There's nothing you can't do.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

How to Make Your Own Sea Monkey Food

For decades, I was known far and wide as the Sea Monkey Killer. Over a year ago, I bought my daughter a Sea Monkey kit. Not just any kit, either...it was Sea Monkeys on Mars. I was determined to give those little fellows the best environment possible and to break my Sea Monkey Serial Killer streak.



Thanks to the magic of the Internet (mostly Google, of course), I was able to determine that the instructions that come with the little pink guys aren't ideal: the Sea Monkeys only need to be fed about once a week. Any more is too much food, and over time it builds up in the water and suffocate them. 

Armed with this new, important information, I doled out a small scoop once a week, and the result has been many happy, healthy generations of Sea Monkeys on Mars! They're still going strong...it will be two years this Christmas!

The little packet of food that came with the kit doesn't last forever, though, and I wasn't fond of paying to have another tiny packet of food shipped to us if I could find something we already had that would work. A couple of years ago, I bought some Spirulina capsules after reading about their health benefits. I have been taking them since, and they work well as a diet supplement for me. It's worth some research and a discussion with your doctor if you think they might be beneficial for you, too! However, they're definitely good for Sea Monkeys, and are the exact same thing that comes in their starter kit, but in pill form. 

To make your own Sea Monkey food, you'll need:
- Spirulina (It comes as a powder or capsule, if you get the powder, that's all you need.)
If you get the capsules, you will also need:
- A saucer 
- A flat-bottomed glass or cup
- A small, lidded storage container


To make the food, simply place a few tablets into the saucer, and mash them with the glass. 


Pour the powder into your storage container, and use this as your food going forward. 



I've been using this for two months now, and my little Martian colony is thriving!

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Quick and Easy Father (or Grandfather) Gift

I always struggle with gifts for my husband, father, and father-in-law. Men are usually just harder to buy for: they already have everything they need, and when they need something, they just go buy it. All the men in my life do appreciate it when my daughter makes them something, though, so I always try to find something cute that she can do herself (with maybe just a little help from me).

In the past, we have made a hand print treebattery gardens and hand / foot print tees, and filled out the "All About my Granddaddy" page. This year, my daughter made my father tee shirt with his "picture" on it, and it turned out really nice! This would also make a great gift for a Grandma, mother, teacher, or anyone in your child's life!

What You'll Need:



- Fabric paint (I used Scribbles. It looks and works great and they last forever!)
- Plain t-shirt (pre-washed)
- Chalk
- Cardboard or newspaper

First, place the cardboard or newspaper inside the shirt. This will prevent the paint from soaking through to the back.

Spread the t-shirt flat, then give your child the chalk, and let him or her draw a picture of the recipient.


It doesn't have to be perfect - my daughter got frustrated because the chalk kept "skipping" on the fabric. I explained to her that we'd smooth it all out with the paint, and the chalk would wash away so it wouldn't really matter in the long run. Also, the chalk is great because you can just rub away any errors and re-do them until it looks they way they want it to look!


Once the picture is finished, I asked my daughter to write "Granddaddy" underneath, but obviously, your child can write anything he or she would like! I also think it would be cute to have a picture of "Ganddaddy and me", but my daughter just wanted to draw her Granddaddy.

Next, you can paint over the chalk with the fabric paint. Older kids can do this themselves, but my daughter is still a little young, and I worried about her accidentally smearing it with her arm and hand. She told me which colors she wanted to use, and I filled in the picture and letters.


She wanted to use glitter paint for the gray hair, which I thought was a nice touch. Let the paint dry completely (according to the label), then wash and dry the shirt. All the chalk will be gone, and your child's design will really look great!


