Friday, September 28, 2012

Gutting, Baking, and Pureeing a pumpkin

I know that EVERYONE knows how to gut a pumpkin.  If you've grown up in the US, you've probably been doing this since you were in diapers and your mom set you on the table to dig into the sawed open pumpkin. (Yes, I have the pictures to prove this experience)

BUT, whenever I tell people about baking our pumpkins, I get the same reaction every time.

"HOW do you do that???"

If you already know how, this post is probably not for you.  You could stay just for the pictures of the cute kids, however.:)

If baking your own pumpkin is unfamiliar to you, then hooray! You'll finally learn how to do it...and it's not hard!:)

Firstly, you'll need to round up your gang of happy and willing pumpkin gutters. My kids LOVE this! They revel in the ooey gooey seedy gunkiness.

After you have your pumpkin gutted and the seeds soaking for later baking (YUM!), you are ready to bake!

Preheat your oven to 350*. You can use a few different things to bake it on. Some use a foil lined baking sheet, and then cover the pumpkin with foil as it bakes. I use a Pyrex casserole dish with a glass lid. Regardless of what you use, you will want to grease it with coconut oil or butter.

Cut your pumpkin in half, and lay the two halves skin side up on the baking dish. Cover and pop into the oven.
Set your timer for an hour. After the hour, take the pumpkin out and pierce it in a few places with a knife. The knife should slide effortlessly into the pumpkin and be met with no resistance. If it is tough in some places, replace it into the oven for another 20 minutes or so. Remove it when it is completely tender.

Let cool. Once it is cool enough to handle, skin your pumpkin.  The skin will be very easy to remove...just peel it away!

Once the skin is removed, chunk it up and put it into a food processor or blender. Blend away!

Yes. Be jealous of my 1970's food processor:)

Blend it til it's completely smooth. You may need to add a touch of water to get it to really puree well, but don't add too much!

Now, transfer to a container.
You can keep it in the fridge for about 3-5 days. Pureed pumpkin also freezes really well! Freeze it in a ziplock bag in 1 C portions. It is very handy to have!

We LOVE pumpkin recipes in the fall. Pancakes, bread, lattes, muffins. Tasty! Try out THIS TASTY STARBUCKS KNOCK-OFF.  Or visit my friend Joyful Momma's blog, Joyful Momma's Kitchen for a delicious Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Caramel Frosting recipe....oh my yummines! I can't wait to try that this year!!

I hope this has been helpful for you! Enjoy your pumpkins! :)

Stamped Salt Dough Ornaments

We've been getting in the Christmas gift mood lately.  Emma is working like a mad woman on her Plastic Canvas Bookmarks and I have started some fun projects for the girls! (I'll share those with you as I get further along!)

I had an idea for making ornaments out of salt dough awhile back, and thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if we could embellish them with rubber stamps." So, I jumped onto Pinterest and voila! There were all of the tutorials and pictures I could ever hope to find! I guess no one has truly original ideas anymore:). Well, I guess that's not entirely true since we kind of put our own spin on the ornaments. You'll see in a minute.

Let's get started, shall we?

1 batch of salt dough (recipe to follow)
rolling pin
cookie cutters
baking sheet
rubber stamps
assorted paints
white school glue

For the salt dough:
1 C flour
1/2 C salt
1/2 C water

Combine the flour and salt. Add the water and mix until combined. If needed, flour your hands a bit and knead it all together.

This was by far the best salt dough recipe I have ever worked with. It wasn't sticky at all..actually it was a little on the dry side, but that was fine by us! It rolled out like a breeze and was just overall wonderful to work with.

Divide the dough in half. Roll out on a lightly floured surface until about 1/2 inch thick...I think some of ours were slightly thinner. It's ok.  Just eyeball it. You don't want the dough tooooo thick or tooo thin. Juuust right:)

Now that your dough is just right, select the cookie cutters you would like to use. Then, getting cutting!

