Thursday, January 31, 2013

In Home Entertainment: Colored Ice Sculptures

As we've mentioned, between the east coast weather (and D.C.'s inability to cope with said weather), kiddo germies, and days off for parent-teacher conferences, we've been in the house A LOT. So, in frantically googling for fun ice activities to take advantage of the cold weather, mom came across this cool ice sculpture idea. Sold. Our ice sculptures had been an ongoing activity in our house until, you know, the below freezing temps jumped up to a balmy 70 degree day yesterday.

BUT, before that happened and the weather was still below freezing, we mixed gel food coloring and water into a variety of containers and stuck them outside to freeze overnight. The next day we popped them out of the molds and went to work stacking, slipping and sliding colorful sculptures together. Turns out that the ones I made (for which I refused to mix the food coloring well) were the coolest looking -- concentrated color on top and clear on the bottom. We were a little frustrated that the shapes we made weren't as easily stackable as we wanted, so we filled up tons of ice cube trays (formerly used for baby food for me -- by the time Cami was born, which wasn't that long, mom had given up on homemade baby food) with water and food coloring and set them outside for freezing.

They did. Then they turned to slush in the tropical temps yesterday. Then they were destroyed in the torrential downpour last night. Anyone else concerned about this weather!?! Well, it appears freezing temperatures will return soon, so we'll get them rigged back up and let everyone know if they stack up better!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In Home Entertainment: Tropical Island Tub

With today's forecasted weather it's hard to believe that we had to take an indoor tropical vacaye earlier this week. But this is a good one to keep in your back pocket for those long cold winter days which are sure to return. We came across this little gem of an idea on Growing a Jeweled Rose who has an unbelievable number of bathtub play ideas.

Almost all of our water table toys are frozen up in ice buckets on our roof deck (unintentionally this time), but mom rescued some of the marine life, tiki glasses, shells, and fabric flowers we used in our tropical water table last summer. We filled the bath up with nice warm water, dropped a few drops of blue food coloring in, added the toys and donned our beach gear. Mom planned on whipping up some of the shaving cream bath paint we love, but we ended up not even needing it.

Hey, it got us to dinner time. Or snack time actually. We stuck with the tropical theme and tried out the almond milk green smoothie we had planned - YUM. Even Kane drank it -- here's what we blended up:

- 1/4 cup spinach
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1/2 cup strawberries (frozen)
- 1/2 cup blueberries (frozen)
- 1 banana

Blend together spinach and almond milk. Then add in fruit and blend until smooth. We garnished ours with a little dollop of whip cream (it was vacaye after all) and sprinkled a few almonds on top. Delish.

Monday, January 28, 2013

In Home Entertainment: 3D Abstract Painting

Thanks goodness mom placed an order with Discount School Supplies before this cold snap hit because we've been inside A LOT. We needed just a few things to supplement our art supplies and make some projects we've been planning since our visit to the Children's Museum of the Arts in NYC. On our HOURS LONG visit there a few weeks ago, we spied some really neat 3D art made with paint and what appeared to be toilet paper rolls and other concentric cardboard pieces. We thought we'd try something similar with wood and paint. And glue. The glue turned out to be key -- we don't ever really use it much at home and, when we do, it's usually a glue stick. But both Cam and I liked using the glue with a brush offered at the museum.

To begin, mom gave us real stretched canvas to paint with our new IKEA MALA paints (IKEA recently revamped their art supplies and, while they kept our favorites, they also made some new great additions).  Unlike our beloved Biocolor paints, the IKEA paints mix together and so mom was curious to see if we'd both end up with brown canvases. We didn't!

When we finished painting the canvases, we set those aside to dry and started painting several pieces of wood bits (we bought these from DSS because there really is no one "woodworking" in our sphere, but you could use any lightweight wood leftovers). Once everything was dry, which was actually rather soon, we glued the wood bits onto our canvases. We were very liberal with the glue, so the finished product took a bit longer to dry than expected. And mom had anticipated a final round of painting, but we wanted to hang them up just as they were. We think they turned out pretty cool -- especially hung up on the wall where they cast all kinds of neat shadows.

