Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Doctor Who Birthday: Step 1: Invitations

My son Stuart will be 8 in less than 2 weeks. Up until about a week or so ago we were going to have a Knights of The Round Table themed party, then out of the blue he changed his mind. His most recent favorite show is Doctor Who, he is OBSESSED!!  (what am I am I!!!) It isn't any wonder though, the child loves anything to do with science, particularly outer space. So, he has asked for a Doctor Who party and I am more than happy to oblige but my time was limited.

One thing I have noticed is that if you are doing last minute Doctor Who party planning in the U.S. be prepared to get crafty. There is official licensed merchandise but it is all in the U.K. Since I only had a couple weeks to prepare I had a brief moment of panic and then called on fellow Whovians for help with ideas. This particular blog post is about the invitations. I will bog about the rest as I go along.

The only materials I used were photo/printer paper, printer, glue stick, scissors, and construction paper.

Here is the finished product, along with homemade envelope and if I say so myself (and I do), I did a pretty good job.

First take a piece of contruction paper or cardstock and fold it in half length wise.

While folded in half cut it into two pieces and you will have two blank note cards ready to be decorated.

For the images I started by doing a Google image search for Doctor Who Invitations to see what grabbed my attention. I really liked this one

made by a blogger named Nancy Dorcer (you can find her post along with a template here). Hers came complete with a drawing of the invitation Doctor Who uses in Season 6, episode 1. I only wanted to the top picture so I cropped that part out.

Then I took this picture of my son from Baltimore Comicon,

and edited it to fit in this picture from Doctor Who.

 (don't mind my mediocre photo editing skills)

Then I typed out the following invitation and used my editing software to do an overlay of the TARDIS. To do that you need a program that works with layers, I put the TARDIS picture as my top layer and then slowly adjusted the transparency until I could see the invitation clearly.

Resulting in this

If you want to put actual coordinates to your house go to Google maps, type in your address, on the red marker you will right click and then select "what's here" this will change your address to coordinates which I thought was a fun touch and reminiscent of The Doctor's own invitation.Once I had them all printed and cut I simply glued them onto my card the way I liked best.

The envelope was really simple. For this part get a piece of construction paper, glue stick, straight edge and scissors. First, I took the paper and using the straight edge drew a line, I then cut along this line so my paper would be in the shape of a square:

Then I turned it so it was a diamond , placed the card in the center to make sure the paper would get folded to the proper dimensions and folded in the corners, starting with the bottom and then the sides.

Remove the card and then seal the edges with a glue stick, making sure to only glue the edges and not the inside.

Once the envelope is dry you can put the card in and seal it up with glue. Since I used black paper I glued a piece of lighter paper on the front so the address could be seen clearly. I also added a small picture of the TARDIS just for an added touch.

My son is so excited about them he made me keep one to put in a scrap book. :)

Got any fun birthday invitation ideas? I would love to hear about them

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

DIY: Pumpkin Spice Latte

I love fall and all the things that come with the season, changing leaves, crisp fall air, cozy sweaters and relaxing with a nice hot beverage. On a blustery day i like to cuddle up on the couch with my coziest sweater and slippers and drink some herbal tea or cocoa. one of my favorite beverages is the pumpkin Spice latte that pops up from starbucks this time of year. Really I love pumpkin anything (another reason I love fall) and this is just one more of those things.

Fortunately for me (and my wallet) this is pretty easy to make. Here is the way I like to make it, there are a lot of different recipes floating around out there, if you want you could also purchase flavored syrups from the Starbucks Store or other places that sell such things.

6 oz Strong Coffee
8 oz hot milk or soy milk
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
Whipped Cream (optional) (see recipe below for an easy home made version)

One great thing about making drinks at home is that you can tailor them to your tastes. If it it is too sweet use less sugar, not sweet enough add more, same goes for any of the ingredients. Play with the recipe until you get it to taste the way you like best, that is part of the fun :)

First brew your coffee. then heat your milk either on your stove or in the microwave (if you have a cappucino maker with a milk steamer all the better). I microwave mine for 2 minutes on high. If using the stove stir frequently so the milk doesn't scald on the bottom. Place hot milk, sugar, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice in a blender and blend untill it starts to froth (about 15 seconds). Pour into a large cup or divide into a couple of smaller cups and pour your coffee on top, this will create a nice foam, if desired top with whipped cream and a dash of pumpkin pie spice and ENJOY!

If you love the taste of homemade whipped cream here is an easy recipe to top off your delicious coffee:
1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
2 tbsp confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (you can play around with different extracts to give your whipped cream different flavors for different recipes)

This recipe works best if you use a metal or glass bowl and chill it (along with your beaters) for about 15 minutes. Beat all ingredients together on high until the mixture begins to form stiff peaks. That is it, easy and delicious!

