Archive for April, 2009

This is for the birds!

April 29, 2009

Beautiful spring weather means lots of birds in our backyard…all coming to feast at our bird feeders and take a swim in the bird bath. We love to watch the birds almost as much as our dog loves to chase them. But luckily for the birds, the dog is too slow and too fat to ever come close to catching them!

With the exception of the cardinals, we don’t know a thing about what types of birds visit us. Our observations are limited to things like “look at that black bird…check out that pretty brown bird.” I would like to say that we spent the afternoon studiously looking up bird species and identifying ours, but we are pretty content with our generic color descriptions. What my daughter and I decided to do instead was make birdseed biscuits for them. My guess is that the birds probably appreciate that more than finding out their “real” names.

There are many birdseed treat crafts out there. Most include some sort of peanut butter and a pine cone. Nothing against peanut butter or pine cones, but I found a craft  that was a little different. I came across it in the Family Fun magazine. This is a really great and inexpensive magazine that is always full of fun ideas for crafts, activities, and parties. There are also lots of great parenting articles and kid friendly recipes as well. You can also find the complete instructions at their website under birdseed biscuit.

This is a pretty simple recipe that consists of only 3 ingredients…birdseed, flour, and water. We broke out the mixing bowl and my daughter happily mixed everything together.

birdseedmix

Always the fun part

The instruction calls for the birdseed mixture to be packed into cookie cutters and then baked. I chose two pretty spring shaped ones…a tulip and a butterfly. My daughter easily scooped out the mixture and packed it into the cutters with minimal help from me.  She was thrilled to be able to handle this pretty much by herself.

birdseedfill

Pretty fancy for birdseed

The biscuits require baking at 175 degrees for an hour. My oven model is of the modest variety (i.e. cheap) and doesn’t have a fancy digital setting on it. So, I baked them at around 200 degrees and they came out  just fine. I let them cool for a little while before stringing them with some ribbon. Then it was off to the backyard to find a good spot to hang them.

birdbiscfinal

Our butterfly birdseed biscuit

Of course my daughter wanted to hold the biscuits and have the birds come to her…as she cheerfully called out “here birds..here’s your treat birds!” After explaining to her that the birds wouldn’t come with the dog salivating next to her, ready to pounce, she agreed to hang them on the fence.

The next morning we noticed the tulip biscuit was gone…bird or squirrel? We will never know. But two birds sat on the fence eyeing the butterfly biscuit. I’m quite certain brown bird and off white bird will be happily enjoying their treat soon!

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Bunnies and chicks…oh my!

April 24, 2009

Easter…another holiday…another excuse for some fun baking! Do I really need an excuse though? I love holidays…just about any holiday can be made more special by a fun and thoughtful dessert. My daughter is now at the age where she can appreciate a cute cake or confection. She was born with a sweet tooth and has come to expect a cake at any and all celebrations. And while she would eat any cake, cute or not, it’s nice to get a smile and “Wow, a bunny cake!” out of her.

I remember the first time my mother made me an Easter bunny cake. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world and I adored her for making it. I’ve been waiting a long time to step into Mima’s shoes and make one for my own daughter. This Easter was the year! I was probably more excited to make it than my daughter was to see it, but it was a joy to make nevertheless. It is a simple bunny cake…no fancy shaped pans or laborious decorating techniques. An old fashioned cut out cake from a box mix and canned frosting.  But it was chock full of love!

Hippity hoppity!

Hippity hoppity!

I followed the instructions from the Betty Crocker website. I decided to go with a strawberry mix for the cake and  coconut frosting. For the eyes and decorations, I used cute “bunny corn” which is pastel colored candy corn I found at Michael’s. It was as delicious as it was adorable!

Since the cake only used one layer of a two layer mix, I needed to make something with the leftover batter. At first, I thought I would make cupcakes out of it. Then I decided to be adventurous! A friend had turned me on to Bakerella’s blog and her too-cute-for-words “cake pops”. Cake rolled into balls, coated in chocolate, on a lollipop stick…I couldn’t resist. I took one look at her sweet chick pops and decided to go for it! The first time trying something new is challenging. Trying something new at 8:00 at night after putting the kids to bed and still needing to pack for a trip the next day is a bit insane. But there I was at 11:30 at night still making my cake pops. Oh but it was completely worth it! How cute are these?

Almost too cute to eat!

Almost too cute to eat!

The cake pops were addictive to make. I’m already planning on making some fish ones for my friend’s daughter’s birthday party and I can’t wait! I don’t think there is an occasion that these  pops can’t be adapted for. The possibilities are endless…which means you will see more posts of my Cake Pop Adventures!

Salty Rainy Day Fun

April 24, 2009

A powerful Florida rainstorm was looming. The kind of day that pre-children, I might have spent with the windows open, curled up on the couch with a good book. But instead of looking forward to the dark and cloudy day, I wondered how I was going to entertain my daughter and keep my sanity while we remained indoors all day. I needed an activity that would take up a substantial amount of our day, but that could be broken down into steps that we could squeeze in between nap, lunch and the like.

