Sunday, November 30, 2014

The one about creamy chicken and broccoli rice casserole.

It's been unseasonably warm here in Missouri. Stepping outside felt like a fall day with the only inkling of winter coming in the evening. It's still getting chilly in the evening, so that means comfort food time! Casseroles and soups are on the menu and I'm loving it. Tonight I made a pretty easy and yummy creamy chicken and broccoli rice casserole. I made everything from scratch. You could substitute cream of crap soup in to make it even easier. But, I homemade my cream soup with some help from Once A Month Meals. Also, I'm a terrible food blogger and always forget to take the sexy picture before anybody digs in so you always get the half eaten, blurry pictures. If you don't like it, you'll get over it after you eat it yourself!


CREAMY CHICKEN AND BROCCOLI RICE CASSEROLE

Ingredients:
  • Cream of Broccoli Soup Base or 1 can of cream of mushroom soup (Note: if you use cream of mushroom soup you will have to add your cooked broccoli to the casserole before cooking in the oven.
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • 1/2 small onion
    • 1/2 cup frozen broccoli florets
    • 1/4 cup butter
    • 1/4 cup flour
    • 1 cup milk
    • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 Cup Minute Rice (brown or white)
  • 6 Frozen Chicken Breast Tenderloins
  • 4 ounces of Velveeta
  • 1/4 cup milk
Directions:
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Put frozen chicken tenderloins on a sheet pan and cook for 20-25 minutes or until they reach 165 degrees.
  2. While chicken tenderloins are cooking, prepare soup base. In a frying pan, saute your onion, garlic, and broccoli florets until onions are translucent. The broccoli does not need to be cooked through. Set aside.
  3. In a medium sauce pan, melt butter. When butter is fully melted, whisk in flour until it makes a paste. Cook 2 minutes or until paste is golden brown. Slowly stir in milk and broth. When milk, broth, and paste are thoroughly mixed add cooked broccoli, garlic, and onions. Cook for approximately 10 minutes or until soup base is thickened.
  4. Prepare 1 cup of minute rice according to package directions.
  5. Cube 4 ounces of Velveeta. Place in microwavable bowl with 1/4 cup milk. Cook about 2 minutes or until Velveeta is mostly melted. Stirring frequently will aid in melting. 
  6. Remove cooked chicken from oven and shred with 2 forks.
  7. In a 9x13 glass baking pan mix soup base, rice, chicken, and Velveeta. Place in preheated oven for 15 minutes.
  8. ENJOY!!!
I hope you guys enjoy this as much as we do! YUM!


Friday, November 28, 2014

The one about mental illness.

I've been wanting to write about something for awhile that's become a huge thing in my life. My anxieties have mostly held me back from writing about it with fears of how it would be perceived, etc. But it's such an important topic and I want to let other people who may suffer from similar things know that they aren't alone. I'm just going to spit it out and hope it comes out coherent.

As long as I can remember I've suffered with anxiety and depression. I was diagnosed Major Depressive at the age of 13. I have severe insomnia. However, this is only partially about that. This more has to do with current events. After the birth of my son, Tristan, in January, it quickly became clear that there was something off with me. I struggled with severe depression to the point where I would consider the worst thing that you could consider. I, as I have said numerous times, have no insurance. My sisters and everyone around me became extremely concerned for my safety and well-being. Around May things got so bad I knew I had to do something. I found a free clinic, but the soonest they could get me in was September. I knew I couldn't wait that long. Things were bad. Scary bad. I began isolating myself. Starting fights with everyone around me to push them away from me.

I was alone and scared and severely mentally ill. I finally couldn't take things any longer. I made an appointment with my OB since it appeared that it all arose from the birth of Tristan. Through it all, I never had any issues with taking care of the kiddos, which is a miracle. If anything, I was overly focused on making sure their needs and wants were met at often my expense or the expense of others. The OB got me in as soon as possible, they talked about potentially checking me into the hospital if things got too bad between the time I called and the time they saw me. It was heartbreaking and scary to talk about truthfully on the phone. I worried a lot about how people would feel about me or if they would assume that I wasn't taking care of my kids. My kids are the entire thing that I lived for at that time and it was so fear provoking, that I don't even know what. Plus it was going to cost me $110 to see her. Anxieties were a rollin'.

