Crafty Crayon Hearts

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Hello everyone! It’s Lauren from La Whimsy Writer here with another guest post. Today I have a craft project that is perfect for Valentine’s Day and kid friendly. We are going to take all of the old/broken/unwanted crayons that are lying around and turn them into something amazing!

Supplies needed for this project: 20141224_173835

  • An assortment of crayons
  • Silicone muffin tins (ours was a heart-shaped tin)

Step 1: Preheat your oven to 275

Step 2: Remove the wrappers from the crayons

 

Step 3: Break the crayons into small pieces, mix the colors up, and fill the muffin tin with the mixed up pieces

Step 4: Place the tins in the oven for 10-12 minutes

Step 5: After the crayons are completely melted safely remove them and set them aside to cool

Step 6: Let them cool for 25-30 minutes then put the trays in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes

Step 7: Take them out of the refrigerator and they will pop right out of the mold

That’s it folks!!! We have gone from this:

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To this:

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The kids can be involved in all of the parts of the craft that don’t involve the oven and they can see their old, unwanted transform themselves into something beautiful that they can give away to friends and family for Valentine’s Day. While you’re taking care of all the parts that involve heat your itty bitty one can hang out in their highchair playing with an activity book that you can store inside of The Highchair Organizer.

For more lifestyle & DIY posts visit my blog, and follow me on twitter, and instagram!

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Mint: One Plant – Many Uses

 

Over the summer, The Highchair Organizer family decided to plant a few items in a small garden in our yard. Of all the items we decided to plant, I must say that mint has been my favorite.  Now if you listen to my husband he would have you to believe that mint “is just a weed”.  However, after doing a little research and spending a lot of time with this beautiful green plant over the summer, I beg to differ. In fact, I have found my uses for mint including multiple learning opportunities for the kids.

1. Mint Infused Watermint 4

I purchased this infuser from http://www.kohls.com for less than $20.  I must say that it has been one of the best purchases that I have made in a long time.  About once a week I pull fresh mint from our garden.  I take about 2-3 sprigs of the mint, wash it well, and then put in the infuser. I then fill the pitcher with water.  My kids love the taste and it encourages them to drink more water.  The fresh mint infused water is energizing and tasty.  The kids like the fact that they grew the mint and that it “makes the water taste good”.

2. Learning activity for the kids

My 6 year old and 2 year old are very proud of their little garden. And since they are particularly fond of the mint, I decided to turn it into a learning activity.  With my 2 year old we discuss the color of the mint.  We talk about the texture of the mint and how it smells. While at the highchair, I let her glue (with a glue stick of course) pieces of the mint onto construction paper as a project.  She had a blast!

Growing the mint (which by the way is almost impossible to kill) was my 6 year old’s responsibility.  His summer science project was to water it and to pick it for mommy when I needed it.  We discuss how water, good soil, and sun shine are necessary for a healthy plant.

3. Healthy you-healthy kids

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I was courious about the health benefits of mint.  Did you know mint has long been used to ease stomach pains?  Simply steep in water and make into a tea.  Drinking mint infused water can be energizing and refreshing.  It is a natural stimulant.  The smell alone can aid in getting your brain functioning at a higher level. Take fresh leaves and sniff for a mild decongestant if you have a cold. And as I mentioned earlier, the refreshing flavor gives plain water a boost. This encourages you and the kids to drink more water.

4. Planting & Gardening

All mints thrive near pools of water, lakes, rivers, and cool moist spots in partial shade. In general, mints tolerate a wide range of conditions, and can also be grown in full sun.

I will warn you that mint is fast-growing, extending their reach along surfaces through a network of strong roots. Due to their speedy growth, one plant of each desired mint, along with a little care, will provide more than enough mint for home use. Some mint species are more invasive than others. Even with the less invasive mints, care should be taken when mixing any mint with any other plants, lest the mint take over. To control mints in an open environment, they should be planted in deep, bottomless containers sunk in the ground, or planted above ground in tubs and barrels. However, if you do not mind the spread, mint will make your back yard smell fresh and aromatic.

5. Aromatherapy

The smell of mint always reminds me of summer.  To get that summertime fragrance in the house take a hand-full of the mint leaves and put in a pot of simmering water.  The heat will release the mint oil and the refreshing scent of the mint will fill the room.

