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Velcro Stick Art

March 2, 2015

I mentioned a few weeks ago that for this past Christmas Benzo and I did a lot of DIY gifts for our kids.  One of them was velcro stick art.  We’ve been playing with it a lot lately so I thought I would share the project on the blog.  It is literally the EASIEST project ever.

I found the idea on Pinterest on the blog How Does She:

Stick Art Kit with Free Printables

You can probably guess how to put it together by the picture below.

All you need is BIG popsicle sticks, self-adhesive round velcro and something to put it all in.  I bought the zippered pouch below at the dollar store.  It works perfectly.

The stick art is a great quiet activity for little hands.  It is also a great opportunity to talk about shapes and letters as you try to build them out of the sticks.  And with lots of sticks you can build the more complicated shapes like hexagon and octagon and easily count the sides.  I think I made around 6-8 of each color.

I didn’t originally intend on getting the colored sticks but when I went to the craft store that was all they had.  I had my toddler with me and wasn’t about to make a second stop so colored sticks it was.  I ended up being really happy I made it with colored sticks because it gives you more opportunities to talk about colors in addition to shapes.  The other day while I was making dinner I asked my older son to make a purple house with a yellow roof.  The extra element of color captured his interest (instead of just “make a house”).  He also gets creative and makes “pizza” or really big, crazy shapes using all the sticks at once.  It’s fun to see what he comes up with that’s not on the cards.

I printed the printables front and back on white cardstock.  I meant to “laminate” them with clear contact paper so they would last longer, but I never got around to it.  I’m sure it won’t be long before they are destroyed and I will have to replace them with new prints.

Here are the sticks in action at a church service not long ago.  They did a decent job of keeping our kids busy and quiet!  The kit fits easily in the diaper bag.

Again this is the easiest DIY project you will ever do.  It takes literally 10 minutes to stick the velcro on the sticks and then print out the printable cards.  With the colored sticks I think this would make a great DIY gift for Easter baskets next month!

For the official instructions and the free printables (!) please see the following link:

Stick Art Kit with Free Printables

Thanks How Does She for such a great idea!


Eye Make-Up Remover

February 26, 2015

Several years ago I posted about homemade eye makeup remover that was simply canola oil. I used it for awhile with success but eventually gave it up because it was, well, too oily. I switched to just scrubbing my eye makeup off with my face soap but then that seemed too harsh for the delicate eye area.

I went back to eye make up remover but used the store bought Target brand.  I really liked how it worked until I turned the bottle around and checked out all the unpronounceable gunk inside.

Back to the homemade eye makeup remover drawing board.  I searched around on Pinterest and the interwebs for ideas.  I knew I wanted something that was simple and could be made with ingredients I usually have at home.  I didn’t want to have to buy a bunch of new stuff that would end up cluttering my bathroom.  I’ve found that with homemade stuff, simple is better.  If a homemade beauty product requires 8 different ingredients and takes 30 minutes to make, there’s a very high likelihood I’ll never keep up with it.  I mean who has time for that?

I finally found a great post at Whole New Mom that talks about different kinds of homemade eye makeup removers.  The recipe she ended up with is equal parts oil, witch hazel and water.  All ingredients I normally have at home!  (Benzo uses witch hazel as an astringent on his face, so we already keep that in our bathroom.)

In a measuring cup with a spout I add one ounce each of water, witch hazel and olive oil.  I use olive oil because it’s what we already have at home.  If you’ve never bought witch hazel before you can get it at Target near the rubbing alcohol.  I like to make just a small amount (3oz) each time so I don’t have to worry about it going rancid on me before I use it all.  The three ounces lasts me around 2-3 months.

The water and witch hazel cut down on the oily-ness and the salad-y smell of the olive oil.  In my previous post on eye makeup remover I said that I didn’t like using olive oil because of the smell.  The witch hazel helps a lot with that.

I also squeeze two Vitamin E capsules into the mixture for some extra soothing on my eye area.  I already had Vitamin E from other homemade beauty product project.

I still use the Target bottle.  I just rinse it out and pour the new stuff in.  The oil separates from the liquid so you have to shake it up before each use.  But that is standard with store-bought makeup remover too.

