DIY Back-to-School Stress Ball

DIY Stress Balls

DIY Stress Balls

Back-to-School

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.”

Point taken.

Supplies: a balloon, flour, spoon, permanent markers, pom-pom optional

Supplies: a balloon, flour, spoon, permanent markers, pom-pom optional

1. Fill balloon with flour.

1. Fill balloon with flour.

2. Knot balloon closed. Draw on face. Tie pom pom to balloon under the knot.

2. Knot balloon closed. Draw face. Tie pom-pom to balloon under the knot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIY Stress Ball Supplies:

–balloon

–flour

–spoon

–permanent markers

–pom-pom, optional

Stress Ball Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Pom-Pom Supplies:

–yarn or string, same or different colors

–cardboard (we used an old cereal box)

–scissors

Pom-Pom Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. When yarn has been wrapped around cardboard circles several times, slip a scissors between the circles.  Cut the outer perimeter of yarn.
  4. Slip a separate piece of yarn between the cardboard circles. Keeping that piece of yarn taught, draw it to the center of circles.
  5. Hold pom-pom yarn still while bringing taught yarn ends completely around circles. Tie tightly and knot. Remove pom-pom from cardboard.
  6. Keep ends of knotted yarn hanging out. They will be used to secure the pom-pom to the balloon Stress Ball.

 

1. Fold a piece of cardboard in half. Trace a circle within a circle. Cut out circles.

1. Fold a piece of cardboard in half. Trace a circle within a circle, about 1 to 1/2 ” from 1st circle. Cut out circles.

2. Wrap yarn around doubled cardboard circles.

2. Wrap yarn around doubled cardboard circles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3. Slip scissors between cardboard and cut around perimeter of outer circles.

3. Slip scissors between cardboard and cut around perimeter of outer circles.

4. Slip a separate piece of between the cardboard circles and draw to center.

4. Slip a separate piece of yarn between the cardboard circles. Keeping that piece of yarn taught, draw it to the center of circles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5. Cinch separate piece of yarn tight. Knot that yarn, securing the cut yarn in the middle. Remove pom-pom from cardboard.

5. Hold pom-pom yarn still while bringing taught yarn ends completely around circles. Tie tightly and knot. Remove pom-pom from cardboard.

6. Keep end of knotted yarn hanging out. They will be used to secure the pom-pom to the balloon.

6. Keep ends of knotted yarn hanging out. They will be used to secure the pom-pom to the balloon Stress Ball.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stress Balls hanging out.

Stress Balls hanging out.

Stress Balls with personalities.

Stress Balls with personalities.

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Quick and Easy Candy Jars

Mason Jar

Candy Jar

Little Shop of Horrors Congratulations Goodies

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)

Gummy body parts.

Gummy body parts.

Labels.

Labels.

Fill the jar.

Fill the jars.

 

Audrey II, the man-eating plant, in Little Shop of Horrors.

Little Shop of Horrors’ man-eating plant, Audrey II. See what I mean by creepy?

Seymour and Urchins.

Seymour and Urchins on Skid Row.

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Curtain Call.

Curtain Call.

My little Urchin!

My little Urchin!

 

 

Cake-In-A-Cone

Cake Ice Cream Cone

Cake-In-A-Cone with Icing and Extras.  Yum!

Do you need a cool, kid-friendly dessert?

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!

Combining ingredients of cake mix.

Combine ingredients to make cake batter.

Line muffin tin cups with foil so cones will stand.

Line muffin tin cups with foil so cones will stand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cake-In-a-Cones right out of the oven.

Cake-In-A-Cones right out of the oven.

Cake-In-a-Cone ready for icing and extras!

Ready for icing and extras!

Cake-In-A-Cone

Ingredients:

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.

Directions:

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.

6.  Cool before decorating.

New Year’s Fun on December 31

Mocktails or, as Hubby called them, FAUZ-in drinks.

Mocktails or, as Hubby called them, FAUZ-in drinks.

Happy New Year!

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!

Cake Ice Cream Cones Decorating Station.

Cake Ice Cream Cones Decorating Station.

Lots of toppings.

Lots of toppings.

Party Crackers.

Party Crackers.

There were also Make-Your-Own-Sundaes and Non-Alcoholic ChampagneParty 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!

Middle School Rocks!

Middle School Rocks!

Fun with Friends!

Fun with Friends!

Cheers!

Cheers!

abc

Thanks, hon, for all of your Blog Support in 2014!

Window Into the Wild West

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona–You can see a thunderstorm in the distance.

Hon, I took so many pictures this summer and last, I could center a whole blog around them.  Here are some of the ones that say Southwest.

I found this collection of bottles set against a rusted tin tub appealing.  Maybe its the composition or color or maybe its because I see the extraordinary in the ordinary!

I don’t know if its the color or composition that drew me to this ad hoc collection of bottles, but I had to stop to take a picture.

I also liked the organic nature of this rock garden.  It's so Southwest.

I also liked the organic nature of this rock garden. The log-legged picnic table and the old pick-up truck, along with the red rock mountains in the background tell a story.

Not only did Roadkill Cafe in Seligman, AZ have "interesting" names for menu items (it's motto is "You kill it, we grill it."), it had a room full of taxidermic animals. After a minute, the heebie jeebies kicked in and I had to get some fresh air. But, their mocha coffee was to-umm-die for.

