Thursday, November 27, 2008

So Thankful...

I'm so thankful for so many wonderful things in my life this Thanksgiving.
Let us remember each year the things we are thankful for, both small and great.
Let us reflect on traditions, family, and time spent together.

Here's a list with a few of the things I'm most thankful for this year:
  • My husband and daughters.
  • Our loving families.
  • Our continued good health. Husband still cancer free after 13 years!
  • Our cozy home.
  • Friends, new and old.
  • New babies growing in the arms and bellies of some of my closest friends.
  • Our kitties.
  • Safety.
  • Comfort. - Jeans that fit my post two babies body.
  • Time to work on my art.
  • Happy children
  • A good fit at school-- Frog Princess loves her teachers and her classmates.
  • Good books and magazines to read.
  • Tivo.
  • Family traditions.
  • A new furnace and up-graded attic insulation.
  • Chocolate.
  • Double coupons.
  • Gift cards for guilt free shopping escapes.
  • A new (good) hairdresser that charges less than $20 to cut my hair.
If the Frog Princess were writing this list she would include:
-Froggy, Lady, and Purple Lovey
-Wheel Chairs
-Aurora and Malificent
-Arthur, Martha Speaks, and Word Girl

Mini-Saurus' list would include:
-The Frog Princess
-Froggy, and Pink Ro-Ro (her blanket)
-The Wiggles, Sesame Street, and Bob the Builder

I'm looking forward to our traditional dinner with my parents at my childhood home. My dad cooks the best meal and mom makes the house beautiful. Signing the thanksgiving table cloth and tracing the girl's hand prints again this year. Leftover turkey sandwiches, dad's stuffing, sweet potato casserole, and the olive and pickles plate and celery sitcks stuffed with pimento cheese.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

* Is There A Doctor In Your House? Imaginative Doctor Role Play For Kids

My 5 and half year old, (Dr.) Frog Princess loves to play doctor. Anybody who enters our home is a potential patient. We have daily surgical dramas taking place in the kitchen, on the coffee table, the playroom floor, and of course in her room. She is not your average 5 year old, she is a mini walking Merck manual and enjoys throwing around words like "Stat", "Gall bladder" (her favorite body part) and "Decapitate"

For example: "Mommy I need some oatmeal for breakfast - STAT!" or... "Mom... I pooped, can you come wipe me? - STAT!"... "Mom, that angel (at Home Goods this weekend) is decapitated!" And yes, several old ladies, looked up from their scouring of Christmas paraphernalia, turned around and stared at both of us when she let that one drop.

When she turned 5 last March we took her to Toys R' Us to get her special birthday balloon, P.A. announcement, and discounted gift coupon. Out of all of the dolls, dress-up clothing, trains, art supplies, board games, etc. she picked out the Discovery Channel dissect a frog kit (for ages 8 and up) with life like gooey organs and dissecting tools. It's her favorite. We got a few raised eye brows for that one too.

Dr. Frog Princess loves playing doctor so much she's getting a wheel chair for one of her dolls this Christmas. One of the highlights of her year so far was when our friend, Dr. Don, visited for a Sunday brunch before having to catch a plane back to his day job as an ER doctor in the Southern United States. During his brief visit they dissected the frog princess' fake frog, inspected many bark and leaf specimens under her microscope, and performed some emergency procedures on a few dolls, stuffed animals, and each other. He promised her he'd try to hook her up with some empty saline IV bags (without the needles of course) and some more of her favorite purple surgical gloves. She has elaborate plans for her birthday party this year. We'll be converting the bottom level of the house into a hospital but more on that in a later post. Her birthday's not until March.

