Saturday, December 17, 2016

Cooking with Toddlers: Pasta Lunch

We've loved watching reruns The Kids Baking Championship sometimes during lunch. Littlebird has picked up some of the terminology when she talks about food, specifically my cooking. :P She has helped me cook before but I wanted to give her a chance to really make up a recipe and put together a meal by herself.

But she is 4, sooooo....

I gave her some parameters to ensure her first self planned meal was a success and I took care of the grown up stuff like sharp knife cutting and heavy lifting and making sure the pan was scraped enough so things wouldn't burn. We made it very clear from the beginning that I was the sous chef and she was in charge.

We decided that on the beautiful icy day that it is, we should go out to the garden and harvest some sage, and use it in a pasta dish. (any excuse to get out in the winter wonderland is good by us!)

We started by my pulling all the "options" to choose from out of the fridge and the pantry. I limited the options to make sure that it would all pretty much go together no matter what she picked. We talked about some of our favorite family recipes and how simple they are. We decided that it would be wise to keep our recipe simple.

She picked shell pasta, parmesan cheese, garbanzo beans, fresh mushrooms, onion, garlic, pepper and sage for flavor/spices/herbs, and tomato paste and cream of chicken soup to make the sauce... I wasn't exactly sure how that would work out but I figured it couldn't be too bad. It worked out pretty deliciously actually! :)

First we boiled our water for our pasta and prepped our ingredients.
(The little chef chopped mushrooms with a butter knife and helped press the garlic with our garlic press, I chopped the onions but she used the spatula to  When the water was boiling we poured in the pasta and then we cooked the onions in the olive oil, added our garlic and when the onions were transparent we added the mushrooms and the sage. We cooked that until the mushrooms were done and then added garbanzo beans. When they started to pop and soften we added the chicken soup, tomato paste and water to dilute it. I suggested we limit the amount of soup and tomato since I wasn't sure how it would turn out. She added it and cooked it a while and then tasted it and decided it needed another table spoon of each. I agreed.
I asked if she wanted the pasta mixed in and she said she did. She mixed it all together and then I plated the hot food for her and she put them on the table and put on the garnish of parmesan cheese.

It was a big hit! Even little sister was loving it!

Bowl lickin' good! :)  And a recipe card to save this delicious memory and recipe!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Holiday Gift making: Dad edition

 It's that time of year again!
Time for Christmas magic and cheer and joy and...
and time to find a gift for those people who are impossible to buy for!
When someone is impossible to buy maybe they aren't impossible to MAKE for?

This is one of those projects for people who love your family and will want something from them that has a bit of that handmade quality! (Even if they don't want child typography on a shirt to wear out of the house the sentiment is there and most people love a good t-shirt to bum around in!)

I did this project with my 4 year old and my almost 2 year old and did it really differently for each of them!

Project T-shirt ONE year old style:

Key: Giving them a controlled space to do whatever they want in.


Fabric markers: with little kids I like to use these
A blank T-shirt
Soft Fabric Paint in whatever color you want(I used this even though it's  not specifically for kids I find that as long as you are closely monitoring during use (aka. don't let them eat it) it's safe.
A paintbrush or I used a clothespin clipped on a cotton ball... easy clean up/disposable!! :)
A piece of paper large enough to cover the shirt
Tape (I used packing tape because it was all I could find)

  1. Check marker/paint instructions on whether you should wash shirt first... if need be, prewash, it will help the image last longer. 
  2. Cut a hole in the middle of the paper approximately the size/shape you want. You are basically making a simple stencil. (you will tape around the inside edge and that will subtract approximately 1/4 inch on each side)
  3. Line up the hole in the paper to the place where you want the image to be on the shirt, then tape around the inside edge of the stencil aprox 1/4 inch over the edge of the stencil on the shirt - enough to hold it securely but not make your hole too much smaller.
  4. Set up all your supplies before you introduce the project to your toddler. (I learned this when I got out the paint and my toddler immediately reached out her hand and grabbed an handful = not ideal)
  5. Start with fabric markers and then add paint after. **A good way to make sure your shirt design doesn't look like a pile of rainbow vom is to only give your toddler a selected set of colors. I chose Red Yellow and Orange because of the quote my husband loves that I wanted to write on the bottom. Any 3 Tertiary colors is a good bet! TERTIARY colors are 3 colors that are next to each other on the color wheel!!!
  6. Sit with them and join in the fun!