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Good OTC Post Mastectomy Form Option

Unlike Angelina Jolie, I chose not to have breast reconstruction after my bilateral mastectomy. I had many reasons for doing this, some of which are:

  •  Less pain and easier recovery: I had no physical restrictions 2 weeks after surgery (once the drains were out) and was running again 2 weeks post-op.
  •  No follow up surgeries: reconstruction is a lengthy process in which multiple surgeries are performed. The process can take up to a year, sometimes more. Each surgery can have its own complications including necrosis (tissue death), infections, tissue rejection, and complications due to anesthesia (I always have a bad reaction to it, personally). Plus, the post-surgical drains are a huge pain. I wasn't able to drive, reach above my shoulders, shower or sleep anywhere but on my back, on the sofa, until they were out. I didn't want to have to deal with that over and over.
  •  Simpler situation for my young daughter: I didn't want this to be known as the "year Mommy was sick". My choice meant that someone else would pick her up at the bus stop and help around the house for 2 weeks, then after that, we could go back to a normal routine in which her Mommy could do all the stuff she'd always done.
  •  It kind of irks me that people consider breasts part of the public domain. Look at the discussion of Angelina Jolie's decision: people offering opinions about what she should have done or should not have done. Anytime breasts are involved, it's open season for discussion. It's not that way for any other type of cancer, is it? I realize how society feels about breasts, but no one ever talks about testicular reconstruction for testicular cancer, do they? Gall bladder reconstruction if it's removed? No, of course not. Those are diseased body parts that aren't crucial to life, so they were removed. Same with my breasts.


So, I do have the option of going flat, or wearing breast forms, depending on how I feel about what I'm wearing or what I'm doing that particular day. I have noticed that if people don't know I have had a mastectomy and I go flat, they don't even notice. However, when people know, they seem to look at them a little more closely, and I'm sure they do it without even realizing it.

Most of the time, I wear small forms. I have a prescription for breast prostheses, but I have never gone for a fitting. I did go before surgery to buy a post-surgical camisole, so I'm slightly familiar with what's available, but I have actually been happy with the options I have here, for both everyday wear as well as swimsuits.

I picked up 2 sets of these water pads which can be worn in bras as well as swimsuits.


I sewed each pair together at the corners (flip them as shown in the photo so they fit together nicely).



These sit fine in my full-coverage Playtex bra without using a pocket, and they slip into my swimsuit in the slot where the nipple guards are, so they stay put while I'm swimming.

If I wanted to go bigger than this, I would definitely want a prescription prosthesis. I prefer the smaller look though; I feel it is slimming and I like that it's not heavy or burdensome. So, for my purposes, these work great!

Friday, May 24, 2013

How to Make an Easy DIY Natural Body Scrub

I have been using this great body scrub for a couple of years now, and it works really well to exfoliate and moisturize my skin. It's also a handy way to use coffee grounds instead of dumping them out!


Here is the recipe:

1/4 cup used coffee grounds
1/4 cup sea salt or kosher salt
1/4 cup olive (or other, such as almond or joboba) oil
1/4 tsp lemon juice
5 - 10 drops essential oil for scent (optional)

Just mix everything together and store in a plastic container. If you have a non-textured tub, be sure to rinse the tub area really well afterwards so it won't be slick for the next shower.

Monday, May 13, 2013

How to Restore a Faded Patio Umbrella

Now that the weather is getting warmer, we're getting our patio ready for a lot of use this spring and summer. I noticed that our patio umbrella is in good shape, but it had become striped with fading from the sun. I decided to try to even out the color rather than replace it, because - stripes aside - it's still very functional.



I picked up two cans of Rustoleum Painter's Touch Ultra Cover at the hardware store, and I used Moss Green as it seemed to be the closest match to the color of our umbrella. Two cans proved to be just right for us - I have a little less than 1/2 can left. You may want to pick up more, though, if your umbrella is quite faded, or if you're trying a different color.

I removed the fabric from the wooden fram by unscrewing the top and sliding the supports out of the pockets. I placed the fabric flat on the ground in our yard. 



Since the paint was green, I wasn't too worried about having painted grass. If you prefer, spread your fabric onto a painter's cloth or tarp before spraying. 

Next, spray your fabric evenly. I applied three coats altogether. The fabric soaked it up and dried very quickly, and it took less time than I'd thought it would. 


