Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Bath Bombs for the Girl Scout Cadette MEdia Journey, Plus 8 More Bath Bomb Recipes

I am not alone in not loving the Girl Scout Journeys. They're overengineered, all over the place instead of tightly themed, and there is inevitably a disconnect between the girl book and the leader book.

Nevertheless, Girl Scouts who are Juniors and above must complete one Journey before they can begin earning the Higher Award at each level, and there is a special award that a girl can earn for completing three Journeys at her level.

And guess who wants to earn that Summit Award before she Bridges to Senior in the fall?

Sigh...

The kids earned the Breathe Journey last summer, we've been slowly working our way through the MEdia Journey all school year, and this summer we're simultaneously working through the badges that represent the Outdoor Journey. Syd will end up earning the Summit Award, too, simply because she might as well if Will is already doing it.

The Cadette MEdia Journey is an awkward juxtaposition of semiotics, comparative media studies/writing, gender studies, and self-improvement seminar. For instance, girls are asked to collect and analyze ads for their portrayal of women, make a healthy, honey-sweetened strawberry lemon sorbet, and play Taboo using only female celebrities--all in the same meeting! And only that first activity actually counts towards their Journey. The rest is just filler pretending to be enrichment.

To adjust this Journey for my own kids, then, I deleted entirely the pop culture crap--pop culture isn't one of my own kids' areas of interest, and they don't know celebrities and aren't much interested in hit songs, etc. I bumped up the semiotics so that we're spending most of our time doing critical analysis of pop culture media, which actually works much better since the kids aren't invested in pop culture media. And I kept the self-care aspect, because I agree that's important for tweens and teens to learn (although we didn't make that sorbet...).

This session, then, was all about self-care! Syd has been wanting to make bath bombs, so we tied it into the MEdia Journey girl book, pages 48-49, entitled "Your Body, Your Friend." In this passage, girls are encouraged to check in with themselves and notice how they're feeling physically and emotionally, and to care for themselves the way they'd care for another. I explained the aspect of taking a bath as a kind of Self-Care Relaxing Me Time, and we made bath bombs.

We made these LUSH-inspired bath bombs, substituting Vitamin E oil for the coconut oil called for in the recipe, and using liquid watercolors instead of food coloring (you only need a very small amount, and it doesn't stain skin or the bathtub):


I had thought that the kids would work together, but each preferred to make her very own batch just the way she wanted it. I made myself a batch, too!

The recipe uses a lot of essential oil, and that's the most expensive ingredient, by far. There are some recipes that skip the essential oil, but I have a fair collection, so I let the kids choose whatever they liked:


I have one set of spherical ice cube molds, so the kids each got to make one sphere, and we put the rest into silicon molds. I tried shaping a couple by hand and setting them to dry on newspaper, but they immediately began to collapse and so I had to put them in molds, too:


Surprisingly, the bath bombs in the molds puffed up as they dried. I really like the ones that we put into the heart-shaped molds; I think they look like cupcakes!



Overall, we all preferred the look of the traditional spherical bath bombs, so if you're doing this for an entire troop, you could save money by using molds or muffin tins, but I think you should splash out on some cheap plastic bath bomb molds. The result is worth it, especially for kids who are familiar with the ridiculously expensive bath bombs that they sell in the mall.

Syd did some more experimenting (of course!) and made several more bath bombs, and each kid has enjoyed doing some self-care by taking a relaxing bath with some of her bath bombs.

Want to play with even more bath bomb recipes? Here are other ones that I want to try:

  1. Syd really wanted to make bath bombs with Epsom salts, so I found this recipe for us to try soon.
  2. This recipe uses cornstarch. I'm not sure why it's needed, which is why I want to try it.
  3. Syd thinks that these geode bath bombs look great, but I am extremely dubious--one, about what the coconut oil will do to our drains (mainly, clog them?!?), and two, about what the lustre dust will do in the bath (mainly, sit on top of the water and cling to one's skin).
  4. I LOVE the idea of hiding a small treat inside of a bath bomb. I think that this would make such a cute party favor or gift for a kid.
  5. We have some of this mica pigment for Syd's slime-making hobby, so we could make these pearl bath bombs!
  6. A hidden color inside a bath bomb sounds really fun, and I have activated charcoal on hand.
  7. Ooh, here's another bath bomb with activated charcoal in it! I might be obsessed now.
  8. I will never not love anything galaxy-themed, and I like the look of this particular galaxy bath bomb recipe the most.

