April Fools?

We had fun celebrating our generic spring bunny themed holiday this past weekend.  Julius has started to remember holidays from years past, which is amazing.  Last year, you may or may not remember, I made Julius all the presents in his Easter basket because it was the start of the pandemic.  At that point in time virtually no stores had curbside pick up so it was very difficult to get things without getting them shipped to you, or risk going into a store.  I was also in my “no buying anything online to save the planet” phase, before I had to let that cave a few months later when we decided not to leave our house.  Julius remembered for some reason that the bunny brought him cookies, so that is what he expected from the Easter bunny again.  I decided this year to make him everything in his basket again and envisioned a puzzle, sugar egg, cookies and stuffed animal.

For the stuffed animal I envisioned using up some of the leftover foam from Julius’ climbing wall padding to make an animal that looked like one of those Squishmallows.  I thought a dragon would look pretty cute and would be fairly easy.  Skip ahead to the day before Easter.  Envision me telling Will at around 7:30pm that I should have just bought a stuffed animal because I hadn’t drafted or made anything.  Will suggested I just skip the stuffed animal.  But how could I skip the stuffed animal?  My son loves stuffed animals.  So I compromised and told him instead of making the dragon I would make a bunny which had a lot less pieces and should be easier.

Skip ahead an hour and I had a pattern drafted to test out.  I was copying the photo of this bunny who is pretty darn cute.  I created the embroidery pattern quickly and looked through my fabric stash for some fabric to use.  I really don’t have a lot of nice stuffed animal fabrics so I decided to use some dark grey fleece for the body, and after much deliberation decided to use some black faux fur for the inside of the ears and the belly.  I cut out my pattern and got to work.

The face came out darn cute so I thought I was in good shape.  That’s when it all went wrong.  It pretty quickly became clear that using the fleece with the faux fur was a bad idea.  The faux fur was stiff.  Not your usual soft stuffed animal faux fur but something more like a beard… At this point I was committed, so I kept at it and sewed the ears together and the body together.  The ears were a nightmare.  The thick faux fur, which was supposed to be the underside of the ear, pulled the fleece and made the ears contort in weird ways.  Okay, bad.  I thought maybe I’ll just go with it and see what it looks like.  At this point Will is downstairs with me, stuffing Easter eggs while I sewed.

It didn’t look too bad, so I decided to stuff it.  This is when I realized that the foam I had was way too stiff.  Obviously even the soft foam core for a crash pad is going to be way firmer than something inside a stuffed animal called a squishmallow…  I started kicking myself for not realizing this and debated using the stiff foam anyway.  Ultimately I decided that giving Julius a rock was probably worse than just stuffing it with ordinary polyester batting.  So I stuffed the whole thing with batting.  It looked ridiculous.  I wish I had taken a picture of it, but I was so annoyed with the whole thing by this point that there was no documentation going on.  Will looked up from his egg stuffing to see what all the cursing was about and burst out laughing.  His comment, “that bunny had the weirdest beard I’ve ever seen”.  Darn it, I’d been paying so much attention to the demented ears and lack of shape due to the foam form missing that I didn’t notice that the too-stiff fur on the chest of the bunny looked like the chest hair of some burly lumberjack.

In retrospect this is when I should have noticed the bunny had chest hair.

Okay so now I’m assessing this lumpy, hairy, lumberjack bunny thing and all I can see is that the underside of the ears is also this too-stiff fur, and not only is it contorting the ears, but it reminds me of armpit hair.  GAH!  So now I have this burly testosterone heavy, hairy, lumpy bunny with the cutest darn face you’ve ever seen.  It is midnight and I am tired.  I spent several more iterations trying to get the ears to stick out less weirdly and the body to be less lumpy.  The ears won’t cooperate.  I decide in a moment of brilliance that I will just cut the ears down and make it into a cat.  Cats have furry tummies, maybe it won’t look so weird.

The end.

Except not really.  I didn’t do the right thing and remake some ear triangles out of leftover fabric because now it’s 12:30.  I just cut off the tips of the bunny ears and set them in as ears.  They don’t really look like cat ears.  So who the heck knows what animal this thing is.  I assess my creation.  Too late to make a new one, it is only mildly disturbing, into the Easter basket it goes.

What was the Easter bunny thinking?

Easter morning Julius looks for his Easter basket.  He had just hunted for Easter eggs and gotten some really great stickers, yogurt raisins, fruit snacks and a few candies in his eggs. He is pretty excited.  He finds the Easter basket and he grabs the bunny/cat/? out of the basket, takes one look at it and literally throws it over his shoulder.  This is the boy who hugs every stuffed animal he has ever gotten.  Confirmation of this creature’s uncanniness.  Will asks Julius, “what was that animal the Easter bunny brought you?”  Julius responds, without even glancing over his shoulder, “some sort of bear”.

