Saturday, February 9, 2013

Elevator Obsessed

Alex wants to go "elevatoring."  It's his new favorite thing.  He drags his father in and out of the closet with lots of up and down motor noises punctuated by the "ding!" of arriving at the correct floor.  To facilitate him playing elevator by himself, I decided to do what any self respecting mama with a need to clean the kitchen in peace and a great Kodak printer would do.  I printed an "up and down" set and a numerical set of buttons for his closet.  The "up and down" is on the closet door (not much room on the wall mural for buttons) and the numerical panel is inside on the closet wall.  He and Big Puppy have been at it for about 20 minutes now!  Because I highly suspect these buttons will keep his interest for about a week or two, I just slapped them up with packing tape.  Be careful if you are doing this on anything less shiny than semi-gloss, it may take off the paint.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Oddess Bites: Schmancy Pretzels

I love making things for the boys' birthday parties.  So much so that we've decided to celebrate every other year for each kid.  Ethan will get his odd number birthdays and Alex will get the even ones.  Why would I do this right after I mention how much I love the parties?  Because even when you go homemade, it gets expensive to host a good party twice a year.  Especially when the parties are so close together.  That being said, I decided I wanted a little extra sweet thing in addition to the birthday cake.  I was inspired by my neighbor and very good friend who I'll call Q.  Q had a big ol' barrel of pretzel rods on her counter the other day when the boys and I went over to play.  I gave her the puppy eyes and asked for one.  She looked at me like I was crazy and said "No, you can't have a pretel stick."  I grinned and took one anyway, because that's how we roll.  Ever since then, I've been thinking about that silly salty little pleasure.  I also obsessed about how I've seen them dipped in chocolate and rolled in yummy things.  So I decided to make my own, and this is how I did it.


One giant bag of semi-sweet or milk chocolate morsels
One giant bag of white chocolate morsels
A giant tub of pretzel rods
Sprinkles of some sort
Mini M&Ms

Why giant bags of things?  Because I snack on said morsels.  If I didn't get the giant bags I would have little left for making the pretzels.  I'm a glutton, what can I say?  As for the mini M&Ms, they are heavy enough to fall off the chocolate so I'm pretty sure full sized M&Ms would be an exercise in futility.  So step one:  Melt one kind of morsels in a mug.  I like using microwave safe mugs because the handle generally stays cool.  I nuke for 30 seconds at a time, stirring between sessions until the chocolate stirs smooth.  Don't get it too hot or the fixin's won't stick and the chocolate will run off.  While you let the melted morsels cool just a bit, pour your sprinkles in a bowl.  I used colored sugar in red + yellow and blue + green to keep with the primary colors of Ethan's party.  Keep in mind that if you use sugars or anything that is somewhat translucent you'll need to use white chocolate so you can really see the color. Tip mug at a 45 degree angle and spin pretzel in the chocolate.

Before you pull the pretzel out, let it lean a bit on the edge of the cup and keep spinning to slough off a bit of chocolate without scraping or leaving bald spots.  Then holding the pretzel vertically over the bowl of sprinkles, pinch some up and dust them over the chocolate.  Can you roll them on wax paper instead?  Sure.  But I was dealing with the chaos of my older son while doing this, so the idea of sugar on a flat surface near the edge of a counter was tres scary.

After getting the chocolate nice and covered, place the pretzel on a parchment or wax paper lined cookie sheet.  Make sure it's one that fits in your fridge before you put your freshly decorated pretzels on it!  When you're all done dipping, spinning, sprinkling and placing, stick 'em in the fridge.

Now on to the M&M covered ones.  This was a trickier business.  My thought was; melt, stir, spin, roll, place, fridge.  And it was almost that easy.  Not quite though.  I used milk chocolate in deference so my mom who has expressed a preference for it.  I melted the morsels just as I did above and stirred.  This time as it cooled I put a piece of wax paper on the counter and put the minis on it.  It was a much safer prospect at this point because Mr.-"just two (thousand) more pieces of candy"-Alex was now snoozing away for his nap.  And while I'm sure Ethan would just love some chocolate, he can't reach that high yet.  I dipped, swirled and tried to roll the pretzel in the candies.  Not. So. Much.  The candies wanted to roll off and leave little globs of chocolate with them.  I figured out that you set the pretzel in the bits, lift it off, turn it a bit, then place it down again.  Repeat until the pretzel is covered.  

You'll still have fallout and they'll probably not be as pretty as the professionally made ones.  But that's why they charge the big bucks and I'm at home making my own.  I'm betting they'll taste just fine though.  You'll need to stick these in the fridge as well.  For display, I plan on putting a second package of minis in a glass bowl and sticking the rods, chocolate side up, down in the candies like a flower arrangement.  I'll let you know how it worked out when I write next time.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Which Craft

