Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Creepy Crawlie "Plastic" Gelatin Spiders You Can Make At Home

My oldest daughter has been playing mad scientist this week, experimenting with different combinations of gelatin, glue, and water, in an attempt to make her own bouncy, rubbery spiders. What she ended up with is more like plastic, than rubber, and her spiders are a bit mutated, but she had a lot of fun with the overall process.

She started out by dissolving one packet of unflavored gelatin in three tablespoons of boiling water, and then mixing in two tablespoons of Elmer's school glue, and five or six drops of black food coloring.

The resulting mixture was quite thick, and sticky, but with some effort, we managed to glob out a few spider like shapes, onto wax paper. Unfortunately, we tried to move them a little too soon, and broke off most of their legs. We, only ended up with one survivor, and even he is missing a leg or so.

For her next try, we thinned down the mixture, by using four tablespoons of water, and four tablespoons of glue, with the single packet of gelatin. We had some success pouring out spider forms onto the wax paper, using a cleaned mustard bottle. This formula, was a little thin, and it was a difficult to keep the legs from flowing into each other, but it dried quite nicely.

We left the spiders to dry for 12 hours before turning them over, to dry for an additional 12 on the other side. When they were turned over to dry, the legs warped upwards, making them less flat, and easier to stand, later.

For a final touch, she glued on googly eyes, and then presented them to her siblings for inspection. They were judged as being not quite spiders, but passable creepy crawlies, of some sort, and suitable for placing shadowy corners of the house, where I'm sure to find them in the future.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Pumpkin Pancakes

Anyone for pumpkin pancakes?

We tried this recipe from the Pumpkin Nook, this morning. It was a tiny bit on the fussy side - dividing eggs, whipping egg whites - and that sort of thing. But, they turned out really yummy, and perfect for a chilly fall morning. If you're a pumpkin person, then this is recipe to bookmark.

Tip: These are good with whipped cream. If you don't have any whipped cream, you can substitute evaporated milk. Pour it into a bowl, set it in the freezer until crystals begin to form on the sides, then add powdered sugar, and vanilla to taste, and whip as you would heavy cream. It's not exactly the real thing, but it will do in a pinch - just use it immediately, it doesn't hold it's form long.
It's great to be a homeschooler.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Felt Fall Leaf Hair Bands

I had some fun this week copycatting the felt hairbands from , that were featured on One Pretty Thing. I simplified the project a little, and gave it a fall feel, by using leaf patterns, I free handed on paper.

For each hairband, I cut six leaves out different colors of felt, two per leaf shape.

I stitched the matching leaves together, for the side leaves, starting and stopping the stitches, where the knots would be hidden by the overlapping leaves in the middle.

Then I stitched together the middle leaves, stitching through all four layers of felt, where the middle leaf overlapped the side leaves.

Finally, I sewed the back of the middle leaf to the hairband with a number of stitches, by slipping the needle between the front and back layers of felt, as I stitched.

Felt is a lot of fun to work with, it's so forgiving, even my sloppy stitches looked cute. And, the small size of the project, made it possible to complete four, one for each of the girls, in one sitting, mixing up the colors, and patterns, so each of the girls' was similar, but different - just like they are.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Coffee Filter Fall Flower Craft

The early morning frost has taken it's toll on the sunflowers, and this weekend we decided it was time to cut them down. To make up for the lack of available flowers, the children crafted a few from coffee filters for me, instead.

They used fall colored (orange, red, yellow, brown, and green) washable markers, to color the coffee filters. The younger children are usually banned from markers in our house, so they were quite excited to get to use them. The markers bled straight through the filters, so we placed paper underneath to protect the table.

When they were done coloring, we wet the filters down with water, using a squirt bottle. The colors blended, and spread across the wet filters.

Even a little bit of scribbling, expanded to cover the entire wet filter, so everyone, including our one year old guest, could participate. And, watching the colors mix together was enough fun, that the older children joined in too, giving this craft a pretty wide range of appeal.

The filters dried after a couple hours, and we turned them into flowers with the addition of a few pipe cleaners. For each flower, we cut about two inches off of the end of one pipe cleaner.

We poked what was left, through the center of the filter, so about an inch stuck through to the right side.

We gathered the filter, over the inch of pipe cleaner, sticking through, and secured it in place with the two inch piece we'd cut off earlier.

Gripping the filter around the center, we fluffed the edge back out, to form the flower.

Finally, we rolled the bit that was sticking through, down into the center of the flower.

When all of the flowers were finished, we arranged them in the little ones' fall vase. They look quite pretty in the center of the table, and are not nearly as messy as the sunflowers - though, we will miss all that paint producing pollen.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Jiggly Jello Finger Paint - A Weekly Unplugged Project

The theme for this weeks Unplugged Project, at the, is a very general letter "J". The door was so wide open, and I was almost paralyzed into inactivity. I just couldn't decide which way to turn.

