Spring Break: Mrs. Grossman’s Stickers

I grew up going somewhere every school break. My parents loved to travel and I was always thrilled to join them(even into adulthood). The logistics of traveling long distances with 4 children are complex, but that doesn’t mean we stay home! One of the great things about California is how many diverse destinations there are within mini van distance. This year we’re visiting Sonoma, without going to a single vineyard. Our first stop? Mrs. Grossman’s sticker factory in Petaluma. Andrea Grossman was one of the pioneers of decorative stickers, and her company is the last one to continue manufacturing their stickers in the USA- basically your only shot at seeing how stickers are made firsthand without leaving the country. The tours are reservation only, and they hand out SO many free stickers as you go! 

 Here we are standing in front of 6 month supply rolls of stickers. My insane sticker-collecting 8 year old self would have probably fainted at this point. They gave out a little sticker project at the end 

 But we still had to visit the gift shop, right? The biggest hits with the kids were their sticker grab boxes and something I hadn’t seen before called Peel and Play– sturdy vinyl stickers and scenes. My middle daughter is the storyteller and had so much fun playing “story hour” with her Noah’s Ark set.

   She’s also a big organizer, and enjoyed laying alllll of her stickers out to put them in order.

 Of course we couldn’t keep all the sticker goodness to ourselves! Each child packed up little envelopes of fun to send to friends back home. 


What’s up next? The Jelly Belly jelly bean factory in Fairfield. Stay tuned…


Watercolors on the Go

I can’t tell you where(see yesterday’s post on sleep deprivation and brain function), but the minute I saw these Sakura Koi travel watercolor sets and brushes I knew we needed at least one. I got one for my purse(for art emergencies), and one just for my oldest daughter on her birthday. Today at the park, my middle daughter and my son took turns using my set on a little block of watercolor paper I brought with me 

I was pretty impressed with the loveliness of the colors, ease of use, and the art the children made, and honored when my daughter presented me with her mini masterwork 

 I will be framing it, and probably getting a set, or at least one of the neat water-filled brushes, for each child.

Nanobug Party!

Though my oldest daughter’s birthday was a few weeks ago, I didn’t manage to pull together a school friend birthday party until this weekend. Thankfully my daughter is happy with having just her 3 closest friends as guests, and those friends were all free! She requested a hexbug party, so I gathered a 5-pack of bugs and materials for DIY bug  mazes.  

 It was an excuse to go to my favorite art store Artist and Craftsman, and buy one of my favorite open-ended craft supplies- a Casey’s Wood Products bag of odds and ends.  

 These things are THE BEST for just chucking in the middle of the table with some glue, string, wire, pipe cleaners, etc. and seeing what the kids come up with. I also got a six-pack of wood frames to act as the base for the mazes, and poster tack for sticking the wood pieces down 

 As all the bugs were different colors, I made a blind grab box to avoid fighting over who got what.  


 They all ended up trading but at least it was fair!

Everyone had fun sticking different pieces in the frames and seeing how the bugs interacted with their environments 


 I had fun buildings a little maze too! 

I also made mini cheesecake bites that were so much easier than a big cheesecake and totally delicious. More on that tomorrow…

Natural Dye on the Fly

Sometimes I do lots of research and gather all the appropriate materials before starting a project. Sometimes I just wing it. This is the latter in action. While the little fellows were dyeing eggs with Paas, I boiled up a pot of red cabbage, and another of dried hibiscus flowers. The cabbage was pretty much a bust for dye, though fun for doing acid/alkaline color-changing magic(more on that in a moment). But the hibiscus was totally unexpected!

 It was a gorgeous bright pink in the pot.  

An egg soaked briefly(on the right) turned grey-green, and the one soaked over night turned marbled black!! 
   I decided to try it on a piece of silk pre-mordanted with vinegar. I accordion folded the scarf lengthwise, then width wise, then bound the corners with rubber bands and submerged it in a jar of hibiscus overnight.
The result was much more what I expected with the eggs! A lovely muted pinky-purple. It is dry, but I’m not sure if it will be color-fast, or oxidize over time, but that’s part of the fun!


And in case you want to try magical cabbage concoction: for dye, I think my concentration of cabbage to water was off, plus I think actually boiling the eggs with the cabbage makes for the best color. But we had fun with the cabbage water! Did you know that red cabbage changes color depending on whether it is exposed to acid or alkaline solutions? So cabbage water+vinegar+baking soda= fun. 

Blue/purple cabbage water 

Add a spoonful of vinegar 

Pink cabbage water! Add a spoonful of baking soda for some fizz and another color change back to purple. 

I love science.

Getting Eggy With It

Dyeing Easter eggs is one of my favorite spring traditions. This year is the first that I felt the children were big enough to try blowing out some of the eggs before dyeing. Following various internet tutorials, we used my older daughter’s Fiskar’s hand drill to make the holes. 

 We broke a few, but overall the drill worked much better than any method I’ve tried before. We poked a toothpick in the hole to scramble the yolk and then got blowing. I was surprised to see that all three big kids had the lung power to do it!  

 I saved all the egg innards and made a peculiar pancake/Dutch baby for breakfast.  

Peculiar Pancake

  1. 4 eggs
  2. 1/2 cup flour
  3. 1/2 cup milk
  4. 4 T butter 
  5. Powdered sugar and/or lemon juice for serving

Heat oven to 400. Melt butter in a cast iron pan. Beat the other ingredients until well-blended and foamy (except sugar/lemon juice). Pour into buttery pan. Place in oven and cook for 20-25 minutes, until huge, puffy and golden. Shake powdered sugar over and eat!



 It went fast!

