Color Changing Carnations

The latest experiment in Our Beautifully Messy House is one of the most colorful ones yet – Color Changing Carnations! It’s pretty simple to throw together and you will start to see results within a day! You can do this experiment with any white flowers…daisies, roses, even Queen Anne’s Lace…but carnations are cheap and abundant in our local grocery store these days. I was able to use this experiment to show L and WB how chemicals get into the food we eat, especially the food we grow. L knows why we always try to find organic fruits and veggies at the grocery, but now she can see why we do too!

 

Materials needed:

  • jars or vases
  • white flowers
  • scissors
  • water
  • food coloring

First, trim your flowers’ stems. It’s best to cut flowers at an angle and to remove any leafage near the bottom. Leaves trapped underneath the water’s surface become moldy and cause your water to go bad sooner.

Next, put about 10-20 drops of food coloring into each jar. The bigger the jar, the more food coloring you’ll need. Then, add the water.

Finally, put a flower or two into each vase and wait a day or two for the magic to happen!

The results are fun and exciting to see! Even I couldn’t wait to see what our flowers looked like with each passing hour.

To take this experiment to the next level, you can try making bi-colored carnations. Carefully split a flower stem down the middle and put each stem half into a different jar of colored water. We tried to make a half-yellow, half-red flower. Our “red” jar didn’t have quite enough food coloring in it, but the flower was clearly half-yellow! We’re still working on this one!

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Mushroom Spore Prints

Did you ever make MUSHROOM SPORE PRINTS as a kid? They’re super-easy to make and super-beautiful! Lately the girls and I have found lots of mushrooms around the yard, at L’s school, and when out hiking in the woods! Mushroom spore prints are so mush fun to make…you’ll be out looking for mushrooms everywhere you go! When looking for mushrooms, you’ll want to find some that are fresh (just a day or two old), before they’ve dropped their spores. Mushroom spores are no bigger than a speck of dust and the wind scatters them all around. As you probably assumed, the spores are mushrooms’ “seeds.” In making spore prints on paper, you’ll be amazed at how many just one mushroom has!

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While it’s fun to poke and prod at mushrooms, investigating them and marveling at their unique beauty, be sure to remind your kids that we NEVER eat a mushroom that we find outdoors. Only experts know the difference between ones that are deadly and ones that are okay to eat.

 

Materials needed:

  • mushrooms
  • sharp knife
  • dark paper or card stock
  • a large bowl or container

 

First, find a good mushroom or two. Mushrooms come in all shapes and sizes…you’ll want a typical dome-shaped mushroom cap, though it doesn’t matter what color.

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After you’ve carefully removed the mushroom from the soil, cut off the stem close to the top of the mushroom.

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Flip the mushroom onto a dark piece of paper.

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Cover it with a large bowl or container, and let the mushroom sit for a few hours or overnight.

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Carefully remove the container and lift the mushroom off the paper without smudging the spore print.

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Fascinating and beautiful!!!

Mini-Canvas Magnets

MINI-CANVAS MAGNETS are not only a fun project for kids (and adults!) of all ages, but they also make sweet, little gifts for friends, grandparents, and teachers! I’ve founded mini-canvases at Michael’s on numerous occasions…usually on the ends of the acrylic paint aisle.

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Materials needed:

  • mini-canvases
  • acrylic paints & brushes
  • thin magnet strips

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First, paint your mini-canvases. The canvases are so small, little hands have no problem filling the space with a rainbow of colors. Best to give the kids 2-3 colors to use at a time. You may even want to paint a few!

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After the paint dries, flip the canvases over and attach magnet strips. You can find an array of magnets at craft stores with an adhesive tape on one side. Best to choose thin magnets, so the canvases lie close to the fridge.

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Now, time to gift and/or display your mini-masterpieces! So cute…and easy!!! Enjoy!