Once you have your ornaments all cut out...try to keep your toddler from eating them.  "Mmm, mom!! Cookies!!" No son, please don't eat those:)

Next we got out our box of Christmas rubber stamps and chose a few to use.  We used ones that said Merry Christmas or Noel on them, or had snowflakes, holly, and stockings on them. I also got out some of my flourish design stamps. The swirls and curly-ques turned out really cute! Now, get stamping!

You don't want to press too hard, or you'll smoosh the ornament all over the table, but you want to be firm enough to leave a good indentation. Just experiment. You'll get the hang of it in no time! When we were finished stamping, I took a cake tester and make holes at the tops of the ornaments for the ribbon to go through. You could also use a toothpick or a straw would work too. Just make sure the hole is big enough to stick the ribbon or twine or whatever through.

Here's a smattering of our handiwork. The kids loved this step!

When you've finished stamping, it is time for baking!

 Preheat your oven to 225*. Place your ornaments on a baking sheet and bake for about an hour. I set my timer for 30 minutes, checked them, and then reset the timer again. You want them to be firm and slightly tanned. They should not bend at all or push down when you touch them.

When they are finished, remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack...just like cookies!:)
Now, you could leave them just like this! They really look super neat.  But we wanted to take the awesomeness a step further and embellish.

We used Crayola Washable Kid's Paint, and that worked marvelously!

We actually did this step a few days later, as I was not sure if painting on the ornaments would make them mushy. They did start to mush just a bit, so when we were finished I put them back into a 225* oven for about 15 minutes to set them...and that did the trick!

We also used some white school glue and painted it into the creases of the stamp designs. Then, we put glitter over it, and that turned out pretty neat as well! Sophia calls glitter 'sprinkles', and by the end of the project we were all referring to the glitter as sprinkles!:)

After they are completely dried, take your string of choice and run it through the holes. Tie a knot, and you're done!

Hang them up and marvel at your beautiful creations!!

We are so excited to give these out as gifts this year to neighbors and friends!

This was a really fun project, one that all the children really got into. Elijah loved every minute of it! He didn't get antsy and leave half way was great!

We hope you have fun if you try these out!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Plastic Canvas Bookmarks

This is a craft that Emma has been doing for about a year now. I cut out a bunch of crosses out of plastic canvas for her, and she goes to town sewing the yarn around them.  

Last year she gave some out as Christmas presents. They make WONDERFUL stocking stuffers! We each received one in our stockings last year! :)  She likes to have a stash of them just in case she needs a gift for someone on the fly.  She really is so thoughtful.:)

 So, without further's Emma! (Her words are in PURPLE.)

How to Make a  Plastic Canvas Cross Bookmark

What you will need:
plastic canvas
yarn in different colors
large yarn needle

This is our plastic canvas.
 Mommy cuts out the crosses for me.
The cross  shape on the canvas.

Ready to start.

 First you thread your large yarn needle. You start at the bottom and make a whip stitch around the sides. Which means you go around the outside of the cross, not in and out of each square.
 You go around til you get back to the bottom.
Tie off your yarn tails, and switch the color if you want to.

Then, you go around again with a regular stitch.

Almost done!

 Finally, when you get to the bottom you knot all the yarns together. And you have a beautiful cross book mark!

Here it is!! Done.
 Thank you so much for sharing, Emma!

Make a rainbow of bookmarks with your children and put them in stockings, in cards, or on top of cookie packages! Also, I don't think it would be too hard to make candy cane, snowman, or heart shapes. Just have fun...experiment...use your imagination!
The crosses I have done this week.
Oh, and only 91 days until Christmas! Stay tuned for some more Christmas ideas!!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Few of Our Favorite Things: Do-A-Dots

Alright! This is our first 'A Few of Our Favorite Things' post. In this series I will showcase some of our favorite supplies. Art, cooking, sewing, name it! These will be things we use frequently and have had good experiences with. So, let's jump right in!

DO-A-DOTS.  Have you heard of them? They're like big BINGO blotters...except in tons of fun colors. The shape of the bottle makes them easy for chubby little toddler hands to grab hold of, also. In a word, FUN!! My kids have loved these things since forever!! This is a link to a package of Do A Dots minis, but they also make normal sized bottles, neon colors, glitter, and then classic colors. There may even be more...I don't know. All I know is my kids LOVE them!

