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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Recycled Christmas Ornament: Altoid Tin

I was recently given a craft assignment: to make a Christmas ornament using recycled materials. 

Okay, okay. It wasn't MY homework. It was my daughter's first grade homework assignment. Nevertheless, I was excited. After all, it specifically said the project was to be a collaborative effort between the student and his/her family!

Momo and I started brainstorming almost immediately. We searched Pinterest for ideas and pinned like crazy! When we finally narrowed down our choices.....we ended up with a Pinterest fail: 

Trust me. It is NOT supposed to look like that!

More brainstorming. We finally we came up with our own idea of using Altoid tins!

Luckily I have been saving the tins to make more of these:

....but it just hasn't happened yet. Of course being a bit of a craft hoarder I have tons of other supplies, such as bottle caps, fabric, felt, ribbon, etc. After playing around with what we had on hand we finally completed our ornament!

We covered the front of the Altoid tin with red felt and a Christmas bow to make it look like a present:

On the inside of the tin we covered both sides with felt/fabric; glued on some bottle caps; drew a face and buttons on the caps to look like a snowman; attached a gift label to one side and then added a ribbon for hanging!(Note to self: next time put the tag on the front of the tin, so it really looks like a present!) 

Imagine all the possible surprises you can hide in an Altoid tin!

It came out pretty cute and I know Momo is proud of OUR project! :)

If you are looking for more ideas on easy, kid-friendly recycled Christmas ornaments check out my Pinterest Board: "Recycled Christmas Ornaments."

Happy Christmas Crafting! 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hometowns: Honolulu and Chicago

Recently I was contacted by travel expert extraordinaire, Kendra Thornton, who asked if I would be interested in a collaborative blog post sharing a little bit about why we love our hometowns.


I was skeptical. Why would a TV spokesperson, PR businesswoman, former Director of Communications for ORBITZ, and full-time mommy of three be contacting ME? But after asking a few questions and making sure she was the real deal I sucked it up to being an awesome opportunity to share a little bit about this awesome state that I live in, and to learn a little bit about her hometown of Chicago!

I can't say that I know much about Chicago, but I can tell you for certain that it is faaaaaaar away from here! (4,246 miles from Honolulu! Yes, I Googled it!) And since that is pretty much the extent of what I know about the windy city I think it's only appropriate that Kendra takes over from here! My take on Honolulu will be next! Now heeeeeeeere's Kendra!

An Insider's Guide to Chicago 

Chicago, the “Windy City” has so many things to do that it might be intimidating to a first time visitor—it can even be intimidating to a lifelong resident!  However, this assortment of activities and to do’s makes Chicago what it is: a fun, big, culture filled city.  There is an almost endless list of wonderful attractions, shopping, and restaurants.  There are many choices of places to stay while visiting our fair city.  To list them all would need enough pages to fill a book.  However, I can point you to some of my favorites.

On South Lakeshore Drive stands the Field Museum of Natural History.  It is a wonderful place to take children.  It has a balance of educational things to see and fun things for children to do.  They always have traveling exhibits in addition to the wonderful selection of permanent exhibits such as the massive, Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaur fossils.  With the traveling exhibits, a visit to the Field museum is never the same experience twice.  

If you enjoy artwork, the Chicago Cultural Center is a must-see.  Located across from Michigan Avenue and Millennium Park in the famous Loop, it is one of my favorite places to visit.  It is one of Chicago's most visited attractions, with hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.  It is home to the world's largest stained glass Tiffany dome, which is 38 feet in diameter and contains over 30,000 pieces of glass. The center is also host to many free public events, and is located right near Millennium Park is you want to venture there as well.

Of course, Chicago is filled with history as well.  Some of the older hotels, like the Drake, are filled with Chicago history.  No matter if you're looking for something historical, or something new and shiny, Chicago's hotel industry has something to meet your needs.  Even if those needs are simply the best nightly rate for you and your family, the information you need can be had quickly and easily.  I find that gogobot is a great resource for finding the hotel that best fits your needs.   

Naturally, you're going to need to eat while you're here.  Among all the wonderful breakfast shops throughout the city, Lou Mitchell's stands out from the crowd.  Some of the best food in town is served here by “Uncle Lou” and kids love coming here.  One of Chicago's most iconic restaurants, it also has the benefit of being reasonably priced.  The fair pricing ensures that you can have a wonderful meal without breaking your budget.  A fun fact about Lou Mitchell's is that they hand out Milk Duds to all the ladies and children who enter.  The reason being that Milk Duds were invented in Chicago and the creator was a friend and customer of Lou's.   

