Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thrift Store find #2

$5 each.  Goodwill.  Uh-huh.  Can't wait to get some fabric!  

I am going to attempt some upholstery, people.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Places to Go--Waukegan Public Library

One morning, Bitty Girl and I were up in Waukegan, waiting for a friend to finish some business at the County Courthouse.  Things were taking a little longer than we had anticipated, and we found ourselves wandering around looking for a place to be.  Realizing that the city library was just next door, we thought we'd head over and spend time reading books. 

We struck gold.

  The children's library is downstairs, but don't let that turn you off.  THIS is what we found:

 Can you believe it?  This place is a free children's museum!  There were six zones in this side of the library!  (The entire children's section is triple this size.  Rows upon rows of books just waiting to be loved.)

The librarian told us that the theme changes every year.  This year, it is All About Bugs.  As you enter, you are greeted by an enormous display of sunflowers and a giant bee.  I'm telling you, it's worthy of Fifth Avenue.  The activities surround you at this point, with sections to the right, left and behind you.  

Behind where you now stand, there is a stage complete with a green screen and props.  There is a TV where and sitting area where you can watch your own performance.  They said kids put on informal plays there and everything.  Awesome.  Right next to that is the arts and crafts table, big enough to fit 16 kids easy, and supplies, including paper, crayons, smocks, paint, etc.  To be honest, we whizzed right past this part, so I can't even remember everything it offered.

Immediately to the right of the main display is a sweet little section for the wee ones.  It's sort of like a playpen enclosed by benches for moms.  It has a padded floor toy and other items, but the great thing is that you can keep an eye on your littlest treasure while the bigger one runs off into the Imaginatorium (my title, not theirs!).  It includes a play kitchen, a wall-mounted calculator, building block table, and Bitty Girl's favorite, this amazing marble rolling machine.  Laying your hand on different pads set marbles in corresponding areas into motion, with a motorized return system to keep the fun rolling.  Very cool. 

Left of Mr. Bee's display was Bitty Girl's favorite area.  Here she lost herself in books, puzzles, and a large scale beehive climbing toy.  There was also a computer ready for her artistic masterpiece, a bug table manipulated by magnets, and a wall mounted CD player that she could control.  So great for such an independent little toddler.  :)

 In the main section of the library, we found a little puppet theater and about a dozen puppets.  She had a lot of fun getting them on and trying to make them move.  We each put on a few performances for each other, and then headed back to the Bugs.  She had so much fun that when it was time to go, this is what I got:

So, the SnippySnaps rating for the Wauconda Public Library:

Parking was either in the garage next door or metered on the street, which earns a 4 in my book, as I am not used to paying for the library.  I didn't check if they give tokens, though, so maybe they deserve a 5-star after all.  Location is great, right next to courthouse, but still all the way up in Wauconda: 4 stars.  The value rating is a no-brainer 5 stars, and our overall experience earned 5 stars.  We can't wait to go up and see the new theme this winter!

Hooray for the Library!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

DIY Coasters

I don't know about you, but my kitchen counters are constantly full of cups.  Water cups, milk cups, morning cups, dinner cups, more water cups--makes me crazy!  In an effort to contain the cups, we all made our own coasters, plus a few extra for guests.

DIY Coasters

  Tiles {My 3.5 squares were on clearance for 30 cents each!}
  Paper Trimmer
  Mod Podge {Ignore the white glue!!  More on this later...}
  Foam Brushes
  Cork or rubber feet for the bottom

We also employed the Slice Fabrique to get shapes and letters, but stickers or scissors work, too!

1.  Cut paper squares just smaller than your tile.  My tiles were rough on the edges instead of flat the whole way across, and I liked how the edge framed the paper.  You can also opt to take the paper right to the edge of your tile.

2.  Apply a thin coat of Mod Podge to the tile.  If you use too much, you will soak your paper, so be careful! Let it tack up a bit, then lay your paper on top.  Give it another coat.  Let dry.  Repeat for each new paper layer.

A note here about the glue.  I had run out of Mod Podge (eek!) and so thought I would try using watered down Elmer's instead.  It seemed to work fine at first, but over the next few days, things deteriorated.  The tiles got sticky and the paper would come off on the wet cup bottoms.  So, use Mod Podge.

