Monday, September 30, 2013

A Superhero Party with Max Steel

Disclaimer:  I participated in a sponsored campaign for One2One Network.  The opinions below are my own. 

A few weeks ago we had a superhero party at my house.  We invited a few kids over, and told them to feel free to wear superhero costumes.  I made a superhero city backdrop for picture taking on the outside of the house, using some old boxes and a blue plastic tablecloth from the dollar store.

Superheroes have big appetites, so in addition to pizza, wraps and chips, I made some cupcakes.  And then I did party favor bags - each boy got a Max Steel action figure, a coloring book, and I made them all custom superhero shirts and a small bag of superhero soaps. 

The boys watched a couple of Max Steel episodes.  Have you heard of Max Steel?  He's the new and cool superhero from Mattel.  He's just a normal high school kid until he teams up with Steel - their forces together unlock superhero powers.  One thing the show really emphasizes is teamwork - because Max and Steel have to work together as a team.  While watching the show, the kids were very busy reenacting it with their new action figures.  I will say - those action figures were a HUGE hit (Reid and Pierce are still, even weeks later, carry theirs around constantly).

Each action figure has its own special powers.  Hands that shoot off or spin, and by far the overall favorite was the Rip Launch Max Steel, whose spinning discs shot all the way to the top of the ceiling in our A frame log cabin.  The boys were so delighted over this.

In addition to the action figures, we were also provided with a Max Steel sword for the kids to try.  Steel (who Cort is holding in the bottom left picture) can come off the sword, or attach to it (or even attach to a shirt with a safety clip to allow the child a wearable chance to be Max Steel).  The sword is available at stores nationwide and the MSRP is $29.99.  It has built in motion sensors, makes battle sounds, lights up and repeats key phrases from the hit animated series like "Let's Go Turbo!".

The boys were all good with sharing the sword, and everyone had a fun time trying it out.  All the talking and lights and sound effects made it a popular item. 

I had a craft station available where the boys could decorate their own superhero masks, or apply superhero tattoos.  They tried this out briefly, but honestly, they were so smitten with the action figures that they didn't stick around the craft table for long!

The grand finale for the day was when we gave the boys a chance to "fly" like the real superheroes.  We have been letting Pierce do this for a while now - we hook him up in a rock climbing harness and lift him up into the beams of our A frame.  He loves it.  The other kids were initially a little wary - but they watched Pierce and saw him having so much fun that the two Batmans decided to try it as well.  You should've seen the grins on their faces - these boys were thrilled! 
Overall, the party was a huge success, and I don't think any of the kids wanted the fun to end.  If you have little boys, I would definitely recommend a superhero party - what an adventure! 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fall Spiders Overtake the World - Random Friday

1.  Have you ever noticed that the spiders seem to go all crazy in the Fall.  They're everywhere.  It makes running through the woods a real problem for me - as I'm always being attacked by massive spiderwebs everywhere. I caught this one in the morning sunlight on the side of our porch the other morning.
2.  Remember in high school when they would have locker clean out days, and kids would fill up trash cans with chip wrappers and piles of papers and tests from months before?  I always kept my locker neat and never had much to do on locker clean up day.  Still, it was fun because I wasn't in class and could chat with my friends while they hauled candy bar wrappers and crumpled math tests by the dozen into the trash bins.  

3.  Speaking of spiders - remember the huge one I dug up last fall when planting a mum?  Well, I don't know what happened to that mum, but it disappeared.  They're supposed to come back every year.  I am pretty sure the spider's ghost devoured the mum, in revenge. 

4.  It's that time of year when mice move into my minivan in droves.  I haven't had a problem since we got the two inside/outside cats.  Hoping they will continue to be a deterrent.

5.  Okay, confession time:  in desperation I recently used a feline antibiotic gel that had been prescribed to our cat, Disco, when he developed "cat acne" on his chin.  Even though I'm 38 and you'd think I'd be over acne myself, a massive zit erupted right under my nose and became embarrassingly infected to the point that I was considering a doctor visit.  Happily, the antibiotic gel worked immediately - within an hour the swelling started to recede.  Now if only I could stop meowing...