I got into see my OB who diagnosed me with severe Post Partum Depression. She immediately put me on a medication and it helped some, but something still just wasn't right. I was having intense mood swings. I varied from so extremely depressed that I couldn't clean the house or do anything but sit on my phone all day and make sure the kids were happy to being so active that I felt like my mind was going a million miles a minute taking care of every possible chore with no regard for my physical exhaustion limit. During the amped up periods, I would have extreme irritability triggered by pretty much everything and would often get into fights for little to no reason. I felt like I was spiraling totally out of control and what I deemed as a "normal" mental state for myself no longer existed. I had to wait 4 months in an indescribable hell for the people around me and myself to get into the free clinic. They tried switching around my medications and it just was not working. Finally I was referred for a psych evaluation about 6 weeks ago.

The psych evaluation was long and dredged up a lot of things that have happened to me. I won't go into all of those here, but I've dealt with a lot of bad shit in my life. It was extremely tough for me to do, but I did it. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type I with anxious tendencies and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This was so great to me in a way, because now I knew that I was feeling crazy because I was a little crazy, but it was fixable. They put me on a mood stabilizer and I've been powering my way through the side effects and trying to get myself right.

I just want other people out there to know that you're not alone. Mental illness is a real struggle that could have cost me and other people around me a lot. But, the most important thing that can be done when you realize something, "just isn't right", is get help. Not tomorrow. Today. Get help. Find resources. It's not worth losing everything that you are to avoid getting help that you need. You are worth it. Do it! Do it now! And if I can, I will help you! But please do it before it's too late. It may be the best and smartest decision you ever make along with the hardest.

Love always,

Alex

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The One About Laryngomalacia and the Sleep Study

We have been dealing with sleep problems with Harper for quite awhile. We finally got a sleep study done and we now know that Harp has hypopnea caused by obstruction from her tonsils and adenoids. She apparently has HUGE tonsils. They are so big they touch the uvula. I'm including this handy diagram so you know what the hellfire I'm talking about.


Basically, the tonsils are making it to where she breathes extremely shallowly and causes her a great number of disturbances. She has an average of 7.5 episodes an hour. My poor little girl is so damn exhausted and I feel terrible we didn't get her in sooner and get this all done. She's had a lot of mood problems which we now know can be contributed to her never getting a good night's sleep for who even knows how long. I'm asking for prayers and guidance as we go through this process, because Harper also has a secondary breathing issue, laryngomalacia. You can read all about it in another post here. I am hating the fact that she has to be put out again. She recently had tubes put in and now she's got to deal with this. I know there are tons of kids who have it way worse, but it just super sucks when it's your baby. Also, it appears that the ENT who we saw for the tubes should have seen the tonsil issue, but they didn't. That ENT is no longer around. GREAT! It's all good, now we are going up to Children's and I know they are going to take care of her there. It's just scary because we now know she has multiple breathing issues and I just don't love the thought of another surgery. But, I'm hopeful that with this she will feel a lot better everyday. 

I don't blame her for being crabby. I've struggled with sleep issues my whole life and there isn't much worse than getting little to no sleep. To make myself feel better, I'm going to post some undeniably cute pictures of Harp in a hospital gown from her tube surgery. My girl is so brave and I'm so very proud of her every day. 





I just wish I could do this for her, to take away the pain that I know she's going to have to endure. She is so little and has gone through so much in her life from the problems with her ears, chronic infections and fevers, breathing problems, severe reflux, etc. etc. etc. I have a lot of questions, too. I'm not sure if they should repair her larynx at the same time. I just have a lot of thoughts about it. We can't get in until later in December and I hate that she has to wait, but I am also thankful she won't be healing through Christmas. 

