Toy stragglers find a home

Nature centerYou know all of those little tiny toys you find around the house? The ones you get from kids birthday party favors, or Easter baskets, or the school prize box?
The little rubber duckies from the duck themed baby shower, or the little dinosaur from the neighbors birthday party? Or what about the little spiders from the kids Halloween goodie bags? The plastic fish? Pony? Turtles? Gems? Shells? Rocks? Cars? Are you following me yet? Well, alone they’re just little nic-nacks,  sprinkled around the house, that can drive you insane! But put them all together in a portable container, and you’ve got a Nature Center! A Nature Center that you can take anywhere! That’s what my kids named it since our collection is made up mostly of little animals, shells, and all the things I mentioned above. But you can name your bin anything you want. This bin has been played with over and over again, inside the house, outside of the house, with water, with blocks, the possibilities are endless. And like everything else, setting up their “nature center” is always the most fun! My favorite part? Cleaning up! It’s so easy, because  everything goes in one bin!

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One picture. A thousand words.

BeautifulmomI love how a picture can come to life, even if it was taken 38 years ago. Like this picture of my mother in law with my husband (what a cutie). Her smile, her hands locking with her sweet baby boy, I can feel her in the moment. The warmth of the sun on their skin. Her eyes say so much and he just has no clue yet! He’s just happy to have someone holding him up. Helping him to stand. He’s so happy just having his mom close to him. He doesn’t have a care in the world. She probably has so many, but right now all she cares about is keeping him on his two little feet. She seems so casual, so natural. Someone just caught her in the moment. What a beautiful moment.

I didn’t know her as a young mother, but this picture tells me so much. She was a happy mom, a beautiful, sexy mom. She was loving, caring and true.

I did get to know her as the mother of a grown man. She helped him to grow up and stand all by himself. Guiding him, but not controlling him. Loving him, but not smothering him. She held him close but knew how to let go.  She always stood beside him, never in front and never behind him. They were equal. He loved her very much and she the same.

Summer Fun: Shimmering Ice Cubes

glitter iceSpring is right around the corner, and summer is not too far behind. If you’re like me, you’re starting now to collect some fun spring/summer activities to do with your kids. My kids loved making glittery, shimmery ice. We did this last summer for my daughters’ Frozen birthday party but, it’s fun to do anytime. The girls had just as much fun making the as they did playing with it. After our cubes were finished the kids used shaving cream to play along with the ice cubes. You can even do this in the winter and have the kids play with it in the snow. It will definitely last longer in the cold!

All you need is empty ice trays, the more the better!Several bowls to make different colored water. Food coloring, glitter ( They make edible glitter if you want to use the ice cubes for drinks, but we used regular craft glitter) and Ziploc bags to store the ice that is ready so that you can make more.We filled several bowls with water and added a a few drops of food coloring to each bowl to get the shade that we wanted. Then we sprinkled some glitter into the bowl, mixed it all up and using a turkey baster we filled up the ice trays and popped them into the freezer. That’s it! I let them sit in the freezer over night and ,when they were ready, the kids popped them out and into a ziploc bag and we placed them back into the freezer and used the empty ice trays to make some more.

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DIY Table for two

Doll TableMy kids definitely all caught the creative bug from me and building and putting things together bug from my husband. They are constantly creating something and I love it! They are little problem solvers, always thinking of ways to make something out of nothing. The other day, my daughter Melina came to me and expressed that she needed a table for her dolls. She brought me a cardboard box and said “mom can you wrap this in fabric and turn it into a table for me?” I thought it was such a great idea and I honestly wouldn’t have thought of wrapping it with fabric myself. I probably would have suggested painting it or using wrapping paper! But using fabric is definitely going to make the table last much longer. We went through our scraps of fabric and Melina picked out the pattern she liked. I simply took a glue gun and used the fabric like wrapping paper and wrapped up the box, hot gluing as I wrapped. She wanted a trim of green at the bottom so I folded the edges of the fabric in an inch and glued it around the bottom onto the box. My oldest daughter suggested that I use old blocks as legs for the table. What a brilliant idea I thought! So we picked out 4 old blocks and hot glued that to the bottom of the box and wah-la, a table for two!

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hotglue Doll TableAll you need is an empty box, I used a cracker box from BJ’s (you can used any size box that’s perfect for your dolls), a glue gun, glue sticks, old wooden blocks and fabric. This was so easy to make and it’s so cute!

DIY So Simple Knit Hair Clips

hairclipsHaving three little girls, it’s hard for me not to turn everything into a hair clip! If you know how to knit up little square swatches, then these little bows are so easy to make. My moms a knitter, so I commissioned her to make me several knitted squares. I simply pinched the center to create a bow, cut up a few strips of felt long enough to wrap around the bow and hot glued it to the bow. I took an alligator hair clip and hot glued it to the back of the bow and ta-dah! A lovely little hair clip! If you’re not a knitter you can simply make these with felt. Just cut them into sqaure and assemble with hot glue and clip. Cut big squares for big bow and little sqaures for little bows.