We use them for many different projects.  Card making, coloring in pictures, random decorating. Whenever we paint we always bring the Do-A-Dots out.  They are so easy for the kids to use!

Here's some pictures from last year of the kids using their Do-A-Dots.

 Seriously...when the kids need something to do and I don't have the time or ability to sit and do a project with them, out come the Do-A-Dots and paper! Instant project! Really....look into them, they are super fun! I know you can order them online, but I'm sure they would have them at any school supply store...maybe even Michael's would have them. They are for sure a huge hit in our house!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

DIY Starbucks drinks

In the early afternoon, around 2:00, I start to get....tired and peevish. A lot of times I'll just throw a K-Cup into the trusty old Keurig and have a very handy little cup O' Joe...a little boost to finish out the school day strong. Today, I was in the mood for something a little more fancy...but a trip out to Starbucks really can't happen during naptime:). Then, I remembered I pinned a bunch of Starbucks knock off drink recipes onto my 'Coffee, Java' pinboard on Pinterest! Sweet!!

Sometimes it's nice to do something a little special for ourselves, isn't it? I think it's important to...but that's just me.:)

So, now I am off to sip on my Pumpkin Spice Latte and teach my Emma some Latin! Enjoy your day!!

Here is a link to a bunch of Starbucks drink recipes: The Java Mama.

Oh, and I didn't have espresso, so I just made a small Keurig cup of coffee...if you don't have a Keurig, just make maybe 4 Cups....this would be a good thing to finish up your pot of morning coffee with. Just reheat and add in the extras! Enjoy!!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Art Journals : Paper Mosaics

Our project for over the summer were Art Journals. They were a lot of fun to make! Art journals are great projects to do with children of all ages. My kids ages are 2, 4, and 7 (well, 10 months also, but he was only interested in eating the paper!) and I found I could scale the project down for the younger ones while maintaining the level of fun and creativity needed to keep Emma's attention.

I did a little research on art journals and found that some people buy really nice sketchbook type things for their journals, like this.
We used three ring binders and computer paper. I would suggest using a sketchbook if you could. The paper in the three ring binders tore out easily, and it was kind of a pain hole punching each page.  But, it's what we had on hand at the time, and worked just fine.

One of the first pages we did was a Paper Mosaic. It is exactly what it sounds like too. Very very easy, and SO much fun!

Here's what you'll need:
Assorted colors of paper ripped into pieces
An image printed from the computer, or a coloring book page.

We did this journal page on the 4th of July, so I printed a picture of George Washington for the kids to turn into a mosaic. I made sure the picture didn't have too much detail, as it would be covered up anyway by the paper.

I don't have step by step pictures of this. But I do have a picture of the finished product. So I'll show you that in a minute.

We started by ripping up pieces of colored paper into smaller pieces. Not teeny tiny pieces, but not huge ones either. Easy enough for clumsy toddler fingers to be able to get hold of and glue. This is a good use of your scrap paper pile!:)

After our paper was ripped up they started gluing. I told them to leave his face clear and they could color it in, but to glue their paper pieces on his hair and clothes. I made sure to have different shades and textures of paper. This gave the pictures a really neat mosaic quality.

Emma and Sophia completed this project with no help from me, but Elijah needed a little assistance with the glue.  I would put the glue down and he would put the paper down.

This project is fun if you want to switch up just plain old coloring in coloring books. I don't know about your kids, buy mine tend to lose interest in things if you do them the same old way all the time. They love fresh and fun new perspectives! Paper mosaics is great for just that!

If you have decided on using a sketchbook for your art journal, you could always complete this project on a separate sheet of paper and then glue it into your sketchbook. I guess this is one of the plus sides of using a three ring binder.:)

THIS blog is where I first got the idea of making art journals. She has tons of other great ideas as well!
I love her blog and have had many an inspiration while reading there!

I hope your day is wonderful! Enjoy paper mosaics!!

