Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Homemade...but not by me

reserved for Christy - Balloon Ball TOY - Girly FUN Fabric - Hot Pink and Chocolate Brown
(image: one of many balloon balls made by SDKdesigns sold on

As I've posted before, I LOVE making gifts for people, especially my family. The past several years I have planned Christmas and birthday gifts carefully for my kids, sisters, nieces and nephews. Usually, I get them finished on time, sometimes they are a wee bit late :-) but I get it done.

Last Christmas, though, I acknowledged early on that it wasn't realistic to make the Christmas presents. Baby number 3 was born at the end of September, and although I had planned ahead for a few birthday presents towards the end of the year...I knew that I couldn't tackle Christmas.

Instead of throwing in the bucket and heading to a local toy store, though, I decided that if I couldn't make it at home maybe I should rely on another mom who made it at home. So...I headed to

I found these balloon balls and ended up getting 1 for every 1-5 year old on my Christmas (& November birthday) list. That ended up being 7 of them; each one different and chosen with that child in mind. With the inexpensive price, combined shipping discount, WalMart additional balloons, and Christmas sparkle-top take-n-toss tupperware for giftwrap/storage...each gift was still under $10! How great is that for most of my Christmas gift.

Could I have made these? Yes, it might have taken a few tries, but I could have. In fact, "Did you make this?" was the first question my extended family asked. But...I chose to spend my time holding my semi-colicy baby instead of trying to squeeze in making gifts. It's always a trade off, and that time it wasn't worth it to make it myself.

So...if you don't have time, find another mother who does.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Playfood Pizza Supreme

For my son's birthday last summer, I made felt pizza (at his request). First I made a paper pattern for the pizza, cheese and sauce. The crust was two wedges of tan felt for each piece; the cheese was a single wedge. For the sauce I opted for arcs instead of continuing it under the whole piece of cheese. I cut out my pieces and my pepperoni, mushrooms, olives and green peppers. This is more vegetables then my children would truly eat on a pizza, but plain cheese would have just looked boring.

The first thing I sewed was the toppings onto the cheese (zig-zag or straight stitch, whichever is easier for each piece). Then I sewed the arc of sauce onto the cheese; then the whole thing went on a piece of crust. I sewed a second piece of crust on the two straight sides with the wrong sides together.

I turned it right side out, then sewed a line about 3/4 inch away from the curved edge, right next to the sauce. This is the inside seam of the crust, which is the only portion of the pizza that is stuffed. I zig-zagged over the curved edge, but left about an inch at the end. I stuffed the crust through this hole, using a pencil, then went back and finished zig-zagging the last inch.

Repeat 3 more times. All done!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Birthday Crowns

Last year, in an attempt to add something to the dress up box that was more for a boy, I made my son a birthday crown. I used red felt doubled up, decorated it with colorful jewels, and put velcro at the back to make it adjustable. It turned out great. My son loved wearing it for his special day, and uses it to be a king, prince, superhero or a pirate now.

Not only did my son like it, my daughter...the owner of plenty of non-homemade princess paraphernalia... liked it, too. And...she insisted on having a birthday crown of her own for her special day. I took my original idea and turned it more into a princess crown, while still using the same idea of two layers of felt with a jeweled layer on top.

I'm proud to say that my little princess sometimes grabs her pink felt crown instead of her shiny plastic one. Sometimes...every rare once in a while. I will say though, that with how kids "take care" of many of their toys, the felt one will probably far outlast the flimsy plastic one. The plastic one will probably have to disappear in the middle of the night after failed attempts to glue it back together; it will join the former plastic wand, the other 2 plastic crowns and one horribly bent pair of fairy wings in plastic princess heaven. The felt ones will remain firmly grounded in the dress up box.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Homemade Facewash

Since before the birth of my son, almost four years ago, I have been washing my face with something other than Neutrogena...and saved lots of money. The dermatologist I saw a few times back in high school suggested Liquid Neutrogena; it's detergent free and gentle. So, of course, I used it for the next 10 or so years. But then I read about something new....washing your face with honey. Since I was trying to move to using more natural products on my skin, and since organic products at the store cost an arm and a leg, I decided to try it.