 Encourage them to draw on the shirt as well as the paper around it! Ha ha!
 As you can see this paper seriously did it's job!

**NOTE** I made a point to go around the edges to frame the space that my daughter drew on. This is not necessary but nice if you want the shape to be easily discernable.

Project T-shirt Early Elementary style:

Key: Giving a keepsake of their writing at the stage they're in. Since this gift is for my husband I chose to give my daughter one of his favorite quotes to write. Another adorable option would be #1 Dad or Grammy or a drawing of the person's favorite animal.


Fabric markers (same as above)
T-shirt... prewashed if required by markers
washable fabric pens (optional)
Ruler (optional)
Easily readable/copiable copy of the quote, text or even a photo of an animal to serve as inspiration.
  1. First my daughter picked the quote we wanted to use. I gave her a couple options and she picked which one she liked... I'm not saying she understood it... just that she had a little ownership in what we put on the shirt
  2. Then we looked at the shirt and the text and decided how we wanted to put it on the shirt. I described the options, putting it in the middle in a square. putting it up and down, across the chest, across the bottom or diagonal. She picked diagonally and the I used my washable fabric pen to draw on guidelines for her to aim for.
  3. Help your child as they write the words on the lines. T-shirts are not easy to write on so holding it flat is helpful! The writing will most likely not follow the lines exactly but it will be their writing which makes it so special
  4. (optional) Give your child a space on the shirt to design however they want with no restrictions. I chose a bottom corner and I told her to draw whatever she thought Daddy would like...

Thursday, December 8, 2016

My Street Christmas Tree Skirt DIY

Christmas cheer has hit our home. We put up the tree and wrapped it in light and then I remembered... the tree skirt I'd made when Littlebird was rolling in my belly got chucked last year...

You can't have a tree without a skirt, right?

Littlebird and I went about talking through possibilities the next morning. I with my coffee at my side and her with her scissors and pencil, we came up with a few options. A friend had given us some old yellowed curtains from her new old house and I'd used some to make wings for our Halloween fairy costumes. I thought about using them to make something like this

And come on, piles of muslin and lace ruffles! It's beautiful! I feel like all those little creases would hid the fallen needles pretty well too!

But since we've been drawing
our street and castles and our own Linden House so frequently I suggested that we might make a tree skirt with our own home as the center piece and use the other houses around us as inspiration. As soon as I said it her four year old mind started working and when I pulled out a pile of scraps she immediately started separating out the reds, greens and plaids.

I'll note that you could make this with store bought fabrics, planned to match but there is something about using fabrics that mean something to you. The mixed textures of corduroy doors, with flannel houses, with dated floral calico that makes this project so much more interesting and personal. If you decide to do this project with your family, challenge your kids to think about what textures they could include to make this piece special. Ours included piece of an old flannel robe, a snippet of Pop's old corduroy pants, and even a bit of Daddy's worn out button down shirts. Play with texture and as with any project, try to use what you have at home before you hit the fabric store!

I made this large tree skirt first for our big tree but in order to really give the how-to and make sure I didn't miss anything my girls and I recreated a miniature version for our little fake tree that lights up our breakfast table! The measurements are obviously different and may unfortunately differ further depending on the size skirt you want/need.

For our large tree skirt I first made a square (described below) and cut out my middle circle. My tree trunk looked to me to be about 5 inches across so when folded in half and in half I measured and marked 2 1/12 inches on each side eyeballed it and rounded it as I cut from one mark to the other. this will be up against your tree and will not be super visible. I felt very little pressure when making this cut! haha!

My large tree skirt ended up being exactly 24 inches from the round cut to the end!

Each house was about 12 inches high but I think variety makes this project more interesting. I'm sure none of the houses on your street are exactly the same height. Take time to look on Google maps or better yet, take a walk with a sketch pad and pencil and do quick sketches of the different shapes of the houses on your street. Try to find what makes them different and what makes them unique. 

****These will not look exactly like the houses on your street, but that's ok! When you are making art with your kids, in my experience, getting set on things being "right" can take a lot of the fun out of the experience add plenty of stress in it's place. It won't be perfect but that is a good thing! Playing with fun colors gives you room to play with the shape of the house, the lines of the windows, even the shape of the door. Give yourself and your kids freedom to put a little of the fantastic into the houses you make! ****


 The fabric you choose for the skirt can make a big difference in the durability of your project. Felt or fleece is great because you don't need to hem it. I used a basic muslin for my first base, and I don't really mind the frayed edges now, but at some point in the future I'll probably need to line it or sew some bias tape along the edge. I can post a how to if you need one. It's pretty simple if you buy the bias tape from the store. Perhaps you'll pick a dark blue sky and add stars, or maybe a snowy white felt like we did for our mini tree skirt.

