Travel Crafts — Part 3, the final chapter

30 05 2010

Our trip is almost upon us, and I am happy to say I finished up one last little travel goodie!   Although I don’t watch reality TV much, I love the blog So You Think You’re Crafty, which is kind of like, well, any of the reality shows it sounds like.  People compete every week, readers vote on a favorite, and someone is booted.  Last round there was this super cool travel book that I thought would be great entertainment for a car ride, or in a restaurant.  It has a page for a dress-up doll, tic-tac-toe, and coloring.  I felt the need to modify it (no pun intended), since BB doesn’t know how to play tic-tac-toe, and besides, there’s nobody for him to play with even if he did.  And, maybe it’s gender-biased of me, but I didn’t think he’d be that into dressing a doll either.  The page with crayons is fabulous, so that stayed, modified only to fit the size paper I had.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have time for all the nice details shown in the original project.  This was hastily done!  Maybe, if BB likes it, I can go back and modify it later.  Without further ado:

Mix-n match faces

The right-hand page is a blank face with velcro, where hair, eyes, and a mouth can stick.  Then I made three of each, for, oh gosh, I don’t remember how to figure it, but a lot of possible combinations.


The pad was just a little too big, but by the time I realized it, it was too late.  The crayons were all floating around in my diaper bag; they are from the cracker barrel, red robin, and denny’s, and luckily I had a whole rainbow’s worth!  The book has a velcro closure, and it’s about 6″x8″, so it’s nice and compact.  I just hope it’s fun too!  We have many, many hours in the car tomorrow…

As a bonus, I kept up the Science Friday theme, and we built boats out of aluminum foil.  This was an activity I did in physical science classes, back when I taught high school, and it was always a lot of fun, but I learned a few things this time:

  • The boats make good water scoops
  • Those beads I got to load up the boats and see how much they could hold are so light they almost float — not good for this purpose!
  • A tub of water is more fun as a car wash than as a science experiment.  Oh, well.

Building boats? Not so much.

After LB’s nap, we went over to Wild Wings to see the birds… that’s more on BB’s level.  It’s been a long time since we last went (ie. since the weather was nice, probably last fall), and he’s a lot more interested in them now. They have birds of prey–owls, eagles, hawks, and more–that are unable to return to the wild, along with some educational materials like these posters.  The thing on the left is a bald eagle nest… did you know they can weigh more than a ton?  I didn’t.  It’s probably more educational for me than for BB!

How big is a BB bird?

Travel Crafts — Part 2!

25 05 2010

Well, I did it!  I finished at least one more crafty project for our trip.  This is a travel high chair for LB.  I had seen this tutorial a while back on This Mama Makes Stuff, and finally had an opportunity to give it a try!

How it looks in the chair...

Insert baby, lift middle, velcro wings, and it's dinnertime!

I hope it will come in handy!  If nothing else, it is super cute.  🙂  Still more projects in mind, we’ll see if there’s time for them before we go…

Science Friday

22 05 2010

When I was pregnant with BB, I was at a large rummage sale and came across a book called Chemistry for Every Kid.  Of course I bought it!  (Aren’t my kids lucky to have a former chemistry teacher for a mom?)  And in honor of my favorite NPR program that I never listen to (because really, the odds of me being in the car, where I listen to the radio, at 2pm on a Friday are nil) I decided that BB was old enough to try some science activities, so Fridays would be our science day.  I have to admit, I kind of decided this because I was cleaning out the fridge and the egg dyes were still there, including the cabbage juice.  Cabbage juice (from red cabbage) is an acid-base indicator, so when you put vinegar (acid) in it it turns pinkish and when you put baking soda (base), it turns dark purple.  And, of course, when you mix baking soda and vinegar, you get lots of foaming bubbles!  In this case it’s purple foam!

Purple fizz!

He’s too young for much explanation, I just figured it would be good practice scooping and pouring (I gave him a cup of vinegar to pour with too), and watching what happened.  I don’t think he noticed the colors much.  He had a great time mixing things though, and at this point, I suppose that’s what counts!

That was actually last week… this week it was so nice that we headed out to see a park we had never been to before, the Lock 32 park in Pittsford.  I forgot my camera, but if you have seen a boat lock before, you know it’s pretty neat.  We were lucky enough to see one boat come up, and another boat go down.  I don’t know how much he understood, but I explained to him that the lock lets boats go from the lower side of the canal to the higher side (and vice versa) by closing the doors and raising or lowering the water level.  It’s very cool!  I found some great pictures on another blog; if you haven’t seen a lock before it’s worth taking a look.

So that’s our science fun, I hope to keep it up!

Travel crafts–part 1 (?)

19 05 2010

In just over a week we are heading out on our first family vacation (or at least our first trip that isn’t to visit family).  We’re going to Montreal and Quebec City and we’re excited for the chance to experience a different culture so close to home.  BB has been telling all his teachers about our trip to Canada, so I think we’ll have a good time there, but the car ride has me a little more worried.  It’s only about 5 hours, so hopefully it won’t be too bad, but I have started working on some entertainment for the ride.  It’s been a long, long while since I worked on anything crafty, so I really enjoyed working on this.

A box of chocolates? No...

A little car village!

A farm, house, lake, playground, and of course, a parking lot!

A farm, house, lake, playground, and of course, a parking lot!

