Friday, February 22, 2013

Reading roundup 02.22.13

Here's some stuff I've been reading lately. Apologies that sometimes these Friday posts go up so late.

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food, NYTimes Mag (Feb. 20, 2013)
This is going to be a big talker.

Still Lonely in a World with More 'Onlies', NYT Motherlode (Feb. 17, 2013)
An only child is wistful for the siblings she never had.

Strange Adventures, Teacher Tom (Feb. 17, 2013)
About the anchor of home. This one struck a chord with me.

Building Strong Boys: The Meaning of Manhood, Not Just Cute (Feb. 20, 2013)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sand writing

 Starboy has been expressing an interest in letter names and how they are formed. He is hesitant to learn how to write the letters; I think he is worried that they will not be formed as perfectly as what mama makes.
So I created a chance for him to make some imperfect letters, using fine colored sand. (Michaels, $1.99)
I brought out some Montessori letters for him to copy, but that lasted about two minutes, and then he just started drawing.

He had a blast with it. I think this one will come out frequently.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Reading Roundup 2013.02.15

A few things I've been reading lately.

Why parents need to let their children fail, The Atlantic (Jan .29, 2013), via Not Just Cute

Frustration and Rage, Conscious Transitions (Jan. 14, 2013)
Really great article on patience and parenting with little ones.

Why introverts shouldn't be forced to talk in class, Washington Post
Great article, with teacher tips on other methods of group participation besides raising your hand and giving a verbal answer.

Valentine's Snacks

This was great fun to take to the zoo yesterday! Valentine's Snacks!

So many people have done this faux-bento holiday snack kit, but it's so appealing! This is one cheese stick, one carrot cut into matchsticks, about 8 mini-crackers, and about 1 1/2 tablespoons each of cranberries and peanuts. And a single chocolate heart.

I made the mistake of not-saving the padded waxed paper sheet that came with the tin, which meant that when tipped sideways, everything could fall out of its well. So I cut some waxed paper and added a few napkins to add pressure while it was in my bag.

In the future I'd like to put a sticker over the brand name. Didn't get around to it.

Big hit! Starboy even ate some of the carrots. But the chocolate heart was the favorite part!

Heart t-shirt how-to here.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day

We're having a great family Valentine's Day! We started with heart-shaped french toast.

We went to the zoo, and after seeing the feeding of these Gray's Monitors earlier this week, Starboy now refers to them as "the mouse-eaters."

Surprise snacks from Mommy! More on this tomorrow. Just noticing the t-shirt? More on that here.

Tina the elephant helps herself to a drink of water.

 Even the winter animals are enjoying the Valentine's spirit.

 I'm giving Techman a jar of chocolates, with a circle glued to the bottom of each one noting something I love about him. (Whew, this takes longer to create than writing a card! Plan ahead!)

Tired boys at a tasty lunch spot.

Techman also gave me some beautiful red roses, but I haven't photographed them—and our lunch was delicious!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine doily print t-shirts

I've been waiting so long to make these doily print t-shirts (and maybe other stuff like this and this) from The Artful Parent.

They turned out to be much more frustrating than they looked.

Luckily I ran some tests on paper with tempera paint, and then used the fabric paint to test a tea-towel. I ran the test after Starboy went to bed, and it was such a disaster, I decided not to offer it as a project for him and Mary Jane to do together.

The prints were so-so, and the doily permanently adhered to the paint and the fabric. Impossible to remove. Except for the shredded, wet, sticky pieces I could pick off. I thought that by washing it the next day, or running it under cold water and scraping the pieces, it would be fine (as other commenters noted on Jean's blog), but the bits really just didn't want to come off. Frustrating.

Despite this bad luck, I soldiered on and tried the same technique on Starboy's t-shirt, and was surprised to get the same results!


 So Starboy's t-shirt looks a little layered-grungy-indie-rocker-hipster-ish.

I decided to quit while I was ahead and leave it be. It actually does look a little cool, and he doesn't seem to mind.

I wised up for Mary Jane's shirt. I had no problem applying the fabric paint to the doilies, and getting a lovely stencil effect. I was doing this on a piece of printer paper, and those lovely, shiny red stencils went to Miss Molly, to decorate her shop window.