I’ve stuck with this recipe for a year now and still going strong.  It works like a charm and is quite simple to mix up whenever I run out.  And much better for my face than store bought.  It’s exciting when a homemade product works out isn’t it?graphictomatonoshadow

My Favorite Kale Salad

February 22, 2015

Last year at a church pot luck I came across a kale salad on the buffet. I sampled it and it turned out to be the best. kale salad. ever. Unfortunately I had no idea who made it. A few weeks later at a smaller church dinner the same kale salad turned up again! This time I was able to find out who made it and beg for the recipe. The person happily obliged and I’ve been making it ever since.

This is one salad that I actually crave and last week I requested it for dinner (though I love to cook, Benzo does most of the cooking during the week). Benzo accommodated my request and we enjoyed it for several days.

My Favorite Kale Salad

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a small bowl combine olive oil, lemon juice and the minced garlic.  Set aside.  Meanwhile wash and remove large stems from the kale.  I like to use the really curly kale for this salad.  Tear or chop kale into 1-2 inch pieces or whatever size desired.  Place kale in a large bowl.  Sprinkle with kosher salt.  You can also add some fresh cracked pepper if desired.  Sprinkle breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese on top.  Pour oil/lemon juice/garlic mixture over the top.  Then get your (clean) hands in there and mix it all together.  You actually want to massage the dressing into the kale.  So turn it over in your hands and squeeze it for several minutes until it’s good and mixed.  Massaging kale helps release the bitterness.  See also this link:  How to Massage Kale.

That’s it.  Lick the cheesy breadcrumbs off your fingers and enjoy your salad.

This salad is similar to the Hail the Kale salad at a local restaurant called Unforked. It’s one of our favorite places to eat! I usually get tacos though. I think I like my version of kale salad better. :)

The recipe is so flexible you can just experiment with the proportions until you find the best mix for your tastebuds. This week we had kale salad with balsamic chickpeas and mini roasted potatoes. It was delicious.

The great thing about this salad is that it will keep in the fridge for a few days. The kale is sturdy enough that it doesn’t wilt, even with the dressing. Benzo actually made a double batch and we had it again the next night with frozen cheese pizza and finally finished it up on Saturday for lunch.

I never get tired of this kale salad. It makes a great main course with additions like beans, chickpeas, avocado, tomatoes, pepitas, etc. Meat eaters could add chicken or salmon. On its own it’s a really good side dish to any main course. And it makes a great pot luck dish! We’ve now taken it to potlucks ourselves and the bowl is always empty at the end.

Hail the kale!!



February 19, 2015

I saw a recipe for homemade slime on Pinterest (of course) and thought it would make a fun DIY gift for my boys for Valentine’s Day. I had never made anything like it before and since my 3 year old loves Play-doh I figured he would like slime. It seemed simple, only three ingredients other than add-ins, so I thought it would be an easy, no-stress project.

Wrong. The three ingredients are water, glue and liquid starch. Water and glue are easy but have you ever tried to buy liquid starch? I went to 4 places before I finally found it at the 5th place, a Walmart super center. Target, Hy-Vee, a regular Walmart and a marketplace Walmart all didn’t carry it. There is no Walmart super center in between my home and my office so I had to make a special trip out south.  My low-stress project ended up being very frustrating in trying to find the dang liquid starch!

Once I procured the liquid starch, mixing it up was actually very simple, though I wasn’t really sure it was going to turn out until the next day. I got the recipe from Little Bins for Little Hands. It’s a simple process. Mix together 1/2 cup water and a 1/2 cup washable glue. Then add in any food coloring or glitter as desired. Then pour 1/2 cup liquid starch into a second bowl and pour glue mixture into that. It will immediately start turning “slimey”. Mix with spoon at first then mix with hands.  I did this last Friday night.

So a couple notes on this project. First of all the standard bottle of glue is not quite half a cup.

If I had turned the bottle upside down and let it all run down it probably would have been 1/2 cup but I didn’t have the patience for that (it was 9:30 at night and I was tired). I topped it off from another bottle of glue we already had.

Second I used a lot of red food coloring and red glitter.

Third the slime gets better with age. When I was first mixing it it was really stringy and gloppy and I honestly thought it was going to be a bust.

IMG_8622But I kept mixing and threw it in a big yogurt container and let it sit overnight. The next day it was MUCH better. Very smooth and elasticy.