Yo: we haven't posted an links in a while, but we are still Discount School Supply affiliates and the links below to DSS are affiliate links. If you click on any of these links (or the general DSS link on the right hand side of our blog) and make a purchase, we will receive a small percentage of the sale from DSS. So do us a solid and help support our arts and crafts habit -- if you are going to purchase something from DSS, do it through Not-So-SAHM! Scroll down for links to purchase the supplies we used in our 3D Abstract Painting project.

Box of Wood Bits - 5 lbs. Box of Wood Bits - 5 lbs.
A wonderful assortment of wood spools planks disks and more! Pieces can be painted laced or glued. Assorted shapes and sizes measuring 2 - 4. Lacing holes also vary from 1/16 - 1/8.

Real Stretched Canvas - Set of 6 Real Stretched Canvas - Set of 6
Professional grade authentic stretched canvasses are primed with gesso - they're 100% cotton canvas! Canvas accepts all Colorations paints. Ideal for enhancing fine motor and creative skills in young children. Real canvas encourages self-esteem and adds value to creations. Perfect for gifts. 9L x 12W x 3/4H.

Glue Jar with Brush - Set of 12 Glue Jar with Brush - Set of 12
No more smearing glue with your fingers! You'll keep your hands and your work area clean with these convenient glue jars! The application brushes are attached to the inside of their red caps making gluing a breeze. And you won't have to guess what's in the jars because they're clear. Reusable jars are sold empty in a set of 12 and hold 2.7 oz. each. Jars measure 2 5/8H x 2Dia; cap is 1 1/4W x 2 1/2L.

Friday, January 25, 2013

In Home Entertainment: Frozen Creepy Crawly Fun

So one good thing about the below freezing temps we're currently experiencing is the opportunity for fun frozen projects that we wouldn't otherwise be able to swing (our freezer is always filled to the brim with no room for even a frozen water bead to hide). Mom came up with a mishmash of things we've already done (frozen water balloons and ice/salt/watercolors experiment) and the frozen toy excavation ideas we've seen and wanted to try. She put some of our squishy, stretchy froggies and bugs into balloons, filled them up with water and put them outside overnight to freeze.

Mom actually kept them a surprise from us until the next day until she sat us down with bowls full of salt and watercolors.  We had no idea what project was in store for us, but then she brought down containers full of frozen creepy crawlies! Once Kane got over his initial upset at mom freezing "his favorite toys ever," we sprinkled the frozen pieces liberally with salt. And then we waited until little tunnels began to form and squirted liquid watercolors over them.

We used the cracks traced by the watercolors to find weaknesses to break our buddies out. The froggies turned out to be SUPER fun -- they're squishy and sticky and we ended up being able to extract them out of teeny tiny holes in the ice. The buggies held their ground and we ended up having to wait for the ice to melt to free them.

There is an incredible array of ice projects out in the blogosphere, some of which are on our to do list before the temps turn back up. But check out these amazing projects that those in the persistent cold have come up with:

* an AMAZING rainbow ice igloo 
* gorgeous icicles 
* an outdoor ice sculpture garden
* outdoor ice ornaments

Thursday, January 24, 2013

In Home Entertainment: A Mitzvah Story

Over winter break, my school sent home directions and supplies to make a "Mitzvah Story" book. In Judaism, the term mitzvah means an act of human kindness -- a good deed. Mom unpacked it all, noted what a nice idea it was, and then put it on our kitchen counter where it sat for two weeks. Upon returning to school after the holidays, we realized we forgot to put my story together! So we sat down together to find photographs illustrating the various mitzvahs highlighted in the directions (helping family, helping friends, helping the neighborhood, and taking care of nature). I was all for that part and even helped stretch our imaginations a bit. Then mom asked me to help fill in the blanks for the question prompts and I decided I didn't want to do it. I "didn't like helping people" and I "felt nothing" when doing mitzvahs. I have a knack for being a real PITA when I decide I don't want to do something. So mom said fine and put it away.

A few days later I asked for an art project and mom asked whether I'd like to make the cover for my mitzvah book. I was into that and wanted to do a collage with bleeding art tissue paper. Fortunately the board book cover of my mitzvah story was pretty sturdy and I modpodged on, peeled off, and reglued a whole bunch of tissue paper. Only then was I excited to bring it in to school and share it. Mom said (paraphrasing here) something about "you gotta look like you don't need it and then they give it to you for free." Whatever that means.