6. Favor

Mint adds a great flavor to cold or hot tea.  Simply drop a few leaves into your next cup of tea.  Chop up a few leaves and toss in your green salad for a bold flavor. Mix a couple of leaves into your lemonade for an refreshing twist.mint 3In closing, I hope that you have learned a little more about mint.  Let us know if you have any more uses for this beautiful plant that we have not listed above. Enjoy!

 

Volunteer much?

Giving back is something I always try to do…in some form or fashion.  My passion for the past 3 years has been working with a non-profit organization called Not By Bread AloneNot By Bread Alone gives food boxes to 70 families in need each week – no questions asked.  Why this is important to me is simple.  As a girl, my grandmother would always say to me “You don’t know where you’re going. You only know where you’ve been.”  Simply stated you don’t know where this game called life will take you.  You only know of the fortunes you’ve had in the past. With that in mind each Friday for 2 hours I assist in making and passing out food boxes.

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It is never too early to get your children involved in volunteering.  My 2-year daughter goes with me each week while I volunteer.  While she is too young to officially “help”, she is not too young to understand what we are doing.  My dedication to the project instills in her the spirit of volunteerism. Getting involved in volunteering at a young age can set a life-long pattern of advancing the common good. There are many great opportunities for community service for kids that will expand their social circle, teach them empathy and compassion, and increase their chances of success in life.

Encourage your kids to start by looking into volunteer opportunities with the organizations closest to them. Their school may have a volunteer program that can arrange placements for them. Perhaps they could volunteer at a local library or community center? Joining a scouting organization is another great way to find opportunities to give back to the community. Whatever the organization, whatever the cause, giving back is a good thing!

A Tasty Treat

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I must admit, I have an obsession with “ABC’s The Chew.” I don’t always catch it when it comes on, but when I do I usually see something new that I have to try! During today’s episode, Clinton (from “What Not to Wear”) shared his Holiday Toffee Recipe. Not only did it look amazing, the ingredients are simple and the directions are even easier. 

All you need is: 

  • 1 cup Butter
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Water
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup chopped Topping (i.e. toasted Hazelnuts; White Chocolate; Candy Canes; Sea Salt)
  • 24 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate (chopped)

Start by lining a large rimmed baking sheet with a silicone baking mat.  Then combine butter, sugar, water and salt in a medium-sized saucepan. Whisk until smooth, simmer caramel mixture until a candy thermometer reaches 300F. Immediately remove from heat and stir in vanilla to combine. Pour directly onto prepared pan and spread into an even thin layer with a spatula. Let toffee cool completely.

Next, melt chocolate over a double boiler (I usually just use the microwave). Pour half of the chocolate over the cooled toffee.  Place the pan in a refrigerator and let cool until the chocolate has set. Then, carefully flip over so that the toffee side of the bark is facing up. Pour the rest of the chocolate evenly over the toffee and then sprinkle with the chopped topping over the chocolate. Let cool until chocolate has completely set. Afterwards, use a spoon to break the toffee into small pieces.

Aside from the fact it includes chocolate, the thing I love about this recipe is it’s something the kids can help with. The kids will feel like a big help as they measure out all of the ingredients, sprinkle on the toppings, and break up the toffee. Feel free to get creative with this treat by adding a few pieces into your ice cream or let the little ones pick the toppings for the next batch…Enjoy!

How to have fun (and stay warm) with your kids this Winter!!

Now I know it’s only August, but the cold weather is going to start creeping upon us sooner than we expected!!

The Farmer’s Almanac (and many other sources) have recently predicted 2013 to be a ‘colder-than-normal winter’ for most of the US. Words such as ‘bitterly cold’ and ‘piercing cold’ have been used to describe the weather conditions for Winter 2013. 

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If there is one thing I know for certain it is that I HATE the cold! I rather stay cuddled up by a fire all day then step outside into ‘piercing cold’ weather!

But just like during the Summer, kids need to be entertained during the Winter as well! Although there are plenty of indoor activities to keep your kids entertained during the Winter, it is important to also include some fun outdoor activites.

Since it hardly ever snows in the South, your typical ‘Build a Snowman’ and ‘Have a Snowball Fight’ activities are probably out of the question. That is why we came up with a list of some Winter fun activities to enjoy with your children from just about anywhere!!

