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Simple DIY Rainbow Cupcake Crayons

rainbow cupcake crayons

I originally shared this tutorial for rainbow cupcake crayons almost ten years ago when Finn was my little preschooler and I made rainbow cupcake crayons for him using all of our broken crayons. It’s easy, and you can get little ones to help with peeling the paper off of the broken crayons, and they get fun new crayons to play with once they have cooled.

Unfortunately my photos of our project got lost, but a quick Etsy search shows lots of examples of similar multicolored crayons in fun shapes. If you like the idea but don’t have tons of broken crayons around, consider supporting one of the shops on Etsy by purchasing from them.

rainbow cupcake crayons
Photo by Kristin Brown on Unsplash

DIY Rainbow Cupcake Crayons Tutorial

  • Line a muffin pan with foil or a double thickness of cupcake liners. (Note: The wax will likely melt through, so you probably want to use a pan that you reserve for non-food projects.)
  • Remove all the paper from your crayons.
  • Break into smaller pieces if needed. I just broke them as small as I could with my fingers. Most pieces were about an inch long or smaller.
  • Sort the pieces into the lined cups. I sorted by color, but you could also mix for super swirly crayons.
  • Fill the cups to the top but don’t overfill.
  • Melt in the oven at about 200-250 degrees F. I recommend setting a baking sheet under the muffin pan. You really don’t want to have to scrape melted crayon off your oven.
  • Check about every 10-15 minutes. I let them cook until there were just a few solid chunks in the middle. Then I gently swirled them with toothpicks to sink the chunks and blend the colors.
  • When they are sufficiently melted, turn off the oven. You can carefully remove them at this point or let them cool in the oven. I didn’t need my oven, so I let them cool in there overnight.
  • Once they’ve cooled completely you can remove the papers and color away.

Mask Update

I made a few of the fitted masks I mentioned in Wednesday’s post. Overall, I think they fit well, but they are a little tedious to make, particularly if you have lots of interruptions.

Awkward photo of me modeling a fitted mask.

I looked into it a little more and found that it seems more hospitals are asking for a more simplified mask, so I’m switching to ones made by this tutorial. With batch cutting and then sewing two or three assembly line style, I can make 3-4 in a hour, even with interruptions.

Shop update: Freebies and a sale

Knowing that so many are stuck at home right now needing distractions, I’ve decided to make all of my machine embroidery design files free until April 7. That’s the day my area’s shelter in place order expires. If it is extended, I’ll extend the embroidery design freebies, too. If you make something with one of my designs, I would love to see it.

My full shop is still open, and will be as long as everyone in my household is healthy. I’m using extra care with handwashing and using hand sanitizer before coming into contact with products and packaging as well.

All of my handmade soaps are currently on sale for 20% off. You can find them here.

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Homeschooling amid COVID-19

More science at the library

With schools across the nation closing in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19, I’ve seen many parents reaching out to homeschooling parents for advice. I think it’s important to note that even homeschooling right now looks much different than normal. Many homeschooling families take part in weekly co-ops that have stopped due to the virus. We love going to the library, either just to see the cool science displays and get books or to go to story-time and chess club. Now the library is closed other than the drive-up window. Public parks are off limits as well. Even something like grocery shopping, which, if nothing else, gets us out of the house is no longer an option for the whole family. In short, just because we homeschool doesn’t mean we’re used to being home all day, every day either.

Science at the library before COVID-19

Having said that, there are some things that may make the transition easier. Some of it will depend on your school’s plan for the time away. Students with online classes will have less flexibility than students with assignments to do at their own pace.

Breathe

One thing that is always recommended to new homeschoolers leaving public or private schools is to take time to “deschool”. Basically, that means to take a few weeks or months to not do formal schooling. Instead, relax, play, let children do the things they enjoy, visit museums, libraries, bake together, watch favorite movies together. The “deschooling” time is to give children and parents time to connect and adjust to a new normal. This time also helps parents learn what types of curriculum and learning resources are a good fit for their children.

Obviously, under the current circumstances a full “deschooling” period isn’t practical or necessarily needed, but taking a few days to chill is definitely a good idea. Right now, everyone is stressed and cooped up. Trying to achieve something remotely like a normal school routine will be so much easier if everyone has a little time to process the changes.

