Category Archives: Parenting

52 Cards – #3

I’m a day late with my weekly installment — we had a big family outing on Sunday, which is our usual crafting day, so we did short and easy this week. I actually have not yet added the Mod Podge to seal them and make sure everything stays where it belongs.



Aoife’s is on the left, mine is on the right.

Aoife used some fabric Sharpies on hers, with an eyedropper of water to smudge everything. I precut a couple of images and let her pick one (although I admit, I saved those gorgeous purple mushrooms for myself).

For mine, I painted it with yellow acrylic and added the description of the mushroom from an old Golden Guide, then added the mushrooms right on top.

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Aoife added more fabric marker on the back, with enough water to effectively eliminate most of her efforts. I experimented with tearing strips of paper with illustrations and then collaging them together, with mixed results.

I still love this project, and I can tell that Aoife even looks forward to it — she loves when I get out the paints and supplies!



Toddler Time: Unexpected Toys


Aoife is well into toddler-hood, and recently I’ve been struck by how she can take nearly any household object and turn it into a plaything. The most amazing thing is actually watching her learn, because just about anything she plays with, she learns from.

Here are some of the most unexpected “toys” that Aoife loves:

  1. Rolls of packing tape. These are fantastic for rolling on the floor or stacking into a tower (and then knocking it down).
  2. Notecard sets. A small box of stationery gives Aoife near-endless entertainment as she takes the cards out of the box, then takes the envelopes out of the box, then puts the cards in, then puts the envelopes in, then takes the envelopes out …
  3. Books of all sizes. Even when Aoife was younger, we joked that A Game of Thrones was her favorite book. She always picked that one up and carried it around because it was a perfect size for her to grasp easily. Now she loves flipping through whatever books are lying around, which is quite a variety, in our house.
  4. Skeins of yarn. Yarn is easy to hold on to, and Aoife’s favorite activity with yarn is to pull it across the floor and entice the cats to chase her. It’s great that she can have a couple of “playmates” while she runs around and around the living room. She thinks this whole process is hilarious.
  5. Wire cooling racks. Possibly the strangest entry in this list. Aoife loves to tap these against the metal baby gate or on the floor, making “music”. I think she choose the cooling racks over other pots and pans because they’re easy to grasp and light to carry. She also loves putting these on the floor and then standing on them, which is not mfavorite activity for her.

What would you add to this list?

52 Cards – #2

While I’ve named this series 52 Cards (I know, I’m so original), I could also subtitle it “How Many Times Can I Turn My Toddler Loose with Paint Without Losing My Sanity?” Getting ready for any type of art project with a child takes a little bit of preparation and a lot of patience.

Today I let her pick out a bird image from an old field guide I have, and she chose an emu. That led to my inspiration, because the cassowary was on the other side of the emu page. I noticed in the description that the cassowary is native to Australia, so I tore apart a map and layered Australia behind the bird image. Believe it or not, it was only after I glued down the map and the bird that I noticed that we’d used the ace of spades, leaving a nice A in the corner to stand for Australia. In addition to our “found” papers, we used acrylic paints and Mod Podge.

Here are the fronts of our cards (mine is on the left, Aoife’s is on the right):

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And the backs:

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I’m really happy with how mine turned out, and Aoife’s is always amazing. Instead of just putting down several blobs of color for her to choose from (because she would usually choose ALL THE COLORS), I had her tell me one color at a time that she wanted to use. Today the most interesting thing for her was to dip her paintbrush in the paint and then directly into the water, coloring the water instead of her card.

As much as it takes a little more prep and clean up, I love this little weekend project we have going. Aoife has no fear and no knowledge of technique, so she is constantly experimenting. I always try to think about four steps ahead, making me much more hesitant to use any of my materials. I’m learning to be fearless, and I’ve apparently been waiting for a two-year-old to teach me.




