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!!!

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.

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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DIY Ragtag Fairy Skirts (No Sew!!!)

These Ragtag Fairy Skirts are so easy to make, I almost feel silly writing a post on them. They are so cute though!!! I figured if you didn’t know how to make them already, you need to learn! Like all my projects that involve fabric, my suggestion to you is to check out the secondhand stores in your area first. We have an old antique/junk store in town that has a huge selection of funky fabrics from the 80s and 90s…they’re just perfect for crafts like this. And they only cost $1-$3 for pieces 3-6 yards long! If you already have a nice pile of fabric scraps, you’re all set…it doesn’t take much!

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Materials needed:

  • fabric
  • elastic
  • scissors

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First cut the fabric into strips, about 1-2 inches wide and 12-20 inches long. Varying lengths make the skirt fun…it definitely doesn’t have to be perfect!

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Next, cut a piece of elastic long enough to go around your child’s waist, with enough left over for a bow or knot. Tie on each piece of fabric as pictured. First, fold the fabric in half. Then, put the folded loop under the elastic. Flip the ends of the fabric up and over the elastic and through the loop of folded fabric. Pull gently to tighten and secure.

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Repeat this process until the skirt is full. Although the lengths of the fabric can vary (makes the skirt more fun and free), I would try to make each “knot” face the same direction.

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Once all the fabric strips are secure, simply tie the skirt in a bow around your child’s waist. So easy and too cute!!!

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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 Toy Sail Boat

One evening this summer, while we were getting ready for bath time, L pulled a wine cork out of her pocket. She had been saving it all day to float it around and play with in the bath tub. That got me thinking…I knew with a few toothpicks and some leaves we could turn her wine cork into a little sail boat! Leaves work great for this project, because they’re naturally water-proof and easily replaceable!

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Materials needed:

  • 2 wine corks
  • 4 toothpicks
  • 2 leaves
  • old pencil
  • scissors

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Take one of the wine corks and stick three toothpicks into it, all pointing in the same direction in a line.

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Next, push the second wine cork into the opposite ends of the toothpicks.

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Stick one more toothpick vertically into the middle of one of the corks.

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Find a medium-sized leaf and weave it through the bottom toothpicks. We used a balloon flower leaf. This step isn’t necessary, but it makes a nice lil bed for anything you may want to sail on top…a bug, a rock, a fairy friend.

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Next, find a slightly larger leaf and thread it onto the vertical toothpick, making a sail. We found the hosta leaves to work best for this, though any thick and sturdy leaf will do!

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To make the sail boat safer for little hands, twist an eraser off the top of an old pencil. Cut it in half with scissors and push it onto the top of the sail.

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Now, time to play! L had hours of fun blowing her boats around our rain barrel!

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The boats may not seem like much, but ours withstood some submarine plunges under the water and lasted through two nights of bath time play! Tomorrow, we’ll replace the leaves and keep sailing!

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Enjoy!!!

White Picket Fairy Fence

Well, I couldn’t show you how to make a Craft Stick Fairy Door without telling you how to make a WHITE PICKET FAIRY FENCE to go with it! The fence is simple to make and looks adorable out in the fairy garden!

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Materials needed:

  • small craft sticks
  • regular-sized craft sticks
  • wood glue
  • Q-tips
  • white acrylic paint
  • acrylic sealant

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First, lay out your sticks…4 small craft sticks in the middle with 2 regular-sized ones on the ends. If you don’t have small craft sticks, just cut some regular-sized one’s in half. The two craft sticks on the ends are left long, so that you can easily stick them into the ground, keeping the fence upright!

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Next, think about where two craft sticks that will lie across the other ones will be and use a Q-tip to put wood glue in those spots across each stick. Lay the craft sticks on top of the glue and press to secure.

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After the glue has dried, paint the picket fairy fence white.

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Finish up with a coat of acrylic sealant spray.

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Now for the fun part…while sneaking a fairy door into your neighbor’s garden, add a little white picket fairy fence as well! Gently push the ends of the fence into the soil. Enjoy!!!

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Craft Stick Fairy Doors

It’s no secret that we LOVE making fairy/gnome things at Our Beautifully Messy House…fairy houses, fairy furniture, fairy doors, gnome doors, flower fairies, fairy folk…need I go on? We just can’t help it! What I love the most about making fairy doors and gnome doors is surprising people with them! L and I made an abundance of CRAFT STICK FAIRY DOORS this week as we prepare to spread them around the neighborhood. Of course we enjoy surprising our friends and close neighbors, but what I really love is putting them on strangers’ front porches and sneaking them into their gardens! We rarely get to see people discover the fairy and gnome doors, but the surprise, the magic in it all makes L and I giggle for days! We’ve had a great time making these craft stick fairy doors…aren’t they the cutest!?!

Materials needed:

  • crafts sticks (big, small, colored, any or all)
  • wood glue
  • Q-tips
  • buttons

Optional materials:

  • acrylic paint
  • sealant spray
  • wire & nails

First, lay out your craft sticks in a door shape. If you have colored sticks, your kids will enjoy playing with patterns!

