Tag Archives: pen elaine

Homemade “Ice Princess” Twirly dress



So, this photo is actually from a year-and-a-half ago…when I made this little dress-up number from pretty fabrics and pieces that I was slowly collecting. It worked out, with the colors that happened to be a theme, that I could call it a princess dress or an “Elsa” dress and get Pen Elaine really excited about wearing it!

I think it all started when my Honey and I were checking out a random antique shop out of town and found a huge collection of vintage ribbon, trim, etc. from an old fabric store that had gone under and sold this antique shop all the remaining merchandise. One of the items I couldn’t resist was this wide, lacey-looking elastic trim. It’s stretchy! So, I sewed it into a double circle, with two layers for the front of the dress, to be the top/bodice for a 3-year-old’s twirly dress.


Next, found this dreamy, ethereal fabric with little rosettes covering it, in this pale bluish-greyish color that I knew could be magical for something…and when I finally sat down to make a little dress, I gathered the to of the fabric and sewed it onto an elastic band, to be the twirly, poofy skirt of the dress.


After roughly sewing the top to the bottom, I covered the seam with another ribbon I had bought – it’s grey velvet. Finally, for little adjustable straps, I sewed intricate ribbon going up from each side, front and back, as seen below, to be tied over the shoulders to fit. These gave it a bit of an Nordic princess or Czech look…



I whipped this out as fast as I could, since it’s just for a fun dress-up clothing. She ended up getting to wear it for her first dance recital at the end of a little dance camp, since they got to dress up like princesses. For a while, she wore this over outfits all the time ūüôā Aside from this, though, I mainly limit myself to one dress a year for Easter or something, ha!

I am so thankful to have a little girl for whom to sew! For me, the fun in creating is sharing it with someone you love. As I enjoy sharing the beauty of creativity and art and God’s creation with my littles, I think how God must find pleasure in sharing the wonderful world that He created with each of us, His children.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil‚ÄĒthis is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

Ecclesiastes 3:11-14





Little Kid in the Kitchen: Octopus (Crescent) Rolls


2015/01/img_3475-0.jpgPen Elaine loves helping in the kitchen – we put on our aprons and pull a chair up to the counter for her to stand on, and I try teaching her that a good cook does not lick her fingers or the bowl when preparing food that everyone will eat…So, I had saved a super cute idea from Family Fun August 2014 about making crescent rolls into octopi. We had recently read a Christmas gift from Aunt Jenny, Julia, Child by Kyo Maclear (illustrated by Julie Morstad) that makes you want to cook with your cute kid, and Pen Elaine had been into “Octonauts,” in which one of the main characters is some sort of octopus. So, the timing was perfect for trying this simple “recipe.”

Crescent roll Octopus:

1. Pull apart a triangle from crescent roll package

2.Taking the shortest side of the triangle, cut 7 slits about 1-2 inches long with kitchen shears or a knife (I used a plastic knife with success)

3. Place cut triangle onto baking sheet to separate and “stage” each “leg” of the octopus

4. Roll down and shape “head” to look more rounded

5. Add eyes – we used mini chocolate chips (Pen Elaine was solely i charge of this step)

6. Bake according to package instructions

They seem wobbly and delicate when shaping the dough into octopus shapes, but they come out of the oven sturdy and stiff and delicious! These were simple and yet so, so much fun. Plus, when Pen Elaine was staging some of the octopus and their tentacles, she told me how certain ones were family members, etc…and then, she made two octopus who were side-by-side to “hold hands” and said they were my Honey and me when we were getting married! It was the sweetest thing…all thanks to those little octopus crescent rolls ūüôā



Pretend Play Restaurant



Here’s a follow-up activity for using fake food…or real food! Create a pretend restaurant!

This was one of my absolute favorite games as a kid Рmy mom would let us be the waiters/waitresses for a typical weeknight dinner at home, and I remember it as being the coolest because there was actual, real food involved. My mom knew how the simplest things could make a kid feel special and important.

So, Pen Elaine and I created a restaurant together, and she absolutely loved the power of being the waitress, ha! First order of business, she named her restaurant so that we could decorate a sign to be hung on the door for Daddy to see when he got home from work for dinner. She, naturally, named her restaurant “Elsa’s Caf√©.” She colored the poster with crayons, and we had some extra food stickers from a “Melissa and Doug” create-a-placemat set, which seemed appropriate. Then, I pulled out a pretty little notebook to function as the menu. Based on what we were having for dinner, I drew pictures with the words for the items available for dinner, plus I drew three different glasses filled with each drink option (water, tea, or milk). So, when Pen Elaine took Daddy’s order, as the waitress, she could circle what he chose. (She re-used this menu several times over the following week to take drink orders at lunch or other dinners, but oftentimes, she wanted to talk folks into whatever drink she really wanted to circle…”I think you want milk to drink…” She was a little confused about the waitress’s role to simply take orders and not actually give them.) For some added flair, Pen Elaine wore an apron as the waitress. Having such a special job made Pen Elaine extra enthusiastic with helping set the table and get dinner on the table. This is a very fun, easy activity that my mom passed down that is a favorite!




