Monday, March 28, 2011

On a break

I will be taking a blogging break this week as Kitten's grandparents and aunt (my youngest sister, who is only 10 years old herself, she is Kitten's BFF) are visiting us! Kitten is so excited! We went to San Antonio Zoo today and when we were leaving I asked whether she liked the zoo. She said "yes". I then asked who she liked the most and she said her aunt, such a silly girl!

Friday, March 25, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment :: inspired by soule mama}
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Banana Nut Bread

Kitten and I love this bread, it is very moist and just the right sweetness, we usually eat it with butter and even my picky husband says that it is very good (believe me, this is a very high praise!). It also lends itself well for cooking with a toddler and is very easy and quick. What's not to love?

1/4 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 large overripe bananas
1.5 cups flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup buttermilk (I use dry buttermilk powder with water)
1/3 cup chopped nuts (I use walnuts)

Preheat oven to 325F. Beat together butter and sugar, add an egg and mashed bananas. 

Beat well again. Add flour mixed with baking powder, then add buttermilk and mix well. Stir in nuts.

Transfer into greased loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until wooden stick inserted in the center comes out clean. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Rainbow Angels Mobile

I bought a kit to make 6 angels in rainbow colors (here) a long time ago and immediately made all 6 in about 40 minutes, they are really easy to do and I think the colors are just beautiful. I wanted to make a mobile out of them to hang in the playroom but it took me a long time to finally do it. Thankfully the little wreath that I bought to make a nest out of for our nature table was not used (I found an actual nest in my stash). It was the perfect size for my angels (about 5 inches) and I like the natural material. I thought about using an inner ring from embroidery hoop but this is so much better. Usually our best ideas are accidents! I put it on the ceiling of our playroom and the mood is instantly so much happier and brighter, I just love it! Kitten really likes it too, she is trying to say "angel", points out different colors and laughs when I blow and they twirl.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What you do with straws

Look how much fun can $1 bring you little ones! Here Kitten is putting straws in a container (I still need to find one which will have a small opening, just for 1 straw at a time to make it more challenging). You can also sort by color, stick them in playdough, print little circles and even make elaborate 3D structures (which would be an activity for older children) by connecting straws with bits of modeling clay. These would be great to take on trips too, as they are so versatile. Get your imagination working and share some other ways to play with straws!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Our Spring Tree

It is by no means finished, I am still planning to add flowers, bird nest, etc. but I thought to celebrate Spring Equinox I should share spring from our house to yours. Here is to Spring!

Friday, March 18, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment :: inspired by soule mama}
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Rainbow Elves tutorial

As I have promised, here is a Rainbow Elf tutorial.
What you need:
White pipe cleaner
Wooden bead 1/2" diameter
Scraps of felt
Matching thread
Wire cutter to cut pipe cleaner
Glue (I used school glue)
Paper to make patterns
Clear tape and stapler - handy for cutting out felt

1. Cut two pieces of pipe cleaner - 2" and 4 1/2" (or, if you are using a different size bead, you can adjust lengths to look proportionate).
2. Bend the long piece in half, stick it in the bead. At this point already, Kitten grabbed it, said "doll" and was quite happy to play with it. See, kids don't need much to spark imagination! Bend the ends of a short piece about 1/4" to make hands.

3. Put arms piece in the middle of body piece against the bead and twist the body a couple of times to secure arms.

4. Now it's time to make clothes pattern. Lay your elf on a piece of paper and loosely draw around it, making a dress or an overall. You could also make separate pants, sew them to the shoulders and put a shirt over it. Be creative and make your own designs! Fold the drawing in half and cut around half of the outline, creating a symmetrical piece of clothing.
5. For a hat draw a triangle with the pictured measurements and round the bottom side.
6. Cut out from felt one hat piece and a double dress/overall, laying the shoulder part of the pattern on fold of felt. Make a small hole for the neck. For a good tutorial on how to cut out felt visit Wee Folk Art blog.
7. Take the head bead off and slide the overall on the neck. Stitch the sides, sleeves and inner pants' seams using the whip stitch. Bend the ends on legs under about 1/4", trimming the pipe cleaner if needed, creating feet.

8. Stitch the straight sides of the hat using a whip stitch. Put some glue on the neck and slide the bead back on (I then took if off and slid it on the other way to reduce the amount of glue around the neck). Spread a little bit of glue on the back of the head and glue the hat in place, tilting it back. Make sure to choose the face side without imperfections.

