Friday, July 8, 2011

Blast Off! - Cork Rockets

Watching today's final launch of the space shuttle Atlantis sparked a million questions and re-enactments.  My husband answered the questions and did this shuttle inspired project with the boys.

You need 6 wine corks, toothpicks and a small screwdriver (for eye glasses) or even a nail will work.
Parents (or an older child with guidance), carefully press a hole into the top of a cork about 1/2 inch deep.
Break a toothpick in half, then insert the thicker half into the hole (halfway).

Next, press a hole into the top of another cork, then add them together by pressing the other end of the toothpick into the hole. Repeat these steps until three corks are attached to each other.
Now take the fourth cork and pres a hole into the side toward the top. Then add half a toothpick.
Press a hole on the side, toward the bottom of the three attached corks, and connect the forth cork to it.
 Repeat this step with the other two corks.

Now have your child paint the rocket (tempera paint) or even color the rocket with markers.

Now go to the moon! If you use paint and your child is a little impatient while it drys, you can visit and watch real shuttle footage and missions to space. The boys loved it!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bowling Excursion

Did I say bowling?  Yes, bowling.  I haven't been bowling in years, but why not?  Especially when you hear about this great deal  My awesome friend Karin told me about this one.  Go to:, and sign up.  I was reluctant, but it has been a few weeks now and no spam.  This is the real deal.  Choose a participating bowling alley, and they will send you weekly coupons for free bowling. 

Now, there is a tiny catch.  Parents have to pay.  After signing-up you will be offered a deal - pay $25.00 for unlimited adult bowling for the summer.  This deal allows you to bring 2 adult guests.  If you know you will always go with another family, just one family should buy the adult bowling.  Then split the $25 fee, and bowl together all summer long - and never pay for the kids!

Cheap, old-fashioned fun!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Frozen Banana Cream Squares

Today we made these delicious frozen treats.  These squares are easy, and very kid-friendly.  By the way, the crumb crust is standard and can be made using any kind of cookie (including graham crackers).

8 oz. vanilla wafer cookie crumbs (we used the Trader Joe brand and it took 50 cookies)
4 oz. sugar
2 oz. butter, melted + a little extra for the baking dish
2 3.39 oz packages of instant vanilla pudding (the Trader Joe brand is really good!)
5 medium bananas (after being mashed, about 16 oz.)

Line a 13 x 9” baking pan with parchment paper, allowing the parchment to spill over the sides of the dish.  Brush the paper with the extra melted butter.

Combine the cookie crumbs and the sugar.  I like to use a whisk to make sure it gets all "mixed in".   Pour in the melted butter and stir together.
Firmly press the cookie mixture into the parchment-lined baking dish, refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Mash the bananas. 
Make the pudding, following the package directions. 

Spread the mashed banana over the cold crust.  Pour the pudding over the mashed banana.

Freeze for at least 4 hours.

Using the sides of the parchment like handles, pull the frozen banana cream out of the dish.  Place it on a cutting board and slice into squares.

If you eat these right out of the freezer, they can just be picked up by hand.  Or, let the squares sit for a few minutes and eat using a fork.  If you want to get fancy, top with a little whipped cream and drizzle with chocolate syrup.

We ate them plain, super yummy.  The kids helped with every step of this one!
 Brushing melted butter onto the parchment.
 Crushing the cookies in the food processor. 
 Whisking the crumbs and the sugar.
 Pressing the cookie-crumb mixture into the baking dish.
 Mashing the bananas.
 Spread the mashed bananas onto the crumb crust. 
 Pour the pudding over the mashed bananas, and freeze.
 Use the parchment "handles" to pull the banana cream out of the dish.
Slice into squares, and serve. 

Yum!  Let me know how it goes, 

Please remember, this recipe is flexible.  Make adaptions, and tell me how to make it even better.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fine Art Transfers

This was easy, and made us all feel like great artists! 

You will need:
An art example (printed or photocopied)
Optional- Crayons, markers, colored pencils or paint for coloring-in at the end

First, let the kids choose a piece of artwork.  The piece can either be found online then printed, or photocopied from a book.  All of the big museums have websites with online catalogues.  Another option is to just Google the name of an artist or painting, then click “images”.

Turn the printed (or copied) art over, and color the blank side with a pencil.  Make sure you really color with a thick layer.

