It was really humid outside today - too humid to run around, too humid to play ball and too humid use chalk. It was even too humid to drive to the hardware store and pick up a hose that actually has a nozzle attached so we could use the sprinkler.
So instead, we did some quiet digging in the shade.
There is a spot under the deck that is full of small rocks, almost like the pebbles one might find at the bottom of a really nice fish tank - you know, like in your dentist's office. I have been looking at these rocks for weeks, trying to figure out what we could do with them. And then I realized, we could use them to make aquariums. Not real aquariums - we don't do pets, but make-believe aquariums, which in my opinion, is the best kind.
We drink a lot of seltzer in this house and so we have many many empty seltzer bottles hanging around. We began our aquarium journey by ripping the labels off the outside of some seltzer bottles. Unfortunately, we were left with the sticky residue that attracted a lot of tiny pieces of grass and dirt, but mostly everyone* was okay with it.
Each kid filled his or her seltzer bottle about 1/3 full with the rocks. Then we added water, some blue food coloring and closed the bottles tightly with their caps. Then we shook the bottles until the water was blue (and somewhat dirty from the rocks, but after a few minutes the dirt started to settle to the bottom of the bottle so all was well.)
Then each kid who can draw fish, drew fish on a few scraps of foam sheets leftover from something else. After everyone had their turn to cut out their fish (we're working with one scissor here this summer, and I should mention it's a safety scissor), we dropped (or stuffed, depending on their size) the fish into the bottles of blue water.
Sadly, as foam floats, so did the fish and they all wound up floating to the top. On the bright side, having never had pet fish, my kids did not know that this is what dead fish do.
We did learn, however, that shaking the bottle vigorously forces the fish to sink somewhat, mimicking swimming. Phew!
The kids had a ball playing with their aquariums - shaking them to trigger earthquakes and tornadoes and having their Rescue Heroes (or Barbies, depending on who you are) save the fish and of course, the day.
*The two year old, not so much. She's prim and proper, unlike the rest of my children. She likes to use a fork for pizza. And sometimes for a cookie too.
And once again, we're back.
My blogging hiatus is over.
We're still away, but we've done so many share-worthy things that it's hard for me to keep track. So because I love you, I will drag myself off my deck chair and play some show and tell.
I have to say, I love Pinterest. I pin and I pin and then I pin some more. But rarely do I make anything that I have pinned. I think it's because I am too busy pinning more things. Whatever the reason, I know I am not alone in this obsession of saving ideas for a day when there is time. The
thing is, I am starting to feel like that day is just never going to come. And so today, I dug deep into Pinterest and pulled out Bubble Snakes. Simple, made with stuff that everyone has around* and fun for everyone.
No, really, Josh loved it too.
It's been pinned and repinned many times, but as far as I can tell, this
is where the idea originated, but I could be wrong.
Either way, this, my friends, is Pinterest in Action.
We wanted to make four Bubble Snake Makers so we gathered together 4 bottles - I feel like you can use small Gatorade bottles or small (but not mini) water bottles. My kids insisted on everyone having the same bottles, so we went with what we had - small seltzer bottles.
Cut the bottoms off of the bottles.
Cover the bottom with a sock whose twin has run away. We both know that you know you have many of those. Mine are generally scattered on the laundry room floor, next to the bucket labeled "extra socks". The bottle bottoms can also be covered with a piece of an old, thin and tattered dish towel, which is what we did. The point is to cover it with a piece of fabric that is not too thick.
Secure the fabric with a rubber band, packing tape or both or in our case, some ponytail holders from the dollar store.
In a shallow bowl or dish, mix together some dish soap and a little water, just to dilute the soap a little.
If you're looking for some funky bubbles, add a few drops of food coloring to the soap and water and mix gently.
Lightly dip the fabric portion of the bottle into the soap mixture and blow very gently. Blow too hard and the fabric will blow right off.
Watch as your kids are beyond amazed.
Rinse and Repeat.
And if you get enough bubble action going and you don't mind turning on the hose, you can pretty much bathe the kids and cross some things off of your to-do list for the day.