Did you know that bath bombs are also excellent science? They're a terrific demonstration of an acid-base reaction that utilizes a catalyst. A few years ago, I wrote about some great acid-base chemistry experiments that the kids and I did (including the exact one that you use to make bath bombs!), and suggestions for further exploration.

P.S. Want more in-the-moment hands-on homeschooling projects? Follow my Craft Knife Facebook page!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Adventures in Bullet Journaling

I am very much the person who writes things down, if you haven't already noticed, ahem. I have, after all, apparently been keeping very detailed--and very odd--to-do lists for upwards of twenty years, and they've always included other bits and bobs, such as story ideas, lesson plans, diagrams of weird things I want to build, itineraries for trips I haven't (yet) taken, etc.

So why on earth add one more blank book to my backpack?

To keep my book list in one place.
To have a place to plan my garden.
To track my hikes.
Travel journaling!
Noting something nice, or something important, that happens each day.
Tracking all the cities, states, and countries I've visited.
Movie reviews.

I've been using Beyond Bullets (which I received free from a publicist) to give me inspiration, and this Grids and Guides book (which I also received free from a publicist, but that was literally back in 2016 so I don't think it counts anymore--oops!). I really like both of these--Beyond Bullets is better than just looking through Instagram for inspiration, because it has more hand-holding, and a LOT more ideas to look at all at once, and the Grids and Guides journal has several different types of page grids so that you can do some really different layouts, or just experiment with all of them to see what you prefer.

I've been working on my bullet journal for about three months now, and here's what I have so far--and what's working and what is absolutely NOT!

Here's my list of books that I've read, and the date that I completed each one. I do NOT love how it looks:


I wanted it to look like a bookshelf, with the book titles looking like books, something like this bullet journal or this book tracker, or this one. I didn't do it right, though--it turns out that if you try to draw books as if they were rectangles then they look like rectangles, not books. I also wanted to be able to include a sentence to remind me about each book, but I don't have room to do that with every book using this format.

BUT I really like the look of the bookshelf!

I'm going to continue filling this page out the way that I started, but I'll hopefully have come up with a better idea by the time the page is full.

I took this calendar format from Beyond Bullets, and I LOVE it!



This was a big win, because it's exactly what I wanted to be able to record, and it came out looking great, too. I wanted a way to keep notes when I travel, but there's no space for that in my planner. This calendar format is really good for it, however--I still have to be thoughtful about what to include, so it keeps it to the highlights. I kept this travel journal partly during our Spring Break trip to Nashville, finishing writing up the last couple of days at home.

I also really like this travel journal with the route marked, and this one with the photos. The kids own that instant camera, but aren't in the habit of taking it on trips. I do not need one more thing (or to pack one more thing!), but I super want one of those travel photo printers.

I often look back at my planners from previous years to see when a particular event usually takes place, but I like the idea of keeping these seasonal calendars to keep track of overarching activities:




I'm going to have to move that Girl Scout outdoor badgework to April or early May next year, though--in the space of a week in mid-May, the temperatures went from the 40s to the upper 80s, and I'm not sure they're coming back down until the fall. Sigh...

I wanted to keep track of the fun things that we do as a family, and I saw several cute "quilts" for that in Beyond Bullets and in other journals on Instagram, but I don't think it's going to work for me:



I don't think I'm going to use the bullet journal for things that I have to keep track of every day, although there are things that I would like to track every day. Ah, well...

Here's another useful layout that I've made, though--my garden!


It's a work in progress as my garden comes together, so I've only got down what I've actually got placed and planted so far. The penciled squares represent some perennial herbs that I don't want to move (and can't identify...), so I'll likely build more rows aligned with them when I plant the rest of my veggies. I want to include information and instructions, but I can already tell I won't have room, so perhaps I can tape seed packets to the facing page, as well.

