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Week 1 Down

Well, this marks the one week point in the 50 Days of Crafts series and I have to say it was nothing less than horrible!  I did not realize how much effort, time, and stress this would add to an already hectic time in my life.  That being said, I felt an obligation to continue since I had set out to do it.  But, after the 7 days of weighing the pros and cons and considering that my choices affect my entire family, I have decided that I am going to have to alter the 50 Days series!!

I will continue the 50 Days series, but I a, not going to be able to do a craft every day!  I will aim to do a new craft every 2 days.  This coming week, however, I will be having some dental work done that will likely inhibit me from posting much!!  So, if I seem to have gone mad and flown the blog, never fear–I shall return!!

Thanks to those of you who do read faithfully for understanding that my family must come first!

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Craft #4: Leaf Garland

Photo: Pottery Barn Kids Website

 

One of my favorite stores to browse is Pottery Barn Kids.  Their selection of holiday home decor is endless–and expensive!  You can snag this pretty 9′ felt leaf garland for a mere $49 on the Pottery Barn Kids website!  I decided I could do a little better than that!

So, my son and I went on a walk for “craft leaves.”  He loves picking each one up and scrutinizing it to see if it is craft worthy.  (Until he gets bored and throws anything he finds on the ground into the bucket–we did find his missing bouncy ball that way.)

 

 

 

 

CRAFT: DIY PB Kids Leaf Garland

DIFFICULTY: Intermediate

MATERIALS:

  • leaves in many shapes and sizes–best to gather these when they first fall off the trees so they are pliable
  • felt in several colors
  • 9′ of wide ribbon in the color of your choice
  • 9′ of narrow ribbon (3/4″ works great, but 1/2″ works, too) in a coordinating color
  • Mod Podge or homemade decoupage glue (you do NOT need to get the one marked specifically for fabric!)
  • Hot glue
  • Sharp scissors
  • Embroidery thread & needle (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. I try to squeeze as many leaves on one sheet of felt as possible!

    Chose several leaves in various shapes and sizes.  Trace them on the felt.  I made all of my base leaves tan and embellished them with different colors.  If I did it again, I would make the leaves in different colors.  I decided to make a 9′ garland–2 feet of empty “hanging” space and put 1 large leaf each 12″, so I needed 7 large leaves.  I then made several medium and smalls to fill in as  I liked it.  I just traced 2 sheets of felt.  The great thing about leaves is that they are not perfect, so don’t feel like your tracing or cutting has to be perfect, either.  A good tip, though, is to use really sharp scissors when cutting felt.  Dull scissors may cut unevenly giving you uneven edges.

  2. Using several other colors, add details.  You can add veins to a leaf, cut out a smaller leaf in the same shape to layer over the base, or match it up with a totally different leaf (I tried this and didn’t like how it looked).  Use your imagination.  Felt is a cheap thing to play around with, so you can do some trial and error without wasting a lot of money.  I found tweezers the best way to place the tiny felt pieces!
  3. Use mod podge to stiffen the leaves.  I decided just to stiffen the base leaf and not any of the embellishments.  I believe the one in the picture up there was totally stiff.  To apply Mod Podge, use a paint brush & give it several light coats.  Then, flip it over and coat the other side.  Dry it on a piece of wax paper to prevent it from sticking to your work surface.  The bottle I have says it will cure completely in 4 weeks, so you may want to stop just short of your desired stiffness.  Wash the brush immediately to prevent permanent damage (most mod podge is water soluble, but make sure to read the bottle before beginning!).
  4. You may add embellishments to the leaves with embroidery thread.  Outlines, veins, decorative stitches will all add character  personality to your garland.
  5. Stretch the ribbon out all the way (for me, the only place large enough was the floor).  Mark the ribbon where you want your large leaves to go.  Putting the largest leaves on first will give your garland balance.  I measured off 1 foot sections and marked with a pin.  After I put the large leaves on, I just eyeballed where to put the smaller ones depending on how it looked.  I laid out ALL the leaves before gluing anything down in case I wanted to move it after I got it all together.
  6. Hot glue the leaves to the wide ribbon.  You could also sew the leaves on.
  7. Carefully glue the small ribbon over the stems where you attached the leaves to the ribbon.

