Monday, December 27, 2010

Idea: Chocolates!

Bulk Chocolate Melts
Any time is perfect for chocolate making, but holiday season is very ideal too: gift making!

I remember making coloured chocolates in Kindergarten, in fact I have a photo of it somewhere. Although I didn't look terribly pleased in the photo, I have fond memories of 'painting' the chocolate molds!

Used a Spoon To Mix the Colour and to Pour
We aren't painting with a brush as that detail is more than my son is interested in. In fact, I think the quicker the better in this case. Um, yeah, it means the chocolates are ready sooner! It's all about the eating :)

I purchased this pretzel chocolate mold from Michaels, but my son is not so keen on the mixing of chocolate and pretzels. Pretzels should be separate, duh  ;-)
The chocolate melts (a white and a dark chocolate) I bought in bulk at the grocery store as Michael's price is ridiculous, but I did buy the candy colouring from that craft store.

Oooey Gooey

And it was so simple...
just melt, in the microwave or double broiler
and pour!
---colour the melted white chocolate before pouring, if you feel like it!
Let them set in the fridge for 5-10 minutes (quicker, but not necessary)
The chocolates fall out of the molds very easily, so it's important not to flip over the mold too high or the chocolates will fall out and shatter... but you can always remelt and pour!

In the Mold

No Pretzles at the Bottom!

No Colours Added

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Get Ready! It's Coming....
January 8th - March 5th
check out for all kinds of info, including the pdf calendar of events!

here's one of last year's promos:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Documentary: My Kid Could Paint That!

Abstract art: a controversy. Is it valid art or a spit in the face? Do you love it or hate it?

My Kid Could Paint That is a documentary that explores the sensational story of Marla Olmstead, a four year old abstract painter of amazing paintings that sold for thousands of dollars, whose work could easily be slipped into major famous galleries according to some. It starts off all pro-Marla and ends full of intrigue and doubt. Did she really paint those canvasses? All by herself without any coaching? Does it matter?

Intriguing to be sure and it raises many questions. My son watched this with me and was instantly inspired to paint! I spread out a table cloth on the floor with a large sheet of paper and finger paints. Finger paints are great to use if you wish the resulting art work to become wrapping paper! I believe he completed 6 great works of art by the end of the film ;-)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Luminaria 2010

The Devonian Gardens held Luminaria on December 11 and 12. It was chock full of people! We had to park in Devon and take a free school bus to the gardens.

I was very excited for our family to attend this event: I imagined it to be fantastical and magical. In fact, we ventured out all bundled up in full winter gear and out into the cold just to make it.

I must say, for all our efforts and the cost, I was terribly under-whelmed. Sure, it was beautiful but there were too many people detracting from the intended peaceful atmosphere. Luminaria was held in the Japanese Gardens and the decor was appropriately minimalistic. Perhaps too minimalistic in too small of a space for the crowds. Thousands of white paper bags with votive candles lined the pathways and decorated certain features. There were several fire pits and apple cider stations (free). It sounds lovely, and it was, but, not quite worth it. Unenthusiastic "Snow Sprites" strolled the gardens all lit up while the crowds did their own strolling and photo-taking. Oh, and there were singers caroling.

The craft sale in an adjacent building was ok, if you are into really really kitchy items or love candles packaged with napkins.

If they want to keep the Japanese Gardens simple and desire a " quiet oasis of peace and light" then I suggest branching out! How about a wooded corridor of multi-coloured lights and decorations into the forested area near the gift shop. North Pole theme? Candy Cane Lane concept perfect for children? Having a minimum of two areas to explore would thin the visitors out and provide a more varied experience for all, it'd be so much more fun! And family friendly.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Edmonton: The Way We Move Challenge

"On November 20-21, City staff were at TELUS World of Science to explain how transportation is more than just moving people and how it is essential infrastructure that shapes our city, impacts our sustainability and influences our economic well-being.
Thank you to all LEGO® builders who participated to the Challenge and built creative pieces. The winning models have been integrated to the bigger display featuring the future Edmonton transportation network. This will be exhibited until January 2, 2011."

 Here are the photos from our visit to TWOS!