That is indeed the bunny/cat/bear behind him after he threw it.

Needless to say, I will not be posting the instructions for the Franken-bear (unless someone begs me).  But you can have my face embroidery file because that was darn cute.

Here’s something that is actually cute:

My little bunny

UPDATE!  Patricia loves the creature!  He has the perfect amount of chest hair that makes him easy for infant fingers to grab!  



Posted in Crafts & Sewing | 1 Comment

Hippies (NSFW, but most of you are WFH anyway)

It probably won’t surprise you that we are the type of parents that don’t use cutesy names for sex organs.  When Julius first noticed his penis and testicles he asked what they were called, and we told him.  That seems like ages ago.  Now the little guy even pees standing up.  (Literally my worst nightmare about being a boy mom.)  One day I just walked in to the bathroom to check on him and he was peeing standing up.  His aim isn’t as horrible as I had imagined, but my imagination is pretty wild.  Basically don’t judge me too hard when you’re finally able to come visit us and all the bathrooms in our house smell like urine and Clorox.

Anyway, I digress.  Using the anatomical name for sex organs, plus Julius’ recent obsession with his, means I have been getting lots of questions like, “where is your penis, Mama?”  “Is your penis hiding?” “Do you have a really tiny penis?” Or most recently “if you don’t have a penis do you pee out your bum bum?”  (That one sent Will off into a fit of hysterical laughter.)  Despite what I’ve told him over and over again, it is obvious from his questions that he believes I have a penis somewhere, but that I’m hiding it from him.  That’s silly though.  As we all know from, well, being a human in the world, if I had a penis I’d be obligated to loudly proclaim so or at least erect some phallic monuments.

On the opposite note, I’ve been putting together the next ladies’ night activity.  I made a lot of the stuff for it so I’ll be sharing some of those projects over the next couple weeks.  First up is a quick headband I made because I loved the one my mother in law gave me for Christmas.  Hair accessories have become a necessity to prevent Patricia from ripping my hair out, or my hair getting in my way.  I haven’t cut my hair since February of 2020.  Ironically I told my hairdresser right before the pandemic that “I wanted to grow my hair out” and not to cut it too short.  I guess I got my wish.  This headband is super simple, and the original company claims you can use it for anything from a headband to a bandeau top…  I wouldn’t go that far, but I like the fact that you can decide how wide to make the headband.  You can scrunch it fairly thin, fold it or wear it wide and stretched out.  And you can wear it parallel to the ground, “hippie style” or like a regular headband.

This is the easiest tutorial I may have ever posted.  The key to making this headband is finding the right fabric.  The ideal fabric I found so far is a 4-way stretch jersey knit, with some spandex.  Knit fabrics, because of the way they are created (exactly like someone knitting with needles), have some horizontal and vertical stretch built in compared to woven fabrics, which just have stretch on the bias.  If you add spandex into the materials it is like adding elastic in, so your fabric will bounce back or recover to the original shape.  From what I can tell the 4 way stretch just means it is really darn stretchy for a knit.  For the headbands I made, they have 70% stretch.  Which means that if I take a 10″ piece of fabric it will stretch to 17 inches.

Versatile Headband

What you’ll need:

  1. Make sure to cut your fabric so the stretchiest part is the 20″ portion. This usually means the 20″ is perpendicular to the selvedge along the “grain”.

    For the Ladies’ night version I only made them 5″x20″ because I ran out of fabric. You can change the size to make them narrower to your liking.

  2. Fold the fabric to form a 10×10 rectangle with the right side in.
  3. Stitch along the edge with 2 open 10″ sides, with .5″ seam allowance.  I used a regular old straight stitch here, even though almost everyone will tell you to never ever do this.  In this case you are almost never going to stretch perpendicular to the grain so it won’t matter.  If it makes you feel better, sew a wide zig zag or straight stretch stitch.
  4. I also didn’t bother to do anything about the unfinished edges.  Technically it is possible that they will unravel.  Since we’re going to be tucking the fabric under at the edges I don’t think this matters.  And the headbands are so darn quick to make that hemming the edges would triple the labor involved.  Again, feel free to serge the edges if you are so inclined, but in this case definitely DO NOT use a straight stitch.  You’ll need something that encompasses the huge amount of stretch.
  5. Tuck under the edges and wear.

