Thursday, July 31, 2014

Pirate/Princess Summer Party

My son starts kindergarten this year, so I wanted to try to get some kids together this summer so he sees some familiar faces on the first day. We decided to put together a pirate/princess theme party this week. Here is what we did...

The Food:
Pirate and Princess cupcakes. I found the toppings at a cake store. 

Princess chocolate suckers: I just poured melted chocolate in chocolate molds and added a stick.

Pirate ship jell-o cups. The bottom is blue raspberry jell-o. We added a quarter of an orange and placed a pirate flag stick in the orange. 

The pineapple is my best attempt at turning it into a boat. Then I added a few of the grape/watermelon princess wands to resemble some sails. 

Cannonballs (grapes)

Fish and chips

Star sandwiches

Hot dog boats

Princess Decorations
The table:

I took some of the rose chocolate suckers and placed them in a piece of styrofoam. Then I flipped a vase over the suckers to resemble the rose from Beauty and the Beast. 

Princess Putty: 
Start by mixing about 2 cups of white school glue with 1 1/2 cups of warm water. Then we added red food coloring for the princess putty. We did a separate batch using green food coloring for the pirate slime (see below).

In a separate small bowl, mix 3/4 teaspoon of Borax and 1 1/3 cups of very warm water.

Pour the borax water into the glue water. Mix with your hands.

Keep mixing with your hands until you have the slime. It will only take a couple of minutes. 
I placed the slime in little containers I found at Wal-Mart. Then I added a treat pop label to the top. 

For the wands, I started with a skewer stick. I cut out two stars from glitter cardstock. I hot glued a piece of maroon, pink, and white ribbon to the inside of one of the stars. Then I glued a piece of black glitter tulle and some gold stars to the star. The final step was to hot glue the other star to seal all of the ribbon inside. 

I got the princess plates, napkins, and sashes from Party City. Each girl also got a pack of stickers and a necklace. (And a tin of pirate goodies)

The princesses each got to choose a hat as well. I used the template from this website: 
The hat is made from decorated foam sheets with a piece of tulle hot glued to the top of each one. 

Pirate Decorations
 The table: 

I found black plates from Wal-Mart. 

I filled the boxes with candy bracelets. 

I gave each guest one of these pirate tins from Amazon:
I put a few of these pirate coins in eaach tin:( I hid the rest of them around the house. That was one of their treasure hunt activities. 
The hook cup is just a red solo cup with a piece of tin foil through the top. I also bought pirate and princess stickers. I placed a different sticker on each of the kids' cups. This helps keep track of what cup belongs to each kid. 

We used gold spray paint to turn some gravel into little gold pieces to fit inside these little jars:

Here is the Pirate slime. The recipe for this is above in the princess decoration section. 

For the swords, I bought a large piece of foam insulation. I cut it into four pieces. Then I added gold duct tape for the base. 

The last decoration was treasure hunt cups. I made sand-colored play dough. I used my microwave play dough recipe:
 To color the dough, I placed 4 drops red, 2 drops green, and 16 drops yellow food coloring. I made 3 batches of this to fill 12 cups. 

I got the idea for these cups from this website:
I cut 6 leaves from green construction paper, leaving a strip to connect each of the leaves. I ran glue down the strip. Then I wrapped the strip around a decorative straw. Using a different straw, I curled the leaves down. 
Inside the play dough, I hid a pirate coin and some jewels. I added a pirate sticker to the cup. 

The boys' table:

For an outside decoration, I found a large cardboard box, cut out two ovals, and painted a princess image on one flap of the box and a shark image on the other flap. The kids took turns getting their pictures taken in this photo booth. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Make time now instead of wishing for the time when it is too late...

What is your top priority? Most people undoubtedly say family. But is that just because it sounds like the right thing to say? What do we do to make family our top priority? To me, it isn't enough to just say you love them and would do anything for them.

Today, as I sit at a COLchat conference, I have been called to "share my story", "connect", "reflect", and "inspire".  I now recognize that my story is unique because everyone makes their own story based on the situations they create.

This conference has given me further verification in the reason I blog. After the birth of our third child, I found myself wrapped up in trying to juggle my career as a high school English teacher and still maintaining what I wanted to be my top priority: my family.  We all get wrapped up in day-to-day activities, keeping up with social media, and watching the shows on our DVR. After I made dinner, did dishes, checked papers, and did lesson plans, it left very little time when I got home from work to show my children that they are important. It wasn't enough for me to just read them a bedtime story and send them to bed.

We have all heard someone say, "I wish I would have done more with my kids when they were younger." I realized I did not want to be that person.

So instead of "maintaining" family life, I took action. This blog has made me accountable for being given the best job I could ever ask for...being a mom. The activity walls we have created together, crafts we've made, and recipes we have baked have given us more "moments" than I ever thought possible.

I hope this blog inspires others to make time for the people and things that are important. We are all busy and "never have enough time in the day". We all have 24 hours each day. It is up to us where our priorities fit in that 24 hours.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Color Changing Milk Experiment

This experiment was really exciting to watch. We poured milk in the bottom of a small dinner plate. I added one drop of each color of food coloring in the center of the plate. (David got a little carried away with the blue, so we had a few drops on the bottom of the plate. It still worked just fine.) 

We put a drop of Dawn dish soap on the end of a q-tip. Place the q-tip in the center of the colors and watch them swirl around the plate. 

