My Happy Crazy Life

Solea Tequila Dinner – July 2014

Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - Announcement

You know how sometimes you’re really, really looking forward to something, then when the time comes you’re not looking forward to it anymore?

That’s what it was like for the July 2014 Solea Tequila Dinner. I’d been looking forward to it for weeks, but when the day arrived I was just kind of “meh” about it. Princess couldn’t go with us, and Teacher and I were out of sorts with each other and with life in general, so I don’t think either of us was really excited about it when we got into the car.

But we knew once we got there we’d end up having a great time.

And of course we were right!


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - Tequila TableAs always, there was tasting table where Tequila Dinner guests could get samples of each of the featured tequilas. I wouldn’t say Teacher and I are tequila “experts” by any stretch of the imagination; tequila “appreciators” is more like it. We love trying new tequilas and new tequila drinks, so we were excited to see a couple of tequilas we hadn’t tried before mixed in with others that we enjoy.


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - TequilasRight to left: Centenario Reposado, Herradura Reposado, el Jimador Reposado, Herradura Silver, and Patron XO Cafe.

Unfortunately, like the last Tequila Dinner, the menu didn’t list all of the margarita ingredients so I’ll be guessing what was in them and/or Googling to see if I can find a similar recipe. I’m not as good as identifying flavors as Teacher, so this could be interesting…


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - Chipotle Grapefruit MargaritaThe evening began with a “Chipotle Grapfruit Margarita” featuring Centenario Reposado tequila. I recognized but couldn’t remember if we’d tried the Reposado version before or not.

Although I’ve never been fond of grapefruit I enjoyed this Margarita. It was a basic Margarita with grapefruit juice instead of lime juice and a pinch of chipotle in the drink as well as chipotle salt on the rim. The chipotle salt gave it a nice bite – they use more chipotle than we do in our chipotle salt – and the grapefruit didn’t come through too strongly for me.


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - CevicheThe first course was “Ceviche do Mariscos” – Seafood ceviche with octopus, shrimp, and sea scallops. The seafood was tossed with pico de gallo and garnished with parsley and a slice of buttery avocado.

This was SO good – fresh and light with a delicious seafood flavor that wasn’t the least bit fishy. I’m always a little skeptical of ceviche because the seafood is “cooked” in citrus juice instead of with heat, but I always end up enjoy it and kicking myself for being skeptical in the first place. How many times do you think I’ll repeat that cycle before I break it?


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - CraigOur host, Craig the guy who’s standing, was entertaining as ever. He kept busy dispensing little tidbits of information about tequila, handing out tequila samples, and giving away free drink cards to people who answered tequila trivia questions correctly. And a certain someone I know who just shouted out “Kangaroo!” We’ll get to that story a little later.


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - TeacherWhile waiting for the second course Teacher moseyed over to the tasting table to get our first sample of the night…


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - Herradura SilverHerradura Silver.

I thought it was pretty good. Not as smooth as some silvers I’ve tried but not as peppery as the ones I flat out don’t like. I’m not as good at noticing the notes of vanilla or cinnamon or pepper or whatever as Teacher is but I enjoy trying to find those notes. In general I prefer silver tequilas in mixed drinks rather than sipped over ice.

Silver, or Blanco, tequilas are generally clear with an intense flavor. Some are bottled right after being distilled while others are aged in stainless steel tanks for a month or two.


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - Free DrinkWhoopee!! This may look like an innocent business card, but it’s actually a Free Drink in disguise. And it’s mine, all mine!

I won it by bouncing in my seat while waving my hand in the air and shouting “100% Blue Agave! Blue Agave! Azul Agave! Agave de Azul!” in answer to the question “What plant is tequila made from?”

OK, back to our scheduled program…


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - Shortly after winning my Free Drink our second Margarita arrived, a “Jamaica Margarita” featuring Herradura Reposado margarita.

Although it looks like it should taste like Fruit Punch Kool Aid it was surprisingly light and refreshing, with a subtle hibiscus flavor. I was surprised by how much I liked this one!


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - Herradura Reposado SampleTeacher decided he wanted to try the Herradura Reposado by itself. It was good and definitely had a deeper, more mellow flavor than the Silver we’d tried earlier.

