POTATOE JEWELRY

 

I have a favorite, snazzy bracelet I wear often made with beads in bright primary colors. People are always asking where I got it, so I happily reply, “My kids made it! Out of old potatoes!”

Surely you have a potato or two in your house that never made it to the dinner table. Is it soft, wrinkled, and maybe it’s even sprouted a bit? Well, don’t throw it out! It’s a gem.

Get your kids going now to make the most unusual jewelry actually made from potatoes. The creations make terrific gifts for their friends and relatives.

Here’s how:

Your child should peel one large potato which will be enough for one necklace. Cut it into 1-2-inch chunks and poke them onto a couple wooden skewers. You’ll want to help your younger kids so that they don’t poke themselves.   Also, do make sure the chunks are well spaced so that there’s room to paint them eventually on all sides while still skewered. Poke skewers standing in a florist foam brick.

After about 24 hours, these little spud chunks are going to turn a funny gray-black color, which is fine. Twist them on the skewer once in a while as they dry and become beads with holes through the center. They’ll be rock-hard in about a week if you keep them in a cool, dry place.

During this time, check online or take a book out of the library on the subject of stones and gem. Suggest to your children that they pick a stone they’d most like to create. I like turquoise, so that’s what I’ll describe here.

Spread out newspaper. Hold the bottom of each skewer like a handle, dip a foam brush into turquoise acrylic paint and paint the beads. There are so many little nooks and crannies on the chunk that it actually will resemble a stone. Let dry.

Remove from the skewer and string the beads on ribbon or elastic. To fashion an interesting pattern, alternate with smaller silver beads from a craft store or even another old necklace. When you’re done, you’ll have a beautiful faux turquoise necklace that can fool anyone!

 

Creative Tip: Instead of making potato beads, slice potatoes in chips the size of a quarter. Let them dry and harden flat. It’s ok if they curve a bit as they dry. Paint them in your favorite colors with acrylic paints, dry and glue onto a frame for an eye-catching look.

 

MAKE A TOY WITH ZIP

If your school-age kids are moping around with nothing to do, show them how to make their own fun with this action-packed “Zip Toy.”
Not only does it make a great “zip” sound going down the line, but its name could just as likely refer to how quickly you and your kids can put it together.
Here’s what you’ll need:
–2 16-foot lengths of vinyl-coated clothesline wire
–2 clean 2-liter plastic soda bottles with labels
–4  6″ Cardboard disks
–Plastic electrical tape or strong packing tape
–Pointed scissors
–Paint or stickers for decorating (optional).
CUT off the spout ends of each bottle 1 inch below the top of the label. For a cutting guide, you might wish to draw a line first. You will now have two funnel shapes for the toy. (You will not use the lower portions of bottles.)
MAKE six 1/2-inch slits equidistant around the cut edge of one of the funnel shapes. Slip the cut edge of the other funnel shape over the 1/2-inch slits. Hold the attached funnel shapes in front of you so that the spouts are exactly opposite each other. Wrap tape around the middle to hold the two pieces together securely.
SLIDE both lengths of clothesline through the toy. Make a handle for each of the four ends of clothesline as follows:
From one end, fold over 18 inches of clothesline and double-knot to create a large loop. To protect hands, thread a cardboard disk through its hole sliding it up against the double knot. Make another knot on the opposite side of the disk. You’ll now have a loop to put your hand through. Repeat with three additional ends.
TO PLAY: Two players stand opposite each other and slip their hands in the small loops, holding on to the single knot by the disk as if water-skiing. Make sure the two lengths of clothesline are together, straight and taut. Slide the plastic toy in front of one player. He quickly opens his arms wide to send the toy zipping to the other player. Immediately, he should bring the two clothesline wires back together to receive the toy again. Remember: Always keep your hands behind the cardboard disks.

THE MAGIC OF BUBBLES

“Bubbles.” It’s hard to say the word without a smile. Everything seems to be just a bit better and festive with bubbles — birthday parties, weddings and summer family reunions.

The other day, I had fun asking kids and adults of all ages the simple question: “What do you think of bubbles?” Without hesitation, they said:

“Mesmerizing!”

“I love their perfect spheres.”

“I’m always happy when I see bubbles.”

“I feel like I’m at a party.”

“They’re like out of a fairy tale.”

“If the sun is right, you can see your reflection in them.”