I expect this page to be super helpful, because by the next year I've forgotten much of what I did in the garden the previous year--I'm sure, for instance, that last year I knew the names of those herbs!


Here's another layout idea that I got from Beyond Bullets, and it is my favorite thing ever:



It's a map of all the states that I've visited! I printed a one-page map of the US from Megamaps (I have used that site all the freaking time since the kids were toddlers!), and used my graphite pencil transfer method to transfer the map to a double-page spread in my bullet journal. Then I used Prismacolor watercolor pencils to color in all the states that I've visited. I only count states if I actually did some sightseeing in them, and I don't count them if they were just drive-through states, so that's why there are some weird gaps. I've definitely been in Idaho and Nebraska, but I didn't stop unless it was at a gas station or motel, so they don't count.

I'll be coloring Maine in later this summer!

I also want to add a map of the world where I can color in countries I've visited, and maybe one of North America where I can draw in roads and highways, because I think it would be interesting to see my various vacation routes over the years.

I have a ton more pages in my journal, and a few ideas for more pages to add. I like this layout for movies that I've watched, and this menstrual cycle tracker, and a bullet journal-sized circular perpetual calendar where I can put birthdays and holidays. I'm also in a Facebook group for parents who use bullet journals for homeschooling, but I haven't actually thought of any way to do that for myself, yet.

Got anymore ideas for me?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Indiana Comic Con: Where Dreams Come True (Especially if Your Dream is To Own a Print of Wonder Woman as a Cat)

We LOVE Comic Con, where you're free to be as weird as you are! Even Will, who does not engage much with pop culture, has plenty to get excited about, with every third person she passes dressed as an elf with a dragon on their shoulder, etc. There are also plenty of booksellers and comic book writers and artists, and literally, I swear to you LITERALLY, we were all walking through the exhibition hall together when some random guy sitting at a table caught Will's eye, said to her, "Hey, what's your favorite type of fantasy book?", and like a kid promised candy if she'd just get into the nice stranger's windowless white van and help him find his lost puppy, Will peeled off from us and spent the next ten minutes discussing... I don't even know what. Something about Tamora Pierce, I think?... with him.

Our Will. Voluntarily shot the poop with a stranger. Wonders never cease.

We later set the kids free to roam the exhibition hall on their own while we went to more panels, but we did make them get some pop culture education with us. Here we are listening to Jim Swearingen, who designed the original Star Wars toys that were later featured in the documentary, The Toys That Made Us:

As he spoke about the designs he'd made for existing creations, I became curious if he'd ever been interested in doing any original toy designs, so I asked him. He said that he and a friend had made one original prototype once, an extremely spicy lollipop with a personal fan attached so that you could cool yourself while you licked it.

Oh. Okay.

His Star Wars toy designs are brilliant.

Here we are enjoying Matt fanboy over Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman in the 1990s cartoons:

We're cosplaying as the Hogwarts Comparative Muggle/Wizard Literature Professor and her partner, the Quidditch Coach and Flying Instructor, taking two of our students on a field trip.

Even if I'm not personally that familiar with a speaker, there's always an interesting take-away. Conroy, for instance, spent some time talking about his audition for the Batman role, and he explained to us that when auditioning, an actor has to make a choice about how to portray their character. The casting director may give them some guidance, but it may or may not be that accurate compared to what they're actually looking for, and that's not their fault, because what's in someone's mind is so subjective. But an actor who auditions has to make the choice right then, and that choice, how they're portraying the character, is what gets them hired or not. Probably they could have given the character the tone that the director wanted, but if they didn't make that choice but someone else did, then it's that other person's good luck, and if they're the one who happened to make the choice that got them the part, then that's their own good luck, but luck it is.

Fascinating, and I'm not even interested in acting!

Here are Matt and I listening to Timothy Zahn speak, while the kids were off playing retro video games in the exhibition hall:



 And here we are playing retro video games in the exhibition hall!