3.  Add a layer of cork or adhesive felt buttons on the bottom to keep the coasters from scratching the furniture.  Voila!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Thrift Store Find #1

 Thrift Store Find of the Day

I love this ring!  It was $1.69 at Goodwill.  Nice. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Pot Roast and Potatoes

It doesn't matter if it's a five course meal or drive-thru takeout, there is something special that happens for my family when we sit down for dinner together.    Parents and kids get a chance to talk and listen together, my kids share funny things that happened during the day, or things that bothered them, plus I get a shot at teaching manners!  I love the sense of order that comes when we make each other a priority this way.  It reassures my kids that they are being taken care of and not just fending for themselves.  It reminds us that we are a family.  I think that's important in childhood.

Around here, we love to have a big Sunday dinner, and one of our favorites is this fork-tender pot roast we had yesterday. So. Good.  This is a great "fix it and let it cook while we are at church" dinner.  You won't believe how good it smells when you come home!   I usually serve it along with Rhoades rolls.  They are so easy that my 11-year-old has become the resident roll guy. You just pull them from the freezer and drop them into a pan sprayed with Pam, cover and let them rise while you're away.  When the roast comes out, the rolls go in.  By the time we have prepared the rest of the food and set the table, the rolls are browned and we are ready to sit down at the table.  It elevates a dinner when you add fresh bread, don't you think?

I need to give proper props for this recipe.  We have some great friends who have shared most of the important events in our family's life with us for many years.  Baptisms, baby blessings, and vacations found the Barzee family in our Pennsylvania home.  One of those times, Jenilyn and Ryan showed us "the proper way" to make pot roast, and we have never gone back!

Pot Roast and Potatoes

1 chuck roast (around 3 lbs)
3-5 potatoes, chunked
3/4- 1 lb baby carrots
1 onion, halved and then cut into wedges
1 pkg dry onion soup mix

Place the roast in the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan, or a roasting pan, if you are a fancier chef.  Surround it with your vegetables, and sprinkle the dry onion soup mix over the top of the meat and the vegetables.  Add enough water to cover 3/4 of the way to the top of the roast.  (You don't want to cover the meat, as that will wash off the seasoning.)  Cover with foil and place in a 325 degree oven for 3-4 hours.  I will often put a jelly roll pan underneath the dish to catch any boil-over that occurs.  It doesn't usually do this, but I hate cleaning an oven!  When you are ready to eat, transfer the roast to a platter, and the roasted vegetables to a serving bowl.

To make gravy, strain the broth into a pan.  Mix cornstarch and cold water in equal parts in a small container, and whisk it into your broth.  (You will need about 2 T per cup of broth.)  My favorite method of doing this came from my mom--get a small container, like a 5 oz butter tub, put the lid on and shake it up!  Bring it all together to a boil, and voila!  Gravy!  It is best to skim the fat off the top of the broth, by the way, but in a hurry, no one will care.  They will eat it all either way.  Bon appetit!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Birthday Box

Extended family birthdays.  I think I might be the WORST EVER at celebrating them in a timely manner.  I had my sister's birthday present for months--MONTHS--sitting on my dresser.  (Actually purchased way in advance, I decided to wait until closer to her birthday to mail it.  I wanted it to arrive on her birthday, silly me.)  Slowly, we accumulated gifts for other members of the family, with the rationale, "Well, I can't send X a present when it is closest to Y's birthday..."  Slowly, presents for other members of her family were added to my pile, until finally I said, "Enough!"  And the Birthday Box was born.

The kids and I went out and purchased presents for each remaining member of the family, opting to do them all in one fell swoop.  We wrapped them, wrote cards, and put it all in a box with inflated water balloons in place of packing peanuts.  (The water balloons were sans water, of course!)  We added some ribbon confetti and then sealed it up.  

We covered the top with a 12x12 birthday themed paper, addressed it, and sealed it in with packing tape to make it waterproof...and took it RIGHT to the Post Office.

My nephew was very gracious about receiving his A Christmas Story themed sleep pants in the spring (sorry, Mace--it is a much funnier gift during the Christmas season), and I think the whole family loved the out-of-the-blue "we love you" from far-away cousins.  I think this is how we will do all family birthdays now.  Pick a month for each family and send a party box.  Who doesn't love that?!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Places to Go--the Kohl's Children's Museum

A few months ago a friend introduced me to the Kohl's Children's Museum in Glenview, IL.  Bitty Girl and I met up with them one day while The Olders were at school, and she loved it!!  

