October 28, 2012

15 Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy when the Power's Out

When the power goes out, it can be extra challenging to keep your kids busy.   You often don't realize how much you rely on electricity until you don't have it for a few hours (or a few days).  As we prepare for Hurricane Sandy ( aka the "Frankenstorm") here on the East Coast, I thought I'd come up with a list of things your kids can do that don't require power.  Many of the supplies you'll already have on hand, others you can easily pick up when you're out at the store stocking up before the storm.

  Click on the link in each title or on the photos 
for a full post with recipes and directions

1.  Make and play with some some Playdoh 

Supplies ~ flour, oil, salt,  cream of tartar, Kool Aid packets,

(NOTE: This recipe does require using boiling water, so if you have an electric stove, make up a few batches before the power goes out)

 2.  Make some GAK

Supplies ~ Borax (found in laundry aisle at Target, Walmart, etc.), white glue, food coloring

3.  Make some Optical Illusion Handprints

Supplies ~ paper, markers, a hand

4.  Make some Marbleized Paper

Supplies ~ shaving cream, acrylic paint or food coloring, paper

5.  Make some Sand Art Using Colored Salt

Supplies ~ salt, colored chalk, plastic freezer bags,  empty bottle or sand art container

6.  Make your own chalkboards (You're not limited to only black paper and square shapes ~ you can make your chalkboards in any color or shape)

Supplies  ~ construction paper, white glue, chalk, foam paintbrush

7.  Play with some Water Beads

Supplies ~ water beads (can be found at the Dollar Store or craft stores)

8.  Paint a Mural on a Shower Curtain 

Supplies ~ plastic shower curtain (from the Dollar Store), acrylic paints and brushes

9.  Make some beautiful, swirling colors in a bowl of milk

Supplies ~ whole milk, food coloring, dish soap

10.  Mix up some Cloud Dough

Supplies ~ flour, oil (baby oil, vegetable oil, etc)

11.  Make a Marshmallow Shooter and have an Indoor Target Practice

 Supplies ~ plastic cup (or empty yogurt container), balloons, marshmallows, pom-poms or ping pong balls

12.  Go on a Paint Swatch Scavenger Hunt

Supplies ~ Paint Swatch cards

13.  Make Your Own Lava Lamp

Supplies ~ Empty plastic bottle, vegetable oil, water, food coloring,  Alka Seltzer tablets

14.  Paint with some Kool Aid

Supplies ~ paper, unsweetened Kool Aid packets, paintbrushes

15.  Make your Drinks Glow in the Dark

Supplies ~ glow sticks,  red solo cups, clear plastic cups that can fit inside red cups, clear beverage

Of course, there's always the other standbys ~ card games, board games, coloring books, etc. ~ but I hope this list helps to keep your little ones busy during any power outages (or anytime you want to be "unplugged" on purpose)

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October 21, 2012

The Color Run

 If you're looking for something fun and active to do with your family, I have just the suggestion.

The kids and I just did the Color Run this morning in Washington, DC.  If you haven't heard of The Color Run, it's an awesome "fun run" that's called "The Happiest 5K on the planet".  It comes to cities all over the U.S. (and it looks like it might be headed to Australia too!)  As you run (or walk) along the course, you pass through several "color zones where you're hit with colored powder.  At the finish line, everyone has a packet of colored powder they get to throw as part of a color festival!  We definitely had a blast (as you can see from the pictures) and I'd totally recommend it as a fun activity for families. 

 (NOTE: The colored powder might be a bit too much for really young children, but my school-aged kids had a blast)

 Check it out...

The Color Run Washington DC

Color Run Washington DC

Color Run Washington DC 2012

Like I said, I'd totally recommend it if your kids are school-aged (or go with other adults as a fun day out if your kids are too young).  The Color Runs do tend to sell out pretty far in advance, so check the website to see if it's coming to a city near you.

October 19, 2012

Personalized Pillowcases and Matching Sleep Masks

These cute pillowcases and sleep masks were the favors for my daughter's slumber party.  The pillowcases were very easy to make and also provided a little activity for the party.  The sleep masks involved a few more steps, but I made them without having to do any sewing at all.  The total cost for both items was less than $4 per girl and I think they turned out really cute.

Check them out...

slumber party ideas, favors, sleep mask tutorial

I ended up making 13 sets of them all together ~ 9 for the girls at the party, one for a good friend who couldn't make it, and 3 for the "little sisters" ~ my youngest daughter and two nieces who had their own sleepover the night of the party.

First, for the pillowcases...

Here's what you'll need:

    * plain pillowcases ( I got them in a 2-pack at Walmart for $5)
   * Heat n Bond Ultra Hold
   * fabric (I used one yard of fabric total for the 13 sets of pillowcases and sleep masks)
   * letters to trace ( I just found a font on my computer, enlarged it and used that)

Here's what to do...

