Paper Plate Tambourine Craft

– johanna | July 27th, 2012


These paper tambourines are so much fun to make. They are a great rainy day activity too. Once the tambourines are done initiate a game of freeze dancing.

Step 1: Using 1 or 2 paper plates, fold the plate in half.

Step 2: Pour in about 1/2 cup of beans.

Step 3: Staple the edges to seal.

Step 4: Glue or staple ribbon or streamers around the edges.

Step 5: Attach bells by poking a hole through the plates. Attach with string or wire.

Step 6: Decorate with glitter, markers, tissue paper, ect.

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DIY Ice Cream in a Bag

– johanna | July 13th, 2012


Making ice cream in a baggie is super easy and loads of fun. We had several failed attempts before we successfully got the mixture just right. For our first trial we used whipping cream. It reminded me of a show I once watched where the woman tried to convince a family to use butter as toothpaste. We immediately had to go brush our teeth.

The second trial we used only whole milk. The mixture never set. We even tried placing the bag in the freezer. The result was not good. Actually, it was pretty gross. Icy and without flavor. Our final batch we had the correct recipe but learned a bit about the ice to rock salt ratio. The more ice and salt the faster the ice cream will set.

Another problem we incurred was with the baggies we used. We started out with dollar store brand baggies. Don’t skimp on the baggies. Use the higher quality freezer bags only or a large can with a lid that will not leak.

This is a great activity at a backyard BBQ or party. Set the ingredients up into stations. Make up cards for each ingredient detailing how much to measure. The kids can walk down the row of ingredients filling up their own baggies (with supervision of course). Make it an ice cream relay race. Fill up the bag as the recipe states. Have the first person take the bag and run around the block or a specified distance. When they return they hand the bag off to the next runner. Keep going until the ice cream is firm.

The texture of this ice cream is smooth and loose. It will never harden like ice cream made in an ice cream maker and it melts fairly fast. Recipe can be doubled. It just takes longer to set.

Makes 1/2 cup ice cream
1/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon sugar
6-8 tablespoons rock salt
4-6 cups ice
quart sized baggie
gallon sized baggie

Place the half and half, whole milk, vanilla, and sugar in a quart sized plastic freezer bag. Seal shut.

Place the baggie in a gallon sized freezer baggie. Fill baggie with ice. Add rock salt. Seal the baggie shut.

Shake bag until mixture solidifies. about 5-10 minutes. Remove the ice cream bag from the ice bag. Rinse or wipe off the bag to remove the salt. Eat the ice cream straight out of the bag with a spoon. Or in some cases with a straw.

*note: this ice cream is extremely soft.

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Twilight Camp

– johanna | July 6th, 2012


My summer vacation started out in a room full of sixteen eager three to nine year olds. We spent our three days of TAGS twilight camp making crafts, playing ball, and competing in our very own Olympic games. We did everything over a three day period but the activities could be condensed into one day for a neighborhood, or play date, camp or stretched out if using as a bordem buster for the summer.

I loved having camp from 4:00pm to 8:00pm because the weather was just perfect. In fact it was so chilly the first two evenings I was in a panic hoping the third day would be warm enough for our water olympics. By then I was out of money and ideas so lucky it all worked out as planned otherwise we would have resorted to a movie night theme.

My agenda went as follows:
Each day when the kids arrived we made a craft. The first day we made all sorts of things using beads. Then we tie dyed t-shirts, made individual flags using paint and shaving cream, and decorated visors. After that we went and shot BB guns with the Cub Scouts in the field. The evening ended with a treasure hunt and two hours of kick ball, sharks and minnows, telephone, basketball and free play. Whoo!

The next day we made tambourines using paper plates, bells, and streamers. Rain sticks were also on the agenda but I have a really thorough cleaning lady (my 6 year old daughter) who disposed of my bag of paper towel rolls I had set aside by my desk.  Then the games began. We used the flags we made the day before during the opening ceremony. After the olympic field games we joined the Cub Scouts for a round of archery.

Then we made puppets and marionettes for the puppet theater the next day. Finished the night off making homemade ice cream in a baggie, freeze dancing and the Le Crem De La Crem– Neon glow in the dark tag. I had a few other games planned but the kids were enjoying the glow in the dark tag too much.