This post linked with Nancy's Random Friday at A Rural Journal. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Civil War Days

I have lived most of my life in Virginia.  There are a LOT of Civil War reenactments in this state.  It's kind of weird I never went to one before.  Recently Civil War Days was going on, and as it wasn't too far from us, we decided to check it out.
 There were tents set up with various wares for purchase; we walked through but didn't buy anything.
 I was surprised by how expensive this hobby is.  Apparently just for a soldier to purchase the uniform and musket, it runs upwards of $1000.  Of course if they want an outfitted horse, it would cost even more.
 The boys weren't crazy about all the shooting; even though we'd told them they were blanks they still worried someone would be killed.

 The cannons were particularly loud.  There was one that could shoot smoke rings - check out the picture below.
Overall, it was an interesting and educational experience, but when it comes down to it, Civil War reenactments are kind of like Nascar to me - they just aren't my thing.
I think I'm more of the "visit the battlefield and walk through the museum looking at artifacts" type.  How about you, readers?  Would you like a Civil War reenactment? 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Splash Valley at Green Ridge Recreation Center

The boys received several different rewards for completing the reading program at with the library this summer, but by far the most coveted prizes were the tickets to Splash Valley, a small waterpark attached to a fitness center. 
 We went on a seasonal day in late July, when temps were in the mid 80s and the sun was bright.  It was the perfect day for a water park.
 They weren't big enough for the 'big kid' water slides yet, but they enjoyed doing the small kids area.
 They were often surprised when they would walk by something, like these dragons, only to be sprayed with water.
 They also found plenty of fountains for stomping.
It was a very fun day, and their only complaint was that the water was too cold.  They had to keep getting out to try to warm up in the sun.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Vintage Pumpkin Bread Recipe

I have fallen in love with my vintage Virginia Hospitality cookbook, and made another recipe from it this weekend, when two days of pouring rain led me to baking.  I made the pumpkin bread.  It is delicious, and the boys have been devouring it in the mornings for breakfast.

3 1/2 cups flour
3 cups sugar
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup vegetable oil (you could substitute a portion of this with applesauce if you wanted to lighten up)
4 eggs
2 cups canned pumpkin (15 oz. can)
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350*.  Mix all dry ingredients; add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Bake in 2 well greased loaf pans 50 - 60 minutes.

I modified the recipe just slightly - the original called for raisins and walnuts but I preferred to use chocolate chips instead.  In addition, I found I had to bake mine for 65 minutes for them to be completely done.  Be sure to check the middle of your loaves with a knife before you turn off the oven! 

I am posting this recipe at the special request of Elizardbreath Speaks - hope you enjoy it! 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Lemons and Lavender Eco Guide to Better Homekeeping - Giveaway

One thing I'm pretty passionate about is ecofriendly living.  I bring my reusable bags everywhere I go, try to repurpose items in the home, and love finding healthier and less expensive ways to live.  When my copy of Lemons and Lavender by Billie Sharp arrived, I flipped through and was thrilled it was so full of tips that fit right in with my life philosophy.  Sharp encourages readers to embrace the good life with suggestions for how to budget through thrift, how to fit in organic foods, and how to have homemade holidays. 

I really loved all the how-tos.  Recipes for everything from sea salt bath to headache remedies, from eco-cleaners to thyme tinctures abound.  There are gardening tips and a sourdough starter -- and don't get me started on the soups!  I love soups, and will certainly be trying out some of these recipes this fall. 

Sharp's recipes are health conscious and eco conscious - focused on wholesome and frugal living.  It's such a handy book to have - she's even got tips on how to fix a toilet or clean up a broken CFL bulb in there.