“They’re fun to pop.”

“They are the best!”

So, there you have it. Bubbles bring sparkle and energy to life. Bring on the bubbles this summer with this simple, basic homemade bubble brew. Look around your home and find possible bubblers. Experiment and see what you like best. Then enjoy popping them or watching them as they loft above you with the breeze.

HOMEMADE BUBBLE BREW

To make the solution you’ll need:

1 large plastic bowl

2 cups warm water

1 cup dishwashing detergent (preferably Joy or Dawn)

2 tablespoons glycerin (sold from the pharmacy)

Here’s the fun:

Pour water in the bowl. Measure out and add the liquid detergent. (Please make sure it’s not detergent for dishwashers.) Stir.

Add the glycerin and stir a little more.

Pull out your junk box, kitchen utensil drawers and cupboards, and say to your kids, “Everyone find a thing or two that isn’t sharp, won’t get soggy in water and that has lots of holes in it!”

For example, spatulas, biscuit cutters, plastic strawberry cartons and plastic caps with small holes on spice jars (clip on a clothespin or chip clip for a wand handle). One of my favorites is a plastic flyswatter, which, when dipped in solution, makes dozens of itty-bitty bubbles when you wave it.

You may also make your own bubbler by twisting thin wire into a shape such as a square, heart or circle. Leave enough wire to twist together a handle. Thread colorful plastic or wooden beads on the handle to decorate the wand, if you wish.

Go outside, choose a bubble maker, dip it in the soapy liquid, and gently blow through it, or grandly wave it back and forth above your head while the bubbles

 Make giant bubbles with a homemade recipe:

Giant Bubble Solution

Makes a little more than a gallon

Ingredients:

1 cup Original Dawn liquid dishwashing liquid or ultra Dawn if not available

3/4 teaspoon J-Lube (optional) available online

1 gallon warm water

2 tablespoons baking powder

2 tablespoons glycerin available at pharmacies and some markets such as Whole Foods

 

1-Stir J-Lube in the cup of dishwashing liquid.

2-Pour warm water in large clean bucket or 2-gallon size container. Stir in baking powder and glycerin. Add the dishwashing liquid/J-Lube mixture and combine.

Make simple bubbler:

Here’s the stuff you need:

-two thin wooden dowels about a yard in length for larger bubbles, or two chop sticks for smaller “still big” bubbles

-household string

-metal washer

Here’s the fun:

Tie one piece of string approximately 4 ft in length on the end of both dowels. On the same ends of the dowel tie another string approximately 8 ft in length. Before tying the 8 ft string slip a washer on the string and slide it to the middle. After tying, when you hold the dowels apart approximately 3 ft, the strings should form a large V with the washer being the bottom tip of the V.

To use:

Hold sticks with both hands at the ends opposite the string. Bring sticks and hanging string together touching, then dip in the bubble mixture to completely cover the string. Keeping sticks together, slowly lift straight up out of the solution. Raise arms high and gently open sticks and move in a slow motion to create bubbles. Open and close the sticks slowly as bubbles emerge. If there isn’t a breeze, walk and gently wave the open sticks to create the bubbles.

 

 

 

ARRANGE A PARTY CHEESE BOARD WITH KIDS

There are so many ways that kids can be part of daily meal prep, from setting the table or popping ice cubes into a pitcher of water to hulling fresh strawberries for dessert.
Routine jobs are important to family life, and new responsibilities can be introduced as kids grow and become more confident in their kitchen skills. It’s especially gratifying for kids when they can be part of the action when company comes.
If there’s an end-of-summer informal barbecue on your calendar, there are always extra to-dos, many of which are suited for young helpers, like arranging fresh fruit, cheese slices and other tasty and healthy nibbles on a cheese board for a delightful, trendy appetizer.
Kids are artistic by nature, so first give them an opportunity to take a visual tour with you in the kitchen to find out what healthy appetizer-type food items are on hand on pantry shelves, in the refrigerator and in the fruit bowl on the counter. They’ll no doubt be inspired by the rainbow of colors on the spectrum, from red cherry tomatoes to green olives and violet grapes.
Now it’s time for them to get creative.