*If you don't have any empty bottles, that just means you haven't been drinking enough this summer, so get to it - you'll feel better and have the beginnings of a crafting closet. What could be better!?
My three year brought this home from school the other day - and it's too cute. And too perfect for my house. We don't have pets. My kids don't like animals that are alive or that can touch them, lick them or look at them. So this little guy was almost too good to be true.
The little artist explained that her class painted milk jugs with orange paint, glued on the various pieces of the chicken's head and then planted the flower with oil.
Yeah, soil, mommy.
Her name's Chicken.
I think I always enjoy the simple projects the best - especially when the kids can do most of it themselves and then feel good about themselves.
A few things we learned about Chicken:
1. She is painted with washable paint so when you leave her to do her chicken thing on the front steps and it rains, she will start to, how do you say, get the runs.
2. Her eyes are stickers and when you touch them too much, they fall off. Also when you put them in your sister's hair, they don't stick back onto Chicken too easily.
Other than that, and the fact that Chicken now lives indoors and suns herself through a window, she is a lovely pet.
I made this before Pesach - and I use the term "made" very loosely, because all
I did was punch holes. Here, I'll show you.
In the hopes of giving Little T something to do while I tried to do a little
cleaning, I took out a package of pipe cleaners and an empty bread
crumb container* - the kind with a plastic lid. An empty cottage cheese
container would work as well.
Using a scissor, I poked/jammed the scissor through the cover and made several
holes, one for each pipe cleaner. I think we used six or seven pipe cleaners.
Then I stuck the pipe cleaners into the holes and handed it to Little T. And she
spent the next 45 minutes putting them in and taking them out. Amazing. And
funny - when the older kids came home from school, they were all jealous. And I
was like, really? Pipe cleaners in a hole? You want one too? And they all said
*Cleaning for Pesach makes that bready crumb container just all kinds of ironic, no?
I saw this Purim project on creativejewishmom
, where really, everything is
just very creative.
I'm pretty sure we are hosting Purim at our house this year and so what
would be more helpful than a centerpiece, right?
So we built a replica* of Shushan (the Persian city where the whole Purim
story takes place) out of boxes and things from our recycling closet. What did we use
, you ask? Excellent question.
The base was a medium sized cardboard bin from one of many apple-picking
trips. I turned it over and it made the perfect base for our city.
The houses and palaces were made from a small shoebox, an empty breadcrumb
container, several paper towel rolls and an empty pringle canister.
The rest of the project was made using colored paper, some half-used sheets
of scrapbook paper and several sheets of colored foamie papers. Throw in some
glue, safety scissors and a pencil (oh yeah, and four kids) and you're in for a
First I read all the directions from the original project
. We used some of
creativejewishmom's ideas and some of our own, which is how it should be. Art is
not about copying, it's about interpreting - and that is my deep thought for the
We cut, we glued, we colored, we decided it didn't look quite right, we had
to take away the scissors from some people and some of us had to leave the table
until we were ready to behave, listen and share, but the end result is pretty
I really believe that when working on a project like this, that it's all
about the details. An extra flag, gates around the city, a chimney; it's all
about the cuteness factor, and really, anything made in mini is almost
The first thing the kids wanted to do was play with it. I said no, they
said yes. So we compromised, instead of waiting until after Purim to play with
it, they will be allowed to play with it once a picture has been taken of
Shushan city on the table, all set for Purim. Deal. They think they got what
they wanted and I really got what I wanted. Isn't that the definition of good
*When I say replica, I don't really mean that we replicated Shushan in
the strict sense of the word; that would be crazy. I just kind of mean that we
built some houses and palaces and we're making pretend that this is what Shushan
looked like. Really, I think it has more of an Aladdin kinda thing going on. And
One of my boys came home from camp with an adorable project the other day*. I
thought it was so little and cute that I had to take a picture of it. He was
embarrassed and didn't want me to blog about it, so we compromised. I won't tell
you which of my boys made it and he won't be upset when I post a picture of it.