Finally do not try to dry off the slime with a napkin or paper towel. I thought it was a little wet when we first got it out to play with it on Saturday so I thought I could blot it dry with a paper napkin. As soon as I laid the napkin on the surface the slime sucked it in and there was no getting it back. I tried to pick little pieces of napkin out of it but to no avail. I thought I had ruined it and would have to start over! But we just started playing with it and the napkin disintegrated into the slime never to be seen again. The slime seemed fine after that.

I let my 3 year old play with the slime in a 9×13 pan and that worked just fine.

He loved it! He played with it a good long time. The glitter came off on the pan and our hands though.

It was easy to rinse off. My 18 month old played with the slime in his high chair. I supervised him pretty closely though to make sure he didn’t try to eat it. Both boys loved putting it into little cups and squishing it to make tooting noises. Boys. :)

The slime was great on Saturday and Sunday.  By Monday though it started to get really sticky and wasn’t coming off our hands and cups as easily as before.  Then my older son stuck is elbow in a big slime glob and got it all over his fleece pullover.  The younger one managed to sit in some and got it on his pants.  We rinsed the clothes off pretty quickly but I can confirm this slime didn’t stain their clothes thank goodness.  I am going to do some searching to see if we can add water to it to make it less sticky.  Surely it didn’t run its course in just three days!  If I find anything I will come back and edit this post.

Bottom line though the slime was super easy to make and my kids really liked it.  The older one has already asked when we can make more colors!


Preschool Valentines

February 11, 2015

Valentine’s Day is Saturday which means preschool Valentine’s Day party is Thursday.  Last night we let our older son stay up a little later after dinner to help put together his valentines for his classmates.  I knew I wanted to do a no-candy valentine and there are tons of ideas on Pinterest.  I also knew I wanted something simple and inexpensive.  I settled on something like this:

Have a ball snipPinterest is a rabbit hole when it comes to finding out who did the original design so I can give credit where credit is due.  After clicking through multiple blogs I finally got down to the original source: Dandee-Designs.  As you will soon see, ours looked NOTHING like the original.

I could’ve done a cute printable.  I could’ve done the entire thing myself and left my son out of it.  It would’ve been a lot faster.  But where’s the fun in that?  Then it becomes just another thing to cross off a to do list.  So last night we sat down and tackled putting together 14 valentines.

I previously bought the bouncy balls at Party City for 49 cents each.  To start, my son helped take off the little cellophane wrapper and put each ball in a bag.

I decided to hand write the tags because I thought it would be more personal.  And my printer is actually broken.  ;)

I cut sheets of red cardstock into fourths and then folded them in half to make the tops for the bags.  On one side I wrote “Have a BALL this Valentine’s Day!” and on the other side I wrote “Your friend,”.  Then I let my son write his name on all of them. This was a great name-writing practice activity!  They’ve been working on it a lot at preschool and he did really well on some of them.  Then there was this one:

If you know his name you’ll know that is not even close.  I pushed all my Type A feelings aside and just tried to go with the flow.

After name-writing we then decorated the tags with stickers and put the bags together with the stapler.  He did the sticker part and I did the stapling part.

The preschool teachers gave us a sheet with all the kids names in these little cards that we could cut out and attach to the valentines.  We stuck ours inside the bag with the ball with the names facing out (that’s the little red card behind the ball).  So for each ball my son picked out a card and then decorated the tag to go with it.  This was actually really fun because it gave us a chance to talk about each boy or girl and what stickers they might like on their valentine.

Yes the stickers are stars and smiley faces and not hearts but that’s all we had in the craft drawer.


I’m really happy with how they turned out!  I like the handwritten, homemade vibe.  And now I know for sure that even if another mom/kid does the “have a ball” valentines they won’t look exactly the same as ours.  I mean everyone is on Pinterest so chances are pretty high that there’s a duplicate.

I’m also glad I took the time to do this project together with my son (and that I actually planned ahead enough in advance to do so!).  The whole thing only took about an hour and he seemed to enjoy it.  I know I enjoyed the time together.


