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The absolute best way to cut a watermelon!

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When the kids were about three years old, one of the few foods they would always eat was watermelon. So, I spent a lot of time cutting watermelon, and I have to say that I now have the fastest, most efficient way of cutting watermelon! I can seriously chop a watermelon into cubes in less than three minutes. (now that I am bragging about it, I’m going to have to time myself, I’ll keep you posted!)
First, cut the watermelon in half, then cut the halves into halves (or I could just say, cut it into quarters)…

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Next, separate the rind by slicing right between the rind where it turns pink…

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Then, cut parallel vertical slices from the corner, right through to the rind…

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Spin the watermelon so one of the corners with the rind is facing you. Then hold the vertical slices in place with your hand, while you cut slices horizontally…

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Then, spin the watermelon around so that the opposite corner of the watermelon is now facing you. Repeat the same horizontal cut, with your hand holding the slices in place again. This will cut the watermelon into cubes…

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Then, simply dump the perfectly cut watermelon cubes into a serving bowl.

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You can easily cut smaller cubes for smaller mouths, or larger cubes for larger mouths (I am trying really hard not to crack a joke about my husband here…) Cutting the watermelon into cubes is a much easier and neater way for kids to eat watermelon. I even sometimes give the kids toothpicks, or those fancy swords, or umbrellas to use to pick up the watermelon cubes… Great for when there is a crowd, or no place to properly wash hands…

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Our Budget Build-a-Bear Party

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Our family was busy preparing for Samantha’s birthday party last weekend. She has been talking about having a build a bear party since last year, but after looking into it, they are crazy expensive! Not to mention that the nearest build-a-bear store, is a half hour drive, and about 25 dollars per kid not including cake or food…i did look into home parties and i found kits online where you can make them at home, but the were still 20-30 dollars plus shipping! Needless to say, I have tried to persuade her into having another type of party, but she really wanted this.
So, this is what we came up with…
We found these adorable puppets at the dollar store for two dollars each…

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We pulled out the stuffing and lining…

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Then, I bought a couple bags of polyester stuffing. When the kids came over for the party, we spread out all of the stuffing on the table. The kids were very excited! (I don’t have parent permission to use their photos, so I just took pictures of their hands, not the excited expressions on their faces)

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They picked their stuffed animals and began stuffing. I forgot to take a picture, but I did dig up some fabric embellishments to put inside of the animal, like roses and stars, to make their animal’s “heart”.

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Then, the kids went for a swim while my mom and I used a needle and thread to stitch the bottoms closed.

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We had just enough time to sew all of the animals, however, without my moms help, I would have been tight for time. (thanks mom!) So if you are going to do this, I would suggest you line up two sewers.
Overall, the idea worked really well! It was the right skill level for 8 year olds, it took the right amount of time, the cost was fantastic, and most important the kids were really happy that they “made” their own stuffed animals. Also, in terms of the lootbags, we bought bags big enough to hold the animals, and just added a couple extras, but the animals were a great lootbag filler too!

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Black and white stairway…

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I love taking pictures of my kids, friends and family. It’s truly amazing how much things change in such a short amount of time. But, the thing is that sometimes you don’t realize how much they have changed until you look back. I have said this before, and I’m going to say it again; I feel truly blessed to have the life that I have now. Also, the fact that I am a teacher and it is July really helps me maintain this incredibly positive attitude right now too!
Anyways, I am always looking for ways to display my favourite pictures, and I have been collecting stairway photos on pinterest…
Here are a few ideas that I really liked…(btw, I really have to figure out how to link other blogs on here, because I would really like to give people credit for their ideas when I “borrow” them)

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Here is what the hallway looked like before…

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For the past two weeks, I have been searching through all of our photos to find my favourites. I ended up developing over 100 pictures in black and white.

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Then, I searched the house and found every picture frame I could put my hands on, and spray painted them all black…some I used a spray primer first, some I sprayed matte black and others I sprayed a glossy…

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Then, I had to sort through the pictures again, and i framed my top choices. When I had them all in frames, I started hanging the pictures. I started with using the holes from the previous pictures. I also started by hanging some of the larger pictures first.

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I tried to leave a uniform space between each picture. I also used a few found objects like keys, an old gate lock, a couple snowglobes, some wooden letters, and shadow boxes to add some interest…

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I had to touch up a few of the frames where the paint had scratched off with a sharpie marker. When I was happy with the placement, I used some of the removable 3M double sided tape strips to attach the bottom corners of the frames to the wall. I know the kids will be bumping into these frames. I tried using sticky tack, but it just isn’t strong enough. The 3M tape will also ensure all of the pictures stay level. For the frames that didn’t have hangers, I pulled off the hinge and stand at the back of the frame, and used the 3M Velcro picture hangers to attach them to the wall. The velcro strips are fantastic, you just stick one side to the wall, and one to the frame and push.

