Cinnamon Ornaments: Easy Craft for Kids (and Last Minute Gift for Relatives)

As evidenced by this post and the post preceding it, I am a procrastinator. Between this craft and the stove top potpourri gift you can throw together gifts and activities to make the holidays easy and fun (and better smelling). The nice thing about this craft is it can be baked simultaneously with the stove top potpourri and it keeps the kids occupied.

What You Need

4.16 oz Container of ground cinnamon (or two smaller containers)

3/4-1 cup Plain applesauce

Cookie cutters (of your choice)

Yarn or string

A very sharp pencil

What To Do

  1. Mix the cinnamon and applesauce in a bowl until it forms a ball. You will probably need to use your hands. Start with 3/4 cup applesauce and add more until all the ground cinnamon is gathered up into the ball. Please don’t use more than 1 cup applesauce unless you have more cinnamon.
  2. Divide the ball into 4-6 pieces. Use a rolling pin or glass bottle to roll each piece between two pieces of plastic wrap until the dough is 1/4 inch thick.
  3. Remove the top layer of plastic and use a cookie cutter to cut out your desired shape.
  4. Use a sharp pencil to poke a hole into the top of the ornament. Make sure the hole is clear of dough on both sides.
  5. The kids will love “drawing” on the ornaments with a really sharp pencil. At this point you can encourage them to decorate the ornament for a specific person such as a grandparent. Easy gift from the grandkids!
  6. Bake the ornaments on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper at 200F for 2.5 hours.
  7. Let the ornaments cool on a rack.
  8. String yarn through the top.

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Stovetop Potpourri: Last Minute Holiday Thank You Gift

One of my favorite thank you or neighbor gifts to give during the holidays is a homemade batch of stovetop potpourri. It is so easy to make and always a well received break from the endless parade of holiday sweets. This is a fun gift to throw together and you can be as creative as you like with the pairings. I am providing a recipe for what I put in this year’s batch, but feel free to add or take away ingredients as suits your fancy. This year I decided to crank it up a notch and oven dry my own orange slices; usually I just throw a whole lemon or orange in the bag with directions to slice it. Enjoy the aromas and save a batch for yourself!

What You Need

Oranges (1/2 per gift)

Cinnamon Sticks (2 whole per gift; you will break them in two to create 4 per gift)

Cloves (1 tsp per gift)

Bay Leaves (2 per gift)

Cranberries (1/2 cup per gift)

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What To Do

Combine the ingredients in a bag with directions to slice the orange 1/4 inch thick, place the ingredients in a saucepan, cover with water and simmer over low heat. Add water as needed. I used plastic gift bags and leftover yard to tie it up. Simple, easy, no fuss. If you want to go an extra step, consider drying out your own orange slices.

Drying Out Orange Slices in the Oven

  1. Preheat oven to 200F. Low and slow is best, but if you are pressed for time you can crank it up to 250F and try it for 2.5-3 hrs instead of 3.5-4hrs.
  2. Slice oranges 1/4 inch thick. Calculate about 1/2 orange per gift.
  3. Lay oranges out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  4. Blot dry with paper towel.
  5. Bake for 3.5-4 hrs at 200F/2.5-3hrs.
  6. Turn them at least three times. This will also allow you to monitor the oranges in case some start to burn.
  7. Let them sit overnight (or longer) in the oven after it is turned off. This allows them to dry out even more.

Go Shopping In Your Home

Not sure if this post will be of interest or of much help to anyone out there, but I wrote it more to help organize my own thoughts.

I am one month away from an overseas move with my family. Moves do not intimidate me; I rather look forward to the process of cleaning out and starting over. However, as the years go by and husbands and children and THINGS find their way into my life the moving out process becomes somewhat more difficult. I am a fan of the popular read on organizing: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. This is where I admit that although the book inspires me, my personality and current life situation prevents me from following through on the process. In preparation for my current move I have developed  my own, simplified approach. I plan on going shopping in my own home. So far the experience has been productive and enjoyable. The process is a room by room approach and similar to how I would clean my room as a kid (ahh to only be responsible for one room). I would make a list of all the categories of items in my room with “trash” at the bottom of my list. There would be three check box columns next to each category. Under this list of categories I would write “vacuum, and dust” with only one check box next to those. After creating my list I would start at the top and work my way down, organizing and cleaning everything as I went. Yes, I would go through the categories three times, even trash.

