Hubby and I are shuffling rooms, something we’ve been doing ever since we moved in. When I had a home-based crafts business, a bedroom became my workspace. Fast forward to triplet toddlers, and the dining room transformed into a playroom. (I definitely wasn’t entertaining!) When those same toddlers woke up every day at the crack of dawn, our “sitting room,” a small room between our bedroom and theirs, was fitted with a couch, VCR, mini fridge, and individual containers of cereal. Guess who learned how to pop in Sesame Street and get themselves drinks and snacks? (I call it promoting independence!)
Shared bedrooms gave way to individual bedrooms and back to shared when our fourth child was born. A finished attic, which had been a guest room, became our son’s room when WWIII broke out every morning. The reason? Triplet tweens fighting over bathroom access before school! (Hubby may or may not have turned the hot water off when certain people hogged the shower!) Tween girls sharing a room argued over bedtime routines and privacy, so we somehow squeezed a twin bed and night table into the “sitting room.”
The basement has been a playroom, party room, craft room, tween and teen hangout area, American Doll sanctuary and, during quarantine, Hubby’s temporary office. Time to switch again! My office is becoming Hubby’s and the “sitting room” is becoming mine. That leads me to my newest project…re-painting an office cabinet. Just like the desk refinished recently, I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, a quick drying paint that covers furniture without priming or sanding, and Clear Chalk Paint Wax, which seals the paint. They’re the same products used to turn three different colored wood dressers and a night table in a matching set.
Refinishing furniture isn’t just relaxing, fun, and satisfying for adults; why not pick a project that kids can work on? For an Easy DIY Kids Craft, let kids choose a piece of furniture (chair, night table, step stool, side table…there are so many possibilities) and paint color. This paint has minimal fumes, goes on smoothly, and washes out with water. It’s a win-win.
Are you anxious about a new school year? Know any kids that are dreading homework? Not in school, but could use something besides yoga breaths to release stress? My daughter made her Stress Ball at camp and, since I liked it so much, she taught me how to make my own. It’s sooo fun to squish!
When my daughter was helping me fill the balloon, I said, “Wow, I didn’t think it could fit that much flour.” My teen daughter replied (visualize an eye roll and sarcastic voice), “Mom, it’s a balloon.”
DIY Stress Ball Supplies:
Stress Ball Directions:
Two people are needed. One person holds the balloon open and one spoons in the flour. Flour will get everywhere, so fill over a bowl or plate. We used a lot of flour, filling until the balloon reached a squishiness we liked.
Knot the balloon closed. Draw a face. Tie a pom-pom around the balloon knot, making sure the pom-pom knot is secured under the balloon knot.
–yarn or string, same or different colors
–cardboard (we used an old cereal box)
Fold a piece of cardboard in half. Trace a circle around a glass. Draw another circle inside, about 1 to 11/2 inches from first circle. Cut out circles.
Starting with about 2 arm spans of yarn, wrap yarn around doubled cardboard circles. If you run out of yarn and/or want to change colors, attach a new piece of yarn to old one and continue wrapping.
When yarn has been wrapped around cardboard circles several times, slip a scissors between the circles. Cut the outer perimeter of yarn.
Slip a separate piece of yarn between the cardboard circles. Keeping that piece of yarn taught, draw it to the center of circles.
Hold pom-pom yarn still while bringing taught yarn ends completely around circles. Tie tightly and knot. Remove pom-pom from cardboard.
Keep ends of knotted yarn hanging out. They will be used to secure the pom-pom to the balloon Stress Ball.
In my last post, Creative Cupcakes (Little Shop of Horrors), I experimented with fondant. I admit it. It’ll be awhile before I make cupcakes as elaborate as those again. If you want quick and easy favors, give-aways, congratulations goodies or party activities, these DIY Candy Jars are a cinch to put together.
In lieu of gift cards for my middle schooler’s friends, I decided to make my own Congratulations Goodies. I already owned the mason jars, ordered the candy, and asked my in-house graphic designer (aka Hubby) to print labels.
The result? Sweet gifts for a creepy show–creepy in a good way!
Hon, you know what this means? I LOVE a theme!
Here’s what you need to make your own Quick and Easy Candy Jars:
Mason Jars–available at craft stores
Candy–candy and colors to go with your theme, I used green M & M’s and Frankford Gummy Body Parts Candy
Labels and Ribbon (optional)
That’s It. Happy DIY’ing! (and enjoy some show pics)
Cake-In-A-Cones were a hit with the middle schoolers at my daughter’s New Year’s Eve party. You know how much I love a theme, but this pre-decorated or decorate-your-own dessert would be fun at any party.
Happy Sweet Tooth, hon!
