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Monday, December 15, 2014

Hanukkah Pasta Menorahs




·        Lasagna noodle

·        (10) Rigatoni noodles (straight pieces with open, flat ends)

·        Other small pasta shapes or even Hanukkah pasta

·        Glue (we used Elmer's glitter glue and it worked well)

·        Spray paint (optional)

 When deciding on a Hanukkah project to do with the kids, I decided I really wanted to make menorahs with them. I came across this idea for pasta menorahs on Pinterest and thought this would be fun and inexpensive. I wasn't sure how they would turn out, but wow was I surprised!  These look amazing!  I found Hanukkah pasta at Bed, bath & Beyond that we used to decorate the menorahs giving it that extra fun touch and to make them look extra special I spray painted them with silver spray paint!

 These were fun and the perfect craft for my 4.5 year olds to make. Alternatively, if you didn't want to spray paint your menorah you could always dye some of the pasta pieces blue ahead of time and use blue or silver glitter glue to make them more "hanukkah-ish". You could also alternate blue and the natural yellow of the pasta to create patterns.

Emma was excited to get started!

 Start by handing out 1 lasagna noodle flat side down, 10 rigatoni pieces (make sure these stand up straight) and a bottle of glue. We did this activity on our craft tray to minimize mess. We started by making the Shamash candle (the helper candle) and to do this we glued two pieces of rigatoni together and then glued that to our lasagna noodle. We talked about the placement of the Shamash candle, which could be placed in the middle or at one end. They each had their own opinion on where there's should go.

 After trial and error, we found out that the best way to glue the rigatoni onto the lasagna noodle was by making dots of glue and then sticking the noodles on.  Dylan decided to make an entire line of glue which also worked.  Using either the dot method or the line of glue, glue the eight candle holders, aka rigatoni noodles, onto your lasagna sheet. Once all the rigatoni pieces are glued on allow 15 minutes for them to dry before gluing on the decorative pasta pieces. Definitely wait those few minutes or else the rigatoni pieces will get knocked over while decorating.  Alternatively, you could stop now, but it is fun and festive to decorate it!

 After the 15 minutes are up, hand out your smaller pieces of pasta. I found these great Hanukkah pasta shapes at Bed, Bath & Beyond that had dreidels and Stars of David (I found some online at cost plus).  I handed out a bunch of these and let them go to work. They amazed me when they each decided to create repeating patterns all on their own!  Math and art all in one activity!  They were having so much fun they even wanted to continue the pattern on the back of the menorahs!

 Once they were finished decorating we let them sit overnight to dry completely.  As I said before you can leave them as is at this point or continue on to spray paint them as we did.

 The next day, I brought them out into the garage, with the garage door open so I didn't suffocate from the fumes (NEVER spray paint inside!), and placed them onto old newspaper. I then sprayed them with silver spray paint until they were fully coated. They came out beautifully!
I set close together so I could spray them all at the same time.
Jake's Menorah Masterpiece
Emma's Menorah Masterpiece

Dylan's Menorah Masterpiece
These pasta menorahs are going to be a gorgeous addition to our Hanukkah décor this year!  We will proudly light them each night of Hanukkah as well.
The final product
 I hope you enjoyed this craft and I hope you try it with your little ones!

 Happy Hanukkah!




Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Flying with Toddlers... Tips and Tricks

As my golden tan lines begin to fade into a distant memory from our amazing family vacation to Hawaii, I figured it would be a good time to share my tips and tricks for flying with toddlers and young kids.  I know this list will come in handy for a lot of my friends flying with little ones this holiday season.

Our flight was a little over 5 hours and our 4 year olds did great. Some of these tips and tricks found below were also used when we flew to Hawaii when they were 2 years old. Both trips were a complete success and we were complemented on how well behaved they were.
The only pictures from our plane ride...
My best piece of advice, especially for the 2-3 year olds, is bringing the car seat on the plane. I know it may seem like one more thing to deal with in the airport, but trust me, your kids will be more comfortable, safer, and they will stay in their seats. Our kids even had them on our most recent trip and they were four years old!  They were comfortable and they understand that you don't get out of your seat in the car so you can't do it on the plane either. At the end of the day, every parent knows their own child, but this was a lifesaver for us and we had to schlep 3 car seats and I still think it was worth it! (Also it was a fortune to rent car seats in Hawaii and I didn't want to check them, but that's another story....)

