Monday, June 27, 2011

I Heart Faces Photo Challenge - A Touch of Whimsy

This week's I Heart Faces Photo Challenge theme is "A Touch of Whimsy"
I wanted to find a photo that captured both a whimsical look, as well as a whimsical feel. She loves dressing up, so I knew that those pictures would be a great place to look. As always, my light quality is poor, and my background leaves much to be desired. Ah well. My camera is a P&S anyway, so I don't have high expectations. [P&S means Point and Shoot... not POS... although it's that too.] She woke up cheery one morning and wanted to play dress-up. So she's wearing her "Wedding Princess" hat (I used to work at a mall costume jewelry boutique and obtained a lot of stuff for dress-up "on spec." (ie: before having kids, much less a little girl.) Purple Dollar Tree fairy wings, a tutu and a sparkly pink headband (in disguise as a "sparkky neckace") complete the look.
I Heart Faces - Photo Challenges & Photography Tutorials
This photo was entered into the I Heart Faces photo challenge

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Beetles, Bugs and Butterflies Birthday Bash, Part 2

The night before her actual birthday, we let her open her present from us... a new dollhouse! (Amazon has it for a great price, with the free shipping, but I found it on eBay, new in box, for $15, plus $60 shipping. $75 beats $125 any day of the week. And it even arrived before her birthday! I was just hoping it would come before her party, since the auction end-time was so close.) We opted to open it the night before, rather than the day of, her birthday because she and I would be going to my sister's house on her birthday to spend the night, and we wanted to let her help us build it (since she loved doing that with her play kitchen and furniture at 18 months,) and time to play with it. Plus then she might not freak out when other kids touched it, since she'd have gotten to play with it for a few days before her party.
KidKraft Little Girls Savannah Fashion Dollhouse 15pc Play Set
(Not our house. Mfg photo. You could probably tell
from the lack of random junk in the background.
Plus the kid's hair isn't a snarly rat's nest.)
Her family party was the Saturday after her birthday, since I was busy with Relay For Life and Bloggy Boot Camp the Saturday before. Both my sisters came, with their kids, and even my brother and his lady were able to make it! Plus my mom, Nana, Aunti Casi (my SIL) and 2 of her kids, and Grampa Boose. We also invited two of OUR couple-friends and their kids, plus her bestest (non-cousin-y) friend from next door. Only one of our friends was able to come with their two kiddos, and only Adam, since Jeni was beat from doing her city's Relay For Life since 6pm the night before.The other pair of our friends wasn't able to make it, and neither could Gamma Barp, Auntie Sha and Uncle Gordy, Auntie Kenzie (Unka Chris is deployed, so I knew he wouldn't make it!) or Great-Grandparents Vern and Donna. But we were plenty packed, so it was okay to have fewer grown-ups huddled outside trying not to step on little kids.

Oriental Trading Company* had some great stuff on clearance for the goody bags! There were butterfly lollipops with caterpillar gummies with an Easter card (something about resurrection) that I was easily able to cut off. Plastic beetles, filled with candy powder. And candy-filled Easter Eggs painted with bug faces and with foam wings around the sides. TOO CUTE! I also had ordered skinny feather boas, deely-boppers and huge star wands from them, but no one came dressed up as a bug, so we never broke those out.
*Since Oriental Trading Company denied my request to become an affiliate and get paid to link to their products, I'm not going to do links. Sorry. I only do free advertising to companies whose products I absolutely love (and I do love shopping there!) who HAVEN'T yet turned me down. Or who don't have an affiliate program. Or who I haven't tried to sign up with yet. Or if I feel it's really a MUST HAVE item, even though they rejected me.
At Party City, the "Butterfly Girl" plates and other paper supplies were all half-off. They also had "Gitchigumi balls" (little rubber spiky balls,) rubber bugs, noisemakers, and loads of other fun stuff I stocked up on for myself... I mean for "beautiful lunches." Plus they had little buckets on sale for $.75 each (maybe only $.50... I can't remember) that I used instead of bags to hold all the goodies.
I found different girly butterfly party supplies at Dollar Tree, so got extra plates and napkins from them, plus party hats, and plastic bowls and utensils. They also had packs of bubbles, 3/$1, and little stackable colored pencil things (where each color is on a different nub that stacks together to make a long pencil, then you pull off whatever color you want to use and plug it on the end.)
And I had some party favors from Target's Dollar Spot and their $1 party supplies section too. Different Gitchigumi balls, Keroppi stamps (4/$1,) packs of glow-in-the-dark bugs... I'm sure there was more. I just can't remember it all! But my goody bags ROCKED. I even tailored them based on the ages, so no silly little stampers, say, for the older kids (8-10, plus Cody is now 18. But he still believes in Santa and the Easter Bunny, so he gets goody bags, same as the lil' ones.) And no choking hazards for the 1- and 2-year olds!

