Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Creative Ways to Reuse and Recycle!

I was browsing around the inter-web yesterday looking for some DIY inspiration, and stumbled across these awesome suggestions for repurposing some of your household items into new and useful things once they've out lived their original purpose. Some of the things I found were incredibly ridiculous, but these two are things I could actually see myself doing!

Heading out on a road trip and looking for a compact and convenient way to keep the older kids busy in the car? Check out this simple Colouring Set in a DVD Case created by Stacey Vaughan. She gives some detailed instructions on how to make the pocket side (you need to remove the click-in wheel where the DVD goes) and on the other side cut some paper to the appropriate size and slide it in under the tabs to hold it in place. When you're all finished drawing you simply close the case the keep your pencils and papers safely stored inside!

The second idea I came across over at A Little Learning For Two is also pretty fantastic. By the time the boy-o is done with his crib the rails will be in pretty terrible shape after all his gnawing on them, so by the time it makes it through a second (and maybe third...) baby it won't be in pretty shape. This clever little way to reuse it though ensures that you'll get the most life out of it that you can! When you're all done using it as a bed, you can remove the front rail and mattress, and install a fitted sheet of plywood covered in "Chalkboard Paint". You can then attach other art items as desired on the remaining crib walls and slide some chairs up to it to make the perfect kid sized desk!

I love both of these ideas and will be sure to let you know of any other awesome DIY's I find that could make life with kids just a little bit easier!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Quinoa Recipes: Cheesy Quinoa Cakes

Quinoa is quickly becoming an incredibly popular food and alternative to eating rice. A lot of people who want to try out quinoa at home are put off though because they don't know what to do with it. We're big fans of quinoa in this house so I figured I'd share some of our top recipe suggestions for how to incorporate quinioa into your diet at home. Today's recipe is Cheesy Quinoa Cakes.

Cheesy Quinoa Cakes


2 cups cooked quinoa
- 2/3 cup grated fontina cheese (or any cheese you happen to have on hand!)
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt to taste


1. Place all ingredients, except for the oil, into a mixing bowl and stir together until well combined. Season with salt and allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes.
2. Pour oil into a large sauté pan and place over medium heat. 
3. Form ¼ cup patties with the quinoa mixture and place in the heated sauté pan. (this will have to be done in batches) 
4. Cook quinoa cakes for about 5 minutes on each side. Repeat with the remaining patties until all of the cakes have been cooked.

The best part about these quinoa cakes is you can top them with WHATEVER you want!! Seriously. I've tried them with zucchini relish, left over curry, tamarind sauce, a little greek salad dressing and plain! They've been delicious every time. You can also make them into mini cakes for a super kid friendly side dish. I've tested these out on a room full of 3 year olds, and they were a big hit!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

55 Dr Seuss Inspired Activities

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to a collection of Dr. Seuss inspired activities that you can do with children of varying ages. She knows that we're big Dr. Seuss fans in this house (the boy-o's room is Seussed out!), and that I *love* doing crafty things, so it's like that compilation was just made for us! I haven't had a chance to look through all of the activities yet, but from what I've seen so far this needs to be shared far and wide.

My Favourites:

1. The Foot Book: Fizzy Footprint- This activity is based off the Dr Seuss book "The Foot Book" and although it wouldn't be appropriate for very small children, toddlers and pre-schoolers are sure to enjoy this one! Simply take some baking soda and food coloured vinegar to create a fizzy surface that you can place plastic toys in to see how their footprints show up.

2. The Lorax: Handprint Truffula Trees- This activity is based off the Dr. Seuss book "The Lorax" and puts a new spin on hand painting. Using your fingers only you make the Truffula Tree trunks and use a stamp to paint the fluffy top. They even provide a resource on how to draw your own Lorax to add to your picture!

3. The Cat in the Hat: Stacking Buttons and Corks- This activity isn't directly related to the Cat in the Hat books, but it's very reminiscent of his balancing acts and stacking one thing ontop of another! All you need are some large bright buttons, some old corks, velcro dots and shoe box lid! A little bit of patience would help as well as the longer you let the adhesive set on the velcro before playing with it the better. Again this activity wouldn't work too well for the littlest littles, but toddlers and pre-school kids are likely to really enjoy all the different sensory aspects of this play.

4. Bartholomew and The Ooblek: Ooblek Recipe-  This particular activity is based on the Dr. Seuss book "Bartholomew and the Ooblek" and it's a definite favourite of mine! You get to make your own green Ooblek to play with (I've posted a recipe for it before and called it Magic Mud!) This activity is great for young infants who able to sit up right up to pre-schoolers and beyond! My 10 month old son loves playing with it because of the textures, and older kids will be interested in learning the science behind how it works. 

To check out all 55 Dr. Seuss inspired activities you can check out the original page over at No Time For Flashcards. Dr. Seuss' birthday is coming up soon--March 2nd, so start planning your Seuss themed celebration now!

