All Will be Revealed

Well I finished quite a few Valentine’s crafts just under the wire, so be prepared because blog entries for the month of love are going to go on for a while.  That’s all well and good for me because it means I can keep hearts as a theme until I think of some toddler craft projects for Saint Patrick’s Day.  Julius made another Valentine this week for the child services librarian at our town library.  She does these adorable programs twice a week for the kids and it is Julius’ only interaction with kids his age at this point.  Sad I know.  

Anyway, Julius “wrote” out all the cards himself and then I intended to translate what he “wrote” into the roman alphabet.  This in principle seemed easier than it was.  After he’d finish his mad scribbling on each card and shout “DONE!”  I’d ask him what the letter said so I could write it down myself.  In which case he’d ramble off a paragraph of nonsense that started with “Dear Julius” and ended with “Love <insert name here>”.  Example: “dear Julius, the table is brown and has twenty seven dogs on it. Not real dogs, but dogs like my friend who doesn’t like dogs, but he does like them. love Nora”.  I didn’t want to burst his bubble by telling him the entire card wouldn’t even fit half that (partially due to his huge tornado of black “writing”) so I just wrote “To <insert name here> From Julius” on every card. 

On our town librarian’s Valentine card though, I wrote exactly what Julius said to her because it was short and relatively coherent.  Of course right after I wrote it all out (one handed, in orange marker, while feeding Patricia) he decided the card didn’t have enough stickers and he put stickers on top of every single piece of text.  So I had to have him re-dictate his message to me and this time he chose “Dear Julius, I love you so much, Love Miss Maren”.  And by that point I figured he was just going to sticker over it anyway so I just wrote it out verbatim.  But nope that is what ended up in the mailbox.  Hopefully it makes her day.  

Anyway, to those whose kids received Valentines from Julius, thank you for the kind words.  It sounded like the kids enjoyed them.  Since several of you have asked, I’ll tell you the Water Reveal Saga.  The idea for these came from a couple nights of mad internet searches and failed experiments.  Have you guys ever seen these? I love Melissa and Doug and these reveal pads and pens are super awesome.  You paint with water on the pad and what’s underneath is revealed.  I had seen these Buddha boards before and though the concept is similar it seems they are created by two different methods.

I originally thought the Melissa and Doug boards were created by a layer of fabric over a colored picture.  I thought that like in a wet t-shirt contest the fabric would bare the secrets of the colored picture underneath to the world.  I tried several different fabrics, all with mediocre results.  Then I tried paper on top of a picture with no success.  I DO think this is how they do it with the Buddha boards or the Japanese caligraphy magic water paper but I have yet to get that working.  (Future project.)  Scrutinizing the Water Reveal pads more I realized that what I thought was fabric because of the texture was actually screen printing!  Screen printing forces ink through a fabric screen, which leaves a texture similar to the fabric it was forced through!  That is when I was finally able to figure out how they do it.  No one on the interweb seems to know, so I guess I may be revealing their big secret.

Anyway it turns out there are a couple chemical manufacturers in the world that manufacture what they call hydrochromic ink.  It is total magic.  The ink is opaque white when dry, but when it comes in contact with water it becomes translucent.  If you apply it in a thin enough layer it will dry after only a minute or so of contact with water.  This makes it completely reusable until the ink eventually wears off the page over time.  So cool.  At this point I tried to buy hydrochromic ink online because now I was hooked.  Most of these chemical companies aren’t really trying to sell to some little crafter like me, but there was one US company that sold hydrochromic ink in small amounts on Amazon.  It had only a single one star review but I am frivolous with my craft budget and as I said I was now mentally invested.

The ink came and I tried out a test of it on top of our extra Christmas cards using an old screen printing board.  I also tried painting the ink on.  IT WORKED GREAT!  (Except Julius really aggressively didn’t like it because I painted over his face in the Christmas card as my test.  I thought he would think it was cool but he was very hurt and offended. Poor guy.)  The screen printing method worked the best, and it dried super fast just like the Melissa and Doug Water Reveal pads.  Unfortunately sometime between when I did the test and the next time I went to use the ink, something changed.  I think the ink may have dried slightly during my initial experimentation and I could not get the ink to permeate the screen!  I even made a new screen from the same size screen material.  Frustrated, and with the need to send out my Valentines in days I decided to paint on the ink.  I watered it down slightly because the consistency was very thick and thus I ended up requiring a couple layers to get the underlying picture mostly hidden.  In short it worked way worse than the first day I got it.  My recommendation, if you are going to try to make reveal pictures with my method, use the ink as close to the purchase day as possible, do not water it down and do not leave it open while you are working.

Hidden Picture Water Reveal Valentines

What you’ll need:

  • a color printer
  • my card design here (or one of your own)
  • 65 lb white cardstock (or heavier)
  • 2 oz of Hydrochromic Ink
  • a foam brush
  • a paper cutter or scissors
  • red poster board
  • elmer’s glue
  • a pack of value paint brushes
  • a cricut or silhouette
  • my cricut template here
  • red paper
  • black fine point cricut pen
  • curling ribbon
  • X-acto knife
  1. Print my Valentine design (or your own) in color on white cardstock.
  2. Using a dry foam brush, paint a thin layer of hydrochromic ink over each picture, being sure to saturate each picture.
  3. Let dry completely as per the instructions on your ink.  If needed apply another thin coat.  It is best to try this on one set of cards first to see how well it works for you.
  4. Cut out the 4″x6″ reveal valentines which should now look mostly white.

