Key Karma

Image c/o Bill’s Lock & Key

Did you know February 14-20, 2021 was Random Acts of Kindness Week?

I was the lucky and happy recipient of a recent act of kindness!

On a recent drive from New Jersey to Maryland, Hubby used his own set of keys to drive my car. It’s habit for me to grab my keys when leaving the house, so there I was with an extra set “just in case.” We don’t usually bring our dog Lucy, but decided she’d join us on this adventure.

We stopped at a rest stop in NJ where Hubby and I took turns escorting Lucy to “do her business.” Habit again–approaching my car, I took my keys out, but then stuck them in my coat pocket when I remembered they weren’t needed. Lucy didn’t love the hand-off, and practically pulled me off my feet trying to follow Hubby inside the rest stop. I bet you can guess where this is going.

It wasn’t until we reached Maryland that I realized my keys were missing! We re-traced steps and searched the car to no avail. I called the only place we’d stopped on the road and–guess what?--my keys were at the rest stop! The manager had them in his possession and would be working the next day at the same time we’d be driving back to NJ.

A woman had found them in the parking lot and turned them in! An act of kindness for sure! We surmised that when Lucy anxiously tried following Hubby, my keys fell out of my coat pocket. The woman left her contact info because she had the foresight to remove one of the car key fobs. Her intention was to turn that car key into a dealer who would then locate the car’s owner–us! Wasn’t that above and beyond?

On our return trip home, two things happened. The first is that we retrieved my keys. Whew! The second is that we found out the name of the thoughtful woman and–hon, get this--her last name is same last name as my oldest childhood friend and one of my dearest friends in New Jersey! Isn’t that an interesting coincidence?

So, shout out to good karma, random acts of kindness and thoughtful people!

And SHOUT OUT to Stephanie Brenner for stopping at the rest stop, finding my keys, turning them in, and mailing me the other car key fob! THANK YOU!

Hon, have you been been the recipient of a random act of kindness? Have you been the kind person? I’d love to hear about it.

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Cool Craft for Kids & Teens, Shrinky Dinks Animal Key Chains

Animal Lovers Kids and Teen Craft

Here’s another take on Shrinky Dinks crafts. Supplies and steps for these horse key chains are the same as the fashion key chains. I taught After School Enrichment classes for several years, and often had repeat students so, though projects may have used similar mediums and supplies, I varied content. Some kids traced patterns from scrapbooking paper while others made up their own designs. They used jump rings to attach pieces and Wikki Stix to create manes. Horses are just the start; templates for any animal can be created.

Shrinky Dinks Animal Key Chains

Supplies:

Steps:

  1. Draw an animal and parts on a piece of paper and add small circles where the pieces will join. Add a small circle to the place where the key ring will later be attached. (On the horse, the key ring hangs from the middle of the back.) Trace outline of body and body parts on Shrinky Dinks sheets. All tracing and coloring should be on “rough” side of SD sheets.
  2. Using colored pencils, color patterns and designs and add animal’s facial features.
  3. Punch holes where small circles are drawn. Be careful to leave space between holes and edges so edges don’t split.
  4. Cut out animal parts.
  5. Follow Shrinky Dinks instructions to bake cut-outs.
  6. After baking, gently flatten pieces that curl up.
  7. Join pieces using jump rings.
  8. Create manes or fur with yarn or Wikki Stix. Feed Wikki Stix through holes and twist to secure. OR feed yarn through holes and knot and trim.
  9. Find the opening where the key ring is to be attached and feed a jump ring through that hole. Attach the key ring to that jump ring.

Tip: Shrinky Dinks shrink A LOT! Keep this in mind and trace a template large enough that when parts are baked and shrink, the key chain isn’t the size of a peanut! Please keep this in mind when drawing circles that will be punched out. You don’t want the holes to be so small, a jump ring won’t fit.