“Reposado” means “Rested.” Reposado tequilas are typically aged in oak barrels which give the tequila a deeper flavor. Sometimes the barrels were previously used to age other spirits like whiskey, cognac, or wine, and the tequila picks up a little of those flavors.


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - Mexican BruchettaThe second course was “Montaditos de Queso de Cabra” – Toasted garlic bread with roasted red peppers, portabella mushrooms, goat cheese with chives, and jalapeño chimichurri sauce.

Wow, was this fantastic! It was like a Mexican bruschetta, but better because the toppings weren’t juicy so the garlic bread stayed toasty. I do not like goat cheese one bit it tastes “furry” to me, but it wasn’t too bad spread thinly over everything else. If Teacher were to make this at home I’d want to use an alternative cheese – but I’m not sure what. Other than the goat cheese I thought it was fantastic!


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - JessicaLook – across the room – it’s Jessica & Jim, the friends we made at the last Tequila dinner! “Hi Jessica and Jim!!”


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - TeacherOh Teacher, you’re so silly!


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - Tamarind MargaritaHere comes the third Margarita – “Tamarindo Margarita” featuring El Jimador Reposado tequila. “El Jimador” means “the Harvester” – knowing that could be worth a free drink if you yell loud enough when Craig asks the question.

Teacher absolutely LOVES tamarind Margaritas – I do too, but not as much as he does. A tamarind margarita is basically your typical Margarita with the addition of tamarind nectar, and a little simple syrup to sweeten it because tamarind isn’t very sweet on its own. This version was excellent, with a stronger tamarind flavor than other ones I’ve had in the past.


Time Out!

What’s tamarind, you ask?

According to Google, tamarind is “the sticky brown acidic pulp from the pod of a tree of the pea family.” It has a sour or sour/sweet flavor that’s hard to describe but is a little citrusy and a little dried fruit-y.

What a great free drink trivia question!

Actually, the question that Craig asked was “What family does tamarind belonged to: fruit, legume, or vegetable?”

I’ll give you a hint – the answer is NOT “Kangaroo”!


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - JessicaEven though Jessica aka “Cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater” won a free drink by bouncing in her seat while waving her hand in the air and shouting “Kangaroo! Kangaroo!” the real answer is “Legume.”

Just funnin’ ya, Jessica! The four of us should get together and use our free drink cards.


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - Mahi MahiThe fourth course arrived shortly after Jessica’s triumph: “Mahi mahi a la crema de pistache” – Grilled Mahi mahi with pistachio cream sauce and chef veggies.

Heaven, I’m in Heaven…

The mahi mahi was done to perfection and the “chef veggies” – carrots, summer squash, zucchini and onions were perfectly tender-crisp. I know I used “perfect” twice in the same sentence, but it WAS perfect! The pistachio cream sauce was rich, smooth, and full of flavor; basically a pistachio molé sauce. Pistachio is another of Teacher’s favorites, so this course was right up his alley.


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - CentenarioThe next tequila we sampled was Centenario Reposado, the one that had been in the very first Margarita of the night. It was rich and smooth, but still not something I’d drink just over ice. At home we use repososado tequilas to make deeper-flavored Margaritas.


Something interesting probably happened between the third and fourth courses but since I had to visit the Ladies’ Room I missed it. Oh well, what can you do?


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - Herradura Silver Cucumber MargaritaI returned just in time to be served this lovely green concoction: the “Pepino Margarita” – a Cucumber Margarita featuring Herradura Silver tequila.

A cucumber Margarita may sound weird since Margaritas are sweet and cucumbers aren’t, but it’s absolutely delicious! The cucumber is light and refreshing, and the sweetness in the drink is subtle – not weird at all. The chipotle, sugar, and salt on the rim of the glass provided a spicy punch. Simply delish!


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - MarcoIn between courses, Marco Sanchez – the Tequila Dinner head chef – visited all the tables, greeting new guests and repeat customers with the same warmth. I tried numerous times to snap a photo but the man moves too quickly! This is the best shot I had.


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - Lamb ChopsThe fourth course was “Costillas de Cordoro con Romero, Ajo y Salsa de Ancho/Tamarindo.” – Roasted lamb chops rubbed with rosemary and garlic, drizzled with tamarind-ancho glaze, over creamy potato pureé.