Pick Up A Brochure

Reuse Craft: Gift Tags and Cards

Tag Template
What to do with all those holiday greeting cards?! Of course, many of us display them during the season and some of us keep them forever, but I think the majority of people trash or recycle them.

Here's an idea:
Collect old cards (keep yours for the next holiday season) and cut them all up!

Lovely Tags By My Son
If there is no writing behind the front picture, you can make gift tags. I made a quick template for my son to use, but he wisely knew better and created his own fantastical tag shapes  :)

If there is writing on the back of the picture, or you prefer cards, cut up the old cards to make new ones. You can buy pre-folded blank cards with envelopes at crafts stores or simply use card stock (like I do) to make the cards and buy note card sized envelopes for them. Rearrange the cut up pieces to make a pleasing card and give it away... after writing something nice in it!

My Son's Notecards

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Idea: Play dough!

This Is a Bunny or the Sears Tower
I have this fun recipe of Kool-aid play dough. It smells awesome, so good, but it's not edible. Well, it isn't toxic, but it won't taste good! It keeps for months in an air tight container and is fun to play with. I'll include the recipe, but feel free to google play dough recipes! There are so many all differing in colour, texture, and consistency. And some are even edible!

I tried this recipe with a non-white flour because I was out. And I must say it is best to stick with the white flour! It smelled funny and required adjustment in the amount of flour added. Still, in the end, it was play dough and fun!

My son began with the typical boy themes: airplane, dump truck, and a dead louse. When I took another peak at his creations a new turn of events: Fallingwater, Empire States building, Sears Tower, and the Guggenheim! Ah, he is his father's son... my son, the son of an architect! Go figure!

And now, for the recipe...

I Believe this is Fallingwater

Kool-Aid Play Dough

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup salt
2 packages of unsweetened Kool-aid (best to be the same flavour for best scent and colouration)
3 tablespoons of oil
2 cups of boiling water

We Can't Remember What This One Is?
Mix all the ingredients together and knead into a ball. Store in an air tight container.
If it gets a bit dry, add a little bit of cold water and knead it into the dough. Should last three months!

Have fun being creative!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mixology: Bath Salts

Who doesn't love bath salts? Oddly enough my son will often choose bath salts over bubble bath. Furthermore, he just loves mixing up his own bath salts. Is it the colour mixing he loves? I'm not sure because he also really enjoyed bagging up his multi-coloured creations for a bake and craft sale he participated in (which is today). In each bag, he layered the different colours of bath salts and topped it with a sea shell.

There's not much to this idea! It's just too simple.

*Buy Epsom salts and food colouring.
*Poor salts into a bowl and add drops of colour.
*Blend with a spoon (we found a bit of grinding action with the back of the spoon very helpful).
*Put the coloured salts into an air tight container.
*Use on yourself or give as a gift.

That said, other things can round out and make for even better bath salts.

Consider adding sea salt, baking soda (softens the skin), or other salts. Kick it up a notch with powdered citric acid! Citric acid, which I found out the hard way has a shelf life, gives the salts a bubbling fizz and is the key ingredient in bath bombs.

Don't want to use food colouring? Try a liquid soap colouring, micas, or test out natural alternatives. Just keep in mind that the adding of liquids to baths salts needs to be kept to a minimum, lol. Well, at least until it hits the bath water!

Ready For Market!
Ah, and then there is the wonderful world of scents. You can purchase fragrance oils or essential oils to create an aromatic bath salt. Not all of the available scents are good for skin contact, so be mindful when choosing. Oh, and it is advisable to mix such oils with the salts in a glass or metal bowl as plastics will absorb the scent too readily. You can use a plastic bowl, but it will no longer be food safe. Lol, but if you don't believe plastics are food safe anyways.... the point it moot ;-)

That reminds me, I *do* have a Dutch Chocolate fragrance oil that my son would probably flip over. I'll pull it out for the next round of mixology!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Geography: Postcrossing!

Almost everyone has heard about penpals or has had one, this is fairly common place. And even postcard trading is familiar to most. However, have you heard of post crossing?