The final day I had planned on teaching weaving for our final art project but we needed to get started with our puppet show. I made a theater out of a huge piece of cardboard. I had thought to make fabric curtains to use with tension rods in the doorway but lacked the time. Luckily someone left a pile of large boxes in the gymnasium the day before.

Our puppet show was interrupted by the fire department. They arrived early to start the water day festivities. I did not realize how powerful fire hoses are. The kids had a blast running around like ants on a disturbed ant hill as the firemen sprayed them good and wet. We finished our day with more water day games, a brief game of cat and mouse and face painting.

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Backyard Summer Olympics

– johanna | June 29th, 2012


In May the Olympic torch was lit in Greece. It has been traveling the land passing from hand to hand well on its way to the London Summer Olympics. My children and I have had many conversations about the amount of hard work and dedication it takes to make it to the olympics. They are ecstatic to catch a glimpse of some of the best of the best the world has to offer.

Meanwhile, as we wait for the July 27th Olympic debut, we had a go at our own summer olympic games.

Day 1: Opening Ceremony and Field Games

Opening Ceremony-

Clipart: Runner with Torch by Dixie Allen via

Days prior to or morning of, have each child make a flag to represent them. Each child waves their flag as they walk in line around the block, backyard, park, or area where the olympics are being held. The leader of the line carries the torch part way then hands it off to the person behind him. Repeat passing the torch until the torch reaches the last person in line.

[**we walked around the gym then separated the group into teams as they neared the starting area. I had four cones set up on one side of the gym. We had four groups of four. So as the procession neared the area where the cones were we directed the first four kids into the first lane behind the cone. The second group of four into the second lane and so on. You could let them pick teams beforehand.]

Photo: Field Day, by Sam Wolfe via Flickr

Field Games-

Spoon Relay-
Give a spoon to each team. Each person gets a marshmallow (I found these enormous marshmallows at the grocery store). Set up cones or some type of marker about 30 to 50 feet from the starting line. Place the marshmallow on the spoon. Players must hold the spoon by the end of the handle. The first person in line of each team then walks down to the cone and back. Once they have reached the starting line the next person takes the spoon, places their marshmallow on the spoon, and then proceeds to the cone. First team to finish wins.

[**Decide beforehand what to do if the marshmallow falls off the spoon. Since we had quite a few little guys we opted to just place the marshmallow back on the spoon and continue. Depending on the age group one rule could be if it falls they are disqualified or they have to go back to the starting line and start over.**]

Bing Bag Balance-
The first person of each team gets a bing bag. They place it on top of their head. The object of the game is to race down to the cone and back without dropping the bag. First team to finnish wins.
[Same rules applied as with the spoon race.]

Wheel Barrel Race-
Each team separates into twos. Each group of two decides who will hold their teammates feet and who will walk on their hands. The first set of twos walk down to the cones then back. Team member tags the second pair in line then they go. First team to finnish wins.

[We had a young group so walking down to the cone and back would have been quite a heavy challenge. We did not want to kill anyone off so we sent the second set of twos down to the cone. Once the first group reached the cone then the second set could go.]

Three Legged Race-
Pair off members of each team. Connect each pair of children by tying a length of fabric around the ankle and/or knee. Start the race with the first group of twos walking to the cone and back. Once back the team member tags the second pair. First team to finnish wins.

Relay Race-
Each team races to the cones and back. Tags the next team member. First team to finnish wins.

Hula Hoop Roll-
Each team gets a hula hoop. First group rolls their hoops down to the cones and back. Hands of hoop to next team member. First team to finnish wins.

Shot Put-
Make a Shot Put ball by crumpling up tin foil until it reaches the desired size, slightly bigger than a softball. Smooth out the lumps by putting pressure with your hands while rolling the ball around on a hard surface. You will need enough for each team. [1 ball takes about half a roll of foil.]
Place a base or tape on the ground to mark where to stand.
To play, one member from each team must come forward and stand on their team’s mark. Bend the knees, and without stepping forward or backward, raise the ball to the ear then throw. Team with farthest average wins.