This was my least favorite course of the whole meal. It was nicely executed and beautifully plated, but I don’t care for lamb it tastes “fuzzy” like goat cheese does to me and I wasn’t impressed by the potato pureé. I once tried to make white potatoes into baby food with the food processor intend of a beater, but they ended up all gummy and I threw them all out. This potato pureé reminded me of that experience.

On a good note, the cucumber Margarita paired very nicely with the lamb, and the deep-fried angel hair pasta was fun. I’m sure people who like lamb enjoyed the course.


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - Smooth Operator CaféFinally, my favorite food group: Dessert!

The “Smooth Operator Café” featured Patron XO Cafe Dark Cocoa tequila, Frangelico (a hazelnut liquor) and cream.

Holy sweet and creamy yumminess, Batman! We are definitely going to try replicating this one at home.


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - Patron XO Cafe Dark CocoaOf course we had to sip some Patron XO Cafe Dark Cocoa on the side too – this is my Number One favorite sip-over-ice tequila! It has Mexican chocolate and coffee in it, and we all know you can’t go wrong with coffee and chocolate. If you look for this at the store be sure to buy the one with the RED label; the one with the purple label isn’t the same.


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - Peach Bread PuddingDessert was “Duraznos Flameados de Tequila.” There wasn’t a description on the menu but it seemed like a warm bread pudding with peaches, garnished with a pancake strip and strawberry stuffed with whipped cream.

Generally I believe dessert should consist of chocolate LOTS of chocolate and/or cherries cherry pie, cherry crumble, cherry turnovers…, but this was amazing! I’d definitely consider ordering it for a change if it were on the menu.


Solea Tequila Dinner July 2014 - New FriendsJust like the last Tequila Dinner, Teacher and I made new friends. This year we met Jeff, who is sitting across from his lovely wife Kennie, who is sitting next to their brother-in-law Steve, who is married to Jeff’s sister Dina, who was away on a business trip. Yes, I had to write that all down so I wouldn’t forget!

We’d been chatting across the aisle with each other all night, so after dessert Teacher and I scooted over to their table for formal introductions and to get to know each other better. We discovered that we all had quite a few things in common, but it’s too long and convoluted a story for now. Suffice it to say that it really IS a small world after all.

I think we could’ve stayed another hour chatting with our new friends, but our designated drivers – their daughter and Angel Face – arrived at about the same time to drag us all home. Party poopers! Oh well, we’ll probably see them again at the next Tequila Dinner – maybe we’ll all sit at one huge table table together.

What a riot THAT would be!

Amy Sue

From Scribbles to Drawings

Girl DrawingChildren use crayons, markers, and other writing tools in different ways as they progress through the stages of artistic development from scribbling to detailed drawings. Along the way children experiment with colors, shapes, space, and ideas. Working with crayons, markers and other drawing tools enhances creativity and self-expression while the movement of the tool across paper develops small and large muscle control.

Stages in Children’s Drawing

There are four main stages you can expect to see in your child’s drawings:

1. Random Scribbling

  • Large-muscle, whole arm movements.
  • Scribble may extend beyond the edges of the paper.
  • Drawing tools are usually held in the fist with minimal use of fingers.
  • Lots of exploration.

2. Controlled Scribbling

  • Smaller marks are made.
  • Certain marking motions are repeated.
  • Increased wrist control.
  • More intricate loops and spirals.

3. Named Scribbling

  • Names scribbles/drawings.
  • Holds drawing tools with fingers.
  • Makes a variety of lines.
  • Increased concentration.
  • Places marks intentionally.

4. Symbolic Representation

  • Draws recognizable geometric shapes.
  • Draws head to toe representation of the human figure.
  • Includes details like fingers, clothes, hair, etc.
  • Draws things that are personally meaningful.

Girl & Boy Drawing

Encourage Creativity!

You can encourage your child’s creativity by:

  • Put on music and encourage your child to turn the paper in a different direction during the silence between songs.
  • Provide textured surfaces for crayon rubbings like bark, concrete, combs, sandpaper, etc.
  • Bundle several crayons or markers together and secure with a rubber band for a new color experience.
  • Demonstrate how to use the point for making dots or thin lines, and the side for wide lines.
  • Provide tissues for “polishing” a drawing made with crayon.
  • Spray water on a drawing made with water-based marker to see what happens.
  • Have your child try drawing with both hands at once.
  • Try coloring heavily then lightly, quickly then slowly. Compare the marks made with each technique.