Cool Kids & Teen Craft, Shrinky Dinks Fashion Key Chains

Another Snow Day Kids and Teen Craft

Did you create key chains, jewelry and keepsakes with Shrinky Dinks when you were a kid? I did and my kids did, too. So, when discussing ideas for After School Enrichment classes with a camp art director, she suggested this cool craft. The 2nd – 5th graders in my ASE class loved tracing patterns from wrapping paper, scrapbooking paper, and fashion magazines onto their own templates. They colored patterns, added facial features, cut out body parts, and punched holes so the baked pieces could be assembled with jump rings. They added Wikki Stix hair and a key ring and–voila–they had their own Shrinky Dinks Fashion key chains. More template ideas: kids playing sports, dancers, and superheroes. Be creative!

Shrinky Dinks Fashion Key Chains

Supplies:

Steps:

  1. Draw a body and parts on a piece of paper and add small circles where the pieces will join. Trace outline of body and body parts on Shrinky Dinks sheets. All tracing and coloring should be on “rough” side of SD sheets.
  2. Using colored pencils, color clothing patterns and add facial features.
  3. Punch holes where circles are indicated, being careful to leave space between holes and edges so edges don’t split.
  4. Cut out body parts.
  5. Follow Shrinky Dinks instructions to bake cut-outs.
  6. After baking, gently flatten pieces that curl up.
  7. Join pieces using jump rings.
  8. Create hair with yarn or Wikki Stix. Feed Wikki Stix through holes on top of head and twist to secure. OR feed yarn through holes and knot and trim.
  9. Feed a jump ring into middle hole on top of head and then feed key chain ring into that jump ring.

Tip: Shrinky Dinks shrink A LOT! Keep this in mind and trace a template large enough that when parts are baked and shrink, the key chain isn’t the size of a peanut! Please keep this in mind when drawing circles that will be punched out. You don’t want the holes to be so small, a jump ring won’t fit.

Valentines Day Sugar Cookies

Valentines Sugar Cookies

Valentines Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookie recipe + royal icing = the perfect Valentine’s Day cookies! Happy baking, hon.

(Tip–This recipe makes a large amount of cookie dough. You can make all of it or use half and freeze half.*)

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Add dry ingredients to butter/ sugar mixture in increments until the flour mixture is completely incorporated.
  3. Chill mixture in fridge for about one hour then let sit on counter while you prepare the surface you are using to roll out the dough.  
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Roll dough to desired thickness and cut into shapes. Bake cookies on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper but you may bake them directly on your ungreased cookie sheets.
  6. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges turn slightly brown.

Yield:  Whole recipe makes approximately 4 dozen cookies, depending on cookie cutter size.

Royal Icing

Ingredients:

  • 3 3/4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons of meringue or dried egg white powder (I used the brand Deb El and a product called Just Whites.)
  • 6 Tablespoons warm water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla, optional (note: adding vanilla adds flavor but tints the color of the icing)
  • food coloring, optional
  • sprinkles, decorating sugar

Directions:

  1. Beat all ingredients 4 to 5 minutes
 by hand.
  2. Stir in optional flavorings.
  3. Tip: Cut icing in half, keeping one half white and adding a couple drops of food coloring to the other half. Thin icing, if needed with extra Tablespoons warm water. Decorate as desired.
  4. Let icing dry. 

*After I defrosted the second half of the dough, I had to knead it a few minutes before I could work with it.

 

Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Movie Review

Have you heard of the movie "Portrait of a Lady on Fire?" I hadn't either until one of my daughters recommended it. This French movie with English subtitles is stunning visually, thought-provoking in its examination of themes, fascinating in its setting and time period, and unforgettable in emotions explored. 