Formal school time doesn’t have to take 8 hours

In school, there’s 20-30 different students with different needs and different personalities, all assigned to one teacher. Under those circumstances, lessons will take longer. At home, students work at their own pace with a teacher able to give them more one on one time, if needed. Sometimes, if the student finds the subject particularly difficult or very interesting, it takes longer than a single subject would in a classroom. Most often, though, it takes far less time.

I’ve seen the color-coded schedule charts floating around on Facebook that map out a typical eight hour school day. If that works for your family, great! If you’re finding that formal assignments are done by noon, and you have no idea what to do with the other three or four hours of school, don’t panic. Know that is more of the norm for homeschooling.

Learning isn’t always on paper

Children learn through play. Adults learn through play, too, we just usually call it something else. Unstructured playtime lets children use their imagination, problem solve and learn through observation.

Baking teaches reading instructions, measuring, fractions, and vocabulary, as well as the basic life skill of being able to prepare food. Spending time outside allows children to observe nature, as well as the physical benefits of fresh air, exercise and sunshine.

Homeschooling making slime

Even screen time can be educational. Gaming teaches problem-solving. Many shows, even some you wouldn’t expect, incorporate educational elements. If nothing else, kids need time to relax with something they enjoy just like adults. With all the sudden changes and concern over COVID-19, kids are likely to be feeling anxious and stressed, too. A little grace is good for everyone.

Home economics is a class, too.

Obviously I’m not saying turn your children into your own little housekeepers. It’s important, though, for everyone to have basic cooking and cleaning skills. When everyone is home all day, there’s more cooking and cleaning to be done, and more time to do it. Teach little ones to help with age-appropriate chores. Older kids and teens can take on more responsibilities.

Online educational resources

I plan to write a longer resource and activity post next week, but if you need something to get started, here’s my personal favorites:

  • Starfall.com Pre-K-3rd grade. The free site has tons of stuff, and if you decide to upgrade, the full paid site is only $35/year.
  • MobyMax K-8th grade We use it mainly for some of the math and reading, but they cover just about every subject.
  • Khan Academy Everyone. Seriously, it’s K-adult and covers a multitude of subjects.
  • Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool This is a complete, free K-12 homeschool curriculum. You can jump in anywhere and pick and choose, or use it all. Most of it is done off of the computer, so it’s good if you want to limit screen time.
  • Discovery K-12 This is another complete K-12 curriculum. Unlike Easy Peasy, most assignments are completed online. Student accounts are free, but if you want a parent account it’s $99/year.

The last two are more geared to people homeschooling long-term. They might be helpful, though, if you need a little more help in an area or for the elective-type classes.

Shop updates

On a different note, I finally have Lavender Tea Tree Charcoal Soap back in stock. This time, because of using red palm oil instead of refined palm oil, it is a deep olive green instead of charcoal grey. It’s the same soap otherwise, though, and will be ready to ship on Monday.

Currently all of my handmade soaps are 20% off.

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Honey Glazed Chicken for Instant Pots or other Electric Pressure Cookers

If you need a quick and easy meal that is sure to please the whole family, this honey glazed chicken is it. All of the ingredients are things you probably keep on hand, so no hunting for some rare spices. It only takes about five minutes of prep time and fifteen minutes of cooking under high pressure. The end result is a sweet, glazed chicken that even most picky eaters will enjoy. Serve over rice with a side of veggies or a salad for a quick and easy meal.

For the photo, I sauteed onion and mini bell peppers separately and served them along with the honey glazed chicken over basmati rice.Some of my kiddos do not like a lot of spice, so instead of the red pepper flakes originally called for, I substituted a tiny bit of cayenne pepper. 

Gluten and Dairy-free adjustments for honey glazed chicken

If you need to keep it gluten-free, be sure to check your soy sauce. La Choy soy sauce is gluten free, but most others are not. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos are also gluten free and a good substitute. 

This recipe is already dairy free, so no substitutions are needed there. 