So I used that as a technique on Mary Jane's shirt, and Leah's light blue one. Success! Very cute. And finally, as easy as previously described.

The conclusion I came to is: there are doilies, and there are doilies. I was using very thin paper doilies, and any bit of moisture caused them to disintegrate, and melt to whatever they were touching. There must be other, sturdier doilies out there. Or, if you wanted to take the time, I suppose you could cut a stencil using the doily as a pattern. But you'd have to be....I dunno...either childless or OCD to take that on, I think. 

Then again, the issue could be with the paint. Maybe a different brand would have worked better, especially since the tempera paint didn't have this problem on the cards.

The shirts, btw, were organic cotton from H&M ($6), the doilies were standard issue (half off sale last year) and the fabric paint from Michaels ($4ish). Not sure that I can recommend the fabric paint, given my results.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Valentine doily print cards

I've been dying to make these Valentine's doily t-shirts ever since I saw them on The Artful Parent. But since I only had a few t-shirt blanks (one each for Starboy, Mary Jane and Leah,* I thought it would be a good idea to run some tests before trying the shirts.

So, this year it was a doily heart printing Valentine year.

We placed the doily on a card, then rolled tempera paint over it with a foam roller. Then, we moved the painted doily to a second card to make a print.

A third card was placed on top of the painted doily, and Starboy ran the brayer across it to make the print on the second card.

This way, we ended up with three cards for every process, which meant that by the time Starboy was tired of making them, we had enough to send to everyone! You can see in the image here the variety of prints we came up with.

I wonder how much paint Jean and her kids used to make their prints—she seemed to have far better results than we experienced. I was really glad to do the tests, so we'd have good luck on the shirts. Fingers crossed!

By the way, I really can't recommend the tempera paint I found at Micheals. I thought I'd save myself some shipping by buying locally rather than ordering from Discount School Supply. The Michaels tempera filled the house with a sickening chemical smell, and all of the red paint dried as pink. I returned all five bottles that I had bought. This wasn't a problem I had with DSS tempera.

*Nearly everyone gets a code name, to help with privacy.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Valentine artwork

While we were making Valentines yesterday, Starboy couldn't resist the red tempera paint and insisted on painting his hands with the brush. So we experimented with some classic heart hand prints.

We have these great frames in our den that allow you to change artwork whenever you want. The whole front of the frame opens, and you can store up to 50 prints inside.

It's a great way to change the seasonal look of your home while keeping it simple.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Valentine Doughnut Day

Every year, the weekend before Valentine's Day, we make doughnuts.
As you can see, compared to two years ago, we had only moderate success. But we'd invited over  Thumbstumbler, her husband Mole, and Mary Jane,* and none of them seemed to mind.

On the upside, we used the heat diffuser we got with our tagine (a Christmas gift), and that helped a lot with keeping the oil at the right temperature. Which was perfect timing, because my mother-in-law gave away her deep fryer.

I also wanted to make these egg cups, which looked crispy and delicious. I made some modifications to the recipe that sort of spoiled the effect. But, luckily, they came out fine.

 First? Crazy cleanup. Ugh. I wonder if paper muffin cups would have helped.

Then, some changes: I scrambled the eggs, and mixed in some shredded zucchini, pepper and salt with the cheese. Then baked. The crunchy hash browns went mushy, and I realized—all I'd done was made little quiches, with a lot of extra cleanup. Duh. I should have saved myself the trouble and just made a regular quiche.

But the shaped ones turned out great, for mini quiches. We had leaves, pumpkins and stars. (My heart pans are for mini muffins, and that seemed like too much work.)

It made for a lovely little brunchette, and the single servings (everyone had at least two) made for an appealing, casual atmosphere. See how great the pumpkins and leaves turned out? Of course, Starboy and MJ wouldn't touch the things. They each had at least three donuts apiece.

The best part, of course, was catching up with Thumbstumbler, and having a relaxing couple of hours just yukking it up. As friends do. We were having such a great time, I forgot to make any pictures. Now that's a perfect Valentine celebration. Even though we all made ourselves sick on doughnuts.

*Nearly everyone gets a code name to help with privacy.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Valentine Cookies

We get a head start on Valentine's Day each year, since several valentines need to be mailed back east. 