    Dried reveal card

  5. Cut out a red 4.5″x6.5″ posterboard rectangle for each reveal valentine.
  6. Apply Elmer’s glue to the back of reveal valentine with a foam brush and press it onto the red posterboard rectangle, centered.  Let dry under a stack of books.
  7. Use my cricut template to draw and cut hearts out.
  8. When Valentine is dry, use the X-acto knife to cut a tiny 1 cm long slit in the top left corner of each valentine.
  9. Feed a 6″ length of curling ribbon through the slit, then through the hole in the die cut heart, and knot.  Curl ends.
  10. Place paintbrush into the slits in the heart.
  11. Have your child write their note on the back of the red paper heart or the back of the red posterboard.

    Partially revealed Valentine

    Julius demonstrating the water reveal

    My niece and nephew revealing their valentine!

Posted in Crafts & Sewing | 2 Comments

Uni-corny Valentines

Well Julius loved opening all his Valentine cards yesterday!  In addition to all the cards from his pen pals, he even got some surprise ones from readers of the blog!  That really made my day and his, so thank you!  It was so fun seeing all the different Valentines.  Every single one was unique!  Stickers, coloring, seeds, applesauce, hearts, sloths, Disney, Winnie the Pooh, animals etc… he will be busy looking at all of them and playing with them in the coming days.  He has again been carrying his Valentines around the house.  This year he’s carrying them in his Valentine mailbox.  We removed the staples from it so he could take out his cards to open, so it is back to paper bag form.  Perhaps a good reason to leave the handles on… I’ll have to update last week’s post!

I somehow had a lot of ideas for Valentine cards this year.  I think it is easier when the kids are a little bit older since more activities are age appropriate.  Of course that meant that some of the siblings of the pen pals got Valentine’s that weren’t really age appropriate (sorry) though I give props to Ka who thought of that when she sent her daughter’s Valentines out.  The one I’m going to show you today was technically sent from Patricia even though she is not able to do the craft herself yet… But she has gotten so good at grabbing things and shoving them in her mouth now!  Hmm…

Before I tell you how to make Patricia’s Valentines, I want to share another Julius-ism.  One of the cards Julius received was a dog bone shape card sent from Brooklyn and Febes, Mandy and Bailey’s dogs.  After I read him the tag, Julius asked, “How did Brooklyn make this?”  I didn’t want to burst his adorable card-making dog bubble, so I told him Aunt Mandy and Aunt Bailey must have helped.  (Also he pronounces Brooklyn as Broke-lin.)

DIY Paint with Water Valentines

What you’ll need:

  • paintbrush & watercolor paints
  • a printer and printer paper
  • paintbrushes to include with the valentines (I used these cheapo ones, but they really don’t hold water well since they’re plastic)
  • A6 Envelopes (I used these)
  • Scissors or paper cutter
  • My valentines template here
  1. Print out the Valentines I drew above (2 per page) or draw your own, and print them, leaving space on the side for your to add paints.
  2. Paint a thick layer of water color paint in the first box of each Valentine.  Let dry (for me it was dry by the time I got back to the first one.
  3. Continue to layer on paint as in step 2.  I found 5 coats worked great.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the other 3 boxes of colors.
  5. Using paper cutter or scissors, cut Valentine down to size (4″x6″)
  6. Have child sign the bottom of the card if desired.
  7. Insert Valentine and paint brush into envelope.

To use the card the child can simply dip the paintbrush in water and wet the water color square to paint.  I like self contained water color paint pages like these because toddlers tend to instantly corrupt the entire box of watercolors by mixing them all together.  (No matter how hard you try to stop them.)

Julius’ masterpiece!

Victoria is showing off her painting skills!



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Paper Hearts and Doilies

Ah Valentine’s Day, another one of those holidays where chocolate and sugar are the main attraction.  As the pandemic winds on we’ve become more and more lax on Julius’ sugar intake.  Before we would have a little bit of dessert a couple times a month, and then it ramped up to a few times a week.  We’re trying to lower it back down, but it’s hard to go the other direction.  For instance the other day we had breakfast for dinner and I was trying to convince Julius to finish his (unsweetened) applesauce which in the past he considered a sweet treat.  I told him that the applesauce was delicious, and almost like a dessert.  His response, “Yeah!  It’s kind of like a dessert, except it’s applesauce.”  No fooling this guy.

But while we ramp down on his sugar intake he still gets his sugar from other places.  The other day he asked me what the soap in our bathroom was.  I confirmed for him that it was “winter candy apple” which he had helped me pick out the day before.  He promptly followed it up with “well I tried to taste a little bit and it was really not good.”  I guess I should stop buying the food themed bath and body works products.  Patricia on the other hand needs no sugar kick, just her bottom lip.       

Well, chocolate and sweets aside we are in full Valentine mode at the Colton house!  Julius and I finished our Valentines to send out to friends, mailed a couple cards to the grandparents, decorated for Valentine’s day and even made a Valentine’s mailbox!  Last Valentine’s day was the last holiday that Julius spent in daycare before the pandemic started.  He loved all the Valentines he got from his classmates and kept looking at them for months afterwards.  In July we eventually threw them away and he was extremely disappointed.