 Here is a description of what is happening with the protein molecules in the milk:

Homemade Lava Lamps

The kids and I had a week of science experiments. I love seeing the look on their faces when we do experiments. The experiments we did are inexpensive and provide hours of entertainment and investigation for the kids. And it was something the whole family got interested in. 

The first one was a homemade lava lamp. Find a plastic bottle. Fill it a little under half full with water. Then add an equal amount of oil. (I used canola oil, but any oil will work.) Wait for the oil and water to separate.

Then add 6-10 drops of food coloring. Watch as the food coloring sits at the edge of the oil and water boundary. It will eventually break free from the oil and create a really cool design in the water.
 After all the food coloring droplets have broken free from the oil, drop an effervescent tablet (cheap Alka-Seltzer) in the jar. We broke each tablet into four pieces before dropping it. When the bubbles stop, add more tablets. When the boys decided to drop about 4 tablets in at a time, the bubbling was so extreme you couldn't see the oil/water boundary anymore. 

This was a great lesson in density for the kids! 

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

One of the kids won an inexpensive ice cream machine at a library competition a couple of years ago. Homemade ice cream tastes so much better than store-bought. And it is extremely easy. 

2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt

With a whisk, mix all of the ingredients together until the sugar is dissolved. 

Place mixture in ice cream machine and turn on. Ours takes about 35-45 minutes to churn. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Easy Sushi Rolls

 I attempted sushi rolls for the first time last night. It was actually a lot easier than it looks. 

I don't have a rice cooker, so I had to use a saucepan. It worked just fine. I used a recipe from All Recipes:

2 cups sushi rice
3 cups water
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 Tablespoons oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Rinse your rice in a colander until the water runs clear. Add it to 3 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover it, and reduce the heat to low. Let it cook for 20 minutes. (I didn't remove the lid the entire time.) 

Meanwhile, combine the rice vinegar, oil, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Cool this mixture. Stir it in the cooked sushi rice. Continue stirring it until the water is absorbed. At this point, I put the rice in the refrigerator to cool a little while before I started rolling the sushi. 

Lay out a Nori seaweed sheet on a bamboo mat. (I got both of these things from Amazon.) 
Scoop a ball of the sushi rice on the mat. (Make sure you wet your hands with a mixture of rice vinegar and water. It will prevent the rice from sticking to your hands.) Spread the rice evenly around the seaweed. (Be sure not to press the rice too hard. You want to keep the rice as fluffy as possible.)
Then I placed the ingredients on one end of the rice. Here I used smoked salmon, avocado, cucumber slices, and carrots. 
Roll the end of the seaweed sheet around the fillers. Then continue rolling the rest of the way up. I found it easier to not use the bamboo mat when rolling it up. I used the bamboo roller to tighten the roll. Roll the sushi roll back and forth in the bamboo mat to tighten and seal the ingredients. This site is a good tutorial:

Let the long roll sit for about a minute. Then, using a sharp, wet knife, cut the roll into bite-size pieces. Some of the other combinations pictured: imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, carrots; avocado and cucumber; avocado, cucumber, and carrots. We dipped them in soy sauce and other spring roll sauces. If you don't like the seaweed wrap, you can remove it from the outside after the rolls have cooled. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

This recipe uses whole wheat flour and no refined sugar. It definitely isn't as sweet as some of the things I bake, but the kids ate it right up and requested more. 

2 eggs
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups peeled and shredded zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chocolate chips to sprinkle on the top

Start by mixing 2 eggs, 1 Tablespoon vanilla, 1/2 cup honey, and 1/4 cup applesauce with a fork. 

In a separate bowl mix 1 cup wheat flour, 1/2 cup cocoa, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Don't over mix. Fold in the zucchini and chocolate chips. Pour in a greased 8x8 inch pan. Spread chocolate chips on top of the batter. 

Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. 

Easy Ham & Green Onion Cheese Ball

This is a quick, easy, go-to cheese ball for entertaining. 
1 8 oz cream cheese
1/2 tsp garlic salt
about 4 green onions, diced
about 6 slices of shaved deli cooked ham, diced

Chop up your green onions and ham. I used my hand mixer and beat the cream cheese until it was soft and creamy. Than I added the garlic salt, ham, and green onions. I beat it with the hand mixer until it was all incorporated. 
You can shape it in a ball and cover with shredded cheese if you desire, or just serve it the way that it is.

NBA Cupcakes

David wanted an NBA party for his 6th birthday, complete with NBA cupcakes. I really didn't think I could draw every NBA logo on the cupcakes, so I improvised. I printed logos of all the teams (current and old logos) and cut them out. Make sure you print two copies of all the logos. 

Then I cut a party straw into thirds. I taped one of the logos to the party straw. Then I attached the other copy of the same logo to the other side. This way the logo showed up on both sides of the cupcake. 

I frosted the cupcakes with orange frosting and drew on black lines to make them resemble a basketball. The boys stuck in the party straws and divided the teams into the East and West divisions. 

We set them up on both sides of the basketball cake. (

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Basketball Cake

I used a Wilton ball cake pan to make this cake. I used one cake mix and split it between the two halves of the cake pan. I baked it at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. (To prepare the cake pan so the cake comes out cleanly from the pan, use Wilton cake release spray.) 

Frost the middles of the cakes and put one on top of the other. With black frosting, draw a line, dividing the ball in half. Then divide each half into four sections. Fill in the rest of the cake with orange frosting using a star tip. 

I created the platter out of a dollar store vase and platter and a basketball net I found at Wal-Mart.