While there is much more to see and do in Chicago, I hope I have given you some ideas.  No matter how you spend your time here, I am sure you will find many ways to enjoy your stay.  The history and beauty of our fair city offers much to do, with even those of us who live here often finding new things to do and see.  I wish you a fun and happy adventure!

So many fun adventures! Thank you, Kendra, for sharing! 

Now, what to say about Hawaii? How hard can it be to write about this state that I love?

Uhhhh, much harder than I thought.

When I actually sat down and started thinking about what to write I couldn't. It wasn't for lack of trying! It's just that....well....I hate to brag but there is so much to love about living here! The weather; the people; the beaches; the food; the music; the culture! I could go on and on! Unlike those that suffer from the occasional  "Island Fever" (the feeling of needing to get off "the rock") I never do!

So what to share? It was agonizing trying to narrow my choices down but I was finally able to. Since I am a full-time mom of two young girls I thought I would share two of our favorite FREE things to do on Oahu. While it is possible, it is highly unlikely you will find these places listed as "must-dos" in travel guides.

#1 The Beach: Baby Makapu'u

When we have a free day and the weather is cooperating (almost always!) we go to the BEACH!  But which one? Living on an island we are surrounded by miles and miles of beautiful beaches. I recently gave a circle-island tour to some friends who were vacationing here. They nonchalantly mentioned, "Yeah, we drove around and saw the beaches, but they all look the same."

Ahhhhh. Yes. I could see where someone not from here might say that.

Water. Sand. Rocks. Repeat. 

But that is where they are wrong. The beaches are not the same, not at all! As a matter of fact, what beach we go to depends on what we want to do while there. Snorkel? Boogie board? Paddle board? Kayak? Play in the tide pools? Swing on a rope into the water? Also, not all beaches have bathrooms, showers or parking.We also have to take into consideration any ocean conditions that might be hazardous such as high surf, man-o-war/jellyfish, strong currents or dangerous shore break.

Hands down one of our most favorite beaches is "Baby Makapu'u" (also known as "Cockroach Bay".) The water conditions (high-tide, low-tide, high-surf, or no-surf) will determine how you will spend your day there! The view is guaranteed to always be amazing! Take a look!

View from Baby Makapu'u - Rabbit Island (Hawaii State Sea Bird Sanctuary) in the distance.
View from Baby Makapu'u: To the left - Makai Pier. Can you make out the hang glider in the sky?
 Almost every day is good for checking out the tide pools:


Or sitting in them:

Or jumping into them when the tide is high and the water is deep!

Or looking for sea creatures.....

Or just hanging out! See how amazingly clear and calm the water can be?


 And there is always room to just sit and enjoy the view.......

Or play a little football.......

Stronger/older swimmers can enjoy snorkeling in the deeper water and/or riding on their boogie boards, surfboards, skim boards, etc.


Wipe outs are inevitable:

But we always have a great time! 

A few things to know before you go:

1) There are no signs marking the location of the beach.
2) Parking is available. Please be sure to secure your valuables and vehicle.
3) There are no showers/bathrooms, however, there is one up the road at Makapu'u Beach Park if you are willing to make the trek.
4) The rocks can be slippery and sharp. Use caution.
5) There is minimal shade. 
6) There are two spigots, one on each end of the parking lot that you can use to rinse off your feet/equipment.
7) There are also trashcans available near the parking lot. Please use them! 
8) This is a popular beach for families so it can get crowded. I recommend going early in the morning or late in the afternoon.


Baby Makapu'u is located in Waimanalo between between Sea Life Park and the Makai Pier. 

Coming from Honolulu/Waikiki: Follow directions to Sea Life Park (41-202 Kalanianaole Hwy, Waimanalo Beach, HI 96795). Pass the entrance to Sea Life Park on your left. Watch for the exit (which will quickly approach) as the road to Baby Makapu'u will be almost directly across from it. Turn right, then at the fork in the road turn left down into the parking lot.

Coming from the Windward side:  Follow directions to Sea Life Park (41-202 Kalanianaole Hwy, Waimanalo Beach, HI 96795). Drive through Waimanalo town. Pass Makai pier on your left (you can't miss it!) After you pass the pier the next road on the left will be the entrance to Baby Makapu'u. Turn left, then turn left at the fork in the road down into the parking lot.

The second place I would recommend has beautiful ocean views but does not require you to get wet!

#2: Cardboard Surfing at Kaka'ako Waterfront Park

Kaka'ako Waterfront Park is located south of downtown Honolulu. It is a free public park where people come to jog, picnic, ride their bicycles, fish, and enjoy the view. It is also home to the infamous body surfing spot, "Point Panic".

