Christmas Discovery Bottles

Discovery/sensory bottles are all over Pinterest.  I made some after seeing this post and this one.  They are pretty easy to make and Peanut seems to enjoy them.  I’ve made some with beads, some with glitter and some with pipe cleaners.

In case you happen to have some plastic bottles and are looking for a project to do, I’d like to share some things that I’ve learned when making these:

  • Use a small bottle.  I’ve made mine with single serving sized Coke Zero bottles.  A full size bottle would just be too heavy for Peanut to really play with.
  • Use different items in each bottle.  This adds some interest to the bottle since the items will fall/move at different rates.
  • Avoid pipe cleaners.  I found that they started to rust (or something) and turned the water a murky green color.  Gross.
  • Avoid glitter in bright colors.  I made one with purple glitter and all of the purple bled into the water.  You could barely see the glitter falling because the water was so dark.
  • Once the water is close to the top, add the rest of the water very, very, very slowly.  Several times, I had to search for beads in the kitchen sink because the water would spill out over the top taking along the beads.
  • Have fun with them!  Encourage your little one to play with the bottles however they want to.  Peanut likes to roll the bottles, shake them, and pretend that she’s drinking a Coke Zero.  (Monkey see.  Monkey do.)

I found a large bag of Christmas beads in the $1 section of a craft store and made these.  The different beads fall at different rates.  Peanut likes them a lot.


Pretzel and Chocolate Yumminess

I needed a treat to bring to my sister’s 30th birthday.  And I needed that treat to be something that was easy to prepare and would travel well.  I found two different yet similar recipes online for a treat made by heating up Hershey Kisses on pretzels and then squishing them with an M&M.  Sounded easy enough.

One recipe said to set the oven to 225F and another said to set it to 170F.  Well, the lowest setting actually labeled on our oven is 260F.  So, I improvised by setting it at what I thought was probably 240F.  After that, the recipe couldn’t be easier.

  • Arrange pretzels on a cookie sheet.
  • Unwrap many (!!!!!!!!) Hershey Kisses.
  • Place a Kiss on each pretzel.  I couldn’t find the round ones so I used waffle ones instead.
  • Place in oven for 3 minutes.
  • Check the Kisses.  If they give easily when you press an M&M on to them, they are ready.  If the M&M doesn’t easily smoosh to the bottom, let them go another 1-2 minutes. (But check them after 1 minute).
  • Press an M&M onto the top of each Kiss.  You might want to give each Kiss a bit of a wiggle as you are pressing down to ensure that it is stuck onto the pretzel.  If you have a waffle pretzel, this will help to ensure that the chocolate gets into the little squares of the waffle shape.
  • Let them cool completely before storing in a plastic container.  This is where I ran into trouble.  I was not very patient so some of them were stuck together as they had not completely cooled before I packed them up.
  • Enjoy!  These are so yummy!  My nephew may have eaten a dozen of these in a matter of minutes.

    Pretzel + chocolate + more chocolate = yummmmmm

    Pretzel + chocolate + more chocolate = yummmmmm

Paper Dot Garland – How-to

I made a garland for baby girl’s birthday party.  It was easy although a bit time-consuming.  It would’ve been great if I had been able to find circle paper punches instead of having to cut out all of the circles.  Oh well.

I found this site that helped me to get started.  They used paper with a sticky backing.  If you can find that, I’m sure that that makes this project amazingly easy to complete.

  1. Cut out circles.  Lots and lots of circles.  This is why it would be great to have a paper punch to help you out.
  2. Fold the circles in half.
  3. Glue two circles together along one side.

    Two circles glued together.

    Two circles glued together.

  4. Repeat and allow to dry completely.
  5. Apply glue to one of the dry pieces and sandwich ribbon between two of the dry pieces.  (You should now have four circles glued together.)

    Let dry completely.

    Let dry completely.

  6. Repeat until you get the finished design that you are hoping for.
  7. Hang your garland!
    I made some with multiple colors to hang from dining room light.