Monday, July 11, 2011

My Kid's A Hero

I am a huge fan of homemade and personalized gifts. I think there is so much to say for a gift that is filled with the love of someone who wold take time out of their busy lives to make something special just for me. I love giving personal gifts as well, my family can attest to the countless photo gifts and homemade picture frames and collages. 

So I was really excited when my friend Felicia, owner of the Darling Girlfriends Review Spot blog,  wrote a review  for products from My Kid's a Hero, a great site with some wonderful personalized gifts like blankets, book bags and their main attraction, storybooks that star your child as the hero. Check out her review to take a look at the products she received as well as enter a fun giveaway for your own personalized book mark and book bag.

All of the products on My Kid's a Hero look fun but the story books are what really drew me in. My kids love to read and they also love to make up stories that include themselves. So, to give them a gift of their very own story book with them as the hero I think would just make their day. It is a gift they would treasure for years to come. This is definitely something I will be looking into for birthdays and Christmas.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

So Fresh and So Clean!

While I am a frugal person and I like to make a lot of things on my own I am also not the type of person who makes every little thing from scratch. I know people who make their own household cleaners, detergents, etc, but that is not me...usually. This week I found myself in a bind, grocery day is still a couple days away and I ran out of laundry detergent. So, knowing that there are people who make their own I decided to look up recipes. A problem i found was that most recipes called for ingredients most people would not just happen to have on hand like washing soda (not the same as baking soda) and borax. Since the whole point was not having to go to the store, I hoped to find a recipe with ingredients i already had.

Luckily I came accross a pretty cool site called Tipnut. This site is full of recipes, cleaning tips, craft projects and more. On their site they had an article, 10 Homemade Laundry Soap Detergent Recipes, that had just what I needed as well as some helpful tips. There was one recipe amongst the 10 that used only soap, baking soda and water, all things I had on hand.

Here is their recipe:
Recipe #8
2 gallons Water (hot)
1 bar Soap (grated)
2 cups Baking soda (yes baking soda this time–not washing soda)
  • Melt grated soap in a saucepan with enough hot water to cover. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring frequently until soap is melted.
  • In a large pail, pour 2 gallons hot water. Add melted soap, stir well.
  • Then add the baking soda, stir well again.
  • Use 1/2 cup per full load, 1 cup per very soiled load.
 I used Ivory soap for my recipe. Grating soap is tedious, and it made my hands sore, my 4 year old daughter thought it was fun to help though and once that was done the rest of the process was really easy. I had my recently emptied detergent bottle so when I was finished I poured my homemade detergent in it for storage and dug through recycling for more containers, since i made more detergent then my bottle could hold.

After washing, my clothes not only look clean but smell clean too. I usually have to buy detergent for sensitive skin which gets my clothes clean but doesn't really smell like anything, the ivory soap doesn't irritate my skin and it gave my clothes a really fresh smell. I would say that this is something I would do again. The effort it took to make was minimal, plus, I got 2 gallons of soap for a fraction of the cost of store bought detergent. Typically I pay around $12 (not counting coupon savings) for a 150 Floz bottle of detergent, which is just a little over a gallon (128 Floz). Baking soda costs about $1 per box and the soap usually comes in packages of 3 or more starting at around $2 or $3, so at most I paid $4 (less actually since I only used 1 bar of soap) for 2 gallons which is a savings of about $20!!

Have you made your own laundry soap? If not wold you try it? If so what recipe did you use and what was the outcome?


Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Summer Treat You Can Make at Home

Snow Cones, Snow Balls, Shaved Ice, whatever you call them they are a popular, fun and delicious summer treat. I see the trucks driving all over town and the little stands opening all over the place already. If you have a craving for this fun summer treat but don't want to spend the money this is actually a very simple thing to make yourself at home.

What you need:
Something to crush ice (snow cone/shaved ice maker, blender, food processor, etc)
Unsweetened powdered drink mix (such as Kool-Aid) any flavor
Cups (you can buy paper snow cone cups, I just use any cups I have on hand)
Whipped Cream (optional)

The first thing you need to do is make your syrup as it must cool completely before you can use it.

To make the syrup first mix 2 cups sugar and 3/4 cup water in a pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until it comes to a rolling boil. Then remove from the heat and stir in the drink mix (we chose strawberry). You can get creative here and make any flavor you wish, you can even double or triple your batch to make a few different flavors for a rainbow treat. Allow it to sit for about 30 min then place in an airtight container and refrigerate it until it is completely cool.

