Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Minimalist Hula Hoop Fort

Once we started having a bunch of hoops around the house, my kids started making hula hoop castles or forts. They had learned about them in gym class. They are fun to play inside, topple over and can have a blanket or sheet over the structure for a secret hideout.

My sister saw a picture of one with my girls inside and thought she'd love some hoops to make a fort at her house.

My daughter often would use all our hoops for her castle. I wondered how many you really need. It seems that six is commonly used. Five works pretty well in the grass. I wondered if I could make it work with four.

When I set up four in the house, it looked ok until anyone came close and then it toppled over. I decided to make a little Velcro strap to hold the two hoops making an upside down "V". It worked! Four hoops and a little Velcro becomes the minimalist hoop fort. This little fort also makes my niece and nephew very happy. :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hula Hoop Ornament

Another Google search did not yield what I was looking I made it myself! I ended up with metal shower curtain rings, removed the small hooks and applied cut hoop tape. This one is a gift, can't wait to make another hoop ornament to put on our tree!
Hula Hoop Ornament

Monday, December 26, 2011

Veggie and Turkey Lasagna

Another gift idea realized.  I was wondering what I could do for my parents this year.  I realized that dinner might be a nice thing to provide and I sought out good freezer meals.  While I searched around I decided that I should probably go with something that I know personally works for this time.

I make lasagne somewhat regularly.  I usually use sauce in a jar, no-boil lasagna noodles and ground turkey.  I thought it would be nice to add some vegetables in order to make the meal more nutritious on its own.  After spending some time looking around, most recipes I saw cooked veggies along with spices and crushed tomatoes and created sauce.  I wasn't sure I wanted to do that and I have a sauce I like.

Carrots, Squash, mushrooms, and spinach were what I decided to add.  When reading through the recipes, I learned that cooking the veggies a bit before baking them into the lasagna would allow most of the excess liquid to be cooked off.  I took one of my jars of sauce and slowly added the different veggies.  I started with mushrooms, then as they began to change, I added shredded squash, and then carrots.  I added fresh spinach towards the end as I figured it wouldn't need as much time to cook.  The sauce did take some time to make.  I prepared everything else for the lasagna while the sauce was bubbling away.

I decided to use the veggie sauce on top of each meat layer and then see what I had left.  For the beginning sauce, I just used the jar sauce.  I also used the jar only sauce in one other layer.  It all went together very well and fit in my dish.

I baked the lasagna according to the directions on the noodle box, I let it cool and then refrigerated overnight.  The next day I cut the lasagna into eighths and individually wrapped each portion.  They went right into the freezer and will get transferred to my parents freezer today!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

3D Memory Game

When considering gifts for my toddler this year, I remembered that she is getting to the stage where memory games are fun. We have memory cards of course, but over the years they seem to lose matches and also get a little worn.

I remembered that my sister had a cool Shrek 3D Memory Match Up game. There were five sets of matching figures and little cups to cover them up. Pretty neat. I don't remember at the time considering using other items under the cups. You could really use anything.

After searching for other kinds of 3D Memory games, I considered making my own. I found baby zoo animals and bought two packs. Then I searched around for cups. When I am looking for certain things out of the ordinary, I am reminded that it's all about supply and demand. Finding little cups to hide toys is not a common toy or even item. I did come across stacking cups and considered them for a short while. There are even mini stacking cups. But I didn't think they'd work for my baby animals, though I did get a mini set for my older kids to stack cups.

Finally I went to the Dollar Store and hoped I'd find something. I wasn't having much luck until I spotted these little Ramekin dishes. They were 3 for a dollar and made out of plastic. They seemed to be a good size for hiding the little animals too.

Now we have a 3D memory game too. Some animals work better than others, but for now starting with just a few matches will be best. I imagine just matching the animals up without hiding them will be a good activity for us too.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pumpkin Muffins & Mini Pumpkin Pies

I was looking for a low fat pumpkin muffin recipe and settled on this one. I used 2 eggs instead of the egg substitute, added a heaping 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and used a mixture of half wheat and half white flour.

Doubling the recipe was something I considered, but a can of pumpkin contains 15 ounces of pumpkin, just short of two cups. Also, I wasn't sure how they would come out.

The muffin batter was very wet, but I remembered there was a lot of baking soda and figured it would all work out. It did, they are a different texture than my favorite banana muffins, but still good.