Honey Glazed Chicken

Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Course: Main Course
Keyword: chicken, dairy free, egg free, Electric Pressure Cooker, gluten free, Instant Pot, rice
Servings: 5 people

Equipment

  • Electric pressure cooker, such as an Instant Pot

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs Can use any boneless, skinless chicken, but I prefer the juiciness of dark meat.
  • 1.5 cups onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 0.5 cup soy sauce Make sure to use a gluten-free soy sauce, like La Choy if you need it to be gluten-free.
  • 0.25 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1/3 tbsp red pepper flakes I used a dash of cayenne pepper instead to reduce the heat for my kiddos.

Instructions

  • Place everything in the pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes.
  • Release the pressure. I usually allow it to do a natural release, but you can do a quick release with this recipe.
  • Remove the chicken and slice. In the meantime, turn on the Saute function and allow the sauce to cook to thicken, stirring frequently for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the sliced chicken back to the pot and stir to coat.
  • Serve over rice.

Notes

For the photo, I sauteed onion and mini bell peppers separately and served them along with the honey glazed chicken over basmati rice.
Some of my kiddos do not like a lot of spice, so instead of the red pepper flakes originally called for, I substituted a tiny bit of cayenne pepper. 

While I try to write recipes as clearly as possible, it’s easy to miss a step or make assumptions. If anything is confusing, please don’t hesitate to comment with your questions. If you make this recipe, please let me know what you think.

Soap Sale!

On an unrelated note, all of my handmade soaps are on sale for 20% off their normal price. The sale ends on March 29. Find all of my soaps here.

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This post contains affiliate links. If you click through any of the Amazon links and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. There is no added cost to you.

Honey glazed chicken
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Quick Superhero Costume Mini Tutorial

With schools closing down due to coronavirus, there’s likely to be a lot of kids at home looking for fun things to do. Dressing up is always fun, and who doesn’t love a cape and mask? I first shared this quick superhero costume tutorial about ten years ago when Finnian was my crazy only child. It is super easy, and all it takes is an over-sized t-shirt and some scissors.

My son is really into superheros right now.  He started asking for a superhero costume yesterday.  Given that he’s three and impatient, I needed something quick and easy.  Here’s what I came up with:

I took one 2x mens t-shirt and cut it straight down the sides, removing the sleeves.

Then I cut off the front panel, leaving the neck band and a 3-4 inch curved section attached for the

front.  That way there’s no ties so he can put it on himself. Splitting the neck in the front and adding a Velcro hook and loop closure is also an option.

Finally I cut the front panel into three long strips.  One got holes for the eyes and tied around his head for the mask.  The other two I sewed together at one of the narrow ends. I tied it around his waist for the sash.

quick superhero costume

The mask is getting a little stretched out, but he likes the bigger eye holes, so that’s working out well.

He left his plain, but decorating the costume is another fun project. Kids could draw their own designs with markers or cut designs out of felt or other fabric scraps and attach with fabric or craft glue.

While I try to write tutorials as clearly as possible, it’s easy to miss a step or make assumptions. If anything is confusing, please don’t hesitate to comment with your questions.

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Dangerously Easy Chocolate Syrup Recipe

Chocolate syrup is deliciously versatile. Stir it in hot or cold milk or coffee for a treat or pour over ice cream to make it even more decadent. Then there’s old fashioned sodas and baked goods made with chocolate syrup. With this chocolate syrup recipe, you can make delicious chocolate syrup with just a few basic pantry staples whenever you need it.

Sure, it’s easy to pick up a bottle from the supermarket, but with this easy chocolate syrup recipe, you can make it for a fraction of the cost and without a trip to the store. By making it, you also have control over the ingredients. Use your favorite cocoa powder, experiment with the type and amount of sugar or swap out the vanilla extract for something a little more creative to make it your own. I can totally see using peppermint extract to mimic the flavor of Andes mints. Or, if you’re a fan of Terry’s Chocolate Orange chocolates, add orange extract.

Like most of my recipes, this chocolate syrup is gluten free and dairy free.