I think she really just thought the book was a concrete way for us to realize all the nice things I do for people even if I don't think of them that way and how I could think about continuing those acts. And I did. For the next week I came up with good deeds, large and small and that generally somehow also benefited me, and kept asking "that's a good mitzvah, right?" And, as it turns out, yes, sometimes cupcakes for everyone are definitely a mitzvah.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Keep It Local: East Potomac Park - Hains Point

Hard to believe that last weekend it was 60 degrees and we were outside exploring what is sure to be one of our favorite spots this spring/summer -- East Potomac Park and Hains Point. Sandwiched between the Washington Channel and the Potomac River, the point offers views of both Reagan National Airport and National Defense University, which means there is an amazing array of aircraft to eyeball while you play. Not to mention the kayaks, sailboats, speed skaters, bicyclists and runners whizzing around the point.

In addition to the sights, the park has a wide variety of kid-friendly entertainment -- a mini-golf course, tennis courts, and a swimming pool -- but it was the playground and wide open space that we took advantage of on our trip. Having just signed Kane up for spring baseball, we decided to go play ball. Turns out I was more interested and have a mean swing. Kane eventually joined us, but insisted on playing on top of a picnic table and wearing an army helmet as a batting helmet (baseball should be interesting -- mom can't stop snickering because daddy will be fielding that one). There is TONS of open space to play and much of it is fenced in surrounding the playground, which isn't necessarily anything special, but we liked it.

There are plenty of picnic tables and public bathrooms available. And there is lots of parking adjacent to the playground. We can't wait for the weather to turn again (or at least get above 20 degrees) so we can go back!

Sort of an unrelated side note: we stopped at Bobby's Burger Palace on the way home for lunch -- it's not close to the Point, but it's pretty much a straight shot up Rock Creek Parkway over to GW, which is where Bobby's is located. OMG. Kane ate a giant cheeseburger and I had a goat cheese, brie, tomato and bacon grilled cheese. And perfect onion rings. We both had black and white milkshakes. TO DIE FOR. Seriously. Go there.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Grub It Up: Kid-friendly Green Smoothies

Perhaps it's just my generally stubborn attitude, but I regularly refuse to eat fruits and vegetables. I'll eat avocados, edamame and frozen blueberries. But that's about it (besides frozen corn and peas, which mom doesn't really count). So mom decided to try a different tack -- green smoothies. She and dad have them regularly, likely because it's less work than making a salad. But it does the trick. Se we've been experimenting with different recipes to find my favorites (these are pretty green for kid-friendly smoothies -- you can make some with yogurt or sweeter ingredients, but I started out trying mom's and liked them, so mom went with it).

Now, Kane generally LOVES anything that's green, including most green vegetables. But, and this is most definitely because of his stubborn attitude, he has refused to even try green smoothies. His refusal, of course, has only bolstered my willingness to try them and mock him ("Oh this is AWEsome. Yummy in my tummy."). But mom will take it -- it may go against popular grain, but we are all for cajoling, bribing and yes even mocking family members into eating fruits and veggies. SO, here are my two favorites and some green smoothie tips. We are going to try some with almond milk this week, so we'll let you know how those go!

This looks like I'm just being cute, but it's really part of me giving it to Kane. 
"Look how much FUN smoothies are, Kaney!"

- go easy on the greens at first -- little tummies can be sensitive to them (as mom can tell you after a few middle of the night bathroom trips from me)
- blend your greens and liquid before adding any fruit
- freeze all fruits -- it makes for a really nice cold smoothie
- just give your kiddos a little bit in a small glass -- an adult-sized serving is a little daunting
- drink them with your kids -- we're more likely to try it if you do!

Avocado Goodness: Makes 1 adult-sized serving (if making for mom or dad, add up to 1/2 cup more of greens -- they can take it)
- 1/2 cup spinach or kale
- 1 cup coconut water
- 1/2 avocado (you can freeze this, too)
- 1 frozen banana
- 1/2 cup frozen mango
- 1/2 cup frozen pineapple

Blend greens with coconut water first. Then add remaining ingredients and blend for 1-2 minutes.