When I got the can of pumpkin out, my son asked if I was making pumpkin pie, it's his favorite. I've never made pumpkin pie, but after my muffins were done, I looked around at recipes to see what I could do with my almost 1 cup of remaining pumpkin.

I found a few recipes that I thought might work for me. A couple constraints I had were that I didn't want to make and roll out crust and also I wanted to use milk instead of condensed milk or half and half. One mini pumpkin pie tutorial I liked was from Honey I shrunk the Gretchen.

I found a recipe for graham cracker crust and made a half recipe. It was pretty good, but some of us feel it was a bit chewy. I used muffin tins and pressed the mixture into 9 cups.

The pumpkin pie recipe I used was for two pies. I quartered the recipe as well as I could and my son thought it tastes perfect.

Pumpkin Pie Recipe
Almost a cup of pumpkin
1 egg
1/4 cup skim milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
Sprinkle of nutmeg
Sprinkle of salt

I placed them in the previously baked (5 mins at 375 degrees) graham cracker crust and baked them for 10 minutes at 400 degrees and the reduced the temperature to 350 for another 23 minutes until my toothpick came out clean.  A good use of my leftover pumpkin.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Gifts - Chocolate Pretzel Treats

Chocolate Pretzel Treats have become our most favorite holiday gift. We started making them long ago and even the youngest member of the family can help. We have made them at Christmastime, for Valentine's Day, and also Easter. The more varied M&Ms have become, the more treats we make.

It's a very simple concept. Hershey Kisses are unwrapped and set upon waffle pretzels. The Kisses and pretzels go into a cool oven of 250 degrees for five to eight minutes. Once the chocolate has just started to glisten and lose a bit of its form, it's time for the M&Ms. This job has always been reserved for mom. M&Ms are pressed into each softened Kiss. The chocolate takes at least a couple hours to harden again. This is important for packing them up and gifting.

When I first read about making them, the tutorials cautioned against using Kisses other than milk and dark chocolate. I wasn't convinced this was necessary. We have tried a variety of Kisses including caramel, mint truffle, Hugs and white chocolate with candy canes. What I will note is that each variety seems to melt at varying lengths of time and the caramel sometimes makes a big mess if they get too soft. However, those ones are especially tasty. The specialty Kisses seem to take the least amount of time, then milk chocolate, and finally the dark chocolate takes the longest. The softness can be checked with the back of a spoon. Another thing I always do now is to only bake one variety at a time.

Along with a few other specialty chocolates, this is our staple teacher gift. We find the teachers love them as much as we do!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Boring Balaclava Transformed

I ordered this mini balaclava with the intention of protecting my toddler's face this winter.

Snowshoeing with baby
Last winter we had lots of great snow and I had just been given a new pair of snowshoes. When it wasn't bitter cold, off we went, snowshoeing through the woods. My baby was dressed warmly in a hat, neck muff, and snowsuit. I thought we were fine until one day I noticed a purple mark developing on her cheek. It wasn't getting better and I couldn't track it back to any event. After seeing a dermatologist, cold panniculitis was the diagnosis. As Wiki also told me, it is a skin condition characterized by inflammation of the subcutaneous fat after exposure to cold, most often seen in infants and young children. I was shocked...but wondered what else I could do to protect her face.

Cold Panniculitis
The balaclava came in the mail from Land's End. I knew it would be a little boring, especially compared to this year's surplus of animal hats. I had been eyeing the owl winter hats in the stores, maybe we could transform this boring balaclava into something more exciting: an owl balaclava?

Owl Balaclava Hat
After perusing Google Images, I was ready to start my own project. I looked through the fleece I had and started cutting circles. Then I pinned them on and used my sewing machine's embroidery stitch to sew around each circle. A little nose got stitched on. Finally I removed some stitches in the seam in order to add pom-poms. All the while, my toddler kept visiting me and saying, "owl? owl?" Yes, Kessa, it is an owl, just for you!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Complete vocal rest with a toddler

Well it hasn't happened yet, but I have had time to give it some thought. I don't think it will be an ideal situation, but with a little creativity we will make it work.

