Monday, December 20, 2010

Dots of Fun

I love the idea of adding a homemade touch to every gift I give, and homemade gift wrap is such an easy way to do that. It’s a wonderful pre-Christmas activity to share with children of almost any age. But this particular twist works even for the tiniest of Santa’s little helpers…
Bingo Dabber Gift Wrap
You will need…
Plain brown parcel post wrap
Bingo dabbers in your choice of colours
Simply unroll the brown paper across a table, and show your child how to make polka dots (or for older kids, how to make polka dot patterns or pictures) using the bingo dabber. Even very young babies and toddlers can grasp a dabber and tap it on the paper (my daughter has been creating bingo dabbber art projects since roughly ten months of age). The brightly coloured polka dots result in surprisingly stylish looking gift wrap. And because it is quick and easy, you can easily create a fun and colourful roll of gift wrap in ten minutes or less!

Helpful Hints:
·    Plan ahead and buy coordinating ribbons and bingo dabbers. The fancier the ribbons and bows, the more impressive your gift wrap will look.
·    This is a fabulous fine motor activity for little ones at the pre-drawing stage. Just be sure to supervise closely so babies don’t mouth the dabbers.
·    This is also a great activity for preschoolers and school aged kids. For a fun challenge, show preschoolers how to create pictures using dots. Or draw out a pattern for your school aged child and have them replicate it using dots on the paper.
·    Bingo dabbers don’t generally contain washable ink, so be sure to throw an art apron on your child and use the table-saving "no stress mess" strategy.
·    Have fun, and Merry Christmas!!!!!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Baked Clay Christmas Ornaments

So it’s less than a week until Christmas, and unless you are among the super-prepared “I was finished all my shopping in July” few, this will likely be a busy week. But there is no better time than Christmas to slow down for a little while and just enjoy the moment with your little one. This baked clay recipe is perfect for making Christmas ornaments, but can be used for a fun craft activity any time of the year. My daughter (who turned two this weekend!) LOVED playing with this clay and using cookie cutters to cut out shapes. The following day, we painted our homemade ornaments and they look (while very homemade) wonderfully cheery and festive…
Baked Clay Recipe
4 cups flour
1 cup salt
2 cups water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and knead until smooth.  Form dough into shapes or roll and cut using cookie cutters. Bake at 300 degrees for approximately one hour, or until dough appears dry throughout. Happy creating!

Very Merry Clay Making
  Helpful Hints:
·   Thick dough takes much longer to bake than thin dough. For best results, roll or press dough thinly before shaping.
·   To make Christmas ornaments, use the end of a drinking straw to punch a hole at the top of the ornament. Once baked, thread a colourful ribbon through the hole and tie into a bow (be sure to double knot).
·   Handmade ornaments make great gifts for grandparents, or can be added to gifts for teachers or babysitters. Be sure to write your child’s name and the year on the back of the ornament.
·   Homemade ornaments also make cute, creative gift tags. Simply paint the gift recipient’s name on the front of the ornament, or write it on using a colourful sharpie.

Christmassy Crafting

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tropical Luau Cake and Pancreatitis

One month ago tonight, I was in my kitchen attempting to make a festive, tropical-themed birthday cake. It had been a chaotic day, and I had run out of time to even visit the cake decorating store. So I ransacked my cake decorating box, and made my very best effort at cake decorating in a pinch. Simultaneously, my poor husband was at various intervals writhing in pain on the family room floor. With each attack, I asked the same question – “Should I be taking you to the hospital?” And with each question, the same answer – “I’m fine honey. It’s just gas.” Choosing to believe him, I decorated on.
The following morning, tropical luau cake casting a colourful glow inside of my refrigerator, I drove my now obviously ill husband to the emergency room of our local hospital. What he had explained away as gas turned out to be something much more serious – a case of acute pancreatitis caused when gallstones completely blocked both his liver and pancreas. One month in hospital, one surgery, and a pretty rough road later, my wonderful husband is finally HOME. And boy, are we ever glad to have him back...
So in celebration of my hubby being home and on the road to recovery, a couple of lessons learned:
1)   When your husband is in sick or in pain, always assume that his illness or injury is significantly WORSE than he is letting on. It seems that men hate doctors and hospitals, and avoid them whatever the cost. My dear hubby sat at home while his pancreas began literally digesting itself, not wanting to be “that guy” who went to the hospital with gas pain. Down the hall from him on the hospital ward was a man about my husband’s age. He almost died of a ruptured appendix, and told his wife it was “probably indigestion”. Next time, I’ll err on the side of caution.
2)   With a little creativity and a few basic supplies on hand, you can throw together a fun and festive birthday cake even in the midst of chaos. I WISH I had never made this cake. Wish I had taken my hubby to the ER instead. But the cake was made, and taken to the party in my absence. And it, apparently, was a hit. So here’s the recipe, for you to make under what I hope will be much better circumstances…
Easiest Ever Pineapple Coconut Cake
I box golden cake mix, plus required ingredients
1 cup crushed pineapple
1 cup flaked coconut
Prepare cake mix according to package directions, then fold in pineapple and coconut. Bake according to package directions.  The result is a wonderfully moist, very tropical-tasting cake that takes almost no effort to make. A large bottom layer can be used to create the "ocean" and a smaller top layer to form a "tropical island". Decorate with any tropical-themed items you have on hand. I used some plastic palm trees and sharks and a couple of drink umbrellas, and encircled the cake plate with a couple of dollar store leis. What could be simpler!
Oh – and one more lesson “learned” (never forgotten, just refreshed). Oh my goodness, do I ever love my husband. In my totally unbiased opinion, he’s the best husband and daddy on earth. Is it ever wonderful to have him home! Welcome home, honey. We love you!