 10-12 inch strips, two per parachute. Take one piece of yarn and tie a simple knot around the handle. Then do the same with a second piece.

Last, tie the strings to the action figure's arms. You could cut off the extra string if you'd like, but I didn't bother.

After your parachutes are ready, you can label some plates and place them under the dropping spot. Then you are good to go!

If you want, you could turn this into an experiment by  having kids predict which of their parachutes will go faster based on size and weight of the action figure. Let them see if throwing them up a little versus just dropping them makes a difference. You could also discuss strategies for hitting your target or simply race them to see which lands the fastest or slowest.  
  1. It's a free activity because everyone has these supplies around the house.
  2. It's a creative way to teach re-purposing of materials with the shopping bags. After all, even with my reusable bags, I still end up with plenty of these bags at home.
  3. It's a fun way to get the kids moving on a rainy day.
  4. You can sneak some learning into the game.
  1. It will only work if you have the space and two stories. I tried tossing one up in the game room, but it didn't have enough time to puff up and float down.
Cost: Did I mention it's absolutely free!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Bucket List Activity #10: Glow in the Dark Mountain Dew

While I had purchased the Mountain Dew weeks ago, we didn't have en evening free to do this particular bucket list activity until now. Hubby had to work late, and thanks to the nine inches of rain that poured down on us over the past three days, we didn't have any football, so after tae kwon do, a late dinner of mini calzones, and some brownies my 11-year-old son made for us for dessert, we decided to get to this exciting activity.

Exciting? That's an enormous overstatement. It was a major flop. You see, I found this super cool glowing bottle of Mountain Dew on and went to the website where it showed a believable video of a person pouring out all but about 1/2 inch of Mountain Dew from the bottle and then spooning in about 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and three capfuls of Hydrogen Peroxide. Then he shook it, and it instantly glowed. Well, when we tried it, nothing happened, so we went back to the video to watch it together, and that's when I decided to scroll down to read the reviews. Boy, I wish I had done that before selecting this activity for our bucket list. Hundreds of people complained at how this was a flop. A couple people even said they had read about this hoax on I looked it up, and sure enough, I felt like a fool. Here's the link if you want to see for yourself:  It shows the original video and a real one that proves, just like our experiment, that this does not work. 

We had actually made three of these simultaneously, hense the empty Gatorade bottles. None worked, which is no surprise after reading the information on Snopes, so if you come across this video on Pinterest or Facebook, please share with others that it is an allusion and scientifically cannot work. We were bummed a little, but my kids were just thrilled that they got to drink a few sips of Mountain Dew as I would never have bought it otherwise. Here's a picture of one of our bottles. There is nothing exciting about it.    

  1. It reminded us that we can't always believe what we see and the importance of thorough and accurate research.

  1. It is a hoax, so it's a complete waste of time unless you want to teach your children the lessons I mentioned above.

Cost: It requires three capfuls of Hydrogen Peroxide, which we had on hand and is very inexpensive anyway, and a tiny amount of baking soda, which we also always have on hand and is also relatively inexpensive. My only loss was the $1 I spent on the Mountain Dew because it was on sale; however, my husband drank it, so I guess the activity was almost free.

I'll be sharing this post at some of these parties here or here.     

Lil’ Mrs. Tori

Sweet Summer Tunic

I haven't sewn anything big in a while, and I was itching to do so. I had several projects in mind, both for myself and my daughter, but the only one that I already had all the supplies for was an adorable skirt for Go Texan Day, and that was at least six months away. Oh well, I really needed to get my chores finished before starting a new project anyway.

The next day, with the boys at VBS, I could sneak to Hobby Lobby for some fabric, elastic, and bias tape. You see, among the bags of clothes my best friend gave me was this adorable tunic that I just knew I could duplicate. It wasn't much more than a pillow case dress really, and while my last attempt at duplicating a dress was a flop, which I have yet to blog about, I was confident I could do this one.

