Saturday, December 27, 2014

Warm and Fuzzy Jar

I don't know about you, but sometimes we seem to be in a funk around Our Beautifully Messy House...everything seems to be going wrong. L and I butt heads non-stop, she ends up sitting in timeout repeatedly, I get frustrated and burn lunch, we start a fun activity and within seconds there's crying, it doesn't seem to end!!! Sometimes the funk lasts just a few hours and other times it seems to last days. The best way I've found to turn things around is to bring out our WARM AND FUZZY JAR. (Truthfully, L calls it her "Poof Ball Jar." Ha!) Whatever you call it, the jar can instantly turn a bad day into a good day. 

The principle is pretty simple: every time L does something good she gets a "warm and fuzzy" (poof ball) to put into her jar. Once the jar is filled to the top, she gets a treat...a trip to the ice-cream shop, to play in the sprinkler, a trip to the library, or, as we did this week, she got to build a gingerbread house. All these things would be fine to do randomly on their own, but not necessarily on a day that L has been acting out repeatedly. The WARM AND FUZZY JAR reinforces good behavior, diminishes bad behavior and is fun for the kids!

 Some of the things L does to earn "warm and fuzzies" include: putting away the silverware for me, playing nicely with her sister, quietly looking at books, helping at the grocery store putting things in and out of the cart, saying "please" and "thank you," and using the potty (we're in the process of potty-training). We don't use our WARM AND FUZZY JAR continuously...maybe just for a week or so...but when things start getting crazy, I pull it out again and turn the bad days into good ones! If you have multiple kids, each one could have a jar to fill. 

Try it out! Let us know if it works for you! 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Magical Fantastical Christmas Fudge

This MAGICAL FANTASTICAL CHRISTMAS FUDGE is always a favorite among my friends and family...I make it every year! It's quick and easy to make, looks beautiful, tastes divine, and the kids love to help with this one! The recipe is adapted from the "Sweet Dreams Chocolate Fudge" recipe by Max Brenner...we like to leave out the nuts and add some candy cane dust instead! 

1 (7 oz) jar marshmallow cream (clouds)
1 1/2 cups white sugar (princess diamonds)
2/3 cup evaporated milk (mountain snow)
1/4 cup butter (candy bricks)
1/4 tsp salt (the lost sea)
3 cups milk chocolate chips (from the milky way)
1-2 crushed candy canes (from Candy Cane Forest at the North Pole)
1 tsp vanilla extract (from a magical island)

Line an 8x8in pan with aluminum foil. Set aside.

In a large saucepan over med-low heat (on a scale of 10, put the stove on 4), combine the CLOUDS, PRINCESS DIAMONDS, MOUNTAIN SNOW, CANDY BRICKS and the LOST SEA. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly for 5-10 minutes. You don't want the mixture to burn, but you do want the sugar to be good and melted so the fudge isn't gritty...that's why I turn the heat down to just below medium and stir, stir, stir!!!

Turn the heat off and pour in the CHOCOLATE CHIPS FROM THE MILKY WAY. Stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in the VANILLA FROM THE MAGICAL ISLAND and 1-2 tsp of crushed CANDY CANES FROM THE CANDY FOREST. 

Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining CANDY CANE DUST on top. Chill in refrigerator for 2 hours or until firm. Lift the fudge out of the pan, holding onto the foil and place on a cutting board. Peal the foil down and cut into small squares. Store, layered in wax or parchment paper, in the refrigerator. Devour and enjoy!!!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

DIY Thumbprint Necklace

All the thumbprint ornaments and Christmas decorations I've seen lately have led me to think about making a smaller version for a necklace. I love anything that helps me savor and preserve these precious years and moments with my little ones. So, I started researching ideas for thumbprint necklaces. There are lots for sale out there for nearly $150-$200...yikes! But there are also some DIYs out there. We tried a few styles and techniques this week...some were okay, others didn't work out at all, but this one was nearly perfect! Simple and sweet! We modified it a little to make the THUMBPRINT NECKLACE work for us and I just love how they turned out! 