This year I took a page from my friends Maren and Matt who asked friends to mail birthday cards to their toddler daughter since she couldn’t celebrate in person.  Since Julius also loves getting mail, I pinged friends with toddler age kids and asked if they wanted to do a USPS Valentine exchange.  They were all in!  I don’t want to ruin the surprise yet so I’ll show you the Valentines we made in a future post.

We also had a Google Hangout call with the toddler penpals and did a silly craft.  My craft idea was to decorate Valentines bags so they could keep their valentines inside.  We have been ordering pick up from our local Hannaford’s and we love that they give you paper bags instead of plastic.  The bags they deliver groceries in are the really nice raffia handled brown paper bags with no branding – so they could very easily be reused as gift bags.  I’ve been saving them, but haven’t really used many of them.  I thought this would be a good excuse to use some up!  They are a bit too big to hold valentines, but by folding them in half they very easily turn into little triangular boxes!  Watch my super quick tutorial video or follow the link below!

And if anyone wants me to ship them any of these paper bags, Ka told me about this awesome discount USPS shipping site called pirate ship that I want to try out.

Recycled Valentine Mailbox

What you’ll need:

  • brown paper shopping bags (handle or no handle will work, or even bags that aren’t brown!)
  • An xacto knife
  • A stapler or tape
  • Assorted stickers, doilies, paper hearts
  • Assorted craft supplies like markers, crayons and glue sticks
  • I also made some cute stickers for the kids on the cricut with leftover shipping label paper.  You can use my template here.
  1. With the paper bag folded closed, fold the top of the paper bag down to meet the bottom edge and press with your fingers.  The bottom flap of the bag will be inside the fold.
  2. On the side of the folded bag that does not have handles (or the side that is not the top of the bag), mark a line 7 inches long an inch below the fold.
  3. Open the bag up again and use the xacto knife to cut the 7 inch line.
  4. Fold the bag back in half again. (I did steps 1-4 before I sent the mailboxes out to everyone.  I included an assortment of puffy stickers, regular stickers, doilies and heart cut outs).

    Bag folded with slit cut and assorted valentine stickers

  5. The slit is the front of the mailbox, and the top of the mailbox is the fold above the slit.  Have the child decorate the front (and back if desired) of the mailbox.

    Decorating the mailbox front during the Hangout call!

  6. When the mailbox is fully decorated, open the bag again.  Fold down the top again along the fold you created in step 1, this time with the bottom of the bag opened.  The shape should look like a triangular prism.
  7. Staple or tape the top of the bag to the side bottom of the bag on both sides to force the mailbox to keep it’s triangular prism shape.

    Here is where you want to staple.

  8. Remove the handles if desired.
  9. Fill with Valentines!

    Front view of Julius’ finished mailbox.

    Side view of Julius’ finished mailbox.

    Julius putting his valentines in the mailbox to open next week!

    Nora is showing off her finished mailbox!

    Craft kits I sent out


Posted in Crafts & Sewing, Parties | 4 Comments

It’s a Gift

Will’s family is visiting this week from Tennessee to meet Patricia and hang out with Julius who they have not seen in over a year due to the pandemic.  Julius has been having a lot of fun with Sugar and Daddy O (Will’s parents) and loves the attention.  He has decided Daddy O is his own personal playmate and drags him around to see his toys and conspires to sit next to Daddy O at dinner.  Julius continues to reward us by saying adorable things that make all of us laugh with their unintended hilariousness.

The other day my mom came over to drop off Julius’ snow pants that we had accidentally left at their house at Christmas.  He wore my snow pants during the previous snow storm which looked like a ridiculous pair of clown pants yet somehow miraculously stayed up.  I think the sheer amount of fabric bunching at the bottom was what held them up.  Before my mom dropped off the snow pants we had mailed out a package for my mom’s birthday.  Julius didn’t quite understand the secrecy that is involved in birthday gifts, so when my mom got there he blurted out, “Meemah we just mailed you a package.  It was some cameras.”  I quickly shushed him, and told him that he wasn’t supposed to tell Meemah what the gift was.  My mom tried to make him feel better by saying, “it’s okay, I didn’t hear.”  To which Julius shouted in response, “WE GOT YOU SOME CAMERAS.”  I could not stop laughing, I think the cat’s out of the bag there.

Speaking of presents, for Christmas my brother and sister-in-law warned me that their kids were going to give Julius and Patricia homemade gifts that cost less than a dollar each.  They wanted their kids to understand that Christmas was about giving, not just getting.  I thought this was a great idea, so we decided to do this with Julius as well.  I decided that Julius and I would make a homemade play dough kit for my niece and nephew.  To make it different than the play dough you can buy we decided to make gingerbread scented play dough.  The recipe I used for the play dough is awesome, and feels exactly like play dough.  I added in a dowel rolling pin, assorted buttons, jewels and rickrack for decorations, and a cookie cutter I got for $1 at Target.  I then jazzed up some recycled mint tins, KFC single side containers and Thai food take out containers with my Cricut.  Though I didn’t quite hit the $1 price range I think they were less than $2 each.