The most striking thing about Céline Sciamma’s fourth feature—in French with English subtitles—is its sumptuousness. Close your eyes, listen to the spare dialogue and you might wonder what all the fuss is about. Open them and you’re confronted by colors of a purity and subtlety that not only befit a story of art and portraiture (among other things) but carry much of the drama’s emotional content. Cinematographers used to be called lighting cameramen. This production’s lighting camerawoman, Claire Mathon, conjures with light as if it were palpable, and as spreadable as pigment on canvas. Many scenes evoke the creaminess of Vermeer, although the action is set not in 17th-century Holland but on an island off the Brittany coast at the end of the 18th century.

Before taking us there, Ms. Sciamma introduces us to her heroine, Marianne (Noémie Merlant), a portrait painter and teacher who is doing double duty in her art class by serving as a model for her students, all of them young women. (Men figure only as incidental, unnamed characters.) “Take time to look at me,” she tells them.

This could be the film’s motto. It’s about looking long and carefully enough at a subject to see, then seeing deeply enough to feel. That’s what Marianne does on the island. She has been commissioned to paint a wedding portrait. The bride-to-be, Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), is as lovely a subject as a portraitist could ask for, but melancholy and withdrawn, with good reason. Caught up in an arranged marriage, Héloïse has been promised to a man she has never met. She doesn’t want to pose for the portrait, which will symbolize her loss of freedom, so Marianne, representing herself as a walking companion, must observe Héloïse surreptitiously and paint her from memory, using her brush as a kind of candid camera.

The writer-director, Ms. Sciamma, uses her film to cast a slow-release spell; it’s a daring approach that doesn’t seem like a strategy, let alone a choice. At first the pace is lulling. Our involvement depends on our willingness to watch and wait, and we’re ever more willing. We watch the artist watching her subject closely. We wait to see if Marianne, who has set up a small, secret studio in her living quarters, gets caught at what amounts to a betrayal of trust. (My only quarrel with the film is why Héloïse can’t smell Marianne’s solvents or paints.) That’s the first source of tension in the plot, but the prime mover is sexual tension, which grows inexorably as the women learn the contours of each other’s lives. “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”—the fire is figurative, but also real—goes beyond painterly beauty. It sees into souls.

Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal

Trailer

Images c/o Slant Magazine and IMDB

What’s For Dinner? Sweet-n-Sour Meatballs Recipe

Photo care of Eli Kovacs.

In the last few weeks, several friends and family members have asked for this recipe. Maybe the cold weather and snow has put them in the mood or maybe it’s because it’s delicious. Either way, this Sweet-n-Sour Meatballs recipe is easy and a winner!

Happy cooking, hon.

–I prepare and bake my meatballs before simmering them in sauce for approximately 25 minutes.

–Don’t eat meat? Try Trader Joe’s “Meatless Meatballs” or a similar product. Simmer them in the Sweet-n-Sour for about 25 minutes.

Sweet and Sour Sauce:  In a shallow pan, mix one 15-oz can of whole berry cranberry sauce with about 8 ounces of chili sauce. Simmer meatballs in sauce on medium to medium-high, adding salt and pepper and any other spices you like to taste. Simmer for about 25 minutes. Serve over pasta or rice.

Meatballs ready to simmer in your sauce of choice.
Meatballs ready to simmer in your favorite sauce.

Meatballs

Ingredients:

2 pounds ground beef

1/2 cup bread crumbs

about 1/4 to 1/2 cup water

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dried parsley (or fresh parsely)

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon ground mustard

between 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (or 1/4 ground garlic)

dash of black pepper and dash onion powder (or about 1 tsp finely chopped onion)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line baking trays with heavy duty foil and spray with non-stick spray.  Combine ground beef with the bread crumbs, water, egg and spices.  Mix thoroughly.  Form meatballs and line trays.  Cook for approximately 25 to 30 minutes total, checking meatballs after 10 to 15 minutes.  I turn each meatball over and rotate trays in oven for more even cooking.  When you think the meatballs are done, cut one in half to make sure it’s brown all the way through. They can be light brown on the inside and not overly cooked on the outside since they will cook more when simmered in sauce.