I collected a bunch of these tips before I went and came up with a few of my own. You will see I linked where to purchase/find out more info on most items (click on the item), but some things you can either make or you have already at home. Enjoy and feel free to comment with your favorite tips and tricks!

 Tips and tricks for plane rides with young kids:

·        Wrap toys up to make it exciting... This can even be in a brown paper bag with colorful tape. Kids don't care :)

·       Put snacks in individual baggies (Bring new interesting snacks that take awhile to eat... Cheerios, cut up grapes, goldfish pretzels, veggie sticks, alphabet cookies, etc)

·        Lollipops for take off and landing (not ones they can bite, find solid thick ones)

·        Headphones (We used these...)

·        Lots of wipes

·        Change of clothes for you and child

·        Extra ziplocs

 **When settling in on the plane stick a jacket or blanket in between window and seat so toys don't fall in between

 Toy ideas:

·        Post it's and crayons/pencils/pens

·        Foam stickers with sticky back and paper to out it on

·        Stickers and notepads

·        Colored cotton balls in a small container for sorting

·        Washi tape

·        Lightweight books (Heavy books are going to make your carry on too heavy to carry)

·        Hidden picture books or highlights magazines

·        Silly putty

·        Bring a string a make a Cheerios necklace

·        Cheerios stacking (use play doh and coffee stir straw) *see my previous post here and modify it using silly putty and a coffee stirrer

·        Foam/floam (99 cent store sells it... Doesn't dry out and is not messy)

·        Gel window clings... They can stick them onto the tray or window or back on the clear paper (99 cent store)

·        Mini magna doodles

·        Pretend cellphone ($3-$5 bins at target or Toys'r'us always have these and my kids play with them non stop)

·        Tegu Magnetic blocks (worth every penny IMO)

·        Boogie board writingtablet (the new version of a manga doodle, highly recommend!)

·        For older kids we just got the Leap Frog Leap Readers and head phones for our birthday and these were amazing. The kids were so engaged and interested in them. I would highly recommend them especially since they work with headphones. They also have the Jr. version for younger kids. Just make sure to download the books to the leap reader before your trip and introduce it to them so they know how to use it and don't get frustrated with it on the plane. We had these and lots of books to go with:

·        Crayola wonder markers and coloring books/paper... So many to choose from!

·        Mini reusable stickerbooks (lots to choose from on amazon)

·        Wikki Sticks (they make different sets, but I got this awesome book for the plane on amazon. I also love the party packs and keep them in my purse for restaurants)

·        Mini puzzles

·        Melissa and Doug Memory Game Saw these at a restaurant and it kept the kids busy forever...These are awesome:

·        Lacing cards (Or you can make your own using card stock, yarn and a hole punch)

 *Leave the play doh at home. It's too messy in my opinion. Your flight attendants will thank you.

Some more great websites with ideas to keep them busy in the plane:

And when all of these ideas are no longer cutting it, don't be afraid to bring out the iPad if need be. We had ours loaded with Sesame Street and some brand new apps, but we ended up only watching one episode of Sesame Street the whole flight. (Keep in mind my kids don't watch tv, movies or play on our iPads or iPhones so they aren't used to this anyways.). My motto for the airplane though is "Do whatever it takes to get everyone there happy and quietly even if it means using the iPad".

I hope you found this list helpful and I hope you have a great and successful trip with your little one(s)!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Alphabet Activity

One of our favorite books to read lately has been Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. I enjoy reading it to Dylan, Jake and Emma just as much as they enjoy listening to it. The premise behind the book is that the lowercase letters are climbing to the top of the coconut tree and once they all get up the tree, it's so heavy the tree tips and the letters all fall out. They brush themselves off with the help of their parents (the uppercase letters) and try again. It's really a cute book and a great way to introduce letter recognition to preschoolers and young school aged children.

 I decided to use this book as an inspiration for an art project a few weeks ago. The materials are simple, the project is not messy and they turn out adorable!

 Here's what you need:

 - construction paper (green, brown, and white)

 - foam alphabet stickers*

 - scissors

 - glue stick

* If you can't find sticky foam letters you could use alphabet stickers or even print letters on the computer cut those out and glue them on.