Girl Drawing

Amy Sue

I Have a Confession…

I’m a bad, bad, bad, bad grandma.

Caesar Boy and Irish GirlI have a third grandchild besides Peanut and Love Bug that I’ve never told you about: Love Bug’s little brother, Caesar Boy.


Not posting about Caesar Boy wasn’t a deliberate oversight – it just kind of happened.

How does something like that “just kind of happen?”


Caesar Boy and Angel FaceWell, it all started when College Boy, Irish Girl and Love Bug moved in with us. Even though Irish Girl was too polite to say anything, I could tell she was a little nervous about the whole thing – she kept telling me “monster-in-law” stories she read online – so I tried extra-hard not to give her any reason to worry.

In order to be extra-careful with their privacy I didn’t say anything when Caesar Boy was born.


Caesar Boy BabyAfter several months went by I thought about introducing Caesar Boy but it seemed weird to post “Hey look! I have a grandson and he’s 6 months old!”

So I didn’t.


Caesar BoyAfter a year I thought about introducing Caesar Boy but it still seemed weird to post “Hey look! I have a grandson and he’s a year old!”

So I didn’t.


Caesar BoyThen another year went by and even though it seemed weird to post “Hey look! I have a grandson and he’s two years old!” it seemed weirder NOT to.



Caesar BoyHey look! I have a grandson and he’s two years old! And I get to see him every day because he comes to my house for child care! And so do Love Bug and Peanut!

I’m a happy, happy, lucky, lucky grandma.

Amy Sue

I Am…

Family Child Care is Not Babysitting

Amy Sue
Photo credit: Gee Whiz Education

Father’s Day Craft – Grilling Spatulas

Spoiler alert!
If you’re the Dad of a child in my childcare program you may want to…
Aw, who am I kidding? We all know it’s past Father’s Day, so never mind. Read on to see this year’s Father’s Day craft!


Almost every year I post about how I waited until the last minute to start Mother’s or Father’s Day crafts but was able to get them done in the nick of time.

Not this year.

This year they were over a week late, and I felt horrible about it.

The problem was that I was paralyzed by indecision. I had a Father’s Day craft idea for the older children but had no idea what to do with the infants.

So I procrastinated, waiting for the perfect idea to come floating down with angel’s wings, surrounded by fluffy clouds and heavenly music.

Cue heavenly music…

Heavenly music?

Ideas falling from Heaven?


When it was obvious that the whole divine intervention thing was a no-go I decided to do the same Father’s Day craft with all of the children; I’d just figure the infant part out as we went along.


Father’s Day Craft Supplies

Father's Day Craft - PaintWe’ve got a stash of acrylic paints leftover from years and years of Pine Car Derby cars so I only had to buy grill spatulas, which means that this Father’s Day craft ended up costing about the same as the Mother’s Day candles we made in May. It’ll cost you more if you’ve got to buy paint and clear coat, but once you have them you can use them for future gifts.

  • Grill spatulas with wooden handles.
  • Sand paper.
  • Acrylic paints and paint brushes.
  • Clear coat.


Directions for the Father’s Day Grill Spatula Craft

Like most of my projects, this Father’s Day craft is super-easy and the children do most of it except the babies, which was the way it goes sometimes.


1. Sand.
Sand the wooden handle to remove the finish so the paint will stick. Wipe with a clean cloth to remove any sawdust. Last year’s hammers had a thicker layer of finish on them so I needed to use both coarse and fine sandpaper but I was able to use fine sandpaper for the grill spatulas. Good thing too, since I could only find 1 sheet of sandpaper!


2. Paint
Father's Day Craft - PaintingLet the children paint the handles however they wish. Since acrylics aren’t as washable as tempera I have the children tell me what color they want, then I dip the brush and hand it to them. It just takes one spill or splash to ruin an outfit, the carpet, curtains…

Father's Day Craft - More PaintingAllow to dry. I covered an old cookie sheet with waxed paper and laid the spatulas on that to dry. It worked like a charm!


Since the infants couldn’t paint by themselves I thought I’d put their fingerprints all over the handles. I painted Baby B’s finger and he immediately closed his hand, smearing paint all over his hand.