    I’ve made dozens of these now.  This one is from when Patricia was 2.5 months old…




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I’m living vicariously through people who are getting vaccinated right now!  So exciting and I’m so happy!  Makes me feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  I think much of my pent up frustration and anxiety vanished when our governor announced the dates that the rest of the population becomes eligible.  Once again I am thanking my lucky stars that we are in a country that has the means to vaccinate everyone.  (I just wish the people in this country could not be racist a**holes be nice to each other and embrace differences.)

On top of that great vaccine news, the weather has been gorgeous!  Spring was here in full force this weekend with blue skies and 60 degree weather.  We ate on the porch for the first time this year to celebrate.  It was still a little cold so Patricia wore her hat and sweater.  The hat and lack of a neck really accentuates her cheeks.  Cracks me up she is so darn cute.

Patricia concentrates intenty on her toys.

Julius has discovered lint.  He is fascinated by it.  He discovered some lint between his toes the other day and now he will periodically take off his socks throughout the day to clean out the lint.  It is insanely frustrating.  I’ll be trying to get him to put his shoes on and he’ll sit down and grab his shoes.  The shoes will remind him of his feet.  Next thing I know, he’s pulling off his socks and inspecting his toes for lint.  The other day I shouted in exasperation, “what are you doing?! You need to put your shoes on!”  To which he responded calmly, “just looking for sock crumbs.”

Since the temperature in New England is going to bounce back down again this weekend (I know, sorry) I thought I’d give you the instructions for mini hot cocoa bombs.  I’m sure you’ve seen recipes for hot chocolate bombs all over the interwebs.  They are really adorable, but if you are trying to limit your child’s intake of chocolate, boy are they decadent.  These are no less decadent, just smaller.  They were fairly easy to make after a couple tries.  The first time I tried to make them I made the chocolate too thin and it cracked when I took them out of the mold.  They key for me was to build the chocolate on the sides up in layers using a brush.  I used a mold that I’d gotten on super clearance a few years ago from Joann Fabrics for like $3 that has 8 bit hearts.  With 2 regular chocolate bars I was able to fill the entire tray and still have leftovers. I made these for Valentine’s Day but obviously 8 bit hearts work for any occasion.

Mini Hot Cocoa Bombs

What you’ll need:

  1. Temper chocolate.
  2. When chocolate is in temper, pour a teaspoon full in each cavity and use a silicone brush to gently drag the chocolate up the sides of the mold.  Level the top of the mold using a cake spatula.
  3. Put chocolate into the freezer for 2 minutes to set.  Make sure to maintain temperature of melted chocolate while you wait.
  4. Repeat steps 2&3 2 more times until you have a layer of chocolate about 1/8″ thick.
  5. Gently remove chocolates from the mold.
  6. Each bomb will require two heart halves.  Fill one heart half with 1 tsp of hot cocoa mix.  Top with as many marshmallows are you can fit without falling off (another teaspoon).
  7. Warm a skillet until warm but not hot to the touch. With gloves, take top unfilled half of heart and place on the plate to melt the bottom edge.
  8. Place heart on top of the half with hot cocoa and marshmallows, pushing down gently to adhere. Make sure no marshmallows or hot cocoa are poking out.
  9. Temper some white chocolate.
  10. Place white chocolate in a pastry bag and snip off a very tiny amount so you have a hole about 1 mm wide.
  11. Decoratively drizzle white chocolate back and forth over the heart.
  12. Immediately press one blue, red, orange, green and purple marshmallow into the white chocolate drizzle in a cluster on one “lobe” of the heart.

To eat…
Take ½ cup milk and heat for 1 min and 20 seconds in the microwave until very hot.  Place hot cocoa bomb into mug and pour hot milk over.  If you are impatient like my child you can stir to help it along.  Marshmallows will “explode” out to the surface, which is where the term “bomb” comes from. 

Hot cocoa bomb ready to explode!

Yum, hot cocoa





Posted in Culinary Delights | 2 Comments

Burritos for Days

Well… I’m not losing baby weight as fast this time around.  Probably because I keep buying chocolate bars that mysteriously disappear.  Do you remember my blog post about our affinity for oreos?  This is worse, much worse.  Let me put it like this, oreos are the gateway drug, chocolate bars are the hard stuff.  But on the plus side they are vegetarian!

Sometimes I feel like vegetarianism makes it so much easier to consume junk food.  I know a lot of people who have told me “I became vegetarian for health reasons”.  I’m becoming increasingly convinced that they secretly mean, “I became vegetarian in order to eat my body weight in rice every day”.   Since I was vegetarian the entire time I was pregnant with Patricia I am extra careful about getting enough protein.  For many types of meals though that really does mean eating your body weight in starches.  Especially when you’re eating out.  Sometimes the only thing on the menu for vegetarians is a grilled cheese sandwich or a cheese pizza.  (Un)Luckily we have only ordered take out three times in the last year so I don’t have to worry about that.

