Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Little S and her curls

When people first meet Little S, they say things like,

"Look at those long eyelashes!"
"She's so teeny to be walking already."
"She's such a beautiful baby." (we hear this one A LOT--in fact, Q calls her "the show stopper" because every where we go, people stop to see her and sometimes a crowd will gather--seriously!)

And then my all-time favorite, (which was what I said the first time I saw her) is,

"Look at those curls!"

(A took this picture of her curls when she first came to live with us.)

Her curls are beautiful indeed, but it takes time and patience each day to take care of them. Regular detangling spray does not work on her African-American hair. I used a sample leave-in conditioner that my hair gal gave me (which worked well), but I don't want to pay a lot of money for a regular can. I've heard of a couple of other good conditioners that work well, especially for kids, but I'm waiting to try them as I've been using something I made myself (trying to save a little money, folks!). I googled "how to make your own leave-in conditioner, and more than a few popped on the screen. You basically mix four parts water with one part conditioner and shake it up. I actually added more conditioner to the spray bottle since Little S's hair is super curly and gets tangled very easily.

Here's what I've been doing, and so far it works:

Every morning, I spray Little S' hair with water (she's okay with this so far...)

Then, I spray the homemade leave-in conditioner in her hair (she's still okay, but I have to give her something to distract her with)

Finally, I take a wide-tooth comb to comb out her hair. Sometimes there will be a few hard tangles to deal with, and for Little S, this is hard to bear. There are many mornings that I'm literally chasing her around the room as she squirms away. I'm trying to figure out the best way to make her stay put because when she does, the process goes fairly quickly.

Little S will have gorgeous curls for the rest of her life (which we're all a bit envious of, right?):) When she's older she will learn to care for the curls God gave her. Hopefully, this homemade leave-in conditioner will continue to work for her.

Any thoughts or tips on what I could be doing better for this little one? I'd love to hear about it!:)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Home made strawberry ice cream

We've been harvesting quite a few strawberries lately and have had some to share, too. For a while, A has been wanting to make strawberry ice cream. This past Sunday afternoon was the perfect time to do this fun project together.

It was fun picking berries with her. We made sure that the ones we chose were bright and perfect (no bugs or holes in them!)

We filled part of a large bowl of varying sizes of these beauties...

We made the vanilla custard on the stove top, which we let cool for a bit before putting it in the refrigerator.

We washed the strawberries and took the stems off. We put them in the refrigerator to get cold. Then, we took turns smashing them with a fork.

Once the custard was cool, we began the churning process. We poured the smashed berries in and let my Kitchen Aid do the work. I have an ice cream mixer bowl that has special attachments and churns the ice cream beautifully.

When the churning was done, I put the ice cream in a container and put it in the freezer. After church, it had been about four hours, and it was still a little soft--but scrumptious nonetheless!

There's nothing like fresh homemade strawberry ice cream on a hot summer day....

So you want the recipe? This one came from a book called, Soda Fountain Classics, by Elsa Petersen-Schepelern.

You'll love this ice cream as much as we have this week!

Rich Strawberry Ice Cream

3 eggs, plus 2-3 yolks
4 cups milk or light cream (I like to do half of the amount with milk and the other half with cream)
1-1/4 cups sugar

Put the eggs and yolks in a bowl and beat until smooth. Heat the milk (or cream) and sugar in a saucepan to just below boiling. Gradually stir 1/2 cup of the hot liquid into the beaten eggs, then stir the mixture back into the saucepan. Stir over a gentle heat until the mixture thickens (stir in the same direction). do not let it boil or the custard will curdle. (Some people use a double boiler or a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water). When the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove from the heat, strain into a bowl or pitcher, cool, and chill. Before churning, add 1 cup mashed fresh strawberries. Churn (in batches if necessary) and freeze.

Makes about 6 cups.

Friday, June 24, 2011

T-shirt capes

This past spring, two of our nephews and one niece turned two years old. Since I painted t-shirts for Eli, Carson and Josie's first birthdays, I thought it would be fun to come up with another t-shirt creation this year, too.

