Happy New Year 2017!

We were fortunate enough to have my parents visiting for the New Year, which allowed me to be a little more ambitious for our New Year’s dinner.  I have been wanting to teach the girls how to make dumplings.  I still have fond memories as a child of all of us seated at the kitchen table making dumplings, talking and joking while making delicious food. These are the kinds of small traditions I want to pass on to my children, but it is a lot of work for just one person to prepare all of the ingredients and follow through, because, inevitably, children’s attention spans are short. With my mom in town, this eliminated a lot of these concerns as we have been working together for so long that it’s almost like second nature when we are together and making food.

We ended up making three different dumplings: shui jiao and guo tie (same style, just cooked differently), wontons and shumei. Can I just say, TASTY!!!!  To save time we bought the store-bought dumpling wrappers but made the filling from scratch. Making it fun for the kids, we had on child per adult and I had my daughters separate the he dumpling skins, spoon the filling, and put water around the perimeter of the hehe he skins for sealing.  My mom, husband and I wrapped the dumplings.  When they get older they can get more interactive, learning how to wrap the different types of dumplings.

Dumpling filling (for 5 packs of small, round dumpling skins):

2 lb ground pork

1 lb diced shrimp

2 lb chopped chives

4 stalks scallions, diced

4 slices Ginger, diced

2 T cooking wine

1 tsp white pepper

2 tsp salt

2 T cornstarch

4 T soy sauce

4 T sesame oil

Mix all ingredients together and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. Wrap away!

Happy New Year to all!

Holiday Bingo

This year my eldest daughter wanted to try her hand at some holiday crafts.  I figured it would be fun to try some more creative and challenging crafts so we looked at pinterest and I let her choose what to do.  She ended up wanting to make a holiday bingo game as a gift for her 2-year old cousin.  It was very sweet, although explaining to a 5-year old why bingo may not be an age appropriate gift seemed beyond her.  She just looked at me with wide eyes and said “It’s okay mommy, she can just use it when she’s older!”  (Shrug and sigh).

Most DIY bingo sets were printed from a computer,  but since I don’t own a printer I figured we could draw them by hand. My daughter got to choose all the icons and colors.  She actually drew each one for me and colored them so I knew what she wanted,  then I transcribed them to each board in random orders. The bingo pieces ended up being pennies we painted with nail polish and the dice we made were little wooden craft blocks that we drew the icons onto and colored.

I think this set is really cute and thoughtful, and it was a lot of fun for my daughter and me to put together. Hopefully her cousin will really enjoy the set when she gets older! Did you make anything special for yhe holidays?  Happy holidays to all! 

Holiday Cheer to Share

It’s the most wonderful time of the year again!  I love the holidays and the festive nature.  Seeing all the decorations, hearing the wood crackle as you build a fire, smelling the aromas of cinnamon and gingerbread, these are all things I associate with the holidays.  I can’t believe the year has flown by so quickly and we are here once again!

This year I (finally) started thinking of holiday gifts far enough in advance to plan for something other than a gift card for my children’s teachers.  I trolled ideas on pinterest and thought of what gifts both my girls could help make.  I settled on homemade hot chocoate mix with individualized marshmallows.  I saw a pin of marshmallows decorated using food coloring pens that I thought would be fun for the girls to make. 

I ordered some small metal tins on Amazon,  found some circular holiday stickers for the lids,  and used a 2.5″ circular punch to make an instructon label to fix to the back. This is the result. 

The girls had a great time decorating the marshmallows and helping me make the cocoa mix.  I ended up pre-mixing sugar with Ghiradelli cocoa powder and then packaging them into the tins, with the help of my eldest.  I got small 4″ clear cookie bags for the marshallows and found a great 6″ striped holiday cookie bag for the overall package.  I hope the teachers and care providers like these handmade gifts!

What are you making for the holidays?

Zentangle Bowls

I have these legacy bowls from college that are perfectly serviceable and durable, but they are definitely not my style and I am desperately waiting for them to “break” (they never will, they’re indestructible….. ) so that I can finally have an excuse to buy some fun new table settings.  I have been coveting sets of bowls that have mis-matched prints in bold colors or bold patterns.  Some that I especially liked are below:

Aren’t these just adorable?  I want some so badly, but I cannot bring myself to dispose of perfectly practical (and unbreakable) bowls.  Well, fortunately (or not) my husband accidentally broke a bowl, which, unfortunately, happened NOT to be one of the oh-so-despised bowls that I would rather it have been.  However, this did give me an excuse to get a new bowl.  I thought it may be fun to test out an idea that I had while planning the craft for my eldest daughter’s birthday party.  Why couldn’t I make something?  I have all these glazed sharpie pens.