You Put the Lime in the Coconut: Makes 1 adult-sized serving (if making for mom or dad, add up to 1/2 cup more of greens -- they can take it)
- 1/2 cup spinach or kale
- 1 cup coconut water
- 1 frozen banana
- 1/4 cup frozen mango
- 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
- 1/4 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 tbsp lime juice

Blend greens with coconut water first. Then add remaining ingredients and blend for 1-2 minutes.

Monday, January 21, 2013

In Home Entertainment: Super Secret Spy Training

We know we can't really complain about the mild winter we've been having, but between the persistent rain and suddenly plunging temps last week, we were going a little stir crazy. Mom reached back into the depths of her Pinterest files and remembered pinning this cool spy training course made with painters tape. So we planned a super secret spy training playdate with one of my good buddies. We used one of our many rolls of baker's twine and washi'd a long continuous strand down a stretch of our hallway -- zig-zagging back and forth, up and down.

It was hard to do it without pulling the whole thing down (the washi tape was good for not leaving marks on the wall, not so durable for withstanding a little tension in the string) and a few times Vegas ran right through it. But we hung it back up several times during the afternoon and even daddy had a turn when he got home from work -- he's actually pretty limber and made funny spy faces.

After we completed our obstacle course, we practiced writing and drawing each other super secret messages. We drew on white paper with q-tips dipped in lemon juice (I insisted on drawing on colored paper of course) and then put those in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes and, BOOM, our drawings appeared! It worked on the colored paper, too.

I asked mom if we could have jello for a snack (who knows why) and she remembered seeing a recipe for glow in the dark jello, which seemed like something super spies would eat. Theoretically, you just follow the regular jello recipe, subbing in tonic water (the quinine glows under UV light) for as much water as you like. We did about 3:1 water to tonic water ratio (and it was still a bit bitter). We then put portable black lights into our light boxes, added our messy tray to the top as a tabletop, and sat down to have our snack. BUT, no real glow. Boo. We think it was probably a combo of not enough of a strong UV light (the little portable ones were from the Target dollar bin) and the jello was probably in too deep of a container (mom made it in little juice glasses -- jigglers would probably have worked better). No worries -- still a good snack and we'll try again!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Keep It Local: Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

Mom is slightly obsessed with the new season of Downton Abbey and I'm becoming slightly princess obsessed, so mom thought a visit to Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens and the current Pret-a-Papier exhibit was in order. Marjorie Merriweather Post, big time philanthropic socialite and founder of General Foods, purchased Hillwood in 1955 and transformed the 1920's estate into a home to entertain and display her collections. In addition to the main mansion, 13 acres of manicured gardens span across the top of a hill overlooking Rock Creek.

The Pret-a-Papier exhibit showcases the amazing paint and paper costume sculptures of Isabelle de Borchgrave spread throughout the mansion and adirondack house at the museum. The mansion is incredibly opulent (a LOT of bling - check out that crunk cup up there) and I had to be on my absolute best behavior -- it's kid-friendly, but well behaved kid-friendly (a sign on the mansion door asks parents to hold childrens' hands while in the home). We did our best, but we'd probably be most likened to Downton Abbey's Martha Levinson (the American  grandmother) and Lady Sybil Crawley.

The docents were all pleasant and gave us some ideas for playing I-spy as we walked throughout the mansion. Marjorie Post loved dogs and they pop up in all kinds of places throughout the home (paintings, china, sculpture, etc.). Horsies, crowns and eagles (part of the family crest) are all prevalent as well. My absolute most favorite room? Marjorie Post's bathroom - ENTIRELY PINK. We're talking pink walls, pink tub, pink lights, pink toilet and PINK TOILET PAPER. Seriously. I could've moved right in there.

After we toured all the dresses, we decided to check out the grounds. It was a bit chilly, but we made it through the Japanese-Style Garden and the French Parterre. They were overdesigned, but beautiful. Hard to believe it's in the middle of D.C. A warm weather return visit is definitely in order, but we're guessing we'll leave Kane at home again -- manicured gardens don't really suit him (he's even feistier than Tom Branson).

