Saturday, December 31, 2011

The DIY Mom Year In Review

I talked recently about how I like to review our year's worth of pictures and videos and how this year we would be watching a bunch of those on New Year's Eve to remember all of the thing we've done in 2011. I thought I take a couple of minutes to write about some of the things I've posted on this site that people have found most helpful. Here are the top ten posts of 2011, in order from 1 to 10.
Archaeological Painting

Dino Skeleton

Thomas Board Game

Number or Commandments Train

Year in Review

Vanilla Frozen Yogurt Without a Machine

Free Dinosaur Printables

Homemade Glue

I Love Grandma Apron

D is for Dinosaur Unit Study

DIY Projects Attempted in 2011

This past year, I've tried to make a lot of things that I've never done before. Many of them have worked really well...but a few have completely flopped. I'll start with the ones that worked. Here are some of the successful projects that I've attempted that were new to me in 2011 (or that I finally figured out how to do well).

Homemade Tortillas

Frozen Yogurt made without an Ice Cream Machine

Pasteurized Eggs

Cheesecake Brownies

Real Homemade Ice Cream

Easy Fresh Lemonade

Homemade Ice Cream Cones

Corn Syrup Substitute

Homemade Glue

Homemade Watercolors

From Scratch Caramel Pudding

Homemade Chocolate Chips

Homemade Hash Browns

Homemade Caramel Chips

Pumpkin Scones

Chocolate Covered Spoons

Easy No-bake Caramel Corn

Homemade Bubble Bath

Homemade Chewy Salted Caramels

There are still quite a few other new projects that I did in 2011 that I haven't had a chance to post about yet like homemade marshmallows, crescent rolls, paint with water pages, and more that hopefully I'll get a chance to share with you soon.

There are also a few projects that I have tried that have been complete flops. Projects that I just couldn't get to work, at least not yet. I don't generally share these here, simply because failed projects aren't as helpful to others. But so that you all know I am human and still fail often, here are a few things I tried and didn't work out.

I tried making fresh limeade the same way I make fresh lemonade in the blender, and it turned out incredibly bitter. Don't make limeade in this way, you'll just waste limes and sugar. (Although my husband still liked some of it.)

Candy Canes
I tried making candy canes twice and both flopped rather badly. I was trying to make them with just a dairy thermometer instead of a proper candy thermometer that would actually read all the way to proper temperatures (in high altitude, which effects boiling temperatures) and not using corn syrup. I think I need to change at least one of these obstacles before I'll think about attempting making these again. I did manage to save the slightly minty sugar and turn it into these mint-sugar balls, which all the boys ate with gusto, but it was not at all what I was going for.

Homemade Dehumidifier
I think I deleted all pictures of our attempts at making homemade dehumidifiers using old plastic tubs recycled from food, salt, charcoal, fabric, and colanders, because it made me mad that instead of helping they started molding themselves, and I had more to clean. For some reason they don't sell dehumidifiers in this city, so we were trying to make our own, but so far no success. If anyone has successfully made their own, please share. Otherwise we'll probably have to try to order one off of Chinese "Ebay" and see if it helps.

There are probably a lot more projects that didn't work out, but I think I'm repressing them at the moment. I am planning some new things to try as I am trying to set goals for 2012, and I'll share what projects I want to tackle next year soon.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Easy Holiday Breakfasts

For this past Christmas breakfast, I made up a breakfast tray the night before. This time, I included pumpkin bread, cinnamon rolls, and strawberries. I have also done this many times in the past when I want an easy holiday breakfast all ready to go. I usually make the baked goods well ahead of time and freeze them, defrosting the day before they are needed. What is on the tray varies by what I want to bake and what fruit is in season. I love that strawberries are in season here in December! Everything is cut and washed ahead of time and then arranged on the plate. On the holiday morning, I just have to pull out the plate, and we can all nibble on it throughout the morning as we like.

This isn't quite as deluxe as making a huge fresh breakfast with eggs, pancakes, sausage, etc., but it is still delicious and takes any stress anyway from having to prepare breakfast on the morning of a holiday. We didn't have to go anywhere or meet anyone this Christmas morning (except of on Skype), but for those holidays in the past where we have been rushing out the door mid-morning, this breakfast plan has been a real sanity saver.