9. And there you have it, your own personal elf, gnome, dollhouse doll or whatever else you come up with. Don't forget to share your results with me, I would love to see your creations!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Buckwheat Fun

An easy recipe for a long independent play - tray, child, buckwheat, cups, measuring spoons, funnel, whatever else you happen to have on hand. Enjoy!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bonnet Tutorial

This bonnet is great to cover your newborn's head, for a baptizing ceremony (like I used it) or for a dress-up bin. This is a pretty simple bonnet but my problem was the lack of a pattern. I knew how I would construct it but what pieces to cut? So I tried constructing my own pattern and it worked! I will give you my pattern, which was made to fit Kitten's head when she was 18 months old and her head circumference was 18 inches (I know, she has a small head, for an average baby it will probably be a newborn size). I will also explain how to draw your own pattern.

What you will need - 1/3 yard of exterior fabric, 1/4 yard of lining fabric, 1 yard of ribbon, thread. The amount of fabric will depend on your size but this should be plenty. Allow extra for one way design fabric.

1. Cut out pieces according to pattern: from exterior fabric cut 1 back (pattern, 1/4" SA - seam allowance included), 1 side (cut 4.5" by 16.5" (1/4" SA included) and optionally cut off all angles according to the diagram - 1/2" from short sides and 4.25" from long sides) and 1 ruffle (24.5" by 3.75", 3/8 SA included) pieces; from lining fabric cut 1 back and 1 side pieces, from ribbon or other cord cut 2 pieces as long as would like your ties to be (you can always trim later, so better leave some extra length). I advise you to cut 1 back and 1 side piece from other fabric, sew them together as in step 3 and try it on your child. It does not take long but you may find out that you need to make adjustments, since every head is different.
Disregard the pieced pieces, I was running out of fabric
2. If you need a different size of bonnet, lay your child with her back of the head on a piece of paper and quickly, before she rans away, trace the head, holding your pencil almost perpendicular to the paper (if you angle it toward the head you will have too much of a difference between front width and back width, which will make for a difficult shaping and lots of adjustments). Measure the distance between crown of the head and how low you want your bonnet to be and draw the bottom accordingly. Add seam allowances along all edges. Cut out (it is best to fold the pattern in half and cut a symmetrical piece) and see how it looks on your child's head. If it seems to be about right, measure the circumference of the rounded part and this will be the length of the side piece. Its width will depend on your child's measurement - measure from the back of the head to approximately hairline or where you want your bonnet to end (remember to count for a ruffle if you are making one). Add seam allowances to the width (they are already added for length since you measured it from the back piece). I chose to make the ends narrower, so that it fits the curve of the head better, but you may skip that, I don't believe it made that much of a difference. I just pinched the side while Kitten was wearing it to see how much width I like to subtract and them made it a gradual symmetrical transition. I ended up subtracting 1/2" from top and bottom of the short sides and 4.25" form both ends of the long side, see the pattern, it is much clearer in drawing. For the ruffle (although you can omit it if you like) I multiplied the length of the side piece by 1.5, if you want a fuller ruffle, you may multiply by 2. For the width, decide how wide you want your ruffle to be, add seam allowance (I recommend at least 3/8") and multiply by 2. If you are making your own pattern, it is especially important to make a muslin.
    3. Pin the side piece to the back piece right sides facing. Pin the center and bottoms first and see how much fabric you have left. I wanted to have a couple of tucks in the back, so I spaced them evenly around the center back (fold in half to find the center) and just played with them until their width was about the same. Stitch. Repeat for the lining.

    4. Pin the lining to the exterior along the bottom edge right sides facing, aligning side seams and pinning ribbons in between and directed inside the bonnet. Leave at least your seam allowance and a little more between ribbon and side. Stitch, making sure not to catch extra ribbon in your stitching.

    5. To make a ruffle, fold the ruffle piece in half lengthwise right sides facing and stitch together 2 short sides. Trim the corners. Turn the right side out and press. Stitch 2 rows of longest stitch (leave long tail on both sides), I do one 1/4" from the edge and the second one between the edge and the first row. Make sure they do not cross each other! Next, tie top and bottom threads of both rows on one end. 