1 box of cake mix
eggs, however many the cake mix calls for
vegetable oil, same as the eggs, check the box
24 flat-bottomed ice cream cones
regular sized muffin tins
Icing and Extras, such as sprinkles, mini-marshmallows, M & M’s, cinnamon candies, etc.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Prepare muffin tins by lining each cup with aluminum foil. This will help the cones to stand.
3. Combine cake batter as directed on cake box.
4. Stand cones in muffin tins. Fill each cone about 3/4.
5. Bake for about half the time noted on the box, then check to see if cake is done. If not, keep in oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.
Wishing you and your families a healthy and happy 2015! We celebrated with our youngest daughter and her friends. We served the same menu as last year, with a one addition: Cake Ice Cream Cones. Yum!
There were also Make-Your-Own-Sundaes and Non-Alcoholic Champagne, Party Crackers, a Scavenger Hunt, games, blowers and party hats. Then the girls had a sleepover, or as Hubby calls it, an “OVER” since there wasn’t much sleeping involved!
Thanks, hon, for all of your Blog Support in 2014!
Thanks to Laura Sibson, I am participating in a “My Writing Process” Blog Hop. I added the Bunny Hop part as a nod to Easter, Spring, and my own beautiful Tween Bunny who is my first reader.
Laura earned her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts after discovering a passion for writing novels geared toward teens. Laura’s a fellow runner (she runs much longer distances than me), dog-walker, coffee-drinker, “ingester-of-pop culture,” and mom of teens. She lives in suburban Philadelphia and has impressed me with her knowledge of “Bawlmor” accents.
Laura describes the paranormal young adult novel she’s writing on her blog, Laura Sibson,A journey toward writing dangerously. Her novel sounds spooky and fascinating, and it involves the Black Aggie, a real statue that used to reside a stone’s throw away from my parents’ house, in Druid Ridge Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland.
Do you think its a coincidence that Laura connected with a Bmore girl? I don’t know, hon. You’ll have to ask her!
My Writing Process Questions and Answers:
What are you working on?
Coco, the main character in my chapter book is based on a true story and a real dog. An article describing how a dog ended up on a NJ Transit train headed to Manhattan appeared in my local paper. We had recently adopted a puppy. A story was born! Coco’s inherent doggie abilities and desire to find bones will, hopefully, lead him on many adventures (meaning more chapter books).
In the picture book series I’m writing, my five year-old main character wanted to become a superhero just like his big brother. In the first book, he did it! Now he’s off to conquer the world (and his fears) as the fastest superhero ever. I’m working on books about the day he thought his mommy was a zombie and about the time he battled deep sea creatures at the town pool.
How does your work differ from others of its genre?
Guess what one of my goals is? Hint: it’s in the name of my blog. ENERGY!
I hope my writing grabs readers from the get-go! My manuscripts are populated by relatable characters, alliteration, funny phrases, and a dash of silliness. The universal theme underlying all of my manuscripts is family. Whether the action revolves around siblings or parents and their children, the action happens between the humor and heart.
In my chapter book, Coco stays true to his doggie characteristics, but his impulsivity takes him to unexpected places. He meets a zany cast of characters along the way and, inadvertently, saves the day while on the search for the perfect bone. This chapter book (and the others I plan to write), will fill the gap for elementary school kids who are one step beyond First Readers but not yet ready for longer chapter books.
Logan, my latest picture book‘s main character, is just like real little boys. How do I know? Because he’s a compilation of my “superhero” nephew, my son, and the boys I teach at pre-school and at the elementary school. My nephew says, “Activate! Pshht! Pow!” So does Logan. My nephew says things are “mega.” So does Logan. Sibling rivalry amongst my triplets plus one more was rampant. My hope is that kids will love Logan and his brother’s vivid imaginations while parents will appreciate the heart of the story.
Why do you write what you do?
I write because ideas pop into my head, words and phrases tumble off my tongue, and characters stand in front of me, tail wagging and arms crossed, begging to be brought to life.
I write because the child inside of me connects to children from toddlers to teenagers. I still love playing in a sandbox, climbing to the top of the swingset, and sledding down a hill at lightning speed.
I write because I believe stories are magical.
How does your writing process work?
An idea or a character or a turn of phrase will start off as a wisp of thought. The ideas, characters and turns of phrases that stay in my head like a song-on-the-radio-you-can’t-stop-singing must be written down. If scenes start appearing in my mind’s eye, while I’m driving, running errands, walking Lucy and, always, when I try to go to sleep, then I have to get my thoughts on paper. The process has begun.
First drafts go to my wonderful critique group. I revise. Second drafts are critiqued. I revise. Etc!
My most important revision tools are a thesaurus, dictionary, rhyming dictionary and critiques from my group (or an editor or agent, if I’m lucky). More importantly, I take my watch off, don’t answer the phone, concentrateon listening to how my characters would speak and inhabit the world I’ve created.