In case you can't tell, it's a caterpillar. There was some momentary confusion, but it was resolved quickly, like this:
Him: Mommy, look, we made a butterfly!
Me: (Silence. And then...) Wow, yeah, a caterpillar!
Him: Yeah, that's what I said!
I really like how the counselors took half an egg carton, the googly
eyes and the pipe cleaners** and made a little animal out of it. Sometimes the
simplest little crafts are the most fun - at least that's what my littlest one
thought. She grabbed it and wouldn't give it back. My three year old liked it
too - she wanted to make one also. The only problem is that we don't buy eggs by
the dozen, we buy them by the five-dozen in BJ's so we don't have any foam egg
cartons lying around. I'll have to add a dozen eggs to my Shoprite list - all in
the name of art.
*My other little boy has yet to bring home one project from camp this
summer - and it's not because he doesn't make any. According to the daily
schedule and according the paint splatters on his clothes every few days, I know
he has arts and crafts in camp. And why does he not bring anything home? The
answer: because he is my baby that would not remember to bring home his
underwear if they were not already under his pants. Seriously, I am pretty sure
that at the end of the summer, I will make a trip to the camp's lost and found
and find five art projects, four towels, three plastic water bottles, two
(really good) water shoes and a pair of sunglasses with our last name printed on
each item. Because that's what I do with him - every single thing that leaves
this house with him must have a name imprinted on it somewhere or we might as
well say farewell to whatever toy/clothes/shoes/baseball cap that is leaving
with him. At the start of the summer I wondered how his backpack stayed with him
- and then once, when I picked him up, I noticed that his counselor put it on
his back for him before sending him to the car. Thank goodness for good
**Do you ever find that you just can't think of a word no matter how
deep you dig? Yeah, that just happened to me - I called my mom and said,
"What the heck are those things called, you know, twist ties, but not,
cause they're furry? And she instantly said, "pipe cleaners". Thanks Ma.
This is why we keep you around :)
In my life, I don't think I have ever thought, "hey, let's make some jam".
I mean, in theory I guess I knew that perhaps many many years ago women possibly made some jam at the same time that they churned butter and beat their laundry on a rock down at the river. But now? Shoprite carries a very nice selection of bread condiments; making my own jelly was up there on the list with making my own cottage cheese.
However, when fate collides with well, strawberries, you just can't ignore it.
I had been spending some time the other day trying to unclutter (declutter?) the shelves on my porch. They have been in a very bad state for a while now (since we moved in, but shhh) and the time had come to sort and purge. One shelf had a huge stack of magazines that for whatever reason, I had saved. So the other night I sat down for an hour and flipped through the magazines, only stopping at pages that I had folded in, meaning something had, at one point in time, looked interesting to me. If that something still looked good, I tore out the page and stuck it into my all-the-things-I-would-like-to-do-but-never-have-time-to-do-ripped-magazine-pages file. But that's a whole other story.
One of the articles that I came across was called "So Many Strawberries and So Little Time". Or something like that. Okay, fine, it wasn't called that at all, but it was all about strawberries and what one could do with them should one find themselves surrounded by strawberries. And then the light bulb went on and - Hey! That's me! And if you have been following along, you will know that these days, I am surrounded by strawberries.
The article was long and full of complicated things like rolling pie crust and buying rhubarb. But at the end of the article, there it was. The recipe for me. It was short, simple and to the point. Strawberry preserves. The recipe basically said to chop up all your strawberries, throw them in a big pot, add some sugar and lemon juice (from a real lemon, but whatever) and simmer for 45 minutes. I could do that.
So I did. I threw about a pound and a half of chopped strawberries in a pot, added a half cup of sugar and one tablespoon lemon juice. I let it come to a boil and reduced the flame to a simmer and let it go to town for 45 minutes. I set the timer to ding every seven minutes so I would remember to stir the strawberries so they wouldn't burn and after 6 dings and a little, my strawberries were ready.
I let them cool and then, like the article said, stored them in an airtight container. But here's the thing, I didn't think a Tupperware was going to cut it and also, I didn't want to stain my Tupperware red from all the strawberries. I looked in the closet where I keep all the recycling (aka the recycling closet) but there weren't any big glass jars there - but there were a bunch of glass baby food jars. Good enough.