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Here is my finished staircase… I love it!

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Thanks to all of my inspiration photos for this fantastic idea, this is really easy to duplicate with your own photos and treasures!

Zebra cake!!

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As I previously posted, Sam has been very specific in her birthday cake requests.
This is the sketch she gave me…

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So, she wanted the bottom layer to be zebra skin to match her room.
I treated myself to some new cake pans yesterday, so I baked the cakes last night. I mixed all the fondant colours yesterday too, so I am all set to go. Except the fact that I forgot to buy vanilla icing, and just don’t have enough time to make it from scratch, so I used chocolate icing instead. let’s hope it doesn’t show through the white fondant!

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Then I started with the white fondant…

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Rolled it flat, so that it was big enough to cover the cake…

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Btw, notice that I rolled the fondant on a sheet of waxed paper…very important! If you don’t use waxed paper, your fondant has a good chance of being connected to your tabletop! It also makes it so much easier to lift, as you will see…
Then I rolled out a piece of black fondant as thin as I could roll it.

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I used a paring knife to slice the black fondant into strips. I tried to cut the strips so at least one end was pointed.

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Then I picked up the strips and placed them onto the white fondant…

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I continued until the entire circle of white fondant was covered.

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Then I put a sheet of waxed paper on top and rolled the two layers together.

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This pastry tool worked really well to smooth it out…

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To put it on the cake, I flipped it over using the waxed paper on the top and bottom.

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Then I rolled the fondant onto the cake…

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Smoothed it out…

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And trimmed the edges…

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Ta-da! Bottom layer of cake zebrafied! Now all I have to do is make the animals, rainbow, trees, and background.

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Adding colour to fondant

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We decided to have Samantha’s birthday party with her friends a little earlier this year because her birthday is in August, and it is always hard arranging a party in the middle of the summer when all of her friends are on holidays… Anyways, as usual, she has been very specific in her requests for the party. I’ll tell you about the details of what we are planning later, but the theme is based on build-a-bear… We are planning a build-an-animal party.

I wanted to post about the details of the cake we are going to make. Once again, she has not held back in her instructions. She has requested a cake with a monkey, cat, dog, and bear on it. She wants two layers, the bottom layer with zebra pattern, and the top with clouds and trees. Nope, not finished yet… and, she wants a rainbow going from the top of the cake to the bottom…no problem! Right?

We will see how much we can check off her wish list…the good part is that whatever we end up with, she is always thrilled! Regardless of what we end up with, we need some different colours of fondant. I started with a big container of white…


As you can see, we used the Wilton gel colouring. It is like food colouring but thicker, so it doesn’t make the fondant as sticky. It comes in lots of colours, even black, believe it or not!
I use a BBQ skewer in each colour so the colours in each jar stay pure.

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I have to make every colour in the rainbow, but I followed the same basic method. Use the skewer to put a little colour on the fondant. If you are mixing colours, always put more of the lighter colour… For example if you are making green, add more yellow and less blue. The darker colour will mix much darker and you can’t take away colour, but you can always add it.

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The method I have found that works the fastest to blend fondant colours is to fold, stretch, and repeat…

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Then, we added a little more colour at a time, mixing then adding more…

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The pictures show us mixing the green…we obviously had to repeat adding colour a few times to get the right shade. The kids helped with the mixing too!
I repeated mixing using the primary colours to make every colour of the rainbow, plus black.

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I put them in ziplock bags to keep them soft until we are ready to make the cake.

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Here are my pinterest pictures…

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We have dentist appointments this morning, but I think I will try making the animals this afternoon…

Construction paper stones!

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I first made these about 10 years ago, when john and I taught at a summer camp together.
The process is very simple, dig up some scraps of construction paper…

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Cut a whole pile the same size. The more accurate you are in your cutting, the less sanding you have to do. I had the kids cut out a temple and trace their shape before cutting.

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We poured the white glue into little disposable cups and glued the construction paper shapes together by dipping our finger in the glue and rubbing it on the paper. Don’t skimp on the glue, in this case, it’s better to use too much.

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Repeat this about 30 times until the paper is layered to the thickness you want…

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Here are the ones Dylan Sam and I made…they took about an hour to glue together…and we let them dry for about 4 days…

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Then for the part that the kids were looking forward to… The sanding… We started with 150 grit, then 220 as we got closer to finishing. The technique that I found works the best is to sand all of the edges first…

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Then, start sanding on an angle, so you can see all of the layers. I tried to show you the angle by sanding only two sides for this picture…

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Keep sanding until the shapes look like you want them to. Notice that we did this outside, it does create a bit of dust, so we worked on the grass.