Last November, I signed up for Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo challenge to come up with a new picture book idea for a month. Thirty new ideas are now residing in my Idea Box.
Joining the My Writing Process Blog Hop, I’d like to introduce you to (drumroll, please):
Michelle and I connected on Twitter (Michelle on Twitter, me on Twitter). Michelle not only has a blog called Michelle Karéne, Children’s Author, is a member of SCBWI and an aspiring children’s writer, she earned her doctorate in Biomedical Engineering, works for a biotechnology company, and has published fifteen articles in various scientific journals. Michelle’s short story, “Magnolia Fall,” will be published in the 14th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition Collection. Michelle, who lives in North Carolina with her family, blogs about her chapter book and young adult works-in-progress, funny things her three daughters say, nature photographs and dinner ideas. I hope you’ll check out her blog.
Me to Tween Daughter: “How would you like to host a New Year’s party at our house?”
Tween Daughter: “Can I?”
My teens hosted New Year’s parties in the past, but now it was Tween Daughter’s turn. She and I had fun planning her spa-inspired birthday party, and just as much fun shopping and decorating for her New Year’s Eve party. We kept it small with just nine guests; everyone could fit around one long table for dinner.
New Year’s decorations can be replaced with any holiday decorations, and the activities are just right for middle schoolers.
Decor: Paper lanterns, silver snowflakes, white holiday lights, brightly colored paper goods and margarita glasses.
Dinner Menu: Chips and salsa, veggies and ranch dressing, mozzarella sticks, baked ziti, garlic bread and plain pasta.
Activities: Pictionary Man (new version of Pictionary with a “man” you draw on), cupcake decorating, home-made laser tag (involving “slingshots,” pom-pomsand sticky notes), party poppers and Secret Santa. (Secret Santa givers and recipients were previously picked at a friend’s holiday party. The kids came to our house with unwrapped gifts, then we had a “wrapping station” so all the gifts would be wrapped in the same paper.)
Additional Tween Parties Ideas: Karaoke, the video game Dance Dance Revolution, scavenger hunt, Scattergories, ice cream sundae bar, movie, trivia games such as “How well do you know…”, pinata.
Mocktails: Mocktail choices were Strawberry Dacqueries, Pina Coladas and Shirley Temples. Garnishes? Lime wedges and little umbrellas, of course!
Dessert: Aside from the cupcakes and an Oreo cream pie, guests brought homemade rugelah, puff pastries filled with apples, candy cane icing cupcakes and cotton candy.
Countdown: Watching the ball drop. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…Happy New Year!
What kind of a party is perfect for girls of many ages?
A spa party!
If you read my post Lemons and Limes Inspired Party Decor, you’ll know 1) I love to throw parties, 2) I prefer to throw them at home and 3)why I prefer to throw parties at home (three words: I’m in charge).
So, when I came across the birthday party my good friend threw for her daughter on her blog Three Different Meals, I just knew Tween Daughter was going to like it.
We set up spa stations and I hired Teen Daughter and her friend to be beauticians. The guests loved getting their own white waffle weave robes to wear at the party and take home as favors.
Tween Daughter, Teen Daughter and Hubby all agreed: this was one of our nicest parties yet. The girls loved the theme and getting pampered. They didn’t even mind the classical music playing while they got facials.
Decor: tissue paper flowers and balloons in bright colors and my own paper lanterns.
Snacks: yogurt-covered pretzels, dried fruit and sparkling lemonade
Dinner Menu: caesar salad, baked ziti, garlic bread, plain pasta for picky eaters, pink lemonade, cake, and ice-cream sundaes
Spa Stations: Mani/Pedis–set up in family room. I put a big sheet down on top of the carpet so I wouldn’t have to worry about spills. HomemadeBody Scrub–set up in kitchen. Small glass jars* and ingredients were lined up. Girls wrote their names on tops of jars with a Sharpie. Pre-printed and ribboned labels were tied around jars after scrub was made. Mini-Facials, Hand Massages and Face Masks— set up in a bedroom near a bathroom for access to a sink. I had a pile of washcloths and towels handy so girls could wash off the mask after 10 minutes.
Favors: robes, Scrunchies and jars of homemade body scrub
Brown Sugar Body Scrub
3 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup Extra Virgin olive oil
4 Tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon Vitamin E oil
15 -20 drops Lavender Essential Oil
Directions: Mix all of the ingredients. Stir well.
Yield: approximately 3 ounces (in a 4 ounce jar) and the measurements above yielded enough for 5 girls’ jars.
Directions on labels:
Use a washcloth to gently apply scrub to wet skin in a circular motion. Avoid using on sensitive skin, in cuts, or on irritated or sunburned skin. Sugar scrubs are not recommended for the face. Thoroughly rinse with warm water.
Caution: the oil in the sugar scrub can cause the tub to become slippery.