Gingerbread Play Dough Playset

Play dough

I followed the instructions here to make a batch of play dough, and added the following spices with the flour: 1 Tbsp cinnamon, 1 Tbsp cloves, 1 Tbsp nutmeg, 3 Tbsp ginger.  These proportions are from my favorite Lebkuchen recipe.  Don’t be afraid to adjust the spices as you are cooking since this play dough is all about the aroma.  I also added a single drop of brown gel icing while the dough was cooking.  Julius helped me make the dough, and he had a lot of fun kneading the play dough in a bag afterwards.


I reused little mint tins like these that I got from a convention to house some little decorations for the kids to play with.  I jazzed up the containers using my cricut and the pattern I made here.  It requires label paper (I reused the half-sheets from mailing usps packages), red, green and brown fine tip markers and the cutting tool.

I used the same pattern and label paper to repurpose some KFC sides containers as my play dough containers.  They hold the perfect amount of play dough and are air tight!

The box for the set is just a take out container.  I used the cricut to cut out the kids’ names in gold to emblazon on the lid.

Dough Tools

The rolling pin I included with the set is just a 7/8″ dowel I cut into 6″ lengths and sanded down.  Super simple and cheap.

The cookie cutters were only $1 at Target!  They were most of the cost of the gift.  If it weren’t a pandemic I would have shopped around for a pack of cheaper plastic ones, but on the interwebs, these were the cheapest ones I could find available for pick up or delivery.


I filled up the little mint tin with jewels, buttons and rickrack that I had in my craft supplies.  I figured the jewels and buttons could be used as eyes or buttons for the gingerbread man and the rickrack looks like icing!

Finn is expertly demonstrating the use of all of these decorations!

Julius and Finn seem to like their play dough!  And Julius loves the puzzles that Ari and Finn made for him!

Finn goes in for some rolling

Ari couldn’t resist the temptation to eat the play dough, even when inside this plastic bag.

Julius decorating a cake of play dough.






Posted in Crafts & Sewing | 2 Comments

We’re All Quite Mad Here

After tea party week I sort of fell off the themed week bandwagon.  Last week we read some books from the library about MLK jr, did a dinosaur dig and a melting snowman STEM activity, and even I can’t pretend to cobble those together into a theme.  So a grand total of 2 weeks of themed mama daycare, learning about the important subjects of coconuts and tea parties.  Today we played with blocks and Julius destroyed his creations, which Patricia thought was HILARIOUS.  She laughed a bunch of times and it is the hardest I have heard her laugh yet!  I’m glad someone is enjoying chaos unplanned activity week.

Let me go back to tea party week.  Tea party week was themed to the MAX.  We made tea paintings using different types of tea.

Julius trying out the different types of tea to see if they make different colors on the page.

Used our senses to see, smell and taste different teas.  (Julius correctly determined that the peach black tea smelled like peach, but all the other teas he determined smelled like grass…)

Cannot wait to try the next tea….

We read books about tea and tea parties, made scones, decorated hats for an elegant tea party…

Showing off his finished hat. Julius picked all the accessories from my craft supply and we hot glued them on together.

…and had high tea!

Two gents enjoying some high tea!

There are lots of tea party hat decorating ideas for little girl’s tea parties, but I wanted to come up with something for little boys.  In all honesty I think Julius would have been very happy to decorate a sun bonnet.  I was seconds away from buying a toddler sun bonnet off Amazon when I decided I could do better and went downstairs to make him a top hat.  Frankly I find it surprising that as the mad hatter, I have never made a top hat before!  This bell crown top hat was made entirely out of things I had on hand, and took me about two hours to design and fabricate.  It fits perfectly on little man’s head who is currently 3 years old.  You can upsize the pattern for your own needs.

Dapper Gent in his new hat.

Little Gentleman’s Top Hat

What you’ll need

  1. Cut out pattern pieces as directed, be sure to add half inch seam allowance on the inside of the brim, as well as around all the other pieces.

    Cut pattern, be sure to add seam allowances.

  2. Pin crown of hat, right side together, along straight edges and stitch.

    Pin crown of hat and stitch to form a tapered cylinder/truncated cone.

  3. Pin the top of the hat to the cylinder of the crown, on the side marked top, right sides together.  Stitch.

    Pin top of hat to the crown.

  4. Pin the bottom of the crown of the hat to the inside of the brim, right sides together. Stitch.

    Stitch brim to bottom of crown.

  5. Clip curves very close to stitching.  (At this point you can fold the seam allowance in and fabric glue it in place – I was going to do this but Julius wanted to wear it before I got to that.)

    Clip curves

  6. Turn the hat right side out and spray with fabric stiffener following the instructions on the package.  Pay close attention to the brim especially.

    Spray with fabric stiffener, shape and let dry, repeating as necessary.

  7. Decorate as desired by gluing ribbons, feathers, jewels etc onto the hat.

    Mighty fine hats

High Tea Menu

High Tea is served, complete with our blooming amaryllis!

Scones and cupcakes


Check out these cute mini cupcakes – I made them for thanksgiving and froze the leftovers so I could whip them out in a flash.

Even the little lady enjoyed high tea! (Or at least being held by Dada!)

Ready for tea!