Readers, I know you are totally going to love this book!  I get to give away one copy - and you can enter by clicking on the Rafflecopter giveaway below.  Good luck!

Disclaimer:  I received a copy for Lemons and Lavender for review purposes.  The opinions above are my own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 20, 2013

Happy Cows on Random Friday

1.  I've been doing a lot of crafting in an attempt to get ready for a craft fair this fall.  Mind you - I still haven't found the right craft fair to do.  But I'm looking.  In the meantime, I've been making all sorts of soap creations.  This week I made Happy Cows.  They are a glycerin soap with shea butter added for softness, and mango scented.  You can find them in the Two Bears Farm Etsy Shop.
2.  Because I hit 2000 followers last week, I wanted to celebrate.  I decided to randomly pick one of my fabulous commenters - since my commenters are the biggest supporters of my blog.  Using, I picked a commenter from last week's Random Friday - #22 - to send one of my cute cow soaps (plus a couple of other fun things I've been crafting).  Commenter #22 was LisaS (who creates the most fabulous jewelry) - congrats to her (please email me your address if you haven't already!), and thanks to all of you who regularly read and comment!

3.  Do any of you know how to make an easy print recipe card on your blog?  I have been receiving a lot of traffic from Pinterest for my recipes.  I'd love to make it easier for readers to print those out (I always appreciate it when other blogs do that for me) but I don't know how.  If any of you are familiar with the process and don't mind doing some virtual handholding to walk me through it, please email me!

4.  Pierce has a toenail that has turned black and is falling off.  The other night we were talking about it, and he grinned really big and said, "Maybe the toenail fairy will come!".  Gotta love a 6 year old making a joke.

5.  This weekend marks the beginning of Fall.  I'm looking forward to soups and costumes and pumpkin patch trips, leaf jumping and warm hoodies and furry horses.  I'm not looking forward to relinquishing my beloved Fitflops, shorter days, or the onset of winter.

How about you, readers?  What do you love/hate about Fall?

Linked to with Nancy at A Rural Journal

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Upcycled Pringles Gift Container Craft

The boys recently had a special playdate, and I used a coupon to buy some Pringles to go along with the food we were serving.  Afterwards, it seemed wrong to toss all those nice Pringles cans, so I decided to upcycle them into something new.  I found a picture on Pinterest where someone had covered them with Christmas wrapping paper to use as gift containers.  I modified the idea some, to make it my own, and was pleased with the results.  Think about it - how perfect would these be for giving a gift of cookies to a special teacher over the holidays?

 All you need is some scrapbooking paper (or heavy duty wrapping paper) and Elmer's glue.  I used some scrapbooking paper that I got at a thrift store a few years ago.  I was glad to finally have a use for it, since I don't scrapbook.  First make a pattern for the size of the can, and then cut out your paper. 
 Pour some Elmer's glue into a small dish and paint it on the back of the paper.  You slowly roll your paper onto the can, smoothing as you go to prevent wrinkles.  Leave a slight overlap at the end, and then put some masking tape on it until the can has dried well.  You can also make matching gift tags to go on top. 
 For the owl can, I actually spray painted it, but made an owl out of the scrapbooking paper.  I glued it on the same way, using masking tape for the edges overnight until everything had dried.  I used vintage buttons that my grandmother gave me for the eyes. 
I was having so much fun, that when I ran out of Pringles cans, I also did a Laughing Cow cheese box.  I'm the world's worst gift wrapper, so I'm excited to have found an easier (and cuter!) method. 

Readers, do you have any special ways you like to wrap gifts? 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Chocolate Cookie Sheet Cake - Vintage Recipe

My uncle gave me a vintage cookbook a while back called Virginia Hospitality.  It's a Junior League cookbook from the year I was born, 1975.  Recently I made this recipe called Chocolate Cookie Sheet Cake from the book - and it is amazing.  I modified it just slightly.  It is so good that I knew I had to share it with my readers (plus, my Mom was begging for the recipe - this way I am multitasking!).  You bake this cake right on a cookie sheet that has 1 inch raised sides (or, in my case, I used a sheet cake pan).

