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.

Containers

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.

Decorations

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

Scones!

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

CocoNUTS?

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

Posted in Crafts & Sewing, Parties | Leave a comment

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

Winnie the Pooh Adventure

Well I think it’s time to talk about Julius’ birthday celebration!  As you heard in a previous post I had some signs of labor the morning of Julius’ birthday.  I was pretty convinced we were going to have two siblings with the same birthday.  Instead we had a birthday celebration where Julius was the only child invited…

Since there wouldn’t be any children there to play with, I thought it would be fun to do a scavenger hunt adventure to occupy the little man’s birthday.  Julius was a big fan of Winnie the Pooh this year so we decided on a Winnie the Pooh theme.  After hearing about the day, my sister called it “an escape room for toddlers” which I thought was pretty hilarious.  Future business opportunity?  Maybe.

Overall this “party” was far less labor intensive than his last Totoro party – partially because I ran out of time and made many of the props the night before (with help from Will).  We have received a billion boxes since we no longer leave our house and I saved some of the biggest ones for the adventure.

Winnie the Pooh Toddler Adventure Party

The Hunt for a Heffalump Adventure

Among the pile of cards Julius received in the mail, Julius received an envelope that read “Christopher Robin” at breakfast time.  Inside was a picture of a room in our house (the lounge).  Julius then needed to proceed to the location in the picture.

Among Julius’ birthday mail, was a card addressed to (or from?) Christopher Robin.

At the next location Julius discovered “owl’s house” from the blustery day, complete with a wind storm.  The wind blowing through the house blew a bunch of streamers from the ceiling around.  Julius’ job was to collect the streamers.  On 5 of the streamers were puzzle pieces, that Julius then had to assemble (with help) to discover a picture of the next location in the adventure (our bedroom).

Julius entering owl’s house.

Julius sitting in the windy house with the streamers blowing all around.

Julius had a lot of fun collecting the streamers.

Julius is handing streamers out of the house.

Julius is identifying puzzle piece shapes for the next clue.

Julius and Will assembling the next clue.

In the bedroom Julius discovered a beehive piñata (tutorial here).  This piñata was the “pull string” variety instead of the “whack with a bat” variety.  Of course Julius picked the right pull string on the first try.  Inside the beehive he discovered another “photo map” (the garage), a couple “candies” (fruit leather) and some little Winnie the Pooh peg dolls that I painted.  He thought owl was a penguin, so I’m not sure if I did a great a job I did with the painting!

Beehive Piñata

Julius picking a ribbon (or two) to pull.

Julius pulling the piñata string

Pulling to see if more stuff will come out… (it won’t)

Opening the treats from inside the piñata

Lining up his Winnie the Pooh figures from inside the piñata.

Looking at the next clue

The final stop was a “cave” I made out of boxes.  Julius had to spelunk the cave with a flashlight, and at the back discovered Lumpy the Heffalump and Roo!  Julius LOVED the cave and still asks for a flashlight to explore in it every time he sees it.

Into the “cave”

Julius plunged right in!

Showing Meemah and Meepah what he discovered in the cave.

The Lunch

For lunch we had a favorite Julius meal – chicken nuggets (and chik’n nuggets), oven french fries (this recipe is awesome), carrot and celery sticks and a variety of dipping sauces.  It was super low key, which again, was nice for me.

Toddler lunch is served!

He devoured the lunch!

The Dessert

I knew ages ago that I wanted to make Julius a rainbow sprinkle cake for his birthday, so on the advice of my friend Ka I got some awesome sprinkles from Sweetapolita.  We have been using some of the sprinkles for pancakes on the weekends, which is just an added bonus.  The sprinkle cake wasn’t too difficult to make (instructions here) and it was so much fun to watch his face as we cut it!

A fall lunch

Sprinkle cake!

Blowing out his candles

Sprinkle cake opening

Inside view of the rainbow cake!

Stay tuned in future posts for the “behind the scenes” of how I created everything for the party!

Posted in Culinary Delights, Parties | 2 Comments

Tis the Season

Well I forgot yesterday was Monday again.  Oops.  Maybe you had better get used to that for a while.

In other news Julius was really proud of himself yesterday because Alexa understood him!  It was very cute.  He kept asking her to stop and start playing songs.  Reading the Alexa log is pretty funny:

“alexa”

“stop the song”

“alexa”

“i want you to play a song”

“lexa”

“alexa”

“i want you to sing”

“alexa i want you to play rudolph”

There is a lot “audio could not be understood” mixed in… and we ended up with a rap version of rudolph the red nosed reindeer, but he was still proud.