If you have a mini doctor in the house like I do, I highly recommend supplementing their plastic equipment arsenal with a few more props like ACE bandages, a real working stethoscope, an ear scope, popsicle sticks, white pom-pons to serve as cotton balls (they hold up better to multiple procedures), medicine "syringes" like the kind they give you with Amoxicillin from the drug store, a mask, surgical gloves, etc. White masking tape and old strips of fabric make great casts and bandages. If you're feeling really generous you can always get a set of mini scrubs or a lab coat. You never know, they just might grow up to take care of you someday.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

* Don't Toss That Halloween Candy - Creative Ideas To Recycle Halloween Candy

If your basket of halloween haul is placed safely out of reach of small hands like mine, it may still look like this. Unfortunately every night after my kids are tucked safely in their beds it starts softly singing it's siren song to my thighs. I'm resisting, I really am, because I'm saving it for a good cause. I'm planning to make a kick-tush ginger bread house this year with the girls and we're using our stash to bling it up. The sugar plum fairy herself is going to want to move in. No more generic little gum drops and peppermints (don't worry they'll be on there too) we'll have Cowtail boulders, and lollipop trees, and taffy doormats and Milk Dud poop on the front lawn - hey our neighborhood has a lot of dogs -- we're going for authentic here. I can see the koi pond with Swedish Fish now. We may even have Skittles painting their rainbow of fruit flavors across the roof line...if I don't eat them all first.

You can approach the whole gingerbread house a couple of different ways. You can buy a pre-baked kit like I did this year (I've seen them at Michael's, BJs, Walmart, Target,etc.) or you can build your own at home with a cardboard base (think mini milk, cream, or Egg Beaters carton) with graham crackers glued on. I learned last year that hot glue from a glue gun works better for this than Elmer's school glue (it makes the crackers get soggy and fall apart) Or you can even go all Martha and bake one from scratch.

More fun stuff to do with your candy includes:
- Add it to your Christmas cookies and baked goods.
- Let the Kids use it to decorate cupcakes or cookies as a craft for Thanksgiving.
- Do some "Smarty Math" as the Frog Princess and I call it with counting, adding, subtracting, and sorting.
- Any more fun ideas ladies?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Make Your Own Zero-Calorie Cookie Plate

I know it's not even Thanksgiving yet but if you want to make your own goodies this Christmas season now is the time. This cookie plate won't add an inch to your thighs this Christmas. But the cookies you put on it might. Especially if you leave Santa Oreos like we do...I think there is a rule that you have to eat the whole row in one sitting (like Thin Mints) We built our own plate from scratch using clay at our local paint your own pottery-type store when she was 4 and half years old. But, you could just as easily glaze a plain (pre-made) plate with your little one. Or...find one of those paint a plate at home craft kits at your local craft store. You could even get super-dooper crafty and make your own with Sculpey clay and cook it in your home oven.

The Frog Princess and I made this plate using clay coils to form a basic plate shape. Then, we rolled out flat slabs of clay (like a pancake) and cut out cookie shapes with real cookie cutters and attached them around the perimeter like a wreath. After a bisque firing in the kiln we came back to the store and painted it with glaze followed by one more trip through the kiln and voila! Fabulous homemade cookie plate for Santa's cookies every Christmas eve (and a display for mommy's China hutch the rest of the year)

The following year, she painted a Santa mug to go with it. Alas, I love it so much I'm afraid to put it in our regular coffee mug rotation (I'm afraid it will get broken) so instead it holds candy canes in my hutch.

Ho-ho-ho...happy early crafting!

** Don't forget to enter my first bloggy giveaway. I'll be drawing names of my three winners next friday!! ***

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

No Sew Tea Towel Kitchen Curtains

My grandmother embroidered these beautiful tea towels for me when I married my sweet husband 10 years ago. Each one has a little pot of herbs. They match my compost crock perfectly. I've kept them in a drawer in my studio hoping to put them to some great artsy use because I didn't want them to get stained in my kitchen. I thought about using them in a quilt (I'm still planning to do that with some of my other embroidered tea towels) but then I saw this really cute curtain idea in Better Homes and Gardens a few months ago and had my "a-ha!" moment. They provide some much needed privacy from the neighbors now that our leaves are down for the winter.

All I did was hang a cafe rod across the kitchen window and use curtain rings with clips to fold over and clip up my cute little towels. I love the fact that they are no-sew and I can change them for the holidays.