BASIC FAMILY-FRIENDLY CHEESE BOARD

For young school-age kids, begin with a few foods that can go directly to a cheese board or platter with minimal fuss. Good choices are pre-sliced cheeses, nuts, olives, dried fruit, cold cuts like salami and clusters of washed grapes. Kids can line up the cheese or place a chunk of cheese at an angle with a cheese knife to the side. Put small piles of nuts near cheeses, line up cold cuts in rows, then fill in spaces with dried fruit, grapes, sweet cherries and berries. Pile a variety of crackers here and there.

If you have space, spoon prepared hummus into tiny bowls for spreading on crackers. Peanut butter, jelly and honey will make the selection even more kid-friendly. Add style with a few edible blooms, such as nasturtiums, or use a pretty silk flower or two.

As kids become more comfortable in the kitchen, teach them how to mix their own sweet and savory dips, slice vegetables and wrap breadsticks, pretzels or asparagus with cheese or meat.

Extra family fun: When guests arrive, your young child might like to play the role of a “waiter” and take orders from adults of their choices from the cheese board. They can assemble the “order” on a small plate and deliver it to the guest.

STIR UP “PLAY CLAY” FROM SAND

 

I enjoy taking long walks on the beach. I love the feel of sand under my feet and the way it stretches for miles before me. And then, with kids tagging along with me, I suddenly feel inspired, thinking of the pounds and pounds of sand clay that could be made!

That’s when I know it’s time to go home and have some more fun making this unusual and simple concoction. This zany recipe for making play clay out of sand will provide unforgettable summertime fun. Let your kids be the first on the block to say, “We cook sand!”

SAND CLAY RECIPE

Put 1-cup clean sand, 1/2 cup cornstarch, 1 1/2 teaspoons powdered alum (in the spice section of your market) and 1/2 cup water in an old cooking pot. Stir with hands or a spoon. An adult should then place the pot on the stove, turn heat to medium and continue stirring with a spoon.
As it becomes warm, it will begin to liquefy. Continue to stir for 2-3 minutes until clay thickens. Remove from heat and spoon mixture out onto an old cutting board. Let cool.
Enjoy playing with the clay as you would any regular play clay. Roll it into balls and make snakes, bowls or cars. There are probably as many doable ideas as there are grains of sand between you and your kids’ hands. Or try these two projects:

Make a sand picture frame:

Remove glass from a wooden frame with a 1-inch or larger edge. Dip a paintbrush in undiluted household glue and spread it on the frame, one section at a time. Stick a small clump of sand clay on the frame, pressing firmly.
If you have shells from a summer vacation, brush more glue on the frame and add them. Then, brushing more glue on the surrounding area, apply a little more sand clay. Let dry for a day or two. Brush off any loose sand. Place a picture of your kids in the frame behind clean glass for a special souvenir.

Make an archeological surprise:

Form a ball of sand goop (the size of a tennis ball) around a small rubber toy or whimsical plastic trinket such as a baby dinosaur. Let dry for a few days until the ball is hard. At a party, tap the ball with a hammer. It will crack open to reveal the surprise
Note: For best results, store unused sand goop in an airtight container. Use within two days.

“SEW EASY” HOODED BATH AND SWIM TOWEL


Sew a simple fingertip or hand towel to a colorful bath towel in contrasting colors and your child will have a clever hooded cover-up that can be used every time he or she finishes play and swim time in a lake, the ocean or a swimming pool. It’s a plain and simple, cozy solution for the post-swim chill. Come fall, it’s just as useful and comforting when getting out of the bathtub. Whatever the wet occasion, being wrapped in this hooded bath towel from head to toe feels oh so good.

Once you see how quickly it comes together, sewing just two seams, get inspired to make more for birthday party presents — and even for a baby shower gift, by reducing the towel dimensions for a baby or toddler size.
Enlist your older kids to help you measure and pin. If they’ve never used a sewing machine, it’s a good first sewing project because of the simple straight seams.

Here’s the stuff you’ll need for a hooded towel for a young school-age child:
— 1 fingertip towel with or without fringe, about 11 by 18 inches
— 1 bath towel in similar or contrasting color, about 25 by 48 inches
— straight pins
— thread
— large button or a 2-inch strip of hook and loop fastener, such as Velcro brand (optional)
— sewing machine
Here’s the fun:
1. Fold the fingertip towel in half widthwise with right sides facing. Pin one of the short sides together with straight pins.
2. Sew along the pinned side, allowing for a 1/2-inch seam. Turn right-side out. You have now made the hood portion.
3. Measure, and mark with tailor’s chalk or a pin, the center point on one of the long edges of the bath towel. Now, mark the center point on the unsewn length of the fingertip towel. Match the points of the towels and pin them together, right sides facing.
4. Stitch the towels together from one end of the pinned fingertip towel to the other.
5. Fit the hooded towel on your child. For a front closure, stitch strips of Velcro to the bath towel, or make a buttonhole and sew on a button (optional).