I have had an intermittent hoarse voice for eight months now. I didn't really realize it was a regular occurrence until the summer. Finally in the fall, I had it checked out. A small, five millimeter cyst-like bump resides on one of my false vocal cords. The false vocal cords are next to the true vocal cords. Everyone I talked to recommended I have it taken out and soon. And with the surgery comes almost certain complete vocal rest. This means no speaking, whispering, laughing, crying, throat clearing, or whistling.

Of course my older children think it will be great to have mom not be able to speak for the five day minimum. My toddler doesn't know what to think. I know it will be hard and she will be confused.

After thinking a lot about this no talking, I wondered what kind of technology could help me out. It occurred to me that there might be a neat iPad app designed for autistic children that I could use. After perusing the App Store and reading various reviews, I found iclickitalk. It was on sale due to an upcoming update. I decided to try it out.

With iclickitalk I can add my own categories, upload my own images, and most importantly record my own voice. Because the recording length has no limit, I can record single words at a time, a sentence, a rhyme, song or story.

It has been fun customizing the iclickitalk app and also a good thing to keep my mind off surgery. We even took some special pictures for it.

I even added a few phrases directed towards my older kids. Though I expect most of my communication with them will be in written form. With the new OS for the Apple products we own, we had noted a new "Messages" app. We hadn't given it much consideration. Finally I read about it and realized it would be a perfect way for me to communicate with my older children. It works much like text messaging, but can use wifi and your Apple ID and email address. This may be the way my seven year old learns her way around a keyboard.

My husband and I have always used "chatting" as one way to communicate. Gmail chat is what we use nowadays. I expect it will help us out during this time too.

Complete vocal rest, but not silence. My fingers will have to do my talking for a little while, tapping along a keyboard with a little signing mixed in.

Update 12/11/11 - Surgery went fine and the surgeon actually was able to perform the surgery without touching my vocal cords. I wasn't required to have complete vocal rest, though it felt a little strained to speak. While I could still talk, it was nice to have my little rhymes and things prerecorded for us.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Our Most Favorite Banana Muffins

Early on when I had a kitchen of my own, I discovered a love for making muffins. They are very easy to make, don't take too long to bake, and can be fairly nutritious with the right ingredients.

This recipe I adapted from a low-fat banana muffin recipe from the Joy of Cooking. I added spices, some whole wheat flour and chocolate chips. They are our all time favorite muffins and my children all love them. A variation of the word muffin has been a part of each of their early language.

On to the recipe. I have doubled and tripled the recipe, made them as mini muffins, extra large muffins, and even a special one year old birthday treat frosted with cream cheese. They are especially good with chocolate chips, but very tasty without. I've used egg substitute and a variety of different flours. They always turn out great. I think all the bananas make it a very forgiving recipe. These could probably be made with very little sugar and still be good, but we haven't tried that.

The Best Banana Muffins
Low Fat Banana Muffins
1 large egg
1 1/3 cup mashed ripe banana (3-4)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 cup brown sugar (loosely packed) or less
1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour: 1 1/2 wheat, 1/2 cup white
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Optional: 3/4 cup (or less) chocolate chips

Yields 12 muffins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together first five ingredients. Mix in flour mixture with a few light strokes just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not over mix; the batter should not be smooth. Fold in chocolate chips (or nuts). Divide the batter into sprayed muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool for 2-3 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve as soon as possible, preferably the day they are baked.
Mini muffins bake about 11-14 minutes.

When the kids are younger, I double the recipe and spoon out half into a mini muffin pan, then add chocolate chips to the remaining batter and make regular sized muffins. They freeze exceptionally well too. We hope you enjoy them. My family calls them the best banana muffins!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Earrings fit for a Toddler

Kessa was playing with a small bracelet this afternoon and putting it on and off. Then she gave it to me. I hung it on her ear. She thought that was a great idea, earrings! She felt it wiggle against her ear as she moved.

I thought why not. I have beads and clear elastic. It wouldn't take more than a few minutes, even with a toddler helping.

And there we have toddler earrings or are they ear bracelets?
Of course they will only be worn in short bursts with constant supervision.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Patchwork Hoop for Kessa

Kessa always wants to help when I am taping hoops. Sometimes I give her a scrap of tape hoping to appease her. She tries to find a place on the hoop for the scrap of tape.

This gave me an idea. I hadn't made a hoop just for Kessa before. She's not even 20 months yet. But she has been practicing with the hand hoops I made and is getting quite good at getting the hoop to spin around her a few times.