In lieu of eating out, we’ve also been consuming way too many pre-packaged meals.  Have you ever had those Amy’s Burritos?  They are amazing.  But I hate that they come wrapped in individual little plastic baggies.  In this past year we’ve definitely tripled our trash output from the year before.  This year I’m going to try to get back to 2019 levels of trash, but we have to start with the excessive packaging from convenience products that we never bought before the pandemic.  Anyway I digress.  All this is to say that I made an Amy’s-esque freezer burrito that is a fraction of the price (the Amy’s Burritos are like $3 a piece!) and that I can put into a big reusable bag so I don’t have to waste a ton of plastic.  Solves two problems in one!  They don’t really taste like the Amy’s burritos, but I think they are delicious.  I hope you will too!

Vegetarian Freezer Burritos

Makes 20 burritos

  • 1.5 lbs dry pinto beans
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 finely chopped bell pepper
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 15 oz cans of tomato sauce
  • 1.5 cups of cheddar cheese
  • 1 6 oz can of olives, chopped
  • 20 9″ flour tortillas

Cook the beans.  I use the instant pot to cook the beans from dry.  Add the beans to the pot, then add water to cover the beans by 2 to 3 inches.  Add salt.  Cook on high pressure for 35 minutes and then let the pressure release naturally.  (This will probably take another 30 to 45 minutes).  Reserve beans and liquid.

On medium high heat saute the pepper and onion in a large saucepan until both are tender, about 10 minutes. 

Add garlic and cook for another minute or so until garlic is fragrant.

Add cumin, chili powder and smoked paprika and cook for 30 seconds.  Add 2 cans of tomato sauce and lower heat to medium low.  Add 2 cups of the cooked pinto beans and 1/4 cup of the liquid from the beans simmer for 10 minutes. 

Grind the mixture up with a food processor or immersion blender, then return to the saucepan.  Add cheese, olives, and the remaining beans (there should be about 5 cups) while the mixture is still hot.  Stir until cheese melts into the sauce.

To make the burritos, spread ½ cup filling in the center of a 9″ tortilla.  Fold the left and right sides in, then fold up the bottom, scooping under the filling and roll.  Makes 20 burritos.

To freeze: Freeze the burritos overnight on a tray, then transfer to a ziplock bag.  To reheat from frozen I cook for 1.5 minutes in the microwave, flip and microwave for 1.5 minutes more.  I should note though that my microwave is from 1995… and  850 Watts.

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She’s so Lucky

Happy Women’s Day!  To all the badass women in my life, those female readers who I don’t know yet, and all the women who have paved the way for us – you rock!  I have yet to take out some preschool appropriate library books for women’s history month, so today we read about leprechauns.  Basically the same thing, except everyone knows that leprechauns got the right to vote before women.

Speaking of wee folk, my wee folk are growing up fast.  I can’t believe Patricia is going to be four months old this week.  Where has the time gone?!  The even stranger thing is that at the beginning of the pandemic Julius was a toddler, and now he’s a little boy.  Every time I look at him I freak out a little bit.  I feel like we imprisoned our toddler for an entire year inside our house away from other little ones and squandered his childhood.  So, yeah, I’m pretty much feeling pandemic normal these days!

Oh shoot, did I just get all dark and emo there?  Must be all the reading about those leprechauns.  Some of those little guys have a dark streak, let me tell you.  If there’s anything I’ve learned today it’s not to take any gold from strangers.  Especially if you’re in the backwoods of Ireland.

No gold?  No need to find the end of the rainbow, we can get you feeling lucky again!  How about this faux gold banner with some four leaf clovers for luck?  Every time I look at mine, I’m reminded how lucky I am in thousands of ways.  Plus who knows, maybe the shine will attract some good-natured leprechauns next week.

Lucky Banner

What you’ll need:

  • 2 12″x12″ sheets of gold glitter cardstock
  • 1 12″x12″ sheet of green glitter cardstock
  • 3 yards of 3/8″ rainbow ribbon
  • Lucky template here
  • Clover template here
  • Cricut Die Cut Machine
  • Scotch tape
  1. Set your machine to “custom” setting and then select “glitter cardstock” as your material.
  2. Mount your gold cardstock on regular or lightweight mats.  Cut and release “LUCKY” letters from mats following prompts (I found this easiest to do by gently bending the mats instead of the paper).
  3. Mount your green cardstock on a regular or lightweight mat.  Cut and release first clover from mat, then turn the paper, so the uncut portion is in the top left and cut second clover.  Release.
  4. Take the end of your rainbow ribbon and enclose it in a piece of scotch tape to form a sort of needle.
  5. Feed scotch tape needle through the first clover from back to front, then through second slit from front to back.  I found it easiest to use a thin flat object like a butter knife to push the tape through the slit.
  6. Repeat for LUCKY and second clover.  Hang and bask in your luck!