My yummy strawberry preserves now live in the fridge, inside baby food jars. If the article is right, it should last for a month.
And because I am a huge crafting geek, I made labels with my beloved Sharpie markers for each glass jar. I know. I'm embarrassed to even show you. Huge geek. Huge. Geek.
I'm pretty sure I have mentioned here before that I have the honor of being a class mother for my five year old's class this school year. And while I was initially kind of excited about the whole idea - my mom had always been a class mother - I've come to realize that it involves many many phone calls, mostly to people who don't really want to hear from me because when I call on official class mother business, I am generally asking for money. But I call anyway. And I ask anyway. And I hope that people remember to send in checks with their kids.
But sometimes being the class mommy has perks. Like when I get to take out all my art supplies and make fun things for the teachers. For example, my son's class is having a play this week and it was decided that the end of the year teacher gifts would be presented at the end of the play. The other class mommy and I collected all the money and the other class mommy graciously offered to go pick up the gift cards for the teachers. I offered to get the thank you cards and something to wrap the gift cards in because handing over a gift card in an envelope is, dare I say, tacky.
Except here's where my problem started. It's been so darn hot lately that I have no interest in packing up the girls and the diaper bag and the snack bag and the potty and dragging it all to the car and driving to wherever it is that one would get packaging for a gift card. I would much rather stay in my air conditioned porch and made gift card holders while the girls played and tried to help. And so that's what we did.
I was a little nervous because I couldn't imagine what I was going to fashion a gift card holder out of. And I also knew that we were out of staples* and since I had no intention of going anywhere, I had to make something that did not need to be stapled together.
So this is what I did:
I had these very narrow, medium sized paper bags with handles that I had gotten ages ago at Michael's, a 12 pack for $1. I wasn't sure what I would do with them at that point but pretty much anything that is 12 for $1 is going into my shopping cart. The bags themselves were too large to hold a gift card. So I cut the top half off, including the handle part - and the girls have been walking (crawling) around with the tops of the bags as mini pocketbooks ever since. So much fun.
Now I was left with the bottoms of four paper bags. I cut squares of scrapbook paper that matched both bag colors (pink and purple) and glued a piece of scrapbook paper on the front of each bag. I made sure not to center the paper on the bag because I still needed room towards the top of the bags to punch holes for the ribbon.
Which is what I did next. I punched two holes at the almost top of the bags. Then I put a half of a piece of tissue paper (brown, it tied the whole thing together as there was also brown in the scrapbook paper) into each bag and threaded raffia ribbon through the holes of the bag. I tied one of the bags and then realized that I didn't have the gift cards yet so I left the other three open.
Then I typed out a simple message of super-thanks to the fantastic teachers, printed it, cut each message out and glued it on top of the scrapbook paper, so that there appears to be a border of scrapbook paper around each message.
Then I lined them up on a really high shelf so no one can touch them until it's time to leave for the play. You can't be too careful with sticky fingers everywhere. And that was it. It didn't take too long, they're pretty cute if I may say so myself, and I spent the afternoon in my cool porch instead of a hot parking lot fighting with the double stroller that doesn't seem to want to open properly anymore.
*Why did I know we were out of staples? Do I staple often? Do I feel lost without my stapler? All good questions. And I'll tell you, I rarely staple anything except that the other morning my five year old had a book report due.
The teachers had sent out the book report instructions way in advance and I tacked the whole thing up on the bulletin board and then totally forgot about it, until the morning it was due. And so in the mad rush to do the book report and find some way to keep all the pages together, I started looking for the stapler.
And I found it, which was huge. And I stapled. And nothing came out. I opened the stapler up and there was one lone sad little staple in there. I pushed him forward to the edge of the stapler, closed it up and stapled. And out he came, all nicely folded, but not folded through the book report pages. So sad. And it was already 8:10am, we were late and I couldn't even find a paper clip.
