Saturday, December 27, 2014

Alphabet Christmas

Just because we're low on cash and time this Christmas doesn't mean we have to be low on creativity and fun.

After nine solid months of being unemployed, I finally found a job. The upside being great - yeah for health insurance and a steady income! The downside, we're strapped for cash this Christmas and working full time I have to find more creative ways to spend quality time with my kids. 

Figuring out what I wanted to give our 11-year-old daughter was a challenge.  Electronics are too easy and fleeting, plus we're not really going to spend time together.

So, I came up with a unique way to make sure we spend fun times together in 2015.  I purchased 26 envelopes, punched two holes on the side opposite the seal, and tied them with twine
. I printed each letter of the alphabet with two weeks starting January 1, cut them out and pasted them on each of the envelopes.  

Every two weeks she gets to open and envelope and find a craft I found on Pinterest and sometimes a coupon to one of our favorite stores, theatres, or museums around town.  For "C" week, we're going to the Children's Museum, "S" is for Science Museum. "A" is for Altoid prayer box, "J" is for journal jar.  I only let her open the first week so she's not really sure what's in store for her this year. I'm excited for the crafts we're going to make, the places we're going to go, but most importantly, the time we're going to spend together making memories.

Christmas Story Advent Pillow

Reading books is one of my favorite ways to get ready for Christmas. 

This year I made an Advent pillow and filled it with the titles of our favorite Christmas stories.  Each day the kids pick out the story of the day and we read it. 

I tried to coordinate some of the stories with TV broadcasts of Elf on the Shelf and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. First we read the books, then rented The Polar Express and Miracle on 34th Street, We read the most religious books like Oh Holy Night and How Many Miles to Bethlehem, and How Jesus Came on the Sundays in Advent then lit the new candle for the week. 

We read The Nutcracker the night before we went to see the ballet performance and of course read The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve.

Creating the pillow was pretty easy. I purchased fabric at Joann Fabrics that already had numbers on it and sewed the top of each flap and then sewed the other three sides onto the back material.  
 I also sewed a little pocket on the back with stitching in between to hold the pieces of paper with the stories we just read so the kids can see the progress we've made counting down to Christmas.

I printed our 24 favorite Christmas stories onto cardstock, see below for an example. We cut out each title and strategically placed them in the pillow. I tried to coordinate some of the stories with TV broadcasts of Elf on the Shelf and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. First we read the books, then rented The Polar Express and Miracle on 34th Street, We read the most religious books like Oh Holy Night and How Many Miles to Bethlehem, and How Jesus Came on the Sundays in Advent then lit the new candle for the week. 

We read The Nutcracker the night before we went to see the ballet performance and of course read The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve.
Hope this idea brings your family joy!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Great Christmas Gift!

As soon as the Mall of America publishes it's 2015 coupon book I will update Twin Cities Family Fun Guide. Meanwhile, Alphabet Adventures: A to Z Activities, Crafts, & Recipes is only $10.80 on and would make the perfect Christmas gift for kids, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, daycare providers, Big Brothers/Big Sisters!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

beARTrageous Event: Sunday, November 23, 3 PM

There are so many cool places around town to do fun things and one of the best is beARTrageous, a super cool arts and crafting store and community in the Kenwood neighborhood of Minneapolis.

2121 W. 21st St, Minneapolis, MN 55405

On Sunday, November 23 at 3 PM, I'll be hosting a Thanksgiving-inspired arts and craft project and selling my books.  There will be refreshments and a door prize!

Please join us for some fun!!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Princess Party Planned by a Pauper

Once upon a time, there was a little princess who delighted in all things fairy tale. Sadly, she was born into the home of a pauper. That pauper shopped at her local dollar store and hosted an amazing Royal Ball fit for the demanding princess. Come, see, and use the ideas the pauper is about to share:

1. The birthday guests were invited by hand made scrolls. Using brown paper lunch bags, the pauper carefully (and sometimes with curse words as it jammed a bit) printed invitations in the Blackadder ITC font: By order of Her Royal Highness Princess (her name) of (city/neighborhood), you are formally requested to attend a Royal Ball to celebrate her fifth birthday.  The festivities will commence at 2 o'clock on the afternoon of Sunday, October 26 at the Royal Palace (address).  Please come dressed as your favorite princess. There will be crafts, games, tea time, dancing, cake, and a special guest (or two).  All subjects are requested to send word of their reply by messenger on or before Saturday, October 25 at (phone number/email). Using thick 12 inch dowels (purchased at Joann Fabric) painted with golden paint, the servants glued the invitation to two dowels on the top and bottom and tied pretty soft white ribbon around them before they were hand delivered to each princess in the surrounding neighborhood.

2. The wee princess guests were greeted with three signs that were printed on paper grocery bags and glued to long sticks (purchased at Michael's) and with tied golden ribbons (purchased at Joann Fabric).  The first sign said: Once upon a time~in a land far far away, the second sign said: there lived a beautiful princess who was invited to a royal ball, and the third sign said: Welcome to the Royal Ball princess!  The Nutracker Suite's March played as each maiden entered the castle's courtyard.