So the lack of blog has not been due to sheer laziness.  This time.  I've actually been working my not-so-little butt off getting back to the basic ingredients of all things.  It started with laundry detergent.  I've noticed a bevy of homemade laundry soap recipes floating around on Pinterest.  All claimed to create enough laundry detergent to last a year for under $20.  Considering that I do many many manymanymany loads of laundry a week and the detergent you buy at the grocery store is not only expensive, but mostly comprised of water, I was game to give it a shot.  I researched all the recipes I could Google.  Many were made up of three basic ingredients:  Borax, Fels Naptha (or Zote) and A&H Washing Soda.  I found a few without the Borax and some that had added ingredients like A&H Baking Soda or OxyClean.  I decided to go with one of these beefed up recipes as I don't always have time to pretreat.  It is rather hard to use a pretreater when you have a baby on your hip trying to snatch your glasses and a preschooler pulling your leg toward the fridge in an effort to get juice "now, mommy!"  I recalled seeing a blog post on Power Wallet on just such a recipe.  It just happened to have been written by a trusted friend, so I decided to give it a try.  I had a hard time finding all the ingredients in one store. The grocery and big box retailers down here are downsized from there regular metro and suburban area versions.  At long last I gathered everything together.  I did have a bit of pause in regards to the Borax due to a family history of issues with the powder, so I made a small batch first.  If it makes any of us itchy, I will  replace it with something else for the big batch, but that will take some more research.  I've done three loads of laundry with the new soap so far.  It smells amazing; fresh and clean.  We haven't had any weird breakouts or itchy spells but I'll reserve final judgement until the small batch is gone.

A funny note about grating the Fels; I did it on a night we were making tacos so made sure to put it up high when I was done.  Wouldn't want any unfortunate cheese/soap mix ups, would we?

With the laundry detergent all taken care of, I decided that we needed to tackle the dryer.  I love the convenience of a dryer bar but they never, ever last as long as the package indicates.  I bet the model they are employing for length of use is a bachelor who determines cleanliness with the ole sniff test.  It certainly isn't determined by a family of four.  I remembered a post in a group by a friend who I will call Mom of So and So.  MoSoSo (for short) had mentioned wool balls as a gentle way to dry cloth diapers and as a general fabric softener.  I looked them up on Amazon.  They weren't terribly expensive but there wasn't much to them either.  So I leaned into Google once more and found a tutorial for making your own.  It's really easy.  I'll only add one bit of missing information:  to achieve 4 balls from one skein, they should be roughly tennis ball sized.  I haven't finished them yet, but I'll update the blog when I have results.  I'm also going to try my hand at homemade essential oils.  Have you seen the price of those suckers?  I'd like to use some for the dryer balls and will also use it when I make candles. (I have sooooo downed the kool aid on homemade items!)

The next few crafty happenings were inspired by the boys.  The first was a solution to a mommy aversion.  I HATE the smell of Play Doh.  It stinks to high heaven.  I didn't want to deny my kid the chance to play with something of the sort, though.  Say it with me now:  "Google to the rescue!"  I found a very easy tutorial and whipped it out in a half hour, post baby bedtime.  The results were pretty and smelled lightly of bread.  It was elastic-y in my hand without being sticky.  I used regular food coloring.  I know there are natural color recipes but they are pretty time consuming and rather messy to create.  Alex came down with the flu the morning after I made these.  I'm saving them in ziplocks until he feels better so they don't become balls of Plague Doh instead.

Riding the high of inspiration, I pulled out the flannel I was going to use to make jammie bottoms for the boys.  Since the fabric's purchase we've accumulated plenty of pajamas for both kids, so I decided to use it for pillowcases.  I had Toy Story for Alex and a cute car print for Ethan.  This isn't about the pillowcases though.  Anyone with a sewing machine and the ability to stitch straight can make one.  It just so happens that I decided to make Alex's while he was playing with his favorite toys:  A recycle truck and it's accompanying trash cans.  So with the scraps, I cut a rectangle.  Then flipped over 1/4" on each long side and zipped it through the machine.  
Wrong sides facing and with a good stitch anchor on each end, I sewed together the short sides.

 Lacing some yarn through the 1/4" hems I made, I then knotted the strings and voila!  Teeny tiny garbage bags.  Silly?  Yes.  Absolutely the coolest thing ever to a trash obsessed 2 & 3/4 year old?  There are no words to describe the pure delight.

The final installment in my mad craft mayhem was for my own sanity.  Now that Eboo is a bit bigger, I'm able to actually keep the house somewhat clean.  Somewhat.  I was therefore getting tired of seeing the boys' room a complete and utter disaster area every single night when putting them to bed.  I had to do something to make it easier for Alex to help me clean up at the end of a hard day of playing.  It was time for labels.  What to do when your kid can't read?  You make pictures!  I took a piece of white printer paper and placed it on the table under the dining room light.  Then, for each bin to be represented, I took a few toys and arranged them on the paper.  I took a shot with my iPod touch and waited for the Cloud to do it's business.  *BING!*  They showed up like magic in iPhoto (yes, I know, I'm a bit obnoxious in my love of all things Apple).  I dragged one over to Pages and named it in a text box.  I then printed the label on a piece of 4x6 photo paper.  I repeated this for every photo, using the first as a template and dragging each subsequent photo over the previous.  Change the words, print, repeat.  Slap them on the bins with a couple strips of packing tape.  It came out pretty nicely, I think.

Following this same idea, I made the boys a "parking lot" for the amazing amount of trucks we have.

It's been a productive month for only being 8 days in.  Not too shabby, Oddess, not too shabby.