1.  Trace the letters backwards on the paper side of the Heat n Bond.  (You'll need them in reverse so the letter is right side up once you iron it on.)

2.  Iron the Heat n Bond to the wrong side of the fabric.

3.  Cut out all your letters.  The paper backing on the Heat n Bond makes it very easy to cut the fabric ~ it's just like cutting regular paper.

4.  Peel off the paper backing, then position your letters on the pillowcase and iron in place.

That's it!  The cutting of all those letters is a bit time consuming, so do it while watching your favorite show, but the project itself is quite easy!

 (NOTE:  The Heat n Bond adhesive is permanent and forms a very good bond.   The letters will stand up to washings just fine with just slight fraying around the edges.  I wouldn't necessarily use these pillows every night and wash every week, but they'll be fine as an extra bed pillow and once a month washings.)

Now for the sleep masks...

Here's what you'll need:

   * fabric
   * several sheets of black stiff felt ( I found mine at JoAnn fabrics with the other felt.  It did not have the sticky adhesive back, but was stiffer than regular felt)
   * coordinating satin fabric
   * Heat n Bond Ultra Hold
   * elastic head wraps - NOT the no slip ones, just the regular (similar to these, but I got my black ones in an 8-pack at the Dollar Store)

Here's what to do...

1.  Make a sleep mask shape on a piece of scrap paper to use as a pattern.  I just roughly sketched an oval with a slight indentation at the nose.  Use the pattern to cut the shape out of the stiff black felt.

2.  Iron the Heat n Bond to the wrong sides of both the satin material and the patterned material for the front.

3.  Cut out the sleep mask shape from the satin fabric.

4.  Peel off the paper backing and iron the satin fabric onto the black felt.  (Play around with the heat setting just a bit.  You'll need it slightly lower than recommended so it doesn't "melt" the satin or felt, but still hot enough to adhere the adhesive.)

5.  Wrap your elastic head wrap around your sleep mask.  Use three dabs of hot glue to attach it to the black felt in the middle and near both sides.  Stretch the elastic just slightly as you're gluing it in place.  You don't want it stretched a lot, but just pulled slightly taut.

6.  Keep the elastic unglued on the satin side of the mask.  This will be the part that faces your eyes and the elastic band will go around your head.

7.  Now flip your mask over and remove the paper backing from the patterned fabric.  Iron it in place over the elastic band.  I lined it up and ironed it in place across the bottom of the mask, then over the elastic, then the top part above the elastic.

8.  That's it!  You're done.  Now you will still see the raised part of the elastic head wrap, but it's not too noticeable with a patterned fabric.  By keeping it all in one piece, you didn't have to do any sewing to keep it in place and it holds the mask nicely in position when you put it on without getting tangled in your hair.

Here they are modeled by my lovely nieces before lights out.  Pillowcases were decorated and sleep masks were ready to be slid down into place.

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October 18, 2012

Tin Foil & Toilet Paper Challenge (Fun Party Game)

Without a doubt, this was one of the favorite activities of the evening at my daughter's slumber party.   The girls had a great time designing fashions using some unconvential materials.  It cost less than $10 for the materials for nine girls and it was super easy to set up and clean up.

Check it out...

slumber party ideas, scout ideas, party ideas for girls

How cute is that? 

Here's all I did...

We had a group of nine girls here, so I simply divided them into three groups.  (I put slips of paper into a basket with the numbers 1, 2 and 3 on them so the groupings would be random).  I gave each group a roll of toilet paper and a package of aluminum foil ~ no need to get extra soft TP or heavy duty foil, the cheap stuff worked just fine!

The girls divided up into different areas and got to work.  Some groups decided to only design an outfit for one girl while others designed all their outfits simultaneously.  Some girls wanted to only be models, others chose just to design.  I didn't have any hard and fast rules, I just let them have fun.

Check out the designing process...

slumber party ideas, scout activities, party ideas for girls

For the "runway" backdrop, I simply tacked up a plain sheet for the girls to stand in front of and model their fashions.  Look at the fun outfits and poses...

slumber party ideas, scout activities, party ideas for girls

The designers even got to pose with their models...

Slumber party ideas, sleepover ideas, scouting activities, girl scout ideas, party ideas for girls

Didn't that look like fun?   

These 9 and 10 year-olds definitely had a blast and I could totally see this being a fun activity for camps, scout groups, even "grown-up" girl get togethers!

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Spin-A-Color (Fun Nail Painting Game)

Nail painting is such a big part of my girls' lives.  A few years ago, I made them these Spa Bags and they pull them out every few weeks to do their nails.  If I want to give them a special treat, I just let them buy a new bottle of polish.  It doesn't matter to them if it's the cheap stuff, but I do get bonus points if it's a fun, bright color or it has glitter and sparkles. 