Again, please send your prayers for guidance through this stuff with her. I know she's going to be just fine, but I'm still worried. 

With Love,

Alex

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The one with the tour of our Critter house and how to get cool flooring for your Critter house.

I'm a grown woman who likes to play with Calico Critters. There, I said it! I love them. They are so darned cute. It's just a bonus that Harper also loves them. We like setting up the house. She likes taking off all of their clothes and having them swim at the beach on our play table we have set up. We've been tweaking our house and we finally got it set up the way we want. Come take a tour!


Our critters live next to a river and lake and a beach. Must be nice! You can see them a bit in this picture. We use carpets to break up our rooms. The best and easiest way to get cool carpets is to spend an hour online looking through and ordering cool free fabric samples and carpet samples. Some that you get will be small and useless, but some you get will be perfect for rugs in the critter house! 

When you enter our house, we have a small sitting area with a chair. All of our furniture is piecemeal. We've got a lot of different furniture from all sorts of toy sets. Some work out okay and look like they fit in the Critter house.


The bathroom has a baby bathtub and a display cabinet for our powder and lotion that came with our set. We also have a table with our shampoo and conditioner. The critters are crazy detail oriented and so when you buy sets they have tons of knick-knacks to put in. Most of the bathroom is actual Calico Critters stuff that we got discounted at Home Goods. 

Our baby room is pretty plain right now. We've only got 2 baby cribs, a rug, and a chest of drawers. Christmas should bring us some other things to help fill out our room.

The parents' bedroom is also not too big right now. We've got a large bed from our Little People castle and a wardrobe that we use to keep our clothes in. It sits on a cool cat rug.

In the back of our house, we have a bookcase and some board games.

The last room in our house is our small kitchen. We don't have much for our kitchen at all right now, except for the baby highchairs. 

I know it's nerdy and goofy, but it's pretty fun stuff. Christmas we are adding some more families, a grocery store, and another house. Hope you enjoyed our tour!! 





Saturday, November 22, 2014

The one about Taylor's 14th birthday!

Today is my stepdaughter's birthday. This seems so crazy to me. She is 14 today. I can't believe that she is already 14. Jesus, that makes me feel super old. My husband and I got together when she was 4 so it has kind of come full circle. She's pretty much a little adult now. :( Ugh!

I couldn't be happier with the way she's turned out, though. She's sassy and funny, smart, and kind. I can tell that she will be the type of person who has to learn her way through her youth and learn her own lessons and make her own mistakes and I can tell that she's going to really enjoy living life. It is completely gratifying that I get to be a part of her life. I can honestly say even though she is my stepdaughter, I love her as much as any of my other kids. She is just turning into the coolest person and that's just really exciting to watch. I have to get a little sappy, though. Here are some pictures of little Taylor, circa when her dad and I got together.




I still remember her chubby little face and arms that had not lost the baby fat yet. I remember her calling me asking me to come over to play. Just that instantaneous connection we had. In fact, I remember Zak introduced us pretty early on in our relationship and then actually pulled back us seeing each other because it worried him a bit just how attached she was to me and our relationship was so new. It's crazy to think about now, 5 years into our marriage, about how many times Taylor would hassle her dad to marry me already! Now life is totally different it seems! My fondest memories are playing Grand Champion horses or Polly Pockets with her until her eyes would get tired and she'd have to be put to bed. Ah, shit. Here come the tears. Now the days of Polly Pockets are long gone and the days of boys, clothes, and friends have come. She's turning into an amazing woman and I couldn't be prouder. Plus, she's pretty beautiful, too!


