Glowing Bubbles and the Great Black Light Smartphone Hack

_MG_3662

posted by Beret

A few weeks ago, I was on a plane watching an endless parade of Buzzfeed clips. My  hour of debauchery was made possible by Virgin Airlines, who gave my kids an entertainment IV, and gave me an adult beverage and my own remote. That doesn’t happen often at home.

In between raw eggs dancing on a speaker and men trying to walk in high heels, I learned about glow in the dark bubbles.

As some of you may have noticed, I like things that glow. Last fall’s obsession was glow-in-the-dark pumpkin bowling. Very festive.

But this time I was dubious. Glow in the dark bubbles sounded great, but the Buzzfeed hipsters made them using highlighters–which don’t glow in the dark. This wasn’t going to work without a black light. LobeStir to the rescue!     Continue reading

5th of July Fudgsicles

posted by Beret

On July 4th, it was ridiculously cold and foggy where I live. Too cold and foggy to see fireworks, or even to muster enthusiasm to watch the fog change colors. Instead, we went home and made hot chocolate.

July 5th dawned sunny and warm, and I found myself pouring the extra hot cocoa into a popsicle mold that had been sitting in the dish rack. Honestly, I just didn’t want to deal with the leftovers, because who wants hot cocoa on a warm day? A few hours in the freezer and voilà: I had accidentally made fudgsicles! Simple and tasty. In fact, waaaaay better than store-bought ones.

Here’s what you need: ten minutes and… Continue reading

Ridiculously Simple Single-Sheet-of-Paper Books

opening

posted by Beret

Here’s a little book I loved to make with my students. We used them for quick book reports and biographies, for poems, and as tiny sketchbooks or journals. They were perfect for outdoor writing, for science class, and field trips. They’re small, portable, easy, and cheap.   Continue reading

A Motley Valentine’s Greeting for You

From National Geographic.com, where they have lots of great photos of hearts.

From National Geographic.com, where they have lots of incredible photographs of hearts.

posted by Beret

With age (and wisdom?) I have discovered why so many classroom activities from days of yore revolved around holidays and seasons. For teachers, parents, after-school program directors–anyone who has to look regularly into the eyes of expectant children, anyone who has to fill the time with something, anything to avoid mutiny–the creative well runs only so deep. Sooner or later, we look at the calendar and gasp. “February already! February? What can we do in February? Let’s see: winter, Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day, African American History Month. Boom.”

These were desperate times. After a prolonged absence on LobeStir, I wanted to come back with a giant, fabulous valentine full of amazing projects and ideas for you, dear reader. Only I didn’t have any. Or time. And in my harried search for anything interesting and loosely tied to Valentine’s Day, I discovered that my spouse may be right–this is a distinctly lesser holiday developed primarily to sell greeting cards and candy.

I did find out how to float the letters off of m&ms and Skittles, however.

It’s not rocket science, but it is kind of cool, in a five-second minor distraction sort of way. Continue reading

Nothing Spreads Holiday Blessings like Two-Day Shipping.

Stole this idea from Anne Le of YouTube.

Miss Nine stole this idea from Anne Le of YouTube. Link to her video plus directions for other projects I mention will follow my brief diatribe.

Posted by Beret.

True gifts come from the heart and the hand, not the store. What a blessing that my kids have internalized such an important message.

Now. Could we just buy their teachers some gift cards and be done with it?

No, ma’am. My kids have watched unlimited DIY videos in order to prepare a Christmas cornucopia for all of their loved ones: fudge, lavender sachets, hot cocoa candles, soap, butter mints, rejuvenating foot scrub, and pop-up greeting cards made out of last year’s holiday card crop. I wish I were exaggerating.

Our house looks like Santa’s workshop crossed with a tsunami.

“This is fun, right?” the spouse asked me last night as he stirred condensed milk into melted chocolate with one hand, and lined pans in foil with the other. I was melting crayons with Crisco and trying mold to soy wax into faux marshmallows. Sure. Fun in a boot camp sort of way.

“Chop, chop, people!” I yelled. “Santa’s elves go off duty at 9 pm!” Not likely. The last time we got the lights out by nine was back in decorative gourd season.

Work? Email? Christmas cards? Maybe next year.

Homework? Practicing? Who has time for that when we are busy helping our children be thoughtful? Meanwhile, our ornaments are still in boxes at the foot of the tree. We’ll be lucky to have 36 hours with the decorations up.

There have been so many store runs and late nights for the kids’ handmade extravaganza that I have had neither the time nor the energy left to figure out my own gifting plan.

Ho, ho, ho.

Amazon it is.

In the event that you are curious about any of our projects…

They are all super easy.