Start with a square where the length is how wide you want your skirt including the hole for the tree.
Fold it in half, and then in half again (you should have 4 layers)

Then in half one more time so the middle has no open edges

Here's my sneaky no ruler trick to getting a circle (though you could just measure and mark)
Fold the top bit of fabric back so the short side is even with the long side of your folded triangle

Use that as your marker and cut just a half inch or so, just enough to get through all your fabric.

Then unfold that last half fold and use the mark you cut to cut to the other corner. DON'T CUT A STRAIGHT LINE OR YOUR TREE SKIRT WILL HAVE FLAT SIDES. Be brave! Cut a slightly rounded edge. Sometimes it helps to draw it first if the thought of cutting it on the fly stresses you out. This is probably a good job for Mom or Dad to do, you know, big scissors and all.  If your fabric is bulky like mine was you can cut through the top layer first then follow your cut line.

TADA!!! You made a circle!

Now to cut your hole in the middle, measure how big your tree is... I didn't measure and made the hole WAY too big. So, learn from my mistake! fold your skirt back up after admiring it's circle-ness. In half, then in half again, then in half again. If your tree is 5 inches across you will cut 2.5 inches out, if your tree is (like mine) 1.5 inches across you only need to cut .75. not the 2!!! that I did. *sigh*

Then, because your tree skirt will not be lying flat on the ground cut a small V out from the middle hole. This will give your tree skirt room enough shape to go over whatever tree stand you have your tree in.


Before you and your kids start cutting houses figure out how tall you want your houses to be. For our large tree skirt, the length from the trunk to the edge was 24 inches and each house was around 12 inches, give or take an inch or two.
Our smaller one is just about 11 inches so I opted to have our houses be around 7 inches floor to roof peak, again, give or take an inch or two.

I opted to cut most of the roof peaks on this skirt only because my 4 year old was already busy cutting windows. For our large tree skirt I cut the rectangles and showed how to fold them in half to cut the peaks. I love the imperfections/wonkiness that gives so much personality to these perfectly imperfect homes.

Even the littlest ones without even a trace of scissor skills can place windows and roof panels and doors. This almost two year old (sugarplum fairy) was very proud of her window placements!

Window and door cutting out is a great job for preschool and elementary age kids. Simple shapes are relatively easy, especially when using fabrics like corduroy, plaid, or gingham check because they come with their own lines to follow!

and when there are not lines to follow and/or the shape is not a simple one we do this:
I turn the fabric over so the back side is facing up and I draw a simple shape on it. These are for our trees. I draw a simple but imperfect triangle on the back of the fabric so my daughter has lines to follow. I always make a point to talk trees with my daughter before we draw/make them. Christmas trees aren't straight lines, they are pointy and lumpy and pokey even! They are never exactly the same or perfect. :)  They are smaller at the top and usually nice and chubby at the bottom.
We used a group of 3-4 green triangles ranging from small to large to make our trees.

Then of course there needs to be wreathes for the houses and if we are really ambitious we put up garlands, window boxes and maybe even a snowman or two!

For our large tree skirt I pinned everything in place and drug the whole thing to my sewing machine and quickly sewed it up. A glue gun or even tacky glue would work as well but would not be washable.

You can see here that a fair about of the detail on the house was sewn on. I just used black thread to provide as much contrast as I could and sewed twice over the panes in the windows. This took very little time and was on my very basic sewing machine using a basic stitch. Nothing fancy here.

That said, I really missed being able to see the line quality of my girls. I have sewn the basics of our mini tree skirts but I'm going to get a pile of fabric pens and have my family decorate these homes that way. I'll post pics when we finish! My plan is to give little girl some Christmas trees to draw on separate from the sewn together tree skirt so she'll have input but will not risk the rest of the project succumbing to her lack of motor skill control. :)

Husband was at work when we whipped most of this together but he'll have his mark on this once we get out the fabric markers.

Try this FAMILY ART PROJECT at Home!!!

Can't wait to see what your family makes!