Posted in Crafts & Sewing, Culinary Delights, Parties | Leave a comment

Sky’s the Limit

Well Patricia is growing like a weed!  She is already in 6 month outfits!  Wow!  She is so adorable when she smiles, and she is just starting to test out her laugh. Julius loves to snuggle with her, especially in his old crib, and he is all around a great big brother.  He has been using the word “cute” a lot to describe things.  For instance he said the other day, “Patricia is pretty cute, I love her mama”.  Just melts my heart.  I hope the sibling rivalry doesn’t start anytime soon.  As an added bonus he told me today before bed that I am “the cutest mama”.  He is just earning brownie points left and right.

My two lovies

Two weeks ago we started Patricia in the baby merlin and we’ve been able to get some sleep.  Well theoretically we should be able to, but now I’ve just been staying up way too late every night instead of going to bed at a reasonable time.  You see, I have been reorganizing the garage for the last few weeks.  I’ve finally gotten it good enough to call “done” for now.   Three days ago we moved all our holiday decorations from the basement to the garage.  This means more room for my crafts in the basement… Will is totally okay with this because recently I added more shelves to the man cave for his board games.  When I’m done reorganizing I promise to show you.  I have SO MANY things to show you!  And so many fun projects to work on!  There really isn’t enough time in the day.

Anyway, my whole reason for reorganizing the garage was to fit in the climbing wall I made for Julius for Christmas.  It was supposed to be a birthday gift but I didn’t finish it in time.  And in all honesty I bought the climbing holds in the very beginning of the pandemic.  He kept asking about “the tumble bus” which is this neat school bus that they retrofitted with a bunch of kids’ gymnastics equipment.  They used to come to his daycare every few weeks and he LOVED it.  I thought about renting it for an hour for his birthday and then calculated that I could build a climbing wall for the same price.  I was wrong there… but I’ll get into that in a bit.

My plan started out with buying a few tumble mats, some gymnastic rings, and climbing holds, and me creating a sort of collapsible mobile climbing wall jungle gym type thing using reclaimed wood from pallets.  If I had executed this plan it would have cost me half the price of a tumble bus rental.  So I bought all the things and then they sat around in my basement for a couple months.  Then I acquired a half dozen pallets and got to work ripping them apart.  By this point I was six months pregnant and huge.  I don’t know if you know, but ripping pallets apart is HARD WORK.  Over the course of a weekend I managed to rip 2 of them apart.  Then I gave up.  A lot of the wood splintered from me ripping it apart and I quickly realized that I was going to need A LOT of pallets to build anything decent sized.

So then I started thinking some more.  Why couldn’t I build one in the garage?  I first thought I would just directly attach the climbing wall holds to the outside wall of the mancave stairs.  I may still do this someday but instead I decided to mount them on the unfinished wall under the stairs.  This had the added advantage that Julius could still climb when the cars were parked in the garage.  (Provided I moved around some stuff in the garage a bit – hence the last few weeks).

Top left is the original wall I intended to use. Back is the wall I eventually decided to use.

My parents braved home depot in the pandemic with their suburban to buy me a 4’x8′ sheet of plywood.  I got super good quality 3/4″ plywood with minimal core voids, and a finished face like this.  This cost me $50.  To mount it to the wall I bought a box of spax #8 2″ t-star screws. That cost another $10.  I cut the plywood down to size, drilled holes in the plywood for the climbing holds, carefully measuring and interspersing them between the studs.  After securing all the holds, Will helped me lift it up onto the wall and I screwed it into place.

Holes drilled for the climbing wall.

Drilled holes for the climbing holds and attached t-nuts

Climbing wall before padding. Note the big concrete bump out below.

Then as I was admiring my work, I realized I needed some serious padding since the tumble mats were not going to cut it for a fall from the wall.  (Or at least they were not going to give me peace of mind.)  I purchased a cheap (in climbing mat terms) portable crash pad that cost me another $175…

Finished climbing wall with padding.

Then I realized this still wouldn’t cut it.  The place where I was mounting the climbing wall had a big cement lip from the foundation.  A fall on that lip might be worse than a fall on the floor… so using this awesome guide from the foam factory I dropped another $125 on 4″ 2.8lb open-cell foam for the core, 2″ 2.2lb closed-cell foam for the top and spray adhesive to connect it.  (I probably could have spent a bit less to pad this lip, but I am going to use the leftover foam to make another couple crash pads.  I could have spent even less if I had just done this instead of buying the portable crash pad… oh well.)

Fully padded lip – foam adhered using spray adhesive.

Finally, to mount the rings I still needed a couple heavy duty brackets… and Will suggested a bell for the climbing wall… Ultimately our garage playground/climbing wall cost me a grand total of $560.  The same price as two 1 hour rentals of the tumble bus… expensive but not too bad I suppose.  Let’s hope we get more use out of it than 2 hours though…

Checking out his new present.

Little man excited to climb.

Ringing the bell

Climbing wall tucked out of the way. Just need to push the wagon away and flip down the crash pad to start climbing


Posted in Home Improvement | 4 Comments


It seems a group of sadists-who-shall-not-named have decided to make 2021 2020 again.  They wanted to start things off with a dumpster fire to end all dumpster fires.  And you know what is weird?  I didn’t even hear about it until late in the day!  That’s right, mama preschool is almost completely disconnected from the fabric of technology!  Almost!  That’s right you can send your kids to mama preschool and I’ll disconnect them from electronic entertainment and throw books and crafts at them like my sanity depends on it.  (And as an added bonus you’ll experience an uneasy feeling that a sleep deprived narcoleptic is watching your child.)