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Lets Go Mets!

IMG_1854Spring training is here! Welcome back baseball! This past year, the Mets gained three new little fans! Hmmmm, maybe four! I guess I’m taking a liking to baseball myself. My husbands’ yelling and screaming make it hard for me not to wonder what is going on in the game! The love for baseball can be handed down from generation to generation in many different ways. Sometimes from fathers to sons, sometimes from uncles to nephews. For my husband, the love for baseball wasn’t handed down, but rather grew in him as a young child. He began his love affair with the New York Mets when he was 7 years old in 1985. His love for the team spread quickly to his mother. She understood nothing about the game when this all started, but little by little as he explained the game to her she fell in love with it too. The love of baseball, and in particular, the love for the Mets was something special that they shared. Even though the team struggled for many years, they followed them faithfully. Some of his happiest memories are lazy summer afternoons sitting in the backyard listening to the game on the radio together and summer nights watching the games on TV cheering them on.

The two of them would go to Shea Stadium and cheer for the team they loved. Maybe baseball was just an excuse for him to spend time with the mother he adored and looked up to. Maybe baseball was just her excuse to sit next to her youngest son and cheer about a common love. Their relationship was a special one, they enjoyed a lot of the same things, but none more than the New York Mets.

When we had our 3 little girls, my husband never pushed baseball upon them. He never imagined that they would one day learn to love the team he has faithfully followed now for more than 30 years. But as they watched him root for the team they too, started to root right there along beside him.  It’s been really sweet to watch my little girls share in the love of baseball with their daddy. My girls have learned to the love the Mets…to love the game of baseball…to love the time spent watching the games with their dad. Can you guess who their favorite player is?

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This post is dedicated to my mother in law who was the biggest Met fan of all. Unfortunately she passed away August 31, 2015 right before the Mets went to the world series. We have a feeling she was watching and had the best seat in the house!

Middle Eastern Chicken Wraps

middleeasternwrapMiddle Eastern WrapsI got this recipe from one of my best friends from college. I’ve wanted to make these for the longest time. She has the recipe perfectly posted here at danascreativekitchen.com. Her mom used to make these for me back in the day along with many other Middle Eastern dishes! They spoiled me and I was already spoiled by my Italian mother so I was constantly eating very well! They made me feel like a queen every visit. We’d sit at her big dinning room table surrounded by her two brothers and little sister and her loving parents. My friend too spoiled me, serving me tea and delicious middle eastern sweets. Oh and I can’t forget the videos she would make me watch of her as a baby! I have to say she was a cutie! I miss those days of pure friendship, where if mom wasn’t cooking for you, someone’s mom was! This dish not only completely satisfies my tummy but also my soul as well. My husband really enjoyed these wraps! My kids ate the chicken with the tortillas on the side. This is an incredibly simple dish to make, although back then I thought I would never be able to make it for myself! I used Mission tortilla flour for the wraps which can be found in any local supermarket. The recipe calls for sumac spice and ground cardamom which can be found in Middle Eastern stores.  Unfortunately there is not a  local Middle Eastern store near me so I ordered the spices  from Amazon.com.  I’ve linked the one’s I purchased below but there are many you can choose from. I was happy with my picks! Oh and you need lots of onions for this recipe. The first time I made it, I skimped out on the onions because I only had 1 onion and was too exited to make it but too lazy to run out and get more onions. The second time I made it, I used the right amount of onion and it was perfect! I’ve listed the ingredients below, please visit danascreativekitchen.com for complete instructions.

Ingredients:
2 pounds boneless chicken breast cutlets, cut into small pieces (see photo below)
2-3 tablespoons sumac spice (found in Middle Eastern stores)
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 cup olive oil
1-2 Tablespoons toasted pine nuts
4 large onions, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
10 wraps

Spelling Wall

One challenge I find when having two children in school is keeping track of their spelling words. Yes, it’s their responsibility to study them, but I wanted to find an easy way to really help them access their words anytime during the week without depending on me and without me having to nag them!

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I found these super cute School Tools Pocket Charts at oriental trading. They came in a pack of four.  I’m currently using three of them but need to add the fourth one as my older daughter gets 12 spelling words a week. I use one chart each for the two older girls and one chart for my four year old to learn her site words. I hung the charts in our hallway near our playroom so that the girls can see their words daily. As soon as the girls get their new words, they grab the index cards, write down their words and put them in their charts! Anytime throughout the week, I remind them to study and they go and sit in front of the words and copy them onto their clipboards, which are hanging in their playroom. This has really worked and the girls have been bringing home awesome spelling test grades ever since! Best part of all is that I do not need to nag them to study, and tell them to go into their backpacks and get their words. They are accessible to the girls, making it very simple for them to study a few minutes each night. These are great for homeschooling moms too!

spelling Wall spelling wallYou can also find a similar product at Amazon.com