    Shebes is checking me measurements!!

    This is before the little leaves were attached.

  8. For ease of hanging, fold the end edge of the ribbon in 1/4″ and press with the iron.  Then, turn it again 1 1/2″ and sew this in place (hand stitching would work fine here) making a loop on the end.  Repeat at the other end.

50 Crafts in 50 Days

I love the holiday season! As far as I am concerned, it kicks off with the first colored leaf I find on my driveway (which this year happened to be September 19th–it was yellow). However, since most normal Americans aren’t ready to handle festivities that early, I have waited as long as I possibly can! I am going to burst with holiday cheer–and trust me, that probably won’t be pretty!

So here it is, I am aiming to give you instructions to 50 holiday crafts in 50 days! I will post as many pictures as I can. It’ll be a FUNTABULOUS 50 DAYS!!

Friday Funtivities: Texture Recipes!

In the last post, I talked about our Friday Funtivity of making Homemade Granola Bars.  Here is a follow-up.

If your child does not have a problem getting messy, you and your child could enjoy making:

  •  individual meat loaves in funny shapes (you will still want these shapes to be somewhat uniform in thickness so they will cook the same time!)  I like this recipe from Zonya Faco’s Lickety-Split Recipes
  • haystack cookies (I would love for someone to give me a tried and true recipe for this!)
  • sugar cookies (Wilton’s has a great no-chill recipe! Thanks, Kira at Kitchen Clutter for this one!)
  • pizza (fruit pizza on a sugar cookie, regular pizza on a pre-made or homemade crust, or ice cream pizza)
  • edible play dough (I have not tried these, but here are 10 recipe ideas for you!)  (***I will add a “disclaimer” to this that the reason I have NOT done edible play dough is simply that I don’t want to encourage or give the idea to my 2-year-old that it is okay to eat real Play-Doh!!)
  • bread–if you don’t have a bread machine (or if you just want to do it the old fashioned way from time to time!), most kids (perhaps even my anti-mess boy!) would LOVE to punch the dough down!!  You can also let them shape rolls or bread sticks for a family meal.
  • Puppy Chow (or Reindeer Chow makes a great gift!!)

What finger fun recipes do you make with your child?

Friday Funtivity: Homemade Granola Bars

My 2-year-old loves to cook! He especially loves to cook with mom or dad. He and I used to cook almost daily, but with the arrival of my second child, I don’t have as much time to make meals–and let’s just face it, things take almost twice as long when I have extra helping hands!

However, today his Preschool Playgroup was canceled, so Baby Z was able to get in an extra nap and R and I used that time to make homemade granola bars!  They weren’t perfect, but they were yummy–and even if they had tasted terrible, it was time spent with my son that I would have missed out on if I had insisted on making them myself.  Sometimes, you just have to use cooking as a craft!

Here are a few tips for craft-cooking with your kids!

  • Pick a recipe in which measurements don’t have to be exact.  If a child can put “scoops” instead of exact “cups,” his job (and yours) is much easier!
  • No-bake recipes are great for little helpers because they allow for instant gratification.
  • Recipes that don’t involve eggs allow for little fingers to taste-test without fear of sickness.  The idea of the project is not to continually say, “No, no! Don’t eat that!”
  • Know your child’s likes.  Some children have texture aversions (my child is one of them!) and don’t want to touch messy or wet ingredients.  While it might be a great cure to encourage him to mash the potatoes up with his hands, some kids would be terrified of doing this.  If your aim is for the child to enjoy the experience, offer the chance to get messy, but don’t force him.  You can always work on his idiosyncrasies later!  If your child does not mind getting his hands dirty, you can see the next post for some ideas and recipes!!
  • Recipes that call for expensive ingredients should be used with more experienced kids or “at your own risk!”  Many a dish in this house has been ruined by a heavy toddler hand or a slip of his wrist a little early landing sugar on the counter instead of the bowl!  We also look for recipes that don’t have many liquid ingredients.
  • Use a bigger bowl than you will need to allow for sloppy stirring (or “chopping” as my Jr. Chef likes to do).
  • “Stage” your cooking project.  This is especially important for younger children.  If you have everything ready, you save time which is helpful with a short attention span.  It also allows the child to feel completely involved since you aren’t constantly telling him he has to wait while you measure things out.  Think of a television cooking show–all of the ingredients are pre-measured in bowls or cups so the host just has to throw them into the bowl.  (In fact, a friend of mine lets her daughter play TV Cooking Host and they video tape her own little cooking show.  I am sure they will enjoy looking back on these in the future!!)
  • Do your prep-work!  This is similar to staging, but is important even for those who don’t need to stage because their children are big enough to measure most ingredients alone.  Prepping involves knowing what you are going to make, knowing you have all the ingredients, and knowing that all the tools you need are clean and ready for use.  In our house, I have regretted not doing my prep work before I tell my son we are going to cook!  Just this morning, we almost had to can the granola bars because I couldn’t find any vanilla in the house (thankfully, it just fell behind the spice rack).