Dangerously Easy Chocolate Syrup Recipe

This chocolate syrup recipe is so easy and delicious. With only a few pantry-staple ingredients needed, you'll never have an excuse not to make it. Should be good for at least a month when stored properly. I usually find plenty of ways to use it up before then.
Prep Time2 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Course: Dessert

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or to taste

Instructions

  • Mix the sugar and cocoa together in a saucepan until thoroughly combined.
  • Add the water and half of the salt (1/4 teaspoon). Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
  • Continue to boil while constantly stirring until the mixture thickens a little. (It will thicken more as it cools) This should take around 3 or 4 minutes.
  • Carefully taste and add the rest of the salt, if desired.
  • Remove from heat and add vanilla extract.
  • Cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I like using a glass jar.

Notes

The vanilla extract and salt amount can be adjusted according to taste. I can also see swapping out the vanilla for peppermint or orange extract.

While I try to write recipes as clearly as possible, it’s easy to miss a step or make assumptions. If anything is confusing, please don’t hesitate to comment with your questions. If you make this recipe, please let me know what you think.

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This post contains affiliate links. If you click through any of the Amazon links and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. There is no added cost to you.

chocolate syrup recipe
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Mushroom Brown Rice for Instant Pots

Mushrooms are one of those foods that you either love or hate. I love them and try to incorporate them into once in awhile in hopes of swaying my kids to the “love” side. Finn is already there and Thadd is interested but skeptical that something with that texture can be delicious. I’m not giving up on Beckett, but I think he may have inherited his dad’s and grandma’s mushroom dislike. 

This mushroom brown rice dish is rich but mild, with the brown rice adding a little nutty flavor. Because the mushrooms are sliced and not chopped, they are large enough for little mushroom skeptics to remove them and eat the rice.

Not a fan of brown rice?

The brown rice adds to the flavor, but takes a lot longer to cook than white rice. With an electric pressure cooker, it’s only about 15 minutes of active prep time. After that, the pressure cooker does all the work. If you’re in a hurry to eat, though, swap it out in favor of a long grain white rice. I like basmati and jasmine rice the best for white rice. 

Dietary Restrictions?

As written, this recipe is plant-based, gluten free and dairy free. If you choose to use broth instead of water, that could change depending on the type of broth you use.

One thing I like to keep on hand is a broth base called “Better than Bouillon“.  It’s a paste that comes in a small jar. You mix a bit of the paste into water to make broth like you would with bouillon. To me, it really does have a better flavor, and a little goes a long way. I usually have the vegetable version on hand and would have added a bit to this recipe, but I used my last bit up yesterday. They also have a mushroom version that would compliment this recipe as well. Between the onion, garlic, mushrooms and brown rice, though, it’s really not necessary. 

All electric pressure cookers welcome.

I’ve titled this post “Mushroom Brown Rice for Instant Pots” because Instant Pot has become the most popular brand and is now synonymous with electric pressure cooker. The recipe should work in any similar electric pressure cooker. Personally, I use a GoWise brand 8 quart electric pressure cooker.

Mushroom Brown Rice for Instant Pots or other Electric Pressure Cookers

Rich, earthy mushrooms in nutty brown rice make this work as a side dish or, serve with a salad to make it a meatless main course. Makes 6-8 servings.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time22 mins
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Keyword: gluten free, mushroom, rice, vegan
Servings: 8 people

Equipment

  • Electric pressure cooker, such as an Instant Pot

Ingredients

  • 1 T coconut or other oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups mushrooms, sliced White, bella or similar.
  • 1.5 tsp salt Can use less if preferred.
  • 3 cups water or broth
  • 2 cups long grain brown rice
  • 1 squeeze lemon juice optional
  • 1 dash black pepper Adjust to taste.

Instructions

  • Select "Saute" on the pressure cooker and add the coconut oil.
  • Add the diced onion and saute until translucent.
  • Add the minced garlic and saute for about a minute more.
  • Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper. Continue to saute until onions are lightly browned and mushrooms begin to get some color.
  • Add about 1/2 cup of water or preferred broth and stir up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Let simmer for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the rice, remaining 2 1/2 cups of water, lemon juice and pepper.
  • Turn off the "Saute" function and set the pressure cooker manually to 22 minutes or follow your pressure cooker's instructions for brown rice. Most require longer than the "Rice" setting allows.
  • Allow the pressure to release naturally for at least 10 minutes before doing a quick release. I think it's best to let it naturally release completely if you have the time.
  • Fluff rice and serve.