Looking through my old Instagram pics, I saw the above photos side-by-side and realized, my kids look extremely alike. Until that moment, I had thought they looked so different…weird, huh. Now, I totally see that Snuggly Man is a little old man/boy version of Pen Elaine. We are going to be one of those families where all the kids look alike to the point that everyone looks sort of similar and you’ll recognize one member of the family anywhere, even if you’ve only met one of us…

What’s interesting about these two looking alike is how it’s a foil on the fact that their personalities and early experiences reveal definite differences. Snuggly Man is at least a month past the age when Pen Elaine was crawling. She loved a pacifier, but he only cares about sucking his thumb. He is super chill and yet, he screams out when we don’t listen to what he wants, and I don’t remember Pen Elaine ever screaming…as a baby…maybe I’ve blocked it out. He loves toys and manipulating objects. Pen Elaine did not care about baby toys too much, but she probably didn’t need to, since the world revolved around her.

The most fun thing about having two…one of the most fun things…is seeing how they adore each other. As they learn to accept and¬†complement each other’s differences, they have so much fun sharing everyday moments.

Pen Elaine will “resignedly” pick up her little brother’s sippy cup after he’s thrown it on the ground for the fifth time, secretly loving that she’s needed by him and that she is able to help as his big sister.

He smiles and coos and waves his jazz hands when she finally shows up at breakfast, after sleeping in a bit.

She is overcome with her love and asks me or my Honey (whoever is holding Snugly Man) to bring him over so she can give him a hug, which is returned with open-mouth kisses…and hair-pulling, which she has learned to deal with and accept as the price of sibling snuggles.

When I want to coax her into riding in the double stroller, asking her to keep Snugly Man happy by keeping him company is what will do the trick.

Ever since he’s been old enough to be aware of her presence in the backseat, he is completely happy riding in the car.

Pen Elaine, always the entertainer at 3-years-old, has found a faithfully appreciative audience in her doting, little brother.






Pen Elaine’s most favorite book (trilogy)…this week


If you haven’t heard of Mo Willems, go to the library and check out all the books you can find by him. His books are funny and charming and fun for the whole family. We read “Cat the Cat” books when Pen Elaine was just 1, then we moved up to “Pigeon books,” followed closely by “Elephant and Piggy books.” Then, a mom whose kids I used to babysit recommended his “Knuffle bunny” books, of which I had never heard. So, when I spotted one at the library, we read Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity before realizing we were reading the second book in a trilogy. This series has super fun illustrations that are drawn animations on top of actual photographs, a fun effect that feels real and yet approachable for preschoolers.

However, the real treasure is reading through all three books and finding the author’s note to his daughter at the end. These hilarious tales (seriously, Pen Elaine guffaws at moments in all three books…each time we read them) end in such a heartwarming way that I actually had tears in my eyes…maybe I was just hormonal, but it chokes me up a little each time. I love the progression of this trilogy as Trixie “grows up” from toddlerhood to elementary school. They also illustrate the special bond of fathers and daughters, and the lengths that dads will go for their little girls. Furthermore, it subtly¬†reminds kids to think of others.¬†Please go read these with your kiddos!




Sharing our Joys



This is Pen Elaine while watching the beginning of “High School Musical” for the very first time. I secretly love those movies and own all three, which is saying something in this day when we don’t own very many movies since they are available to stream so easily. I remember when a friend who started having kids about the same time told me that her cutie pie loved watching the Disney channel movies, and I looked forward to how fun it would be when I got to watch the HSM with my own little one. So, we watched maybe the first 15 minutes together one day for a special lunch picnic treat but have yet to watch the rest. We have been catching up on some classic kid/Disney movies this summer,¬†with the¬†less structured days and the fact that she no longer naps, and I have finally¬†accepted and resigned myself to that fact.