BANANA BOATS:A CAMPING AND BACKYARD GRILLING TREAT


Benjamin Franklin gets credit for saying that there are only two things certain in life: death and taxes. Hey, Ben, do you mind if I add bananas to your list?
No matter the time of the year, I’m always certain that when I take a trip to my local grocery store, there will be a bunch or more of the yellow treasures that end up in my shopping cart. They are relatively inexpensive, healthy (potassium rich), and they come naturally well-wrapped.
Toss bananas in your kids’ sports bags when they head off to soccer practice, or tuck them in your carry-on for an instant snack on a flight to your vacation destination. You just can’t beat that dependable, always in season, always there banana.
No, I’m not a spokeswoman for the banana council, but I am a real fan of the fruit, even if I sometimes complain that they seem to go from yellow to brown way too fast, or when they end up getting smooshed in the bottom of a kid’s backpack, not to be discovered for a week or two.
Here is another reason to make certain that enough bananas make it home from the grocery store. You can create, concoct and cook this yummy “Banana Boat” dessert treat with kids on a camping trip, or fire up the grill at a designated picnic spot at a city park or in your own backyard.
BANANA BOATS
Serves 6
— 6 firm, ripe bananas
— chocolate candy bars, broken into pieces, or chocolate chip morsels
— marshmallows, miniature or regular
— aluminum foil
1. Slice each banana just through the skin, lengthwise without removing the peel. Use a teaspoon to scoop out a small amount of the banana the length of the slice, to create a little cavity. Tuck the chocolate bits and pieces and the marshmallows into the cavity of the sliced banana.
2. Wrap each entire banana in foil, and place directly in the coals of a campfire or on a grill. Cook until chocolate and marshmallows are melted, about 8-10 minutes.
Remove with tongs. Unwrap and eat with a spoon. Yummy!
Cook’s note: Add nuts, granola, dried fruit or other toppings, if you wish.
Tip: If you have extra bananas that are starting to turn brown, peel them, wrap in plastic wrap, store in a freezer bag and freeze. Eat them whole while slightly frozen, mash them for baking, or toss into a blender with favorite smoothie ingredients.

SURPRISE MOM WITH PUFF PANCAKE MINIS ON MOTHERS DAY

Celebrate Mom on Mother’s Day with a homemade breakfast surprise. This recipe is a twist on a delicious puff pancake, also called a Dutch baby, which typically is baked in a large cast-iron skillet. Just as dramatic and easy to prepare, this version bakes 12 perfectly portioned mini puff pancakes using a nonstick muffin tin.
Serve them piping hot, right out of the oven, and top with fresh fruit, maple syrup or other favorite toppings.
Make Mom’s serving extra special. Set her plate on a paper placemat drawn and decorated just for her by the kids, with a mini bouquet of fresh flowers arranged to the side.

MINI PUFF PANCAKES
Makes 12
4 eggs
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Topping: fresh berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and sliced strawberries
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Maple syrup (optional)
2 tablespoons firm unsalted butter (for muffin pan)

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Cut butter into 12 equal pieces and place one piece in each cup of a 12-cup nonstick muffin pan.

Let one of your kids count and crack the eggs into a bowl. Inspect it to be sure there are no remaining shells. Whisk together.

Another child may measure and gradually whisk in the milk, flour, salt and vanilla. Let the batter rest for about 10 minutes.

An adult should place the muffin tin in the oven until it is hot and the butter is melted and beginning to sizzle. Gently whisk the batter to smooth it out, then pour batter into each cup, filling them 2/3 full.

Place in the oven and bake until the puff pancakes are puffed up and golden brown around the edges, about 16-18 minutes.

When removed from the oven, they will begin to deflate. Run a spatula around the edges and gently lift each one from the pan onto plates.

To serve, add berries and sift powdered sugar on top. Drizzle with maple syrup, if you wish.

