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.




  • 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.





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.




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.





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!)



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


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



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!


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!




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

Elf Donuts, Fairy Donuts, Wee Folk Donuts

What kid wouldn’t love making these teeny, tiny “donuts” for the fairies, gnomes, and Santa’s elves? They’re just too cute! L and I make chocolate-sprinkle donuts, powdered sugar donuts, and cinnamon sugar donuts; because, you know…it’s nice to give the wee folk some options after all. We make these “donuts” throughout the year for L and her fairy tea parties, but we also like to whip up a batch at Christmastime and leave them alongside Santa’s cookies and the reindeer’s carrots on Christmas Eve…we wouldn’t want any elf to be left out! They’re rather simple to make and your kids will go nuts when they see them! Sometimes it’s the littlest things (literally)!



  • O-shaped cereal
  • chocolate chips or baker’s chocolate
  • syrup (or honey)
  • powdered sugar
  • brown sugar
  • mini-sprinkles


Materials needed:

  • small bowls
  • toothpicks
  • double-broiler (or microwave)



Chocolate-Sprinkle Donuts

First, melt your chocolate in either a double-broiler or in the microwave.


Next, carefully dip your O-shaped cereal into the chocolate.


And L’s favorite step, cover in sprinkles!






Powdered Sugar Donuts & Cinnamon Sugar Donuts

These donuts are super easy to make. First, dip the O-shaped cereal into a little bowl of syrup or honey.


Next, remove the cereal with a toothpick, and toss around in either a bowl of powdered sugar…


…or a bowl of brown sugar.


It’s that simple, but oh so sweet!

A few weeks ago, L gave two of her classmates homemade fairy sets for their birthdays. Sure enough, we included some fairy donuts in little, folded-paper boxes!



Sometimes you really do have to make your own magic! Enjoy!!!

Acorn Donut Holes

Another adorable, little treat that I like to make around Thanksgiving, along with our No-Bake Acorn Cookies, is our Acorn Donut Holes! They are perfect for breakfast snacking, leading up to the main event. I make some with toasted coconut and some without to add some variation to the plate and to please all the little picky eaters in our world.



  • plain donut holes
  • bakers chocolate or chocolate chips
  • coconut
  • pretzels


To make the toasted coconut, spread a couple handfuls of coconut on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven on 350 degrees, for 5-10 minutes. Keep a close eye on the coconut…you want it to be lightly browned, but not completely dark brown and burnt!


While the coconut is toasting, melt your chocolate in a double-broiler on the stove top. (Or in the microwave if you have one!)


Break up a few pretzels to use as the “stems” of your acorn tops.


Depending on how big your donut holes are, you can choose to cut off the tops or not. Sometimes I like cutting them in half to make little acorns for little hands, other times I leave them whole and they look just as sweet!


Next, dip the top of a donut hole into the melted chocolate.


Have your little helpers sprinkle the toasted coconut on top of the chocolate.


And lastly, stick a little pretzel piece into the donut to look like a stem! Too easy!



And sooo yummy!!! Enjoy!!!


4-Ingredient, Peanut Butter & Jelly Thumbprint Cookies (GF)

These 4-Ingredient, Peanut Butter & Jelly Thumbprint Cookies may just be the quickest, easiest, and sweetest cookies to make! They’re naturally gluten-free as well. These cookies are great for kids just learning to cook, because they can do most of the steps all by themselves! And that little thumbprint, it gets me every time…



  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • strawberry jam


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the peanut butter, sugar and egg together.

Roll the dough into little balls and place onto your cookie sheet, spacing them a couple inches apart. (We always use parchment paper underneath too!)

Next, have your little one push their thumb into the middle of each cookie.

Using a measuring spoon, drop about 1/2 tsp of strawberry jelly into each thumbprint.

Bake in the oven for 7-10 min. Watch your cookies carefully…you want them to be fully cooked, but not too brown or burnt underneath. After a few minutes out of the oven, move the cookies to a rack and let them cool completely. Enjoy!!!




Homemade Sugar Skulls

Sugar Skulls aren’t a typical Halloween craft and that’s because they’re not one! Calaveras de azúcar,  as they are pronounced in Spanish, are a sweet decoration originating from the Latino celebration los días de los muertos or “The Days of the Dead.” Celebrated from October 31 until November 2, many Latinos remember their loved ones who have passed by setting up altars, having late-night parades through the streets and picnics in the cemetery. It is an extremely colorful and lively time of the year, sharing memories of their antepasados. A Day of the Dead altar is not complete without sugar skulls, and what better way to show your love than making your own!