Hammer Throw-
To make, take a large brown paper bag and stuff it with newspapers careful to leave enough room to close and make a handle. Gather the bottom together and twist to make a handle. Wrap the handle with fabric or duct tape. Wrap the hammer part with duct tape, otherwise it will bust open after a few throws. Tie a piece of twine around the handle.

To play, one member from each team swings the hammer around above their head then releases. Team with farthest average wins.

Photo: Catch a Falling Star, by Paul Sapiano via Flickr

Day 3: Water Races

Water balloon Toss-
Divide group into twos. Stand groups in two long rows facing their partner and close enough to touch. The first side tosses the balloon to their partner. If they catch it then the both of them take a step backwards. If the balloon falls and breaks that pair is out. Repeat until there is one pair left. They are the winner.

Water Sponge Relay-
Set up a starting line with large buckets of water and empty buckets about 30 feet away for each team. Place a sponge in each bucket of water. Have a hose nearby to refill starting bucket as needed.
The first person of each team dunks their sponge in the bucket of water, runs down to the empty bucket, squeezes out the water into the bucket, and then runs back to hand the sponge off to the next person in line. First team to fill their bucket wins.

Sprinkler Tug-o-war-
Divide group into two groups or compete by teams. Lay out a tug-o-war rope with a knot in the center. Place a sprinkler on the group at the center of the rope. Each team takes a side trying to pull the other team into the water from the sprinkler.

Water Bomb-
Fill a large bucket with water and sponges. Keep a hose nearby to refill the bucket. This can be played like tag, dodge ball or a free for all. To play free for all everyone gets a sponge and throws it at each other. To play tag then only the “IT” person gets the sponge to tag with. To play dodgeball, set up buckets in a row in the middle of the playing area. This line cannot be crossed by opposing teams. Players rush to grab a sponge to throw at opposing team members to tag out.

Blanket Balloon Toss-
Use a blanker, parachute, or large sheet. Everyone grabs part of the sheet. Place water balloons on top of the sheet then bounce.

Water Hose Limbo-
Use a hose as a limbo stick.

Drip, Drip, Drench-
Played just like “Duck, Duck, Goose!” instead use the words Drip Drip Drench and a very wet sponge to pat heads with.

Mr. Wilson-
Played just like “What Time is it Mr. Wolf?”. To play one person is it. He stands on one side of the playing area. The rest of the group lines up on the opposite side of the playing area. They ask “What Time is it Mr. Wilson?” Mr. Wilson, replies with a time. They take that many steps towards Mr. Wilson. Repeat asking what time it is and answering. Once they are close enough, Mr. Wilson will reply, “It is spraying time!”. With that Mr. Wilson sprays the hose at everyone.

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Olympic Torch Craft

– johanna | June 26th, 2012


This is a tutorial on how to make an olympic torch for backyard Olympic Games.

I got the original idea off Kaboose. It uses poster board and tissue paper. I did not have any tissue paper. I did however have rolls of yellow and hot pink cellophane from Easter. Instead of a poster board base we used a paper towel roll. The effect was just as magical.

Step 1: Cut large squares of cellophane.

Step 2: pick up each square of cellophane from the center of the square holding them in your hand like a bouquet of flowers.

Step 4: Twist the part in your hand and insert into the paper towel roll.

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Family Togetherness: A Random Act of Kindness

– johanna | June 15th, 2012


Photo: property of Heath Brandon via Flickr

One Tuesday morning I was waiting at a stop light when I noticed the van in front of me was none other than my friend Ednelle. She was on her way to grab her morning coffee from Starbucks. She texted me to tell me that the person in front of her paid for her coffee. The person in front of them had paid for theirs. Apparently the chain had been going on for much of the morning rush.

Ednelle’s kind act reminded me of a similar random act of kindness on the Florida Turnpike. Many times I was the recipient of a free toll. In turn I happily paid for the person behind me. It is a simple thing that amazingly brought a smile to an ordinary day.