Family Fridays: A Very Merry Christmas

We had a great Christmas together as a family on Sunday. The night before, I had made a breakfast tray with pumpkin bread, cinnamon rolls, and strawberries and also filled all the boys stocking with granola bars and boxes of milk (in addition to a few extra treats), so we could snack on breakfast as we wished throughout the morning. Andrew was a bit surprised to find more than one item in his stocking since we have been just opening one small present each night throughout December.

First, we talked to our extended families on Skype. The boys had lots of fun opening stockings and presents from the grandparents, and so did we. Then we did some reading and singing as a family. Afterward, we opened presents as a family.

My sweet hubby got me tons of really good chocolate and made a private picture gallery website to view our family pictures more easily. We're going to work on what we want to all do with it together, but it will be an awesome way to share more pictures privately with close friends and family. The boys had great fun opening their small gifts from us as well.

Then we had an unexpected visitor stop by, a high school student who likes to come by and talk to Nate but whom we hadn't heard from in months. The timing of it worked out well, though. We were able to give him some cookies and cocoa, and Nate talked to him for a little bit before he had to go back to school for his Sunday evening classes.

In the evening, we went to a friend's house for a great potluck dinner. I must say I have never had turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, as well as cold duck, spicy lotus root, and rice porridge all for Christmas dinner before, but it was delicious and fun.

After we got back, we let the boys do their treasure hunt for their last big presents from us. It was fun watching Aaron and Andrew trying to follow the clues all over the house to find the presents at the end. It is so funny because Aaron could read the clues so easily but had such a hard time finding them sometimes even though they were almost all completely out in the open. But eventually they found their way to the end and discovered two great big books: a collection of classic Pooh tales and a collection of classic Thomas tales, one for each boy. We read to them for a while and then listened to Aaron read a little, and then collapsed into bed.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Year In Review

Aaron Examining Christmas 2010
For the past two years, I have put together Year In Review DVDs of our best pictures and videos that we have taken throughout the year. First, I go through and label all of the pictures or videos we really want to save and remember. I copy the best ones into a Year In Review folder. This give us a way to look at the best pictures or videos we've take in a certain year quickly. We have then burned DVDs to give as gifts to parents and grandparents. It is an easy and inexpensive gift, except for the time involved. I have found it good to give myself this year end deadline for organizing these memories as well, and I know at least my Grandma watches them over and over again.

This year, I think that we are going to have a family movie marathon for New Year's Eve, featuring ourselves. I think we'll watch the slideshow of the Year In Review pictures and as many home videos as our little guys want to watch. They always love to watch themselves and family on video anyway, and I think this will be a great way to review all the things that have happened in 2011 on New Year's Eve. Maybe we'll make this a new tradition.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve Fun

Today, we were invited to a coffee shop that was having a Christmas party. It wasn't something we were expecting to do, but it turned out to be lots of fun. The kids got to decorate cookies, get balloon animals, and watch movies. Andrew got a snowman painted on his face. I got an awesome peppermint mocha. And we all got to play games and sing songs with friends.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Family Fridays: Andrew is Two Years Old

Andrew officially turned two years old on Sunday. He is terrific and trying at the same time. He is definitely way ahead in everything to do with physical abilities; trying to keep up with big brother is highly motivating to him. Andrew is trying hard to run and jump like Aaron. He can throw and hit with about the same accuracy as his older brother. He is also meticulous with fine motor skills and already has an excellent pencil grip. He can also use a fork and spoon really well, but that isn’t surprising given his love for food.

Andrew is recently becoming able to sit still nicely for short periods of time and is starting to get interested in learning. He is talking more and more and using short sentences, and of course his favorite word is "no-no." He has learned a lot of numbers and letters lately and seems to be on the cusp of reading. He just surprised mommy by spelling "daddy" with 4/5 letters correct.
He is a sturdy young man at 28 pounds and 34 inches tall, which is 50th percentile for weight and 40th percentile for height. He and his brother seem like they compete for who can eat more of certain foods, like eggs and noodles.

We went out to dinner at KFC a few days early, so we could get the last of the Thomas characters (wouldn't want to miss out on Harold) in the happy meals for the boys from Grandma and Grandpa. So it was a quiet day at home for Andrew’s birthday, but it provided more than enough excitement. Waking up to balloons and Pooh characters around, talking to grandparents on Skype, opening presents, and a singing and fire shooting flower candle on a Piglet cake (see below), made Andrew so excited he couldn’t possibly nap and barely ate anything all day.


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