I cut and connected a small hoop for Kessa and told her it was for her. Then I sat down to do the taping and cut a small piece off. I kept cutting off little pieces alternating colors. We kept this up for a while. Kessa was delighted to be working on her hoop and actually applying tape. As the hoop was getting covered it reminded me of the children's book character, Elmer the Patchwork Elephant. She lost interest for a little while and I continued with the patchwork design. It was also a good use of my orange that was almost gone.
Patchwork Hoop

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hoop Jewelry

Having spent a great evening hooping with my daughter, I still had hooping on my mind in the morning. I thought having some hoop jewelry would be really neat and a super conversation starter!

I did a search for hula hoop earrings and didn't see anything like I had in mind.

As I was considering possible hoops for earrings, I remembered the black jelly bracelets of my youth. They would make neat hoops too.

Along with my toddler, we started at Lowes. I planned to check out o-rings for earrings. As soon as I was looking at them, my toddler called out hula hoop! They were perfect.

I picked up some jelly bracelets too.

Once home I took my hoop tape and cut it down to 1/8" and wrapped the "mini hoops". They are all very cute!

Mini hoop earrings and mini hoop bracelets

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Nail Art

In the last year or so, we have gotten into doing nail art. It started with a request from my daughter to have ladybug nails. I looked around the Internet and found a few tutorials. I also learned about nail art pens. Makes doing polka dots easy and fun. We have done ladybugs, unicycles, dots, jack-o-lanterns, and a spider web with a spider.

Recently my niece showed me her water marbled or tie dyed nails. They looked really cool. Nail polish is dropped into water and swirled, who thought of such a thing? She told me there were tons of tutorials out there, so I looked it up. I found this photo tutorial at Chloe's Nail's for water marbled nails. Looked easy enough and not too messy. We tried it. My daughter picked out three colors, I tried two. The effect is really cool.

I wasn't sure about re-doing the nail polish for every nail, so we didn't. The fourth and fifth nails aren't as interesting as the first three, but still look cool. I also wasn't sure about how to dispose of the water and polish mix. After doing the nails I swirled my toothpick in the cup and found all the polish was drier and was sticking to toothpick. Easy clean up too.

We did use clear scotch tape to protect our fingers and that worked well. We taped one hand, prepared polish, then dipped fingers individually, waited a little, removed tape, taped other hand, prepared new polish, dipped, removed tape.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Heart Shaped Hand Muff

A hand warmer muff was on my mind today. I had one as a child. It was fuzzy and warm.

I thought it might be a nice "pocket" option for my toddler.

I'm not quite sure she gets it yet. She will put her hands in and say warm. She will try to put things in sometimes too. But really she wants to carry it around like a purse.

This was a pretty easy and quick project. The trickiest part for me was figuring out which sides get sewn together. The first try was good for learning, but that is about it.

The basic steps are as follows.
Cut out four heart shapes. I used fleece. Sew 2 hearts together, right sides together on the sides only. The amount of side seam is how much of an opening for the hands you will have. Repeat this step with the other 2 hearts.

Make a strap. I cut one long piece, sewed a seam, right sides together and turned. I was careful to have the stretch go sideways. I put it up to my child to determine the length.

Turn one heart right side out. Place it inside the other heart. Doing this, they will now be right sides together. Match up all the same edges.

Pin the tops of the heart and the bottoms of the heart together. You will be sewing the two hearts to each other. A lining to the outside if that makes sense.

Before sewing, attach the strap. It will mostly be inside, between the two hearts, with the two ends poking out in the seam where you want them. Also, be sure to leave a small opening for turning the whole thing right side out.

Sew carefully around the top and bottom leaving a small area for turning. I left part of the bottom open as it is a nice straight area. Remove all pins, clip curves and turn right side out. Smooth all seams. Stitch up the small opening and it is done!

If there is ever interest in a better tutorial with pictures, I could probably be talked into doing that. It really was a fast project, even with a toddler climbing on me and "helping."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Pocket For Kessa

My little girl is 19 months and notices everything. Lately she has taken note that while Mom and Dad have pockets in their clothes for keys, phones, money, and hands-she does not.

I didn't want to add pockets to all of her clothes...what to do.