They had Crazy Taxi. I was basically in heaven.

Optimus Prime made an appearance:

You might remember that I collect fan art, and Will's into dragons, and Matt's into comic books, and Syd's into My Little Pony and comic strips, so we always spend plenty of time browsing the exhibition hall when we go to Comic Cons. I'm kind of pissed about it this year, because to keep myself from buying ALL THE THINGS, I like to check everything out, and then check out the artists' websites later and maybe buy what I really want, but this year, the organizers deleted the exhibitor list from their app and website basically as soon as the weekend was over, and NOW I AM NEVER GOING TO FIND THAT GUY WHO LASER CUT PUZZLE BOXES AND PUT TEA LIGHTS IN THEM.

I am really sad about that.

Here, at least, is Will's favorite artist. She collects original dragon art, and for the last two Comic Cons where she's been allowed to choose a souvenir, she's chosen one of this guy's pieces. Feel free to buy her something from him for her birthday!

The kids and I were also SUPER interested in this guy, and I'm definitely going to buy them some things from his shop for Christmas. I mean, he sculpts both cats AND dragons! And door knockers, which I really, really want. And steampunk goggles. It was pretty cute to watch Syd seeing all these people cosplaying in steampunk and all of these steampunk accessories in booths and fall in love with all of it in the course of about eight hours.

I have promised to score her a bunch of clock parts and leather scraps if she'll do steampunk for the next Trashion/Refashion Show.

Matt met and bought some art from Ty Templeton, whom he's really into, and I became deeply obsessed with a woman who draws characters as if they were cats. I bought a print of Cat Wonder Woman, but I didn't get her business card, and when I try to Google her there are actually, um, a lot of people who draw characters as cats. Huh.

OMG OMG OMG you guys! I just found THE TEA LIGHT GUY!!!!!!! I was tidying my desk, because I suspected there was some grammar that I hadn't marked somewhere in the pile of clutter (there was), and I found exactly four business cards that I remembered to take from booths that interested me, out of the approximately four hundred booths that interested me.

Lesson for me: remember to take business cards, because sometimes people will delete their exhibitor list right after Comic Con, dang it.

Lesson for exhibitors: put your business cards front and center so I can remember to take one!

I'm probably gonna go buy a bunch of tea lights now, and also about fifteen clocks.

Okay, so here is where the magic happened. Syd's favorite comic strip, by a landslide, is Foxtrot. She's read every strip, and reads the collections over and over. She talks about it when we're hanging out. She retells entire comic strip runs. She references it any time we're doing something relevant, like eating food or doing math or touching a computer. LOVES. IT.

Hey, you know who was one of the guest artists at Comic Con this year?


We bought her a print of her favorite comic strip, and he signed it for her, and drew her a little Sharpie Quincy. She was starstruck and so happy.

It was magical.

And we get to do it all again in June, with more business cards this time, when Indy hosts the Pop Con!

Monday, May 14, 2018

How to Make a No-Sew Personalized Girl Scout Binder... AND How to Run a Girl Scout Troop Budget Meeting



I knew that our Girl Scout troop's budget meeting would be pretty intense. I planned to walk nine 9-13-year-olds (most of them closer to 9 than 13...) through last year's troop spending, and guide them through creating this year's troop budget. I had LOTS of pie charts and calculation worksheets and columns of addition and subtraction to go through with them. I had NO idea how well it would go.

To sweeten the experience, then, and to sneakily make sure that all of my several pages of information stayed in the exact order that I wanted it to, for every single girl, I made each girl in my troop her own personalized binder. Early this year I bought myself several yards of Girl Scout-themed fabric to use as I saw fit, and at some point, long ago (before our last move, perhaps!), I found binders sold by the case at a Container Store somewhere and bought a whole case.

I now have a whole case-sized space free in the garage, and I still have enough Girl Scout fabric left to make each girl in my troop a pencil case, IF I piece the backs from more stash fabric. It's a craft hoarder's win!

Personalizing a binder is super easy, and even though this project uses fabric, you don't have to sew a stitch.