I made one using my thumbprint for L to hang around her neck and we made one using L and WB's thumbprints for myself. (Pssst...we also made a little keepsake for Daddy to keep in his pocket too! L can't wait to give it to him for Christmas this week!)

Materials needed:
-Sculpey, silver (oven-bake clay)
-wax paper
-hardback book
-tiny heart cookie cutter
-letter stamps (optional, though leather printing kits work great!)

First, roll and knead the clay until it becomes soft. Finish by rolling it into a ball.

With wax paper underneath the ball and wax paper on top, flatten the ball using a hardback book. Board books work great for these little project...flattens the clay evenly and quickly.

Next, using the cookie cutter, cut out a teeny, tiny heart.

On the backside you can print a name, date or initials using the letter stamps. Of course you could print the word "love" or skip this step altogether. 

Carefully flip the clay over and on the opposite side press your thumbprint onto the heart. With little thumbs, you can carefully press one on each half of the heart as I did with L and WB's. 

Next, poke a hole in the heart with a toothpick. You can place the hole in the middle of the heart, though we chose to put ours to the side. Notice I left one heart without a hole...that's the one we'll give to my husband to keep in his pocket. 

Now to bake! Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (or foil) and bake the thumbprint hearts for 10 to 15 min. When they come out of the oven, wait a few minutes for them to cool. Sculpey typically hardens completely upon cooling. 

Once the hearts have cooled, you can gently rub a crayon over the thumbprints to make them more visible. I tried using a gold crayon first, but on the silver clay black definitely shows up best! If you made this necklace using white or pearly-colored clay, I think any color would shine through. We may try that next time!

Of course, you can also leave the thumbprint as is, without rubbing crayon over top. Just as sweet if you ask me!

Finish your necklace by adding a jump ring or some wire (as we did) and a chain. L and I are pretty smitten with our new creations! So much love!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

DIY Peppermint Play Dough

While you escape to the bathtub to enjoy your Candy Cane Sugar Scrub you need something to occupy the kids, right? So, here's my recipe for PEPPERMINT PLAY DOUGH! 

This play dough takes only a few minutes to make, but stored in a gallon-sized bag or an air-tight container, it'll keep for nearly a year! Whenever L has friends or cousins over I love whipping up a batch of play keeps them happy and busy for at least an hour and I can split the dough in half and send the other kid home with some. This recipe makes plenty for 2 or 3 kids to play with! 

A tip to keep your kids entertained playing with play dough for longer: Start off with plain play dough. Let them play 15 or 20 minutes, then throw some glitter into the mix. Once their attention starts to drift, add some colorful beads or buttons. Add some measuring cups and kitchen utensils, some lil plastic dinosaurs or army men. Just don't give them everything at once, instead add to the play dough in every time! 

2 cups + 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 Tbsp cream of tartar
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1.5 cups boiling water
food coloring
1/2 - 1 tsp peppermint oil

First, put the water on to boil. Add about 10 drops of red food coloring to the water. As the water is heating up, mix 2 cups of flour, salt and cream of tartar in a large mixing bowl. Then add and mix the vegetable oil into the flour mixture. Once the water is boiling, add it to the bowl and mix with a spatula. The dough will be a sticky mess while warm. Mix it as best you can, then let it cool off. After a few minutes cooling off, sprinkle your working surface with some of the remaining flour. Dump the play dough onto the flour, adding more flour to the top, and knead the dough. Continue working with the dough, adding a bit of flour as needed, til the dough is not sticky anymore and you've reached the desired consistency. Once the play dough is made, fold in the peppermint oil to make a fun smelling PEPPERMINT PLAY DOUGH! Enjoy! 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Candy Cane Sugar Scrub

As I was brainstorming the other day, thinking about switching out the honeysuckle oil in my Semisoft Honeysuckle Soap with peppermint oil, it occurred to me that I could try making something new altogether...a sugar scrub! Even better, a peppermint CANDY CANE SUGAR SCRUB! I had never made a sugar scrub before, but I figured it couldn't be too hard and I was right...this one is easy peasy! What a beautiful, fun, tasty-smelling gift to give to friends this holiday season!