 For the project:

We began the project by rereading the book, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

First, I assisted them in cutting out brown paper to represent the tree trunk. I asked them if they wanted a straight or curved/tipped over tree. Next I cut green leaves and small brown circles for the coconuts. They glued everything onto their white paper. Then they cut out a green strip to represent the grass for the bottom of their pictures and they used their glue sticks to glue that on as well.

After we finished the trees, we talked about all the letters in the alphabet. We pulled out the foam letters from the box and put them in alphabetical order singing the alphabet song along the way.

 Once we made sure we had all the letters I passed them out. They removed the paper backs and stuck them on and off the tree.  I loved how each of their pictures represents a different part of the story.



 This was a fun and easy activity and a great educational one too!  It's also nice because it is easy to modify for older kids. Have fun with it!
The finished product!
Jake's Tree
Emma's Tree
Dylan's Tree

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Banana blueberry yogurt oatmeal muffins

Banana blueberry yogurt oatmeal muffins

One of my favorite things to do with Dylan, Jake and Emma is cook.  Whether it be cooking dinner or baking something yummy we love getting in the kitchen to create delicious masterpieces. Lately, Jake has been announcing that he has decided he wants to be a chef. He tells me what ingredients he thinks we should use and we figure out a way to incorporate them into recipes. Cooking with your kids is a great way to not just keep them busy, but it teaches them so many different things all while creating happy memories that they get to enjoy when they're ready!
My Sous Chefs!

Our latest creations are healthy blueberry yogurt banana oatmeal muffins. These healthy, nutritious muffins are great warm right out of the oven or perfect for a quick breakfast on the go. I found a similar recipe at The Well Traveled Wife and we modified it to our liking with ingredients we had on hand.
I eat very healthy and encourage my family to as well.  By baking muffins at home it allows me to control what ingredients are going in and therefore my kids can have healthy yummy treats!  This recipe is so easy since it uses a food processor (or blender) which is fun and different. The kids loved that we got to dump in all the ingredients. We had fun creating our new recipe and they tasted delicious too!  I hope you make these and enjoy them as well!

Banana blueberry yogurt oatmeal muffins
Makes 12 muffins

2.5 cups rolled oats *not quick cooking* (I have also used Trader Joe's to make them gluten free)
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 sugar
1 cup blueberry yogurt (I used Dannon light and fit)
2 eggs
1.5 tsp vanilla
2 ripe bananas

1. Set oven to 400 degrees and spray muffin pans with cooking spray.
Dump all ingredients into food processor or blender.

2.  Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Scrape sides down as needed.
Batter will be thin

3.  Use an ice cream scooper to fill muffin tins 3/4 of the way full.

4.  Bake in over for 13-16 minutes depending on your oven. Check on them around 13 minutes.

Muffins baking in the oven!

They rose perfectly in the oven

103 calories and 4g of protein per muffin

Next time, I would reduce the sugar to 2/3 cup and fold in fresh blueberries at the end. This recipe can easily be adapted to your liking and you can use any flavor Greek yogurt you like to change the flavor. You could even do vanilla yogurt with a handful of mini chocolate chips folded in at the end!  Yummy!  So many options! 
Mom tested, kid approved!


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Donut birthday party

So last weekend was Dylan, Jake and Emma's 4th birthday party.  The fact that they are 4 years old blows me away.  I feel like I was just lying on the couch watching all the seasons of "24" while trying to stay pregnant and here we are 4 years later with three beautiful, perfect, healthy and happy kids (not babies anymore!), and I get to watch 24 on the couch again without 3 babies in my belly...

Well, I love throwing parties and as all my friends know I was thinking about this year’s theme for a while and we finally decided on a donut theme. Their party was at My Gym  and it was a morning party so a donut theme seemed easy and fun. I had the best time planning all the little details from the decorations and food, to the party favors, and even their adorable shirts!  The best part of all was seeing the kids having an amazing time. They each had a huge smile on their face the entire time. See below for all the details from the donut extravaganza.
The Invitations

The colors were easy to pick. Emma's favorite color is pink, Dylan's is blue and Jake's is orange.  Those colors look so cute together especially for a summer party!  Once I decided on the colors, I found an adorable, and reasonably priced invitation on Etsy by Katie at TheButterflyPress.  She customized it for me to match our party colors and worded it the way I chose.  They came out so cute and she even did a matching thank you note and thank you labels that I was able to print at home. She was wonderful to work with as well!
The Decorations
The decorations were so much fun to make for this party. I had been planning the theme for months (yes, I'm crazy!) so I had plenty of time to work on things here and there.