I first made SUGAR SKULLS years ago when I taught Spanish at a local elementary and middle school. My students couldn’t wait until they were in 6th grade and got to make them with me! The hardest thing to find for this craft will be the skull molds, but I have seen them at craft stores this time of year…both at Hobby Lobby and at Michael’s. Meringue powder is easy to find at craft stores as well!

Materials needed:

  • plastic skull molds
  • mixing bowl and spoon
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons meringue powder
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • paper plates, silicone mats, cutting board
  • gel food coloring/icing
  • toothpicks
  • sequins




First, mix the dry ingredients together in the bowl. Sprinkle in the water and continue to mix until the sugar is completely moistened and becomes the consistency of wet sand.




Scoop some of the mixture into the mold and pack it evenly and firmly. Scrape off any excess.






Next, place a small silicon mat or paper plate over the mold. Carefully flip the mold over.




If you want to keep it on a paper plate, just carefully lift the mold. Otherwise, gently remove the silicon mat and lift the mold, leaving the skulls on a cutting board until they set up! Let the skulls dry and harden for 24 hours.






After the skulls have hardened completely, it’s time for the fun part…decorating! I used a plastic lid as a palate for L, and squirted a bit of every color out for her to use. Then she used toothpicks to decorate her skulls. The more colorful, the more beautiful!






Flowers play a big part in the Days of the Dead celebrations, so I was sure to add some to our skulls as well!







Now for the question you are all wondering: Can you eat the sugar skulls? Technically, yes. But even with my 6th graders, they realized that it’s basically a rock of sugar and nobody tried eating them. If you keep your skulls in a safe place, the same ones will last for years! My dad has some that I made at least 7 or 8 years ago…he pulls them out as decorations every Halloween! Check out your local library for some beautifully illustrated books on The Days of Dead!




Pumpkin Pancakes (GF)

I came up with this PUMPKIN PANCAKE recipe years ago and it remains a favorite in our house! Every Fall I wait for that first cold and rainy day and we have pumpkin pancakes for dinner! Paired with some bacon and homemade, baked apples, the meal couldn’t be more cozy, more filling and it couldn’t be easier to make! L likes to eat hers with her hands…with a couple apple slices folded inside of a pancake it’s like a little taco! At times, I’ve made three or four huge pancakes, layered baked apples in-between, and served this up as a Pumpkin-Apple Cake! Such a yummy side to a fall soup or stew!

You’d never know that the pancakes are low-fat. If you want to make them completely fat-free, replace the eggs with 3 egg whites. You can’t even tell the difference! We make our pancakes with an all-purpose, Gluten-Free flour and they come out just fine. Go ahead and use whatever flour you fancy though…they’d be good with a whole wheat variety or your regular, unbleached white flour.


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • dash of ginger and/or nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup plain, fat-free yogurt
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 box raisins (2 oz.) optional
  • 3/4 cup milk or water


Mix dry ingredients thoroughly in a large mixing-bowl w/ hands or spatula.
In a separate bowl, combine eggs, pumpkin and liquid ingredients. Beat well.
Make a small well in center of dry ingredients and slowly beat in the liquid ingredients. Beat until contents are thoroughly mixed, but not too long. Add additional water to desired consistency. Stir in raisins with a spatula (optional).

Spray a large skillet lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Put over medium heat. Pan is ready when water droplets quickly sizzle and evaporate.

Serves 2-3. Yummm!!! Enjoy!!!

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!


  • 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!

Homemade Sidewalk Chalk

Making SIDEWALK CHALK is so fun and easy, I doubt we’ll ever buy it from a store again! I’ve seen multiple DIYs on making chalk, but they all seem to use toilet paper rolls lined with wax paper or foil…some big complicated mess. I decided to use our silicone molds (the ones we only use for crafts) and the chalk popped out easily, plus it took on some fun and funky shapes! HOMEMADE SIDEWALK CHALK can be made in less than 10 minutes, but it takes 2-3 days to set completely…so give yourself plenty of time!


Materials needed:

  • Plaster of Paris
  • tempera paints
  • water
  • silicone molds
  • paper or plastic cups
  • plastic spoons or craft sticks

First, protect your working area with some newspaper.

The recipe for sidewalk chalk is pretty simple: 50% plaster of paris, 50% liquid (water + paint).

You can measure it out precisely: 1 cup plaster, 3/4 cup water, 1/4 cup paint; or you can do what we did and just “eye ball” it.