Blender method for steps 1-2: Place cracked eggs, milk, flour, vanilla and salt in a blender and whirl for one minute. Scrape down any flour that clings to the sides. Whirl for an additional 30 seconds. Let rest and proceed with step 3.

MAKE A TWIG BASKET FOR SPRING PLANTS

It’s spring! Earth Day is coming up on April 22, and Arbor Day is the 27th. Here’s a fun family craft that combines all three. It gets you outside, with your eye on nature’s beauty for collecting and crafting a simple twig basket.

Head out into a park, or your own block or backyard with your kids on a windy day or after a rainstorm, and collect the sticks and twigs you find here and there on the ground. You might think of this activity as nature’s game of “pick-up sticks.”

When you get home with your preschoolers and school-age kids, sort through the collection, and turn the straightest sticks that are a quarter-inch or so wide into a lovely, earthy basket to hold a potted indoor plant or succulent. The attractive natural container also might be handy to hold fresh fruit on your kitchen counter or table.

Here’s the stuff you need for a twig basket that holds a 4-inch planting pot:

  • 33 sticks, 7 inches long, about 1/4 inch thick (to cut sticks into equal lengths, score with scissors, then snap off excess. Trim any pointy ends with pruning shears)
  • 1 18-inch-long thin, pliable stick for the handle
  • Twine
  • Nontoxic wood glue or a low-temp glue gun

Here’s the fun:

 

Construct the base: Arrange four sticks into a square on a newspaper-covered table or counter, with a 1-inch overlap at each corner. Dab nontoxic wood glue or glue from a glue gun at each corner.

Tie each corner with a 4-foot piece of twine. Knot it in the middle and let the long ends dangle.
To make the bottom of the basket, glue three twigs in a row 1 inch apart to the square base.

Secure each twig to the base with a 1-foot twine piece. Trim excess.

Make the sides: Dab glue on the twine at each corner. Lay four sticks in a square, log-cabin style, then tie corners as before. Continue layering and tying until you’ve used all of the 7-inch sticks.

Set your favorite growing plant inside.

 

 

 

 

MAKE EASY BUNNY BALLOONS FOR EASTER AND SPRING


What is the difference between a bunny and a rabbit? And, just as perplexing, what is a bunny rabbit?
To California artist Ivy Chew, whether you call them “bunnies,” “rabbits” or “bunny rabbits, they’re the inspiration for her charming “Rabbit Run” series of archival ink and colored pencil art where her imagination takes us into the clever details of a bunny’s day of activity, from gardening to folding an origami boat to playing solitaire.

I happened by her art opening at Agency in Santa Cruz, California, where she was gleefully blowing up animal balloons with a simple hand pump and twisting them with a flick of her wrist into eye-catching bunny-ear balloons in multiple shades of lime, yellow, orange and red. Playfully displayed here and there around the exhibit, they invited guests in to participate in the artful event.

They caught my eye! Ivy’s bunny balloons were my inspiration for this Easter’s creative family activity idea with older kids. They are simple to create with a few inexpensive supplies.

Here’s the fun:
You’ll need a small balloon pump or a pump used for inflating sports or exercise balls, and long, skinny balloons for balloon animals (available online, at toy stores or party supply stores).

Inflate a balloon into the shape of a long sausage, about 38 inches long. Hold it horizontally in front of you with hands outstretched about 8 inches in from each end.
Simply bring your hands together to form a “V” shape, and twist the balloon ends together at that 8-inch point. You have just created a bunny head and two floppy ears (watch a how-to video at www.donnaerickson.com).

Hold it up to frame your face and take a photo!

Make more, and set them around the house, or tie fishing line around the ears and hang in windowsills for Easter weekend.

Extra idea: Make a face for the bunny.
Set a bunny balloon flat on an 8-1/2-by-11 inch sheet of plain paper. Use balloon as a pattern, and use a pencil to outline outside of the oval head shape, minus ears. Cut it out. Use markers and colored pencils to draw and decorate the bunny’s face on the paper.
Use double-stick tape to secure the rim of the paper face to the back of the balloon.

Safety note: Young children can choke or suffocate on uninflated or broken balloons. Adult supervision is required. Discard broken balloons appropriately.

Resources: View a colorful sampling of Ivy’s whimsical and charming “Rabbit Run” art series at www.donnaerickson.com.