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.
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 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 “Ridiculously Simple Single-Sheet-of-Paper Books”
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? Holiday 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.
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.
Fold that new flap up and crease.
Open the paper and pop the flap into a “chair.”
Cut up last year’s holiday cards. Glue something festive on the popped out piece.
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 “Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid: Part I”
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.”
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:
Book covers with special bonus from the indefatiguable Martha Stewart:
Washi tape-covered pencils. Now that Target and Amazon and Walgreen’s are all peddling washi tape…might be time to try it!
Adorable bag for miscellaneous supplies:
Also, I saw directions to make monster bookmarks that were waaaaaay too complicated. Here’s the super simple way I posted a while back:
They did it the hard way, though I love their accessorizing ideas:
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!
I decided to hunker back down in my laboratory (aka, basement) to see if I could get the darn thing to finally work. I approached the project with a new tool: very, very low expectations. I am beginning to think that may be the secret to success in a variety of situations. Continue reading “Penny Batteries Part II: A Wee Success”