So, anyway, while I was not watching the Capitol dumpster fire, I was instead teaching Julius about the valuable subject of coconuts.  You heard me right – coconuts.  Books on coconuts, coconut crafts, coconut opening, coconut cooking, pretty much all the things you can do with a coconut.  Why coconuts you may ask?  Because I have lost my mind.  That’s right.  Last week was all about coconuts, and this week is all about tea parties.  Valuable.  Life.  Lessons.

With coconut week I may have accidentally overplayed the significance of coconuts in everyday life.  For example, witness this conversation, spurred by my remark that we needed to take down our Christmas tree (because it is a fire hazard).

Me: [to Will] We desperately need to take down our Christmas Tree.
Julius: Because it's not Christmas time anymore? 
Me: That's right bud. 
Julius: Because now it's Coconut time?

As a side note, do you know how hard it is to find library books about coconuts?

Well to counteract my crazy I’m going to show you a craft that is far more practical than coconut boats!  A mask lanyard!  And not just any mask lanyard, a geeky mask lanyard!  I have had this idea for many moons, but didn’t actually implement it until the very beginning of December.  This is one of few crafts that Will, Julius and I have all done together and I think it was a hit with everyone.  Just yesterday Will came in from a walk and held up his lanyard saying “this thing is the best”!

Check out this sweet lanyard with my favorite mask!

Dice Mask Lanyard

What you’ll need: 

  • 6 assorted dice (I find everything but D4s work well)
  • 1 yard of 1/2″ satin ribbon
  • 2 1.25″x.5″ lobster clasps
  • drill with bits
  • yarn needle
  1.  First you’ll need to drill holes through your dice.  Place your die in a vice with one face facing upwards.  Be careful not to overtighten or the die could crack.  Starting with your smallest drill bit, drill a hole directly through the face of the die.
  2. Increase drill bit sizes and re-drill your hole until you reach LKSJDF.  Gradually increasing the bit sizes will prevent your dice from cracking (trust me).
  3. Repeat steps 1&2 for all dice.

    Julius wanted to help drill all the dice.

  4. Thread one end of satin ribbon through your yarn needle.
  5. Thread 3 dice onto the satin ribbon.
  6. Thread the lobster clasp onto the lanyard after the 3 dice.
  7. Thread the ribbon back through the first die next to the clasp.  Leave a tail about 7″ long and square knot as close to the die as you can.
  8. Thread the ribbon through the second die.  Again square knot.
  9. Finally thread the ribbon through the last die.  Cut the excess ribbon as close as possible to the die so it is hiding inside, then tie one knot with just the long length of ribbon to hold it in place.
  10. Repeat step 4-6 and then loop the lanyard around your neck.  Accounting for 7″ of tail, adjust the ribbon length to your desired length, keeping in mind that that mask will hang lower than the lanyard ends.
  11. Finally repeat step 7-9 for the other side of the lanyard.

    Or get your threenager to do the other side for you!

You’ll notice Will has a slightly different pattern for his lanyard.  I can post instructions on that if desired.  I had a concern while I was making it that the dice may be heavy and weigh down the mask on my ears.  I can confirm that the dice don’t pull on my ears and that it is extremely comfortable and convenient for me to wear the lanyard with my mask.

Wow, I look 3 weeks postpartum here. Oh right, I am.

Showing off that sweet, sweet lanyard.

Looks like it fits!

Lets crit this virus because I need undisturbed sleep.



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No Bluster Buster

Today was the first day of “Mama Preschool” in which I once again pretend I am qualified to home school my child (I am not).  At least this time we’re not pretending to do it while we both work.  We’re still afraid of sending Julius to daycare until at least Will gets the vaccine, but if he were still in daycare he’d be in preschool by now.  Julius was pretty disappointed when he realized “Mama Preschool” was not the same as actual preschool.  He told me multiple times “I want to go to preschool!”  I felt like I’d deceived him a bit…

Through no credit of my own, Julius’ vocabulary has dramatically improved over the last year.  It is really funny, he still makes up words and uses them in sentences, but when you ask him what they mean he tells you that they don’t mean anything.  He still has some gems in his vocabulary though.  For instance the other day he was pushing a box (imaginary firetruck) around the floor with his favorite stuffed dog Gaga inside and shouting “the smoke protector is coming!”  I explained to him several times that the thing on the ceiling was a smoke detector but he would not be convinced.  Oh the irony.  And when he doesn’t want to go to bed he tells me “I am going to unscape!”  And then when he wants you to catch him, “I am unscaping…” Adorable (and also when he’s escaping, frustrating).

Well this is the last installment of my how-to’s on Julius’ Winnie the Pooh Adventure.  Today I’m going to show you how I made Owl’s Blustery House.  So I have to be honest – this is far from my best work.  I had grand visions of making a really cool cardboard house that looked exactly like owl’s tree house in Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day.  Something to rival the catbus.  In my dreams it had peaked roofs and everything.  Unfortunately as I got closer to Patricia’s due date my dreams slowly degraded.  The day before the party on the expected due date of my second child I devoted about 45 minutes to this little number.  Honestly he uses it all the time so in terms of effort-to-use ratio, we’re really getting our money’s worth.

