Monday, September 30, 2013

Sunflower Cupcakes

Hi! It's feeling really fallish here. Today I thought I'd share a quick fall dessert. These sunflower cupcakes are really easy. Just bake chocolate cupcakes (I made a pan of regular size and a pan of minis), and pipe yellow frosting petals around the edges. I did two rows around the edge of each. The outer layer I piped down and out, the inner layer up and out. If you don't have a special frosting bag, just use a sandwich size ziplock with the corner trimmed off. That's what I did. : )


For the leaves melt white almond bark and add a little green food coloring. Pour it into a sandwich bag, clip one corner and pipe leaf shapes onto a foil-lined tray. Or if it's easier, you can also just spread the almond bark thinly all over the foil-lined tray and allow to harden a little, then cut out leaf shapes with a paring knife. Either way, let the leaves harden completely, then gently stick them into the cupcake after you've piped on your flower petals.


Sometimes it's just fun to try something different. I like these because they don't really use any more frosting than you normally would just smear on top, and they only take a few extra minutes. I think they look way cuter than a plain frosted cupcake. Fun for a special fall birthday. If you want more cupcake ideas and you missed the monster cupcake post a while back you can find that here.  I hope your week is off to a good start! Thanks for reading!
- Haley

Monday, September 23, 2013

Simple Homemade Puzzles

Hi Friends! Still hear, plugging along. Lots of friends going through rough stuff right now. But we still have two kids that need to keep busy. Actually now more than ever, as we try to help with clean up and projects, and just being there for friends, keeping them busy so we can get stuff done is an especially good thing. Here's a couple activities that only take a minute to round up but can keep kiddos busy for a while. Remember when we made star crayons?


Well, it turns out that the mold and the crayons make a great toddler puzzle, because all the pieces fit in all the spots! Thing Two loves to push a star into each spot, then I pop them back out and he does it again. Sounds boring, but he loves it, it will do it over and over! 


At Home Depot the other day I picked up a few of these leaf shaped paint samples. I plan to draw a tree trunk and branches and let the boys glue the leaves on wherever they want to fill out the tree. 


The possibilities are endless here, but here's another thing we did: I traced the shapes in the different colors,


 then Thing Two matched the colors up, like a puzzle.



For older kids, try just giving them a couple of the shapes and see how they can incorporate them into a drawing. Thing One used a blue one to make a whale in an ocean scene. 

That's our easy entertainment these days. Hope you are well! Thanks for reading!

- Haley

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Flood Update

Just when I was ready to get back into the swing of things here the flood happened. I just can't even think about recipes or crafts right now. The enormity and the length of recovery time is really just starting to sink in. Today some roads opened. We are getting down to the mud, and we are figuring out who gets to go home and who needs a new place to live, and how else we can help so many of our friends and neighbors. Major relief organizations started rolling into town yesterday: Samaritan's Purse, World Vision, Red Cross, Salvation Army. It's so weird to support these organizations for years and then one day to need them. The work is just beginning. These pictures are not that dramatic, just places we go all over town. The water is about four feet deep under this bridge where we ride our bikes. 


National Guard trucks remain posted at some intersections and several neighborhoods.


It's been a week tomorrow since this started getting serious and parks are still lakes. It's just so hard to believe this is our town. It's not like a hurricane, or even a fire (and we've had a lot of those), we just had no warning and no idea so many people could be affected. I've done a good number of make a difference posts in the past and I guess I just wanted to stop in to say, that's what we will be out doing for the foreseeable future as much as we can. We were able to help a few friends with some different needs today. We've been going stir crazy waiting until we could be helpful, but now I think we see how very much helping we will get to do over the next few months especially.



At the end of the day, I'm so proud to be a Coloradan. I have yet to hear someone complain or ask "why me?" through all of this. What I have seen is neighbors helping neighbors, whether they live down the street or a city away; businesses donating thousands of meals day after day for evacuees, emergency workers, volunteers; people setting up teams of friends to help clean out houses and streets; everyone doing what they can, I mean everyone. That's what I love about Colorado. After seeing the coverage on the national news people probably feel bad for Coloradans, but I think if you're lucky enough to call yourself a Coloradan, you're lucky enough. We will make it together, friends! : ) 

I'll try to stop in with an update in a week or so. In the mean time, we'll see you in the mud!

Thanks for reading!
- Haley

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Foil River

Last year we saw a fun idea in Family Fun magazine: how to make an aluminum foil river. You can make your own boats and then sail them down the backyard river bed you make from foil. This was a lot more fun last year when our backyard wasn't ACTUALLY TURNING INTO A RIVER! Our house has not really flooded yet, but my parents had to evacuate for a while today, and the number of people we know who are affected by this un-imaginable flooding is rising daily. Practically every neighborhood around us has evacuated at some point. Surreal.  Our town, and so many towns around us have so much re-building to do. Thank you to all the military and emergency personnel who have worked so tirelessly. You are true heros! We will prevail...Colorado Strong! 

If you are not waiting by the phone for evac orders or filling up your bathtub with potable water, here's a fun activity for you:

.

Put a little glue on the edge of the construction paper triangle and wrap it tightly around the toothpick.