I discovered a wonderful activity that fit my quest nicely on the Slugs on the Refrigerator blog…salt dough beaded necklaces! Each step incorporates a different type of activity…mixing, shaping, baking, painting, stringing. It’s like five crafts in one. Just what we needed to amuse ourselves on this rainy day.

When I informed my daughter that we were going to make necklaces, she was happy. When I broke out the mixing bowl she was thrilled! She loves the opportunity to mix anything in the bowl, mostly because it usually results in some sort of sweet treat, but also because she gets to be a big girl in the kitchen.  We began by mixing the dough ingredients and while she was more than happy to help me measure the dry ingredients, I had to remind her that this was not something we wanted to taste test! Of course the best part was digging our hands into the dough to knead it to the right consistency. I made the whole recipe, but only used half and stored the rest in the fridge. Half of the recipe was more than enough for one child to make enough beads.

Careful measuring

Little hands...careful measuring

Next, we sat at the table and shaped the dough. Her shapes were far more creative than mine! I was careful not to tell her to make them the exact way I was. She watched the neat little balls I was rolling and flattening, but had more fun making hers into various shapes. As we made each bead, we laid them on a cookie sheet that we sprayed with non-stick spray. When she was otherwise occupied, I made holes in each bead with a wooden skewer. That was one step I just felt she wasn’t ready to handle…maybe next time. After making the holes, they went into the oven to bake. This was a perfect time to stop for a nap!

By the time naptime and lunch was over, the beads were cooled and ready to be painted. This is a messy step, but oh so much fun! She chose the brush she wanted and we sat down and painted each individual bead. Yes, there was alot of paint on our hands, but the end result was really pretty. She got very creative and used different colors on each bead. Normally, my daughter likes to mix all of her paint colors into one shade of muddy brown, but today she preferred to keep them separate. While I would have loved her muddy brown beads, it was definitely more fun to see the beautiful colors instead!

The beads awaiting their turn

The beads awaiting their turn

After painting, I placed the beads on a baking cooling rack to dry. Once dry, we were ready to string them. The original project calls for twine, but our twine was a mess, all splintered and unraveling. I envisioned nothing but rope burns on our neck if we used it. I searched for an alternative and decided wrapping ribbon was a perfect choice. Next time, I would plan ahead and use pretty fabric ribbon instead. I cut the ribbon and she picked the beads she wanted on each necklace. In the end, we made about eight necklaces. She designated each one for herself, mommy, daddy, and a few friends. ‘

A rainbow of beads

A rainbow of beads

She was so thrilled with her creation. A few days later, we met friends at the mall, and she brought them their necklaces to wear and we wore ours too! She was so proud when other shoppers noticed and complimented her jewelery. This is one project I plan on using again and again. It would make a great Mother’s Day gift for mommies and grandmas!

Wearing her creation

Wearing her creation

For the recipe and complete instructions, visit the article “I know you want one!

Magic Butterflies

April 22, 2009

Magic Butterflies float above my daughter’s bed. They flutter and fly sending sweet dreams tumbling into her sleepy head.


These peaceful butterflies were born out of a morning of aggravation and a commitment to not be wasteful. In one of my delusional moments where I refuse to accept the fact that life is more complicated with two little ones, I decided to venture into the grocery store to do some shopping. And by grocery store I mean Walmart…on a busy Saturday…you get the picture.

With the baby strapped into a front carrier and my toddler in the shopping cart, I felt like productive Super Mommy! After an hour of maneuvering around oblivious shoppers and trying to keep my toddler happy while also attempting to continually bend down without spilling the baby out onto the floor, I was turning into Super Cranky Mommy instead. So by the time I got to the coffee filter aisle, I just wanted to get the trip over with. I didn’t even glance at the package in my hand before flinging it into the cart and making a mad dash to the checkout lane.

It wasn’t until the next day when I went to make that glorious pot of morning coffee that I discovered I had bought filters that were too small.   So there I was stuck with 150 filters that I couldn’t use, but refused to throw away. They had to be good for something right? And so began the search for craft projects that involved coffee filters. I was thrilled to learn they can serve a purpose after all when I discovered the butterfly project. You can find the complete instructions for this project at Kaboose.com.

My daughter loved painting with the watercolors and the colors bled very nicely and quickly onto the filters, which was perfect for a 2 year old attention span. I placed old dish towels underneath the filters as we painted them in order to absorb all the water.

The filters' metamorphis

The filters' metamorphous

After we finished painting, we laid them on a baking cooling rack to dry and went outside to play. By the time we had run around the yard for awhile, the filters were dry. After we folded them into a fan shape, I used pipe cleaners (she picked purple ones) to twist around the filters creating the antennas. I then used fishing wire and tied each butterfly to one of my daughter’s hangers. I was able to tuck the hanger under some heavier items on the shelf above her bed as an anchor. You could easily tape these to a shelf also for the same effect.

Now she lies in her bed and watches her butterflies float and tells me proudly that they are “so pretty Mommy and I painted them myself”. Her love of the project was completely worth the aggravation that preceded it. Five coffee filters down…145 to go!

Magic Butterfly

Our Magic Butterfly