Tag Archives: 1 hour or less

Button Snakes and Beans

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No matter how much of an effort I make to spend time with my kids outside during the heat of the summer, sometimes my internal thermometer begs for some indoor activities.  North Carolina is hot, y’all.  I know there’s a heat wave all over the country right now, but the South is known for it’s brutal summers and thick humidity.  Air conditioning is my friend.

My heat intolerance isn’t problem for Christopher, who is old enough to ride his bike outside with his friends even when I’ve had enough for the day.  But for His Majesty, it can sometimes take a little creativity to keep him busy,and adequately distracted from the things he wants to do outside.  If you have the same dilemma with your own toddler, allow me to suggest two ideas that have made our indoor time simple, quiet, and enjoyable.

The first idea is playing with dried beans.  All you need is some dried beans, a kitchen funnel, a few measuring cups, bowls or containers in various sizes(empty yogurt cups, spice jars, or oatmeal containers will work great for this), and spoons.  You can make an easy funnel by cutting off the top of a plastic pop bottle if you don’t have one.

His Majesty has enjoyed this activity since he was about 18 months old. It’s a bit messy, but I just vacuum after he’s done, and all is well.  He loves pouring and scooping the beans.

When your child is ready, you can make clean up a sorting activity, and sort the different beans into similar groups.  You can count them.  You can also hide little toys (he likes when I hide little people in the beans) and have your child can dig for them, like a little sensory scavenger hunt.

His Majesty has never been the type of kid who mouths things, so I don’t really worry about him choking on these.  Plus, if he decided to eat a few (which hasn’t been a problem thus far), beans are obviously edible, so no worries there.  However, you should also be aware that some kids will stick things in their ears or nostrils, so keep an eye out if your kid is into that.

When we’re done playing with these, I put them back in a container in the pantry and they’re ready to play with the next time.  I don’t cook dried beans (I honesty don’t know how, but I do know that doing so takes a long time, so I don’t really care to learn either), so I don’t have to worry that they’ll accidentally end up served for dinner after laying on the carpet or being handled by sweaty toddler hands.

Another fun, and very easy, busy toddler activity is a button snake, like this one from The Activity Mom. All you need for this is some very basic sewing skills, a button, some ribbon or fabric trim, and felt squares in assorted colors.  I also used an elastic hair band, but that it totally optional, and I’ll tell you about that in a moment.

Start by cutting your felt into shapes that you want your toddler to “feed” the button snake.  I used squares, just because it was the easiest, but you could use triangles, stars, circles, hearts, or a combination of shapes.  Set one shape to the side to serve as the base of your button snake.

In the center of all of your shapes except for the one you reserved, cut a slit long enough for your button to fit through.  Those will be your button holes.

Take the one felt shake that you set aside and sew your ribbon (I used a squiggly trim, since it was a bit firmer) to it.  I made a few passes with my sewing machine, and I didn’t even change the thread color, I just used the pink that was already in there.  Make sure you sew it on there securely, since your toddler is going to pull on the ribbon, and you want this to stay together so that the rest of the shapes don’t slip off the ribbon.

The next step is to sew your button on the other end of your ribbon.  I hand sewed it flush with the ribbon, and I did about 40 passes, to make sure it was good and sturdy.  Toddlers are rough, after all.

Here’s where an elastic hair band came into the picture.  I sewed the hair band to the underside of the felt base. I  sewed right down the middle of the band, giving me two loops.

That makes it easy to wrap everything up and keep it together for storage.

That’s it.  Your button snake is ready to rock.  Hand it to your toddler and let him or her “feed” the button snake.

The monkey tail you see peeking out from behind him is totally optional.  He got that at his Best Friend’s monkey themed birthday bash, and he has made it part of his daily wardrobe now.

The button snake is quiet and portable enough to bring to the doctor’s office, or on car trips, making it a great addition to a busy bag.  You can also reinforce color recognition into this activity, and, if you cut your felt into different shapes, you can extend the activity to include shape recognition.  As a perk, there’s little, if any, clean up involved when the fun is over.

Having simple little activities like this on hand has been really useful if I need a few minutes to make a phone call, or to assemble lunch or to just have a few moments of quiet.  Plus, they are great for fine motor development.

What have you been doing to keep yourself or your children busy this summer? I’d love some new ideas if you care to share!

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Funfetti Dip

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Remember when I told you that I made another recipe for the play date last week?

It was Funfetti Dip, from Shannon at Adventures in Food.

Shannon finds, and creates, some amazing things, and several of them use Funfetti boxed cake mix.  Funfetti pancakes, waffles, or cinnamon rolls, anyone?  Check out Adventures in Food for those recipes and more, including a bunch of ideas for making baby food, and more than a hundred toddler tested and approved items!

This dip was so easy!  But since Shannon only made a small amount, I used a recipe multiplier from Lots of Kids to quadruple the recipe and make 8 servings… then I got distracted in conversation and added an extra scoop of yogurt, so to fix my mistake, I doubled THAT, and wound up making 8x more than Shannon, or about 16 servings…. Good thing we liked it!