Lucky for me though, the book report was kind of cute - the pages were shaped like a sandwich, so two pages were bread slices, one was a tomato, one lettuce and I forget the others. So I put the whole thing into a big Ziploc bag and wrote sandwich bag on it. I was cracking up. No one else was. Everyone else wanted to know why I was taking so long with the book report. Sheesh. Some people have no sense of humor in the morning.
A weird combination in that title, no? But you'll see, you can have super fun in the backyard with stuff that you already have.
So my nieces and nephew came over on this pretty hot and humid morning and even though the kids' ages (7 of them) vary by a lot - the oldest is almost 12, youngest is just one, they really played together very nicely. And what did they play so nicely? They drag raced. Yeah, that's what I said. Drag racing in my backyard. It was really quite adorable.
My five year old and my 11 year old niece used chalk to divide the driveway in half, lengthwise. Then they took all my empty seltzer bottles from the recycling bin and lined them up in some sort of very specific way that only they understood. And then two kids at a time raced our hand-me-down ketcars down the driveway, slamming into the fence instead of using the brakes like G-d (and the manufacturer) intended. I'm just happy the fence is still standing.
There was a lot of yelling, "on your mark, get set, go" and waving flags and seltzer bottles in the air. And a lot of cheering. It was pretty cute - and then they used the seltzer bottles once again to make trophies. They taped some construction paper onto the bottles , colored them and handed them out, one (or two) per person, so no one would feel left out.
Oreos and drinks for a snack and everyone was happy. So easy! And as my oldest just said as we were looking at pictures from the morning, "That thing, mommy, that thing we just did in the backyard before, that was awesome!"
And here they are, the long awaited flowers that won't make you sneeze or wheeze, and yet at the same time, are made of a handy dandy material that can be used for wiping noses should the need arise. The best of both worlds, if you ask me.
These tissue paper flowers look hard (at least to me) and have always intimidated me. I tried making them once before from the Martha Stewart website but it didn't go well. Today will be Take Two. Let's see if these are post-worthy. Ah, who am I kidding. I'm gonna show you either way - if I work on it, I show it. And in the end, I made four different ones. I'm not sure I would use any of them in an actual centerpiece where company might be seated across from them, but I did stick one into the top of one of the windsocks that we made.
Okay, so to start, gather five sheets of tissue paper in different colors. They don't have to be all different, they can be three of one color and two of another and you can alternate them. Also, and I won't tell anyone, but you really can use the same color sheet for all five sheets. I promise. Your flower will be just as pretty.
Cut the sheets into approximetaly 5 inches by 15 inches and layer the sheets. Fold the pile up like an accordian, in medium size folds, maybe about 3/4 of an inch to an inch wide. And this is where I hit a wall. Do you fold the long side? The short side? Who knows? So I did it both ways.
If you fold the short side, you will have a smaller, tighter flower. If you fold the long side, you will have a larger, airier flower. But if you fold the long side, I would add two or three more sheets of tissue paper to the original stack because the larger flower looked a little empty to me.
Anywho, once they are folded, use a pipe cleaner and twist it around the center of the accordianed tissue paper. I know that a pipe cleaner is best, but I'll be honest, I didn't I have any, so I used a twist tie that came with the garbage bags.
With a scissor, cut both end points of the tissue paper accordian into somewhat of a rounded or top of a leaf shape.
Next, unfold the accordian into a kind of fan shape and separate the layers of tissue paper to form the petals of the flower.
This is the smaller flower - the one that had the short side folded.
Now, if you had used a pipe cleaner, you would now have somewhere to attach your second (green) pipe cleaner to make a stem. A twist tie doesn't really lend itself to that because it needs to be twisted tighter. So instead I threaded some thin ribbon through the bottom of the twist tie and now my flowers are hanging from the ceiling. Okay, not really the ceiling, the chain from the ceiling fan - I couldn't reach the ceiling. But ceiling, ceiling fan, it's all the same.
Here are the other ones we made:
This is the bigger flower, the one that had the long side folded.
This one had the long side folded. It is a bigger flower and also had seven sheets of tissue paper instead of five.