While checking out some other blogs, I came across Make Geography Come Alive with Wall Maps! by OMSH. I love maps. My son loves maps. So I read it with interest as she explained how her family used the new maps they bought. If you check it out, you'll see how they've put the maps onto cork boards in order to use pins and string to connect photos with places. I'd love to do this, but I need to find some cork boards first  ;-)

As November was Geography Month, OMSH solicited readers to post comments of how they explore the subject of geography with their children. It was within these comment posts that the mystery of Postcrossing was revealed to me.

Postcrossing, the postcard crossing project: "send a postcard and receive a postcard back from a random person somewhere in the world!"

Really, it's that simple. And free to sign up.
A well organised website,, details all the FAQ.

But it's just trading postcards, right?

Postcards From Russia
Although you can login to the forum, separate from the official sight, and participate in all kinds of trading and tagging (themed trades whereby you tag the person who posted before you and then wait to be tagged), the official site is not about trading at all.

The official site is not a typical trading site. Here's how it works...

1)  You sign up for free, set your preferences, and create a profile to whatever extent you wish. Part of this set up is providing the site with your mailing address, but it is not displayed publicly.

2) You "request" an address and postcard ID! The site will give you an address, an ID for that postcard, and the profile information of the person you are sending the card to. You can read the profile and get a sense of the kinds of postcards the person likes. You may choose to send a postcard that they would prefer, but you may send whatever you have. However! The whole point here is to make sure you write the postcard ID on it. I always write the ID in two different place to be sure it doesn't get obscured or misread. The recipient will register receiving the card using this ID. Only once your postcard has been received can you start expecting a postcard in return!
Add caption

3) Receive a postcard. Once the website has confirmed that your postcard has been received and registered, your profile name and address goes to the top of the list! But your address is still not publicly displayed; this "list" is not something everybody can see. Now, someone will "request" an address and it will be yours. This means you are not receiving a postcard from the person you originally sent a card to. You are going to receive a random card from some random person who will be given your mailing address when they request an address. I love this randomness!

4) Register the postcard received. Admire your new postcard sent by some stranger miles away, read any messages written, enjoy the foreign stamps, then hop online, log in, and register the postcard as received. Write a thank you, short or long. And you're done!

5) Repeat! Request another address, write on the postcard, include the ID, and send. It gets addictive actually, before you know it, you're broke ;-)  In the beginning, you are restricted to five address requests; you can have up to five postcards travelling at any given time. The more you send and prove your participation (your postcards do get received and registered), the more you are permitted to have travelling.

Our Geography Wall!
From Russia
See, the beauty of this whole project, beyond the obvious objectives, is that you are ultimately in control over how much and when. There is no obligation or commitment! I love that! I'm a terrible correspondent; I'll always come through in the end, but that end might be a year later. If I have time and the postcard/stamps, I can send a card and then eventually receive one back (theoretically, barring postal mishaps). Furthermore, I do not have to respond to any of the postcards I receive as I've already sent out my postcard! The only thing I'm obligated to do is to register receiving the postcard with the ID on the card. I do however write a comment of thanks to the sender (done as part of the registering of the postcard).

Some other aspects to this game...

This Was From Lithuania
Often people scan the postcards. They collect them in reality and virtually. I haven't bothered to do this yet and may never take the time to do it. However, I still have scanned postcards on my "postcard wall!" Some are the scanned postcards that were sent to me-- if someone scans their card and sends it by mail, when I register it with the ID, it virtually becomes mine too. Also, several people have scanned the postcards we've sent them as I can now see them on my postcard wall under "sent" postcards, lol.

Our Latest Addition Is From Luxemburg
Map Another function is the global map that will document all that you successfully send and receive with little flags indicating the locations with lines from your city to theirs. The global map is interactive and you can zoom in and out of it. The little flags are click-able and will reveal such details as location and the profile link to that sender/recipient.

Stats A stats page exhibits your activity in graph form, pie chart, and a table. How much you've sent and received, to or from which countries, and how long the postcard travelled are a few of the items displayed here.

Forum There is a forum you can sign up for too and it is somewhat separate from the official website. In here you can organise and participate in all kinds of discussions and other forms of trade, even trading items other than postcards.

What a fun way to learn about other cultures and geography!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Art Shows

I love art shows and gallery openings. My son? Well, he often gets bored if the food isn't good enough!

An art opening isn't everyone's cup of tea, but what about an informal private family art show?