The shade I chose ended up being a little lighter than the original, which was fine because it really evened out the color. I love the way it looks now. Since these umbrellas start at $50, I am really happy to have this one for a few more years!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Easy Things to do for a Fun Fairy Party

As I mentioned in my previous post, we recently had a fairy-themed party for my now six-year-old daughter. While we bought a few Tinkerbell items that were pre-made, we also had a great time making our own decorations and games. These are a few of my favorites:

Decorations

Balloon flowers

We made these cute balloon flowers for the yard and garden.

To make them, we used four balloons for the petals, one for the center, clear packing tape, and a wooden yard stake (available at hardware stores).




It took a few failed attempts before I realized that the secret to making these work was to under inflate the balloons. I made the red ones slightly larger than the yellow, and I only filled the red ones half-way. That gave  me the extra room I needed to tape the ends together as a flower.

Another very important note: you'll want to cover the end of the stake with tape so that any splinters won't pop your flowers!


Here they are, ready for the garden!



Welcome to Pixie Hollow Sign


We have a long, wooded driveway, so we made a welcome sign for the party-goers to welcome them to our version of Pixie Hollow. This was just an old shipping box, and I covered a large logo with white spray paint, then painted the letters and flowers with bright colors. If you look closely, you'll notice a tree face. We have several of these in our driveway, and they're always a big hit with kids and adults alike.

Other Decorations

We also picked up a few strands of floral garland and colorful, large silk flowers at a craft store. We placed those around tables and a lawn tent that we used as a craft station for the girls.

Activities


Luckily, we had perfect weather for our party, so we did everything outside. We could have done all of these indoors, but they wouldn't have been as fun.

Decorate Your Own Fairy Wings

I found these great cardboard wings online. We set up a decorating station for the girls to bedazzle their own wings for the party. We let everyone do this first, so they were occupied as everyone arrived. 



We put out stickers, markers, and stick on jewels, and the wings all turned out lovely.


Treasure Hunt

Everyone's favorite activity seemed to be our backyard treasure hunt. We picked up a little gift for each girl from the dollar store, wrapped them, and hid each in a different spot in our yard. We then drew up a fairy-themed treasure map that I copied so we'd have one for each girl. 



I then drew a path to each "station" on the map, where an activity would need to be performed (stuff like walking around the turtle sandbox four times, swinging seven times, crawling through the tunnel, standing on your left leg and counting to fourteen, etc.). It gave everyone a chance to move around and do a few fun things, plus at the end they each had a treasure to open and take home.

Cupcakes

My daughter is a huge marshmallow lover, and we chose to make these simple flower cupcakes for her and her guests.


They were so simple to decorate, she did them all herself! I added plain frosting and cut each pink strawberry marshmallow into three pieces. She placed an M&M in the center, then five marshmallow pieces around it for the petals. 

Favors


As favors, we made these simple Fairy Flowers for everyone to take home and grow. We used small flower pots, potting soil, Viola seeds (I've heard that fairies love Violas), green glitter, Ziploc bags, labels and decorations.


To assemble them, I first mixed the potting soil and green glitter in a bowl, then spooned some into each Ziploc baggie. I sprinkled a few seeds into each baggie, then sealed it and rolled it up, and placed it into a pot. I printed the labels with printable business cards, but you could write your labels by hand or use plain paper. 



I picked up the little felt flowers in the dollar bin at the craft store, and clipped the label to the baggie. So cute!

We had an incredibly fun fairy party, and I hope you do, too!

Monday, May 6, 2013

How to Make Mushroom Decorations for a Fairy (or Super Mario) Party

My daughter turned six this past weekend, and she asked for a fairy party at home. It was great fun, and I'll post more about our decorations and games later this week. One of my favorite decorations was a cluster of red and white mushrooms in the yard. While they were easy to make, I thought I'd share what I learned to make it simpler for anyone else looking to make decorations for their Enchanted Garden, Pixie Hollow, or even a Super Mario Bros. party.