Now, I think about my grammy while I'm doing dishes at the sink and remember her pot roast and zucchini bread, picking vegetables in her garden, watching her sew adorable little clothes for my Barbies and baby dolls, looking through family photo albums together, and best of all her warm hugs. It's such a simple reminder and fills my heart with joy.

Monday, November 10, 2008

One Neighbor's Trash Is My Daughter's Treasure

Neighbor's Trash Desk Before...
The Frog Princess' New Big Girl Desk After....
My neighbor put this old desk out at the curb for trash pick up last week. My 5 year old daughter, the Frog Princess, and I were out for a walk and spotted it. She asked me if we could bring it home to use as a desk in her room and I laughed and immediately said, "no". Then I realized that with a little bit of paint and it just might work.

So, we decided to use our collective "girl power." The Frog Princess pushed her little sister (19 month old, Mini-Saurus) in the stroller while I strapped the desk onto our dolley (in the rain!) and wheeled it home into our garage. My hubby was still at work and was "surprised" to see such a lovely treasure waiting in our garage when he got home. Several coats of white and purple spray paint later, during Mini-Saurus' naps while the Frog Princess was at Kindergarten, we have her new big girl desk. Yes... I know it's not the "Green-est" way to paint but at least I'm not going out and buying a new piece of furniture. She is over the moon in love with it. Maybe I'll just dumpster dive for the rest of her Christmas gifts this year.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Homemade Gifts Your Kids Will Like: Pretend Pizza

I love felt. It's so very Martha and it's easy to work with. Felt is inexpensive, it comes in enough colors to make a lot of cute stuff with and in my opinion, is a crafter's dream. I made this fun little pizza for my girls by recycling a small pizza box and lining it with some felt (it was a very clean pizza box -- if you needed one, I bet you could ask your local pizza place for a box) I made the pizza crust with stiff brown felt and the sauce and toppings are just cut out of scraps of soft felt (red triangle sauce, white onions and mushrooms, green peppers, yellow cheese and pineapple, black olives. The fabulous part is that the felt sticks to itself (just like a felt board) so it can be made and disassembled over and over again. The whole pie is cut into quarters and the girls love to make and deliver pizzas to each other in the playroom. Now isn't this more fun than a plastic fake pizza?

This would be such an easy craft to make as a fun and inexpensive gift for your own kids (don't forget cousins, nieces, nephews, box project recipients, etc) this upcoming holiday season. This would also be super cute to make and give as a birthday gift for that special small someone in your life, if your kids are old enough they can help you make it

I bet you can't resist playing with it yourself!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Getting A Head Start On the Holidays: Painted Pottery Keepsakes with Hand Prints and Foot Prints

What is a former art teacher to do? Since I don't have access to my own kiln anymore, I try to get my girls into a Paint Your Own Pottery-type store a couple of times a year to make keepsakes for myself and to give as gifts to their adoring grandparents.

One of my favorite things to make are platters and dessert plates with hand or foot prints. You paint the background while they sit next to you painting a small doo-dad, ornament, or mug (great teacher or grandparent gift). Then, you take off their shoes and socks and paint some underglaze on their foot. To make this super cute reindeer platter with my Frog Princess in 2006, I painted her foot to make the deer's head and her hands to make the antlers.

Last year, I painted dessert plates black and purple. Then I painted each girl's foot with white underglaze to make Halloween ghost plates (upside down foot prints). They were so cute the owner of the shop wanted to keep them for examples. If you still want to do Halloween plates this year you could fudge a little bit and take your kids to the shop now and make one before they have another growth spurt. Use them next year or just put them on display!

I have dreams this year of taking both girls to make a Thanksgiving turkey platter layering their hand prints in different colors to make the tail feathers and using Mini-Saurus' little foot to make the body. This is a fun way to make memories with your kids and you have a wonderful keepsake when you're finished. Now is the time to make your Christmas plates, mugs, and platters so they will be ready to give (or just show off!) in December.

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