After feverishly cleaning the house (and missing my MOMS Night Out for June... *sniffle*) I got the party stuff ready the night before. Tablecloth on table. Check. Utensils, straws and napkins in caddy. Check. (Love this thing. Got it at Dollar Tree. Use it to gather tools for an MTM or bento I'm planning, so I can toss stuff in as I find it while looking for other stuff throughout the week. Plus as a utensil caddy for parties.) Goody bags filled and tagged with names. Check! (That was totally my favorite part! I LOVE sorting through and divvying up stuff! Love it!)

Being the expert party planners that we are, we finally decided on burgers and dogs (versus home-made or take-n-bake pizzas) the morning of the party, so had to go get enough supplies to feed and hydrate everyone. I let my husband decide on the fly whether to grab veggie and fruit trays, or just buy the stuff and we could slice it ourselves and utilize the spiffy vintage Tupperware party platters from my mom. (Actually, from my sister's Grandmother-in-law, originally. GMIL to MIL to sister to our mother to me. SCORE!) He chose random fruits (grapes, mango, bananas, raspberries, peaches) and veggies (red peppers [blech,] snap peas and  baby carrots [What? No broccoli? Who does a veggie tray without broccoli? Or at LEAST cucumber.]) for us to slice.
She pretty much camped out at the fruit and veggie tray
We buy these crazy delicious dip mixes at Farmer's Markets or Fairs or wherever we see these guys again next, and save them all year for this shindig. So my hubby mixed up a garlic dip (our hands-down favorite. Last year Z practically ate the whole tub of leftovers singlehandedly. I tried to vie for some, but she was pretty stingy.) We didn't need no stinkin' Ranch for our veggies. Crazy. Delicious. I whipped out some of my little Dollar Tree forked picks stash to make picking up the fruit a little easier. [SEE, honey? Good thing I have all those boxes of picks, now, isn't it?]

Playing with her new Flying My Little Pony
Princess something -or-other from best-friend Appie,
Appie arrived and handed the present to Z instead
 of taking it to the stash Z had been coveting and
whining about all afternoon. So I let her finish opening it early.
We resurrected the ball pit from the garage, since it was such a hit last year, and we really had no other entertainment planned. I put all my efforts into the goody bags. I DID make a playlist of bug-related songs for my iPod, which I had out in our speaker-player thingy. They all came from our vast collection of Fisher Price Little People CDs. I found some other great songs online, but no free mp3s to download. Ah well.

  • Itsy-Bitsy Spider 
  • Itsy-Bitsy Spider Medley [variant verses
  • Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee
  • Ants Go Marching
  • Five Green and Speckled Frogs [because they eat BUGS in the song]
  • Five Striped and Buzzing Bees [Speckled Frogs variant]
  • There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea [because there's a FLY on the wart of the leg of the frog on the bump on the branch on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea. See? TOTALLY bug related!]