I was prompted to find something to do when my daughter suddenly got sick and had to stay at home for three days.  In desperation, I went to Target with her and got two bowls for us to decorate.  For my bowl, I thought it would be fun to do a Zentangle-inspired, or Mandala-inspired design.  For those of you not familiar with Zentangle or Mandala art, it’s some images are below:

 

I learned from the party craft that I should try to avoid the actual eating surface because the washing would eventually cause the pattern to wear over time.  So, I had a plan, kind of.  This is what happened:

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My daughter helped with some of the simpler patterns, such as the large yellow dots.  She was really impressed with how long this took me to draw (it wasn’t that long, but to a 5-year old, it was “FOREVER”).  I’m looking forward to getting a couple more bowls to complete a set – all different patterns of course!  What do you think?

DIY Color-Me-Mine

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So birthday season upon us and I’m always on the lookout for new and creative ideas suitable for kids, especially as I was planning my daughter’s birthday party.  I had seen, a while back, an article about ceramic sharpie markers that could be used on an everyday lamp, plate, cup, etc. that would spice up an otherwise ordinary piece into something more unique or extraordinary.  In doing a little research, I learned that you could use these markers, bake said piece in an oven, and they would become a permanent part of the ceramic piece in question.  Wouldn’t this be a perfect craft for kids?

Obviously I had to test it out.  I started by purchasing a small box of these enamel sharpie markers:

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I found these to work really nicely.  If you didn’t push the tip in while you were drawing, the paint flowed smoothly and fairly evenly across the surface.  I would probably get a finer tip in the future for my own use, but for kids I think this is the perfect size.  Next, I took an Ikea mug that I had no particular affinity to and started doodling.  This was the result:

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Once I finished doodling, I set the design by baking it in the oven set at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  This was actually really fun and when my daughter saw what I had drawn, we ended up having a little craft party where she and daddy also got to decorate mugs.  So, now we all have our own personalized mugs and we found the perfect activity for seven little girls.  Win all around!

Label Love

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You never really realize how much stuff you accumulate with kids until they take everything out of its hiding place and you see everything strewn all over the floor  This is only exacerbated in a larger space because the items get spread all over the house across multiple rooms and it is up to you to pick up the pieces, put the all together in the right games/ kits/ puzzles/ etc. and then put them all back in their proper place.  Something that I realized very early on was the need for some sort of storage bins to organize everything.

Since I’m slowly figuring things out, I didn’t want to splurge on really nice bins or anything.  I found these really cheap but serviceable plastic bins in the $1 section at Target that would do the trick.  Once I got them and started to place the various toys in bins, I quickly realized I was going to need some sort of labeling system so that not only I, but my husband and the kids, would remember what goes where.

I am really interested in typography and the various different methods of representing information.  Variations on how you write the message with color font, size, shape and pattern, will ultimately influence the user on what they are understanding.

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I thought it would be fun to try my hand at whimsical typography for labeling these bins. I wanted to have a visual shape to the words, so that my kids can recognize what goes where since they are still too young to read.  I think the most difficult part for me was how to categorize the various bins, especially the “general crap” bin.  How do you distill that into one word that isn’t “crap”?  Well, I got through it eventually, although it took me longer than I would care to admit to finish all of the labels!  Here are images of some of the tags I created.  I got some craft scissors I wanted to try out so I decided to use them for the borders of the labels, but I’m not sold on it yet.  I may end up cutting it down to a straight rectangle.  We’ll see how I feel in a couple months…. What do you think?

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Eraser Fun

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My eldest daughter really loves art projects.  Give her an art pad and some colored pencils or crayons and she will be entertained for a good hour or more by herself.  Since she tends to have such an affinity for drawing or art projects,  I am always looking for new ideas of things to do to keep her interested.

My cousins came for a visit over the summer and not only did they bring some awesome colored pencils,  paper pad and stickers, they also brought a really cool make your own eraser kit!  Within the compact plastic case, you saw pristine squares of soft colored rubber waiting to be molded into whatever your imagination and hands were capable of.  She was so excited when she got this gift that she proceeded to show it to me every day until I said we had time to do this project. I finally relented after a couple of days (so this post has been a long time coming!)

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The cool thing is this material is a lot like play-doh except once you are done,  you bake it in the oven and it will harden into an usable eraser. When I asked her what she wanted to make,  she immediately decided on a pink piggie.  Pink is one of her favorite colors right now so I’m hardly surprised she found a way to use the pink first.

I busted out a 1/2″ diameter wood dowel, some toothpicks, and a plastic for and knife to use as shaping tools for our projects.  I decided to make a purple dinosaur (not Barney)!  It was quite fun and as you worked longer with the original material, it became more pliable and moldable,  although it did get stickier as well.

I helped my daughter get the shape just right after her first go of it by herself. I showed her how to add a hole in the bottom so you could mount it on a pencil, how to attach limbs, etc.  It was very similar to working on a clay sculpture.  I think that the end results are super cute and my daughter had such a great time making these.  I can’t wait for round two!