We used a blob of playdoh to stick the sail in. This is the kid-friendly way to go, because they can do it on their own, but honestly a little blob of hot glue would be better. The playdoh got wet and made the boats a little too heavy. It works, it's just not the best. You can also use a walnut shell half for the base of the boat.


Once your boats are ready, you make the river by tearing a very long length of aluminum foil. Fold up the edges on both sides so that it can hold water, then turn the hose on a trickle at one end.


Some of the boats had a hard time getting through the river, but we found leaves would race down pretty fast. It was a great fall activity. We love playing outside when the weather gets just a bit cooler than the blazing summer heat, and this is a fun way to spend an afternoon. Kids can experiment a lot with the water: what floats? what's too heavy? what's too wide? etc. (side note: I wrote this before the flooding and can not help but laugh...seriously though, so not funny now. Hint: 1,000 gallon propane tanks can float if you have enough water... and at great speed! Yes, a friend of ours saw this this week.)
When you are done, reuse the foil, by making into a big ball. You can cover it with some duct or masking tape to make your own light-weight soccer or soft ball.


Stay safe Colorado friends! The rest of you, enjoy your sun and dry ground.

- Haley



Thursday, September 12, 2013

Be Prepared!

Well, just when you think you are going to settle in to "normal," there's a natural disaster to keep things interesting terrifying. It's still raining here, and many of our friends have been either been evacuated, lost power, or lost drinking water. It's pretty crazy here. We are thankful to be safe so far. Being in an emergency does give you the chance to make sure you are prepared for the next one. 

Here's an idea I had this summer that we are putting to use here today. I bought some solar yard lights at the dollar store and they have worked fabulously in the yard all summer. I bought an extra set to save for power outages. (When I say save I mean I just didn't pull out the plastic tab that makes it start working until today). I filled a few short jars with beans (which I had left over from the sensory bin). Sand or rice would also work well. If it's not a 24 hour downpour, you can set them outside to charge during the day. I had to just put ours in the window, they still charged.




At night when it's dark you have a night light that's safe to leave on while you sleep. Thing One felt much better knowing he'd have a night light even if the power was out. These are so much safer to have around kids than candles! 



Here's the link to the Red Cross's flood preparedness list. They also have other emergency preparedness lists. Check them out and be ready for anything! I have to admit I'm kind of hyper prepared when it comes to disasters. But I honestly couldn't have even imagined this scenario. There are so many creeks in our town literally everything is cut off. Depending on where you live, all the roads are closed. Emergency personnel has asked everyone to stay off the roads. There's no running out to the grocery store, or home improvement stores....we had to already have everything we need to ride out this storm. That's what being prepared is about. Be safe, and be dry Colorado friends!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Adventures West

Hi! I'm alive, in case you were wondering. I took a little unintended blog break because life was just too busy. Good busy. We just returned from a fabulous family adventure that had us tromping all over the West, from Colorado to the Pacific coast. Here's the postcards I forgot to send you:


We started out with a trip to Moab. We had never been there before, but can not wait to go back. Arches National Park is just about five minutes from Moab so it makes a great base camp. (If you don't want to actually camp.) Since we figured out earlier in the summer that Thing One has about a one mile hiking limit, we chose very short "hikes" on this trip. Also, it was 100ยบ almost every single day we were gone, so not great for hiking in the desert even if you a not a little person. We walked to Double Arch...


...and around Balanced Rock. It was all so cool, and amazing! Next we headed about 45 minutes away to Canyonlands National Park. Here there were awesome rock formations to look up to, and breath-taking canyons to look down on. 



So cool and beautiful. It made it worth it even in the extreme heat.


Our third stop was in Zion National Park. When we arrived late in the afternoon it was raining, and the mist hung in the air the whole time we were there. We hiked to Weeping Rock, and along the river some, but the Narrows were closed due to sudden flash flooding! All three of the national parks we visited were so beautiful and so different from one another. We made short stops in each and it was honestly only enough to stamp our National Parks Passport, and whet our appetite for more. We can't wait to return and explore more of these beautiful landmarks.



The drive from Colorado to California is such a beautiful one. I love it. We are so blessed to live in a county with so much variety in the landscape and so much beauty. When we left CO the Yosemite fire was raging, but since we were headed to Southern California we didn't think fires would play into out trip. How surprised we were when the hillside across from our room caught on fire and we suddenly saw flames and lots of smoke! Then this happened for the next five hours. 


Hooray for water hazards! The boys loved getting to see the helicopters fly back and forth over our heads so close and so frequently. And thankfully their efforts were effective in getting the fire out by night fall. I was a little nervous. 

Finally we made it all the way to the coast and enjoyed a day at the beach picking up shells, playing in sand and waves and discovering tide pools and tons of crabs. This is one of the beaches in La Jolla. 



Last but not least we explored NYC... and all the other tiny cities at Legoland. The model cities are pretty impressive, and my husband of course loved the homage to Star Wars. The park was perfect for our boys at their young ages and we were so happy we got to take them. 


So that's why I've been MIA. So good to get away, so much to come back to, so thankful for all of it. 
We have a super busy September ahead, but I'm hoping to be here more. I hope you are well! I'll see you again soon for some fun toddler activities Thing Two has been enjoying. Thanks for reading!

-Haley


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