You will need:
  • binders, any size. I had exactly nine binders on hand, but the ones that I used are similar to these binders.
  • cardstock, 8.5x11". This won't be visible, so you could also use thin cardboard. I'd suggest something acid-free, though!
  • fabric of your choice. I'm using Girl Scout fabric from Joann's.
  • Stencils and fabric paint. My fabric paint of choice for several years now is Jacquard Neopaque. Their Lumiere line has gotten expensive lately, but it's their line of metallic colors, and is just as good. I custom cut stencils from my original model Cricut, which is still hanging in there (even though I have to tell the software program that works with it to pretend that it's running in a version of Windows about five years outdated...)!
  • hot glue gun and hot glue.



1. Iron your fabric, then cut it a half-inch wider on all sides than a piece of 8.5x11" cardstock.

2. Place the cardstock centered on the fabric, then fold each side over against the cardstock and iron it again to crease it. Be mindful to hold the fabric steady when you do this; cardstock is slippery, and the fabric is easy to shift.

3.  Hot glue each fold against the cardstock:



4. Stencil the front of the fabric-covered cardstock to personalize it.

I don't have a lot of pictures of the process, because I didn't want to show you any other girl's name, but as you read through it, I think you can see that it's easy-peasy!

Before I handed the binders out to the girls, I made sure that all of the papers in them were in exactly the order that I wanted them, and I added several pages of blank notebook paper so they could take notes. And then I took a deep breath, and we did the budget!

The first page of the binder was our troop's budget for the 2017-2018 Girl Scout year. I made a pie chart that showed how the girls had voted to set aside all of their money--some to pay re-registrations, some to pay for badges and uniform components, some set aside as savings for troop travel and other Girl Scout experiences, some to pay for running meetings and badge-earning opportunities, some to pay for fun adventures for the girls to have together, and some to be used for various service projects and other charitable activities.

The next page was another pie chart, this time showing how the troop actually spent their money this year. Some of it was VERY different! 


Barely anything was spent on meetings and badge-earning, for instance, although this is primarily because we run everything co-op style, and parents who ran meetings and badge-earning opportunities have been neglecting to submit their receipts for reimbursement. This is a good thing for the troop finances, I guess, but I want our troop's budget to be a model for how a girl can create her own budget when she's an adult,so I explained to the girls why they want to be self-supporting with their own money, and that we should try harder this year.

On the other hand, the girls spent a LOT more on "Troop Fun" than they'd budgeted for. Our troop has started traveling, and had a trip last summer and one planned for this summer, both from this 2017-2018 budget. A couple of the girls felt really anxious about going over the budget for this category, and I had to show them a few times that even though they went over that particular category's budget, overall they were under budget by more than $500. 

So of course the next item on the agenda was for a couple of the girls to present proposals for spending that money! Our 2017-2018 finances are now nicely accounted for.

The next page in the binder was a calculator--you can see a girl's work on it below--

--for creating the troop's working budget for the 2018-2019 year. First, they had to vote on paying girl registrations, so we could set that money aside. Next, they had to agree upon how much the troop wanted to spend on badge and uniform supplies. This took quite a bit of active discussion, as I'd told them that everyone needed to come to a consensus on every decision--the rule is that you should never spend your money in a way that makes you  uncomfortable, so everyone has to be comfortable with how the money is spent.

Even if that means that you debate for 20 minutes over $25.

Finally, they had to decide how much they wanted to set aside for girls to use for individual Girl Scout programs and travel. There was more debate on that, but when they'd finished, and after subtracting all those totals from their cookie profits, they had arrived at their working budget for the 2018-2019 year!

Time for more debate! On the next page, I ran them through some quick calculations so that they could write down what 10%, 25%, 40%, etc. of their working budget was, to help them visualize the amounts they'd be working with. I also, on separate pages, provided a breakdown of exactly what we'd spent, and on what, in each budget category last year, and I gave them a page of beginning brainstorming ideas for each category:


I did have to give the girls a lot more guidance on this part, because the ideas were pretty abstract--they mostly wanted to talk about more ideas for how to spend the money, and not so much how much to set aside--but using the pie chart of how we'd spent last year's money, and a few ideas of what they wanted to accomplish this year, they finally got all of the money allocated.