Click here for Anne Le’s YouTube tutorial on hot cocoa candles. Only notes to add: mugs were $1 each at Michael’s. We used Crisco for the cocoa part—one giant tub of it made six candles. Only used half of a one-pound box of soy wax for the whipped cream and marshmallows on top. Also, we used skewers to keep our floppy wicks standing while we poured in melted Crisco.

spa jars

Miss Eleven wanted to make her friends what she called “Spa in a Jar:” foot scrub, soap, lavender eye bag, and fudge. She made butter mints, too, but those are much more complicated.

Foot scrub: two parts Epsom salts to one part olive oil. We put the concoction into empty film canisters. Add a few drops of essential oil if you like. Lavender and peppermint are both nice. Maybe not together, though. Miss Eleven’s hot tip for extra soft feet: use the foot scrub at night, before bed. Then put on warm socks and go to sleep.

Soap: melt glycerin or cocoa butter (you can find at craft stores) in a microwave-safe container. Add a few drops of Eucalyptus oil, or some other oil, if you like. Grease a plastic container with petroleum jelly and pour in the melted concoction. Allow to set about 20-30 minutes. Pop out and enjoy! Miss Eleven sprinkled dried spearmint on top before the glycerin set. Hers was shaped like a flower because we had a mold. You could also use silicon baking cups or ice trays to make different shapes. Don’t forget the petroleum jelly so that you can remove the soap easily.

Lavender sachets/eye bags: Proceed as if you were making a pillow for a guinea pig. Cut out two small rectangles of cotton fabric (ours were about 3 inches by 6 inches) and sew right sides together on three sides.  Turn right side out. Fill mostly with raw rice and add a tablespoon or two of dried lavender. Sew the top shut. For extra warm and fragrant relaxation, pop the bag in the microwave for a few seconds before using. Obviously, test the temperature of the bag before melting your eyeballs.

Fudge for Dummies: You can work really hard on fudge–wielding a candy thermometer and corn syrup and whatnot–or you can melt 18 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate with a can of condensed milk and a teaspoon or two of vanilla. Spread the mixture into a foil-lined 8-inch square pan. Not kidding. Prefer your fudge to be less dense? Add a cup of mini marshmallows while you are melting the chocolate. Add nuts, if you like. Need some fancy sprinkles? Take a hammer to candy canes to sprinkle on top.

Speaking of which…have a holiday party you forgot about? Dump a cake mix in the oven. Cool. Top with delicious ganache (melt chocolate chips in the microwave and gradually add room temperature cream until it’s spreading or drizzling consistency. Hammer candy canes and sprinkle on top. Or skip the ganache altogether by sprinkling powdered sugar through a sieve onto the top of the cake and then plopping raspberries here and there.

Or bring wine. That’s always festive–except at school functions, when it is frowned upon. You probably knew that.

Need a last minute card? Special bonus!

Pop-up cards: Fold a piece of paper in half.

Cut two slits into the fold, equidistant from the edges.

The cuts are ON THE FOLD.

The cuts are ON THE FOLD.

Fold that new flap up and crease.

flap fold

 

 

 

Open the paper and pop the flap into a “chair.”

pop out

Cut up last year’s holiday cards. Glue something festive on the popped out piece.

pop up bears

Enjoy!

 

GLOW IN THE DARK PUMPKIN BOWLING!

©2014 Beret Olsen

©2014 Beret Olsen

posted by Beret.

Halloween approacheth.

In anticipation, we have bobbed for apples. “Self-waterboarding-type pilgrim game,” my friend observed, which feels accurate, though no kids drowned and they all seemed to be enjoying themselves.

leila bob

We also had a creepy blindfolded “touch this gross thing” activity:

  • ramen noodles = brains
  • jello = liver
  • peeled grapes = eyeballs
  • warm applesauce = vomit
  • pumpkin guts = intestines

brains smWhen it got dark, we pulled out all the stops for: pumpkin bowling.

What you need:

materials sm

  • Plastic water bottles. We used 20-ounce ones. Drank them at the party, then used them as bowling pins. Some water inside is helpful as weight.
  • A round pumpkin. Maybe more than one…ours didn’t survive past the 30-minute mark. You could drill three holes for an accurate grip or just roll that thing. We did the latter.
  • Glow sticks. Any sort would work, but we wanted to have super bright ones to look groovy and then hang around the neck for trick or treating. Illumisticks are apparently particularly awesome, but so expensive. Instead, I ordered some off-brand I found on Amazon, $15 for a box of 25.

Voilà! Put the bottles into formation at the end of a hallway or somewhere outside. Take turns hurling a pumpkin down the lane. Enjoy.

sm bottles

FYI: I first read about glow in the dark bowling on My Kids Adventures. Click this link for information about what makes glow sticks glow, how friction, gravity, and momentum make bowling possible, and links to math activities to accompany your bowling fun.