1. Go Iceskating! Just about every city has a place where you can go iceskating in the Winter. Just bundle up, and get ready to shed some ice!

2. Enjoy a hayride. Most hayrides last about an hour and end by taking you to a campfire where you can enjoy some hot chocolate or apple cider. 

3. Visit a corn maze. Growing up my family went to a corn maze every Winter. Just like on most hay rides, there are refreshments at the corn maze for you to enjoy. 

4. Camp out in your backyard. Pitch the tent, start a fire, and enjoy the evening telling ghost stories!

5. Create a s’mores and hot chocolate bar. When I was little, a friend of mine had a birthday party. Since she was born in December, her mom had to get creative with her parties. One year she set up a s’mores and hot chocolate bar in her backyard, and we spent the evening around the fire roasting marshmallows and drinking s’mores. It was the best birthday party I have ever been to!

You can find many of the activities listed above by simply visiting Google. That is my go to source for finding fun activities close to my family!

If you have any ideas of your own to enjoy this year’s Winter Wonderland, we would love to hear them! Kids love being outdoors, so it is important to incorporate outdoor activities – even in those cold winter months!

 

Is Raising A Child Truly PRICELE$$ ??

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I read an article recently that stated the average cost to raise a child (up to 18 years old) these days is $241,080 and climbing – and that doesn’t even include the cost of college!!! And with the economy the way it is today, several children live with their parent’s way past age 18.

Now I know you cant put a price tag on being a parent, but how is it even possible to afford raising children these days?!

The key here is to learn to BUDGET your money and be a smart spender/saver. This is important for those who are parents already and those who may become parents in the future.

Some good tips on budgeting for your family include:

* Know what you can and cannot afford. There is nothing wrong with shopping for bargains! You might be surprised what deals you can find if you actually take the time to look.

* Learn the difference between necessities and luxuries. That fancy new boat you are dying to purchase is not going to put food on the table!

* Start saving money for the future…NOW! – a car, college, and extracurricular activities all add up over time. If you start saving even the tiniest bit of money now, it will pay off for you later.

We all know kids are expensive, but the memories and time you spend with them is ABSOLUTELY priceless! Learning to budget your money can take some of the stress away and let you enjoy spending time with your children!

For those of you thinking about having a baby soon, check out the link on Parenting Magazine to find out how much your kid will cost you

Sweet, Delicious, Scrumptious…..MONSTER Cupcakes!!!

Baking has always been an activity that our household enjoys. We love trying new recipes and putting our own spin on things.

One of our favorite things to bake is cupcakes. We’ve made them all – cookie dough cupcakes, S’more cupcakes, and even the ever-so-popular Red Velvet cupcakes. (Recipes available upon request!)

This weekend we decided to keep it simple and make vanilla cupcakes with buttercream frosting…. but we DEFINITELY put our own spin on it!

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These are our MONSTER cupcakes!! The kids love decorating and putting their favorite toppings on them! We used marshmallows, M&Ms, gum balls, licorice, and sprinkles to decorate – but you can use just about anything edible to make your monsters!

Not only are these cupcakes fun to make, but they are very tasty! (Homemade cupcakes are definitely better than store bought.) They are also perfect for any occasion – birthday parties, class parties, or just because!!

Here is the recipe for our vanilla cupcakes and buttercream frosting!! 

Cupcakes:

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup milk

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners; set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. 
  • In another bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time – scrape down bowl, and beat in vanilla.
  • Add flour mixtures and milk alternatively, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
  • Divide batter evenly among liners. 
  • Bake until golden (about 20 minutes).
  • Let cupcakes cool, then Enjoy!

Frosting:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter; softened
  • 3-4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • up to 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

Directions

  • Beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer on medium speed.
  • Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and turn your mixer on the lowest speed until the sugar has been mixed in with the butter.
  • Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 2 tablespoons of milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes.
  • If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add remaining sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining milk and tablespoons 1 at a time.
  • (For different color icings, simply use food coloring)

And there you have it! That is our recipe for our vanilla cupcakes and buttercream frosting. Once you have the cupcakes and frosting made, you can simply enjoy decorating your MONSTER cupcakes!

We would love to see what your Monsters look like!! Be sure to share your pictures with us!