Time for Plan B!

I traced each baby’s hand, cut it out, wrapped the paper around the handle, traced it again, then painted it. Next year they’ll be old enough do do the Father’s Day craft by themselves.


3. Finish.
When the paint was dry I wrote “#1 Dad” and the child’s name with “2014” on the handle.

Following the instructions on the can, finish the spatulas with the clear coat. You may want to tape off the metal part so it doesn’t catch any overspray.


Father's Day Craft - Grill Spatulas DoneIsn’t Peanut’s great?

They were all beautiful but I was so focused on getting them done that I forgot to take a photo of them before they were wrapped. Luckily Cowboy was kind enough to send me a photo of his. Thanks Cowboy!


Best of all, this story has a happy ending… All of the Dads loved their grill spatulas and weren’t upset that their Father’s Day gifts were late. Whew!

Next year I’m going to do both Mother’s and Father’s Day crafts at the same time; that way the Father’s Day gifts won’t be late for sure!

Amy Sue

15 Uses for Your Child’s Art

Uses for Childrens Art - Most parents proudly save their children’s first scribbles, posting them on the refrigerator or framing them to hang on the wall. But it doesn’t take long for parents to realize that keeping every piece of art their child lovingly creates would quickly turn their home into a messy art gallery.


Uses for Childrens Art - Don’t find yourself knee-deep in leaf rubbings by Thanksgiving! Here are some helpful hints for organizing and managing the onslaught of children’s artwork that threatens to take over your home. Remember to ask your child’s permission before doing anything with her her art. Some children will be excited to see their artwork living a second life, but others may be upset to see their creations “destroyed.”


15 Uses for Your Child’s Art

  1. Gift wrap and tags. Use a complete drawing to wrap gifts or to create a gift bag. Use smaller pieces of art, or cut a large piece into smaller pieces to use as gift tags.
  2. Note cards. Cut card stock into standard 4 x 6 card size and glue a smaller drawing or part of a larger work to the front. Purchase card-sized envelopes, bundle in sets of six or twelve, and wrap with a pretty ribbon for a great gift.
  3. Ornaments. Glue foil or wrapping paper to the back of your child’s art, then cut into holiday shapes. Laminate at your local office supply store or with clear contact paper. Punch a hole in the top and thread a ribbon for hanging. For a great grandparent gift, glue a current photo of your child and write the year to the back of the artwork before laminating.
  4. Scrapbooking. If you’re a scrapbooker, consider using your child’s artwork on your scrapbook pages. Artwork created during a vacation can be included on pages recording that vacation, or artwork can be used as borders, separators, and other decorations.
  5. Home decor. Frame select pieces o
  6. Photo albums. Purchase photo albums, fill them with your child’s artwork, and save them to give to your gown child as a gift. To save room, have your child choose several favorite works to be included in the album, then take photos of the other works, print, and place in the album.
  7. Drawer liners and shelf paper. Instead of buying contact paper to line drawers and shelves, use large pieces of artwork. Cut the artwork 1/2″ bigger than the drawer on all sides, top with clear contact paper, then trim to fit. For very large areas, cut plain paper to fit and glue artwork on top before covering with contact paper.
  8. Note pads. Cut several pieces of artwork into a standard 4×6″ note pad size. Stack the pieces with the back facing up and staple at the top, or punch 2 holes at the top and thread ribbon through.
  9. Place cards. Cut card stock into 4-6″ squares and fold in half. Write a guest’s name on the card, then decorate with the artwork. Perfect for a family get-together or your child’s birthday party!
  10. Bookmarks. Cut artwork into a tall, thin rectangle – 2×8″ is a good size. Laminate at your local office supply store or with clear contact paper. Punch a hole in the top and add a ribbon. For extra glitz, glue some glitter or confetti on the back of the artwork before laminating.
  11. Puzzles. Glue artwork to card stock or thin cardboard (cereal boxes work great), then cut into pieces. You can cover with clear contact paper for more durability.
  12. Placemats. Glue a large piece of art (or make a collage of smaller pieces) on a 12×18″ piece of construction paper. Laminate or cover with clear contact paper. Embellish with glitter, sequins or confetti if desired before laminating.
  13. Fancy paper plates. Glue artwork to the center of a paper plate and cover with clear contact paper. These plates should be used for dry foods only.
  14. Jar inserts. Cut a piece of artwork to fit the height and circumference of a jar. Insert into the jar, then fill with candy, potpourri, small soaps, etc. Cut another piece of artwork and a piece of contact paper to fit the cover. Glue the artwork on and cover with the contact paper. Finish with a pretty ribbon and give to family or friends.
  15. Home decor. Frame select pieces of your child’s art and display in his room or in other rooms of the house. Laminated pieces can also be used to decorate an outdoor playhouse.