We started opening presents when Gampa Boose had to leave early, so he could see her open his gifts. [Wooden Sandwich Making Set and Ready, Set, School activities from her Amazon list.] I am STILL finding wooden sammich parts everywhere, since she immediately wanted to start playing with it, and all her cousins love play food too. And I'm regulating the school set into mini lesson sessions so she doesn't just ruin it all.
Auntie Kayneen made her a new apron [I had lost her old one, made for her 1st birthday party, and only just found it while cleaning a few days before the party. I've been asking my sister to make a new one for months, but she's been busy, apparently getting her Masters Degree in teaching. Plus some extra science and math certifications required for teaching Middle School (or maybe High School.) Plus raising her two kids.] She also made a mini pillow and blanket for Z's dollhouse, since Z's favorite doll-y activities are feeding and putting to bed, and I'm SO tired of her finding some skimpy negligee I didn't even know I OWNED and flourishing it around as a blankie for her dollies.
Unka Keil and Auntie Liz found her a pink version of the much-contested "Green Bunny" that Tually got from them for a birthday 2 years ago. Tually loves her Green Bunny, and Z loves it too, and I scoured the stores this Easter looking for one JUST LIKE IT with no luck. But... they got her a pink one!!! So now the girls can still tell them apart when brought for a visit, but everyone's (finally) happy. She loves her plushies. In fact, she moved out of our bed because I limited her to one "friend." each night. But offered to let her sleep with all her "friends" in her own bed in her room. On the third night, she took us up on it, and has pretty much been in there ever since!
Auntie Kayra and Unka Dave (and the kids) found these awesome little flocked animals like Calico Critters, only cheaper and made for slightly younger kids (ie: without a million, bajillion little teeny tiny accessories. Like, seriously. Microscopic. The kitchen set comes with 6 little eggs!!! I might as well vacuum those suckers up RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX, since that's where they'll all end up!) Anyway. THESE sets came with accessories easier for her to use. There were only 4 plates for the Li'l Woodzeez kitchen set, not a whole china cabinet worth of stuff. And she LOVES little animals, so little people-style animals for her dollhouse just about made her heart explode. They got her the owl family, plus also a classroom set. I keep finding these guys all over the place, so I know she's playing with them when I'm not paying attention. Plus they found them somewhere super cheap (Wal-Mart?) so got all 3 for the same price as a Lalaloopsy doll! (Which is what I had been telling her to buy when she was on the phone with me and found the other stuff.)
Nana and Auntie Casi apparently hate me, so they bought her enough Squinkies to create an army and take over the world. Ugh. Millions of tiny little rubber things to step on and kick around, plus they each come with a little plastic ball case to carom through their playsets gumball-style. Well. Maybe not millions. Probably between 75 and 100 though! The castle playset, Disney's Snow White set, some with hair, plus Nana found a 50-Squinkies set on clearance. *sigh* But she loves 'em. Darn her.

When I took her shopping for her cake [the day before her party. What? It wasn't too late...] I found a ladybug and butterfly cake design. But no. She wanted Princesses. "But honey. You wanted a Beetles, Bugs and Butterflies theme. I ASKED if you wanted Princess theme, and you chose bugs. See? Look at this cute cake with BUGS on it!" No. Princesses. *sigh* Their Disney Princess cake had frosting flowers in the corners, so I asked if they could do butterflies instead. Answer: yes. Hooray!
Technically bug-themed. See the butterflies?
Since the goody bags were not all created equal, and I didn't want people losing stuff or getting it snatched by another kid thinking it was theirs, I handed out the goody bags as kids left. But since Tually and Pilu were the Last Toddlers Standing, I let them enjoy theirs together with Z. [Technically Z and Tually are preschoolers, but "toddlers" sounded better there.]
There was a lot of finding something on the floor and trying to figure out whose it was, and making sure the girls got to take all their goodies home with them. And SOMEONE stuck their stickers all over the ball pit, and in Z's hair...


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tot School: Our First Sensory Bin!