Happy Halloween!

Things To Do With A Cardboard Box – Part One

posted by Gina

I am inspired to write about cardboard this week for three reasons. One (1): There is a stack of boxes outside my apartment door, patiently waiting to be recycled, since I have gone a little bonkers decorating for Halloween. (AMAZON HAS EVERYTHING Y’ALL.) Two (2): My cat’s favorite thing to do is to sit in a box. He is doing so as we speak. And Three (3): This fabulous photo from my esteemed colleague Beret:

small-box

copyright Beret Olsen 2014

Continue reading

Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid: Part I

posted by Beret.

koolaid

I never really cared for the taste of Kool-Aid, but oh, how I have always loved the smell of it. That aroma smacks of childhood, warm days, and cheerfully destructive running pitchers:

I don’t really want my kids drinking Kool-Aid, either; luckily, there are plenty of other things to do with it. For the first installment of this two-part series, I hereby present the following projects: scented play dough, hair dye, tie-dye, and slime. Continue reading

Color Explosions

posted by Gina

Welcome back, everyone!

I bring to you one of those experiments that can be a brief moment-of-awesome or a longer predict-and-experiment-and-try-again hootennany. The amazing MILK COLOR EXPLOSION.

Continue reading

Too Cool for School (Supplies)

From Kojo-designs.com.

From Kojo-designs.com.

posted by Beret

Wait. What? It’s September?

My nine-year-old spent the last couple of days of summer vacation in bed, eyeballs glued to Youtube. I was pretty busy having an aneurysm about how to drop off and pick up my kids on opposite sides of town–simultaneously–so I had no clue what was going on up there. But while I tried unsuccessfully to tame my logistical beasts, she taught herself how to do absolutely everything else.

When she wandered downstairs to ask, “Can I make lip gloss out of Vaseline and crayons?” I just stared. “I don’t know if that will work,” I finally said, and she rolled her eyes. “Of course it works,” she responded. “Also, it’s completely non-toxic.” During the ensuing silence, I realized she meant “may I?” not “can I?” which made me feel a bit better. Perhaps she hasn’t completely eclipsed my knowledge base yet.

In all honesty, I had noticed it was September, but being aware and being prepared are not the same thing at all. So when the 11-year-old started complaining about her boring, clunky binders, it was Miss 9 who had all the answers, not me. “Just paint an ombre in a chevron pattern,” she said. “All you need is some acrylic paint and some tape.”

Voilà:

Miss 11's binder project. Whether this is really an ombre effect, or more of a gradient, is up for debate among word fiends.

Miss 11’s binder project. Whether this is really an ombre effect, or more of a gradient, is currently up for debate.

Miss 9 discovered the binder project during her Youtube binge. You can find directions for it about 3 minutes into this video. It was fun, easy, and made all the difference in the cruel world of middle school. We started rooting around, looking for other, cool school-related projects.

What follows are a few of the awesome things we discovered.

Metallic magnets for your locker:

From: http://kojo-designs.com/2013/11/diy-metallic-alphabet-magnets/

Soooo cool and so very simple. From kojo-designs.com.

Book covers with special bonus from the indefatiguable Martha Stewart:

Thanks, Martha!

Thanks, Martha! A way to keep the assignment notebook handy.

She's unstoppable!

Book jacket with pockets. Same link as above.

Got comics? or old calendars? or outdated maps? Slap some clear contact paper on that and go! Awesome.

Got comics? Old calendars? Or outdated maps? Slap some clear contact paper on that and go! Awesome.

Washi tape-covered pencils. Now that Target and Amazon and Walgreen’s are all peddling washi tape…might be time to try it!

Image and idea found on mashable.com. Directions here.

Image and idea found on mashable.com. No-brainer directions here.

Adorable bag for miscellaneous supplies:

Awesome lined bag tutorial from The Creative Place. Please note: I'd advise you to just buy satin cord to serve as the drawstring, unless you like impossible challenges. The rest is easy.

Awesome lined bag tutorial from The Creative Place. Please note: do yourself a favor and just buy satin cord to serve as the drawstring, unless you like impossible challenges. The rest is easy.

Also, I saw directions to make monster bookmarks that were waaaaaay too complicated. Here’s the super simple way I posted a while back:

The easy way.

The easy way.

They did it the hard way, though I love their accessorizing ideas:

From Tally's Treasury.

From Tally’s Treasury–obvi!

Oh and p.s. If you want to make the crayon lip gloss, click here for directions.

Feel free to post links to other interesting ideas in the comments!