So Taylor, don't forget about your family, even though we annoy you sometimes. Try to be kind even though at times people will try and lead you astray. Stay true to yourself. Love without fear of hurt and you'll do all right in this crazy world. All my love.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The One About Love With Food (Monthly Snack Subscription Service)

Hey everyone! Today I wanted to talk about my new favorite thing, Love with Food! Love with Food is a monthly subscription snack box that is amaze! This month is my second box. It came with the following stuff for $10:

-Laiki Red Rice Crackers
-Chipz Happen Cinnful Sweet Heat Tortilla Chips
-States & Capitols Educational Snacks
-Guylian Marbled Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle
-Guylian Extra Dark Chocolate Praline Truffle
-All Purpose Seasoning Salt Blend
-Midnight Soft Baked Biscotti
-Jer's Chocolate Peanut Groupie
-Soft Dried Turkish Mini Figs

Plus, a cookbook, a coupon for Guylian chocolates, and a $25 gift code to some place called Le Tote which I haven't checked out yet.

Can I just say awesome?! It is such a great deal for the money and it's a great way to spend $10. Plus, they are all about whole, all natural, GMO free, and organic foods. It's a fun way to try new, better for you snacks. I'm just really happy overall with the service. AND this month their shipping was a little behind and so they sent me store credit and an apology email. They really care about their customers and I love that and it's not too easy to find great customer service nowadays.

Here are some of the finer points of Love with Food which I think are actually pretty cool. Every month they send you your tasting box. You try everything out and then you can go online and review what came in the box for points. You don't have to do reviews, but I do, because I love points! These points allow you to buy more snacks! Pretty cool! Plus, if you refer friends, you can also get points, which means more free snacks. You also are letting them know what tastes good and what doesn't so the upcoming boxes get even better snacks that you'll love even more! I really can't say enough good things about Love with Food.

Every snack I've tried this month has been awesome. My favorite are the Guylian truffles. OMG, so delicious!!!!

So, don't take my word for it. Right now you can try a box for FREE! Try it out, please! You won't be disappointed!

Love With Food - Snack Smart. Do Good.

(Disclaimer: There are some referral links in here. But, seriously try it out! Enjoy!)

Monday, November 17, 2014

The one about why I love Calico Critters for little girls and why you should, too.

It's no secret that my house has been completely taken over by the Calico Critter obsession. I spend a lot of time searching for deals on them and honestly, like I said before, I'm just excited about them as Harper is. I love these toys for little girls for a lot of reasons. I think they are super great, wholesome pretend play toys. Here are some of the finer aspects of the critters.

1. All of the critters have their own personalities and interests. Every critter has been given a little cool back story. They have jobs and hobbies that vary from gymnastics to gardening. Here's a family description taken right off of their website:

Mother, Savannah is a famous fashion stylist. Father, John is a furniture designer. Sister, Sarah likes taking pictures of her favorite moments. Brother, Dominic is energetic and loves to climb trees.

2. They are in wholesome wear. I'm not a crazy overzealous person regarding women's dress by any means. I like to wear clothes that show off my body some. However, I think we can all agree that the new trendy dolls, like this one, aren't exactly beaming out the right message to our little girls.


Why every little girls doll has to be wearing some sort of stiletto and miniskirt combo is beyond me. There's a time and a place people, and this is not the right one. But, look at them, they are cool and attractive to kids. They have fun hair, but a not fun message. Here is the sexiest outfit you will see on a Calico Critter:



God, I couldn't love that anymore. Not only is mom in a nice covering dress, she's also baby wearing. C'mon. That's amaze. My daughter loves babies and is most intrigued probably by the fact that the families have babies to play with. I just don't see any huge, glaring problem with their family sets and I see lots of problems with the other dolls that I don't love.

3. Calico Critters encourage family values. I like traditional family values like everyone sitting down to eat dinner together and shopping at the local store together. Calico Critters has play sets that really encourage the family lifestyle. Little girls and boys can have equal amounts of fun spending hours re-enacting what they are living in their own little lives. Harper likes to have her mommy critter play games with her baby critter all day and she likes to give the baby baths and read stories and have bedtime. Playing in these ways is really encouraging, because she is such a sponge, and it gives me real time feedback on my parenting of her and how she feels about it. She enacts what she lives and love that. 