What's your favourite Dr. Seuss book?
In our household Dr. Seuss' "A B C Book" and "The Shape of Me and Other Stuff" 
both reign supreme right now.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Cake Experiments

So the boy-o's first birthday is rapidly approaching, and I've been busy collecting little bits of stuff here and there for his Pirate Themed party. One of the main focal points for a kids birthday is certainly the cake and as a crafty person I knew right away that I wanted to make his cake myself rather than hire someone to make it. I've never worked with fondant before, but I was considering making him a fondant cake. I decided I would try making a few "practice cakes" in order to get a handle on how to use this fondant stuff well before the boy-o's birthday.

My first attempt at a fondant cake was for Valentine's Day. Like all last minute urgent decisions I didn't decide to make this cake until two days before Valentine's Day, which meant I was a little limited on the supplies that were still available. There was no red fondant or any red dye left, so I picked up white and pink, and some blue and purple dye. The cake was just a simple Rainbow box mix with butter cream icing. (There was much moaning about the lack of chocolate...)

I didn't have a proper fondant rolling pin, or a cake mat, but I managed to work it out with a large wooden rolling pin and my kitchen counter. I found it pretty easy to work with, and I didn't have any troubles making sure there were no creases in the sides or edges when I smoothed the white fondant over the cake. So far so good!

When it came time to make the decorations: the bow, twisted ribbon, and the hearts, I found the fondant resembled play dough an *immense* amount in terms of texture and work-ability. I dyed some of the extra white fondant blue to make the bow and found it pretty easy to work the colour through evenly. The pink was pre-dyed.

I added the final detailing on the bow with an edible marker, which was also pretty easy to use, although I did have to press harder with it than I imagined I would. All in all for a first attempt at using fondant I think it was a big success! There are definitely some things I learned along the way, and there are some mistake I made as I went that I would fix for next time--largely because I had no idea what I wanted to actually make ahead of time.

I'm feeling confident after this first attempt that I'll be able to make the boy-o an awesome birthday cake! I've got one more practice attempt before then at the end of March for Hubby's birthday. He's requested a volcano cake! Go big or go home I guess!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Rainbow Jello Orange Slices

I love quirky and silly munchie foods that can be served at parties. A little while ago a friend of mine wanted to have a Hawaiian themed birthday party, and I accepted the challenge of finding some fun, colourful foods to have. One of my favourites is the Jello Orange Slice! You can make these using oranges or grapefruits, depending on which one you'd rather eat since you're going to scrape all the fleshy part out leaving the shell only for the jello mould. For the best effect buy several colours/flavours of Jello!


- Jello Poweder (as many different colours as you want)
- 8-10 oranges or grapefruits
- a muffin tin
- lots of fridge space!


1. Mix up each colour of Jello powder according to the package directions minus 1/3 of the required water in separate bowls.
2. Cut your oranges/grapefruits in half and scoop out all the fleshy fruit part and eat or store in ziplock bags in fridge for smoothies etc.
3. Take the cleaned out halves and place them rounded side down on the muffin tin holes.

4. Fill each half with one colour of Jello each, and place in fridge to chill completely.

5. Once the Jello has set, place the flat side of each half down on a cutting board, and using a sharp serrated knife cut each half into thirds. Don't be too forceful with them, remember it's Jello! Once you've cut your oranges/grapefruits into slices serve and enjoy!!

Your Turn:
What's your favourite "Wow" factor party food?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Our Play Space--A Place for Everything

Recently we (I) remodeled the boy-o's playspace to make it bigger and more functional. We (I) added some storage units, organized his toys into groups and bought a storage ottoman to help hide away extra toys to rotate out later, and to store upcoming Birthday/Christmas gifts etc. as well. The results have been like night and day from the before and after! I won't bother showing you the sad before but I'm very happy to show you the final results!

The first step was to get some toys organizer bins to sort things out so that the boy-o has easy access to his toys and can get the ones he wants himself. Two of the top bins have been taken over for storing items that we use all the time. One holds his bibs and smock, and the other bins holds his shoes. The tall white bin next to the toy organizer also has extra toys in it. Some of them are bath toys, some are toys he's not old enough to play with yet, and one drawer has a wicked awesome dragon costume I bought second hand for $8! It's AMAZING! The boy-o won't be able to wear it for at least another year because it's way too big, but I don't care, it was too good to pass up!

We're also big readers in our house, and the boy-o already has quite an impressive library! He has a bookshelf almost full of books in his bedroom and we have a little stash of them in the coffee table that we read as our nighttime books, but I felt it was important to have some board books (harder to destroy!) available to play with and look at in his playspace too so we picked up this little bookshelf that matches the toy organizer in colour. It's fairly sturdy, and although it's quite small, it holds a good amount of books for what we wanted. (Note the "Star Wars ABC" book!) My hubby is a French teacher and we really want the boy-o to learn French as well, so the bottom row of the bookshelf has some French books in it.