We recently had the opportunity to spend some time at a nearby lake and enjoy the great outdoors. We fully intended to camp, and we proceed to set up the tent and build cookout fires during the day. But as the temperatures continued to climb and the wind picked up, we decided to eat dinner and then pack it in for cooler pastures.



Even so, we had a highly enjoyable day getting Aoife out and about doing something a bit different from the norm.

When you camp with kids, you can count on doing several things:

  1. Throwing rocks in the water
  2. Eating (our favorites are fire-roasted veggies, vegan hot dogs, peanut butter-tortilla roll-ups, and applesauce)
  3. Finding cool sticks
  4. Wishing you’d used more sunscreen (no matter how much you globbed on previously — you always wish you’d used more)
  5. Less napping than you are used to
  6. Not relaxing nearly as much as you thought you would


It’s been over a week since we’ve come back, and nearly every day Aoife pretends that she is packing her backpack full of clothes or that she is kicking the water at the lake. As much work as it can be to plan ahead, prepare food, set up a tent, take it down again, and tell your children many many times to stay back from the fire/water/scorpions/whatever, it is so worth it to give them a chance to enjoy the world around them. Camping is messy and exhausting, which I think are practically requirements when creating lasting memories.



If you end up coming home earlier than expected, that’s ok. If your child only takes a 30 second nap, that’s ok. These are building blocks for the foundation that is meant to hold a life.

52 Cards – #1

One of the projects to which I alluded in my birthday post is called 52 Cards. I went an embarrassingly long time in my life without realizing that the number of cards in a deck is the same number of weeks in a year. With that in mind, and partially inspired by Elise‘s Daily Card project (no longer online), I decided that I would alter a playing card each week. I was thrilled when I found that I had a second deck of cards stashed away — it meant that I could do this project together with Aoife.

My personal goal for this project is to have 52 chances to use variety in my art and not have anything really in mind prior to creating. I get so caught up thinking that this piece has to be perfect. These are just playing cards — small and cheap, so I won’t feel so bad if I have a couple of duds in there. I want to try different techniques, materials, and experiences and have an album that I can flip through for inspiration. My plan is to get a binder with baseball card sleeves — those should hold playing cards perfectly.

My goal for Aoife is to let her play with some of the same materials that I am using. She can choose colors, play around, and make decisions herself as to how she wants to apply materials to her card. This is something we can do together and I think it will be fun to see what we both create.

photo 1 (1)  The first step was preparing the cards so that they’ll take adhesive or paint. I used some medium grit sandpaper to rough up both sides of the cards.

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Then we were ready to create!

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Today we used some pages from a book I have that’s in Spanish, green tissue paper, and acrylic paint. Aoife painted what you see above — I’m quite impressed with what she ended up with.

Here are the fronts of our cards (Aoife’s is on the left, mine is on the right):

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And the backs:

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I let Aoife run the glue stick and the paintbrushes, and then I finished hers and mine up with a coat of Mod Podge on either side to secure everything. You can tell that the edges curled up in the picture; once the Mod Podge was dry, I put a couple of tile coasters on top of them to help them flatten out.

I love the rough look of them and how they turned out in general. It was so fun to turn Aoife loose with her card and work on mine alongside her. I can’t wait to mix it up with some found materials, items in the recycling bin, or whatever else I come up with for next weekend!

Thoughts on a Second Birthday

Sometimes I read blog posts about parenting looking for answers to questions that I have. And sometimes I read them because I want reassurance that everything will be ok and that I’m not alone.

This is the latter kind of post.


Just for the record, the world has not ended because …

  • I used ridiculous amounts of food coloring in Aoife’s birthday cake.
  • We totally forgot about singing “Happy Birthday” (which I’m actually ok with, because that was always the part of my birthday parties that I hated the most — still do!).
  • We, Aoife’s parents, did not buy her a gift. We counted our trip to the zoo last month as her gift.
  • We had Aoife open gifts as people came with them. This way she could see who the gift was from, there were no meltdowns because she had to wait for a designated gift-opening time, and the giver could talk to her right away about the gift. This was also less overwhelming for Aoife (and for us).
  • There were visible glue globs on my paper bunting cake toppers.
  • We had the party at a local playground and used completely disposable dinnerware. There was no cleanup and I had no regrets.