    6. Find the middle and quarters on your bonnet and ruffle and pin the ends and those places ONLY to the exterior fabric. Ruffle should be facing away from the front and be attached to the right side of the exterior fabric. Grab the two top threads of the ruffle and pull gently, easing fabric along the threads. Keep pulling and sliding until the length of your ruffle matches the length of the bonnet front. Spread the gathers so that all quarter sections are even. Stitch in place 1/2" away from the edge, so that gathering stitches are enclosed.

    7. Turn down the seam allowance on the lining and hand stitch in place, encasing the ruffle seam allowance. Top stitch along the bonnet face opening.

    Please tell me if there are any questions or something is unclear. The explanation is long and it probably sounds more complicated that it actually is, but believe me, this is really easy. If you make a bonnet using this pattern, please send me a link, I would love to see it.

      Chocolate Nut muffins

      These came out good but they need to be much much sweeter, so if you use bittersweet chocolate like I did, you need to double or may be even triple the amount of sugar. We ended up eating them sliced with butter and sugar.
      4 oz semisweet chocolate
      2 cups flour
      1 tbsp baking powder
      1/2 tsp grond cinnamon
      1/3 cup packed brown sugar (or a cup, see above)
      1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
      1 cup milk
      1/4 cup vegetable oil
      1 tsp vanilla extract
      1 egg

      Preheat oven to 400F. Greaze a 12-cup muffin pan. Kitten loved it.
      Break chocolate into a heat proof bowl and melt over a pan of simmering water. Remove from heat and sift flour, baking powder and cinnamon into chocolate. Add sugar and nuts. Let your toddler mix it.
      In another bowl, mix together milk, oil, vanilla and egg. Add to dry ingredients and stir just until blended. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake 15-20 minutes until well risen and firm to the touch. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out muffins onto a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar, this was the most fun part for Kitten.
      People ask me about mess and how I deal with it. A little spill can be very fun and educational, Kitten always insists that she wipes it.
      The rest is easily swept from the floor and I wipe the table again after we are done. Because she is sitting on the table, the messy area is pretty limited. If you don't have such a convenient area on your counter, there is a nice thing called kitchen helper (such as this one), there are a few other companies that make them. I will probably soon let Kitten stand on a regular chair, so that she can help wash dishes, something we have not tried yet. I am sure she will love it!

      Saturday, March 12, 2011

      Fun with Animal upon Animal by Haba

      I love love love games by Haba and this one is no exception. The goal of the game is to get rid of all your animals by stacking them and not letting the pyramid fall.
      This one was done by me, of course, Kitten is just about to destroy it

      It is actually amazingly fun for adults too, even my husband, who is more of a computer game guy, grudgingly admitted that there is something to it. Although it is marked for 4+ kids, my almost 2 year old is enjoying it a lot.
      She cannot stack them very high but she can do one tier, which is nonetheless very good for muscle development in her hands. She likes the idea of animals riding on the back of the crocodile.
      This game is also great for sorting, which she came up with herself, there are 7 types of animals, 4 of each. And, as we discovered, if you put an animal on the crocodile's nose and hit his tail, it serves as a great catapult and an endless source of entertainment for little ones!

      Friday, March 11, 2011

      The Story of Rainbow Elves

      High in the sky, of course when it is not needed here on earth, hides the Rainbow. But it looks nothing like a rainbow you're used to seeing. When it visits us it is all proper and orderly. But when it is at home, its true playful nature takes over and colors mix and change places and play hide-and-seek. 
      Inside the rainbow live 6 little Rainbow elves. They really like their ever-changing colorful home and don't mind moving their possessions around every few days. The Red elf is always full of energy and bossing others around, the Orange and Yellow elves are happy and careless, the Blue elf is serious and slow in making decisions, they often have arguments with the Red elf. The Green elf likes everybody to live in peace and is usually the connecting link between others. And on the very top, in the littlest purple house, slightly away from others, lives the little Violet elf, who likes stargazing and dreaming. 
      But, despite all their differences, they are all best friends and cannot imagine ever parting. They have all sorts of adventures. Did you know, for example, that if you line up the rainbow arches just right, you can travel across that Rainbow Bridge to other wonderful worlds? Little elves do it all the time, since it is not that often that the Rainbow has to make an appearance in our skies. But this is quite a different story…

      Visit next week for a master class on how to make your own Rainbow elves.