As you can tell we’ve been listening to a lot of Christmas music to get into the holiday spirit.  We have the tree up and Julius and I have been working on lots of Christmas crafts that we are turning into presents for family members.  Even so it once again feels like I have so many ideas and no time to complete them before Christmas!  The my shameful project is that I started an advent calendar quilt for Will before Julius was born.  Years before Julius was born.  Last year I decided to change up how I was making it and finally made a bunch of progress on it.  Once again though, I lost steam and am still no where close to finishing it.  The worst part is that I was so confident I was going to finish it before Christmas that I bought a bunch of things to put in it.  (I have a second wooden advent calendar that I used for Julius in which we put little Duplo people and animals from Ebay, as well as stickers and finger puppets).

I did manage to finish a craft that has been on my list for years: A chocolate advent calendar!  I have been saving a couple of old chocolate advent calendars for years thinking I could do something with the little plastic molds… and I finally did!  I think I bought them after the holiday season for around a nickel and threw all the chocolate away.  Most of the cheap advent calendars have truly terrible chocolate.  So my idea was to fill these full of delicious chocolate!  If you buy chocolate advent calendars after the season ends and don’t open any of the doors, you can simply slip the tray back into the box after you fill it with chocolate and reuse the cardboard portion!  Or you can do something much more time consuming like I did and make your own calendar doors using a cricut die cutter.  With this method you can use any picture you desire for the advent calendar.  If you aren’t into giving chocolate to children (I’m proud of you for still holding strong) you could instead use my advent calendar template to make a version that opens up to little pictures every day.  Simply glue the calendar door portion on top of a piece of poster board with pictures under each door.

My finished homemade advent calendar

Improved Chocolate Advent Calendar

For Chocolate Upgrade Only:

You’ll need:

  • old chocolate advent calendar
  • 1 bar of good quality dark or milk chocolate, chopped
  • 4 oz of good quality white chocolate, chopped
  • sprinkles
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/8 cup powdered sugar
  • peppermint extract
  • 1 candy cane, crushed with a rolling pin into fine to small pieces
  • piping bag and tip
  • tape roller

I made my advent calendar using 4 different types of chocolate – dark chocolate, white chocolate, peppermint bark and peanut butter filled.  If you desire to do the same, follow my instructions below.

  1. Open the bottom flap of the advent calendar, then gently separate the plastic tray from the face of the calendar. Remove the plastic tray from the advent calendar and wash and dry thoroughly.
  2. Mix peanut butter and powdered sugar and place in piping bag with small circular tip.
  3. Melt dark chocolate in double boiler.  If desired, temper the chocolate (I recommend tempering, but I’ve got a newborn and toddler, so I don’t have time to temper chocolate).
  4. Fill 6 of the 24 molds to the brim with dark chocolate.  Fill 6 of the other molds halfway with dark chocolate.
  5. Sprinkle 6 full chocolates with sprinkles.
  6. Chill in fridge for 5 minutes
  7. Pipe peanut butter mixture into the center of each of the molds filled halfway.
  8. Fill the rest of the peanut butter chocolate molds with dark chocolate to cover peanut butter mixture.
  9. Mix the remaining dark chocolate with peppermint extract (test out a couple drops at a time until desired peppermint flavor is reached, a little goes a long way).
  10. Pour the peppermint chocolate into 6 additional molds, filling only halfway. (As a bonus, spread the rest of the chocolate 1/4″ thick out on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.)
  11. Chill in the fridge for 5 minutes.
  12. Melt white chocolate in double boiler.  If desired, temper the chocolate.
  13. Pour white chocolate onto 6 peppermint dark chocolate halves to fill the rest of the mold.  Sprinkle on candy cane bits.
  14. Fill remaining 6 empty molds with white chocolate.   Sprinkle 6 full white chocolates with sprinkles.  (As a bonus, spread the rest of the white chocolate on top of the leftover peppermint chocolate on the baking sheet in bonus step 10.  Sprinkle more candy cane bits on top.  Let set in fridge for 5 minutes before breaking into peppermint bark pieces.)
  15. Let set in the fridge for 5 minutes.