Turn the paper over, and place it over a blank piece of paper so the “penciled” side is against the blank paper.  Tape the two pieces of paper together at the top, so that the top paper will not move around.

Trace over the artwork with a pencil.  You’ll want to really press down.  When you’re finished lift the paper.  You will have an outline of the artwork.  Go over the lines on the “new” version, and color in however you want.  

 Have fun, and let me know how it works out!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

July 4th Bean-Bag Update

The glow-in-the-dark paint finally dried!  Today, I made the bean-bag.  Now remember, I cannot sew.  I really cannot sew, not even a button.  But, I made this bean-bag.  As you will see from the picture, the bag is not pretty.  I'm not worried.  It will be dark.  And I have to tell you, I threw this thing around and made sure that it stayed together.  It did.  If I can do this, you can do it better!

First, I had cut a rectangle of material.  I'm not sure what kind of material, I picked it from the "remnants" bin at the fabric store.  Then, I applied several coats of glow-in-the-dark paint.  I allowed drying time, in the light, in between each coat.  My son helped with this, and thought it was just great.
Today, I folded the painted material in-half and sewed two sides together.  I didn't do anything fancy, like turn it inside-out.  I folded the edges over and stitched. 
While I was looking for dried beans, I realized that we had none.  I know, I have been talking bean-bags for 4 days.  Well, onward and upward.  We used dried lentils.  It's a good thing I folded the material before stitching, lentils are REALLY SMALL. 
We poured the lentils into the bag (be careful, they run all over).  Then, I stitched together the open side of the bag.  We shook and threw the bag, and only 1 lentil fell out. 
Tomorrow night (July 4th), we will have a glow-in-the-dark bean-bag toss.  If we end up with lentils on the yard, then so be it (will they grow?)!
Not pretty, but it doesn't fall apart and it glows!

Please send me your success stories, and I hope you all have fun.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Glow-in-the-Dark Bean-Bag Toss

 So, the Glow Sticks are great.  But, I have struggled with the bean-bags.  This time, I painted the material early in the day and sat it under light for 2 hours.  I stuck to painting straight-forward lines and dots.  Then, I painted another coat, the first coat had been mostly absorbed into the material.  I again, let it sit in light. 
I tried the painted material in a very dark room, with black-out shades.  It glowed, but not as much as I was hoping for.
So, I added another layer of paint and let the painted material sit under light.   
The material definitely glowed.  Not as much as the Glow Sticks, but it glowed enough to see where the bag would land in the dark.
The material was too wet to sew, so I will stitch the sides together tomorrow.  I absolutely cannot sew.  I will stitch the sides together by hand, making sure that the stitches are smaller than the dried beans (learned that the hard way last Halloween!).  After I sew together most of the bean-bag, I will fill it with dried beans.  Then, I will sew together the last little part.  I’ll update this blog with the finished bags.
Connect Glow Sticks into circles, and lie them out.  Toss the bean-bags – whoever gets the most into the circles wins!
Or, hang the glowing circles from trees and toss the bean-bags through.

By the way, the Glow Sticks that I “activated” today were noticeably brighter than the ones from yesterday.  For the ultimate glow, wait until the “day of the game” to activate.  These are "activated" by bending and shaking the sticks, not by the use of paint.       

Glow Sticks at 5 Below, $5.00
Glow in the Dark Paint (Americana) at JoAnn Fabric, $3.19
 Kept it simple.  Lines and dots, lots of layers.
The glow-in-the-Dark painted material is visible in the center of the circle.  Hoping for brighter, but good enough for a night-time toss. 
The newly "activated" sticks are brighter than the ones "activated" yesterday.

Bright enough for people to see in the dark, but not for my camera.

Have fun.  As always, I want to hear about your experiences and I am open to suggestions.  

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Glow Sticks

Today’s activity didn’t work out as planned.  The plan is to create a glow-in-the-dark bean-bag toss.  The glow sticks that I bought are great!  As you can see from the picture below, they really do glow in the dark.  They come with connectors, so you can make them into circles.  I’m not sure what they’re filled with, so I wouldn’t recommend them for every day play.  We're going to keep them for “outside” games. 
Now, for the bean-bags (sigh).  The glow-in-the-dark fabric pen did not work.   The glow-in-the-dark paint was absorbed into the fabric, and barely worked.  Tomorrow, I'm going to put a heavier layer of paint on the fabric and let the painted fabric sit in the sun to “charge”. 
I’ll let everyone know how this works out.   