This is exactly what my friend did and it was a great idea that turned out awesome. Once the idea was conceived, she sent out invitations to two other families (yes, we were one of them, lol) requesting their attendance for an afternoon of art and fun (read... play time). Actually, I think the idea and dates were bounced around for a while before the formal invites went out, so we all had lots of time to create. Adults and children alike were encouraged to provide art pieces for the occasion in whatever form inspired them. No pressure. No rigid rules. Anything was possible, even not contributing!

Since this was on a weekend day, it was a  whole family participation event and almost everyone was able to make it. It was a typical cheese and cracker event complete with beverages and ?candy?! Ok, not quite sure who's idea that was....   :P

With little plates in hand (or drink) we toured around the house taking in all the creative pieces displayed. The artists all had a chance to talk about their work and answer questions. Taking cues from the younger artists, we didn't over linger but kept the momentum going. Once all displays were enjoyed, play time erupted and the ensuing chaos was dismissed to the upper or lower floors of the domain  ;-)

I'll share some of the art that was conjured up for this day! There were two video installations (one Lego, one Pokemon), four sketch books, origami, snowflakes, kirigami, drawings, paintings, play dough model of Falling Water, two house models, maps, a display about the zodiac, and ice candles!

It was a great time!

The initial idea was that we'd drop off the art (and bios) before hand for our hosts to put up and display. Like I said, this was a wonderfully informal event and that little bit did not come to pass. We arrived with our treasures and chose rooms or wall spaces in which to set up. It worked out great. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Idea: Audiobooks

Some Audiobooks Bought from the Library Sale
Just a quick thought...

Who doesn't love a good story?! While reading is an awesome activity, it isn't the only way to ingest a good book ;-)

Over the years, we have listened to a multitude of audiobooks encompassing all kinds of genres. Sure, in the beginning, we put on them on for our son before he could read well, but continued enthusiastically even when his reading surpassed grade level. I love listening to a well read book just like my son and we often enjoy an afternoon engrossed in stories read by a stranger. Where? At home, out and about, or in the car are all great places we've enjoyed audiobooks. I even bought a double headphone adapter so my son and I can listen to the mp3 player or disc player together! 

I find audiobooks a great excuse not to read those books that grow tiresome for me to read, but that my son enjoys listening to. Now he has a choice: read them on his own or listen to them if there is an audio version. And that leaves time for me to read aloud the books I do enjoy reading to my son, lol! Win-win!

Monday, November 8, 2010

RAM-- Wizard of Oz!

Here Be Munchkins!
Much to my surprise, my son LOVED the Wizard of Oz exhibit up at the Royal Alberta Museum. It runs until January 9th, 2011. It looked like a great exhibit and I figured kids would love it, I just had no idea that it would be one of my son's favourites at the RAM. His other main favourite being the Insect section.

There is much to do in this exhibit and it covers a wide range of possibilities.

Anybody Home?
The first to catch our eye was the Wicked Witches' Castle where my son had fun building with the wooden blocks. Then we tossed flying monkeys at the yellow cow bells ;-)

The Munchkins' area was next with a home, tables and chairs, puppets, and more. We didn't dally much in this section. Just long enough for a photo opportunity.

There's a black and white section called Dorothy's House. A very simple section. Tipping over the watering can triggers corn to grow. And a rotating cube puzzle would be fun for the young ones.

Sort the Eggs...Sort of
Further down the line, there's an egg sorter and a Tornado Alley. Recreating tornadoes in three different ways went over well with my boy, lol.

Next section had us seeing green (extra large green lensed glasses) in Emerald City and building yellow brick roads with four different shapes! All fourteen of the Wizard of Oz books could be found and read in this section as well as some other similar themed books. This was also the "act out the story" section complete with costumes.

So those are some of the places, what about the characters? Well check your pulse rate in the Tin Man section after getting your blood pumping and feeling a heart beat! Test your courage with the Lion in the 'cave of courage' after spotting all the hidden things in the forest. Play 'whose brain?" with the Scarecrow and tackled some brain twisters too!

Spinning Tops

Emerald City and Air Balloon

Follow the Yellow Brick Road!


Let's Get That Blood Pumping!
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