Ingredients for cake:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1/2 cup shortening
4 tbsp. cocoa
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk (I used milk w/ vinegar)
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350*.  Grease and flour an 11x17 inch cookie sheet.  Sift together flour, sugar, salt; set aside.  In a saucepan, combine butter, water, shortening and cocoa and bring to a boil; pour over flour mixture.  Mix well.  In another bowl, beat eggs, add soda, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Stir well and add to first mixture.  Mix well.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Start icing during the last 5 minutes of baking.

Ingredients for icing:
1/2 cup butter
4 tbsp. cocoa
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
6 tbsp. buttermilk

In a saucepan, melt butter and cocoa, but DON'T BOIL.  Take from heat and add remaining ingredients.  Ice cake while hot.  Yield:  35 servings

It makes a lot, so this recipe is perfect for a bake sale or a potluck.  Or for a family filled with hungry little boys, like mine.  Enjoy it!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

First Day of Preschool

The twins started preschool after Labor Day.  They go three mornings a week, and are in the Fours class this year. 

I giddily celebrated their first day back at school with a seven mile run through parks and hills on a perfectly sunny but cool morning.  Then I headed to Starbucks for some quiet computer time, with a Frappuccino by my side.  I didn't run a single errand on that first day - I greedily enjoyed my down time.  I'd venture to say that it was well-earned this once! 

And as for the twins, well, so far they seem to be loving it - I think they were so happy to see their old friends again.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Butterfly Garden in Center in the Square

When we took the boys to the newly reopened Science Museum, we were excited to check out the new butterfly garden. 

We weren't disappointed.  It was so beautiful inside.  And butterflies were everywhere! 

The boys kept wanting the butterflies to land on their hands, but they didn't have much luck. 

I had one land on my purse though.  And then one landed on my hand.  Only it was on my right hand, so I couldn't get any pictures of it!

After the butterflies, we headed up to the roof to see the outdoor gardens. 

The boys really loved the coy pond.

And it had an excellent view of Roanoke on a rather gloomy day.  What a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon!
Readers, have you seen any good views lately?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Sometimes Waking Up is Hard to Do - Random Friday

1.  Reid and Willie were lying side by side on the living room rug one morning, looking as though they didn't want to be awake for the day.  I thought they were so cute I had to take a picture.
2.  We took the boys to a baseball game a couple of weeks ago, and the twins have been playing baseball a lot ever since.  But they don't quite have the terminology down yet.  Cort recently asked Reid to pass him the "Baseball kicker".  This would be the bat.

3.  My favorite social media hangout these days is Instagram.  I usually post at least one picture there a day.  If you want to keep up with me on a day to day basis, I'm more active there than Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or Google+.

4.  Why do I like Instagram so much?  I don't know.  I guess sometimes a picture says a lot more than words do.  I like that there aren't so many words.  It's simple and real.  It doesn't take a big time investment.  If you want to come find me there, I'd be happy to follow you back.

5.  I've been doing my part time job for over 6 months now.  It's going alright and I've adjusted to it.  I'm thankful to have a job that offers flexible hours - I put in about 9 hours a week, in 3 sessions, doing mental health support services with one client.  It's nice to feel like I am contributing in some way. 

This post linked with Nancy at A Rural Journal for Random Friday. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Signazon Review and #Giveaway

Recently I've been thinking of having a booth at a local craft fair with some of the items I've been making in my spare time...homemade soaps, tooth fairy pillows, gnomes, painted birdhouse gourds, and pencil cases.  I've never been a vendor at a craft fair before, and the whole idea of this foreign experience makes me a little anxious.  I want my booth to be as professional as possible, so I decided to order a trade show banner from Signazon.  Their banners are quite affordable, starting at $29.88. 