Don't get me wrong--the experience was just as intense as I'd thought it would be, and when we were done all I wanted to do was go home to lie down in the dark with a cold, wet washcloth on my forehead. But I was thrilled at how much interest the girls took in the process, and how valuable of an activity it turned out to be. The girls had the experience of dividing their budget between wants and needs, necessities and luxuries, fun activities and operational expenses. They had to disagree with other girls and then compromise with them, stick up for their own ideas and change their minds, choose between different but equally enticing opportunities, and make plans for the future. It's a real-life, real-world skill, the ability to make a budget, and these girls are well on their way to being able to do it.

And if that wasn't awesome enough, since then, two different girls in my troop have shared with me pretend pie charts that they've made for fun, and each time, that girl said it was "because I know how much you love pie charts."

Children, I DO!!!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Homeschool Math: Exploring Pentominoes with Middle Schoolers

Shape puzzles are super fun and excellent for mathematical and logical thinking. I've been trying to strew more puzzles for the kids this spring, along with the sensory materials that I'm already used to offering them, and out of everything that I've offered, I think that shape puzzles have been the most popular.

And, of course, it doesn't hurt when *I* become obsessed with what I've strewn!

I happened upon pentominoes in the book Engage the Brain: Math Games, Grades 6-8. It was the first time I've seen them, and I can't get enough of them! They're diabolically simple: five squares must all share at least one side. Twelve original shapes can be made from that rule.

You can simply fiddle with them, putting them together however you like and seeing what you can make, or you can solve puzzles with them, either trying to assemble them into rectangles or squares or fit outlines that others have made. There are some easy, perfect-for-beginners puzzles out there, but we started with these more difficult ones, specifically the 6x10 rectangle with 2,339 reported solutions.

"Over two thousand solutions!" you say. "Why, that must be simple!"

I'm afraid I must disagree:

The kids and I worked and worked and worked on this!

The most frustrating thing is almost solving it but for one single piece. Grr!



Syd developed the strategy of drawing her possible solutions rather then putting them together. Took much longer to do, but it did look lovely!



  


Don't tell the children, but I cheated. We were all working together at the school table, and they were so focused and intent that I didn't want to disturb them by leaving, myself, without a solution. If you homeschool, you likely know that the surest way for a child to lose interest in her work is for you to lose interest first. Go take a five-minute phone call and you'll find that the school table has mysteriously absented itself of children when you return!

I figured that the only way that I could walk away from the table without discouraging the kids is if I'd solved the puzzle, but that darn 6x10 rectangle just would not solve itself! And so I cheated. The puzzle page that I linked to earlier has its solutions diagrammed, so I began sneaking peeks at the solution, giving myself more and more pieces that were correctly placed to start with. I think I'd cheated half the puzzle before I finally managed to solve it:


And then, about ten minutes later and completely on her own, so did my thirteen-year-old:


Grr, indeed!


You can make a simple set of pentominoes using just graph paper (I'd recommend the one-inch grids), but you'll notice that we have these handy-dandy, ready-made plastic pieces:



Super-awesome pro tip: they come from our Blockus games! We own both regular Blockus and travel Blockus--AND an almost complete extra set of travel Blockus pieces--all bought from Goodwill. Blockus and Scrabble are two games that I almost always buy when I see them selling for a song at a thrift store or garage sale. I had it in my head that I really wanted to make DIY versions of pentominoes, so Syd and I experimented with some unfinished one-centimeter cubes that I have, and we did manage to end up with a couple of sets that I like okay:



I like that these handmade pentominoes are more tactile than a paper model, and that they're three-dimensional, so they have more utility and scope for creativity than the 2D versions. However, they're impossible to make so that they fit together as snugly as store-bought, machined pieces, and that U piece, in particular, I had to remake about four times, and after painting it I realized that I'll have to remake the purple one a fifth time--it's REALLY difficult to keep that middle space open more than a centimeter!