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Here are the ones we finished sanding today…

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Pretty neat eh?

The final step was to add a varnish or sealer, and for that step, clear nail polish works wonderfully. Be sure to seal the sides and back too. You can see how it brings out the colours in the photos.

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And here they are finished…

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Drying roses

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I wrote a post a couple weeks ago about making rainbow roses, using my neighbors beautiful roses that post through to our side of the fence… Well thanks to my neighbors fantastic gardening skills, we have enjoyed the roses for a few weeks now. But when the petals start falling off, I just can’t let them drop to the ground. So every couple days, I go out and shake the roses to gather the petals.

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I spread them out on a small cookie sheet on top of the toaster oven where it is warm, but not hot.

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Here is what the petals look like after a couple days on top of the toaster…

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I put the dried petals into a couple mason jars when they become dry and crunchy. By the time the petals have dried, I have collected some more petals to repeat the process.

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I’m thinking I can use them to make soap, tea, potpourri, or use them in a craft…not sure yet, but I’ll let you know..

Two minute, two dollar bandana top

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This was seriously one of the easiest projects I have done yet! We were in the dollar store picking up stuff for Sam’s party, and saw these bandanas. I have seen dresses made out of bandanas that look really simple, so we thought we would try it out!
We bought two bandanas, and a roll of ribbon.

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The plan was to side two side seams and a seam to gather the ribbon around the top for the neck.

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We sewed from the bottom hem up the side seams up to about 2/3 the way up, leaving the top third open.

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Then we sewed a seam turning over the top edges of both bandanas.

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Then I threaded the ribbon through the seams at the top.

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And, gathered the ribbon, and tied a bow at each shoulder.

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That’s it! It literally took less than five minutes, and it cost about two dollars!

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Recycling crayons

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I have seen this idea a million times, now I can finally say That i have tried it!
My kids are at an age where they feel too mature for crayons, so our poor box of crayons has sat unused for months. So yesterday when the kids from across the street came over, I set them to work peeling the paper off our old crayons…

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Peeling the paper off kept them busy for about 1/2 an hour, which was great, but there were crayon bits all over the kitchen! As they were peeling, we separated the crayons into colours in my mini muffin tins, as you can see in the above picture. We tried to find monochromatic colours and mixed a little light green with the yellow, and orange with the red. Etc.
Then I put the oven on about 325 degrees, and we put them in the oven, watched, and waited.

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In about ten minutes, they were almost liquid…

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I took them out oven, let them cool for a little bit, then put them into the fridge to cool. Here is what they looked like just out of the oven. I have to say I was a little worried that all of the colours had mixed together…

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But when we popped them out of the tins, the bottoms looked much better!

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We gave some to the neighbors, kept a few, and gave some to my nephew for his first birthday. These are so much easier to hold than a regular crayon for tiny hands. It was fun, I would like to try using a candy mold maybe…maybe you could melt one colour at a time tomake rainbow crayons…don’t worry… .I’ll keep you posted if I try it!

Balloon juggling balls

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I have made my own bean bags before using lentils (what else do you do with lentils?) but Sam gave me an idea last night when she found a bag of balloons and started stuffing one with the rocks that she found in the garden…i had a few concerns with this idea for obvious reasons…
So, we compromised on using rice as a stuffing for the balloons. I think I saw this idea in Today’s Parent magazine….
The only rice I happened to have was basmati, so that is what we used…

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We cut the tops off the balloons, right about the point where they start to widen…

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Then, I stretched the balloon open while one of the kids poured about a quarter cup of rice in. Notice how we are doing this outside, we ended up making three balls, but we never actually figured out how to do this first step without loosing half of the rice when you let go of the balloon.
We did however figure out how to stuff more rice in after you let go of the balloon. You can pack quite a bit more rice into each balloon if you pack it down with your finger, then pour a little more in the top and repeat until the kids are bored…

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Once the balloons are filled to the size you want, cut the ends off of three more balloons.

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Then, stretch one of the balloons around the rice filled one. I figured these are made to be kicked around, so I actually added a third layer too, just to be sure….

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To make the balls look really cool, take another balloon, and cut a few holes in different places…

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Then, stretch it over the ball… (sorry, just realized I changed colours of the balloons)

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And repeat with different colours, trying to overlap the holes so you can see through…

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Look at the finished products!

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The kids had a great time making them, but even better was the fact that they could play with them after!