What You'll Need:
- Bowls of various sizes
- Red Tissue Paper
- Plain white paper
- Tape
- Empty bottles and cans of various sizes, for the stems
- Scissors


I originally planned to make the caps out of Papier-mache, but once I started making them, I realized I wouldn't need the bowls during the party, and I could use them for the caps. I covered them with red tissue paper, and my daughter helped cut out the circles and tape them to the caps.

I used several empty drink bottles for stems. The Lifewater bottles have nearly straight sides, so they make good stems. To make a tall, narrow stem, I glued two of their tops together, stacked on on another with the top one upside down. I filled the bottom one with water for stability, then covered them both with white paper. For the shorter stems, I just added water to the bottle and covered it in white paper.

I also used a couple of empty cans for stems: a large canned vegetable can and an empty coffee tin. These worked great for the larger mushrooms, and they were stable enough on their own that I didn't need to weigh them down.


Here are the finished mushrooms! Very cute, a cinch to clean up, and so much easier than papier-mache!

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Cute DIY Gift for Your Child

My daughter is getting ready to turn six, and she has slept with a little stuffed doggie since she was only a couple of months old. When she started talking, we used to play with it and make little barking noises like, "Ruff! Ruff!" Because of that, we ended up calling it Ruffy, and she (it's a girl doggie) has been a staple in our life ever since.

She's my daughter's special lovey, and luckily I was able to buy not one, but two identical back ups from ebay. I don't always remember to rotate them out like I should, though, so the stuffing is a little less fluffy in one than in the other two. So far she hasn't noticed, though.

Each Christmas, I make a photo calendar for my husband and the grandparents using Shutterfly. There are quite a few online services out there like this, and I have used others in the past. I really like Shutterfly's designs best, though, and their service and quality is top notch. If you enjoy scrapbooking, this Karen Foster blank calendar is a great option - you can print your own photos and build around them.

This year, I decided to make a calendar for my daughter with Ruffy, and it will be a special gift from Ruffy herself. I have been posing the stuffed animal once a month in order to capture the "secret life" of the stuffed animal - all the fun things she does when my daughter is a school or otherwise not around.

Here is a preview of the shot I took last December when our Christmas tree was up:


The best part is that I'm not using any special equipment to do it - just my iPhone to take the photos, then I enhance them with Picfx and Instagram. I love the way they're turning out. I have been using a few doll props and seasonal decorations for each photo - things she would otherwise never see Ruffy do or wear.

I'm so excited about the calendar, I really can't wait to see her face when she opens her gift from Ruffy!


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Homeschooling


I have a Kindergartner, and I have my own part-time business and work from home. I have given a bit of thought to homeschooling, but I'm not completely sold yet.

This is a very compelling infographic, though!
Homeschool Domination
Created by: CollegeAtHome.com

Baking Without Artificial Colors and Trans Fats

"Eat All the Junk Food You Want as Long as You Cook It Yourself"  --Michael Pollan

Nothing makes me happier than baking up something sweet and delicious. Whenever possible, I try to eliminate artificial and unnatural junk from whatever I'm making. For the longest time, I thought it was impossible to decorate baked goods without having to use colorful chemicals and/or hydrogenated junk, but over time, I have found a few tricks that have allowed me to bake and decorate without chemicals and trans fats. It wasn't as hard as I'd originally thought it would be, and it all tastes so delicious!


My daughter and I just made these bunny cookies for her class for and Easter treat. I used a sugar cookie dough recipe found here, but I only used half the sugar. Since I'd planned to decorate them, I knew they'd still be plenty sweet, and the end result was perfect - just sweet enough and very satisfying.

So, what do I use in place of artificial colors in sweets?



These are my favorites: Matcha Green Tea Powder (Green), Tumeric (Yellow), Beet Juice (Pink), and Blueberry Juice Concentrate (Purple). You might think these flavors sound disgusting, but if you're tinting something sweet like icing or melted candy, the sweetness overwhelms the other flavors, and no one even notices! With each of these tints, only a little bit is needed to get a nice color, so you aren't really adding enough for the other flavors to come through.