Not only did Roadkill Cafe in Seligman, AZ have “interesting” names for menu items (it’s motto is “You kill it, we grill it.”), it had a room full of taxidermic animals. After a minute, I had the heebie jeebies and needed fresh air. But, their mocha coffee was to-umm-die for.

Fittingly following the pic for the Roadkill Cafe, is a sign I spotted in a diner window--one that's NOT commonly seen on the East Coast.

Fittingly following the pic for the Roadkill Cafe, is a sign I spotted in a diner window–one that’s NOT commonly seen on the East Coast.

Sign seen in Navajo Nation.  First of all, I DIDN'T see any critters, secondly, Teen Daughter pointed out that some of the critters lists ARE NOT reptiles, and thirdly, who is the management behind this sign?  It was posted on the side of the road next to Navajos selling jewelry and a whole bunch of scrub brush.

Posted on the side of the road in Navajo Nation. First of all, I DIDN’T see any critters (drat!), secondly, Teen Daughter pointed out that some of the critters listed ARE NOT reptiles, and thirdly, WHO is the management?

Jail in the Wild West was no joke!  There was a dirt floor, two wooden benches, one stove sitting in the middle and rifles on the wall.  Yikes!

Jail in the Wild West was no joke! Inside was a dirt floor, one wood-burning stove, two wooden benches and several rifles on the wall. Yikes!  Seligman, AZ

I would not want to get into a shootout with Curly!

I would NOT want to get into a shootout with Curly!

Looks like this Paddy Wagon has been out of commission for awhile.  Imagine being transported to jail in one of these.  Double Yikes!

Looks like this Paddy Wagon has been out of commission for awhile. Imagine being transported to jail in one of these. Everybody would know your business. Double Yikes!

Teen Daughter's behind bars!

Teen Daughter’s behind bars!

My Writing Process (Bunny Hop) Blog Hop

A Florida bunny.

A Florida bunny.

Tween Daughter dressed up as the Easter Bunny.

Tween Daughter dressed up as the Easter Bunny for Halloween.

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 Sibson

Laura Sibson

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.

Lucy, the model for Coco Mercado.

Lucy, the model for Coco Mercado.

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.

My nephew, my muse.

My nephew, my muse.

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, concentrate on 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 Karéne

Michelle Karéne

 Michelle Karéne

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.

Thanks for reading, hon!

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Party for Tweens

IMG_6797Me to Tween Daughter:  “How would you like to host a New Year’s party at our house?”

Tween Daughter:  “Can I?”

Me:  “Definitely!”

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.

Paper Lanterns

Paper Lanterns

Silver Snowflakes

Silver Snowflakes

Brightly colored, holiday-themed decorations.

Brightly colored, holiday-themed decorations.

What's a party without chocolate?

What’s a party without chocolate?

Dinner Menu:  Chips and salsa, veggies and ranch dressing, mozzarella sticks, baked ziti, garlic bread and plain pasta.

Tween Daughter loves my baked ziti!

Tween Daughter loves my baked ziti.

I insisted there be a vegetable on the table!

I insisted there be vegetables on the table!

Cupcake Decorating.

Cupcake Decorating

Party Poppers.

Party Poppers

Activities:  Pictionary Man (new version of Pictionary with a “man” you draw on), cupcake decorating, home-made laser tag (involving “slingshots,” pom-poms and 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.

Blenders and Mocktail .Ingredients

Blenders and Mocktail Ingredients

Hubby as bartender.

Hubby as bartender.

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.

Homemade Rugelah-Yum!

Homemade Rugelah-Yum!

Puff Patries filled with Apples-delicious!

Puff Patries filled with Apples-Delicious!

Candy Cane Icing Cupcakes

Candy Cane Icing Cupcakes-Adorable!

Cotton Candy-Sweet!

Cotton Candy-Sweet!

Tween Daughter with her friends.

Tween Daughter with friends.

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IMG_6828

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"Can I go with the kids?  Please!" Lucy asked when everyone ran downstairs.

“Can I go with the kids? Please?” Lucy asked when everyone ran downstairs.

Countdown:  Watching the ball drop.  10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…Happy New Year!

Hon, how did you ring in the New Year?

Spa Birthday Party

Tissue paper flowers in the ,kitchen

Tissue paper flowers in the kitchen.

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. Homemade Body 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

Lanterns and tissue paper .flower in the dining room

Lanterns and tissue paper flower in the dining room.

Table set and ready.

Table set and ready.

Glass jars set up at "body scrub station."

Glass jars set up at “body scrub station.”

Ingredients for body scrub.

Ingredients for body scrub.

body scrubs with labels

body scrubs with labels

consistency of body scrub is  gritty and moist

consistency of body scrub is gritty and moist

Brown Sugar Body Scrub

Indredients:

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.

*Source:  Specialty Bottle Supply

Mani/ pedi station.

Mani/ pedi station.

snacks by mani/pedi station

snacks by mani/pedi station

facial station

facial station

Tween Daughter with avacado mask

Tween Daughter with avacado mask.

girls in robes

girls in robes

robes wrapped and ribboned

robes wrapped and ribboned with body scrubs in gift bags

chocolate-covered strawberries

chocolate-covered strawberries

cake and ice cream

cake and ice cream