Honey as a face wash worked great.

The skin was softer, I needed less lotion after washing my face, it was cheap and available in a cute little squeezy bear, it smelled nice, it kept my skin clear, it didn't irritate my skin, dry it out, or leave it oily.

The cons... occasionally I missed a bit when rinsing it off or a bit got left in my hair only to feel it later at night when I was already in bed :-) and secondly, here in Costa Rica we have teeny-tiny sugar ants...they really like the sink after I wash my face with honey. So, both rinsing problems, largely my fault, and both solved by using the honey in the shower instead of at the sink.

Not only was I saving by not buying Neutrogena...I started buying organic lotion online for about half of what it costs in the stores. Since my skin is less dry, I only use a teeny bit every morning and one $7 bottle lasts me 6 months on average.

After about 3 years of using honey, I started getting lazy. I would run out of honey or not want to use it in the sink at night (for the above mentioned reasons). This lead to stage two of my natural facewashing experience. Washing your face with water. Right now, this is really working for me. I still occasionally use the honey; I still like it, but washing with just warm water and only using a bit of organic lotion once a day seems to be working, too.

Try it, see what works for you. Save money and enjoy. Here are some other household products that you can use with the honey for solving your face care needs:

- need a scrub - add a little baking soda to the honey, this will also help if your skin is oily

- want an toner replacement - try apple cider vinegar on a cotton ball after washing your face

- want a natural homemade face mask - try one of these recipes; the internet is full of them

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Homegrown Lentil Sprouts

So, I'm going to try to come out of my baby-world and put something out here again :-) Kate is six months old and I have lots of things that I want to catch up on blogging about here....making cloth diapers and covers, wraps and slings, and hooded baby towels. First though, I feel like blogging about something that we are doing right now.

With Earth Day coming up, I was online trying to figure out some activities to do with my little preschool-homeschooler. I decided that we would try to do sprouts; I say "try" because our experiment making rock-candy failed due to super-high humidity (this experiment relies on evaporation) and impure sugar. The evaporation was probably not helped by the fact that I had to cover the jar well with paper towels and a rubber band to keep the sugar ants out. It resulted in sugar "flecks" growing everywhere in the jar, and none actually on the string.

Anyway...this time I thought I should try the "experiment" myself, before we did it for a homeschool project. I found this YouTube video about growing lentil sprouts. I don't think that I ever would have though about trying lentils, but I was very excited about the prospect of using up the half bag of lentils that had been sitting in my cabinet for awhile. As my last attempt at a lentil-based meal was a gastronomic failure and my family would probably try sneaking any re-attempt to the little dog who lives down the street, finding another use for the lentils was a wonderful surprise.

Evening before:
Put half a cup of lentils into a jar and fill with water. Cover with a screened lid, or if you don't have one available, cover it with cheesecloth or a paper towel secured with a rubber band.

Day 1:
Drain the water, then rinse the lentils. Leave the jar upside down for an hour or so to drain. Keep the jar out of direct sunlight.

Day 2-4:
Rinse once a day, drain completely, and try to keep your children from shaking the jar.

And....(on day 3-4) they are ready! Store in an airtight container in the fridge; I put a few paper towels at the bottom to suck up any excess moisture. Use on salads, sandwiches, in smoothies or just for munching.

What surprised me....

- this was so very easy; nearly impossible to mess up and kill your sprouts (unlike plants that are unfortunate enough to make it into my house or garden)

- a little bit of seed/bean makes a lot of sprouts

- I also grew a piece of grass (I think) in with the first batch of lentils

- they taste really good, even the lentil seed at the middle of the sprout - I was afraid that the lentil-seed wouldn't taste good and I might have to pull it off, but it gets all crisp and fresh tasting. It's the most flavorful part of the sprout

- my kids eat them plain!!

All in all these turned out great. I'm already starting batch two (and will take pictures this time), and am curious about what other seeds/beans I could find here to sprout.