Uses for Childrens Art - What are some creative ways you’ve used your child’s art? Leave your ideas in the comments below!

Amy Sue

Make Sidewalk Chalk Paint

Make Sidewalk Chalk Paint - Paint SplattersOne of my goals for the child care this summer was to get over some of my CDO Most people call it “OCD” but I can’t because that’s not in alphabetical order and let the children get messy.

Another goal was to do more art activities outside.

Sidewalk chalk paint to the rescue!

Sidewalk chalk paint is so quick and easy to make that you can decide to make it at the last moment. I decided to whip some up while the children were washing hands and using the bathroom before going outside.


Make Sidewalk Chalk Paint - PaintsSimply stir together 1/3 cup cornstarch & 1/3 cup water, then add food coloring or washable Tempera paint. I used food coloring because Baby L eats EVERYTHING so I’ve been using edible materials whenever I can.


Make Sidewalk Chalk Paint - Girls PaintingI’ve seen muffin tins used as a sidewalk chalk paint palettes, but I decided it would be easier to have separate containers rather than have all the children trying to share a muffin tin so I grabbed Tupperware snack cups.

Besides, if one cup gets dumped it’s less of a tragedy than if a whole muffin tin of paint was dumped.


Make Sidewalk Chalk Paint - Boys PaintingBring out the brushes, the stand back and watch the fun! Apparently Baby B wants to get in the action too.


Make Sidewalk Chalk Paint - Everyone PaintingThe children love mixing and layering the colors to see what happens.


Make Sidewalk Chalk Paint - Painted FunThe first time I made sidewalk chalk paint I only let the children paint the cement, but this time I said they could paint anything except the garage and house. Ironically, except for one tree block and one brick, they only painted on the cement.

Eventually all the paint was dumped out, but no one complained.

I’d call that a success – score one point toward becoming less CDO!

Amy Sue

DIY Outdoor Canopy

DIY Outdoor CanopyIt all started with an innocent Pinterest pin – a “Suntracking Shelter” that you could move along metal arches as the sun moved across the sky. I thought it would be great for the sandbox because it’s in full sun all afternoon, and normal “flat” canopies don’t help because of the sun’s angle.

Teacher saw the Pin and said “We can make that ourselves; it looks pretty easy.”

And it was.



We didn’t have any directions so we had to figure things out as we went along.

First we had to decide what would hold up the canopy. We compared and contrasted the pros and cons of metal electrical conduit vs plastic PVC pipe, then we debated the pros and cons of an arch vs a square shape. Finally we decided we really preferred the arch shape, and chose PVC pipe – rigid for the “legs” and flexible for the arch. We also bought connectors. The rigid and flexible PVC had different outer dimensions so we couldn’t find connectors that would work on both, but the flexible tubing was just a tad bigger so Teacher planned to sand the extra off with his Dremel tool.


DIY Outdoor Canopy - View from Other SideFinding fabric for the outdoor canopy was much easier! We browsed the Outdoor Fabric section of our local fabric store and picked out one we liked. Since the sandbox is 8′ from inner corner to inner corner we bought 3 yards of fabric to make sure there would be enough to make the pockets for the arches.

The fabric canopy itself was super-duper easy to make – the hardest part was making sure my measurements were right! First I folded and topstitched the selvedges under. Sure, it’s an outdoor canopy but I did want it to look nice.

Then I made the pockets for the arches: I loosely measured around the connector, added 1/2″ for ease and hem, and cut the fabric to the right length. Then I measured and drew a line 4′ each way from the center of the fabric, ending up with two lines 8′ apart. I folded the fabric wrong-sides-together on those lines and pressed the fold, folded the raw edges under, pressed and pinned that fold, then I top stitched along the pinned fold to make the pockets. I sewed a second line over the first for reinforcement.