Finally, last night, I decided to let the little ones try some jiggly jello finger painting. I've seen the recipe around in a number of different places, and thought it looked interesting, but hadn't gotten around to trying it yet. Ours, was actually jiggly gelatin finger paint, as we used unflavored gelatin with food coloring, instead of the sugar-free Jello, that would have already been tinted. But, for the sake of the theme, we'll pretend it was the real stuff.

To make our paint, I dissolved two packets of jelatin (is that a good enough compromise?), with four tablespoons of boiling water. Then I divided it into bowls, and stirred in different colors. When it had cooled, a bit, I let the girls paint with it on wax paper. Freezer paper would be preferable, but once again, we used what we had on hand.

The girls really enjoyed the jiggly texture of the paint, but it didn't take long for it to harden up to the point where they couldn't be used.

As far as a paint experiment, I'd say this particular recipe was a failure. But, as a fun, and jiggly, textural experience, it was a glorious success.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Homemade Apple Doughnuts

Normally at this time of year, we make a trip to visit family in Oregon. We're not going this year, and apart from missing grandmas and grandpas, uncles and aunts, and a few friends thrown in, we're also missing our annual trip to the pumpkin patch. There's an orchard near my mother's, that has a beautiful patch plus hayrides, a corn maze, petting zoo, bouncy castles, and our favorite - fresh apple doughnuts and steamy hot apple cider.

We're really missing those doughnuts (and our family too, of course). I thought maybe I could lessen the disappointment of not going this fall, by making apple doughnuts here at home. I'm really not sure if the doughnuts done at the orchard are a cake, or yeast variety, quite frankly they're always devoured so quickly, I've never had a chance to think about it. But, most of the apple doughnut recipes online are the deep fried variety.

The thought of six children in the kitchen with a pot of hot oil, was a little too frightening for me. So I searched around until I found a recipe for yeast doughnuts, that calls for baking instead of dipping in oil, and claims to be as good, if slightly different from, the deep fried variety. I modified it a bit, in an attempt to make them apple doughnuts. I would have preferred to use hot cider, in place of milk, but we don't currently have anything but the powdered mix-type cider on hand, and we're trying not to run to the grocery store every time we need some little ingredient, so I opted to replace part of the milk with warmed applesauce.

Here's what we ended up with:

  • 1/3 cup warm milk , 95 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit

  • 1 packet active dry yeast

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 2/3 cup sugar

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 cup warm applesauce

  • 5 cups flour

  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon

  • 1/2 cup melted butter

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar

  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Proof the yeast in the milk. Then, mix it in with the rest of the ingredients, adding the flour last, a little at a time. Don't over mix.

Turn the dough out on a floured surface, and knead a few times. Place the dough into a buttered mixing bowl, cover, and let rise, for about an hour, until double.

Punch the dough down. Turn it out onto a floured surface, roll it out about 1/2 inch thick, and cut it into doughnut shapes. Place the doughnuts onto a greased cookie sheet, cover, and allow to rise for another 45 minutes. Since we wanted to have doughnuts for the children, for breakfast, we put the doughnuts into the fridge overnight, and then allowed them about an hour to warm back up on the counter this morning before baking. We did however, bake the doughnut holes up last night (as a test batch).

Bake the doughnuts at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, for about 8 minutes - just until the bottoms are browned. The tops may not look brown, but don't over bake. While they are baking, mix together the sugar and cinnamon in a shallow bowl, and melt the butter.

Take the doughnuts from the oven. Dip them quickly into the butter, give them a toss in the sugar mixture, and serve while still warm.

While the taste is more reminiscent of a trip to the Cinnabon, than a trip to the orchard farm store, served with hot cider (sadly, still the powdered variety), as breakfast before Sunday school, they still made for a special fall treat. Our quest for the apple doughnuts we remember, can continue another day, after we've had time to go for a long walk, and burn off a few of the calories we consumed this morning.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Stuffed Felt Car With Milk Cap Wheels - Take Two

Okay, so maybe it isn't quite as brilliant as I envisioned it, but here's my second try at making a stuffed felt car. Still a little turtle-like, I know. Maybe, if I tried a color other than green...

This time, I sewed two car bodies. The first one was all in white, the second in green, with the windows, bumpers, and lights cut out. I hand stitched around them, leaving the bottom seams open.

Then, I slipped the green car, over the white, and sewed them together around the openings in the green. I also sewed on red circles for rear lights, and because I decided the bumpers should stick out more, I sewed extra white pieces (I didn't have any grey, or I would have used that), over the holes for the bumpers.

Finally, I stuffed it, sewed it up, and added the wheels pretty much the same way I did last time. The only change I made was to use duct tape, as well as glue, to attach the milk caps, and felt, to the wooden skewer axles.

I would still like to fiddle with cutting a better shape for the windshield. The headlights need to be a little further apart. And, I think thinner bumpers would look better. But it's getting closer. I'm happy enough with it, it's going in my Christmas stash. I can always replace it, if I manage something that looks a lot better. The children are a little less picky than I am when it comes to details, anyway, and it rolls really well, which is what will matter to them.
It's great to be a homeschooler.