The Pret-a-Papier exhibit is at Hillwood for a few more days -- until January 20th. The museum is open Tuesdays through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on select Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. Check Hillwood's website for information about Family Fun Dayspreschool programs and other events.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

In Home Entertainment: Aromatherapy Playdough

The sniffles seem to have permanently settled in at our house and we're continually on the hunt for low-key afternoon activities that make us feel just a little bit better. Enter aromatherapy playdough. Mom let us work eucalyptus essential oil into a warm batch of our regular cooked playdough and, aaaahhh, I told mom my nosey felt better almost immediately. We split ours into two halves and each worked in our favorite shade of food coloring and mom broke out some Target dollar bin creatures she's been holding. We made all sorts of yucky ice cream sundaes and pies, full of sticky frogs and many-legged critters.

Want to have fun and feel better? You'll need:
- 4 cups flour
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup salt
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 4 teaspoons cream of tartar
- food coloring
- eucalyptus essential oil

Combine ingredients and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until most of the moisture is absorbed (it will take a bit). Let it cool on some wax paper and add in the eucalyptus essential oil (mom put about 15 drops in our batch). Then add in the food coloring. Store in airtight container.

We're also going to check out some other fun aromatherapy ideas we spotted on Growing a Jeweled Rose -- what else are we going to do with all the eucalyptus essential oil?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Keep It Local and Grub: The Coupe and Trolley Turnaround Park

Man we've been busy. Somehow in the last year, without us really noticing, our neighborhood got a nice little renovation of a park AND, much more importantly, a 24-7 "diner" from the owners of Tryst, The Diner and Open City just blocks from our house. We recently were clued in to the opening of The Coupe by our "Aunt" Kerri who lives in New York, but continues to be the unofficial Zagat's guide to D.C. It's only been open for a few months and appears to still be in adjusting mode (we've had incredibly slow service both times we've been), but there is a great children's menu with delicious food, REAL coffee, and a bar. And we can easily make our escape there those early weekend mornings when mom and dad are shift sleeping-in. We're pretty sure you'll find us there all the time.

And, right now, you'll find the entire neighborhood there all the time, too. Which is why it's also super awesome that D.C. recently renovated the Trolley Turnaround Park right across the street. It's small, but it has a rare death-defying spinner that is worth a visit. Put your name in at The Coupe and head across the street to play -- they'll text you when your table is ready. Done and done.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

In Home Entertainment: Mason Jar Science Experiments

Like most other kiddos and parents in the D.C. area, we've all been feeling a bit under the weather lately. And even though it's been warm outside for the past few days, at least one of us has been stuck inside cranky and not up to doing much of anything except complaining about not feeling so hot. But in those brief periods when fevers are broken and we feel up to it, we've been setting up and observing some cool science experiments in mason jars. 

We started on Friday by setting up the "bouncy egg" experiment and observed that all weekend long. And when it was raining outside, we decided to make it rain inside too -- inside a mason jar, that is. In between, to try to lighten everyone up, we made fireworks in a jar. All of these were easy and used up things we had at home, which is always a win win. Turns out, there are a TON of different science experiments you can do in a jar and, believe you me, we've added them to our list (check the links at the bottom of the post for some more ideas). 

Experiment #1: The Bouncy Egg

We thought we'd try the popular experiment of turning a raw egg into a bouncy "ball" by submerging it in household vinegar for 2 days. The acidic vinegar reacts with the calcium carbonate egg shell to dissolve it. The membrane inside the egg remains intact and turns rubbery (that's a super scientific explanation).

Both Cam and I loved setting this one up because we got to pour the vinegar in ourselves. And we liked how disgusting it got over the next few days while the shell dissolved. When it was all finished, I played with mine and experimented dropping it from different heights to see how much bounce I got. I then decided to squeeze it. Gently. Then hard. Then it splattered all over my face. Vinegar in the eye, not so great. But I loved this experiment.