Anytime I need to use black or brown, I just melt chocolate chips or use dark cocoa powder to tint. Yum!


We used the leftover dough to make round sugar cookies, and I drizzled the leftover melted green, yellow, and chocolate candy on them for a bit of color.

When it comes to avoiding trans fats, these are the best products I have found when making and decorating sweets:


Neither of these contains hydrogenated oils, so no trans fats! It's important to read the ingredients on the label, even if the front says that a product has 0 Trans Fats, because that might just mean, "per serving." Always double check to make sure that you don't see the word, "Hydrogenated __anything__" in the ingredients!

I use both of these for all my frosting, candies, and cookies. I always use the CandiQuik in place of icing on sugar cookies, too! I just melt it and spread on the cooled cookie, then melt more and tint it for decorations - so easy!

Monday, March 25, 2013

How to Love Choke Down Kale Chips

I keep reading about Kale, and how it's the cure to most everything that ails the human race. A friend of mine mentioned that kale chips aren't terrible, so I thought I'd give them a try. 

At first, they were okay. I liked the crunch, but the taste wasn't really what I'd expected. It was worse. I did snack on them for a while, but I couldn't keep it up, and soon I was back to my bad snacky ways. 

Still, I had all these kale chips, just filling a big bowl on my counter. I just couldn't bring myself to snack on them alone anymore, but my frugal nature wouldn't allow me to toss them out, either. Instead, I went in search of ways to still eat them without having to suffer through the taste. 

Chili was the perfect solution! I filled half a bowl with kale chips, then finished it off with homemade vegetarian chili and a bit of cheese on top. 

Perfection.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Cute and Easy St. Patrick's Day Treat

While looking for a St. Patrick's Day treat for my daughter's Kindergarten class, I came across these adorable leprechaun hats made of cookies, marshmallows, and melted candies. I made a version of my own (less pretty, but oh, so tasty!) and decided to try them without artificial food coloring.


Instead, I tinted the melted white candy with matcha. I just used a sprinkle. It made for a nice shade of green and didn't change the taste (confirmed by my husband and daughter).

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Healthy St. Patrick's Day Treat

Sometimes I feel like trying to feed my family healthy food is as dangerous and difficult as traipsing through a wild-animal infested jungle. Holidays are so much fun, but I always dread the onslaught of artificial colors, trans fats, and chemicals that my daughter ends up eating.

I'm don't go overboard with it, and usually just try to do what I can, especially when we eat at home. As someone who has lived through a cancer diagnosis, though, I try to do everything possible to ensure that she never has to go through that.

Sometimes it works out great, like the pink Hello Kitty cupcakes tinted with beet juice (more about that later). Other times, it's a total flop, like the red velvet cake sweetened and colored with cooked beets, which was neither red nor sweet and got tossed in the garbage.

This is such an easy and healthy treat for St. Patrick's Day, though!


It's a green apple shamrock with a pot o'gold on the side! The best part? All you need is a sliced green apple and a little dish of nut butter. Yum! Erin go Bragh!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Behold the Redneck Wind Chimes

For most of my life, I have lived in a rural area of the south, and I come from a long line of rednecks (and there's nothing wrong with that!). As a gag gift for a family white elephant gift exchange, I made the Redneck Wind Chimes.


They're a fun and easy gift, and you probably don't need to buy anything to make them.

What You'll Need
- 4 - 6 empty aluminum cans (PBR and RC Cola are always good choices, but anything will work)
- Rope or twine
- Screws with circle on top (I'm not sure what the real name for these might be?)
- Paint
- Drill or staple gun
- A piece of wood (any size or shape will work, really)

First, I attached a string to the cans so they could be hung. I actually used twisted pair copper from an RJ-45 cable for my cans, just because I had a spare piece. You can use twine or string, or anything that you happen to have around. Make the strings long enough to hang down a bit. I punched a small hole through the top side of the can and threaded the wire through that and the opening in the top of the can. I wouldn't use the pop top to hang it, they probably aren't strong enough.