While shopping, I found an adorable childish jersey knit fabric that had pink flowers on it on clearance, but I resisted the urge because I had my leftover fabric from the skirt I made a couple of months ago, and since I wasn't 100% positive this dress would work, I decided to save the $4. I figured if this dress turned out, I'd have enough bias tape and lacy elastic to make a second dress, so I could always come back and buy the fabric another time.

What you'll need to buy:

· 3/4 yard of jersey knit fabric

· 28inches of double fold bias tape

· 18 inches of lacy headband elastic

· matching thread (that matches bias and elastic)

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Cut your pattern, following the pillowcase pattern found at LBG Studio. However, this will be a shorter dress or possibly a tunic, so cut it at the line where she has you cut it if you want to use two different fabrics. (You may remember from my pillowcase dress blog that this pattern is great for a size 2T or 3T, and possibly a 4T.)

2. We are ready to attach the two pieces to create a dress. Face the good sides of the fabric toward each other and line them up carefully. Pin the sides together, beginning at the arm pits. Using your sewing machine, stitch both sides, making sure you give a 1/2” seam allowance and back stitching at the beginning and end.

3. With the dress turned inside out, iron both seams open, so they’ll lay flat. If you'd like, you may sew the edges of both sides using a zig-zag stitch unless you have a serger. (However, I didn't do this.) Repeat for the other side.

4. We are ready to focus on creating the top portion of the dress.If your fabric will fray, sew a zig-zag stitch at the neckline or use your serger. Since my fabric wasn’t cut there, I didn’t worry about this step.

5. Let’s work on the arm holes. Turn your dress right-side out. Cut two pieces of bias tape about 14 inches long each. Beginning at the top edge of the fabric, open up the bias tape and carefully slip the fabric in and pin the bias tape closed, over the edge of the fabric. Make sure you fabric’s edge is all the way to the middle crease of the bias tape and pin it often so it won’t slip out! Go all the way around one arm hole, making sure that when you get to the side seam of the fabric, you have the extra fabric laying open.

6. Repeat with other arm hole. Using your sewing machine, sew the bias tape onto the fabric with coordinating thread. (I was tempted to use hot pink thread on the black bias tape because sometimes seeing the stitching creates a cute effect, but I’m too novice of a sewer to accomplish that. I need the black thread to hide my imperfections. Also, it’s much easier to use extra wide double sided bias tape. I chose regular width because I was curious about trying it, and the store was out of the extra wide. I’m glad I didn’t use hot pink thread because I messed up several times as the knit fabric wanted to slip out of the bias tape’s crease, despite my pinning.)

7. We now need to attach the elastic headband material to the neckline of the dress. Measure it, cut it, fold it in half, and sew the ends together so you have an inch of extra material at the end. The reason for this is to make it easier to run through the sewing machine because you can grab hold of both sides as you sew. Then cut off the extra so you just have about ¼ inch beyond the closing stitches.

8. Here comes the difficult part. To attach the elastic piece to the dress, you will want to put the seam on one side. Pin the elastic around the top of the dress, leaving a one-inch of space at the top of the arm holes so they don’t close up entirely. Personally, I began with the seam of the elastic at the front right arm hole and pinned it. I then pinned the back left arm hole, the back right arm hole, and the front left arm hole in that order. I then pinned the middle of the front of the dress and the middle of the back of the dress. Lastly, I put in four more pins, halfway in between my arm-hole pins and middle pins, so I had ten pins in all. Be sure to do two things: gather your fabric as you pin it to the elastic, and swoop the neckline down in the front and the back. As you pin, make sure your fabric is gathered evenly, and don't forget to create the swoops.

 9. Carefully sew your dress to your elastic. I actually ran it through the machine twice to ensure a solid attachment.

10. All you have left is the bottom hem. You have two options here. You can turn your dress inside out. Fold the bottom hem up ¼” and iron. Fold it again ¾” and iron. Go back to your machine and straight stitch your bottom hem closed. However, you can also use your bias tape. Following the same instructions in steps 5 and 6 as a reference, pin and sew the bias tape all the way around the bottom hem. I chose this second option.

There you go... a cute dress or tunic for your little girl! If you can make a pillow case dress, you can certainly make this. I would love to see other variations, so if you create one, please share.
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