Easy peasy!


Meanwhile, Teacher was working on the harder part of the project – the arches. He cut the rigid PVC into 4 pieces, ground down the outside of the flexible PVC with his Dremel, then connected them with the connectors. They were gorgeous! We tried them out in the sandbox and were SO excited by the perfect arches.

Then I put the fabric on and our ballon burst – the weight of the fabric bent the flexible toward the center of the sandbox.

Back to the drawing board!


DIY Outdoor Canopy - Making the ArchesAfter scrapping the PVC pipe idea we went back to Teacher’s original idea of making the outdoor conduit from electrical conduit. I wasn’t sure how he’d bend it, but I knew he’d figure something out. And of course he did.

He trapped the conduit between our concrete steps and a ten-gallon pail. I stood on the pail so it wouldn’t go flying while he pulled on the conduit, using the curve of the pail create an arch. It worked like a charm.

My man is a genius!

To get two similar arches we taped the flexible PVC to the driveway with the ends 8′ apart and used it as a pattern. We laid the conduit over the PVC periodically to compare, and made adjustments as needed. The finished arches weren’t perfect, but they were pretty darn close!


DIY Outdoor Canopy - We tried the arches out in the sandbox and burst another balloon – they were so short that the children couldn’t stand up in the sandbox.

Luckily that was easy to fix! We bought a 10′ length of conduit and compression connectors. Teacher cut the conduit into fourths then connected them to the arches with compression connectors.

Easy peasy!


DIY Outdoor Canopy - Side ViewWe slid the fabric canopy on the conduit arches and drafted the boys to help us hold the whole contraption up in the sandbox. It was perfect!

The boys dug deep holes into the corners of the sandbox and we were ready to put up the outdoor canopy. I couldn’t wait to see it completely done!

We sunk the “legs” deep into the sand, then Teacher screwed a conduit strap into each corner board to support the canopy. The legs should pull out for winter, and in the meantime we can push the fabric canopy all the way down to the ground when there are high winds.

DIY Outdoor Canopy - Boys PlayingI think the outdoor canopy turned out great, and so do the boys. I can’t wait for the child care children to see it!

Amy Sue

Photo credit: Hammacher Schlemmer

Mother’s Day Craft – Candles

Spoiler alert!

If you’re the mother of a child enrolled in my child care program you may want to skip this post for now and come back after you open your Mother’s Day gift. Just a thought…

Everyone else feel free to keep reading for a fantastic Mother’s Day craft idea!


Mother's Day Craft CandlesIf you’ve been around for previous Mother’s Days you know that I always have good intentions about planning ahead and making our Mother’s Day crafts ahead of time, but I never quite manage to carry through. Of course, this year is no exception; I was still looking for a “good” Mother’s Day craft the Monday beforehand. And by “good” I mean “something I’d actually enjoy receiving and/or using” – no paper doily corsages, or tissue paper hats. I also try to find something that the children can do mostly on their own. I’m betting that most moms would rather have gifts from their children instead of me!

Luckily Pinterest came to my rescue with these great Mother’s Day candles!


Mother’s Day Craft Candle Supplies

Mother's Day Craft Candle - SuppliesYou probably already have most of the supplies you need to make these Mother’s Day candles at home; the rest can probably be found at the dollar store:

  • Candles
  • Candle holders
  • Ribbon – wired or unwired
  • Tissue paper
  • Markers
  • Wax paper
  • Hair dryer

Directions for the Mother’s Day Craft Candles

These Mother’s Day candles are easy to make, but require an adult for the hair dryer step because of the high heat needed. Read on for details…

1. Cut:
Cut a single layer of tissue paper a little smaller than the size of the candle. You’ll need 1 sheet for each candle, and a couple extra in case your child goes overboard with the coloring.


2. Color:
Mother's Day Craft Candle - Starting OverHave your child decorate the tissue paper with markers, being careful not to tear the tissue paper.


Mother's Day Craft Candle - ColoringColoring lightly and drawing lines works better than lots of heavily colored-in areas.


Mother's Day Craft Candle - DrawingOlder children enjoy writing their names, and sometimes “Mom” or the year too.