These giant donuts are made from large cardboard box cut outs.  They were easy to make. I used a large platter to trace the circle and then used an Exacto knife to cut them out. I used a smaller round bowl to trace the center for the hole for the donut and cut that out as well. For the "frosting" I used large pink and white poster boards and cut them out to fit on top of the circle and then used a glue stick to attach them.  White glue made it look too bumpy.  For the sprinkles I used puffy paint in our party colors and it worked perfectly. I originally thought I would hang them on the wall, but I decided to use 2 of them for our birthday bunting banner and the rest to stand up on the tables. I backed them with more recycled cardboard pieces and tape.  They stood up perfectly and looked great on the tables at the party.
Happy Birthday Bunting Banner

Two of the large donuts I made I ended up using as the end pieces to attach a Happy Birthday bunting banner. I cut out triangles using a template on beautiful glitter paper I picked up on sale at Joann's. I had extra round label stickers left over from the thank you note labels so I printed individual letters onto round 2.5" labels and stuck them onto each triangle. I then attached the triangles using tape (instead of stringing them, which you could do too) to colored twine. I had 4 rows and I attached each row to the giant donuts which made for the perfect happy Birthday sign at the party!  It was very easy and inexpensive to make too!


For the table cloths I used plain white, because I wanted everything else to stand out, and when I saw these adorable donut cut outs on this site, I thought it would be so festive to scatter them on the table for a little extra donut décor.  (Thank you to my brothers amazing girlfriend for cutting out some extra donuts last minute too!) I also used these cute donut print outs on the donut hole boxes.  I glued one on each side of the boxes and they turned out adorably!  You'll see more on these later on.
Cake toppers

Since I wasn't doing an actual cake this year, I was just doing donut cake tiers for each kid, I wanted to make something special to put on top of each one.  I saw this adorable idea on etsy for a mini Happy Birthday bunting banner to put on a cake.  I was going to buy it, but I needed 3 and I had plenty of time so I decided to make my own. I found most of the supplies at Target in the dollar bins, except for the paper, that I found inexpensively at Michaels. The only thing I ordered was a 1.5" triangle paper punch online. I paper punched all the triangles out for each Happy Birthday bunting cake topper. Then I used the mini alphabet stickers to spell everything out for each cake topper. The hardest part was poking 2 holes in the top of each triangle so I could thread the colored twine through. You could use a little sewing needle for this.  Once the holes are done thread colored string or twine through and attach each side to a colored paper straw. These were fun to make and so cute!  They were the perfect topper for the donut cakes!
Donut Garland


I also found this adorable DIY donut garland from Lilyshop that has a free printable template on the website.  I ended up not being able to use it because I wasn't able to hang stuff on the walls where we were having the party, but it's so cute I couldn't resist posting!

For the party I used solid colored paper plates, napkins and cups that I ordered online in our 3 party colors (blue, orange and pink). To make it more festive I ordered polka dot straws from BloomDesignsOnline in these colors, and I displayed everything in mason jars that were tied with colored twine.  All of the straws, clear plastic wear, coffee stirrers and sugars for the coffee were put in mason jars.
The shirts

My friend Stacey, from PbnJdesign, is amazingly creative. I asked her to design donut shirts for them using their signature party colors and she came up with the cutest designs. Emma's donut sprinkles even had glitter ribbon!  Seriously, the shirts were the talk of the party!  Everyone wanted to know who made them and where they could get one!  She has so many other great designs so be sure to check out her etsy shop, website and her facebook page too!