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup olive oil (you could also use coconut or almond oil)
1 tsp peppermint oil
red food coloring
candy cane (optional)

Materials needed:
-2 jars
-rolling pin
-freezer bag
-mixing bowls
-thin cardboard (old cereal box...optional)

First, put the 2 cups of sugar in a large bowl and slowing add the olive oil while mixing with a fork. The texture of the sugar scrub should be similar to wet sand. 

Next, add the peppermint oil and mix thoroughly.

Once the sugar scrub smells like a delicious candy cane, divide the sugar scrub and put half of the mixture into a separate bowl. Add about 10 drops of red food coloring to one of the bowls and mix thoroughly. 

Place your candy cane into a freezer bag (either the gallon or quart-size). Crush it finely with a rolling pin. Add the candy cane dust to the red sugar scrub mixture.

Now you have to decide how you'd like your sugar scrub to look in the jar...either a layered, candy cane effect or a peppermint candy swirl.

To make the layered jar, it's pretty self-explanatory...just spoon some white sugar scrub in the jar, pat it down and spoon some of the red sugar scrub on top. Pat that layer down and repeat until the jar is full!

To maker a peppermint swirl, it takes a little more time, but is still rather easy. First, cut the cereal box-cardboard into three equally sized strips. Make sure they all fit across, inside the jar. 

Next, cut about half an inch off the top of one strip. Cut a full inch off another strip. The shortest strip should be the height of the jar, not any shorter. 

Now, with the middle sized strip and the tallest strip, make a vertical cut up the middle of the cardboard, leaving the top half-inch uncut. Place the shortest strip of cardboard inside the jar. Next, slide the mid-sized strip down on top of the shortest one. Follow with the tallest strip. Arrange the cardboard, so the jar is equally divided.

Next, carefully fill each section using a small spoon. Baby spoons work great, but if you don't have one you could always roll some paper into a funnel-shape and use that.

Once the jar is filled and you've gently pressed down on the sugar scrub, very carefully removed the cardboard pieces one at a time. Voila! A peppermint swirl! 

L and I took a shower together this morning to try out our new CANDY CANE SUGAR SCRUB creation...amazing! And fun! The sugar gently exfoliates the skin, leaving it nice and smooth. This sugar scrub smells good enough to eat! 

Enjoy some pampering amidst all the craziness this holiday season! 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Shimmery Snowflakes

Another fun winter craft for you and your lil ones...SHIMMERY SNOWFLAKES! I love "winter" crafts because they can stay up to decorate our house a couple months longer than the "Christmas" ones. Plus, it's nice to share ideas that everyone can do this time of year, not just families that celebrate Christmas. 

I first saw similar snowflakes in the Parents magazine a year or two ago...I knew one day, when L was a bit older, we'd have to make them! So glad that day finally came...these snowflakes sparkle and twirl in our kitchen window when the sun shines in on them. So sweet!

Materials needed:
-wagon wheel pasta
-hot glue gun and glue
-white paint
-Elmer's glue

First, brainstorm a little bit by playing with the wagon wheel pasta. Arrange it into snowflake shapes until you find something you like. 

Next, using the hot glue gun, assemble your snowflakes. You could use Elmer's glue for this step, but I just love how quick and easy the hot glue gun is!

After the snowflakes have been glued together, time to paint! Paint both sides of the snowflakes. If the holes get filled in just blow the paint out or use a tooth pick to poke the paint through. 

Acrylic paint dries pretty quickly. Once you and the kids are done painting the last snowflake, the first one will probably be dry enough to add the glitter. First, paint a thin, messy layer of Elmer's glue on the snowflake. Then, sprinkle with glitter! Allow to dry for an hour or so.

Thread some pretty ribbon through the one of the snowflake holes and hang the SHIMMERY PASTA SNOWFLAKES up in a place where all can enjoy! Happy crafting!