Next, I drilled holes at the bottom of my board for each wire, threaded the wire through the hold, and tied it in a knot. If you don't want to use a drill, you can staple the wires to the back of the board.

Then, I fastened my screws to the top edges of the board. If you don't have any of these little screws with a circle at the top lying around your house, you could always use something like these picture hangers and just attach them to the back top edge of your board.

Attach the rope from which the board will hang by threading it through the two screws (or picture hangers).

All that's left is your painting! I just used some leftover outdoor trim paint that we had, and painted, "Redneck Wind Chimes" and on the front, along with a few XXXs. You can be as creative as you'd like, though!

These were a huge hit with our family at the party! Have fun!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Experimenting with Fused Plastic

I have quite a few fabric shopping bags, but I don't always remember to take them with me when I shop. I usually recycle any plastic bags we bring home, but every once in awhile I experiment with fusing plastic bags into fabric. I have made a few really useful things so far!

I made my daughter an apron, perfect for painting and crafts because it just wipes clean!


I made a hair cutting cape since I usually cut my family's hair at home.

I like to play around with the designs, and it's so easy to do - just cut colored pieces of plastic and place in between layers of clear or white pieces, then fuse them together. The patterns stay put and show through, so it's like creating your own fabric!

Here are some yellow and orange flowers:
 And some hearts!


Have fun, and remember to recycle your unused plastic when you're done!


Friday, March 1, 2013

Easy Little Shelves

What do an empty clementine crate, wire shelves, and my daughter's crafts all have in common? They're hanging on my wall!



I have been on the look out for shelves that would allow us to show off the lovely crafts my daughter brings home from school. Up until now, they have been on our kitchen counter, but it looked jumbled up rather than giving it a showcase feel.

I ran across a silver wire shelf at a thrift store and thought it would be nice to use for the smaller items. Since we have a black and yellow kitchen, I decided to paint over the silver with some of our black Rustoleum paint (this stuff is so handy to have around the house - I use it for so many crafts!).

We also have a few taller crafts that didn't fit inside the wire cube, and I thought I'd also paint an empty clementine crate to see if it'd look okay as well as hold the taller items.



I was able to hang the wire shelves using sheetrock screws, and I just sat the crate on top. I think it works very well, and I love the extra space on my kitchen counter! It made my 5-year-old feel special to see her arts and crafts up in a special place of their own, too.


Thursday, February 28, 2013

How to Paint a Wine Glass

Painted wine glasses make a great gift for any occasion. Most of the time the Dollar Tree has the extra large glasses for only $1, so they're really an economical gift also! Creating a custom, one-of-a-kind gift is easier than you might think - you can paint anything you'd like on the glass in just a few simple steps, even if you've never painted anything before!


This is the finished product, although I wish I'd taken a better picture of it. My friend is a nurse, so I painted her name, this picture, and, "Trust me, I'm a nurse. This won't hurt at all..." on the glass.

What You'll Need
-Wine Glass
-Rubbing Alcohol
-Pebeo Paints for porcelain or glass (I used the pens and paint but you could use either/or)
-Brushes (if using the paint)
-Oven
-Photo or stencil, if you don't want to draw free-hand
-Tape


First, I found a photo that I liked and printed it out. You could also use a picture from a magazine or other source, or something you drew yourself. For copyright reasons, you'd never want to use someone else's drawing if you plan to sell these, though.

I trimmed the photo and taped it to the inside of the glass, then prepared the outside of the glass by cleaning  it with rubbing alcohol. From there, I really just used my pens to trace the picture, and filled in the hair with my gold paint.



I added my text, then after the paint dried, I baked it in the oven at 300 degrees F for 30 minutes to set the paint and make it durable. That's it! The paint holds up well - in my experience, the Pebeo paints are the best for glass and ceramics. This technique will work on any glass or mug. I have a test mug that I run through the dishwasher regularly, and the paint looks brand new. I do recommend hand washing, though, just in case.

The recipient really went crazy for this glass - it was so much fun to make and give!
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