Coming up this week...

Good afternoon all! I thought it would be a good idea to do these "Coming up this week" posts just so you know what to expect.  Sometimes I start posts and am not able to finish them (school, kiddles, rats and their babies, etc, etc, etc) but I want you to know that the posts are forthcoming. So...this is what you can expect on Crafts, Cooking, and Curriculum this week!!

  • Emma's plastic canvas bookmarks. These are an easy and sweet craft for kids to do pretty much on their own...once they get the hang of it.  Sophia has just finished her first one.  I sat with her the whole time she did it, but she is just now learning sewing skills.  Emma, on the other hand, has been at it for a few years, so she is able to whip out a few bookmarks in an hour's time.  Emma will be handling this tutorial...should be fun!
  • A new segment here on Crafts, Cooking, and Curriculum called "A Few of Our Favorite Things".  Here I'll showcase some of our favorite arts and crafts items, recipes, gift ideas, and so forth.  I will also provide you with the links to check some of these products out.
  • Art Journals.  These things are so much fun!! We started one as our summertime project, but I am itching to do some more journal projects. The kids loved these! I'll have an ongoing Art Journal post series that I'll be starting this week.  
So, stay tuned!! We've got some great stuff coming up!

Blessings!!! :)

Oh, and just because I'm certain you are curious (ha ha!), here is a picture of our baby rats. Oh so sweet!!!
Ooohhh, the little babies!!! Aren't they cute?!?! Yes, I have accepted the fact that I am the crazy rat lady.  If I could, I would keep them all!! The children LOVE them too!!! They are still furless, but the pigments in their skin have helped us to see which will be dark like daddy, which will be multicolored like mommy, and which will be blondies. Fun!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Surprise of surprises!

We have pet rats.  Two of them, boys...

...or so we thought. Such an ominous expression, I know:) I'll get to it in a minute...a little background first. Cuthbert is the larger gray one, and Daniel is the smaller gray and white. They are such sweeties! We love them! We decided to get rats because they are pets the children can actually play with, and really help care for.  Also, Emma is going to be teaching them to run through a maze.  Should be fun!

Ok, back to the story. We had noticed Daniel getting chunky the past couple of days. He seemed to grow TREMENDOUSLY overnight! I was fearful he had a tumor.  But, we thought, maybe he's just eating too much.  Little did we know....

Daniel's, I mean, Evangeline's babies.  Half of them.
 Wow! We really had no idea he was a she! I guess we just took for granted that the pet store person gave us a boy.  The container said Male Rats, and we didn't think to look to make sure either.  And she was so small when we got her...I don't know...thinking back we should have noticed that he was definitely not a he.  Oh well, you live and learn. Now we have fun babies!!!
Evangeline cleaning and nursing her littles.
Emma found Evangeline...that's what we changed Daniel's name to (Sophia's choice), and thought she was dying.  I went over and looked and also thought she was dying...but as I looked closer I noticed half a dozen wiggly little squeaking pink things.  And then I looked at Daniel/Evangeline and saw ANOTHER wiggly thing under her, and we all completely freaked out! It was an insane half an hour...trying to get Cuthbert out of the cage so he wouldn't interfere with the birth...getting him a clean box all set up...worrying about what to do for Evangeline to help the birthing process go was crazy!! She gave birth to 11 little rats and they are all doing well so far.  She continually cleans them and is nursing them well.  She is also sitting on them to keep them warm.  What a good little mother.

My kids had an impromptu biology lesson this morning, and I'm happy to say, they all did very well with it. It was gross for them at first...but then they were all very intrigued, and are very concerned with the well being of the babies and Evangeline. So far, we have learned that we can't handle Evangeline or her babies for a day or two. We also learned that baby rats go through growth stages quickly.  First is the "Pinky" stage, then they will be "Furries" and then "Crawlers". Now we just need to figure out what to do with them all! But for now, we'll just watch them grow, and watch how God has instilled in his creation the natural mothering instinct.  It is so amazing!

Welcome to the world little rat babies!! What a crazy day!