All posts by Joey Beck

DIY: Creative Kids’ Activities for Fall

Each year autumn marks a time for change – leaves turn colors, the air becomes crisp and parents everywhere prepare for their children to return to school. The new season brings with it a shift in rhythms and patterns, including a new weekly routine for families as children go back to school.

For young children starting school, it’s important to maintain a learning environment even after the last school bell rings and they return home. Spend this time building family traditions and making learning fun by incorporating some of these fun indoor and outdoor fall activities into your seasonal routine.

EXPLORE THE OUTDOORS

* Set up a scavenger hunt with your kids to teach them about the differences between the tree; this activity allows children to run around the neighborhood learning about the wide variety of living things in their environment.
*Collect fallen leaves to create a beautiful fall collage. This is a fun activity for young children as they can use their imagination and creativity to design a unique image celebrating the fall season.
*Use a metallic marker so kids can write on the leaves, creating patterns or images, then place the leaves on wax paper and apply Mod Podge to keep the design in place as it hangs.
*Visit a local pumpkin patch: One of the most cherished fall traditions for families is spending a day at a pumpkin patch. Full of fun and games, the pumpkin patch is a perfect place for young children. Whether you’re making your way through the corn maze, interacting with the animals in the petting zoo, or enjoying a hay ride around the grounds, your family is sure to have a blast.

HALLOWEEN PREP

*Use the pumpkins brought home from the patch to design a spooky Jack-o’-lantern with your children. Let them design a face on the front of the pumpkin and cut it out for them.
*As Halloween approaches your little one will need a costume. Whether it’s shopping for the perfect costume or making one from scratch, use this time to learn more about your child’s likes and dislikes while encouraging them to express their creativity.

Make this fall season unforgettable and continue to help your children grow by introducing these lifelong family traditions.

Homemade Alternatives to Halloween Candy

Processed, sugar-packed candies are collected door-to-door every year at Halloween. This year, try a different angle with homemade sweet treats that parents can make with their kids for Halloween.

Chef Claire Menck from The Art Institute of Wisconsin loves making ghostly “gorp” wrapped in white parchment paper with her two children.

“Gorp is basically granola mixed with your child’s favorite treats like chocolate candies, peanut butter chips, pretzels, gummy bears, etc.,” she says. To make the granola, take oatmeal and toss with your choice of spices, honey and oil. Lay oatmeal on a sheet tray and toast on the lowest heat possible (usually 150 or 200 F). You can add sugar to the granola, but be careful to not add too much sugar as it can make it hard. Parents can also choose to substitute the sugar with agave or maple syrup. Mix the granola with the tasty treats. Take white parchment paper and draw two eyes. Place a scoop of the gorp into the opposite side of the paper and tie up top for spooky gorp.

Another of Chef Menck’s favorite treats is dried fruit roll-ups wrapped to look like candy. She recommends using local, seasonal fruit. “We always go apple-picking in the fall and come back with more than we need; and so we create dried apple treats.” Cut and peel the apples or your choice of fruit beforehand in half-inch slices. Then mix the slices with spices of your choosing such as cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, etc.

“Make it a tactile experience for your kids and allow them to mix all the ingredients together, maybe even with their hands,” she says. Lay the apples on an oiled cookie sheet, turn your oven on to the lowest setting and slow bake until dehydrated (about 45 to 90 minutes, depending on preference). Take colorful tissue paper or Halloween-themed paper and place under parchment paper. Once the fruit is dehydrated, place a small amount of the fruit on a 4-by-4-inch parchment paper. Then roll and twist the ends to look like a candy wrapper and tie the ends. You can also use dehydrated berries like cranberries for the fruit roll-up candy.

“Chocolate! Can’t have Halloween without the chocolate, chocolate spiders with pretzel legs that is,” says Chef Amy Carter, baking and pastry instructor at The Art Institutes International Minnesota. Begin by lining a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and spray with cooking spray. Melt chocolate chips of your choosing in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl, and stir every so often to make sure chocolate melts evenly. Add rice cereal or bran twigs, or your favorite crunchy grain and then add to the melted chocolate. Stir the mixture until well combined. Take half of a palm-size of the mixture and place on the baking sheet. Add stick pretzels for legs. Add two marshmallows or white chocolate chips for eyes.

