Cooking with Jason and Jenna is something I wish I did more often. They’re getting older, but I don’t always recognize how much they can handle these days - especially Jenna who loves to help out in the kitchen. This weekend was a serious reminder of just how much that little girl can do.
On Friday night, I made a batch of pasta and saved some dough so that Jenna could make her own noodles the next day. I thought it would mostly be for fun and didn’t really think we’d end up with an edible batch. But the fettuccine noodles for lunch, shown above, were almost entirely Jenna’s creation.
The dough was already prepared, a step I’ll likely do in advance next time too since I used a semolina pasta recipe, which is a little hard to knead. Once I showed her how to flatten a piece of the dough and guide it through the KitchenAid attachment, she worked through the entire batch. My only role was adjusting the levels during the flattening step and turning off the power between each piece.
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve made fresh pasta, but now that I have a helper, I’ll be making it more often!
Ever since volunteering at the art table during a Real School Gardens event, I’ve wanted to do this craft with Jason and Jenna. It’s messy, but the results are awesome and I love how these stepping stones look in our yard.
We started by letting the kids select their favorite materials from a huge batch of stones, beads, marbles, buttons, glass rocks and other leftover craft materials I had on hand. We didn’t use any Legos (because I didn’t think of that), but my son commented that we should use Legos next time … as if we don’t already step on enough Legos around here.
Mixing the concrete is the hard part. We used Quikrete and mixed it into a bucket without wearing any gloves. FYI, I highly recommend using gloves if you’re going to mix the concrete by hand. Once the concrete was mixed, we poured it into shoe boxes and other similarly-sized boxes that we saved.
We let Jason and Jenna decorate the stones by pressing the materials they had selected into the wet concrete. You don’t need to press it in very far for it to stick, so this part isn’t messy and can be done without gloves.
We let our stones dry overnight, but it seemed like they were fairly dry within a few hours. Once they were completely dry, we placed them in the yard and let the kids start stepping, jumping and running on them.
Like every six-year-old girl at the moment, Jenna loves the movie Frozen. When I saw this ice sculpture idea recently, I knew we had to try it out.
It takes a bit of advance preparation, but it was well worth the effort. We started on Saturday by mixing water and food coloring to create different shades of blue, pink and purple – something that turned out to be great fun in itself. We poured the water into a variety of containers, added a sprinkle of glitter and placed the containers in the freezer to create a large batch of ice crystals - or, as Jenna calls them, fractals.
On Sunday, we took all of our ice outside and started stacking the pieces together to create a castle. We used a little bit of water to help the cubes stick together. It had rained most of the day and the temperature had cooled to the 70s, making this the perfect summer day for building an ice castle.
A couple of weeks ago, I set up an area in our backyard for Jason and Jenna to dig, plant and play. It’s been a big hit, especially with Jenna who has started her own garden in this previously unused portion of our yard. Today I’m sharing more of this project on Modern Parents, Messy Kids.
Since moving to the DFW area several years ago, the Dallas Arboretum has been one of my favorite local places to visit. Last fall, they opened the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden and now it’s one of Jason and Jenna’s favorites too. The garden is science-focused, with each of the indoor and outdoor stations featuring interactive activities around common themes, like energy, space and geology. We visited this weekend and arrived just after opening. We had the entire park nearly to ourselves!
Here are (more than just) a few of my favorite pictures – the gardens are so beautiful it’s hard to narrow down all of the photos I took.
When Jenna first suggested a camping and Cinderella themed party, I immediately loved the idea. I wasn’t exactly sure how to pull it off, but I knew it would be fun to try. Jenna had a few requests – like wanting to dress up like princesses and wanting to make necklaces - so that was my starting point and I added on from there.
Here’s what a day at Camp Cinderella turned out to be:
When guests arrived, they entered into the ‘costume area where they could gear up with all of the necessary clothing and equipment for the day (capes, tutus, sunglasses, tiaras, etc.).
After getting dressed up, the guests moved out to the backyard where they could choose from our ‘camp activities.’
Tent “Clean-Up” – I purchased these castle tents and then decided at the last minute to add a few toy brooms so that the kids could clean their castles, just as Cinderella was required to do before going to the ball.
Camp Photos - I purchased a frame at Michaels, spray painted it Cinderella blue and suspended it from the ceiling using pink tulle. I added some tulle along the wall behind it for an easy photo opp set-up.
I think the highlight, at least for Jenna, was definitely the horse. There’s something pretty magical about a sparkly pink pony wandering around in your yard.
My daughter requested a “Cinderella and Camping” party to celebrate her 6th birthday. It was an interesting mix of princess girliness with outdoorsy fun, and Jenna and I had a great time thinking up ways to combine the themes. In the end, our backyard was filled with girls in tutus, boys wielding swords, a bonfire and a glittery pink horse. I’m hoping we look back on this one as the year mom nailed it! Happy Birthday, Jenna!