After some thought, the t-shirt cape idea came to be. I'm sure there are different variations out there, but perhaps these pictures will inspire you to make these fun and simple t-shirts for the little ones in your life.

First up--Josie's t-shirt cape....

For each shirt, I cut out their monogram out of fabric that I also used for the cape. I first glued the letters with fabric glue, let it partially dry, then stitched them with the machine.

I also stitched this three-layered heart on the back that matched the polka-dots on the fabric.

Eli's shirt is next....

I was glad to find awesome plaid fabrics for both boys' shirts.

Because boys really like to be superheros, the lightning applique' on the back was perfect.

Last but not least is Carson's t-shirt...

And just like Eli's, the lightning bolt on the back really stands out!

Each cape was slightly longer than the length of the shirt. It was hemmed all the way around. Then, I stitched velcro to the top corners of each cape and at the shoulders of each shirt.

To help you see what these shirts look like in action, my sil, Abigail, sent me a couple of pictures of Carson wearing his.

Doesn't he look awesome with that hat on, too? (So cute!)

All three kids are having fun playing in their t-shirt capes. Perhaps this is something you can do for the young ones in your family. It's such a perfect time to do it, too! Summer is full of imaginative play!

Happy Sewing! :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fishing cupcakes

I hope all of you dads out there had a wonderful Father's Day. I'm thankful for my dad and all of the time he spent with us girls...teaching us about the Lord, taking us to fun places and being a huge support in our lives.

Remember those "mum" cupcakes A and I made for Mother's Day? Well, we decided to make something for the dads this year. I found these fishing cupcakes and knew this would be it (she gives a complete tutorial, so head on over there)! As Q and A love to go fishing together, I knew she would enjoy helping me and giving one to him, too.

Aren't they the cutest thing? Since we were in a hurry to get these done, I actually made the cupcakes myself, but then A helped with the frosting later. I even taught her how to pipe the frosting, and hers went to Q. It was really sweet. The fishing pole required using a needle, so I did that as well. But as always, A was right there watching me do it.:)

We took a plate over for the dads in our church. They all liked these very much. You'll just have to try them, too....perhaps for another celebration this summer! It would be nice for a get together at the lake with friends and family, or for a child's birthday party.

Have a great time creating these cupcakes that will be a hit at your next celebration.:)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A's Fairy Birthday Party: the activities

When Q and I first started talking about A's birthday party, we wanted to keep it simple and fun. We wanted just a few friends over and have the traditional party elements--the cake, presents, and games.

For the activities/games, we chose a few things that the kids could enjoy doing inside and outside (especially if it rained). When our young guests arrived, A told them what they could do before we enjoyed the cake. Here's what we set out (not all of the activities were done, but at least we were prepared:):

Inside activities:

** Color Tinkerbell pictures with colored pencils. Choose stickers to go with the pictures. (These came from a big Tinkerbell coloring book, so we tore out a few pages and set them on a small table in the living room.)

**Play the "Pretty princess" game (up to four players). This was also set on the table. I'm sure you can set up any simple game and the kids will have a blast.:)

Outside activities:

**sidewalk chalk

**bubbles (I found Tinkerbell bubble/wand sets at the Dollar Tree.)

**jump rope


**look at the chickens--this was not planned, but the kids and adults loved taking a look at our fabulous foursome.

After A opened her presents, we did one last outside activity--the pinata! We bought the biggest pinata we've ever seen at a small grocery store at the end of our block. The girls took turns hitting Tinkerbell (with and without a blindfold) but it was so hard to break her open. After Q and I gave it a few hits, candy and trinkets started coming out. It was so much fun for all!

One of the moms commented how nice the girls were when going after the stuff (remember the days when everyone jumped in and fought over the candy and someone always ended up hurt?). Not this little bunch of sweet girls.....