It’s easy.  All you need is yogurt (I used plain, but the recipe said you can use vanilla), Funfetti cake mix, and whipped cream or cool whip… which I didn’t have.  But I did have whipping cream… And I was going to whip it in the mixer… so I figured, why not.

To make the 16 serving batch, I used:
3/4 cup Dry cake mix

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/4 cup whipping cream (or, if you’re a better planner and follow the original recipe, you can use 1/4 cup cool whip or whipped cream)

I whipped them up together in my mixer bowl until they were well blended, and looked like cake batter.

Then I served them (in that cute little heart shaped bowl) with pretzel chips.  My friend Emily said that the pretzel chips were good just for the purpose of moving the dip into her mouth 🙂

It was an easy recipe to make, and a sweet treat.  You can serve it with any crackers that you want, of course, but I like the salty/sweet combination with the pretzels.  I’m sure I’ll make this again in the future, probably trying it with the actual ingredients recommended.

If you need a quick, easy, sweet treat, it doesn’t get much better than cake batter.

Pizza Night! Knock off Papa John’s Sauce and Pizza Balls

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Every few weeks, I make homemade pizzas (well, not completely homemade; I use pre made pizza dough, and normally, I use Trader Joe’s pizza sauce, but its still as close to homemade as it’s going to get around here).  I feel good about it, because it reminds me of making pizzas with my parents when I was a kid, and my kids love it because they get to eat pizza.  But this weekend, I changed it up a bit.  I decided to make pizza balls, from my favorite kid friendly healthy food website, Weelicious, using knock off Papa John’s pizza sauce, from this recipe.

I started by making the pizza sauce (click for a link to the recipe).  Simple ingredients: olive oil, water, lemon juice, salt, crushed or pureed tomatoes, thyme, garlic powder, basil, oregano, and sugar…

Or, splenda, if you are so inclined.

Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Stir it every few minutes so that it doesn’t stick to the sides of you pan.

After that was taken care of, I got busy on the pizza balls (click for a link to the recipe). Weelicious is such a great sight, chock full of meal and snack ideas that, at least in my family, have been real kid pleasers, so I was pretty amped up about giving pizza balls a shot.  The concept is simple.  You start with a 16 oz package of pizza dough at room temperature (I used whole wheat).

Break your dough up into 16 equal-ish chunks.

Combine 1/2 cup of pizza sauce (of course, I used the sauce I’d made, 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese and, if you wish, 3/4 cup of a filling.  You can use chicken, pepperoni, cooked sausage, broccoli, spinach, tomato, ham, mushroom, pretty much whatever you’d put on pizza, get creative.  I did not get creative, and just used cheese and pizza sauce, and I used a touch more mozzarella, since I omitted the extra filling. *You could probably even use soy cheese with this recipe if you wanted to, if dairy is a problem for you.*

Roll each dough chunk into about a 3 inch wide circle, and place 1 tablespoon of your cheese mixture in the center.

Then take your edges and bring them to the center, covering the cheese mixture, and pinching them closed to seal everything in.

At this point, you’re ready to roll those babies into little balls.  Or, pseudo balls.  Mine were kind of lopsided.

Place your pizza balls, sealed side down, on an oiled pan.  Brush them without olive oil and then sprinkle them with grated parmesan cheese, baking in a preheated oven.  The temperature is tricky, because I used a pre made pizza dough.  The original recipe called for baking at 425 for 25 minutes, but my dough called for 400 for 18 minutes.  I decided to follow the directions on my dough, and to keep them in for a few extra minutes since they were filled. I ended up leaving them in for 21 minutes.  They leaked out some of their filling, but they were a nice chewy consistency.

I also made a big pizza (I put the pepperoni and bacon bits under the cheese, and mushrooms on top of the cheese, but only on half, since Christopher doesn’t like them– unless it’s the last piece of pizza, then he’s ok with eating them).

And a personal pizza for me, on lower carb flat bread by Hungry Girl.

What was the verdict?

Well, my kids loved it.  But it’s pizza, so I’d expect no less.

His Majesty was most excited about the fact that he got to eat a ball.

And they both ate nice big meals.

I thought that the pizza balls were a success, because not only did my kids eat them, but I also had leftovers to use for lunch the next day.

But the sauce…

It was ok.  It certainly wasn’t bad.  It was easy enough to make, don’t get me wrong, but when I use Trader Joe’s pizza sauce, I don’t have to dirty up a saucepan.  If it had tasted phenomenally better than the jarred variety, I would be more apt to make it, but to be honest, I just wasn’t wowed, and neither was my husband.  However, when I’m buried in our tomato crop, as I hope to be this summer, maybe I’ll make it again, solely because it wouldn’t require a trip to the store, but not because it was so delicious that pizza would never be the same without it.

So that was our pizza night.  How do you do pizza night at your house? Is it your children’s favorite meal, too?

