Thursday, June 13, 2013

Making Graduation Decorations Personal

I wanted to create a graduation party that was all about my beautiful daughter and her journey into adulthood.  I was looking to keep the theme simple, elegant, personal, and in her school colors. While searching Pinterest for ideas, I came across the blog Thoughtfully Simple

I was drawn to the fact that the decorations were simple and happen to be her exact school colors. Attracted to the idea of  using the yearbooks as a center point, I took a closer look to discover there was a  reason her ideas were perfect. The school on the yearbooks were from my daughter's school! What a small pinning world! 

Everyone loved the personal touches of the decorations, and even learned a little something more about Katie that night.

  I bought prayer candles from the Dollar Store. I photo copied each page of all four years of Katie's photos from her yearbooks. Make a water/glue mixture. Lightly apply the mixture around the candle while carefully alining the photo paper as you go around. You may have to rub out wrinkles as you go.  I used apples to hold-up little signs that read "Congrats" and "Grad". I placed simple white daisies around each apple. On top of her yearbooks is a cardboard graduation hat also from the Dollar Store. The banner was created by using ribbon, scrapbook paper, and numbers from the kids art section.

Katie loved reading all the wonderful advice the guest gave her for her up-coming journey into the college world!

For the banquet table on either side were vases with flowers in her school colors and photo sticks from her journey as a baby to present day. The photo sticks are printed out photos from the computer, decorative stock paper, and floral sticks. 
 Using mementos from Katie's birth, first steps, preschool, kindergarten, prom and a photo from her graduation, I created the card table at the entrance of the house. 
Candy grad hats: Once again the scrapbook paper came in handy. Just place cut out little squares on top of the candy. Cut out yarn and knot one end and glue the other on top of the square. Using a hole punch, punch out the scrapbook paper and glue on top of the yarn.
I will be honest, you will need a box of tissues and you will find yourself eating the chocolate candies as you wonder, when did she/he grow-up!

Happy Graduation to All!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Peter Pan and the Never Land Birthday Party

Welcome to Never Land!

With the sprinkle of pixie dust, and the magic of our inner child we were able to transform our home into Never Land for our daughter's 5th birthday!

We invited our guest to dress as their favorite character using what they already had in their clostes. It was fun guessing what character our friends were dressed up as. The birthday girl was a fan of mermaids at the time, and wanted to be one from the Mermaid Lagoon. Luckily, she was a mermaid the previous Halloween. Her older sister became Wendy and her friend chimed in as Peter Pan. Baby sissy was our magical Tinker Bell. Little did Wendy and Peter Pan know that Tinker Bell's mom was going to use her pixie dust carrier to have them pick-up pizza's. The fun of being a mom!
A flag let our guest know they have found the secret entrance into Never Land
To enter into Never Land, they had to go through the magical waterfall 
  Once through the waterfall, the hint of the treasures left by Captain Hook at the coves entrance let them know they were getting close.
Where they were also greeted by, Tinker Bell
To lead them on the right path, they had to follow the sign
After a long journey, our guest were treated to a fest of Lilly pads, lady bugs, grass sticks in a ranch pond, a bowl of jewels (aka fruit salad), and the catch of the day ( aka fish crackers)

In Never Land, there are treasure to be found! 
All seemed safe, until we spotted Captain Hook's Pirate Ship! Together they all protected 
Never Land!

 At the Mermaid Lagoon, our guest were able to create sand art to take home with them.
In a group of two, we went on a treasure hunt to find the missing treasures around the local islands (aka neighbors). Seeing we had our hands full, we forgot to take a picture.
For the time in-between the guest were able to play at Tinker Bell's house.
Then it was time for cake!

It was time to say good-bye. Before leaving Never Land, our tired guest were able to transform into fairies and pirates as their "goodie bags" to start their journey back to their beds for a much needed nap.
Remember, once in a while we have to let our inner-child come out to play to keep us young at heart! 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Chewy Coffee House Style Cookies!