    I made some with multiple colors to hang from dining room light.

    The garland was draped across the window.

    The garland was draped across the window.

Just keep blogging…just keep blogging….

I think that I’ve figured out a way to encourage my blogging in 2013.  In past years, I tried to do a blog a week.  That meant a lot of writing and a lot of time spent figuring out what I would write about.  This year, I am going to try my hand at taking and posting a picture a week.

WordPress does a weekly photo challenge and I will be (hopefully) taking part.

So, send some positive thoughts my way.

If I keep this going into February, I’ll be happy.

A Birthday Cake for the Birthday Girl

So, in order to save money, I decided that I would make the cake for baby girl’s birthday party instead of ordering one.  And to make it easier on myself, I decided that the cake would come from a box.  I would make the frosting homemade but the cake would be as easy as possible.

This plan was mostly fine.  The back half of the cake completely caved in and had to be “glued” back into place with frosting.  The garland that I made to go on the cake had to be redone.  But other than those issues, it wasn’t too bad.

The banner started off pretty easy.  Simply cut out a bunch of circles in whatever color(s) you like.

Circles.  Lots of circles.

Circles. Lots of circles.

Then, figure out how you are going to attach your circles.

Originally, I thought it would be easiest if I simply glue to the circles onto the ribbon.  However, the glue made it top heavy and instead of hanging  like a banner, the top part kept falling over.

Originally, I thought it would be easiest if I simply glue to the circles onto the ribbon. However, the glue made it top heavy and instead of hanging like a banner, the top part kept falling over.

After I scrapped the idea of gluing the garland pieces on, I grabbed a needle and some thread and simply strung the circles onto the thread.  I think that this actually worked better than the gluing idea because you can barely see the tape holding the thread onto the white sticks.  I would’ve had to figure out what to do with the ends of the ribbon once I had them attached.  The thread was easily cut and then ends were easily hidden.  (I used sticks that are used in candy making).

Cake!  And you can hardly see where the cake is caving in on the back.

Cake! And you can hardly see where the cake is caving in on the back.

Very Hungry Caterpillar – First Birthday Party

So baby girl’s first birthday was a month ago.  I put in a lot of time planning for the party and thought that I would share some of the ideas and how they turned out.
I knew that Very Hungry Caterpillar would be the theme.  Pinterest is full of planning ideas for this birthday theme.  (Not nearly as original of an idea as I had initially thought.)  The easy thing about making this book into a party theme is that your menu is basically planned already.  Everything that the caterpillar eats…well…that’s what you will eat.

Once I knew what the theme was going to be, I started doing research online and kept my eyes open for ideas.  I looked for anything that could be used for the party.  I found the napkins at Target.  I thought that they had an Eric Carle-esque look to them.

Happy Birthday little peanut!

Happy Birthday little peanut!

I was very excited when I found these little containers in the $1 aisle at Target.  (I love the $1 aisles at Target.)

I love a great deal!

I love a great deal!

I took a lot of inspiration from this party.  You will definitely see some similarities in her cake and in the one that I made.  That little banner across the cake is too cute!  I also used the labels that are posted at the end of her blog post.

Happy Cake!  I'll write more about the cake on a future post.

Happy Cake! I’ll write more about the cake on a future post.

One of the labels. We printed off and glued onto cardstock.

One of the labels. We printed them and glued onto cardstock. “On Saturday he ate one slice of salami.”

Another food label.  These were so perfect for the party.  As soon as they were placed, it was very clear what the theme was.

Another food label. These were so perfect for the party. As soon as they were placed, it was very clear what the theme was.

Some of the foods were pretty straight forward.  Some, however, I put my own little spin on.  Instead of making a pie, I made little tiny pies.  You can find a how-to here.  They are just pie dough and pie filling.  Couldn’t be easier.  Instead of eating cupcakes and ice cream cones, Grammie made the cupcakes in ice cream cones.  They were delicious and adorable.  The tops of the cupcakes were decorated with little candy caterpillars like in this post.