A's party was so much fun and I know she will remember it for years to come. Hope you all enjoyed hearing about what we did, and perhaps gave you an idea or two to use in the future.:)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A's Fairy Birthday Party: the cake

The last thing I made for A's party was her cake. I wanted to do it to her specifications and make it really special....but, with a baby added to our family recently, I didn't know how I was going to do it. The Lord helped me get it all done (hooray for naptime) and it was a great teaching time as both girls watched me for a bit while I worked. A even helped make the frosting. :)

So, here's the cake before adding the candles. I did write A's name on the bottom of the cake, but removed it for privacy.

The frosting was home made. I used Wilton's recipe (see below). I colored the main cake and grass by adding green food coloring to the frosting. But, when I realized I didn't have anything for the flowers, I panicked (just slightly). Then I began to think about what I could add that would add color. I walked to the corner grocery store with the girls and bought strawberry flavored jello. It worked! Q noticed that the flowers had a slightly different taste, but it tasted great. After making the pink frosting, I made another color by adding blue to it. It came out more of a periwinkle blue than a purple, but I was still pleased with it.

The writing was done using a purple gel writer which can be found at just about any grocery store. As for decorating tips goes, I used the grass tip and the star tip for the rest of the cake.

Here's the cake with the candles on it. I found this set of Tinkerbell candles at Walmart for a few dollars. It really completed the look.

When A saw her cake she said, "This is the best cake ever!" It really made my day that she enjoyed it so much.

Here are the recipes that I used to put it all together:

Best-Ever Chocolate Cake
(from Our Best Recipes by Better Homes and Gardens)

3/4 cup butter
3 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1-1/2 cups milk

1. Allow butter and eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Lightly grease bottoms of three 8-inch round cake pans or two 9-inch cake pas or two 8x8x2-inch baking pans. Line bottoms of pans with waxed paper. Grease and lightly flour waxed paper and sides of pans. Set pans aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes or until well mixed. Scrape side of bowl; continue beating on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition (about 1 minute total). Beat in vanilla.

4. Alternately add flour mixture and milk to beaten mixture, beating on low speed just until combined after each addition. Beat on medium to high speed for 20 seconds more. Spread evenly into the prepared pans.

5. Bake for 30 to 35 minutest for round cake pans 35 to 40 minutes for 8-inch square pans, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Cool cake layers in pans for 10 minutes. remove from pans. Peel off waxed paper. Cool completely on wire racks.

Buttercream recipe

1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened but not melted
1 lb. confectioners sugar (about 4 cups)
2 tablespoons milk or water
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream shortening and butter. Add sugar, water and vanilla. Blend on medium speed until all ingredients are mixed well. Blend a minute or two more until creamy in texture. If using a hand mixer and icing is not creamy, use high speed or add more milk a drop at a time. This icing can be refrigerated in an air tight container for up to 2 weeks. Rewhip before using. Yield: 3 cups stiff icing. To thin icing add 2 teaspoons milk per cup of stiff icing.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A's Fairy Birthday Party: her outfit for the day

For A's party, I wanted her to be comfortably dressed, but also wanted her to fit the theme of the party. I remembered that I had an old Tinkerbell t-shirt of mine that I no longer wore and thought it would be neat for her to wear it.

Using the steps for an empire-waist tee from the book, Tease: inspired t-shirt transformations by superstars of art, craft and design by Sarah Socket, I came up with this for her:

All I did was trim the sleeves and used the fabric strips to tie a knot on each side (the strips were put through two slits a couple inches apart near her shoulder). I also trimmed the bottom and used the scrap to go through slits all around the main body of the shirt. Then, the ends were tied in the back. I found a pair of green shorts on sale at Kohl's and she was good to go.

She looked so cute as a little Tinkerbell. She really loved what I created for her, too. It was fun for me to see her enjoy this creation to wear on her special day. :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A's Fairy Birthday Party: the fairy headbands

A week before A's party, I googled "fairy birthday party ideas" and several sites popped on my screen. I clicked on one and it had a neat idea of making fairy headbands using just a few materials (I don't know the website, but I'll explain how we made them).