Fill up your disposable cups about halfway with plaster.

Add a good squirt of paint.

Then add water. And mix.


Once you have all your chalk mixed up, carefully pour it into the silicone molds.

If you want to mix colors, making a funky tie-dye effect, fill your mold about halfway with one color. Then carefully pour other colors on top.

Set your sidewalk chalk aside for a full day to dry. I suggest placing it near an air vent in your house to speed up the process.



After a day has passed and the chalk looks dry, gently flip the molds over and release the chalk onto some wax paper. (If the chalk is still moist, you can try drying the chalk with a hair dryer too.)

Once the chalk has been removed from the molds, put it aside for another day or two for the chalk to set-up and dry completely. (As you can see, our yellow mixture may have been a little too moist on our first try…it was still sticky when we took it out of the molds. We let the yellow dry for a day longer than the rest, and it colored just fine!)

Now, time to play!!! Aren’t the colors beautiful? Brighter than any sidewalk chalk I’ve ever seen!






Patricia Polacco’s THUNDER CAKE RECIPE

“Grandma looked at the horizon, drew a deep breath and said, ‘This is Thunder Cake baking weather, all right. Looks like a storm coming to me.'”


If you haven’t read the book “Thunder Cake” by Patricia Polacco, get yourself to the library or a local book store and get your hands on a copy pronto…you and your kids will love it! The story centers around the author and her grandmother (her Babushka) and the summer storms she feared as a little girl, at her grandmother’s farm in Michigan. I’ve loved reading this book ever since I was a little girl and now L adores it as well.

With the summer heat and thunderstorms we’ve been having lately, I decided it was definitely time to try our hand at baking some real Thunder Cake for ourselves! It’s fun to make memories with your little ones and read this book as your Thunder Cake is baking in the oven…the perfect activity for a lazy, stormy, summer afternoon. It really seems like magic to smell the chocolaty cake baking in your own home as the little girl and her Babushka are putting theirs into the oven as well!

The recipe calls for 1 cup of shortening; we used what we had — 2 sticks of butter  — and the result was still wonderful! With the secret ingredient of pureed tomatoes, the flavor of this chocolate cake is very unique, but very moist and delectable as well. I suggest serving your Thunder Cake with extra strawberries…they pair so well with the hint of tomato and make the desert complete!

As instructed in the book:

Cream together, one at a time…

  • 1 cup shortening (or 2 sticks of softened butter)
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs, separated (Blend yolks in. Beat whites until they are stiff, then fold in after the tomatoes.)
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/3 cup fresh, pureed tomatoes

Sift together…

  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour (We used all-purpose, Gluten Free flour.)
  • 1/2 cup dry cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Mix dry mixture into creamy mixture.
Bake in two greased and floured 8 1/2-inch round pans at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.
Frost with chocolate butter frosting. Top with strawberries.


We used this chocolate buttercream frosting recipe because I had all the ingredients on hand and it was quick and easy. Feel free to use your favorite chocolate buttercream recipe in its place!


Polacco, Patricia. “Thunder Cake.” New York: Scholastic Inc., 1990. Print.


Homemade Butter in a Jar

Have you ever been to a restaurant that along with fresh, baked bread served homemade butter? It’s the smoothest, fluffiest, creamiest butter you’ve ever tasted and truly, nothing compares to it! Now you can make your own at home in only 10 minutes! This afternoon L and I made HOMEMADE BUTTER IN A JAR and it was so easy, so delicious, I may never buy butter from the store again!

Ingredients/Materials needed:

  • heavy cream
  • jar
  • marble

While I made butter in a jar, L made some in a small plastic container with a screw-on lid…perfect for little hands!

First, fill your jar half-way with heavy cream. Add a clean marble and screw the lid on tight. The marble speeds up the process, churning the butter a little quicker, but you can make butter with just a jar too!


Next, shake, shake, shake! Shake the jar for a full 10 minutes! After about 5 minutes, the contents will be thick like whipping cream.


Continue to shake! If you get bored, turn some music on and dance while you shake! As the cream turns to butter, you’ll hear the marble clanking less and less and eventually you won’t hear it at all.


Some people end up with thick butter at the bottom and a layer of liquid at top…if that happens, just pour the liquid off the top. That’s the butter milk! Ours never separated and we ended up with just butter, through and through. Absolutely delicious, light and creamy butter!


Spread on top of fresh, baked bread it could’ve been a meal in itself! I think next, we’ll try making an herbed butter or homemade honey butter! Mmm… Enjoy!