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Homemade Elder-Blossom Nectar

Inspiration for our HOMEMADE ELDER-BLOSSOM NECTAR came from one of my favorite children books, “Linnea’s Almanac” by Christina Bjork and Lena Anderson. L rediscovered the Linnea books a couple weeks ago and has been poring over each page. In the July section of the book is a recipe for Elder-Blossom Nectar. Since I had never made it, but always wanted to, we got to work! The very day we came across the recipe, we spotted an Elder Tree on one of our outings! How lucky were we!?! A few days later, we went on an early morning adventure and harvested the Elder blossoms.

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Ingredients:

  • 25-30 Elder blossom clusters
  • 1-2 lemons
  • 2 lbs sugar
  • 1 quart water

Before you harvest Elder blossoms, you want to make certain that you have the right type of tree. There are other blossoms that are similar, poisonous Elder and poison Hemlock, but are not the same. True Elder blossoms will be on a tree. The white flowers are in big, flat, round clusters that have a strong, sweet smell. (see pictures below) Poisonous Elder grows in pointed clusters that are yellowish-green and they do not have a strong scent. Poison Hemlock has a very different, fern-like leaf shape, and it grows more like a weed…not a tree.

 

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Once you find your Elder tree, you’ll want to cut off 25-30 flower clusters. Have your kids help you count the flowers, inspect them with a magnifying glass for fun, and put them in a large jar.

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Next, back at home, slice your lemon and add it to a pot with the water and sugar. Heat the mixture to a boil, then carefully pour it into the jar with your Elder blossoms. Cover the jar and let it sit for three days.

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While the nectar is setting, time to find and clean some bottles! You want to make sure your bottles are well washed in preparation for the nectar.

After three days, it’s time to bottle your nectar! Opening the lid, you won’t believe the sweet aroma that’s been bottled up inside! (I have to admit, I cheated. We opened the jar everyday to smell our nectar…it was just so tempting!)

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First remove whatever blossoms and lemon pieces you can with a fork or spoon.

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Next, tie a cheese cloth around the top of your jar. Strain the nectar thru the cheese cloth, pouring it into a large pitcher.

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From here, you pour the nectar into the clean bottles or jars you’ve prepared. Make sure you fill the bottles to the top and secure the lids tightly. If done properly, your nectar will last for six months in the refrigerator. After you open a bottle, you’ll have to devour the contents within a month…no problem there! It’s just so good!

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Uses and Recipes:

We use our nectar similar to other syrups or honey.

  • First we made a cold, summer drink by adding 4 tablespoons of the nectar to a quart of water. Yum!
  • You can make a warm, milky, tea-like drink as well. Stir together 1 teaspoon of nectar, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 cup of milk for each person. Warm the mixture in a saucepan and pour it into a teapot. (This tea is perfect for summer night tea parties, while watching the stars, lightning bugs, and bats come out!)
  • You can also drizzle your nectar on pancakes or over hot oatmeal or grits for breakfast. Delish!

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Bjork, Christina and Lena Anderson. “Linnea’s Almanac.” Stockholm: Raben & Sjogren, 1982. Print.

Tin Can Telephone

Now I know this craft, toy, activity is as old as they come, but how many of you have actually made a TIN CAN TELEPHONE for your kids yet!?! L has been begging for weeks for us to make one and today was the day! It was so quick and easy to put together and the kids played with it all afternoon. L already has plans for tomorrow and how we’ll make a longer TIN CAN TELEPHONE that will stretch to the neighbor’s porch. And yes…if you’re wondering…yes, it does work!!! As you probably remember, the key is making sure the string is pulled taut when you’re talking to each other, and try not to rest the can against your face as well. Enjoy!

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Materials needed:

  • 2 tin cans, clean and lids removed
  • Sharpie markers (optional)
  • awl or nail
  • scissors
  • string
  • tape (fabric, duct, or gaffer)

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First, color the cans with Sharpie markers. Of course you could always paint the cans, glue paper to the cans, or leave them plain as well.

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Next, put tape on the cans to protect your kids from any sharp edges. To do this, measure the tape, to get the length right.

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Carefully roll the can over the tape, wrapping the tape around the can, and leaving about half an inch of the tape hanging off the edge.

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Next, use scissors to cut the tape as pictured. Then, fold all the flaps down over the can’s edge. No fear of little hands getting cut now!