The attribute I love most about my kids is their passion for life. They are so excited about the world around them. I decided to harness that joy and put it to good use. This summer to pass the time away we will perform random acts of kindness in the community. Our first victim was the pest control guy. We gave him a gift certificate for an icy treat at the frozen yogurt shop. He was a bit confused and suspicious at first. Once he realized it was a legitimate act of kindness and nothing fishy he smiled and graciously accepted the offer.

Our goal is to target the people in our community who tend to get over looked (like the hard working pest control man) and could use a little appreciation. In return I hope my children will see that it is far better to give than receive.

1. Leave a gift of appreciation for the mailman in the mailbox.
2. Take a tasty thank you treat to an area fire station.
3. Make lovely artwork to take to a local assisted living residence.
4. Make tissue paper flowers to take to patients at the hospital.
5. Take balloons to the kids at the children’s hospital.
6. Hand out flowers to cashiers at a grocery store or other place of business.
7. Put coins in several parking meters.
8. Mow your neighbors lawn.
9. Leave a small prize for the waitress.
10. Pick up trash at the park and in parking lots.
11. Donate food to an animal shelter.
12. Pay the toll for the car behind you.
13. Hold the door open for patrons entering a business.
14. Volunteer at a blood bank passing out water and fruit.
15. Deliver notes of appreciation to all your doctors. (including the Pharmacist.)
16. Take dinner to someone who is alone or financially strapped.
17. Send a homemade thank you gift to someone in the military.
18. Do an hour of yard maintenance for a preschool/daycare.
19. Donate several small stuffed animals, and coloring books with crayons to the police department to give to traumatized children.
20. SMILE!
21. Tape a thank you note to a police car window.
22. When going to the store call a friend to see if they need anything.
23. Give a flower to the receptionist at your next appointment.
24. Help an overwhelmed mom.
25. Help a co-worker.
26. Pass out tissue paper filled saches of candy to people at the park.

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Summer Travel: Fly or Drive?

– johanna | May 22nd, 2012


Clipart: courtesy of

School officially ends in four days; although, my summer vacation will not start until 12:00 pm June 15th. I am so ready for relaxing days at the lake. What I really want is to take a road trip. We have family in neighboring states that we have not seen for ages. The plan is to take the car enabling us to stop along the way and explore the sites.

The big question when planning any long distance vacation is, is it better to drive or fly. I found this really great site that does all the travel calculations for you. The fly or drive calculator calculates the cost of the trip in addition to the amount of time it takes to fly and drive to a selected destination. For instance, air travel from the central valley in California to Seattle Washington will take us 5 hours and about $1400 in fees. This amount includes travel to the airport and parking fees. On the flip side, the drive is 14 hours and only $500 with an estimated cost of $79 for wear and tear on the vehicle. I can’t vouch for how accurate the data is, such as the fluctuating cost of gas, but it is a pretty nifty tool to give you a guesstimate to which is better: fly or drive.

**If a road trip is part of your summer plans be sure to log onto Road Trip America for planning advice to get the most out of your trip.

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Family Togetherness: Valentine’s Day Character Awards

– johanna | February 21st, 2012


On Valentine’s Day we express our love or appreciation to those we care about by exchanging cards and candy. This year I wanted to take it one step further. I wanted my family to know just how much I love them and what I appreciate most about them.

Each of us has a special gift or talent within us that when cultivated and allowed to blossom will make our homes a lovely place. The Valentine’s Day award is in recognition of the good ways we have used our talents over the past year.

The Festivities:

Good Eats-
Strawberry and milk smoothies with a dollop of whipped cream and chocolate covered strawberries.

The Awards-
Courageous Compassion Award:
My oldest son earned the award for Courageous Compassion. He has the ability to make others, adult and youth alike, feel accepted. He has the courage to include everyone in his play at school bringing children of all aptitude together. Moreover, he can sense when someone is hurting emotionally and help bring a smile to their sad face.

The Heart of Valor Award:
Our daughter earned the Heart of Valor award. She can recognize a need and willingly steps in to help. She is full of passion. She reminds us to view the mundane as a grand fairytale full of adventure. She teaches us to love everyone and even homework can be a delight.