Pink is in the Air

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Just as 2011 drew to a close, two wonderful new people entered the world!   My friend from college and our neighbor both had baby daughters.  How exciting, pink ruffles everywhere!  The birth of these two little ladies presented me with the opportunity to try my hand at a version of this idea, from Baby Xpress over on Etsy.  Doesn’t Etsy just have the most fantastic products ever?!  So many great ideas! And Baby Xpress is no exception, this seller offers dozens of gift ideas that would be fantastic ways to shower a friend, neighbor or colleague, and they are very affordable.

The idea that I pinned was for Washcloth Cupcakes.  Precious idea, no?  Not to mention that anyone with kids knows that having extra washcloths definitely comes in handy (Who knew that such a little human could leak so much, and from every available orifice?  Ahh, the things they didn’t teach in Home Ec…  Do they even offer Home Ec in schools anymore?! Man that class was fun! Did anyone else have the egg babies to take home? Haha, good times.).  Regardless of the practicality of washcloths, I knew that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give them clothes.  Seriously, baby girl clothes = SO STINKING CUTE.  I decided to make my “cupcakes” out of onesies.

Naturally, I had to find a tutorial to help me out, and I chose this one over at Our Little Casita.  I hit Target and picked up two packs of onesies, and then I hit Micheal’s and picked up the rest of my supplies.

You'll need: cupcake boxes, crinkle paper, paper rose stickers, Gerber multi-pack of onesies, cards, jumbo cupcake cups, packaging ribbon/twine in coordinating color, 1 inch ribbon in coordinating colors, 3/8 inch ribbon in coordinating color, rubber bands, straight pins, scissors, scrapbook paper; also tacky glue (not shown)

During the coveted nap time (which, I’m sad to report, seems to be getting shorter and shorter), I completed both gifts, delivered one to my neighbor (and caught a peek at their beautiful baby), and started this post.  Not too shabby. What I’m trying to say is that you can knock this out in about an hour, if you gather everything that you need up first.

I started by snapping the onesie closed, and lying it face up.

Then, I folded it into thirds, so that the front of the onesie was on the inside.  Any embroidery or printing will more than likely look wonky when you roll it up, so it’s better to just hide it for the time being.  Think of it as being an extra little surprise when your gift is fully opened.

Then I folded it in half again so that I had a nice narrow piece of fabric to work with.

Rolling the cupcake took me a little bit of practice, not because it’s hard, but rather, because I wanted to see how many different methods I could try to achieve the look I was going for.  I ended up rolling it on a slight angle, so that the first roll was the HIGHEST portion, sort of like the icing on a real cupcake.

This is how it looked when I was finished rolling it.

After I was happy with how my cupcake was rolled, I used a rubber band to hold it in place, and then tied a piece of 1-inch ribbon around it to hide the rubber band, like so.  You can see that I didn’t want the ribbon to tie in a bow, but only so that it was secured around the rubber band.

At this point, it was ready to be set in the cupcake liner.

Oh yeah, now we’re getting somewhere.  The next step was to decorate the cupcake.  I used 3/8 inch ribbon to tie a small bow and then secured it to the top of the cupcake with a straight pin.

This is where the paper roses came in.

I used them to cover the straight pins.

Then I did the same thing with the rest of the onesies.

Next came the packaging.  I filled the box halfway with crinkle paper.

And it was WAY too much paper. The box wouldn’t close without smushing the cupcakes.  So, I took out half of the crinkle paper, and put it on the other box for the second gift, and we were good to go. Don’t buy a new bag of crinkle paper if you have some in a color that will work already.  You hardly use any.  I didn’t have any, or else I’d have likely worked with what I had on hand.

Aren’t they just adorable? All that pink is about to give me a sweet tooth!

At this point, they are ready to go, and I think they are plenty cute as is.

But Emily at Our Little Casita covered the sides of her box with scrapbook paper, and it really just jazzed them up, so I took my inspiration from her, and did the same thing.  The cupcake boxes that I bought came in a 3 pack, so I used the empty box to trace templates in the scrapbook paper, cut it out, and then glued it to the sides of the box with tacky glue.

When all 4 sided were covered, I tied my ribbon twine around the box and tied a bow.

Then I did the same to the second gift.

The next time I make these (and I will get the chance to do it again really soon, as my cousin just had her second son, and if I wasn’t so wrapped up with my head in a pink cloud thinking about baby girl gifts, I would have picked up a pack of baby boy onesies today– *DOH*), I will buy some scrapbook stickers to decorate the outside of the box a bit more.  You can really do a lot to up the presentation of the box, if that’s your thing.

I couldn’t wait to deliver the gift to my neighbors, and I’m happy to report, they loved it.  I’m sure my friend back home will think it’s really sweet, too.  And even better, it’s calorie free.

There are tons of tutorials online for making cupcake onesies, even some that use receiving blankets and socks and really go all out.  I think that this is such a fun way to gift something.  A friend made me a diaper cake when His Majesty was born, and it was so wonderful, not only because it was useful, but because I knew that she had taken the time to create it, and that particularly meant a lot to me.

It isn’t how much money you spend that makes a gift special.  I spent less than $30 on the onesies and the supplies to make both of these gifts (and I have a great deal of supplies left over).

Have you found any great gift ideas lately?  Made anything special?  Please share your (p)inspiration with me!