I never designed anything like this before, but I knew I wanted to keep it simple.  I used a photo I took of Pierce's hands when we were hiking late last Spring.  I did the lettering in a forest green, to match my business cards.  I will probably use either a dark brown or a forest green tablecloth.  When the sign arrived in the mail, I LOVED it.  It's much larger than I expected, and is made from a durable vinyl.  It has grommets in each corner which can be used to hang the sign in a variety of places.  And it rolls up small for easy storage and carrying. 

Do you know what Pierce said, when I showed it to him, and told him those were his hands in the picture?  He said, "But Mom?  I don't remember my hands ever being THAT big!" 

In addition to a large variety of signs, Signazon carries car magnets and window graphics.  I found their design process very easy to maneuver - even at my beginner skill level.   I am going to feel so much more confident going into the craft fair, knowing that my table is going to look just as nice if not better than the booths to each side of it!  Wish me luck, readers, as I hope to earn enough money to fund this year's Christmas shopping. 

Signazon is generously offering one lucky reader a $50 gift code to use on an item of the winner's choice on their website.  Click on the Rafflecopter below to enter.

Disclaimer:  I received the pictured banner for review purposes.  The opinions above are my own.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My Super Trendy Thumb Piercing

The twins outgrew their cute 'thankful' Thanksgiving t-shirts, and I had it in mind that I could try to make them shirts myself.  I bought some plain brown long sleeved shirts and cut out material to sew some crazy turkey faces on them.  All was going well until I started actually sewing the material on.  I had bought an adhesive that was too sticky, and it was giving my sewing machine fits.  I had just finished sterilizing cleaning off the machine needle to remove any residue in hopes it would sew better, when somehow (I have no idea how on earth I managed to do this) I sewed through my thumb.  The needle went straight in the top and out.  I sat there, stunned, looking at my pierced thumb.  How was I going to get myself out of this mess?  I turned off the machine, the manually lifted the needle up and slowly pulled down on my thumb to remove the needle.  Whew, boy, did that ever hurt.

Looking at my thumb, I waited for it to bleed or something, but oddly it never really did.  It throbbed and was swollen for a couple of days, but overall healed up quite nicely.  Too bad thumb piercings aren't in right now.  I suppose I could buy a ring for it and start a new trend.

I had to take a little break from sewing turkey shirts to regroup.  But I did, eventually, finish what I set out to do.  I think the twins will look mighty cute this November, don't you?

Readers, am I the only one acting like a turkey lately, or has anyone else done something a little stupid recently? 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sony Reader and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs DVD #Giveaway

I don't have an e-reader, but I know many people who have them and love them.  Today, I'm giving away a brand new Sony Reader to one lucky reader!  A digital book reader, it is Wifi certified and includes Public Library, Evernote, Reader Store, and Facebook.  It comes in black, and touts a long battery life.  In addition, the lucky winner will also receive a copy of the DVD Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.  Just think what great Christmas or birthday gifts these could make for someone special.
To enter, you will just click on the Rafflecopter giveaway below.  I'm keeping entries simple this time around, so it is extra easy to enter!

Disclaimer:  I received these items to give away on my blog as part of the campaign I did for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 this past July.  The opinions above are my own.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 9, 2013

Science Museum of Western Virginia

The Science Museum of Western Virginia reopened back in Center in the Square in downtown Roanoke a couple of months ago, and we finally got to check it out.  They had some of our old favorites back, like the horseshoe crab tank.

And they also had some new things, like gorgeous aquariums full of tropical fish. 

An old favorite - the ball full of soapy water for spinning.

And a new one - stairs to the butterfly garden (more about that in a later post) that had the names of people who influenced science over the years. 

They had an exhibit on creepy crawlies that the boys enjoyed, as it was interactive.

Hands on with parasitic worms, talk about good fun!

They got to play an electronic version of pinball.

There is also a new hands on kid room, complete with a dinosaur dig.

And teeth to brush.

Readers, have you played with any hookworms lately?