4. Politely encouraging differences. Calico critters are subconsciously and politely enforcing that everyone is different, but very much the same. All of the different critter families come in different but similar compositions of moms, dads, kids, and babies. They are all different colors, shapes, and sizes. They have different professions and different hobbies. This helps kids see that everyone is different in the real world and that's okay. This is definitely something I love. 

I could gush a lot about Calico Critters, but I will straight up tell you they have some downfalls, too. It is INCREDIBLY expensive to start a Critter collection unless you do it meticulously and second-hand. I have scoured for hours trying to find affordable Critters. I think it's worth it for all the reasons I stated above, but a lot of people may not have my kind of time. Each set ranges, with the least expensive being $9 for babies and going all the way up to $24 for families. This is not exactly a cheap price by any means. The houses and playsets are even more crazy. This is the main drawback to critters.

I think that with all that being said, these are still an awesome toy for girls and boys. I love family values and wholesome toys. They are becoming a lot harder to find in today's world!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The one about friends, family, and good food. Recipes and DIY Christmas background!

It is almost my stepdaughter's 14th birthday. This is so crazy to me. I remember her when she was just 4 years old when her dad and I got together and I can't believe it's been 10 years. 10 years! She was a little cutie with lots of baby fat and the cutest little curls you'd ever seen. She decided she wanted a family birthday party and so we all celebrated yesterday. I had such a great time. I made some awesome party dips, which i did not take a picture of. But, I still wanted to share the recipes because they are SO good.


Easy Queso Dip
-1/2 a pound of White American Cheese (the kind you get from the deli), cubed
-5 or 6 pickled jalapenos, chopped
-2 tablespoons jalapeno juice from jar
-1/2 can of diced green chiles
-1/4 to 1/2 cup of milk (depending on how thick you want it to be)

In a small dip sized slow-cooker, place all ingredients and mix. Put on high for 30-45 minutes depending on your cooker. Serve with tortilla chips.


Easy Hummus Dip
-1 15 ounce can of garbanzo beans
-1 teaspoon garlic salt
-1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
-1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
Place all ingredients in blender (I use my magic bullet, works like a charm), blend until mostly smooth. If your hummus is having a hard time blending all together, try adding 1 or 2 tablespoons of water. Serve with chips or crackers.

I wish I would have taken pictures, but since I didn't, trust me that they look and taste amazing.

In other news, I set up my Christmas backdrop and took my kiddos Christmas pictures. I think they turned out amazing!










DIY Christmas pictures background:

Items Needed:
-Large white blanket
-Push pins
-Small Christmas tree
-Nice looking child's chair

Pin your white blanket to a wall. The pins should be at least a foot above the height of your oldest and tallest child. You will pin the longest side. The short side should be draped along the wall. You want to use a blanket long enough that some of it will be on the floor. Smooth out the portion on the floor as much as possible. One side will hold the Christmas tree, the other side is where your child will sit. Very easy and makes nice clean, pictures. I chose to use a textured blanket to give my pictures a bit of texture in the background. :) Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The one where I make a ton of Calico Critters clothes! AND a DIY Tutorial for a No Sew Critter Vest!

Christmas is coming! I'm getting so excited for Christmas this year. I haven't gotten a lot of things yet, but I already know what all the kids want. I'm most excited for Harper's stuff because the Calico Critters are toys from my childhood that I ALWAYS wanted. I'm probably going to have just as much fun playing with them as she is! Ha! Calico Critters and a Lalaloopsy doll that poops charms for a charm bracelet (so weird) are all that Harper talks about lately. It's pretty cute.

Since I picked up my secondhand Critters off of Ebay without any clothes, I've been busy working away to make everyone clothes. Here are the final shots of the 3 families I got:




I think everyone turned out really cute! It's all DIY clothes that involve NO sewing. No sewing was important because in my family I don't sew, my husband does. Seriously, he's the designated stuffed toy fixer. I dressed all the girls in simple dresses, the babies in diapers, and dads and boys in quick, simple vests. Today I'm going to tell you how to make DIY Critter vests!! 