Serving the same night? Simmer in sauce on medium to medium-low heat for approximately 25 minutes.  Serving in the future? Cool first, then refrigerate for a few days or freeze in an airtight container.

Yield: depends on the size of the meatballs, but about a couple dozen.

Easy DIY Winter Kids Craft, Felt Mitten Bookmarks

Snow Day Activity

I’m re-posting this Easy DIY Winter Kids Craft because it’s quick and creative. Though my K-2 After School Enrichment students enjoyed making their own Felt Mitten Bookmarks, pre-schoolers can also assemble them (Supplies for my Two’s are portioned out in our “Virtual Learning Bin.”) Don’t have suggested supplies? Use what you have. Set up a workstation, fill bowls with decorations, and invite kids to assemble, glue and decorate. Fun and done!

Gather supplies.

Measure ribbon and cut out mitten shapes.

Sandwich ribbon between back and front mittens. Decorate. Let dry.

Felt Mitten Bookmarks
Supplies:  
  • felt (or a thick fabric), small pieces will do
  • fabric glue
  • grosgrain ribbon (or satin ribbon), about 14 inches per bookmark
  • tiny pom-poms
  • small googly eyes
  • any other things to use for decorating such as glitter glue, thin ribbon, foam shapes, sparkly stars
  • ruler
  • scissors
  • marker
  • craft stick (or cotton swabs)
  • newspaper, wax paper, tin foil, or cloth (whatever you don’t mind getting glue-y)
Steps:
  1. Set up craft area with newspaper, wax paper, etc.
  2. What size book is the bookmark being made for? A picture book? A chapter book? Measure the book, then add 6 inches to that measurement, which will allow ribbon to stick out of the top and bottom of the book and to be sandwiched between the felt. For example, if a book measures 8 inches, I’d add 6 inches and cut a 14 inch piece of ribbon
  3. Draw mittens on the felt. Cut 4 mittens out of the felt, making sure they are the same shape so that when they’re glued together, they match up.
  4. Match up the felt mittens, figuring out which will be the fronts and which will be backs. Using craft sticks (or cotton swabs), spread fabric glue on the insides of the mitten. Sandwich 1 inch of the ribbon between the fronts and backs. Press to help glue adhere.
  5. Decorate mittens, either one side of each mitten or both, there’s no right or wrong.Let dry.

Tips:  Trim excess felt. Check seams for gaps and, using craft stick (or cotton swab), add extra fabric glue where needed.

Lucy, the Snow “Bunny,” a Joyful Video

Lucy looking for her ball in the snow.
Lucy looking for her ball in the snow.

Some”bunny” loves the snow!

Whenever it snows, I tell Lucy, “You should live in Alaska!” Though ice crystals form on the tips of her fur, she self-insulates. Her puffed up fur keeps her body warm and making her paws look three times their normal size. She hops in the snow, herds anyone who sleds, and “helps” us shovel.

Want to see pure joy? Click “Snow Puppy” or hit the play button below.

Thanks for watching, hon!

 

Easy Kids Craft: Shaving Cream Snowmen

Shaving cream/glue snowmen made by a Three’s class.

SNOW FUN!

Creating snowmen or other snowy scenes using a shaving cream/glue combo is snow fun because it engages several senses. The kids smell the shaving cream, listen to the can, feel the texture, and see the color. What ratio of shaving cream to glue to use? According to KiwiCo Corner, “Mix one part shaving cream with one part glue. The mixture ends up thick and goopy–and dries up puffy, like snow!” The “snow paint” can be applied with paintbrushes, sponges, spoons or hands. (Two year-olds like to use their hands. LOL!)

As recommended by a Three’s teacher, I outlined snowmen, glopped “snow paint” onto the snowmen sections, and handed out spoons. Each child picked buttons and a construction paper hat, scarf, eyes, and carrot nose. Fun!

Next multi-media and textured project: Winter scenes of green, felt trees on black construction paper, snow made with both silver glitter and Q-tips dotted white paint. Winter spirit!