3. Melt
Mother's Day Craft Candle - MeltThis step is harder to explain than to do, so bear with me…

Wrap the tissue paper around the candle, then wrap a piece of wax paper over the tissue paper.


Mother's Day Craft Candle - MeltingUsing the excess wax paper as a handle, blow hot air over your design with the hair dryer. Be careful not to blow the air on your hand – it’s HOT! As the wax melts you’ll see the tissue paper start to disappear so your design looks brighter. You’ll probably need to move the wax paper around the candle so you can reach each part of the candle with the hot air.

Carefully remove the wax paper from the candle and check to see if there are any areas you missed with the hot air.


4. Finish:
Mother's Day Craft Candle - HoldersWhen the candle is cool, pop it into the candle holder.


Mother's Day Craft Candle - RibbonTie a pretty bow on it, and you’re done! I let the children choose which ribbon they wanted for their Mother’s Day candles.

Aren’t they pretty? They’re definitely the kind of thing I’d display if I received one for Mother’s Day. Best of all, they were done ahead of time!

Amy Sue

Cheeseburger Macaroni Soup Recipe

Cheeseburger Macaroni Soup RecipeThe first time I ever had Cheeseburger Macaroni Soup was at Teacher’s house before we were married. He’d invited me to visit for a weekend and I was so head-over-heels for him that I jumped at the chance. Yes, his parents were there the whole time and we slept in separate rooms.

Teacher’s mom made Cheeseburger Macaroni Soup for supper Friday night. My mom never made Hamburger Helper so I’d only had it once before, when I was babysitting. I didn’t even know you could make soup from Hamburger Helper!

To make a long story short, I LOVED it!


Cheeseburger Macaroni Soup Recipe – with Pictures

We’ve made Cheeseburger Macaroni Soup many times over the years, and recently made a healthier version that was even better than the original!


Cheeseburger Macaroni Soup Recipe - HamburgerStart by browning some onions and hamburger or ground turkey. We usually use ground turkey, but Angel Face who doesn’t eat red meat wasn’t going to be home so we used grass-fed ground beef this time.


Cheeseburger Macaroni Soup Recipe - CauliflowerAdd cauliflower florets.


Cheeseburger Macaroni Soup Recipe - CarrotsAnd sliced carrots.

Cheeseburger Macaroni Soup Recipe - Annie's Shells & CheeseInstead of Hamburger Helper Cheeseburger Macaroni mix we used an organic Annie’s mix. We’d been planning to use an organic Cheeseburger Macaroni mix but the store was all out both times we went so we bought shells & cheese instead. It worked great!


Cheeseburger Macaroni Soup Recipe - Add Annie's MixStir in the cheese packet, then add some water. Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta separately, then add to the soup.


Cheeseburger Macaroni Soup Recipe - DoneStir everything together, add salt & pepper to taste, then enjoy!

Cheeseburger Macaroni Soup – the Official Recipe

My mother-in-law’s recipe called for Hamburger Helper, ground beef, frozen cauliflower. Our version is a bit healthier with fresh cauliflower, an organic mix, and ground turkey or grass-fed beef. Soup is so versatile, you can adapt the recipe to your own taste. Put in more carrots and use less cauliflower, or vice versa. Replace the pasta with more veggies for a low-carb option. Use your imagination!

Cheeseburger Macaroni Soup Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef or turkey
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • 1 small head fresh cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1 box organic Cheeseburger Macaroni (or shells & cheese)
  • 6 cups water
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp fresh or dried parsley, optional

Cheeseburger Macaroni Soup Directions

  1. Cook onions and ground turkey together until turkey is done. Drain if needed.
  2. Stir in cauliflower, carrots, and seasoning packet. Add water and stir to combine.
  3. Heat to boiling, stirring often. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Meanwhile, in a separate pot cook macaroni until tender. Drain.
  5. Add to soup mixture. Add salt, pepper, and parsley as desired.

The recipe makes about 8 cups soup. For more flavor, substitute chicken broth for some or all of the water. For extra cheesiness, double the cheese packets (save the pasta for future use), add cheese packets from macaroni and cheese (again, save the macaroni for future use), or add powdered cheddar cheese.

What family recipes have you adopted from your spouse’s family? Post them in the comments below so we can try them too!

Happy cooking,
Amy Sue