Supplies you will need:

-Leftover fleece or felt
-Scissors
-Hole Punch

First, lie your Critter down on the felt and visualize or draw a rectangle that is large enough to wrap around the front of your Critter's body, but not touch in the front. The rectangle should be the length from the neck to just above the tail. Cut the rectangle out.



Next, mark or visualize where the arm holes should be. To do this, wrap the fabric around the Critter and mark where the shoulder sits on the fabric. Hole punch this mark out. 

Finally, slip your critter's arms through the holes. Cut off any uneven fabric. Ta-da! Super simple! Enjoy!




Monday, November 10, 2014

The one about cheesy potato casserole.

It's getting cold. I don't mind cold weather because to me cold weather means yummy casseroles, soups, Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. All of my favorite things happen when it's cold. I was scrounging for food on Saturday and we had potatoes. Potatoes are my all-time favorite food. They are SO good. I decided to chop up the rest of my bag and make a delicious loaded baked potato casserole. Yum. I'm going to share this yummy recipe with you. It's super simple, way rich, and makes everyone happy.

CHEESY BAKED POTATO CASSEROLE

Ingredients:
-6 large potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces, with skin on! (you can take the skin off, but it makes it less baked potato-ey)
-4 ounces of Velveeta (you could substitute another cheese, but when I'm looking for comfort food, this is still a guilty pleasure, if substituting, I'd suggest Gruyere)
-1/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese
-4 slices of American cheese
-Broccoli
-Olive oil
-Seasoned Salt (Lawry's of course)
-Coarse black pepper
-1/4 cup milk

For garnish:
-Bacon bits or BacO's
-Sour Cream

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. 
  2. In a glass 9x13 baking dish, throw in your chopped potatoes, toss with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, seasoned salt, and coarse black pepper to taste.
  3. Put in oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until your potatoes are golden brown and soft throughout. 
  4. Towards the end of baking time for your potatoes, prepare cheese sauce. In a large microwavable bowl, put all cheeses and milk. Microwave in 2 minute increments until smooth. Set aside.
  5. Cook approximately 2 cups broccoli according to package directions. 
  6. When potatoes are finished, toss with cheese sauce and broccoli. If the sauce is runny, place in oven for 10 additional minutes. If sauce is as desired, serve. Garnish with sour cream and bacon bits.
I always forget to take pictures before we dig on in, but you get the idea. Yum! Enjoy!



Sunday, November 9, 2014

The one about Thanksgiving crafts, part 2!

We are very into crafting around the house lately. I wanted to post some more Thanksgiving craft ideas for you and your kiddos! They are super easy to do.

Coffee Filter Turkeys:

Supplies you will need:
Coffee filter
Paint
Construction paper
Yellow magic nuudles
Glue

First, fold your coffee filter in half. Glue the pieces together to make a half circle. Let your kiddo paint the coffee filter to make "feathers". Next, take some construction paper and cut out a turkey body. This will look like a number eight shape almost, as below. Draw two eyes. Paint on the snoods aka the red thing that hangs off the beak. Snoods. Hehe. Take your magic nuudle and pinch it in half and glue on for the beak. Harper didn't want to paint the turkey brown, so we left it as is. But, if you do you definitely could! Finally glue your turkey body to the coffee filter. If you do it when the paint is dry, the paint will act as a good enough glue, also.


Corn Cob Craft:

Supplies you will need:
-Blue construction paper
-Green Construction paper
-Popcorn kernels, or corn kernel snacks
-Glue


For this craft, first draw an oval or corn cob shape on some blue paper to use as a guide. Next, cut out 4 leaf shapes for the cob. Glue them on as pictured, folding over the leaves to make it look like  a peeled cob. Finally, glue on some kernels. Make sure you glue thick so they stay on really well! Ta-da!

I hope you guys enjoy these crafts as much as we did!