For Advent Calendar Face Only:

You’ll need:

  1. Decide on a design for your advent calendar.  I used this cool site to find vintage Christmas scenes from art that is in the public domain.  I settled on this one.  You could also draw your own scene directly on the poster board if you are artistic.
  2. Print your art onto legal sized paper and glue it onto your poster board (unless you directly drew your art onto the poster board already).
  3. Feed your poster board into the cricut.  I did the cutting “mirrored” with the image right side down on your board, but I actually think it would have been better to leave the image face up.
  4. Allow doors to be cut and outline to be scored – follow the instructions on where to load the scoring tool and cutting tool, and be sure to place your design centered in a 11″x 15″ rectangle from the top left corner of the mat.
  5. Gently remove the calendar from the mat and fold edges along score lines.  Fold tabs in and secure with double sided tape to form a shallow box.
  6. To finish chocolate advent calendar, cut away the face of the store bought advent calendar.  Place the finished chocolate tray inside bottom of the box.  Place double sided tape (or hot glue) between rows of chocolate, and around the edges of the box then cover with the advent calendar face.

    Little man searching for today’s date.

    Opening the advent calendar

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Extra Super Good

Julius has been using the expression “super good” and “extra super good” and “really extra super good” to describe the levels of goodness of things he is interacting with.  He started using it a couple weeks ago.  I was quite pleased when after I cut his hair he ran upstairs to look in the mirror and proclaimed “I look super good!”

So you may have noticed that in our birth pictures of Patricia, Will and I were wearing color coordinated masks.  I blame my co-worker for that idea.  Since I discovered I was pregnant a couple days before going into quarantine, none of my co-workers even knew I was pregnant unless I mentioned it.  With this pregnancy I was already showing by 8 weeks, and by 20 weeks I felt like I already looked nine months pregnant, so it was weird to me that my some people had no idea I was pregnant.  It was getting embarrassing when I’d drop a comment about being pregnant and I’d get the response “you’re pregnant?!” from people I swore I had told… So I just sent out a mass email to people that I was pregnant and my due date.

One of my co-workers was disappointed that I hadn’t announced it with another funny shirt and said that a quarantine solution for informing people I was pregnant this would have been to change my Skype photo and see who noticed.  But my photo is again just a headshot… which is when my friend Roger suggested that I could have made a custom mask with a stork on it… I thought this sounded like a cute idea, if not for a quarantine pregnancy announcement.  So… before we went to the hospital I decided to make new masks.  In addition to being pink in honor of the little lady to be, they also had a stork on them.  Since we’d be wearing them in the hospital for several days on end I made them more airtight than the previous batch.  This included adding the n95-style around the head elastics and nose wires.

Form Fitting Fabric Masks for Extended Wear

  • Nose wires (I used 2 of these stacked per mask)
  • 1 sq foot of cotton fabric for interior
  • 1 sq foot of cotton fabric for exterior
  • 1 sq foot of oly fun
  • 1 yard of 1/4″ elastic
  • Iron on vinyl (optional)
  • Cricut pattern for stork
  1. Measure yourself for a mask as described in this blog post and follow steps 1-6.
  2. If desired, create an iron on vinyl patch for your mask using the Cricut pattern above and iron it onto your front cotton fabric.
  3. Cut out 2 AxB size rectangles of Oly Fun, and pleat the Oly Fun together with the interior fabric in step 6, but do not iron!  Just press material with your hands to form the pleats.
  4. Pin together the fabric layers, with interior fabric and exterior fabric right sides facing.  The stack will look like exterior fabric, interior fabric, 2 layers of Oly Fun.
  5. Measure from an inch in front of each ear, across the top of your head.  This will be the top elastic length.  Cut elastic.
  6. Measure from and inch in front of the ear, around the back of your neck.  This will be the bottom elastic length.  Cut elastic.
  7. If desired, cut ear elastics as described in step 10 in this post.
  8. Insert one end of top elastic into side of mask at the top between interior fabric and exterior fabric.  Feed it through and insert other end into other side of mask at the top.  Pin both ends.
  9. Repeat step 8 for bottom elastic on the bottom of mask sides.
  10. If desired, insert an ear elastic between interior fabric and exterior fabric on one side, pinning on top of the top and bottom elastic locations.
  11. If desired, repeat step 10 for other ear elastic.
  12. Stitch top and sides of mask, and bottom of mask 1″ from each corner, leaving the rest of the bottom opened.
  13. Turn right side out.
  14. Insert a nose wire between the exterior fabric and layer of Oly Fun in the direct center of your mask at the top most edge.
  15. Using a zipper foot, stitch very close to the nose wire, sealing it in.
  16. Turn the unfinished edge of the bottom under, and stitch the entire bottom edge, close to the fold.
  17. Put on the mask and adjust the nose wires as you would an N95.  If desired, you can also wear it like you would a surgical mask, but the seal will not be as tight.

    Worn as an N95 with over head elastics

    Here we are at the hospital, wearing our masks for the first time.

    Worn as a surgical mask with ear elastic

 

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