As the pocket ideas were coming to me, I couldn't help but think of Corduroy and little Lisa helping him out.

Finally I settled on a toddler sized apron with pockets. It was one of those projects that I love: have the idea, go make the project, and actually finish it and use it all in one day. This one was being used inside a half hour.

But I'm sure it could use some improvements. I actually think a hand warmer type muff would suit her better. Maybe for another day...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Princess clothes for dolls

As I was preparing to post about a princess dress for a doll I made back in 2006, I was searching Google for images. I guess if I needed a pattern for a doll now, I'd be all set! But I still think my doll dress matched the girl dress better.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Water Hunt Game for Girl Scout Brownies

The Brownies have been working on the Journey W.O.W. Wonders of Water. I read about a game involving searching for water and wearing a baby doll tied to the child's back. The doll symbolizes the fact that many children are responsible for taking care of their younger siblings. The dolls were tied on with fabric I had in the house. It was about 12" wide and about 2 yards long.

The girls enjoyed the game and reading the signs. After the game they were working on water color paintings and making droplets of water with messages about protecting water for a bulletin board. As the girls were finishing their other projects, many of them asked if they could play the game again. I said sure! The girls even wanted the baby dolls tied on again and went out in search of clean water. Once the water was found, they came and showed us their success.

I would certainly recommend the game to others.

For #1 I had a dirty bucket with leaves and some water in it. For #2 I had a Rubbermaid container with a sandy colored piece of fabric in it to show the creek was all dried up. #3 had a full Rubbermaid container of fresh water. When you are done, the water can be dumped outside on some plants to not be wasted.

Monday, October 31, 2011

When old is new again

Having a new baby does that. What was put away for years resurfaces again and for the new baby, everything is new.

The first blast from the past is this little tutu skirt. Tulle was layered, then machine gathered followed by ribbon being folded over and stitched in place. I made a few of these as gifts for the little girls in my life probably six or more years ago.

The next is the tiger costume. This was a major undertaking for the mom of a young toddler. It got a lot of use 10 years ago and was the perfect choice for a chilly Halloween night for the newest toddler.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fleece poncho and leg warmers

Long ago when Sydney was a baby, I wanted to make a fleece poncho for her. It works so well with baby carriers and in and out of the car.
The Same Fleece Poncho for Toddler

I started with a circle-like shape and cut a small hole for the head. It just wasn't right, but I wasn't sure how to fix it. I added a hood and called it quits. It was functional, but nothing special.

With new baby, Kessa I get to try everything again and this time I had a store bought poncho to use as a guide. The poncho was a 7/8, but I thought the dimensions would not be that different for a baby. I just made the hood a little smaller.

Fleece Poncho & Leg Warmers for Baby
The key to this pattern is four equal sections that are smaller at the top and flare out at the bottom. I also learned along the way to cut the hood with the stretch going side to side. It makes it easier to put over the baby's head too.

I had extra fabric and made legwarmers to match.

It fit great when she was 9 months and still is great at 18 months!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hoop castle

The kids learned about hula hoop castles in gym class. You only need four to make it work, but if you are seven years old and have tons of hoops at your disposal, they ALL can be used!

When not used in castle construction, you can see us all hooping in the yard and inviting our neighbor friends over for hooping fun!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

More Hooping!

My whole family is hooping! I finally decided to go ahead and make myself the exercise style hoop that I wanted to make more than a year ago.

Back to Lowes. This time buying 100 feet of 160psi 3/4" black irrigation tubing. I wasn't sure how many hoops I'd be making, but knew I wanted one or two and maybe these would make perfect gifts.

More cutting, heating, connecting and taping. I have become more proficient and confident in my taping and tried out some different patterns and mixing wide and narrow tape. The wide tape I just tore in half and the other half just stayed stuck on the roll.

My daughter had a birthday party coming up and I thought, why not! Hoops for everyone! Back to the Lowes, ordered more tape and more hoops were made!

I also decided to work with the mini 1/2" 125psi tubing for hand hooping and performance hooping. I see a potential talent show act in our future.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Hula Hoops

Well I guess we're not calling them "hula" hoops anymore, but it's sometimes hard to remember.

I learned about this style of hoop form a friend of mine who very successfully changed her lifestyle and lost more than 100 pounds.  Hooping started it for her.  I thought why not?