I knew A would enjoy helping me put these together for her and her friends to wear at the party. All you need is pipe cleaners, artificial flowers, ribbon and a hot glue gun.

We twisted two pipe cleaners together to form a ring. Then, I used the hot glue gun to adhere the flowers all around the pipe cleaners. A enjoyed choosing all of the flowers from my stash and using her scissors to cut them down to size. Then, she chose the colorful ribbons and I cut them all in different lengths ranging from 12 inches to 24 inches. I tied seven or eight of them at one end of the headband to complete the project.

When the girls arrived, it was A's job to give them one. Then, I sprinkled a bit of pixie dust on their heads (found at the dollar store). They all turned out pretty cute and it was fun to see all of the fairies in our home (and just to clarify--the pixie dust did not make them fly!).

Just a note on the picture: I blurred out A's face for privacy, so that is why it looks a little odd. She also isn't wearing her headband here, but she loved hers just the same.:)

Coming up...more hand made creations for A's fairy party!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A's Fairy Birthday Party: the decorations

This past Sunday, A turned five years old. We gave her a fun birthday party with some of her closest friends.

We bought a few flower-themed party supplies at the Dollar Tree. They fit the Tinkerbell party A wanted perfectly. Here are some of the things we did to decorate for her special day:

Using fabric paint, I wrote, "Happy Birthday, __________" on the banner. It hung on the front door.

Near the table, four flower/butterfly garlands hung from the ceiling. Three balloons, including one with a picture of Tinkerbell on it, floated behind the table.

We placed a yellow tablecloth and a tissue flower garland on the table. I placed decorative tissue paper and Tinkerbell placemats on the center of the table where the drinks and cake were going to be set. The plates and napkins matched the decorations, too. I also put a picture stand that held three pictures of A.

More flower garlands were hung between the two rooms and by the big chair (which we used as the "birthday chair" where A opened her presents). The paper lantern was one of four that we hung inside and outside. They were so cute! The big bunch of star balloons was a freebie that Q found on craigslist. A family had just celebrated their son's highschool graduation and wanted to give these away to someone who could use them. It was a great idea.:)

Here's a close up of the decorations above the birthday chair.

These flower window clings were placed on all four windows. A had a great time helping me put these up.

And there you have it--the decorations we used for A's party. It didn't cost a lot of money, and they ended up being way cuter (and cheaper) than what I could have made myself. But--I did make a few things for the party anyway, but you'll have to wait to see what those things are.

Stay tuned as we share more ideas and pictures of A's fabulous fairy party.:)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Two fun and easy kid crafts

A and I like looking at the craft books at the library. We recently borrowed one called Creative Kitchen Crafts by Kathy Ross.

One Sunday afternoon, we looked through it to see what we could make. We found the "bird recipe card holder" idea and had fun making it.

We cut down a party hat for the bird's body. Then A made the wings and beak out of felt and glued them on. I cut a slit on the top of the cone for the bird's mouth. This is where the recipe card will sit. Lastly, we glued on googly eyes.

It really works--and it is such a cute decoration in the kitchen. For the next craft, I looked through my craft books and found another one written by Kathy Ross. It's called Gifts to make for your favorite grown up. We wanted to make something for her teachers as a thank you for a great school year.

I looked through it first and saw something I knew we could make. When A looked through the book, she noticed the same craft and said, "This is what we should make!" I said, "Good, because I was thinking the same thing." :)

We found a few small canning jars to make painted candle holders. I made a heart stencil using scrap paper for each one and taped them onto the jars. A used nail polish to paint the jars. Before the paint dried we sprinkled salt on the hearts.

Once they dried, we tore the paper off and tied a ribbon around the top of each jar. We bought votive candles and placed them inside. It was a simple and cute gift that her teachers liked.:)

Have you made some fun and easy crafts with your kiddos lately? I'd love to hear about what you're doing.