Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Color of Water

Water Coloring takes on a whole new meaning in this simple (and CHEAP) (...oh, and UNmessy!!) summertime activity in which kids paint with --what else?-- plain old water.
Today I gave the kids a large bowl of water and several fat paintbrushes.  You'd be surprised how long kids (even big kids) on a hot, sunny day will paint with water.  They are fascinated by the way it evaporates.
My kids and their cousin started off painting the patio wall, but it wasn't long before they moved on to other surfaces and then eventually dumped the bowl of water on the wall. No problem!  Just refill that bowl and get back to Water Coloring!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tomato Wine

Many gardeners look at rows of growing vegetables or fruits and imagine a harvest feast.  My husband, R, gazes at the ripe apples or plump tomatoes and thinks: alcohol!
After several years of learning from our apple wine, R has ventured into the area of tomato wine.  He recycled old wine bottles into a batch of about 15 last week.

I'm not wild about the taste, but I also do not care for Bloody Marys or V8.  The reaction from family and friends has been mixed, but the wine is still young. It may mature into something that doesn't taste like a Brillo pad. (Did I type that??? Oops.)
Now, he's eyeing up the blueberries...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Summer Fun is in the Can

When one thinks of childhood, one often pictures unlimited creativity and imagination. 
And then one wakes up and realizes that children also have an amazing ability to be bored after only TWO DAYS of summer vacation.
So glad that we have The Can.

Years ago (so long ago that I can't remember where I got this idea) I decorated an old oatmeal container with my daughter. We wrote "Summer Fun is in the Can".
Lots of little pieces of paper fit into the can, and on each piece is an idea of what to do if boredom strikes.
At the beginning of each summer I go through the papers to remove some and add others.  For example, "Put on a Barbie fashion show" is no longer in there, now that my daughter is in high school and the Barbies are in the attic.

Our rule is that up to two pieces may be picked in one day, but no more. (I didn't want the children just reading through all of the papers out of sheer ennui.)
The kids make up many of the papers in the Can, but I also add some each year. If I'm reading a magazine with a fun craft or game idea, I'll tear out the page and put it in the Can.  Also, if I notice a neglected toy (think of that Lite Brite in the closet), I'll write the name of it on a paper and throw it in the Can, too. 

Today the boys made a fleet of paper airplanes.  Here are some of our other ideas:

make a house for the fairy garden
ride bikes
do a puzzle
have a catapult contest
look in a cookbook for something to make
plan a family game night
play 'radio station' over the intercom system
make a coloring book for a friend
write and mail a letter to a cousin
host a teddy bear tea party
wash the car
set up a scene with blocks and soldiers
make a marble maze
read the Dangerous Book for Boys
sort all the books in your bedroom
climb a tree
write a story with pictures and staple it into a book
play 'circus' outside on the swing set
use sidewalk chalk
play 'school'
hide something and make a treasure map for someone to go find it
look under your bed/in your closet (you'll likely find something you've forgotten you own!)
make a stuffed animal 'zoo' using laundry baskets for cages

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Teacher Gift

I have long wanted to do something with chalkboard paint, and was recently inspired by Craft-Werks' chalkboard mugs and then Someday Crafts' repurposed bottles feature to make this gift for my son's teacher:
The room moms always give the 'big' gift at the end of the year, so I wanted my son to be able to give his teacher something that was more personal.  He wrote the message and picked the flowers with me.  He takes pride in the eggs he gathers.  The glass bottle can be reused as a vase or repurposed as a container for rice or beads; the chalkboard makes it versatile.

To make the chalkboard area on the bottle, I taped off the section I wanted to paint, primed it with a multi-purpose primer, and simply painted three layers of chalkboard paint on it.  [Then I went a little crazy, painting old --and ugly-- photo mats, cheap frames, and anything else that wasn't moving...I'm loving the chalkboard paint almost as much as my kids love the fuse beads.]

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Harvest Shot

Underneath the blueberries are some peas, arugula, and parsley.  I also brought in some lavender.  I've grown lavender for a few years, but this is the first year it has looked nice enough to notice.
Yesterday I picked a pint and a half of blueberries.  I need to get rid of the blueberries in my fridge to make room for more, so I'm making a pie today!
I've never made a blueberry pie, but I'm banking on my belief that if you add enough sugar and butter to something, it can't taste bad.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Learning from Potatoes