Inspired by 1+1+1=1's sensory bins, plus the fact that the sensory table was Z's favorite station at preschool, I decided to make a sensory bin at home. Plus hopefully it will help reinforce phonics and letters, which she refuses to participate with or learn from me. But if she knows that everything in the box starts with a 'D,' say, and says the words out loud as she plays with them, eventually we could graduate to sorting out items that don't belong. (Right now, when looking at a group of 4 items, say a dog, a snake, a rock and a dinosaur; and asking her which ones start with a "duh, duh" sound, then saying each name, she'll confirm that they all start with "duh." Until I put an actual "duh" sound at the beginning. "Oh, so it's a Dnake?" Frustrating. Sadly, I'm not a very patient teacher. Plus she usually just rolls her eyes at me and throws random answers without thinking whenever I ask her anything educational. Seriously. This kid refuses to learn directly from me.)

The Dollar Tree has cheap bins, but I wanted something a little sturdier, so I sprung for the $2.50 one at Winco. They had a $5 one with a lid, which I am now kicking myself for not buying, since it would make clean-up and storage so much easier. But it wasn't the thick Rubbermaid-type rubber. Ah well. I found 4-lb bags of pinto beans fairly cheap, so I got 2. Turns out I only needed 1. So make a note. 4 pounds of beans is perfect for these bins!

Fred Meyer has tubes of plastic animals on an endcap in their toy section for $1 each. I got frogs, insects, dinosaurs, farm animals and sea animals. Plus Dollar Tree has baggies of lizards, snakes, bugs and such periodically as well. I also found a basket of seashells at Dollar Tree, and a baggie of Autumn-colored gems. I got travel Scrabble and Rummikub games cheap at garage sales to scavenge for number and letter tiles. I also had a set of foam magnet lowercase letters, and small plastic cheapie uppercase. Plus various Melissa and Doug (and cheapie generics) shaped wooden magnets with pictures (MandD has a nice set of letter ones too, uppers and lowers!) And cookie cutters and molds from her Play-Doh sets. Somewhere we have tweezers, and I found a fun child-size spaghetti scoop in a Sneaky Chef Lotsa Pasta recipe/cooking set that is perfect for scooping and sifting with these beans.

She chose a "D" and dinosaur theme to start with, which was fairly easy, since I knew I only had the one packet of plastic dinos, so I only had to sift through her magnets to find some D's. She saw the baggie of Autumn-colored gems, and wanted to play with those too, so I decided to just let her, even though they didn't go with the theme, since this was our first attempt at a "lesson" using her toys. Then it occurred to me that they could be diamonds! (Yeah, yeah. I know. Wrong color. Sue me.) I also tossed in some silicone mini muffin liners from World Market ($3/12) to sort things into.
So she Dug for Dinosaurs, Diamonds and big and little D letters (she was confused, since the "little D's" were actually larger than the "big D's." I'll have to start calling them uppercase and lowercase) and put them into silcone Dishes. [I was actually a little pleased with myself for that one. Another "D."]

While she played, I scavenged in her Play-Doh tools bin and plastic animals sets for dolphin, duck and dog animals, cutters and molds, to reinforce the letter D tomorrow. Naturally, she had to add in all the new friends, so now I'll have to sort them all out again. Bleh. They all gathered around the dishes of "food" (beans and 'diamonds') on a tray I got out to keep the beans off the floor.

Now, all the homeschool blogs I read, with their sensory bins, have other lesson plans. Tracing letters, cutting exercises, sorting activities, maybe even a book to go along with the theme. Well. I'm not that organized. I'm just getting started, so this is all you get... for now. I did just get Danny and the Dinosaur at the thrift store, so we read that (a few times!)
Danny and the Dinosaur 50th Anniversary Box Set (I Can Read Book 1)
Bin: $2.50, Beans: $3.50-$4.50 (I forget,) Dinosaurs: $1, Gems: $1, Magnet letters, silicone dishes and scoop already had: free (should be easy to scavenge similar items from around the house, if you want to try this. One of those spoons for spaghetti with wooden pegs sticking out (like a hairbrush, almost) might be fun too, for the beans to carom around between the pegs.) Total: $9 (used higher estimate on the beans.) and the bin and beans can be re-used with other themes as well. So just $2 for bin-specific items. And the gems weren't even originally FOR this. But I can use them for color themes (orange, red and yellow,) G for gem, J for jewel, and Autumn theme. Even a Princess theme.
Remember: a packet of farm animals can be good for A: Animals, F: Farm, or split up for other themes, like C: cow, D: duck, H: horse, etc! Ducks can go with birds for a B: Bird theme, they can be used to sort mammals from birds from amphibians later on too! And eventually you can toss in things that don't belong, so they can use reasoning and thinking skills to decide why a duck shouldn't be in the F-themed or Ocean-themed boxes. (Or justify why it SHOULD! "Ducks have F-feathers!")