The park has large, grassy hills. People of all ages bring their cardboard boxes to try and cardboard surf down the hill. The goal is to slide down the hill as fast and as far as you can!

Here are some pictures from the last time we went!

The kids picked which hill they wanted to slide down first. Some of the kids had larger boxes which they sat in. The other boxes were a bit smaller so they flattened them:

They weren't too impressed with this particular hill so they packed up and went on a search for another. They also swapped out their cardboard boxes for their boogie boards. The leash on their boogie boards made it easier to pull one another:

Big sister pulls little sister....

Little sister laughs when big sister wipes out!

Riding double and being pulled is the way to go!
Wipe out!
Surfing down the hill standing up!

Sliding down on her knees!

Sometimes those little legs get moving a little too fast and cause a wipe out! See the fear and anticipation in their faces?

But the day always ends with lots of laughter, tired legs, and some grass stained clothes!

Things to know before you go:  

1) Free parking. Please be sure to secure your valuables and your vehicle.
2) Bathrooms, showers, and water fountains are available.
3) Lots of shade and picnic tables.
4) Paved jogging path.
5) While there is beach access via concrete stairs, there is no sand at this beach. This beach is mostly used by experienced body surfers.
Location: Kaka'ako Waterfront Park is located at the end of Ohe Street, next to the Children's Discovery Center (102 Ohe St, Honolulu, HI 96813). 

That wraps up two of our favorite family-friendly and free things to do on Oahu! Whether you live here or are visiting, hopefully you will have the opportunity to try both! Many thanks to Kendra Thornton for asking me to be a part of her "Hometown" series and for sharing about her home town of Chicago! You can find Kendra on Twitter at @KendraThornton.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Halloween I-Spy Bottle

Happy Halloween!

Okay, okay! A little premature but I LOVE Halloween and I can't wait to get started! If you are planning on any DIY Halloween projects now is the time to start preparing!

About this time last year my "Dream Team" room moms and I were brainstorming some Halloween craft ideas to do with kindergarteners. Yes, I really did say "dream team" because we were! Room moms of the highest caliber. The Olympic gold medal winners of room moms! Rock star moms! (Yes, let me toot my horn! We worked hard!) All humbleness aside, Mrs. K, Mrs. M and I worked really well together. I believe a key component to our success was that all three of us have backgrounds in education and know how to create a lesson plan and carry it out. This was truly a plus!

Our first craft that we had to plan for was for Halloween. While there are so many fun and creative ideas out there we had to keep a few things in mind:
  • the craft had to be completed in an hour;
  • we were totally dependent on the kindergarten parents for donating the supplies and;
  • the craft had to meet the common core standards (this particular one had to do with 3-dimensional shapes) 

Initially I thought about having the kindergarteners make finger puppet ghosts (see the link here) but in the the end we decided to make Halloween I-Spy bottles!


While it wasn't my first time making I-Spy bottles with a group it was my first time making it with a group this large. We had to plan for approximately 75 kids! Each kindergarten class was responsible for collecting their own supplies and doing all the prep work before craft day. In case you are considering making these with a large group this is what we requested for each kindergarten class:

  • 24  (16.9 oz.) empty water bottles WITH lids. Smooth bottles (with  the least amount of ridges) works best. 
  • 20 lbs white rice
  • Orange food coloring
  • 5 x large plastic bowls to hold 5lbs rice (ex. large ice cream tubs or plastic witches’ cauldron)
  • 24 quart Ziploc bags 
  • 24 (3oz or 5oz) paper or plastic “bathroom cups” (to pour rice into funnels) 
  • 8+ sets of 24 small trinkets
  • Construction paper (to make paper funnels)
  • Scotch tape (for paper funnels)
  • Hot gun and glue sticks (to only be used by an adult)
  • Permanent marker or(to put names on lids, mark bottles “do not fill past this line”)
  • Wax paper or cookie sheet (to dry colored rice) 
  • Optional: camera, printer paper, laminating machine, ribbon, hole puncher, scissors (to make I-Spy tags)
  • Paper towels, spray bottle/cleanser to wipe tables down; broom and dustpan; trash bag for clean up
  • Paper towel/toilet paper roll to show the students that a water bottle is a 3 dimensional shape
    The prep work before craft day consisted of: cleaning the bottles; removing the labels and any sticky residue; dyeing the rice; bagging the trinkets; making paper funnels; and making a sample of the craft to show the students on craft day. We also made made a laminated tag to attach to the bottle that had a list of items on one side a picture of the items on the other: 

    One of the cool trinkets we put into our bottles was a bean ghost:

    Simply draw eyes on white beans! It is easy and inexpensive to do and the kids can draw the faces themselves! Thanks to "Chasing Cheerios" for the idea! 