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Using an awl or a nail, poke a hole in the bottom of each can.

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Cut a piece of string and thread it through the hole in the bottom of a can. Double or triple knot the string. Repeat on the other side of the string with the second can.

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If the holes seems to be a bit sharp on the inside, and you have especially little hands that you’re afraid may explore the inside of the cans, you can put a piece of tape over the knots and holes of the cans.

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Now, time to play! Your little ones can experiment talking across a room, through fort walls, up and down stairs, from one bedroom to another…the possibilities are endless.

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Such simple, wonderful, old school fun!!!

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Pajama Walks & Dandelion Walks

A couple years ago, our family started going on “Pajama Walks” during the warmer months of the year. They’re not something we do on a daily basis, but maybe once every couple of weeks. Pajama walks are perfect for nights when the kids have been really good, dinner was on the early side, and you want to do something special to end your perfect day. They’re also great on days which have been a complete disaster, as your last hope to turn the day around! Or maybe on rainy days when the clouds part and the sun decides to come out just before it sets…

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Basically, you eat dinner, give the kids a bath, and instead of reading a bedtime story, you take a stroll around the block. You sing songs, talk about your day, watch the moon come out, and unwind as a family.

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Over the past few weeks our pajama walks have morphed into something beautiful: “Dandelion Walks.” While on our walks, L started picking dandelions and other pretty weeds like all kids do. She then started leaving them on people’s doorsteps, in their mailboxes, and even gave a dandelion to a neighbor’s cat napping on their patio.

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So now on our pajama walks, the kids pick flowers for one block and share them for three. The neighbors might not even notice and the girls know this, but it makes them happy leaving these little surprise gifts of sunshine all the same.

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I’ve always told our girls, “Dandelions are where the sun kisses the earth when it rises in the morning.” And it’s true.

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To inspire your kids further, I highly recommend the book “Sidewalk Flowers” by poet JonArno Lawson and illustrator Sydney Smith. It’s one of our favorites!

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2-Ingredient Slime

This SLIME recipe has to be the quickest and easiest sensory-dough-goop we’ve ever made in Our Beautifully Messy House! It was perfect for a cold, rainy afternoon…a perfect excuse to keep the t.v. off as well! Both girls loved squishing and stretching our slime and I’m sure they’ll be asking for it first thing tomorrow morning!

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Ingredients:

  • one bottle, glitter glue
  • 1/4 cup, liquid starch

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I’ve seen various recipes for this slime and it looks like all types of liquid, non-toxic glue will work: white (Elmer’s) glue + food coloring; clear glue + food coloring + glitter. I thought just using the glitter glue would take out the extra steps of adding coloring and glitter, and it worked great! No dyed fingers and no glitter mess to boot!

First, empty an entire bottle of glitter glue into a plastic container or bowl.

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Next, add the liquid starch a little at a time. Stir for a minute or two, until the slime congeals together and is semi-solid.

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Dump the slime out on a hard surface and squish with your hands. (After this step, my hands and the plastic mat were a little wet. I simply dried them off, and after that, the slime was virtually mess-free!)

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Time to play!!! L and WB enjoyed squishing plastic figurines into their slime this afternoon. They made a bed for some jawas to nap on, a dinosaur taco, and a sparkly potion for the fairies. Let their imaginations soar!!!

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An extra-fun quality of this slime is the inappropriate “FlAaArP!!!” sound it makes when you squash it into a plastic cup with your fingers. Haha! There was so much laughter to be had with that one!!!

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Store your slime in a sealed container and it should last for at least a couple months! Enjoy!!!

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Shoebox-Marble Game

Not only is the SHOEBOX-MARBLE GAME super-easy and simple to make, it’s also a challenging game for anyone to play! For younger children, they can try to catch the marbles on any holes; for adults and older kids, they may try to catch the marbles on specific colors or to make patterns with the marbles. Sounds pretty easy, but it’s not! L and I had lots of fun this afternoon taking turns, playing the Shoebox-Marble Game. Our shoebox was big enough, we were even able to play together with all hands on the box, tipping and tilting it until all the marbles were caught!