So in this case, I've finally resigned myself to the fact that store-bought plastic is simply better:



I had additionally been thinking that I should make a DIY magnetic version, perhaps to fit in some sort of metal tin, maybe made of Perler beads and with magnets on the backs, but then I realized: duh. I can obviously just use our TRAVEL BLOCKUS set. So that's one more problem solved!

The greatest thing about pentominoes, especially if you have gifted learners and learners at different levels, as I have both of, is how many enrichment opportunities there are with such a simple toy. There are a million ways to play with pentominoes, a million ways to structure activities, a million research projects, a million projects to solve, a million ways to incorporate them creatively into play. Here are some extension ideas and resources, some of which we've used, and some of which I've put on our to-do list for later exploration:

  • Chasing Vermeer. We're listening to this right now as our car audiobook. 
  • online pentominoes game. Syd enjoyed playing through this online game.
  • lesson plan. If you need to more formally introduce the concept pentominoes, here's a full lesson plan.
  • pentomino alphabet. These solutions are demonically tricky, but I think it would be really cool to cheat the solutions, then use them as templates and simply draw them and decorate them on graph paper for fun.
  • printable pentomino puzzles. These didn't work great for us, because the printout diagrams didn't match the sizes of the pentominoes we already have. If you needed a quiet activity that kids could do independently, though, you could print these and the included pentomino templates. Bonus points for printing the pentominoes on magnet paper, popping it all into a metal tin, and having the travel pentomino set of my dreams!
  • 3D pentomino puzzles. Here are some templates especially for pentomino sets made from blocks.
See! Now you can be obsessed with pentominoes, too!

P.S. Interested in more hands-on homeschool projects? Check out my Craft Knife Facebook page!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Scenes from a Twelfth Birthday: It Began with Ballet, and Ended with Gummy Bears!

Syd's ballet recital fell on her twelfth birthday this year, which meant that although the day began with doughnuts, I also sneaked some eggs in with the sugar, then sent her off to spend half the day doing her favorite activity with some of her favorite people. Syd's ballet class was magical this year, a golden experience through and through--her level had only four girls in it, and that, combined with the happenstance that they were assigned the best ballet instructor that Syd has ever had, made the whole year just stellar, beyond anything I could have possibly hoped for her.

You can see in her bearing how much she's grown as a dancer this year:


And then the wind shifted direction--oops!

Ah, well. Back to posing, water-spotted tights be darned!

Ballet recitals are also a great time to get some family photos taken--

--at least until the wind shifts again...

Okay, back to posing!


Somehow Matt is never able to take a photo of me and the girls in which we're all smiling with our eyes open and facing the camera:



It is a struggle, I admit:

And yet I assure you, it can be done!

Matt kept suggesting that I might want to take a photo of Syd in front of these flowering trees, which is his way of saying that HE wants me to take a photo of Syd in front of the flowering trees. I'd already taken all the photos that I wanted, however, so I helpfully said something along the lines of reminding him that he had a camera and hands, as well, in what I can assure you was my most polite tone of voice (fine, it was not. It was probably kind of bitchy). But there's no denying that this photo of a daddy photographing his daughter is much sweeter than the photo I would have taken of the same original scene:



Fortunately, all the time that Syd had to spend in ballet rehearsals that weekend made building her secret present a cinch!


Yep, that's a slide off of our deck, because if you're not lowering your house value and endangering life and limb, how do you even know that you're having fun?

Moar sugar! 

And then some playtime, and then some carbs (our girl LOVES herself some pasta! We tease her generally daily about all the spaghetti she ate in Greece), and then some more sugar!


I baked a double batch of Victoria sponge, added sprinkles to the batter to make it into homemade Funfetti, and frosted it with cream cheese frosting. Will decorated it with Syd's favorite food, gummy candies.

I think she liked it okay!




I'm still thrilled about my Perler bead cake toppers.


Hiding for the day in the refrigerator did not improve the consistency of the gummy bears, I must warn you--

--so Matt ended up having to do the honors:

Nevertheless, a good time was had by all!

I think this kid is going to enjoy every last second of being twelve.

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