Check out the caterpillars on the ice cream cone cupcakes!  So cute!

Check out the caterpillars on the ice cream cone cupcakes! So cute!

I spent a lot of time cutting out circles to make a garland.  I also used some of the circles as large confetti on the table as to decorate the inside of the door.  Now, I am fully aware that stores sell large hole punches so that you do not have to cut out countless circles.  I checked one particular store’s website to see if they carried them.  Then, I called the store to be sure.  When I got to the store, they didn’t have a single one.  So…..I did a lot of cutting.

Circles and Caterpillar on the door.  It's a fuzzy pic but you can get an idea of how it looked.

Circles and Caterpillar on the door. It’s a fuzzy pic but you can get an idea of how it looked.

I’ll be writing a how-to post for the garland.  I think it turned out pretty cute.

Garland hanging across window.

Garland hanging across window.

It was a great party.  It was a day full of laughter, hugs, food, and family.  And baby girl definitely had a good time.

The table is ready for a party!

The table is ready for a party!

What birthday party themes have you seen for first birthdays?

Welcome 2013!

2012 was a tough year for so many of my loved ones.  There were many high points but there were also many, many very low points for those that I care deeply about.  But today is the first day of 2013 and I have so much hope for this year.

13 Things That I Am Thankful For in 2013:

  1. My daughter.  Every single day she makes my heart so happy I feel it might burst.  She has grown and changed so much in her first year and I am so excited to see what every new day brings for her.
  2. My husband.  2013 brings our fifth anniversary.  I am so lucky to have such a great partner in crime who makes me laugh every day.
  3. My family without whom I would not be the person that I am today.  And, the person that I am today is a pretty awesome person. 🙂
  4. My friends.  I am honored to call some of the coolest, most talented, warmest, funniest, and big-hearted people on the planet my friends.
  5. My pets.  Without fail, when I’m having a bad day, a kitty will crawl on my lap.  I don’t know how they know, but they always do.
  6. Books.  My mom instilled in me the idea that one can never have too many books.  If you look at baby girl’s library, you can easily see that I have tried to instill that idea in her as well.
  7. My Kindle.  If you would have asked me a couple years ago if I would ever want or use an eReader, I would’ve answered with a resounding “No!”.  I love the feeling of paper pages.  I love the smell of books especially in a used book store.  I love turning the corner of a page to mark my spot.  However, I’ve had my Kindle for a year now and I really do love it.  I can keep piles of books in it and those books come with me wherever I go.  I still own and read piles of paper books but my Kindle has actually made it easy for me to read more often.
  8. My students.  Every single day is a new adventure in my classroom.  Every single day brings new ideas, challenges, and triumphs.  Teaching is not easy but it is exceptionally rewarding.
  9. Weight Watchers.  Now, I’m not trying to sound likes a spokesperson or anything (but if they wanted to pay me to do spokesperson things, I would be ok with that) but this program worked for me.  I’m not done but I’ve already lost 28 pounds and I don’t believe that I would have been able to do this so quickly (since the beginning of the school year) without this program.
  10. Coke Zero.  Seriously.  I don’t know what I would do without it.  I don’t like coffee. I never have.  But, I still need caffeine.  A Coke Zero is delicious.  Mmmmmmmm.
  11. Music.  All types of music.  I love singing along to the radio.  I love dancing along to one of the many musical toys in the living room.  And I love that my daughter has developed a love of music as well.
  12. Chocolate.  Chocolate.  Chocolate.
  13. My city.  I love Chicago.  We are hoping that we will be able to buy a house in 2013 and we know that it won’t be in Chicago.  Living here is not cheap. Buying here is out of the question.  But, Chicago has been very good to me and to my little family and I am grateful for the time that I’ve been able to spend in a city that I love.

Welcome 2013!  I have high hopes for you!