As a kid I grew up playing with Lego All. The. Time. The boy-o's isn't quite old enough for real Lego yet since he'd just eat it, but MEGA Blocks are a perfect size for him. So we have a pile of MEGA blocks in the Lego turtle for the boy-o to play with whenever he wants. (Yes I know that's brand mixing) He loves that the lid comes off and he likes to play with the blocks even though he doesn't really get the stacking aspect of them yet.

If you've read my previous posts about sensory toys you'll know we have quite the collection going, so one of our dinosaur baskets is devoted specifically to sensory toys, homemade and otherwise. I wasn't sure at first how much playtime those objects would get if the boy-o had his choice of what to pull out to play with, but they get put back away all the time.

"One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish..." We decorated the boy-o's nursery in Dr. Seuss theme, and this is a dresser that I painted for his room. With all the hand-me down clothes we got he out grew his little dresser pretty quickly so now it's in his playspace as a spot to store old toys that he's too big for. His playmat gym is disassembled in there as is his vibrating chair. It also adds a nice splash of colour to the corner of the room! Each of the drawers has a baby lock on them so he can't pull the drawers open as well.

Our Baby Einstein Jumper was a huge hit when we first got it, but the boy-o is less interested in being locked into place now that he's so mobile. We still love it as a place to put him when need to run and grab laundry etc. We have a little Cars mat that we've put underneath it to stop the floor from getting scratched, as well as to give a little cushion under his feet when he's bouncing away like only a Tigger can!

One of our most recent purchases has been our storage ottoman. Best. Decision. Ever. It provides a soft surface for the boy-o to pull up on and practice his cruising, and it gives us a large space to store extra toys we're not using, toys he's not old enough for, and a space to hide away toys for upcoming birthdays or Christmas gifts. (Yes, I like to shop early and grab stuff when I see it!)

So that's our playspace! The boy-o has about 1/3 of our living room devoted to his play area, and now that it's so much bigger he actually stays over there to play quite a bit which is a big relief because now when he wipes out it's on the mat instead of the hardwood floor! It didn't cost us much to revamp the space but it's been more than worth it to know that he has a safe and functional place to play. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Craft Time: Handprint Trees

Yesterday we hosted a group playdate at our house and we wanted to do a little sensory play! There were four little boys in total and I thought it would be lots of fun to make handprints trees together, and then each little one could take home a tree with their friends handprints on it. I purchased the materials we would need ahead of time (some paint, and paintbrushes) and I had the other materials already on hand (Sketch/Paint paper, some brown cardstock, glue, and a Sharpie Marker).

I cut out a tree shape with the brown cardstock and glued it to the center of the white sketch/paint paper, leaving lots of room at the top of the tree for the little handprints. I selected five different colours of paint so that each child would have some choice as to which colour they wanted to use. (In reality it was mum choosing at this point!)

We did each boys handprint one at a time, and painted their hand before we/they pressed it onto each of the four papers. As I was painting their hands I was asking them questions like whether it tickled, or if the paint felt cold. Some of the boys liked to close their fist around the brush and squeeze feeling the paint squish around their fingers.

The results were awesome, and after the handprints were all done I wrote each boys name over their hands so that we could all remember whose was whose and keep track of which friends were over that day. We're going to frame ours and hang it up in our play space and later it will get added to the boy-o's memory book as a cool keepsake of our first group playdate at our house! The next time we host I think we're doing to dive into some MAGIC MUD.

Your Turn:
What's your favourite sensory activity to share during playdates?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Baby Swimming Lessons

My sister and I practically grew up in the water! We started swimming lessons before we could walk and I went all the way through the levels to get my lifeguard. I actually had to take "Jr Lifeguard" three times before I was old enough to take the regular lifeguard course. Although I don't think it's necessary for everyone to be that proficient and confident in the water, I do think it's a simple issue of common sense to at least have minimal swimming abilities for safety sake. Being able to swim or treadwater for a small amount of time could mean the difference between life and death in a water related accident, and I think it's incredibly important to teach our children not to be afraid of the water because fear will drown you faster than anything.

For that reason we've started taking the boy-o swimming. His first swimming trip was around 6 months old and he wasn't really sure what to think about it all. We've been a few times since then and he's gotten progressively more comfortable with it all.

We decided that we wanted to make swimming a regular thing though, and the best way to make that happen was to sign up for one of the tots and parents classes. So Hubby and the boy-o have swimming class on Saturday afternoons for the next several weeks at our local community center pool. It gives the two of them some time to bond and build trust and it's helping Peter become more familiar and comfortable in the water so that when he gets a little older he won't be scared of the water when it comes time to learn how to swim.

So, what happens at a tots swimming class anyway? Well, the parents bob the babies up and down in the water, lie them on their backs and float them around, lie them on their tummies (face out of the water) and float them around, they use noodles and flutter boards as floating devices, and of course, they get dunked! The boy-o was dunked for the first time on Saturday and although he didn't scream about it afterwards, he was definitely sulking and whining about it for a while. He's getting so much better though, and I'm so glad that we decided to sign him up early and get him used to the water while he's still young.