BB (like all little boys perhaps?) loves to play with cars, but in the car, it’s a little tricky.  I had read suggestions to use a cookie sheet and fridge magnets as something to play with in the car, but I’m not willing to sacrifice any cookie sheets for that job, so when I saw this tin, I thought it would be perfect.  I had already bought some mod podge that I was just itching to try out.  As you can see, I’m terrible at it.  No matter how I try, I am incapable of getting the paper to lie flat without ripples.  Oh well.  And I have the artistic skills of a 5 year old.  But I am hoping that’s enough to impress a 2 year old!  I found this On the Road Toob at Joann, and decided it would be perfect… I hot-glued little magnets on the undersides of all the little cars so they will stay in place in the car.  They’re a great size for this purpose; about half the size of most toy cars.  I saw a Farm Toob and so I added a barn to the scene, thinking I might go back to get it, to add some animals and people to the little village.  And, if time allows, I will add little fabric “bridges” so the cars can drive from one side to the other more easily.  Time has been in short supply lately, because LB has decided he is not into sleeping anymore.  So, I have some other projects in the works for our trip, and I am hoping to get them done (which is why this is tentatively part 1–I am hoping to follow with some more travel crafts).  More to come…?

Awesome snack bars

7 05 2010

Ever since I saw this video, I have been sort of on a crusade to eat less sugar, and especially to reduce the sugary foods in BB’s diet.  I have always had a sweet tooth, and we would often make cookies or brownies to have on hand as a snack.  Making them was fun, and of course so was eating them, but I think it’s true to a certain extent that sugar is addictive and I don’t want my kids to grow up hooked on overly sweet foods.  Because once you cut back on sugar, you quickly realize that just about everything is overly sweet.  Granola bars that are more like candy bars, yogurt that is sweet enough to qualify as dessert, fruit snacks that are mostly sugar and sort of fruit flavored…the list could go on.  The most disturbing thing I have seen recently is a “yogurt” in the baby food aisle that had sugar as the second ingredient and was pasteurized after culturing, so all the good bacteria were killed anyway!  Now why do babies need sugary snacks too?

The video is a little bit long, so I will just summarize what I thought was the main point.  (Apparently this was on the news recently too, my parents tell me, so maybe it’s old news to you…)   Fructose and glucose are metabolized by completely different pathways.  Glucose is used by your muscles and brain as food, and excess can be stored in the liver as glycogen.  Consumption of glucose triggers a hormonal response that makes you feel full.  Fructose, on the other hand, is metabolized exclusively in the liver, and the majority of it is converted into fatty acids that are released into the bloodstream.  After eating a lot of fructose, he says, there is a measurable increase in your triglycerides.  This newly synthesized fat is then stored in fat cells around your body.  Also, fructose does NOT trigger the pathways that make you feel full.  In short, eating sugar will make you fat.  Now, sugar is 50/50 glucose and fructose.   High fructose corn syrup is 45/55 glucose and fructose, so it’s a little worse than sugar but not a whole lot.

That’s a long lead-in to my great snack bar discovery, but I feel pretty strongly about it.  Refined sugars are bad bad bad, and they are aggressively pushed on children.  (When was the last time you saw a cartoon pushing vegetables?  Now that I think about it, that would be great; Bugs bunny selling carrots, Spongebob on pineapples… Warner Bros. and Nick, if you take that idea, I want a cut!).  If you watch Jamie Oliver’s show at all you saw the children all drinking sugared milk (!!!); it made me want to cry.  If kids are used to eating less sugar they won’t expect everything to be so sweet.  BB will happily eat a bowl full of plain yogurt because that’s what we have.  Snack?  Fruit.  We just don’t have any cookies or fruit snacks or ice cream, so it’s not even an option.  Of course we have sweets occasionally, but they are not permanent residents on the shelves.

Going out is a little harder, because I like to carry snacks (no, I NEED to carry snacks; if you have a toddler you know this universal truth: never leave home without a snack.)  The trouble with processed food is that they hide sugar.  Like granola bars.  So, I’ve been trying to make snack bars for us and today I found snack nirvana.  These are knock-offs of Larabars, which I’ve never tried, but they must be good!  I found the recipe here and followed it more or less.

I guarantee: call them chocolate snack bars and children will eat them.

Chocolate Snack Bars (my slightly modified version using what I had on hand):

* 1 1/2 c. pitted dates

* 1/2 c. raisins

*2 T. cocoa powder (unsweetened)

* pinch of sea salt

Process the above ingredients in a food processor until they are a paste (it will kind of form a ball).  Transfer to mixing bowl.  Then, chop the following in the food processor (no need to clean it first):

* 1  c. pecans

* 1/2 c. almonds

* a sprinkle of shredded coconut (I used sweetened because it’s all I had, but unsweetened would be great)

The nuts should be ground up to be pretty small pieces.  Then add them to the bowl and mix the date puree with the nuts; it’s a stiff mixture and you will have to knead it to mix.  Finally, line a pan with plastic wrap and press the mixture in.  Refrigerate to set (about 30 min) and cut into bars.  Alternately I guess you could roll them into little balls, or something like that.  I’m trying to replace granola bars, so I wanted them to be bars.  The verdict?  They were AMAZING.  Sweet, chocolatey, nutty… everything you could want in a snack without a whiff of added sugar.  The challenge now is to not eat the whole batch!  They still have calories, after all!  I don’t, in general, like to use the food processor because it’s always too much work to get it set up and then cleaned, but overall I would say these are easier than making cookies or brownies, because you only dirty the processor and one bowl, as opposed to one or 2 bowls, spoons, and a cookie sheet or three.  They are more expensive to make than brownies, cookies, or granola bars, because they are not grain based, but they are cheaper than buying Larabars (or powerbars, etc.), so although they are not cheap, I consider them an all around winner on taste, effort, nutritional value and cost. The only thing I would do differently next time is make more!

PS.  I did not soak and dehydrate the nuts as indicated in the original recipe.  I do like to make snacks, but some things are just a little too much effort for the payoff, IMO.