As you can see from my daughter’s tray, we dyed some eggs before breakfast. I have a hankering to try natural dye methods sometime soon, but for this morning we went with the old faithful, Paas dye kits made with vinegar and water. I buy three basic kits, plus a set of color cups and use three dye tablets in each cup to make for vibrant colors 

 My kids don’t love eating eggs, but the oldest and youngest were inspired by the pretty colors to eat a hard boiled egg each. 


I call that a win! Fair warning this may not be the last egg-related post this week…

Rocket Man!

My little fella is fascinated by space- astronauts and rocket ships in particular. He made a space ship out of cardboard boxes and wanted the baby and me to come in, but it was a little small. So I added a baby pod to his rocket

 But he still wanted me to come in, so I asked him if I could break down the boxes and try putting them together another way to make a biiiig space ship. He agreed, provided he could make himself a rocket man space costume. One roll of duct tape and every cardboard box in the house later and we have a deep space pod that fits the whole gang 


While I was breaking down and taping boxes together, he was making and testing his rocket man outfit. 

 When the big girls got home from school, they got in on the space fun too! 



My daughter the donut

My middle daughter just performed in her kindergarten play – an adaptation of the book The Big Orange Splot. She was in the cupcake house, where everyone had a sweet tooth, and decided she wanted to dress like a donut. I loved the idea and immediately started trying to figure out how to make it happen. She had lots of good ideas, the best one being that the costume be made of an inflatable swim ring with fabric cover to make it look like a donut. She also wanted donut bracelets. So I broke out the brown and gold polar fleece I bought for something years ago, and set about tracing the swim ring and drawing a donut bracelet pattern. 

 I serged the outside edges together, then turned it right side out and blanket stitched the inner circle together, leaving a spot for stuffing and then stitching up the rest of the way! I did the same with the big donut, but stitched it shut directly around the swim ring, making a slit for the inflation valve to poke out. 

 I hand-stitched on straps she could tie halter-style around her neck to keep it from slipping off.  


We cut a bunch of multi-colored felt “sprinkles”, which i thought would naturally cling to the fleece. 

  I was wrong and they came flying off when she danced, causing a bit of a distraction for the other kids- live and learn! 

All of the children were comfortable and happy on stage, and the show was so charming and sweet. The teachers did a beautiful job of making the kids feel supported, and the children obviously had fun and worked hard to learn their lines and dances by heart. A second-grade friend was outside to congratulate my daughter after the show- hurrah! 


One Hundred Bunnies

Today is my middle daughter’s 100th day of kindergarten. Of course we had plenty of notice about their 100th day celebration, to which each child brings a collection of 100 objects, but didn’t get started on hers until last night. Project 100 bunnies(origami ones, that is). Thankfully I stockpile pretty paper every time I visit Daiso, and I know the steps of an origami bunny by heart. Double good fortune: my second-grader decided to lend a hand and learned how to make them too! 

 Where we left off last night… 

 This is what 88 bunnies looks like 

 Folding bunny 100!

I made a little photo tutorial if you would like to make some bunnies too. Easter is right around the corner, after all!

Step 1: fold to make a triangle and unfold, repeat to make two diagonal folds   


Step 2

Fold in half to make a rectangle, unfold and repeat to make two more creases 



Step 3 is a bit fiddly- the photos explain better than words, but start with folding a triangle, and pinching where all the creases meet in the center, then fold that into a double-layered triangle. 


Step 4- fold the point of one layer up to meet the center point of the triangle, and repeat 

Step 5 I’ll let the photos speak!   

 Step 6: Use these folds to make little pockets- observe 


Step 7: Flip over and observe 




I stopped buying play doh 4 years ago, in favor of homemade no-cook doh. Mostly because of how expensive those little canisters are relative to how quickly kids mix the rainbow colors to greige and leave it to turn into sharp little crumbles on the ground. My son(not coincidentally 4 years old) found an ancient tiny canister of yellow play doh and was fascinated by the bright color and smooth (if rubbery with age) consistency. He asked for more, which inspired me to try the cooked play doh recipe on Tinkerlab. We had a weavil-infested bag of flour in the freezer for just such a purpose, and I buy salt and cream of tartar in bulk at The Berkeley Bowl for similar reasons!

We mixed it all together off the stove.  

 Then we stirred and stirred and stirred, and once it broke my old wooden spoon in half(seriously) I knew it was probably the right consistency, and plopped it onto a sheet of waxed paper for kneading. 

 I divided it into four balls and kneaded in food coloring and a drop of lavender essential oil for yummy smell(which I wouldn’t do if my kids hadn’t encountered it before, or if they were doing the initial knead, as undiluted it can be a skin irritant!) 

 It turned out pastel, and I suspect gel food coloring or liquid water colors might give more vibrant hues 

 All of the kids, except the very smallest, had a blast, and so did I. I don’t think you ever really get too old for Play Doh





My big girls have the week off from school, while the little fellow’s preschool is still in session- staycation time! One of my favorite destinations for school vacation is Brushstrokes. The big girls especially love the magic of glaze, and I’ll take any excuse to make something too- our family birthday cake plate, my favorite coffee mug, and the kids’ breakfast tea pot are all products of various vacation outings to the studio. This visit was as inspiring as ever.

The eldest painted an initial to hang on the baby’s wall(so sweet) 
My animal-loving daughter painted a china puppy and a China hedgehog
And I made a set of whimsical salt and pepper shakers(somehow we only have plastic salt and pepper grinders in our house!)

I used to object to the cost of painting studios, but considering that a movie ticket is around $10, and the obligatory movie snacks run pretty pricey, a trip to paint doesn’t cost much more, and a week later you have something lovely to remind you of your vacation! I’m already planning the butter dish I want to paint on our next visit…