Here at Apple Falls, we do not claim to be master gardeners.  We don't even claim to be 'real' gardeners.  As a matter of fact, when people come to us with questions about growing things or maintaining a garden, my husband and I usually qualify each answer with, "...But we don't really *know* what we're doing...!"  A fine example of this trait is found in our potato patch. 
Having never grown potatoes before, we thought we'd give it a try.  We don't eat a lot of potatoes, but we do eat french fries (you know, those frozen things from the grocery store???) and we like the idea of harvesting something that doesn't need to be canned or eaten right away since we're usually up to our ears in tomatoes and apples each fall.
It has been a great learning experience for everyone at our house to watch the potatoes grow.  Even from guests, we hear comments like, "I didn't know potatoes had bushy green leaves above ground," and the newest comment is, "I didn't know potatoes had flowers."  They do indeed have flowers and are a very pretty addition to the Fairy Tale Garden.  We can't wait to see what else we learn from them this season.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Picking Blueberries

Here is my idea of fun:  picking blueberries on an overcast Saturday morning.
Here is Boo's idea of fun: hiding in the blueberry bushes, waiting until I stick my hand way in there to grab a ripe berry, and then attacking my hand like a jungle cat. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cowboy Birthday Party

We've been busy--throwing a Cowboy Birthday Party for N, who turned five last month.  The cowboy theme was his idea, and I was surprised at how little there is out there for small cowboys.  It seems that if a birthday theme is not commercial, you won't find tablecloths and matching cups for it anywhere local.
So we did the best we could!  Once N came up with the idea, I searched my house for related items, asked people I know to search around their homes, surfed the web and local stores for more ideas, and then tried to adapt party classics (pin the tail on the donkey, for instance) to fit our theme.  One web site I find particularly helpful is

The only cowboy items I found to purchase were the plates, cups and napkins in the 'western' theme, pictured above.  We used a Toy Story cowboy Lego set for our cake topper, but otherwise tried to stay away from using too much Toy Story. 
We used star cookie cutters for the cake and the cupcakes, above, and my mother was clever enough to realize that if we used a Santa boot cookie cutter in May, it would look just like a cowboy boot! I used a toothpick to draw features on the boots, throwing on the occasional silver ball for decoration.

The craft store had foam western houses (for $7 each!!), so I adapted the idea.  I purchased western foam stickers (much cheaper!) and some craft sticks (even cheaper!).  I covered tissue boxes with the craft sticks, made doors and signs for each one from a large sheet of foam, and let the kids decorate the houses as an ice-breaker activity at the beginning of the party.  The houses served as place markers and goody bag holders. (Goody bags were just brown paper bags tied with twine and a bit of bandanna. Inside, guests would find candy, a small toy snake, a bison tattoo donated by a local bison farm, some playing cards, and whatever goodies the cowpokes earned throughout the party.)
For our party, we made up a wanted poster for RattleSnake Pete, wanted for scattering rattlesnake eggs all over the ranch. The kids went in search of RattleSnake Pete, starting with earning their sheriff badges in a game of "Pin the Badge on the Sheriff".  From there, they had to pan for gold (pennies and gold rocks from the craft store floral aisle) to get money for supplies. Panning for gold required a snack break, so we dined on Corn Puffs, which look a lot like golden nuggets.
 The first supplies needed were horses!

To get a horse, each cowpoke had to lasso a horse with a hula hoop.

The kids also played horseshoes at this area.  From there, the cowpokes needed guns, and to earn a squirt gun, they needed to take target practice.

[Just for the record, I have long been an opponent to guns in the house.  I caved on this stance for this party for several reasons, and I'll be honest and admit that one of those reasons is the fact that N is my youngest and I just don't feel like fighting an uphill battle boys were born making battle noises and will turn anything--sticks, ribbons, noodles, grass--into guns.]

For target practice, the cowpokes needed to squirt a hole in the tissue paper target, which was fun to do with a squirt gun.
After target practice and some horse riding, we played There's A Snake In My Boot (based on the saying of Woody in Toy Story, when his string is pulled). I made a boot from an oats container and the cowpokes took turns throwing plastic snakes in the boot.  Winners (everyone's a winner!) got gummy snakes for a snack. 
The kids followed the trail to an area of the lawn where rattlesnake eggs were hidden everywhere (yes, I had to take out the Easter Eggs that I only put away a month before!) and found a large stuffed snake...Rattlesnake Pete was a real snake! Well, that put a new light on this 'criminal'.  No wonder there were snake eggs!
But since we can't have a dangerous snake at a party, the only solution was to confuse the snake and head it in the other direction.  We did this by playing 'hot potato' with the snake until it got dizzy and looked like it would leave us alone while we ate cake and ice cream.

I am thankful to my older children for helping to lead the small children through all the activities.  I am also thankful to my parents who supplied the hula hoops and many other party items.  : )