Once your syrup is cool you are ready to make your icy treat. Crush your ice and pack it down (I used the slicer/shredder attachment for my kitchen-aid mixer, use whatever works best for you). Use an ice cream scoop to form a ball and place in a cup or paper cone, then drizzle your syrup over top an voila! You can eat it just like that or I like to    put mine in a cup and add whipped cream on top.

These are so easy to make and fun for the whole family to get involved. Plus they are very inexpensive to make yourself so you can save the money it would cost to purchase them from the truck or stand. Have fun!

Share some of your favorite snow cone flavors or other fun summer treats.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

NickJr. Boost

I was recently given the opportunity to participate in a 3 month trial of NickJr. Boost with I have two children, ages 6 and 4 who both love NickJr and we were excited to have this opportunity. I will admit that I had some skepticism at first. My kids play on the NickJr site a lot and I wondered if a pay version would be worth it. However, after 3 months my kids were asking for more and that says a lot.

Boost is set up like a room. Each child gets his or her own room that he or she gets to decorate how they like best and everything is easily accessible to them. Videos are accessed by clicking on a tv, games by clicking on an arcade machine, etc. The games and videos are also tailored to your child’s education level, having the choice between pre-K, kindergarten and first grade. So, while my children both had access to the same games, my son’s games were more complex than my daughters to suit each of their educational needs.

Another fun feature is that children are rewarded for progress with printable badges and marbles. The marbles can be spent to purchase virtual toys for them to play with. My children get so excited when they get marbles to spend or a new badge when they learn a new skill.

What really sets Boost apart for me is the ability to track your child’s progress. This feature shows you exactly what areas they have been working on. You can see what games they have played and what subject matter those games focus on. This is accompanied by a pie chart to show you what percentage of their online time was spent on certain areas of learning. When you go to those specific areas, it breaks it down even further for you within the subject area. This can help you steer them towards games and activates that will help boost areas they need the most.

As a mother and former preschool teacher I am a strong believer in positive reinforcement and learning through play both at home and in the classroom. I really loved that Boost uses this method to help kids learn and have fun and feel good about their accomplishments. My son’s teacher told us during his progress meeting what areas he was weakest in and I was able to use Boost as a tool to assist him in those areas and monitor his progress.

There were very few negative points in my opinion. Overall it is a great program. I do wish there was some way to turn off the introduction, you can press skip on all the stuff that explains Boost to you but really there is no need to have it on there at all after the first use. In the beginning it seemed like there could be more variety but as you get going you realize there is just enough and my kids really enjoyed it.

Any program that can improve the ability of my children to learn and also enjoy learning is fantastic in my book. I would definitely recommend Boost to caregivers of young children.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Picture Memories

As I bandage the minor abrasions on my hands caused by animals trying to escape the torture of being dressed up and posed for a holiday photo, i wonder, was it worth it? YES! It totally was! The pictures are heartwarming, funny and a memory to last a lifetime.

Have you ever tried taking pictures of your kids? They squirm and fuss and ask if you are done yet and you say I would be done faster if you would just smile! Well take that scenario and add in 3 dogs, a rabbit and a box turtle. The dogs were actually all too happy to don their Christmas garb. They jumped and wagged tails and panted excitedly then pranced around the room to show them off. The Rabbit was not too happy, only because I attached a bow to his harness and he hates the harness (rabbits were not meant to be walked) but once it was on he hopped around happily without a care. The box turtle (tortoise my son would say) was none too happy about getting a ribbon tied around her shell and tried the entire time to remove it.

Once everyone is dressed and looking cute I plop them down in front of the tree. Every photo someone is making a face or looking away, it is practically impossible to get all kids and animals facing forward and looking happy. The pets kept wandering away, the children were making faces, but instead of getting annoyed I laughed. It was a wonderful family moment.

I took a few but this was my favorite of the bunch:

One dog is standing tall, the next has given up trying, my daughter is being silly making a face that makes me giggle every time I see it, the rabbit was caught trying to make a getaway, the last dog has become very suspicious of the turtle who just wants that dang bow off and my Son is trying his best to pose while being distracted by his sister. it isn't a perfect picture by any stretch of the imagination but it tells a story and makes me laugh and those are the best photos in my opinion.

It is funny the things we will do to commemorate the holidays. No matter what the trouble or hassle we stick to our traditions and are happy we did. I love looking back at family photos and seeing all my children grow, the ones with fur and the ones without. I am a picture fanatic any day of the week but the holidays are especially important to me and I wouldn't trade those pictures, or the memories of taking them, for anything in the world.