    Lucky to be the mama of these silly gooses! (The plural of goose is geese but the plural of silly goose is silly gooses.)


Posted in Crafts & Sewing | 2 Comments

Uh Oh

So…  I may have accidentally turned Julius into a trash hoarder.  Do you remember when I showed you the tutorial for the bow-tie farfalle pasta?  You may also remember that I put the finished pasta in an upcycled Barilla Farfalle box for maximum realism.  Well shortly after I gave him the pasta, Julius discovered the rest of my box of half finished play kitchen ideas.  Some of the other ideas involved making a fake herb shaker from a Mrs. Dash bottle, and a fake mustard squirter from a bottle of French’s.  He commandeered the bottles and put them in his play kitchen, so I could hardly tell him they were unfinished projects.

So a few weeks ago when my in laws came up I noticed he also had a cleaned out mayo container in his kitchen.  The next day he had an empty soap bottle.  Uh oh.  I kept putting the containers into the recycling and they kept ending up back in his kitchen.  That’s when I realized he was raiding the recycling for new toys.  Uh oh.  Then a few days later I asked him to take an empty bottle of cumin over to the recycling can for me, and he said “I really love it Mama, can I put it in my play kitchen?”  Uh oh.  That one I let him keep in the kitchen.  But then he did the same thing with the cinnamon and chili powder containers that ran out a few days later.  The “toys” didn’t stay in the kitchen either.

The spice containers he carried around everywhere as if they were treasured toys.  He would pedal them around in the back of his tricycle and bring them into bed with them.  I’m not making this up; this recycling affection is somehow a level worse than Forky from Toy Story 4.  He eventually forgot about the spice containers (I found them neglected under the couch the other day) but that wasn’t the end.  Over the next couple weeks I found a box of oatmeal, and a can of black beans show up in his kitchen.  I am happy that he is imaginative and likes to give new life to recycled items, but I had to put my foot down at the black beans (you know, for safety reasons).  He complied and returned the black beans to the recycling can, but then just this week I saw used shampoo containers show up in his kitchen, and I’m not even sure how those fit into the kitchen scenario.

I don’t have the heart to squash his creative recycling play, so I guess I’ll just have to keep sneaking things back into the recycling bin when he doesn’t notice.  I really shouldn’t be surprised that the son of a self described crunchy hippie likes to make toys out of garbage.  Outwardly I’m concerned, but deep down I’m a little bit proud.

I was going to show you another Valentine craft today, but instead let me show you a favorite activity of Julius that has to do with upcycling.  Much like what happened with newborn Julius, I couldn’t get newborn Patricia to latch so I ended up pumping in the hospital.  In the hospital they give you these teeny tiny colostrum bottles to pump into.  They work for about a day until your supply increases and then you need a couple of them every pumping session at least.  So at the end of your hospital stay you’re left with 20 of these teeny colostrum bottles and nothing to do with them (except discard them).  For both Julius and Patricia we also were given plastic syringes for feeding which also became useless quickly.  Well, like Julius, I can’t throw out something that I might find a good use for.  So I took the bottles and syringes home and figured that worst case I could recycle them at home.  Luckily, the first week I was home from the hospital, I came up with an idea for them.

Toddler Color Mixing Water Play

What you’ll need:

  • blue, red and yellow food coloring
  • small clear plastic bottles of various sizes (I used colostrum bottles)
  • plastic eye droppers (I save these from old infant vitamin bottles)
  • plastic syringes (I hope I don’t need to say this but make sure these do NOT have needles…)
  • water
  • a plastic tray or aluminum baking sheet
  1. Fill 3 containers with a few teaspoons of water.
  2. Add a couple drops of red, blue and yellow to each of the 3 bottles respectively.
  3. Allow child to experiment.  Julius liked to mix the colors with the syringe and see what color each would make.  He also liked to move the colors between the bottles with the syringe and eye dropper.

Little scientist.

Check out how cool those colors look!

Julius 2 hair cuts ago… did I mention that filling syringes is great motor skill practice too!

Different day, hair even more Einsteinian. Look at how excited he is!

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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!

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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.






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