The Radiant Heart Award: Our youngest earned the Radiant Heart award. He is warm and cuddly just like a giant teddy bear. He bares a gentle kindness. He is aware of other’s feelings and calmly goes about to give them comfort. If you say you are in pain he is there to rub your back. If you are sick or sad he will offer a hug.

The After Awards Party-
Watch the Wizard of OZ.

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Santa Wish List Ornament

– johanna | December 13th, 2011


The idea for the Santa Wish List came from a ‘Breakfast With Santa’ event we recently attended. Santa so graciously cleared his schedule to come mingle with the children as they dined on breakfast casseroles, fruit and sausage. A young couple loitered by the piano casually leading the congregation in merry song. It was the very picture of a classic Cary Grant film.

The children were lead to a craft table to make a wish list before lining up to sit on Santa’s lap. The kids were so happy with their Christmas wish list ornament they wore them as bracelets for the rest of the morning. They are so adorable. I thought they would make a fun family tradition. I could see us years from now laughing over how silly our wish list wants were year after year. Then sharing treasured memories about the gifts we actually received.

This is the materials list from the party. The ladies were avid scrapbookers so they were well equipped with all the fancy paper, specialty punches and brads. I have spotted spools and punches at the dollar store. You can even forego the the extra embellishments and they will look just as amazing.


  • Wooden spools
  • Red Paint
  • Paint brush
  • Thin ribbon 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness
  • White cardstock
  • Decorative hole punch- star or Christmas tree
  • Rubber bands
  • Double sided tape or hot glue
  • Fine tipped black ink pen
  • Tiny star brads
  • Scrapbook paper


1. Paint the spools red. (or use desired color)

2. Cut out strips of cardstock the same width as the inside of the spool and long enough to wrap around the spool twice.

3. Hot glue or tape one end of the cardstock to the spool. Wrap the paper around the spool once; secure with hot glue, leaving a good size tail.

4. Wrap the rubber band around the spool to hold the paper in place until dry.

5. Write wish list on the paper using fine tip pen. Write name at bottom of paper. Embellish paper with a decorative punch or stamp (optional).

6. Cut a small tag of cardstock, about 1/2-inch long and 1/4-inch wide. Write the year or person’s name.

7. Thread a strip of ribbon, about 5-inches, through the middle of the spool and tie it together. Attach tag using a decorative brad.

8. Remove the rubber band and hang it on the tree.

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Saint Nicholas Day Stocking Tradition

– johanna | December 6th, 2011


Photo: Klompen – A Family of Wooden Shoes

property of be_khe’s –

Today commemorates the death of St. Nicholas of Myra. St. Nicholas was born into a wealthy family from the small village of Patara, located on the southern coast of modern day Turkey. Though Patara was under Greek rule at the time, St. Nicholas’ parents raised him to be a devout Christian.

Nicholas grew to develop a generous love for mankind. He lived his life ministering to the less fortunate and children. His reputation for secret gift giving is reflected in a Dutch tradition on the eve of December 5th. That night before bed children line up their clogs out on the porch or in the entryway in hopes that St. Nicholas will stop by to leave a treat. On the morning of December 6th children wake to find candy, coins and/or a small present in their clogs.

Here in the Western world we have a similar tradition. Stockings are hung the night of Christmas Eve to collect little treats from Santa Clause. Some families choose to reserve the stocking tradition as part of the St. Nicholas day celebration rather than on Christmas. We do both.

December is a wonderful time to create this amazing magical world filled with surprise and wonderment. Recognizing traditions from other countries or faiths can add to the Christmas season building roots of tradition that remain with our children forever. Adopting the St. Nicholas feast day into our winter wonderland traditions is something our children look forward to all year.

On the eve of St. Nicholas day we unpack the stockings to hang up. You could also use shoes instead of stockings. The next morning the kids might discover an orange or a small bag with hot chocolate mix to have with breakfast. There could be a treasure map to have a scavenger hunt or a special stationary set to write letters to Santa with. This year there will be tickets to a local Nutcracker ballet show.

St. Nicholas stockings, or clogs, could also serve as a fun daily advent calendar. Use pencils, a small piece of candy or puzzle pieces to put together on Christmas Eve.

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