They have 16 permanent exhibits and 4 temporary ones for the kids to explore.  We loved listening and playing in Music Makers, hopping around Nature Explorers, building and painting at the Hands on House, exploring water currents (and getting wet) in the Water Works, watching new baby chicks toddle around Eggs to Chicks, and making our own utensil art in the Adventures in Art exhibit.  We also grabbed a pizza in the Cosi Cafe at lunch time before checking out all the fun stuff in the Gift Shop.

 I think the museum beautifully connects with their target audience of younger kids.  There is a great mix of "jump in and do" for toddlers/preschoolers accompanied by written explanations and exploration questions for the slightly older crowd.  That said, I don't think either of my boys would have enjoyed it too much, being tweens, but I am sure Little Girl would love it.  We left several exhibits unexplored, such as the Dominick's grocery store, Baby Nursery and Pet Vet, that I am sure Bitty Girl would have loved.  

So, the Snippy Snaps rating for the Kohl's Children's Museum is . . .5 stars!!!

I found it really easy to get to, conveniently just off of I-94, and parking was free!!  We were able to come in on our friend's pass, so the price was great, too.  :)  (Currently, adults and kids over 1 are $9.50, which doesn't seem bad for a once-in-a-while kind of thing, unless we bring the whole clan.  Annual Membership is $100.)  Overall, I think this is definitely a candidate for a year membership venue, especially if you pay the extra $10 and get the reciprocity benefits from other children's museums in the area.  Definitely a good day.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fifteen Years

It's my anniversary!  Today I have been married for 15 years.  I love my husband--he is fun and unexpected.  When we were first married he wrote me many poems that I rediscovered a few days ago.  

I laughed my head off. 

Lest you think I am being unkind, let me state that his poetry has a quirky factor of 420%.  In my high school year book, he penned a verse surrounding sushi.  Sushi.  In my high school yearbook.  

Uh huh. 

So to commemorate this amazing milestone, I crafted this:

I am not sure what he will think about this coming from me.  I am the sappy, sentimental romantic who has, at specific points in my life, heard violins playing in the soundtrack of my mind.  It's kind of fun to let the snarky lady out once in a while.  She's funny.

I also got him this REAL present.  My husband is a travel fanatic--he loves to go new places and see new things.  Despite the fact that he has left me at HOME for the last few years while he is off exploring amazing new places--Dubai, Madrid, Paris, London, Beijing, etc. (yes, there is an et cetera, even.  Jerk.)--I love that he gets these experiences.  They are always for work or school, by the way.  He always says that the only thing lacking to make the traveling perfect is me.  :)  And what's even more amazing?  HE MEANS IT.  

I am married to the best man ever.  

Oh, so the gift:  a scratch map.

Now he can visually document all of the places he has been around the world.  I think he will LOVE it!!

Which is perfect.  Because I love him.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Word Origin of the Day--sardonic

I am fascinated by words.  Always have been.  So I decided to add this little featurette of Word Origin of the Day.  We'll include the meaning as used today, and then how these gems came to be.  

Or some other amusing tidbit.  

Today's Word:  sardonic

sar.don.ic:  adj.  characterized by bitter or scornful derision; mocking; cynicalsneering: a sardonic grin.


1630–40;  alteration of earlier sardonian  
    alluding to a Sardinian plant which when eaten was supposed to 
produce convulsive laughter ending in death

Ending in death, folks.  Ending in death.  Laughter CAN kill you.  

She says sardonically.  

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Venture into Virtual Art

Well, I have had my first crossover into Subway Art.  In preparing for tonight's Family Home Evening lesson on prayer, I decided to make a poster to display for the next little while detailing our discussion's key points. I thought, "Let's try Subway Art!"

I used, and after uploading (and covering) a photo, had a great time playing around with fonts, graphics and colors, and came up with this:

I have to admit, it was easier than I anticipated.  And I am proud, too, it being my first venture and all.  We will probably be using this website again.  I like that you upload your photo, play around, and then resave it to your computer.  Lovely!  Plus, I love the monster.  :)