For my oldest daughter's recent slumber party, I knew I wanted to include nail painting in the evening's activities.  I took the idea of the "Spin the Bottle" nail painting game (where you spin the actual bottle of polish and the girl it points to has to paint their nails that color), and put a little twist on it using actual spinners.

Check it out...

slumber party ideas

I actually had some blank spinners left over from my teaching days (but you can find similar ones in the Math resources section of teacher supply stores or order some online).  I used two of the spinners to make the game.  On the first one, I gave the directions and on the second, I painted the actual nail polish on each section to show which color to use.  (I added silver polka dots to half of them for some extra fun).  

NOTE:  I did get the quick drying nail polishes so the girls didn't have to sit around forever while they waited for all their nails to dry!

At the party, I had some nail polish remover and cotton balls available for anyone who wanted to remove their old polish before the game started.  I also spread out a mat on the floor to catch any drips or spills.

As you can see, the girls had a lot of fun with it and the final manicures and pedicures were quite colorful!

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October 17, 2012

Rice Krispie Treat Cones

My daughter recently celebrated her 10th birthday with a slumber party for several of her friends.  When planning the treats for the party, I knew I wanted something fun and easy to serve.  As I was browsing Pinterest (seriously, how did I ever plan parties before Pinterest?) I came across these super cute cones at Maddycakes Muse.  How perfect!  They look so much like real ice cream cones but the fact that they're actually chocolate-covered Rice Krispie treats make them so easy to make in advance and serve easily.

Check them out...

Here's how I made them...

(Note: To make 18 cones, I had to make up two batches of the Rice Krispie treat mixture)

1.  Make up a regular batch of Rice Krispie Treats.
          * 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
          *  1 bag of marshmallows
          *  5 1/2 cups of Rice Krispie cereal

     Melt the butter over low heat, add the marshmallows and stir until melted.  Remove from heat and add the Rice Krispie cereal, stirring until well coated.

2.  Allow the Rice Krispie mixture to cool slightly so it's not quite so sticky, about 5 minutes.  Then fill the inside of each cone with the mixture ~ this gives you more treat to eat AND it helps to stabilize your cones so they're not too top-heavy.  Next add another generous scoop of the Rice Krispie mixture to form the top "ice cream" part of the cone.

See how the first scoop filled it to the top of the cone, 
then the second scoop was mounded on top?

3.  Instead of using an ice cream scoop, I found it easier to just scoop out the mixture with a regular spoon and mound it on top.  Then I used a piece of waxed paper sprayed with cooking spray to mold the mixture into a more evenly rounded shape.

4.  Finally, I melted some chocolates for dipping.  I did three "flavors" ~ white chocolate for vanilla, white chocolate tinted pink for strawberry, and regular chocolate.  I simply dipped the top of the cone in the melted chocolate, then used a rubber spatula to spread it on evenly.

5.  I set the dipped cones in a cupcake tin for some stability and added some sprinkles while the chocolate was still warm.

That's it!  They were quite simple to make and looked really cute set out on a tray for the party.  (Although I forgot to get a picture of them nicely displayed!).  

The chocolate coating was a bit too hard to get a regular birthday candle into, but we improvised with a sparkler and it was a huge hit!

One happy and satisfied birthday girl...

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Tatertots & Jello

October 11, 2012

Fall Planting Time

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Miracle-Gro for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I've mentioned before that I don't have much of a green thumb.  I'd love for my yard and flowerbeds to look great, but I need a lot of guidance and help to know what kinds of plants would do best in which spots.  Then, once they're in, I need even more help to keep them growing well.  Luckily, there's lots of help out there.   Miracle Gro recently introduced a team of real-life gardeners who share their tips and experiences to help the rest of us ~ they even have helpful videos to show you exactly what to do in different situtations.

(1) Miracle-Gro

I've learned that Fall is a great time for adding some new plants or shrubs to your yard.  The ground is still warm so new roots can take hold, but it's not so sweltering hot that tender new plants dry up before they even have a chance to grow. (Plus, it's not nearly as uncomforable to be outside working).  I recently spent several days outside tackling an overgrown jumble of shrubs (and weeds) near our pool. 

I'm not going to lie, it was hard work cutting and digging out all the old shrubs and putting in the new ones, but I know it'll look so much better by next year when we start our pool season.  I'm also confident that my new shrubs have a great chance of surviving my "brown thumb" thanks to the Miracle Grow Tree and Shrub soil that I used around my new plants.


Check out the  Gardenieres  site for lots of fantastic tips and videos to help with your Fall planting.  I really like this video sharing 10 Common Things to watch out for when gardening.  (Believe me, I need all the tips I can get!)

Also be sure to check out   Miracle-Gro Facebook page   for even more tips and great info.  You can talk to fellow gardeners and share your own gardening stories.


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