“For a creepier spin on your Halloween treats, I recommend truffle eyeballs to liven up a kids’ party,” Chef Carter says. All you need is 8 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream and 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Heat the cream, pour over the chocolate, and whisk in the butter until nice and smooth. Pour the mixture in a pan and chill for 2 hours, or -overnight – just long enough to firm it. You can flavor with anything like vanilla, peanut butter or fruit puree. Then take an ice cream scoop or have the kids help by rolling the mixture into small balls with their hands and then roll the balls in powdered sugar. Top off with a chocolate candy and then take red, edible writing gel to make squiggly lines.

These creative, make-it-at-home-tips are just some fun ideas you can create with your kids as a Halloween project, and then tackle carving the pumpkin.

Sip in Style

Hand-painted wine glasses are the trendy DIY project this season and are perfect gifts for any occasion including birthdays, bridal showers, and many other holidays.

All you need are small bottles of acrylic paint, small to medium paint brushes, a plain wine glass, and an index card.  I recommend purchasing quality wine glasses because dollar-glasses tend to break even if you’re not the Hulk, and you certainly wouldn’t want to break your work of art!

Before you begin, draw the design on the index card or print out a design from your computer.  This trick is especially handy for names.

Directions:

1)  Ensure that your glass is clean and dry.

2)  Tape the index card with your design to the inside of the glass.

3)  Load your brush and begin painting the glass, carefully tracing over your design.  (Practice using your paintbrushes on a spare sheet of paper to see the full range of strokes.)

4)  Allow the glass to dry for 1 hour.

5)  Place the glass in a COLD oven, and then preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  The bake time is 30 minutes, but remember to add the preheat time into the bake time.  Leave the glass in the oven until it’s completely cool.

6)  Voila!  A customized, hand-painted, unique work of art.

For simple designs, polka-dots are versatile (not to mention easy), swirls are always stylish and animal prints are chic.  Complex designs such as flowers and animals can be tricky, so practice on paper before painting the glass.  Note that acrylic paint dries quickly but it’s forgiving when wet, so if you make a mistake, have damp paper towels or Q-tips on hand for a quick clean-up.  Don’t forget to decorate the stem!  If you don’t want to paint it, a pretty ribbon quickly adds that final, feminine touch.

Of course, this DIY project isn’t limited to wineglasses!  Try painting margarita glasses, stemless wine glasses, and martini glasses.

 

All About Scarves

Vibrant, glamorous, and chic are just a few of the adjectives that describe anyone’s new favorite spring accessory: scarves!

These versatile pieces are available in every color, pattern, and shape under the sun and glam up any outfit from tanks and jeans to shorts and tees.  Scarves are no longer limited by winter and fall and easily flutter into the spring and summer months.  An airy cotton scarf is ideal for warm spring days and easily transitions into cooler nights.  It’s true – scarves are a spring staple to any girl’s closet.

Pair any vivid floral scarf with a t-shirt top and jeans and bibbidi-bobbidi-boo!  You’re instantly ready for a movie date (no fairy godmother needed).  Scarves speak for themselves and, if you play your colors right, they can bring out your eyes or add color to your cheeks!  Coral and aqua hues will compliment your new tan or give you some color during the pale to tan transition.  Scarves are an easy way to add a splash of color to any ensemble.

These accessories aren’t just for your neck; scarves can also double as head scarves, sarongs, and belts.  Depending on the width of your scarf, you can fold the scarf length-wise and wear it as a headband.  Simply tie it at the nape of your neck and let the loose ends fall down your back.  To transform your scarf into a sarong, use a large scarf and open it wide.  Place it around your hips and tie the ends together on one side.  A sheer scarf works well to create a cute and casual look for warm days at the beach or pool.  This style can easily be adjusted to make a belt, too.  Instead of opening the scarf wide, fold the scarf length-wise until you have the appropriate width.  Place the scarf around your hips or waist and tie the ends for a fresh, colorful statement.  Skinnier scarves can be pulled through belt loops and the ends can be tied into a bow.  Try this look with a pair of shorts and a vibrant tucked blouse for a chic, feminine look.

Scarves are limitless!  Check out the scarves.net for more creative ways to wear your favorite spring statement.