This recipe bakes around 1 1/2 dozen cookies, that's if you have the strength to resist the temptation of the cookie batter. As a family of 6 with sixty fast fingers, I can scrap out about a dozen or so! 

2         Cups and 2 teaspoons unsifted all purpose flour
1/2      teaspoon salt
1/2      teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2   Sticks butter (12 Tablespoons) melted and cooled till warm
1         Cup brown sugar, I use light
1/2      Cup granulated sugar
1          Large egg, plus the yolk of another egg
2          teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2          Cups goodies of your choice!

Step One: Preheat the oven to 325* degrees

Step Two: Microwave butter until melted

Step Three: Place the first three ingredients into a bowl. Mix together and set aside

Step Four: Place in butter and both sugars into mixing bowl and blend until mixed together

Step Five: Add the large egg and yolk into mixture and give a quick mix

Step Six: Add the 2 teaspoons of vanilla to mixture and blend until mixed together

Your mixture should look a tad fluffy.

Step Seven: Start slowly adding the dry ingredients to the mixture. Add a little at a time allowing the dry and mixture to blend before adding more of the dry ingredients.

Step Eight: Remove mixing bowl from the mixter. Now you have your cookie base. Have fun adding 2 cups of goodies to the cookie base. Mix good and well. Get underneath and dig into the mixture blending the items well into the cookie base. In the picture I used the following: 1 cup of Peanut butter and milk chocolate chips, 1/2 a cup of Health English Toffee Bits, and chocolate chunks.

Step Nine: Scoop out the mixture and place onto a cookie sheet. I used the Pampered Chef medium size scooper. Once scooped, I rolled the rounded part of the scooper on the top of each cookie. This will help make the cookie even during the cooking process.  Bake for about 8-9 minutes. The cookie should stay a light color. The center should be soft and puffy. I tend to check on them around the 6 minute mark. Each oven bakes differently. Once I start to see even the slightest bit of brown edge, I take them out. Enjoy!
I have used the following combos:

Sweet and Salty
1/2 Cup of chopped slated-pretzels
1/2 Cup of  Nuts
A hand full of Caramel Bits
1    Cup of chocolate chips

1/2 Cup Chopped Sinckers Candy Bar
1    Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1/2 Cup chocolate chunks

1    Cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 Cup of Chunks
1/2 Cup of Walnuts

11/2Cups of white chocolate chips
1/2 Cup chopped macadamia nuts

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Must Have Treat For Baseball Season!

"Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don't care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game."

Homemade Caramel Chex Mix

8 Cups popped popcorn (not per-buttered, the lighter the better)
4 Cups rice / corn cereal squares
2 Cups miniature pretzel twists
1 Cup of nuts of your choice (I like to do a combo of nuts)
1 Cup packed brown sugar
1/2 Cup of butter (I like to use unsalted seeing there is enough in the pretzels and nuts)  
1/4 Cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soad

Preheat the oven to 300*F.

*I have a very deep stone roasting lid that holds the entire mixture. If you just have 9x10 bakers you may need to use a couple of them. If so, then mix all your ingredients into a large bowl that will hold the entire mixture and once mixed quickly transfer into baking dishes.  Some crock pot dishes can go into the oven, check your instructions for details. 

Combine the first four ingredients into your dish/bowl and gently toss. Combine brown sugar, butter and corn syrup into a saucepan. Cook and stir mixture over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil over the entire surface.  Reduce heat to medium low. Cook without stirring for 5 minutes.  The mixture will still bubble over surface. Remove pan from the heat and quickly stir in vanilla and baking soda.
This is important! Gently, yet quickly, pour caramel sauce over dry mixture and stir in until the entire mixture is coated. 

Transfer into baking dishes (if need be). Place bakers into preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes.  After 15minutes of baking, stir mixture and continue baking. After baking transfer mixture onto a large piece of parchment paper to cool. Although very tempting wait at least 4-5 minutes for mixture to cool before placing in your mouth. The caramel is very hot.

