Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The end of summer

School has been back in session for about a month now, so this post is a little late, but between, you know, school starting, and Paul's 3 weeks in Africa, life has been... Crazy. So crazy that I had originally planned on calling the last few weeks of summer "Wacky Weeks," but the truth is that I lost my ability to make life interesting for the kids, and any sort of regular creative craft or activity I could think of just wasn't appealing to any of us. So they played lots of Legos and Barbies and cars. And they fought and we all drove each other nuts, and I counted the minutes until school and a routine would start again. 

I did, however, manage to throw together a few random fun things here and there. 
Like this meatloaf and mashed potatoes "cake."

And this veggie pie I had seen on Pinterest and wanted to make forever. 
It was ok. Not awesome. Looks yummier than it was. 

We made something neat using these materials, thanks to inspiration from a little girl called Mayhem. 

Katie's paper dress was made mostly by me. But she loved wearing it. 

Ellie worked hard on hers. She loved seeing Mayhem's pictures. 

Posing with attitude!

We put some streaks of color in our hair. 

We blew unpoppable bubbles. 

We painted our nails. 

We played in crazy sand. 

We made stop-motion movies, which were really cool and fun to make. 

And we made ice grow. I still don't know how that works, but it was awesome. 

It was a great summer, and I even cried on Ellie's first day of First Grade (you'd think I'd be over that!), but I am also glad school has started (for both girls). I'm the kind of mom who likes to move forward and embrace each milestone and step of the journey of raising little humans; we don't look back much around here. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Space Week

Summer's over, but this has been sitting in my drafts folder... it was a really fun week we did last year: Space Week. This was one of my better planned themes, because each day focused on a different part of space. 

Fine motor skill practice AND jewelry-making with star-shaped beads and yarn. 

We learned about constellations and painted some with glow-in-the-dark paint (and yes, we did take the paintings into the dark bathroom to see them glow). 

I made star-shaped pizza crusts and we made our own pizzas for dinner. 

Solar System

We finger painted the sun. 

After reading about planets, we painted a styrofoam solar system, and then we measured out toilet paper to create a scale representation of their distance from the sun. (I'd need to look for the link where I found the number of squares needed for each planet... It was a lot of toilet paper!)


The girls made their own solar systems in some colorful rice, with marbles, pompoms, beads, and other choking hazards, but they really liked the hands-on sensory play. 

Next, they made their own planets with paper and crayons and stickers. We talked about the possibility if life on their planets and how many moons they had. 

We also made planets with marble painting, because... Why not throw in another craft when your kid is wanting more?

Lastly, the girls colored some planet and space-themed pages and did a few simple worksheets. 

The Moon

We learned how craters are made on the moon by throwing marbles onto a plate of flour. 

We made moon paintings with homemade puffy paint (self-risingflour and water, microwaved after being painted onto the paper). 

We learned the phases of the moon in a most delicious way (for dessert).

Space Exploration

We made cute name rockets. 

We went to Space Center Houston, which is conveniently located about 15 minutes from our home. 

Anthony got a souvenir. 

And we brought home water rockets from the gift shop. Paul got into the fun too. 

We made astronaut sticker scenes before dinner. 

And had astronaut ice cream after dinner!

I remember getting excited the way only teachers do when I planned this week, because the progression of activities was coming together so well, and that is one of the best parts of lesson planning (to me, at least). Space Week was a great week!

Friday, August 8, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon Cake

Katie's How to Train Your Dragon party turned out awesome, and everyone had a good time, but the cake... It deserves its own blog post. Because I gave it over two weeks of late-night work, with fondant sticking to my hands, food coloring gel staining my skin, and more than one broken dragon re-do. But mostly because I'm really quite proud of this cake. It started as this:

And became this:

With all of this in between:

Gronckle/Meatlug. Simplest dragon to make because it's basically a bunch of balls. This was the first time I used 50/50 gumpaste/fondant, which was essential for the wings, especially of the larger dragons. 

Nadder/Stormfly (version 2.0). The first one was the first dragon I made for this cake, but it had trouble balancing, and gravity ripped its feet off its legs. That's when I realized that toothpicks for support would be of the utmost importance. 

Zippleback/Barf & Belch (version 1). I woke up to find their heads detached from their necks, with no hope for repair. This was the most complicated dragon, so I was pretty heartbroken. 

The failure with Barf and Belch prompted me to take a break from dragons and start on Hiccup. I was very pleased with how close I came with the face. The more practice I get sculpting faces, the better I'll be. 

I couldn't make his legs until I had a Toothless for him to ride, so I made all I could. 

Then it was back to dragons. Toothless was actually not too complicated, more of a Gronckle difficulty level than a Nadder/Zippleback. And he has a cute smile too. 

Once I got Hiccup on Toothless, I woke up the next morning to this note from Paul. (And yes, those are gel food coloring pots I used to prop him up). 

The original wings I had made were the 50/50 mix, and they ended up being too heavy, so I had to make new ones with only gumpaste. Then I ran into the problem of discoloration. The black wings turned green! So I ended up painting his body and wings with a thin coat of black, and thankfully, my problem was solved!

My biggest fan/apprentice worked with me on the weekends. 

She made her own Toothless and Hiccup. 

Then it was time for Zippleback 2.0, this time with floral wire for support, and I waited to attach the heads until cake assembly day... Just in case. 

Then I made the Monstrous Nightmare, Hookfang. He didn't cause me any grief, thankfully!

Then it was time to bake the cake, make the Rice Krispy mountains, and put it all together. 

Oh, and I made a Scauldron head to poke out of the water. Kind of a last-minute addition. 

Paul made a stand with isomalt to hold up Toothless as he flew over the ocean. It held up great and looked awesome. And we never pass up an opportunity to play with molten sugar!

Dragon island close-up. I went back and forth on whether I should cover it in blue fondant or icing. I opted for icing, to create the texture of waves in the water. 

It is finished!

Aerial view. Oh, and the letters! I found a Viking-esque font through Google, and I used some Wilton edible paper to cut out the letters with my Silhouette Cameo. Paul really was the one who did it. He likes contributing to all my cakes, even if it's in some small way. But these letters were an excellent touch!

Ready for the party...

It is probably my most photographed cake. 

Time to sing to a little viking birthday girl...

And then it got eaten!