Friday, November 7, 2014

The one about the arrival of the Calico Critters and an easy DIY Critter Dress

Today the mailman came and he brought with him the most anticipated Christmas gift! The calico critters! Hooray! I can't wait to see Harp's face on Christmas morning. And my face is happy because they are in awesome condition. The only issue that they have is that some are missing their clothes. But, these guys are the vintage version. Some of them still have their 1985 Epoch stickers. Which means that this was a super good buy. The vintage ones sell for even more. So when Harper gets older if she gets tired of them she can get rid of them for a decent price!

So, since some of these guys need clothes, my mommy DIY cheap brain has been working overtime to think of ideas on making these guys some clothes that don't involve me sewing. I'm not a seamstress. I found a tutorial on Pinterest for making doll dresses out of socks, but when the Critters got here, I quickly realized that a sock would be too small. Even my son's infant socks didn't have the snug fit I wanted. I explored around my loose fabrics and socks and such I have lying around. I picked up a baby mitten, you know those things that only get like 2 days of use before your baby figures out how to take them off. I had some of the cutest patterns on the mittens AND they were way more snug than a sock. PERFECT! By the way, this is for adult Critters. So, here's how to do it:



You will need:

-A baby mitten
-A sharp, nice hole punch
-Scissors
-Velcro tabs

The first thing you will do is put your Critter inside the mitten like shown above. This is how you will determine how long your dress should be. Mark on the mitten right above where the feet are. Cut straight across, slightly rounding at the edges. Next, take your hole punch and find where the critter's arm holes are and mark it. To make the cute collar, you will want to punch your holes right under the first seam. The hole punches are the perfect size for little Critter arms and the hole punch makes the circle perfect. Next, cut out a V shape in the back to right below the Critter's tail, like so:


This is so Critter's tail will stick out of the dress. Finally, add velcro to the top parts of the V to attach behind Critter's neck. For my final product, I'm going to hot glue on some ribbon and/or buttons for embellishments. Voila! You have a 5 minute no sew Critter sundress! I will post some more pictures on my blog as I finish them up! Enjoy dressing up your Critters!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The one about cold days and Thanksgiving kid projects.

It has been cold, windy, and rainy in these parts lately. That means we've been spending a lot of time cooped up inside playing, watching some TV, and snuggling. That also means Mama is going a little bit stir crazy and so are the kiddos. During baby T's naps Harper and I have been doing busy projects around the house. We decorated for Thanksgiving, but figured out we don't have too much stuff to decorate the house with, so we decided to make some projects. These are super simple and can be done mostly with supplies you have lying around your house. I used some leftovers from the daycare I used to own for some of them and some ideas are just oldies but goodies.

Cornucopia weaving project:

This was one of those prepackaged deals from our curriculum at the daycare, but could easily be made at home with little to no prep work. In fact, Give Your Octopus a Paintbrush has a great cornucopia that has vegetables for cutting practice, too. Print your cornucopia on printable card stock and then cut vertical slits about 1 inch apart for practice with weaving. Weaving is great hand eye coordination practice and perfect for the 3-4 year old preschooler. Harper is actually getting really good at it. She weaved this herself. It looks really straight and perfect! (I don't know where she gets her perfectionist ways from *cough* Zak *cough*, seriously her dad is the biggest perfectionist I know.) Now we could have printed vegetables for cutting practice, but I also think fostering complete creativity is good, too. We opted to draw the veggies and fruits in. She chose to draw grapes, apples, strawberries, and chocolate chips for good measure.