Egg in a (Heart) Nest

February 6, 2015

Egg in a nest.  I’m definitely not reinventing the wheel here as egg in a nest has been around forever.  I remember making it myself as a girl.  I had forgotten about it until just the other day my older son and I were up earlier than the other two in our family.  Since we had some time to ourselves I thought it would be fun to make egg in a nest for breakfast.  And for a special twist we used a heart cookie cutter instead of the standard glass.


Here’s how we made it:

  • Using a glass or a cookie cutter, cut a hole in the middle of a slice of bread (kids can do this part!)
  • Butter both sides of the bread if desired.
  • Heat a skillet to medium-high heat.
  • Place bread in the skillet.  Crack an egg in the hole.
  • Cook until egg starts to whiten and bread gets toasty.  Flip and cook on the other side until egg is cooked through.

I had forgotten how fun this breakfast is to make and eat.  My son really enjoyed the whole process.  With Valentine’s Day coming up this would be a fun activity to do with your kids.


Craft Drawer Organization

February 2, 2015

In my last post I mentioned organization and how I’d like more of it.  There’s one organization project I did complete over the holidays and I am pretty proud of the result.  It’s the “craft” drawer, aka the “drawer where you cram a whole bunch of crap”.

Right off our kitchen we have a set of cabinets and at the bottom is this very wide, very deep drawer.  In the drawer we stored all of our craft supplies and anything else we needed to get rid of fast when trying to sit down to dinner.

IMG_8418.JPG My kids love to do crafts so we have a plethora of craft supplies.  The obvious problem with the craft drawer is that we couldn’t find anything in there without a significant effort.  The other problem is that the drawer was so disorganized and crammed full that the contents ended up all over the kitchen.  We stopped putting them away and ended up piling them on the counters.  Then the crafts started getting mixed up with other stuff and it was just a downhill spiral from there.

The first thing I did was empty the entire contents of the drawer onto the dining room table.  Can you believe all of THAT was in one drawer?
IMG_8419.JPG I sorted out all the trash and used up supplies that needed to be discarded.  Then I made a list of everything that was in the drawer and started grouping it into categories like stickers, crayons, markers, stamps, etc.

I knew I wanted vertical storage so that supplies would be easy to get in and out of the drawer and not be piled on top of each other.  I also knew I wanted slots for the different kinds of paper to keep it organized.  I measured the size of the drawer and made a trip to Michael’s and Joann and also looked online before I finally found exactly what I was looking for at Hobby Lobby.  And it was the Iris Portable Project Case.
IMG_8426.JPG It was the perfect size to slide vertically into the drawer.  I ended up purchasing seven of them after going back to Hobby Lobby over several days using a 40% off coupon each time.  Each case holds different supplies and I even labeled them with my label maker.  Fancy I know.

Along one side of the drawer I inserted cardboard dividers (custom cut by Benzo from miscellaneous boxes we were going to recycle).  Now there are slots for construction paper, coloring paper, cardstock and cutting paper.  If you are wondering “cutting paper” is miscellaneous junk mail we toss in there for when the older one likes to practice cutting.
IMG_8427.JPG The finished drawer ended up with seven new cases plus one case we already had (the smaller blueish one labeled stamps).  There’s a bit of space along the side to slide in the chalkboards, a really big coloring book, and a little dry erase board.  Then on the other side from the paper slots there are a few smaller cases that are stacked on top of each other that hold things like pencils, scissors, beads and other smaller items.  They are small so they are easy to shift around in the drawer.
IMG_8425.JPG The best part about the whole thing is that it has actually WORKED.  Now my 3 year old can get out a box and take it to the table and do a project.  Then when he wants to do something else, we can gently encourage him :) to put away the current box before getting out another box.  Also when we are trying to clear the table for dinner, it’s much easier to put craft supplies away and slide the cases in the drawer instead of just tossing everything on the counter in a big jumble.

Before and after:

Don’t get me wrong, our kitchen is still cluttery, but it’s definitely LESS cluttery with this new system.  I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.  I am also proud of myself for my plan of attack.  Assessing the situation, researching options and finally putting it into action.  It’s so tempting to go out and buy a bunch of organizing supplies without really knowing what you need.  Those craft supplies sat on my dining room table for a good three days before it was all back in the drawer.  That was tough even for me!

Hopefully this sparks an organization idea in you.  I know even just posting about it has given me more motivation to tackle the next project – the upper cabinets!



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