Here's the dealio -- you'll need
(1) a glass jar;
(2) a raw egg (the intent is to dissolve the shell, which is easier to see with a brown egg); 
(3) vinegar (we used apple cider and red wine vinegar, both of which worked well); and 
(4) patience -- it has to sit for 48 hours

Carefully place the egg into the glass jar and cover with vinegar. Record your observations if you want and then set it aside. After 24 hours, carefully change the vinegar. After 48 hours, carefully remove the egg and try to bounce it. 

My experiment notes:
- 1/11/2013: egg is floating; the egg is yellow because of the vinegar; it smells kind of sour; the egg is getting fizzy.
- 1/12/2013: egg is starting to feel bouncy (I pressed on it with a spoon).
- 1/13/2013: the egg feels like rubber; it is bouncy; it doesn't break when I roll it.

Experiment #2: Make it Rain (Inside a Jar)

It was raining outside, so we figured what the heck. We've talked a lot about what makes it rain generally -- how when clouds get so full of water, they let the water go and rain falls. This experiment shows how rain falls when warmer, moist air meets cold air, which causes the water in the warm air to condense and fall like rain.  

This experiment worked, but it wasn't all that spectacular. I liked eating the ice cubes though.

To make it rain, get yourself: 
(1) a glass jar; 
(2) hot water; 
(3) a plate; and 
(4) ice

Fill the glass jar 3/4 of the way with hot water. Cover it with the plate and let it sit for a few minutes and warm up the air inside. Then place ice cubes onto the plate and watch it cool the air inside and make condensation run down the sides of the jar.

My experiment notes: the jar feels hot; the plate feels hot; I can tell it's raining because I read your mind (I like my science served with a side of magic).

Experiment #3: Fireworks in a Jar

This mesmerizing experiment is a good one to demonstrate the scientific principle of density and is just plain pretty to watch. Oil mixed with droplets of food coloring floats on the top of water because it is less dense. The food coloring droplets are denser than the oil and they "drop down" into the water and, upon impact, burst into "fireworks." Just make sure to follow the directions, we did it a bit differently the first time and ended up with muddy water straightaway.

You will need:
(1) a glass jar; 
(2) a shallow plate;
(3) warm water; 
(4) 3 tablespoons cooking oil; and 
(5) food coloring (we used four colors). 

Fill the glass 3/4 of the way with warm water. ON A SHALLOW PLATE, pour the oil and then carefully drop drops of food coloring onto the oil. Mix GENTLY, but make sure the food coloring stays in droplet form -- you want to mix the food coloring droplets into the oil, not into each other. Pour the oil/food coloring into the water and watch the fireworks.

The first go-around we mixed the food coloring in a cup with the cooking oil -- it sank and started mixing together too much before we could pour it into the water jar. So, stick with the directions on this one.

My experiment notes: I was tired of taking notes. This science business is hard work.

More mason jar science ideas
*A real volcano (much more accurate than baking soda explosion)
* Get cooking with a few more involved "experiments" that will help you ferment, cold smoke and more

Monday, January 14, 2013

In Home Entertainment: DIY Patterned Stamps

We pulled together a serious list of new art projects to try from our recent visit to the New York Children's Museum of the Arts, including some super cool DIY patterned stamps. We used those we made at the museum to make gift wrap, but at home, we used our stamps to make (or tried to make)  cards. And, especially the second go around for us, making the stamps is an art project in and of itself.  Here's what you'll need:

(1) a large'ish piece of cardboard for the stamp base (mom cut ours out of a box);

(2) self-adhesive foam shapes. On our museum visit, the art teacher offered sticky geometric foam shapes (like these) and larger foam sheets out of which you could cut your own shapes (like these). We had a bunch of holiday shaped foam stickies floating around, so we used those; and 

(3) do-A-dot markers. 

Stick your foam shapes in whatever pattern you wish onto the piece of cardboard. Use the do-a-dot markers to liberally dab color onto the foam shapes. Then stamp away! 

We found that plain (as opposed to glittery) foam shapes worked better to hold the marker color. And the cards we tried to stamp had a coating on them, so those didn't work out well either. Stick with plain paper for the best results. 

I stamped my pattern a few times and then went back in with the markers to add some more color. Kane mostly just wanted to make the stamp. Then wanted to stick the foam shapes onto the card directly, which was fine too.