I bought the Glow Sticks at 5 Below, $5.00.
 I am always open to suggestions,

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

July 4th Berry Biscuit Tarts

This super-easy recipe is great for a party, or for any weekday!

July 4th Berry Biscuit Tarts

4 c. spelt flour (you can use regular flour, you might need to use a little more) + a little extra for the counter and the cup
2 Tbsp. Baking powder
1 tsp. salt
½ c. sugar + extra for sprinkling ( I use turbinado sugar, you can use any kind)
2/3 c. canola oil
1 ½ c. warm water
1 Tbsp. honey
1 16 oz. container strawberries, washed and sliced
1 11 oz. container blueberries, washed (we had extra blueberries, a smaller container would work)
* ½ c. heavy cream

Pre-heat oven to °375.
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the canola oil, warm water and honey.  Save the cream for later.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir to combine.  Don’t overwork it, just stir until it comes together.
Put a little bit of flour on a clean counter.  Dump the dough onto the flour.  The dough will be really moist.  Fold and turn the dough around in the extra flour.  Press the dough out with your fingers, to about 1’’ thickness.  Dip the top of a cup, or mug, in a little flour.  Press the cup into the dough, and make biscuits.
**Take the biscuits, one at a time, and press out to about ½’’ thickness.  Place berries in the middle of the circle, leaving room around the edge.  Fold the edges of the dough over the berries. 
Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, brush the dough with heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, turning halfway through.
These can be eaten warm, with a fork.  Or, let cool completely and pick them up (works better at a cook-out).
Makes 10 – 12 tarts.     

*- the heavy cream is optional
** - sometimes it’s easier to spread out the individual biscuits right on the parchment lined baking sheet

These are delicious plain, but they are also great with a little whipped cream or drizzled with honey. 

To make whipped cream just beat some heavy cream in a metal bowl.  When the cream starts to stiffen add confectioners sugar, to taste.  If you like you can also add vanilla, almond extract or even a little liqueur. 
By the way, if you stick the metal bowl and beaters in the freezer first, the cream will whip a little quicker.   

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


This one took a few tries, but the end result was great.  Hopefully, I have worked out the kinks for you.  You will need:
paper (a piece of printer paper is what we used, but get fancy if you like)
thumb tacks, push pins, straight pins or something like these
crayons, markers and any additional decorating material
un-sharpened pencils with long, firm erasers

Gently bend a piece of paper in half.  You don't actually want to crease the paper all of the way, you are only making a guide-line.  Take the folded paper, and gently bend it in half.  Unfold, and cut along the light guide-lines.
After cutting, you will have 4 quarters of paper.  Take one quarter, and follow the same bending process, except don't cut yet.  Bend the quarter in half, then again.  The light creases will show you the center of the paper.
Take the quarter, and cut from a corner of the paper into the center.  You don't want to go all the way to the center, imagine a circle in the center that is about 1 1/2'' to 2'' and stop at the edge of that circle.  Start at each corner, and repeat.  You will end up with 4 triangles, connected by a circle in the center of the paper.
Decorate the quarters that have been cut to "almost" the center.
Take the edge of a triangle on the quarter, and bend the paper toward the center.  Skip the other side of the triangle.  Go to the next edge, and repeat.  Every other edge will be gently bent toward the center.
Hold the corners together at the center of the paper, and push a tack (or whatever device you are using) through the bent corners and the center.
Then, push the tack into the side of a pencil eraser.
Ta- dah, pinwheel.

What I learned:
if the pinwheel is leaning against the pencil, it will not work well,
if the paper is "folded" instead of "bent" it might not work well,
if the tack is pushed in too far (to the eraser), it will be slow,
if the tack is not pushed in enough, the wheel will fly off the pencil,
there are small materials involved (tacks), so watch the kids closely,
if the pencil does not have a firm, fully-intact eraser, the wheel will not hold.

By the way, if you use left-over red holiday paper for the pinwheels - "hello", 4th of July!  Or, make little pinwheels with patriotic colored paper, stick them in a vase filled with patriotic-colored rocks or marbles, tie left-over red holiday ribbon around the vase - "hello", 4th of July centerpieces! 

Please let me know how this worked for you.  Contact me at,  Have fun!