Owl’s Blustery House

Owl’s Blustery House

What you’ll need:

  • Large cardboard box
  • Box cutter
  • a small desk fan
  • cabinet knob (optional)
  • acrylic paints in desired colors (ideally yellow and white and blue)
  • string
  • streamers
  • crepe paper leaves to cover the roof (I used these in green)
  1. Cut double door out using the box cutter.  My split door was 12″x20″ high and divided into two portions 12″x8″ on the top and 12″x12″ on the bottom.
  2. Cut windows in the left and right sides of the house.
  3. Cut small 5″x5″ square in the back of the house to insert the fan in.
  4. Using the box cutter, cut two 1″ slits in the bottom of the 5″x5″ square, spaced apart the length of the stand of the fan (see picture below).
  5. Insert fan through the back of the house into the 1″ slits, and poke a hole just above the 5″x5″ square, insert a piece of string through the hole, then through the top wire of the fan and tie.  This should hold the fan securely in place.
  6. Paint the house as desired.  I attempted to paint the front of the house to look like owl’s house in yellow with white trim, and blue window glass).
  7. Along the “trim” of the bottom door, poke a small hole in the door then insert cabinet knob as door knob if desired.
  8. Throw some crepe paper pom-poms on top of the house to look like fake leaves as if the house might be in a tree.  (Mine were reused from the Totoro party).
  9. Finally tape some crepe paper streamers in varying lengths from the room of the house before you turn on the fan.  Julius had great fun catching these and ripping them off.  We attached puzzle pieces to a few of them for the Adventure.

    Close up of the fan – note the tie above and the slits holding the fan base below.

    Julius contemplating the house.

    Julius is delighted by the windy house.

    Having a great time pulling the streamers


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Quite the hit

One week until our holiday break is over, family goes home and we’re going back to our normal quiet life by ourselves.  It is also my last week of daycare help from Will, which is also slightly daunting.  It was really nice to have him home to help with both kiddoes for so long.  That being addressed, I’m trying not to count the days left.  We’re just having fun playing board games and enjoying one another’s company.

On a lighter note I have a cute Julius anecdote that I want to remember forever.  There is a lot of commotion in the house with 4 kids, 4 dogs, 2 cats and 8 adults.  Over the last couple days during the rare times Julius and I have been alone together he has stated unprompted, “I love you Mama”.  It is just about the sweetest thing ever.

What goes along with a sweet toddler?  A piñata filled with sweets and surprises!  To go along with the Winnie the Pooh party, Julius’ piñata was shaped like a beehive (or at least what Winnie the Pooh movies envision a beehive to look like, which is actually a hornet’s nest – probably a mixed message but oh well).  This is probably the accessory for Julius’ adventure birthday that took me the longest to complete.  It also unfortunately was the shortest lived!  I didn’t think a toddler brandishing a stick indoors and telling him to smash open a ball was a good precedent so I opted to make this one a pull-string piñata.  You could make yours a traditional piñata by omitting steps 9-12 and in lieu of steps 13-18, just glue your fringe starting at the bottom of the piñata, overlapping the previous row as you go and ending at the top of the piñata.

Toddler Pull-String Beehive Piñata

What you’ll need:

  • flour
  • water
  • balloon
  • newspaper ripped into long strips (around 1.5″ wide x 12″ long) – we probably used 4 grocery store fliers worth
  • 1 roll of yellow crepe paper streamers
  • packing tape
  • scotch tape
  • elmer’s glue
  • 10 lengths of yellow ribbon – 2 feet long each.
  • decorative bees from floral supply section
  • black construction paper
  • yarn needle and 10″ of string

I used this recipe to make the papier mache paste and it worked really well.

  1. Mix 2 cups flour and 4 cups water in a medium pot.  Heat over medium low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens slightly.  (I like it to be about the consistency of a thin pudding or a thick gravy.) Let cool.
  2. Blow up your balloon and tie it.
  3. Dip a piece of newspaper into papier mache mixture, and remove some of the excess paste by pulling between two fingers. Lay across the balloon and press with your hands.

    Strips of newspaper and paper mache paste ready to go.

  4. Repeat step 3 with another piece of newspaper, laying perpendicular to the previous piece.
  5. Repeat step 4 until you have completely covered the balloon, except a patch 2×2 around the balloon tie.
  6. Let dry for a day.  Refrigerate unused paper mache mix.
  7. After first layer of paper mache is dry repeat steps 3, 4 and 5 to form another layer of paper mache.  Let dry again for 1-2 days.
  8. When paper mache is completely dry, pop the balloon and remove.
  9. Using a knife, cut a 4″x4″ semi circle in the bottom of the piñata, leaving 2″ attached on one side. This is the door of the piñata.

    Cut a trap door into bottom of pinata.

    Leave 2″ on back of the trap door to hold it onto the pinata.

  10. Tape 9 of your ribbons onto the inside of the piñata, on the wall of the piñata (NOT the door).  Use scotch tape.  These will be the decoy strings and should rip off without opening the piñata.

    Tape ribbons onto the inside wall of the pinata as decoys.

  11. Cut a small slit in the edge of door of the piñata and feed the last ribbon through and tie it.  This string will open the door of the piñata.

    Poke hole in pinata door opposite the 2″ strip holding it on. Feed ribbon through the hole and tie.