 

Using a Q-tip, put wood glue onto a small craft stick and carefully lay it across your door. If you don’t have small craft sticks, you can always cut a normal-sized one in half! It’s best to put at least 2 sticks across, but you can play with the angles and directions that you put them. Remember, fairy doors don’t have to be perfect!

 

 

If you don’t plan to paint your door, you can glue a button-handle on now too!

After the glue has dried a good bit, flip your doors over and smear wood glue all across the back for extra support. Let them dry for a few hours or overnight.

 

 

Next, if your craft sticks are plain and you want to, paint the doors. We especially like to add glitter paint to ours…helps the fairies and gnomes find the doors of course.

 

After the paint has dried, glue on button-handles if you have not done so yet. We like to spray our doors with some acrylic sealant as well…makes the wood a little more durable outdoors and gives them a more finished look.

Now for the fun part, hide them around town…or give them to friends! These would make an adorable party favor for both kids and adults! Enjoy!!!

 

Other posts you may like:

Jam Jar Fairy House /Jam Jar Gnome Home
Doorknob Mushroom-Fairy Houses
Fairy Furniture
DIY Fairy Door…Gnome Door
Fairy Doors & Gnome Doors #2

Lemonade Play Dough

We love scented play dough at Our Beautifully Messy House and summertime is the perfect time to make LEMONADE PLAY DOUGH!

I came up with this recipe a couple weeks ago, while mixing up some play dough to take with us on vacation to the beach. And the kids LOVED it!!! It’s always nice having play dough handy for any down-time whether you’re at the beach with family or you’re having friends over for a play date.

I’ve tried making citrus-scented play dough in the past with lemon extracts and oils, but that summery lemonade scent never comes through. Adding a packet or two of lemonade mix did the trick…it was super-quick and easy and smells delicious! I suggest using a sugar-free lemonade mix (Crystal Light brand works great!) so your play dough doesn’t get super sticky with the added sugar.

When I made our lemonade play dough I wanted to make both yellow and pink dough, so I split the dough and added the food coloring before kneading it. The colors came out just fine! This play dough takes only a few minutes to make, but stored in a gallon-sized bag or an air-tight container, it’ll keep for nearly a year! This recipe makes plenty for 2 or 3 kids to play with!

My tip to keep your kids entertained playing with play dough for longer: Start off with plain play dough. Let them play 15 or 20 minutes, then throw some glitter into the mix. Once their attention starts to drift, add some colorful beads or buttons. Add some measuring cups and kitchen utensils, some lil plastic dinosaurs or army men. Just don’t give them everything at once, instead add to the play dough in intervals…works every time!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups + 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 Tbsp cream of tartar
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1.5 cups boiling water
  • food coloring
  • 1-2 packets lemonade mix

First, put the water on to boil. Add a few drops of food coloring to the water (yellow or pink). As the water is heating up, mix 2 cups of flour, salt, cream of tartar and one packet of lemonade mix in a large mixing bowl. Then add and mix the vegetable oil into the flour mixture. Once the water is boiling, add it to the bowl and mix with a spatula. The dough will be a sticky mess while warm. Mix it as best you can, then let it cool off. After a few minutes cooling off, sprinkle your working surface with some of the remaining flour. Dump the play dough onto the flour, adding more flour to the top, and knead the dough. Continue working with the dough, adding a bit of flour as needed, til the dough is not sticky anymore and you’ve reached the desired consistency. If you like, sprinkle in another packet of lemonade mix to dough! Yum yum, Summer!!! Enjoy!

DIY Toy Catapult

What kid (or adult) doesn’t love launching things through the air? This DIY TOY CATAPULT takes only minutes to put together and your kids will play with it for hours…days even! I love how kids naturally experiment while playing with this toy. Even as young as three, L was moving the can (the fulcrum) around, placing the balls in various slots, and went on to launch her toy parachute, as well as her shoes! So much fun!!!

 

 

Materials needed:

  • yard stick
  • can of food
  • egg carton
  • scissors
  • hot glue gun
  • permanent markers (optional)

 Things to launch:

  • ping pong balls
  • pom poms
  • -cotton balls
  • DIY Pocket Parachute
  • plastic figurines (fairies, dinosaurs, army men)
  • marshmallows or cereal (to catch in one’s mouth)

First, cut your egg carton in half.

Using a hot glue gun, glue the egg carton onto one end of your yard stick. (Don’t worry…when your kids are done playing with their catapult, the egg carton and glue should peel right off the yard stick! I take ours apart every time we’re finished playing with it!)

 

Next, number your egg carton slots and your ping pong balls. This step is optional, but it makes it easy to keep track of what ball goes the farthest and which slots you’re putting things into…especially if you’re launching multiple balls at once!

 

The set-up of your catapult is easy…just place the can on it’s side in the grass (keeps it from rolling) and place the yardstick on top. Fill the slots with your projectiles!

 

 

Now, time to play!!!

Launching balls…

 

 

 

 Parachutes…

 

 

 

 

 And L’s shoes…

 

 

What will you all send flying through the air???

If your kids like the catapult, they’ll definitely love making POCKET PARACHUTES…another “make something from nothing” craft! Enjoy!