I highly recommend the free printables and lesson ideas from 1+1+1=1 (be sure to check out the Tot Books and Tot Packs!) and Totally Tots. Really leaves almost no work for me to come up with lessons and activities, if only I would actually get around to doing them! There's even a dinosaur theme Tot Book, Tot Pack and links to dinosaur-themed lesson posts! It's like I don't even need to show up! (On the Totally Tots site, just enter 'dinosaur' into the search box for some more fun lesson and craft ideas!)

I plan on linking this up to Sunday's Tot School linky
Tot School
and JDaniel4's Mom's Read. Explore. Learn linky on Friday

Shibley Smiles

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

WFLW - The Cat's Meow

Since I had virtually no last-minute prep work (for once) for my butter-making Kids Cooking Class, I actually had time to make a lunch to eat at the park after! Woohoo! (Although I did manage to mess up the only prep I had - remembering to bring the jars, marbles, napkins and cream. Had to turn around halfway to the park to go back for the cream. And the lunch! D'oh!)

The Cat's Meow (or: Buttered Cat*)
PBHoney cat, green beans, Ranch, string cheese nibblets, strawberries
*A little shout-out to my friend James Ernest, and his card game, Falling. Although only my husband will get the reference, since I doubt James reads my blog! In fact, maybe not even my husband. He doesn't always read my posts either... Slacker. But basically, here's the premise behind the phrase. If toast always lands butter-side up, and cats always land on their feet, then if you put buttered toast on a cat's back, how can it land? So the "buttered cat" became a phrase for something that falls forever, or can't land, or even an anomaly or impossible conundrum.

I chose one of my EasyLunchBoxes mostly because I was feeling lazy and not in the mood to make everything all fancy and able to fit into a traditional bento box, and I wouldn't have enough different foods to bother with my Laptop Lunches. Plus these are *much* easier to clean and fewer parts to keep track of. And the cooler bag fit my ice pack, EasyLunchBox and 2 pints of Heavy Whipping Cream (for the butter making class) perfectly!

I didn't really have a theme in mind when I started, and I went to gaze into my cutter cupboard for inspiration. [Yes, you read that right. I have a cupboard full of cookie cutters. Two, actually. Plus my other tools, bento boxes, sprinkles, etc. But the cutters take up the most room.] This cat cutter was sitting out on the counter, since I had pulled it out as a candidate for making Totoro-themed foods for a friend's daughter's birthday party, since the head is Totoro-shaped. My cat-head cutter is too wibbly on the sides. :(
To jazz it up, I used my food writers to draw on a face, which is hard to do on bread.

After I made the cat sandwich, the phrase "the cat's meow" popped into my head, so I decided I could just write "MEOW" on the cheese and call it good. Sadly, the Wilton food writers are terrible on cheese. Just awful. Like pulling teeth. I hear the Betty Crocker and Americolor ones are way better.

Princess didn't care that the ink looked bad. She was thrilled to have words in her food! She identified all the letters, but then only ate one of them.
She ended up eating all of the green beans and Ranch, and the head off the sandwich. No strawberries, and just the one cheese nibblet. She was playing around with the other 3 that had letters on them and dropped them by accident. I ended up eating all the strawberries. They were super sweet!
As we were walking to the car to leave, she asked for the rest of her sandwich and finished it off.

Check out the other fun bento lunches this week!
 Bento Lunch