Could I have made this birthday party into a Pinterest-worthy event? Sure, if I would have taken a few days off work and spent money I don’t have. But my aim is not to give Aoife picture-perfect birthdays. It’s to shower her with love (and yes, a few gifts) and help her make memories that are worth keeping, and I think this was a success.


I’ll be sure to keep you posted when she’s in her thirties and going to therapy because, dammit, we didn’t sing at her party.

Rainbow Layer Cake

We recently celebrated a second birthday for our sweet little girl. She’s not to the point of having a favorite color yet, but she’s learning colors right now and I wanted to have a colorful cake for her. Forgive the phone pictures — it was late when I baked.

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Looks delicious, right? And colorful — wait, what’s that? No?


How about now?

This cake was a lot of fun to make and, for the record, my first layer cake. Here are the steps so you can make your very own.

You can use any white cake mix or recipe; I used the vanilla cupcake recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking, which is my go-to. For two layers, you’ll need to make a double batch (or just mix it up twice like I did — I only have one round cake pan). Mix up the batter and divide into six bowls. Add food coloring accordingly so that you have red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.

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Can you believe how technicolor that batter is?

Once you’ve got your batter prepped, add to a round 9″ cake pan. I added all of the purple first, then blue, green, yellow, orange, and red so that my rainbow would be right side up. Really, this doesn’t matter too much — it won’t go in perfect layers and will have more of a tie-dye effect.

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Bake according to your recipe or package directions. If you have only one cake pan, like me, you’ll have to bake your cake and let it cool before you can remove it and then proceed with layer #2. Once layer #1 is cool, you can use a butter knife to go around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake. If it’s completely cooled and you are very very lucky, it will come out of the pan clean. You’ll want to turn it upside down on your surface so that the curved top of the cake is facing down.

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Voila! You can see layer #2 in the background. This picture was taken the following morning. I did this whole process in two sessions: the night before the party, I baked the cakes, let them cool, and then wrapped them individually in freezer paper and put them in the refrigerator. Then it was 11:30 and I went to bed.

The next morning, I put layer #1 on my lovely cake transporter base and then started prepping the frosting. When I say prepped, I mean I opened the tub of Duncan Hines “Fluffy White” and dumped it in the KitchenAid mixing bowl, whipping it to make it go farther and spread a little more easily. If you’re using packaged frosting, you will probably need two tubs (this will give you a little leftover for taste-testing).

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Like so. I’d hoped to finish everything before this little munchkin woke up, but to no avail.

Once your frosting is ready, you’ll want to put frosting on top of layer #1 before you put layer #2 on top. I used maybe half a cup of frosting in the middle. I probably could have used more, but I wanted to be sure that I had plenty left (and I did — too much. It was delicious).

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Put your second layer on top, with the curved top side facing up. I followed the directions in my cookbook for essentially doing a crumb coat. Lightly frost the sides and top of the cake and then place it in the fridge for around 30 minutes, until the frosting isn’t tacky anymore. This will help ensure that you don’t get crumbs in your frosting.

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When you take the cake out of the fridge, then you’re ready to finish up your frosting. Add frosting to the sides and the top, using a butter knife (or a cake decorating smoothing tool, if you’ve got it — I don’t!) to smooth it out as you go. My motto is “When in doubt, add more frosting.”

Once you’ve got it looking pretty even and uniform, put more frosting in a plastic zipper bag and snip one of the corners, or use a cake decorating tip and bag to dot frosting around the base of the cake and the top edge. This really helped make the cake look more structured and it filled the gap at the base. Plus it added more frosting.

If you’d like, add sprinkles to the top to hint at the rainbow goodness inside.


Serve with a smile!

So my first layer cake turned out pretty darn good — and tasty, despite the ridiculous amount of food coloring that was involved.