This is what my adult clean out chart looks like:

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Before I would first decide on what I wanted to get rid of, however I have found that I keep less and have a better plan for organizing when I begin by deciding on what I want to keep; I go shopping in my home. This way I look at a room and see what is important and not just what is causing clutter. Everything around the important stuff becomes clutter, but I don’t stress myself out by just seeing junk. It’s a glass half full method. An appreciation for what is kept is kindled and I am more likely to fix up the item and take better care of it.

 

A Japanese Inspired Cleansed Life: Beauty

We are really looking forward to our trip to Japan this summer. It is an amazing opportunity for our family and a great reason for me to learn simple, natural methods used in Japan for beauty, cleaning and healing. The first post in the series explores simple ideas for creating a Japanese inspired natural beauty plan. In addition to the ingredients on the Terrific Twenty list, you will also need the following:

  1. Green Tea
  2. Rice Water
  3. Awesome Sun Protection

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Green Tea

Most everyone is aware of the awesome benefits of green tea. Green tea helps to fight the effects of aging, speeds up your metabolism, acts as an antibacterial, etc. You can drink green tea or use it as a topical beauty treatment. I need a break from coconut oil and apple cider vinegar so exploring different substances is most welcome. One of the best benefits of green tea for me has come from the anti inflammatory properties. Most everything seems to make my skin blotchy and red, particularly the endless amount of coffee I enjoy; green tea on the other hand leaves me energized with out the caffeine jitters and red, blotchy skin. In addition to drinking green tea I would suggest checking out the following green tea beauty treatments:

Green Tea Steamer

Steep two bags of green tea in a bowl of water. Place face over bowl while it is steaming. You may want to cover your head with a towel to keep the steam contained.

Green Tea Toner

Steep two bags of green tea in two cups of water and let cool. Use a cotton ball to swipe the face, gently. Face should feel smooth and pores refined.

Green Tea Foot Soak

Empty tea bags into a bowl of warm water and allow feet to soak until you feel rejuvenated.

Green Tea Hair Rinse

Steep 2 bags of green tea in 2-3 cups water. Let cool. Following your regular shampoo and conditioning routine rinse hair with the cooled green tea. I had great results from this one; added a lot of body to my hair. I took a break and put the leftover tea bags on my eyes for ten minutes while my hair dried. One thing I have found with these hair rinses (including the ACV rinse) is that you do not want to use them too often; perhaps once every other week or even once a month. However, everyone is different.

Green Tea Bags for Eyes

Reuse your green tea bags by placing them in the fridge and placing them over your eyes when you have ten spare minutes. Ahhh relaxation.

Rice Water

I read that rice water has long been a beauty secret of the Geisha, so I decided to give it a try. Making rice water is quite easy. After boiling the rice, pour the excess water into a jar. You may have to add filtered water to get the desired consistency: a white cloudy mixture. Keep it in the fridge. Rice water may be used as a toner or face cleanser.

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Rice/Coconut Oil Scrub

Although this does not contain rice water, rice can be used to do other great things.

What You Need:

  1. 1 TBSP ground rice
  2. 2 TBSP melted coconut oil
  3. 1 tsp lemon juice
  4. 2 drops lavender essential oil

What To Do:

  1. Grind the rice. I use a coffee bean grinder.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together.
  3. Scrub hands and feet with this scrub.
  4. Rinse.

Awesome Sun Protection

Protect yourself from the sun! Hats, sunglasses, non toxic sun screen, umbrellas! Just do it!

 

The Liebster Award

Thank you, Vandana Mathur of The Food Funda for nominating me for a Liebster Award. I am still finding my blogging voice and style; your nomination is encouraging. A sincere thanks. Check out the great recipes on her blog!

Here’s what you need to do for the Liebster Award:

The rules…
1. Acknowledge the blogger that nominated you and display the award
2. Answer 10 question that blogger gives you
3. Give 10 random facts about yourself
4. Nominate 10 blogs with under 200 followers
5. Notify the bloggers that you have nominated them
6. Give them 10 questions to answer

Here are the questions (and my answers) given to me by The Food Funda:

1. Which is your favorite blog?

I started reading blogs because I was a clueless parent. My favorite established blog is 100 Days of Real Food. My favorite up and coming blog is one I connected with on WordPress: With Only One Life. I look forward to the weekend reads and find the content very inspiring.

2. When did you start blogging and why?

I started blogging to find an outlet for stress and to connect with like minded people.

3. What are the best things about your blog? (Go on, let’s have some shameless self promotion!)

My blog is very practical.

4. What’s your favorite city, and why?

My favorite city is Edinburgh. I have visited this magical city at various stages in my life and every time I have a wonderful experience.