The Food
The food for this party was so easy, but I was also able to have a lot of fun with it!  There were lots of good ideas on Pinterest and I loved being able to make it my own.
Donut Hole Pops  

For the donut hole pops I found these amazing cake pop stands from Blumebox.  They are small colored cardboard boxes that you can add a cake pop insert to so that they stand up. This was genius and they cost next to nothing. I ordered them in orange and hot pink (they didn't make any in blue) for our donut hole pops. I then attached the donut cut outs I mentioned earlier to give them a more "donut" feel and they were perfect!  (They were cute without them too!). I put the rainbow donut holes on the paper straws I ordered from etsy, thinking the kids might want to dunk them in their milk and then use the straw. Then I put cinnamon sugar holes on coffee stirrers with the idea being that the adults would dunk it in their coffee. Once the boxes were filled with the donut hole pops I filled the bottom of the box with Cheerios to cover it and keep with the theme. Rainbow sprinkles would have been cute too!  These were a big hit and so yummy!
Donut Seed Bar

Another big hit at the party was the donut seed bar. I had 4 different flavors of Cheerios that I filled large glass jars with different flavors of Cheerios, but instead of labeling them Cheerios I called them "donut seeds".  I used chalkboard labels on each jar so everyone was clearly able to see what they were eating.  We had rainbow donut seeds, chocolate donut seeds, plain donut seeds, and honey nut donut seeds.  I found cute clear plastic scoopers on amazon that were perfect to scoop the Cheerios. Instead of using a regular cup or bowl, I found these great plastic containers with lids on amazon that came in a pack of 100. I labeled each container with clear stickers that I had printed with "donut seeds". These were perfect since people could eat them there or could take their favorite donut seed mix, put a lid on it and bring it home. Perfect for a kids party!

It was a morning party so we served "healthy" donuts, which were bagels. This was easy, delicious and worked perfectly with the theme.
Nilla Wafer Donuts


I'm probably the proudest of these amazing Nilla wafer donut cookies I created. I saw the idea on the website, Lindsay Ann Bakes, and I thought it would be the perfect addition to our party. Dylan, Jake and Emma loved watching me make these cookies for the party.  To make the hole in each wafer I used a paper straw and slowly wiggled it until it was all the way through. A few wafers broke it the process, but those were the "sample" pieces D, J & E got to taste so they loved that part!  I put them up on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper to make decorating easy.  Once they all had holes on them I decided to do half with white frosting and half with chocolate. I used Wilton's white cookie frosting I had already purchased for the white and it worked perfectly. After I put the frosting on I quickly put on the rainbow sprinkles ensuring they would stick to the frosting.  (I found individual blue, orange, and pink sprinkles so that it would match our party colors!). For the chocolate I melted semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave at 50% power at 30 second intervals until they were melted. Then I poured it into a ziploc bag, cut a tiny piece of the tip off and piped it onto each of the remaining cookies. I spread the chocolate with the back a spoon to give it a smoother look and then I sprinkled them with the rest of the sprinkles and they were finished.  The final product looked incredible and tasted delicious!  So creative and perfect for a donut themed party!

Donut stacked cakes
I initially came up with the donut theme when I realized we were having a morning party and I didn't really want to have cake or cupcakes for breakfast, but everyone eats donuts for breakfast, so I decided to do a stacked donut cake. I ordered dozens of donuts from our local donut shop that we visit often and they were able to do custom sprinkles for us. We ordered pink, white and chocolate iced cake donuts for the donut stacked cakes. I stacked Emma's with a mix of white and pink and I did the boys with a mix of chocolate and white. They came out so cute, especially when topped with the cake toppers!  I also ordered a few dozen other assorted donuts to have as well. They were all delicious.

The party favors

The party favors were creative and fun!  I printed thank you stickers (made by the same person who did the invitations) and attached them to gift bags that I ordered from oriental trading. Each bag contained the book, If you give a dog a donut, which is a great book that D, J and E love and it fit perfectly with our theme!  It also had a "sweets shop" sticker sheet and mat (from oriental trading) that I know my kids loved playing with. But my favorites were the handmade felt donuts that even had rainbow sprinkles that matched our party colors!  The felt donuts were made by, CheapandChicCreation on Etsy, she was wonderful to work with and so reasonable. She even individually wrapped each one for us!  The quality is wonderful. D, J and E have loved playing with theirs in their play kitchen.

The party was so much fun planning and even more fun watching it all come together. Dylan, Jake and Emma are still talking about it!  Now, what to do for their 5th birthday...