Notes

This recipe has tons of flavor with just water, but you can use broth (vegetable broth to keep it vegan) if you prefer. Unless the broth is low sodium, you probably want to reduce the amount of salt.
I like coconut oil, but feel free to use olive or your preferred cooking oil.
Brown rice adds an earthy, nutty flavor, but it takes a long time to cook compared to white rice. If you’re in a hurry, substitute a long grain white rice and reduce the cooking time to 8 minutes or use the “Rice” setting. Basmati is my favorite long grain white rice.

While I try to write recipes as clearly as possible, it’s easy to miss a step or make assumptions. If anything is confusing, please don’t hesitate to comment with your questions. If you make this recipe, please let me know what you think.

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This post contains affiliate links. If you click through any of the Amazon links and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. There is no added cost to you.

Mushroom brown rice
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7 Amazing Uses for Aloe Vera Gel

I’m always on the lookout for simple, natural products that don’t cost an arm and a leg. It’s especially important when it comes to products that I use on my skin. Skin absorbs so much. One product I’ve found that is natural, inexpensive and a great multitasker is aloe vera gel.

Aloe Vera Plant

Skin irritations

When you think of using aloe topically, you probably think of soothing a sunburn. You can also use it to sooth other burns as well as minor cuts and scrapes.

Aloe vera hand sanitizer

There are tons of recipes online for diy hand sanitizers using aloe vera as one of the base ingredients. I’m not a big hand sanitizer fan, but I like the look of these recipes from Wellness Mama. She has two different formulas. One is a gentle aloe and essential oil only recipe for home or children to use, and one is a stronger formula for when something more potent is needed.

Hair gel

Aloe gel can be used as a hair gel, too. In my experience, it provides a light hold, and isn’t stiff or sticky as long as you don’t overdo it. It also leaves your hair soft and silky afterward, unlike most hair gels which contain alcohol or other ingredients that dry your hair. To tame flyaways, I like to rub a drop of aloe between my palms and smooth over the ends of my hair.

Brows

Try aloe on your brows to keep them in shape. Since aloe gel is clear, you don’t have to worry about finding the right color to match. Dip an old, cleaned mascara wand, eyebrow brush or toothbrush in aloe and brush your eyebrows into shape. It’s also great for soothing your skin after plucking or waxing your brows.

Hair conditioner

If the ends of your hair dry, rub a little aloe on them to help smooth and condition them. I’ve also heard you can use aloe gel in place of a regular, rinse out conditioner, although I haven’t tried it yet.

Moisturizer

Aloe is a great moisturizer for your skin. It leaves your skin feeling soft but not greasy.

Skin refresher

I’ve heard that aloe gel works well to refresh your skin in situations where you may not be able to wash your face regularly like camping and traveling. Just massage it on and gently wipe off the excess.

Exfoliating with aloe vera

Mix aloe with salt or sugar for a great exfoliating scrub. When making scrubs, sugar tends to be a little more gentle, but salt is more antibacterial.

Which aloe vera gel is best?

The way to get the freshest aloe gel, of course, is to grow your own aloe plant. If you’re like me and have a hard time keeping plants alive, or you just want to pick up a bottle or two so you’ll have plenty on hand, spring and summer are good times to get it. Specialty health stores will stock it year round, but right now it’s easier to find in discount stores and supermarkets with their seasonal products.

The most important thing to look for is 100% pure aloe. Pure aloe will be clear. Steer clear of the blue and green aloe gels. They contain added ingredients to help “cool” a sunburn. These ingredients are okay (although unnecessary) for sunburns, but you don’t want to use these aloe blends for anything other than soothing a sunburn.

One brand that’s fairly easy for me to find is Fruit of the Earth. I think I paid around $5-$7 for a 24 ounce bottle. Not bad when you compare it to a comparably-sized bottle of lotion, or conditioner, or moisturizer, or hair gel, all of which can be replaced with aloe.

What aloe tips have I left out? Share yours with me.

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Aloe vera uses