What can you add to these tips?  I’d love to hear about your cooking crafts in the comments section!

Family Table: Twice Baked Potatoes

I made twice baked potatoes for the first time this weekend. The entire process left me thinking that it was not worth the extra effort and that there was no way this could taste that much better than a regular baked potato. But, I am happy to report that I was wrong! They were delicious!! I combined a few recipes. Here is how I made mine.

TWICE BAKED POTATOES

*3 large baking potatoes
*2 Tbls. purple onion, finely diced
*3 Tbls. butter
*1/4 cup milk
*Salt & pepper to taste
*Garlic powder to taste
*2 sliced bacon, cooked & chopped (or 2 Tbls. real bacon pieces)
* 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Wash each potato and rub the skin with a little bit of cooking oil or butter to keep it soft. Bake potatoes about 50 minutes. Cut each potato in half and scoop out the insides with an ice cream spoon. Put potato “meat” into a large bowl–save the skins!! Add the other ingredients and mash potatoes. I left my potatoes chunky but they can be beaten with a mixer to make smooth and creamy. Spoon potato mixture back into potato skins and bake again for 15 minutes.

A variation is to bake 1 extra potato and mash that one skin and all. This gives you pieces of skin and more “meat” in each potato skin. (Although, I would never serve these to my mother who thinks leaving skin in the mashed potatoes is a sign of laziness!) 🙂

What is your favorite variation on the classic baked tater??

Family Table: Double-Duty Meals

One of my favorite recipes is Apple Pork Chops with Rice.  I used to make it about once a week until my husband confessed that not only was it not one of his favorites, he hated it!  The mixing of fruit and meat is a turn-off for him.  I still loved it, so we had a predicament.  He would suffer through it every once in a while and then I just quit making it altogether.

Well, this weekend, I was planning on grilled pork chops after church on Sunday, but the only problem was the rain set in and I didn’t know when it would stop.  My trooper husband has grilled in the rain before, but this was a torrential downpour.  So, now I had these pork chops and nothing to do with them.  A quick pantry inventory showed I had one apple left over from fruit salsa…which brought me back to the apple pork chops.  What a shame that he didn’t like them…I kept looking and found a can of Rotel.  My husband loves Rotel pork chops, but I don’t at all!  It’s too spicy.  That got me really thinking.

So, Sunday when we got home, I pulled out 2 skillets and threw 2 chops in each one.  In the first one, I tossed the apple, vinegar, honey, soy sauce, rice, & water…YUMM!  In the second, a drizzle of oil, salt and pepper, rice, and the can of Rotel (this one is much simpler).  In 45 minutes, we were both eating pork chops- but in two very different flavors.

I thought then, that this same technique could be done to make dinner WHILE doing a make-ahead meal.  I could get 2 pans of chicken going, 2 pans of ground beef…the possibilities are limitless! Of course, it is easier if the steps involved are similar–like in the pork chop dishes, the chops and rice cooked about the same length of time.  So, other than different ingredients, it was basically like cooking 2 of the same dish.

What kind of multi-task cooking do you like to do?  How can we streamline even more?  My friend over at Busy on a Budget shared her prep-ahead tip last week.  Head on over and check it out!!