 This year's Valentine was a tiny care package of brown sugar shortbread cookies and lime meltaways.

The lime meltaways were from Martha Stewart's Cookies. They taste just like the key lime coolers I used to have in Florida when I lived there.

She recommended shaping the dough into two logs to chill. I made mine into two long Toblerone-shaped pyramids, then used a chopstick to create a very deep groove along one side. Slices of this grooved pyramid produced...

 ...heart-shaped cookies!

 ....which I overbaked.

I also made some old standby brown sugar shortbread cookies. It's a pretty standard recipe I got from a friend almost 20 years ago, but I'll list it below. Super easy. 

My cookie stamp is star-shaped, so I used brand new rubber stamps, with hearts or "love" on them, to press the cookies. I was disappointed to decide that heart-shaped cookies proved too time consuming. If you have any ideas of a quick way to make these into hearts, please comment below.

Starboy was busy playing, so his help with the cookies was minimal, but he did help me package them in valentine tins (Michael's, $1.50) to send to my best friend The Optimist, and some family.

He also put himself in charge of tasting them. He liked the shortbread more than the meltaways, and he liked the shortbread batter best of all!

Brown Sugar Shortbread cookies
Preheat oven to 350.

1 cup butter, softened to room temp (2 sticks)
¾ cup brown sugar
2 ½ cups unsifted flour (if you use presifted flour, you’ll need more butter)
granulated sugar for rolling

Thoroughly blend butter and brown sugar. Stir in unsifted flour. Roll into one-inch balls, roll in granulated sugar and place 2” apart on ungreased sheet. Press each ball with a cookie stamp or the bottom of a glass.

If the balls are too big, the cookies will be dry and flaky on the edges, and rather heavy and moist in the center.

Bake 10-12 mins at 350, until just starting to brown at the edges. Cool on a wire rack.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Reading Roundup 2013.02.08

A few things that caught my eye this week.

Five alternatives to yelling, Awesomely Awake (Feb. 1, 2013) (via Not Just Cute)

43 Chores young children can do, parenting Squad (Mar. 10, 2011)

Something is Rotten in the State of Maryland, Washington Post Answer Sheet (Feb. 4, 2013)

Scarlet Fever Probably Didn't Blind Mary Ingalls, NY Times (Feb. 4, 2013)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Reading Roundup 2013.02.01

I didn't find much of interest this week. The news these days seems to be blah blah education blah blah testing blah blah editorial standing up against blah blah GUNS GUNS GUNS blah and so forth. I didn't see all that much that was new.

Ordinarily I'll save the post for next week unless there are at least three items, but this way at least you know I'm thinking about you. A little.

A Reprieve for the Gnomes of Oakland, We Bloom Here (Jan. 29, 2013)
Painted gnomes keep turning up at the bottom of Oakland's telephone poles. PGE finally gives up asking them to be taken down for "safety" and they are allowed to stay.

Great Parenting Advice, Babble (Jan. 30, 2013)

....Wait, here's a third one:

Emails link Jeb Bush foundation, corporations, laws and ed officials, WashPost (Jan. 30, 2013)

...Oh, right. And actually this one is a can't-miss. Even though I missed it five months ago. That dang Pony Express...

Trampire: Why the public slut shaming of Kristen Stewart matters for Young Women, HuffPost (Sept. 4, 2012)

Free Sparkle Story for Valentine's Day! *

Hop on over to for a free Junkyard Tale! The animal friends celebrate Valentine's Day's kindness and caring with a gift exchange, but curious cat Ben Thompson drew Georgia Bean's name, and he's worried about finding a perfectly special gift for her!

Listen to the free story (or download it) here.

Listen to more from the Junkyard here, or for only $6 there is a great Martin and Sylvia Valentine's Day audio book—a whole hour of storytelling for your family!

And, for a limited time—they're offering a whole month of At Home with Martin and Sylvia for free! That's four free stories, or another hour of story time!

Starboy is crazy for all of these stories, and they are so great for quiet time (he doesn't nap, really) or when I feel like I need a break.

*Updated 2/4 with a few more links and a Martin and Sylvia picture.