3. As the guests entered the castle, they were pulled through "The Princess Portal" that brought them back in time and space to the enchanted land of fairy tales and all things commercialized Disney Princess (Lord help us all).  The pauper swore she would never stoop so low as to commercialize a birthday party but the pleading of the young and eloquent princess squelched all resistance.  Alas she has promised to speak on the importance of healthy relationships and issues pertaining to feminism at the future Girl Scout troop of this and the other princesses to redeem herself properly.

4.  The little royals played in the table fort castle made with fleece and plastic windows inspired by other Pinterest-obsessed paupers.

6. Much merriment was had playing princess-insired games such as: tape the kiss to the frog,

they were each given a princess passport (with a picture of each princess and a check box) and went on a scavenger hunt to find each and every princess (Disney princess images printed off of the internet on card stock and taped around the castle): Tiana is next to the frog (see above), Snow White in a bowl of apples, Cinderella near the fireplace, Belle on the bookshelf, Aurora on the bed frame, Rapunzel on the wall leading to the second story, Pocahotas on the sliding glass door (looks like she's standing in the backyard), Jasmin on the spice cabinet door, Merida near the Celtic cross, Ariel on the fish tank, Mulan on the China cabinet, Elsa (who is a queen and not a princess as the pauper was constantly told) and Anna on the freezer (of course!). The passport also had a list of all of the activities for the day that they could check off.


Dollar store cups with images of the Evil Queen from Snow White (image printed from internet) were stacked up and the princess practiced their pitches by throwing poisoned apples at the queen turned witch.


A game of Princess Bingo was played using Hershey's Kisses. Each (and every) Bingo winner won a special crown made from dollar store birthday hats.  The pauper ran out of her OCD medication and painted each hat with four coats of pink paint, printed off a tiara with each of their names, pulled the original elastic and put stronger elastic from Joann Fabric on each hat and carefully pulled a piece of shiny, glittery pink fabric through the top of each hat. Then she called her shrink and got a refill on her Rx.

7. Each of the guests were led into the coronation room to receive their crown and have their royal portrait taken with Belle!


On their way out, they had their picture taken in the magical mirror:

8. Each princess created magic by turning a pumpkin into a carriage.  Each child was given a golden pumpkin, two wheels, a door, and picture of Cinderella to color and glue to her pumpkin.

9. Cake was had and according to tradition, the first two cakes landed in the dung heap. Star-shaped brownies were served instead. True Love's Kisses hoarded during aforementioned bingo game satiated the sweet tooth of most of the attendees and the pauper decided to Let it Go!
10. Gifts were chaotically received and opened. The pauper couldn't keep track of who gave what but did make an honest attempt. Unfortunately the court scribe was in the lavatory.  She was quite excited that her daughter received several hand-me-down/re-gifted gifts.  As paupers she advocates the re-se of such items, the princesses who get tired of games seem to enjoy giving them away and the pauper enjoys knowing that when their princess tires of the games and toys, they can pass them on to other princes and princesses.

 11. Rapunzel made a guest-appearance and shocked the young ones with her Crystal Gayle length hair, then a golden wiener dog tape dispenser was presented to the lovely Rapunzel as a gift of gratitude because it just seemed appropriate or not.

12. The little ladies then kicked off their glass slippers and danced to a mix of princess songs:
Aladdin's A Whole New WorldBeauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast

Cinderella's Where Did I Put that Thing/Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo
Little Mermaid's Kiss the Girl
Tangled's When Will My Life BeginPocahontas' Colors of the Wind
The Princess and the Frog's Dig a Little Deeper
Snow White and the Seven Dwarf's Whistle While You Work

13. Each princess was presented with a special gift on their way back to the enchanted forest:

Many items were purchased at the dollar store: Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo bubbles, Disney princess Kleenex package, Elsa's melted ice water bottle, Ariel's Goldfish snacks in little baggies from the dollar store, True Love's kisses a tiny tiara, Aurora's sleeping mask

Friday, September 12, 2014

Science in the Kitchen

Yesterday I was surprised with an early Christmas gift, a big white envelope with local Minnesota scientist and mom Liz Heinecke's brand new book Kitchen Science Lab for Kids: 52 Family-Friendly Experiments Around the house. I enjoyed meeting Liz on the Twin Cities Live set back in June and loved her easy to make experiments and nature studies featured during her segment.

As soon as I ripped open the envelope and started reading the book I knew the 52 experiments designed to be easy enough for a 2 year-old to help and interesting enough for a teen to learn would be incorporated a weekly science day into our alphabet-obsessed lives. 

Liz has pulled together manageable and yet totally fun experiments including chemical reactions, physics, life science, polymers, botany, microbiology, electricity, and even rocket science.  This book would make a perfect birthday or even teacher gift.

Liz is a former research scientist who has turned her love of science into a source of inspiration for not only her children and their friends but for readers of her Kitchen Pantry Scientist blog, her KidScience appKARE 11 Sunrise News (she was on this morning!), and even served as an Earth Ambassador for NASA.

I highly recommend purchasing this book for your family.