  12. Finally place a piece of scotch tape connecting the piñata wall and door next to the string to open the piñata.  This should hold the piñata door in place while we fill and decorate, but should rip right off when the door is opened.
  13. Fill piñata through the hole in top and then cover the hole with a piece of packing tape.

    Treats waiting to go into the pinata

    Fill pinata with treats.

    Use packing tape to cover the hole on the top of the pinata.

  14. Fold the crepe paper into a 5″ strip of about 10 layers.  Cut into this strip to form a fringe with strips 1″ deep and 3/4″ apart.  Do not detach from the rest of the roll.  Unfold.

    Cut fringe by wrapping crepe paper in large loop and cutting.

  15. Take the end of your strip and use the Elmer’s glue to adhere the non-fringed end to the bottom of the piñata along the edge of the piñata door.

    Glue fringe along the outside of the piñata door.

    First round of fringe on outside of the pinata door. Note the piece of tape holding the door in place.

  16. Continue gluing the fringe around the piñata in circles overlapping the fringe from the previous row.  When you run out of fringe simply repeat step 14 to make more.

    Continue gluing fringe in overlapping layers.

  17. When the top of the piñata is reached, rip off the fringe and secure to the top.  Using a yarn needle thread a piece of string through the top of the piñata. Tie of the string to form a loop.
  18. At the bottom center of the piñata, glue non fringed end of crepe paper.  Continue gluing crepe paper fringe on top of previous fringe in concentric circles overlapping slightly.  When you reach the door, rip off the fringe from the crepe paper roll and glue.
  19. Glue a 3″ circle of black paper in the center of the piñata to look like an entrance, and glue bees around the piñata as desired.
  20. To open the piñata have child(ren) pull a string on the door until the non-decoy string is pulled, opening the piñata and spilling out treats.

    Julius really excited to see the pinata.

    We convinced him to pull just one string first.

    Releasing all the candy

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Sprinkle Surprise!

Finn and Julius in owl’s house!

Julius has been having fun with his cousin Finnegan this past week!  They hit it off again immediately and it is really cute to watch them interact.  I can’t believe it has been nine months since he has been able to play with another child.  He’s going to be pretty sad when Finn and Ari leave.

In other happy news Patricia has been smiling!  She has been smiling for a while but she used to make you really work for that smile.  Now when she sees my face before the first morning feeding she gives me huge grins, unprompted.  It is really great!

You know what else is really great?  Surprise sprinkle cake!  I saw a surprise sprinkle cake in one of the Williams Sonoma promotional emails and knew Julius would love it.  Despite the fact that it didn’t really go with the Winnie the Pooh birthday party theme I decided I had to make him one.  Even splurging on fancy sprinkles, this recipe was less than half the cost of the kit above.  I originally intended to make the frosting and cake in advance and freeze it, but I only ended up making and freezing the frosting.  That did save me quite a bit of time because the buttercream frosting I make takes a lot of time.  Julius did end up loving the cake so it was worth it…

Sprinkle cake surprise

Surprise Sprinkle Cake

What you’ll need:

*I made the frosting in advance and froze it.  The day before I planned to frost the cake I removed it from the freezer and let it defrost in the fridge.  Before I frosted the cake I re-whipped the frosting back to normal consistency with my electric mixer.

  1. Prepare cake mixes as per instructions in the links above.
  2. Divide batter into 6 1 cup batches. Mix 3 drops of one color of food coloring into each 1 cup bowl.

    Divide batter into 1 cup increments

  3. Butter each 5″ cake pan and place a circle of parchment paper in the bottom of each cake pan.
  4. Place one color of each cake batter in each 5″ pan.

    5″ cake pans filled with batter.

    More batter divided between pans.

  5. Bake at 350 F for about 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of each cake comes out clean. Remove cakes from pans and let cool.

    Baked cakes.

    More baked cakes.

  6. When cakes are completely cool, use a serrated knife to remove the domed top from each cake.

    Cake with cut tops.

  7. Use a biscuit cutter to cut a hole in the center of orange, yellow, green and blue cakes.

    Cut with biscuit cutter.

    Finished cake layers

  8. Affix cake circle to cake turntable using frosting.  Center.  Place frosting on cake circle and top with red cake (cut side down).  Center cake.
  9. Place a cup of frosting in a ziplock bag or piping bag and cut off the tip to be 1 cm wide.  Pipe frosting around the outer 1.5 inches of the top of the red cake.
  10. Place orange cake (cut side down) on top of the red cake, and pipe frosting around the entire top of the orange cake.  Repeat step 10 for yellow, green cake and blue cake (in that order).

    Top view of stacked cakes.

  11. Using a funnel (or being very careful) pour the fancy sprinkles into the center of the cake.  Fill to the top of the blue section.

    Fill cake with sprinkles

  12. Again pipe frosting around the entire top of the blue cake.  Top with purple cake (cut side down).

    Finished stacked cake.

  13. Refrigerate for 15 minutes until frosting is firm.
  14. Crumb coat the cake with 1/3 of the remaining frosting.  Refrigerate for another 15 minutes.

    Crumb coat cake.

  15. Frost the cake.

    Frost cake.

  16. Place cake into a very wide cake pan or baking dish.

    Gently press sprinkles onto side of cake.

  17. Sprinkle multicolored nonpareils onto top of cake and then gently lift and press remaining sprinkles onto icing using your hand.



Posted in Culinary Delights | 2 Comments