Turkey Handpainting Project

I owned a daycare for years, y'all. That means, I've become pretty damn good at making painting time less messy. Painting is SO messy. I'm not a cleaner. But, that doesn't mean I don't love a darn adorable turkey painting as much as the next gal. My daughter is incredibly good about sitting still which is unusual for kiddos. If yours isn't, I've got a trick for you, too. For this project, we painted her hand (she thought this was hilarious). I had her hold still and spread her fingers wide apart and painted the colors of the turkey on. Then we put her hand on the paper, pressed hard, washed up immediately, and my house never was the wiser with a crazy paint mess. Now, if your kiddo won't hold still for you, don't fret my friend, I have a trick. Grab a paper plate, take kiddo's hand and trace around it. Make sure they spread their fingers wide. THICKLY paint on the plate using your kiddo's hand tracing as a guide as to where you want your colors, now take kiddo's hand and spreading fingers wide press kiddo's hand on the paper plate in the imprint, press to paper, and CLEAN! Sigh. Save your house from paint covered tables and walls and be a happier mama for it. Hang it up for a bit to dry and let your kiddos draw the details on with marker.



Come back later in the month and I'll show you how to make even more cool Thanksgiving projects! What have you and your family been working on?


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The one where we are invaded by Calico Critters and a DIY dollhouse.

My house has been taken over. It's like the second coming of the Beatles. Except instead of Beatles, it's these adorable fellows:


I mean as a girl, how can you not be entranced by these adorable things. I mean there's babies! There's adorable country houses, they all have clothes! I mean, hell, I want to play with them and I'm a grown-ass woman. They rope you in with their adorableness and then you see the price tags. That cute little townhouse there, $50! The family of rabbits, $22.99 and then the babies are separate, so those will run you $8.99. And the house doesn't come with any furniture, so you are looking at least $100 to even have a playable set of stuff. You sly bastards, you. 

But, alas, my daughter is totally obsessed with it, so I have been scouring resale pages, eBay, everywhere looking for these little guys at a semi-reasonable cost. I found a mislisted eBay listing that had 20 of these babies and a house that doesn't go with them that they may or may not be able to use for $35. That's pretty exciting when you consider that the dolls cost anywhere between $4 and $6 a piece. I'm going cheap and thrifty on this as much as I can, because I'm a stay at home mom. As I've said a billion times before, we broke y'all. I'm going to try and make clothes for them because the ones I got don't have the clothes. 

Harper and I spent all morning Monday making a Calico Critter house out of a box. Cheaper than the cheapest home that costs $50, by far. I've actually got a vintage Calico Critters house that I had received from my Grandma as a little girl. But, we are expecting 4 families and I know my daughter and so everyone is going to have to have their own place. Our playhouse may not look that pretty, but it's seriously my daughter's favorite toy right now because she helped make everything. Take a look:



Let me take you over some of the finer points of making a quick and easy dollhouse. First we took a box and cut all the top folds off of it. We saved 2 of the pieces to make our walls. It's the easiest way to do it because they will be a perfect fit. Next, we cut out our windows and a door using a sharp knife. Don't let your kids wield a sharp knife. Not a good plan. I did that part. For the outside of the house, we covered it in construction paper to make it look a little less like a box. We reinforced the corners with some duct tape. For the inside we decided to make 2 rooms and a hallway. First I set up the walls with some duct tape and the box edges I'd saved. I cut doors into the walls. I should have put them more in the middle, but I didn't. Live and learn. While I did this, Harper designed the "wallpaper" for the kids' room. I cut down and sized the wall paper on to the walls. I used felt for the "carpet". We let that all dry and while Harper napped I made the finishing touches for the rooms. I cut egg shaped pieces of felt out for rugs to put in the rooms. I had some trial pill boxes from the last time I went to the doctor and I covered those in brown shipping paper to make beds. Basically, you will unfold one side of the box and stick it straight up to make a headboard. I took some infant socks we had lying around and cut the cuffs off of them and stuffed the foot part full of cotton for pillows. Then I took some receiving blankets and cut them up for sheets. I didn't know wtf to do with all of that stuff anyway. 

When my daughter got up from nap, she had a ready to play with dollhouse! In fact, most of the dolls have moved out of the fancy calico critters house into the box dollhouse. She is so proud of herself for making it and it saved me anywhere from $50-$180 (seriously, why are they so expensive?)! Now she just can't wait for Santa to get here and bring her some Calico Critters!