But it took me more than a year to actually make my own and the first ones weren't for me at all.  My little Brownie Girl scouts come down to the cafeteria on Friday afternoons after a busy week of school.  They would like nothing more than to race around the cafeteria for an hour, but that is not on the agenda.  I wondered if these new, improved, exercisey hoops would help.

I headed over to Lowes for black irrigation tubing.  I found what I was looking for and perplexed the staff.  They had never heard of making hula hoops out of irrigation tubing.  I started with 100 feet of 3/4" 100psi tubing.  I learned about making hoops form the many tutorials out there.  I read about different options for tape and decided to order the gaffer tape.

Both Jason Unbound and Karen Tiede have helpful tutorials and information on hoop making.

My husband already had a pair of cutters for the tubing and also a heat gun which made the connectors slide in easily.  Taping went pretty well.  I certainly got better as I went along.

Ten hoops later and we were hooping!  I made 9 smaller ones for the girls and one big one for me.

The Brownie Girl Scouts LOVED the hula hoops!  It made the transition from school to scouting go much more smoothly.  We also used the hoops at the end of the meeting when kids are being picked up.  

Friday, September 30, 2011

Good Turn Mouse

For the first Girl Scout Brownie meeting of the year I was looking for a fun project. I found this little poem about the Good Turn Mouse:

This saucy creature is a mouse
Most mothers won't let one in the house
See, this one it has quite a tail,
Each Girl Scout made one without fail.
Take it home and help all week,
and for good turns you must seek
for every good turn that you do
tie a knot in the yarn...make quite a few.
Remember why each knot you tied
and how much to help you really tried
and then next week, please take your turn
to tell us all, so we can learn...
just what you did to help at home
a ready helper you have grown!

I looked at Google images for a felt mouse pattern to sew. I settled on an almost circle that is folded in half and stitched with embroidery floss.

I started with beads for eyes, added little ears, and finally stitched the body from nose to tail leaving the tail long for knotting.

For the girls, I decided to prep the project for them so they would be able to finish in the time allotted and the project would not feel too hard for them.

I cut out all the mouse bodies and ears. Then I sewed on the mouse eyes and added a threaded needed with coordinating thread. I made up directions with sketches and the steps.

The group of second grade girls enjoyed the project a lot and were very excited to do the hand sewing. They did need a fair amount of help and it was great to have a few extra adults around. Everyone finished their little mice and took them home to keep track of all their good turns for the next two weeks.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Unicycle Cookies

My husband is a mountain unicyclist. My 7 year old daughter rides a unicycle too. I had looked for unicycle related items in the past and knew there was a limited supply. Last Christmas I found someone who could custom make a unicycle ornament for us. Custom seems to be the key with unicycles.

A unicycle only race was coming up and I thought it would be fun to bring decorated unicycle cookies. I did a Google search for unicycle cookie cutter. No luck.

Then I did a search for custom cookie cutters and I found this little kit. How hard could it be to make a cookie cutter?

It turned out to be pretty easy. I started out on the big side and then scaled the design down.

Then off to the baking and decorating. I decided to make my mom's recipe for gingerbread cookies. They come out great and are very tasty. The recipe comes from Applehood and Motherpie. I also spent a few nap times learning about frosting cookies with royal frosting. I was intrigued. A blog I found called Annie's Eats had many great tips. I even used the recommended recipe for both the frosting and a batch of sugar cookies.

Having three children and one of them under 2, I had to give myself a few days for decorating. My mom was able to come over and give me a hand and we made a great team.

The first challenge was just making the royal frosting. Everywhere I looked the recommendation was to use a standing mixer. Some people even reported having burned out their hand mixers trying to make royal frosting. I looked into buying one, but they are very expensive and I needed it the very next day!

My mom and I decided we would try to use our hand mixers, but we would use two and switch them in and out when the motors felt warm. It worked!

I had bought some new supplies too: squeeze bottles, decorator bags, tips, and gel food coloring.

With my 18 month old on my back, we started with the royal icing on the gingerbread cookies. It took a long time, but we created unicycle cookies!

I still had the sugar cookies to decorate, but I was running out of time. I made up some buttercream frosting and tried a simplified outlining and very quickly they were done too!