    While it was a lot of work for a group this large the kids had a great time and absolutely loved it! As a matter of fact, at the end of the year I had one student tell me the I-Spy bottle was their most favorite craft ever! 

    Many thanks to my Dream Team! Mrs. K and Mrs. M! 

    For other Halloween craft ideas check out some things I have done in the past: spider lollipops, milk carton lights and spooky specimens jars! Or plan a Halloween feast with worm spaghetti and blood sauce! It has become an annual tradition that the kids look forward to every year!

    Happy Crafting!

    P.S. If you would like a sample of the lesson plan we created please let me know. I will be happy to email it to you! You can tweak it to fit your needs.

    Tuesday, July 2, 2013

    Summer Camping at Kahana Bay

    And here I am! Ten months later....back to blogging. Please forgive my absence, it's been a long, hard year! Instead of a lengthy, detailed explanation I am just going to jump right back in!

    A couple of weeks ago my BFF asked me if I had ever gone camping. Uh, no. Then she asked if I ever would. Uh, no again. She must've waved some voodoo magic over me because the next thing you know I was out buying a tent and other needed camping supplies. 

    The thought of camping stressed me out for the following reasons:

    1) My husband wasn't going to be there. My own personal Mr. Outdoor/Wilderness/McGuyver/protector! Who is going to protect me from killer toads?

    BFF's solution: Not to worry. My husband will be there! We will help you!

    2) What to bring? 
    BFF and I made a list. Many times. We made a list of lists. Again and again.

    3) What to eat? (This was not a good time to be doing Whole30!) 
    BFF's solution: Don't worry about the food. I will take care of the food.(Major hallelujah!)

    And maybe the most important concern of all: 

    4) What about coffee?!? 

    BFF's solution: Starbuck's VIA! 

    Okay, okay. I think it might be able to handle it!

    We decided to camp at beautiful Kahana Bay. BFF's family got there before we did and had the camp already set up. I was impressed! They helped me unload and get my tents up:

    BFF's husband then hooked up the hammocks: 

    The kids were eager to hit the beach and play. They did, but soon afterwards we got hit with some rain. A LOT of rain.

    The kids were disappointed. "Really? Rain?" But they managed (and the tents held up pretty good!)

    Little did we know that the downpour would bring........

    The Lickety Split ice cream truck!!!

    While Carter ran to the next parking lot over to stop the truck the girls tried their best to flag it down. Can we all scream for ice cream?

     Great team work kiddos!

    The rain stayed away and BFF got to cooking. For lunch (pre-rain) we had some whole30 pad thai (my most favorite whole30 meal yet!) For dinner she fired up the grill and made hot dogs for the kiddos and whole30 turkey tacos for the adults! She also made bacon-wrapped dates (which twenty something days ago I would have never been willing to try!); Okinawan sweet potatoes made with duck fat; beets; etc. You will have to check out her blog, Paleo Eats 808 to see what else she cooked, what was for breakfast; and for links to recipes! Here is a teaser pic:

    Yeah, baby. Bacon.

    And we had plenty of fruit. Summer isn't summer without watermelon! 

    Much like camping isn't camping without roasting marshmallows! And let's not forget the head lamps. Functional at night and fashionable during the day!

    We even tried making BANANA BOATS!!! Here is a picture before it was put on the grill. Of course there is no "after" pic because they were quickly inhaled:

    After all the excitement we finally turned in. Some of us woke up early enough to see the beautiful sunrise:

    And walk in the sand: 

    The kids were ready to swim just as the sun was coming up. The adults preferred coffee first. Pour a little Starbucks Via into a water bottle and you have instant human!

    Kailani went for a solo morning paddle:

    And was later joined by the rest of the kiddos:

    Lots of uncontrollable laughter coming from the ocean!

    While the neighbor camp kids caught crabs in buckets:

    We filled ours with:

    And the kids went crazy:

    Of course we had plans to do some camp type crafts, yet that was the one thing I forgot! UGH. The supplies! I was thoroughly bummed. But BFF's husband got a little crafty and made a drink cozie with mustache Duct tape. I was impressed and told him he should open his own Etsy shop.

     There was also some photo bombing that took place:

    And the little ones had fun catching fish in the pond:


    Kahana Bay was so magical we even "found" some pink flamingos on the beach:

    Rare sighting for these parts.

    I have to say, it was an amazing camping experience! A lot of memories were made and we are already talking about the "next time" we go! Thanks to my BFF for all her help and for convincing us to go! Be sure to check out her blog at Paleo Eats 808! :)