5. If you won the lottery what’s the first thing you’d buy?

I would be buy a lake house with room for all.

6. What was the last film you saw?

Pippi Longstockings.

7. What is your favorite food item?

Pasta.

8. What do you use to take pictures for your blog?

My iPhone.

9. Movies or novels?

This is a difficult question because I most enjoy reading a book and then immediately watching the movie. It’s my guilty pleasure :-).

10. What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?

I have made many mistakes and they have brought me to where I am and I have a lovely life.

 

Rosemary Vinegar Spray

Inspired by my misadventures in DIY essential oils I decided to try and infuse my vinegar spray used for cleaning the kitchen with rosemary. I love the smell of rosemary. It turned out great. Next I will try out a citrus spray. I have been using my rosemary-vinegar spray for cleaning up the kitchen floor at night and doing floorboards (well, I give the spray bottle to one of my kids and let them have on it).

What You Need

  1. Spray Bottle
  2. 6-8 Rosemary Sprigs
  3. Strainer
  4. Vinegar
  5. Water

What To Do

  1. Remove the rosemary leaves from the stem and place them at the bottom of a spray bottle.
  2. Cover the rosemary with vinegar, filling the bottle about halfway.
  3. Let the rosemary and vinegar sit in a dark cupboard (I put mine under the sink) for a week.
  4. Strain the rosemary and vinegar into a bowl.
  5. Add the rosemary infused vinegar back into the spray bottle.
  6. Fill the remainder of the space in the spray bottle with water.

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Rainy Day Activities

This past weekend was filled with rain, rain, rain. The kids were getting on each other’s last nerve and a big blow up was coming our way. Most days we just get out in it, but that was not possible this weekend. I used this opportunity to come up with a list of activities to keep on file for the future. All activities require only what you probably already have in your house. I must note that a few activities are “screen time” activities, but they do require movement on the child’s part. Once I started brainstorming I realized the options were endless. I will do a Part II later on so as not to overwhelm.

Clean the Grout/Chores

Yep! Put them to work. My favorite is to hand them a few old tooth brushes, a cup of baking soda, a spray bottle of vinegar and tell them to SCRUB. An invitiation to clean! Any other chores to do around the house? Show them the list of the activities below and tell them you will set up the activities of their choice if they first complete all the items on your chore list.

 Obstacle Course

Clear a room, turn over some chairs, pull off the couch cushions and make an amazing obstacle course. Couch cushions leaning against a couch make for a great tunnel.

Wall Stand Competitions

Find a wall in a carpeted area (no owies, please), put your hands on the floor and walk up the wall with your feet.  Challenge the kids to see who can stay up the longest.

Build a Reading Fort

The best (and easiest) way to build a fort is to throw a blanket over the dining room table. If you do not have a big enough table, turn your couch around and place two chairs opposite the back and throw a blanket over that. Add some pillows and a bunch of books and you have your very own rainy day reading fort!

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Jim Gill Sing and Dance Along

One day I would love to take the kids to see Jim Gill, but until then we love his YouTube videos. They require the kids to listen, act silly and sing. A few of his songs introduce children to classical music and the instruments at the symphony

Color a Mural

Take a large piece of paper (or tape a bunch of small pieces together; these can be used on one side). Use a pencil to divide it up into cool shapes, get out the box of crayons, assign each child a section and go to town!

Animal Charades

Cut out some cards and work with the kids to brainstorm animals. The older kids can write the animal name on the card or draw a picture of the animal. Put the cards in the basket and take turns drawing the cards and acting out the animal on the card while the others guess.

Road Race

This one will require some colored tape (painter’s tape works great) and small toy cars. If you don’t have toy cars around, not to worry, the kids can be the cars. Tear up the tape to make road marks and create a course to follow around the house. Have the kids use paper and crayons to make stop signs, cross walk signs, speed limit signs, etc. Talk about the “Rules of the Road” and then watch them have fun. Check out the Drive In Movie Night activity below for a box car idea.

Cosmic Kids Yoga

The kids are worn out now. Good job! However, the lack of outdoor time means they still can’t quite settle down. My kids adore Cosmic Kid’s Yoga videos; they are free on YouTube and range from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. The yoga instructor leads the children through a yoga inspired movement story focused around a theme such as a lost mermaid or Harry Potter.

Drive In Movie Night

Have a few boxes lying around? Work during the day to turn them into cars to be used for your family movie night, drive in style! These box cars can also be used for the Road Race activity above. Check out this link for a great example.

Check out TheCleansedLife pinterest board here for more ideas.