Today I’m sharing our camp menu:
Enchanted Trail Mix
We set up a create-your-own-trail-mix bar for party guests to assemble their own camping snack. The bar included:
Pink, blue and white M&Ms
No camping adventure would be complete without s’mores! Despite 80 degrees temperatures, all of our campers were up for sitting around a camp fire, roasting pink and white marshmallows and making traditional s’mores. I purchased these extra long roasting skewers to keep everyone a good distance from the heat.
Cake and Princess Punch
After making a practice cake a few weeks ago and experimenting with marshmallow fondant and natural dyes, I ended up purchasing two cakes and decorating them myself with pre-made fondant. For drinks, we served strawberry lemonade (aka Princess Punch).
Jenna loves planning her birthday parties, and this year’s celebration of turning 6 is no exception. She suggested a “Cinderella Camping” party, and I’ve had a great time thinking up ways to merge two seemingly opposite ends of the party theme spectrum. I won’t go into detail now but the mood board above gives quite a few clues. Will there be a pink-maned horse? Yes, yes there will. More pics after the party!
Despite lots of sickness in our family, we had a very nice holiday weekend. It was our first Easter in the new house, and the yard proved to be the perfect site for an egg hunt. Most years, Jason and Jenna quickly snatch up the eggs and count their bounty to see who won. This year, victory definitely went to the Easter bunny. J+J gave up after an extensive search of both the front and back yards, leaving at least 3 or 4 eggs to be found later in the day.
Last night we held our very first nighttime Easter egg hunt using glow-in-the-dark eggs, an idea shared by my aunt in her comments to something I posted last week. Genius! I knew we definitely had to try it out.
The concept is extremely simple – glow sticks inside of eggs – so I think I underestimated the amount of prep work involved. If you’re considering a night-time Easter egg hunt, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Proportion: Consider the size of your glow sticks in relation to the size of your plastic eggs. I purchased bracelet-sized glow sticks and tried to use the mix of small and large plastic eggs I had on hand. The sticks were nearly impossible to cram into the 2-inch eggs, but fit easily into the larger 3-in eggs. I recommend using all large eggs or purchasing these mini glow sticks (wish I had seen these at the craft store yesterday). As a last resort, tape is your friend.
Material: Similar to the size issue, I had a mix of transparent/textured eggs and the more traditional solid color eggs. Not surprisingly, the solid color eggs were better at giving off a “glow” in the landscape than the transparent eggs.
Timing: Since you have to “turn on” the glow sticks, there isn’t a lot of opportunity to prep this activity in advance. It took my husband and me almost an hour to place glow sticks into approximately 36 eggs and hide them in the backyard. I had planned on having our hunt just after dusk so that there would still be a bit of natural light for photos. But the prep took longer than expected and we ended up taking the kids out just past their usual bedtime, in full-on darkness. If you’re going for optimum glow effect, however, this is the perfect time for your egg hunt. Seeing the eggs glowing around the yard was definitely a very cool sight!
I’ve made decoupage bowls before and I’ve always found it a pretty messy craft. I came across this technique recently for creating little paper birds nests without ending up with glue covered hands and decided to try it out with Jenna. We made a bird nest (using long strips of paper) first, and then I tried making a couple with paper punch circles. Both were very easy and turned out super cute.
Here’s how to make them:
Cut decorative paper into narrow strips or use a paper punch to create small circles.
Mix glue and water (2/3 glue to 1/3 water) and paint the inside of a small bowl.
Cover the inside of the bowl with plastic wrap and paint another layer of glue over the plastic wrap.
Add a layer of paper, starting at the bottom and working your way up the side of the bowl. Use a paint brush to gently coat the paper with glue as you go. You can add a second layer and additional coats of glue for a sturdier bowl.
Let the paper dry in the bowl for several hours. Once the inside is dry, lift it out of the bowl and remove the plastic wrap. Turn the bowl upside down and let dry completely.
It’s not quite spring but already we’re beginning to spot some new guests in our backyard. Watching birds is becoming a bit of a hobby around here, and over the past weekend, we even spotted a red-tailed hawk. In addition to being on the look-out for birds, I’ve also been scouting options for modern bird houses and feeders for our yard. I just purchased this wooden bird feeder and, even though the birds haven’t discovered it yet, I love the new view just outside my office window.
Just a few more boxes to go and then I can finally call this year’s Valentines complete. Jason is obsessed with Minecraft, so he’s pretty excited about handing out these little treasure boxes to his classmates. I used this template from PiX FiZ and filled the boxes with red tissue paper and gold half-dollar coins.