I was excited to complete this project and share the unicycle cookies. Of course the other unicyclists seemed to get a kick out of them too.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene

In upstate New York near the shores of Lake Ontario we were spared from the destruction of Hurricane Irene. But we did have one of the windiest days in my memory. As we sat down to dinner I suggested we go and see the lake. If it was super windy at our house, the lake shore would probably be even more so.

As we approached the parking lot near the lake, it was very clear that we were not the only ones curious about the lake that night.

Getting out of the car I realized that the force of the winds were bordering on dangerous and we would need to be careful. I scooped up my toddler and strapped her onto my back.

The waves were amazing. Never had I experienced the power of water like this. I could imagine a wave coming up and whisking us away.

Of course the sunset was a nice treat too.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Headbands and Hair Covers

A friend was looking for some kind of head covering and I actually had a decent supply of hats and things. She really liked this head band like cover. I figured it would be easy to make. We measured the original and looked through my stash of fabric.

Later in the week I made one up, then made some more. It was a quick and easy project. I even made some in kid sizes. What is especially neat about it is that it can be customized with different fabrics and widths. It could be made as narrow as a traditional headband or very wide in order to cover much of the head. It is very comfortable too due to the elastic in the back.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Pink Ribbon Walk

Every year since 2007 I have participated in the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester's annual Pink ribbon walk. It is held on Mother's Day at a beach along Lake Ontario.

Because it is held early in the day and it's May and it's next to the lake, it's always chilly. Last year I had the brilliant idea to bring along blankets. Then I thought it would be nice to have pink ribbon blankets knowing we'd use them year after year.

I found some nice fleece with pink ribbons and the words HOPE, LIVE, and LOVE on it. There are also butterflies and hearts. In addition I got a coordinating pink print to make the blanket two layers and reversible. I cut two blankets: one for my six year old who prefers to sit in the stroller and one for my 6 week old who would be nestled up against me, but might need an extra blanket across her back. With the leftover fabric I made a scarf for me. All the items consisted of the two layers wrong sides together and serged together.

The next year it wasn't quite as cold and I thought it would be nice for the girls to have matching shirts with some sort of embroidered appliqu├ęs. I wasn't sure what to put on them. I settled for HOPE. I really do hope that my girls and my boy never have to deal with cancer.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Birthday Shirts

The idea for a birthday shirt originated back in 2004. It was Kyle's fourth birthday and Sydney was just five weeks old. I hadn't made any special plans for his birthday yet and asked him what he'd like to do. He said he'd like to go to the children's museum with a couple friends. I called the friends and one could come, it was a date.

For some reason, Sydney slept a little longer that morning. It is during these times that I seem to be most inspired! I have the gift of time I did not count on. I asked Kyle how he would like to have a shirt that had a big number "4" on it. It would show everyone that it was his birthday. He loved the idea.

We found a nice plain orange shirt in his drawer and a cute printed fabric in my stash. I drew out a "4" and sewed it on. All with a sleeping baby! It was not perfect, but it worked and he felt special all day.

The next year I made him a 5 and continued on until he was no longer interested. During that time I started making them for my daughter too. I learned some new techniques, remembered to change the needle tension, and even tried out some stabilizers.

This year I even offered to make some as gifts. And Kessa got her first one beginning the tradition anew.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mini Ice Cream Cakes

When I asked my soon to be eleven year old what kind of cake he wanted, he said ice cream. I had planned on making a cake or cupcakes, but nothing too elaborate. But an ice cream cake I had not planned on making.

I did some research and learned all there was to know about ice cream cakes. I even found a recipe for the chocolatey goodness inside Carvel ice cream cakes. Ice cream cakes work best with pans that have straight sides. That threw out my cup cake pan idea.

I was running out of time and needed to make some decisions. I went to Target and found a straight-walled mini square cake pan. It was like a cupcake pan, except all the cakes were mini squares. I was ready to try it.

I bought strawberry ice cream and chocolate ice cream, I made the chocolatey goodness which is just chocolate wafer cookies crumbled, then covered in magic shell topping.

I let the ice cream soften, worked quickly, then back to the freezer and repeat. It was a messy job and my fingers got really cold! But they were coming along.

My research indicated that whipped cream makes a perfect frosting for ice cream cakes. It worked well, but again I had to work quickly with trips to the freezer.

Overall they were cute, but far from professional. They were delicious and the birthday boy loved them.