Servings: 15 Cups


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Reading Log

I combined my skills as a writer, mom and kindergarten volunteer to create a reading log to use with my daughter, Emma.  The goal of the reading log is to enhance her reading ability, sequencing skills, improve her handwriting, and becoming aware of her site words in her daily reading. The author in me, is getting her to tap into her imagination and learning to use those skills to write in story form.

You are more then welcome, in fact I encourage you, to use the reading log with your little ones.  If you would like the word doc emailed to you, please email:
Your email will be kept private and the word doc is the only email you will receive.

Thank you and enjoy!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Pop Rock and Soda Experiment Using the 5 Senses

We headed to our play table with our science journals in hand to perform the "Pop Rock and Soda Experiment".  I stretched the experiment further by discussing how our 5 senses reacted through out the process.
2-3 Packet of Rock-Pops
1 Round balloon
1 Bottle of clear carbonated soda
Journals (If you want to keep a log)

 Before we started the experiment, we discussed that the soda contains tons of tiny bubbles called carbon dioxide gas (CO2). Then I opened one bag of Rock Pops and we examined the texture and color of the  rocks. The Pop Rocks also contain carbon stored with 600 pounds of pressures. When the two are mixed together, they cause a physical reaction producing foam in the soda. The foam will then release the CO2. The building CO2 will inflate the balloon.

Then it was time for the taste test! I asked the girls what they thought would happen once they placed the candy into their mouth. This was their very first time sampling this popping treat. I asked them to put their ears up to the candy and asked what they heard. My five year old said she could hear little pop sounds. Then I allowed both girls to place the candies into their mouth. Once they had a taste of a pile of candy, I asked them what they felt now that candy had a reaction inside their mouth. Emma on her own said, "Mommy the popping is loud now!".  For the sense of touch, I asked them what they felt going inside their mouth, and if it felt different then when the candies where in their hands. 
As we filled the balloon with Rock Pops, we came up with our hypothesis of the reaction the candies would have with the soda.  
Once the balloon was filled, we careful placed the balloon around the top of the soda bottle. Make sure the candies stay inside the balloon at this point.
Once the balloon is secure, lift the balloon up and allow the candies to fall inside the soda.
I pointed out that the tiny bubbles started to rise to the surface, creating foam and filling the balloon with carbon gas. We watched as the balloon became bigger and bigger.
Now that the balloon was filled it was time to tie it up!
We finalized our experiment by pouring the soda into glasses to see what change occurred with the soda. The soda became a light color of pink from our strawberry flavored Rock Pops and had a hint of berry smell and taste.

 The girls had a blast performing this experiment! Plus, there was the extra perk of being able to eat candy and splitting a soda between sisters.
I stumbled on this experiment on the Steve Spangler Blog  
        I also researched the reaction between the Pop Rocks and soda on Your Dictionary Since.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Gumball Math Sheets

Searching Pinterest for fun math projects for my daughters; I pinned a linked titled, "Gumball Math".  When I tried to open the link, I quickly discovered the link was inactive.  Loving the concept of the idea, I decided to create my own gumball math sheets. When my daughter was counting to the teens, she would often recount her stamps when adding more ink to her pencil. The redundant pattern helped her memorize the numbers. She quickly caught on and has conquered counting to twenty! My four year old was able to use the sheets for counting up to ten.

The sheets are scanned copies. If you prefer the hard copy, please email: 
I will be happy to email you the word doc. 

We used a stamp pad and the top of the pencil to create the gumballs.

  Children can either use the same tools or they can use stamps, stickers, or markers.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Doc Is In! A Doc McStuffin's Birthday Party.

Luckily, as a Children's book author, my creative imagination is always in full-swing. When my littlest one announced she would like a Doc McStuffins birthday party, I quickly discovered this was going to be a do-it-yourself project.

To start the party preparation I used Microsoft Word, Paint and my printer as my handy-dandy birthday tool belt to bring an idea to life. First step. The invitations. All of the graphics are owned by Disney. I found them using Google. I used Word to make the clouds to insert the party information. I printed them out on photo paper giving them a store-bought quality.