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Materials needed:

  • shoebox
  • awl (or sharp tool)
  • markers
  • marbles

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First, color a fun picture or design inside your shoebox.

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Using your awl, poke holes through the bottom. I like to do this by placing the box on a doormat, then poking the holes from the inside of the box – out. If the game is too hard, you may want to go back and make some larger.

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Now it’s time to play! Put some marbles in your box and see who can catch the most on the holes! The more you practice, the better you’ll get. For younger children, it helps to have them balance the box on a flat surface.

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Enjoy!!!

DIY Nature Frame

Is your child a nature collector or, as Pippi Longstocking would say, a “thing finder”? If so, the DIY Nature Frame is the perfect project for them! Just about every day of the year, L fills our stroller, our wagon, or our pockets with things she finds on walks. We could be going for a walk around the block in the city and she still comes home with feathers, sticks, rocks, butterfly wings and seed pods! This past weekend we went for a walk and L brought home pinecones and pine needles that she wanted to “do a craft” with, ie. glue to paper. I knew that wouldn’t quite work, so in less than 10 minutes we put together this Nature Frame!

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The best part about having a Nature Frame, is that it’s a project that is constantly changing, evolving throughout the year. While ours has pine cones and pine needles in it now, the end of February, I’m sure within a month or two it will be filled with Spring flowers, robins eggs, and fallen bird’s nests. In the Fall, our Nature Frame will most likely be glowing orange with fallen leaves from the backyard…finally, a place for all our nature findings!!!

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Materials needed:

  • an old frame
  • string
  • scissors

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First, dismantle your frame. I bought this old and ugly print, among a collection of 5 other framed pictures, for $1.75 at an antique auction. I liked two of the pictures and that was worth the $1.75 and getting stuck with 3 I didn’t care for so much! So I stashed the ugly pictures away in a closet and I’m glad I did…the frame on this one was perfect for a Nature Frame! You can find similar frames for pennies at secondhand stores, yard sales, and antique shops.

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Next, tie your string to the edge of your frame and, with the help of your child, wrap it criss-cross around the frame. We used three different strings that were three different colors…anything works!

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Now, after you’ve been for a nature walk and your little one’s pockets are full, you can fill your frame. And then, hang it in a place for everyone to enjoy! We hung ours in our kitchen by the back door…L’s findings usually end up on the floor by the door, so now they can go up on the wall instead! I just love it!

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Enjoy!!!

 

DIY Bird Nesting Kit

The “DIY Bird Nesting Kit” is the perfect project for little hands and little helpers! L and I made three kits this week: two gifts and one to hang in our own backyard, next to our DIY Tin Can Bird Feeder. It took less than a day for our feathered-friends to find it and start picking away, flying bits of string home to cozy-up their nests! The DIY Bird Nesting Kit costs only $2.50 to make (I’m not kidding!) and it’s a wonderful project to help teach kids about giving, sharing, and caring for the world around us….aaand about birds and the various types of nests they make of course!

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Before making our Bird Nesting Kits, the girls and I read “Mama Built a Little Nest” by Jennifer Ward and Steven Jenkins. It is fascinating book with beautiful, collage-like illustrations, depicting all kinds of birds, their families, and the homes they build. (It’s best to read in a pile of beach towels, swirled around on the floor into your own nest.) I highly recommend it!

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Materials needed:

  • Wired bird suet holder
  • yarn scraps
  • scissors
  • ruler (optional)

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First, have your little one cut the yarn scraps up into pieces about 3-5 inches long. You don’t have to measure them, but your little one might want to with the ruler!

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After you have a nice pile of yarn pieces, it’s time to stuff them into the suet holder. Then, close the suet holder up and it’s all done. It’s that easy!

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Now, time to find the perfect place outside to hang your Bird Nesting Kit…someplace where the birds will find it and you can spy them doing so is best!

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If you’re giving your Bird Nesting Kit away as a gift, you may want to include a little card inside explaining what it is. Your friends will be sure to love such a colorful, quirky, and fun gift! Enjoy!!!

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