 I was going with the simple, soft, and elegant look. My goal was simple and not to overflow the house with streamers, balloons, and wall decorations. Instead of balloons, we incorporated colorful flowers into our decor.  I purchased the flowers at Wal-Mart for a little over four dollars a bouquet. I only had to purchase two bouquets for the look I was going for. I was able to divide the flowers into two vases. The price I paid for the flowers, came to the same price I would have paid for a boutique of balloons. 

    To go with the art theme, "Clear Puppyitis" I placed the flowers into a glass. I then placed the glass into the vases and inserted the girl's crayons into the empty space between the glass and the vase.
I once again found an image of Doc and her friends using Google. After inserting the image into Word, I used word-art to frame the image with "Happy Birthday Hope".  Afterwards, I cut out the photo paper using scallop scissors and gave the paper a construction paper backing. Four long curly ribbons added a bit of charm. I placed the decorations in four places; two on either side of the fire place, one in the room with the art project, and another by the living room. Simple, themed and tidy, gave it the appearance of decorations without the overflow look.

In the middle of the fireplace, in-between the the two decorations, I added one more element. I used a construction paper backing, and added a sticky flower that I found in the gift-wrap section, which gave a tad bit of texture and softness to the design.

Our first event was an art-project. The little "Doctors" had to cure the puppy from " Clear Puppyitis"
The puppy lost his color, so the children had to paint the color back onto the puppy.  The 16 puppies, three packages of paint, plates, hand-wipes, and hooks cost only $25.00. This was also part of their goody bag treat to take home. It was a huge hit!

 Once the puppies were cured, it was off to heal Stuffy! My publisher hires an illustrator for all my books for a reason.  My drawings consist of stick figures; however, I must say some how by the grace of God, I was able to pull off a hand drawing of this little guy! Stuffy dropped the Big Book of Boo- Boos on his thumb. The children had to try to place the band-aid on the boo boo.

Once Stuffy was all better, it was time for our last game. Doc McStuffins medical bag was missing all of her medical instruments! The children had to go on a hunt for the missing items. There was one set of instruments per child.  Each child was handed an instruction sheet and a paper bag before they were released to go on the big hunt. The children really enjoyed this game and the parents had a few good laughs.
The instruments and bandage are available at the Disney Family Go Site.

Goody Bags

At the Dollar Store we found pink and blue miniature cloth bags priced at three for a dollar. I filled each bag with a candy necklace, lolly-pop, candies, the hook for the puppy, play-dough, and this little treat.

The Food 
During the snack, the children watched an episode of Doc McStuffins on T.V.
The biggest splurge were on the mouth watering gourmet petite cupcakes by, Incr-Edible Cupcakes.  They were on the TV Show, 'Cup Cake Wars'. The out of focus photo is not doing the cupcakes justice at all. They were the perfect size, not even a crumb was left or dropped.  Every bite was like a taste of sweet heaven. All the children loved them. Most adults will pass-up on the sweet treats, and at first they did, until the one adult took a nibble and their excitement of pleasure caused a chain reaction. The adults raved over the delicious explosion of perfect flavor they were experiencing on their pallet. 


For a twist of fun we made colorful ice-cubes using Kool-Aid packets and clear soda (Sprite, 7-Up, etc.). I adjusted the recipe I found on Pinterest.  I thought the soda had enough sugar and did not add any additional to the Kool-Aid mix.  To make the ice cubes bright, I used two cups of water for one packet of Kool-Aid.  For some, we even left out the soda and used water. The results were the same and everyone enjoyed watching their drink change colors and flavor.

NOW HOW COME MY PARENTS DIDNT DO THIS FOR ME WHEN I WAS A KID??  KoolAid ices cubes in sprite. The drink changes flavor as the ice melts!   IM TOTALLY GOING TO DO THIS NOW!

For the remainder of the snacks there were quarter cut sandwiches, gold fish crackers, Micky Mouse shaped cheese, miniature pickles, and plastic cups with a tablespoon of ranch dressing on the bottom filled with carrots and celery sticks. 

By the end, everyone had a joyous time. As for the Birthday Girl, she passed out on Grandma's lap; the prognosis by the doctor, too much party fun.