No longer having nap time means no longer having time to myself during the day, and that¬†has been¬†a big adjustment for me. It may have been a difficult transition for me because it happened simultaneously with the adjustment from 1 to 2 kids or maybe because it happened simultaneously with my postpartum hormones still getting themselves in order, but ultimately,¬†I think it required a “transition” for my heart. Nap time had become “me time” that I felt entitled to having for myself. When kids are little or preverbal or have one or two nap times, it makes sense to separate kid time and adult time, and when I wanted to complete tasks or projects, I entertained my little one in one way while I “entertained” myself in a separate way. Here’s my #TBT photo of Pen Elaine hanging out in the exersaucer while I was working on some sort of craft project. She was having beneficial, independent play time while I was having beneficial, independent craft time. Nap time was also an opportunity for mutually beneficial time of separate activities that brought us each joy in our own ways. So, the end of nap time marked a rite of passage for both of us, mother and daughter, because it marked the end of having so much time for separate interests and marked the beginning of my daughter blossoming into a tiny person who could share in my joys instead of simply being entertained by something else while I completed them.


Now, I am learning to not simply see giving up nap time as giving up “me” time but now it’s an opportunity for “us” time, just my daughter and me. We get to share our joys, and I get to cultivate a little person to appreciate some of the beauty in life that I appreciate. Sometimes, that means completing an exercise tape together.¬†If there’s a craft project that I’ve been wanting to work on, then we figure out a way to work on it together…or at least have two versions of the same basic activity.




My Honey has been embracing this rite of passage in our daughter in his own way. Pen Elaine went through a phase of waking up extra early, so we tried using a toddler clock that lit up an “awake” bunny picture when it was “morning time” and appropriate for getting up, trying to enforce a minimum wake-up time. This worked for a while, but then she started waking up early again and wanting to come see what Daddy was up to in the morning. My Honey would be up getting his coffee going and preparing for some personal Bible reading and devotional. Instead of continuing to enforce and try to “train” Pen Elaine to stay in her room, during the time when he typically has some quiet time reading the Bible on his own (while letting me have some quiet space for my own meditation on Scripture¬†in the morning…unless¬†I was¬†up with Snuggly Man too much in the night and fell back asleep…), he¬†started having¬†“quiet time” WITH Pen Elaine. He embraced this fleeting phase and included her in his joy of spending early morning time with the Lord, making it a teachable moment. She gets some dry cereal while he drinks some coffee, and they read out of the Jesus Storybook Bible together. Jesus said, “but Jesus said, ‚ÄúLet the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14 ESV), so reading a kids’ version of God’s Word seems appropriate, and my Honey found plenty of truth¬†to stir personal reflection and prayer.



Including Pen Elaine in some gardening endeavors sometimes translates into rose petals being pulled off the plant and scattered around and in the bird bath, but she was sure the birds would enjoy the beauty of the scene while bathing in or drinking the water.


I am one of those people who always has 20 projects in the back of my mind that I plan to complete, plus 20 more sewing projects that I would love to start or finish. Giving up naptimes felt like giving up all my sewing projects, but after reading Desperate, I realized that it was important to continue in life-giving activities, which for me, includes¬†creating things, so I decided Pen Elaine and I must sew together! So, my first project was a “Frozen princess” tutu/dress for Pen Elaine, which she helped with a bit and then I started her on her own project while I finished some of the machine sewing without her “help.”



Most recently, I realized I had given up any time of playing the old piano that takes up valuable space in our house. Instead of only playing the assortment of kid instruments we have in a music basket (that inspires Pen Elaine to form a band), sharing the joy I find in playing the piano led to an interpretative dance performance by Pen Elaine, for which she found an enthusiastically appreciative audience in Snuggly Man.

I think one of the underlying issues is that I’m learning to share my whole life with my kids, not just the areas that I choose to let them see. The truth is, they see the¬†effects of whatever I hide from them, like using my free time to watch tv instead¬†of using it for true¬†refreshment from Scripture or prayer or personal reflection or¬†making creative plans.¬†Instead of being under the illusion of holding my cards close to my chest, God is using this transition to air out parts of me that had grown lazy or selfish or shallow and show me the path to freedom in total surrender to His plan for my life and my family. Now, Pen Elaine and I have this fleeting season of finding afternoon refreshment together, which looks different on different days, but it’s always the most fun when we are sharing our joys.


Pen Elaine is turning 3!






With Pen Elaine’s third birthday coming up, I was feeling like we could do something low-key…but then Pen wanted to invite all 7 of her closest friends and said she wanted a pancake party…and once I got started, I just couldn’t help myself!

So, here is Pen Elaine’s third birthday party, brought to you by the letter P!

We celebrated with Pancakes, Pirates, Princesses, Pop rocks, pink paper straws, a Pi√Īata, pictures, and Pet (candy) “butterflies” to take home.



Prior to the birthday party, though, I filmed Pen Elaine answering the questions on this birthday interview by bestactivitiesforkids, who also has a free printable version…of which I plan on filling out and taking a photo to keep in my computer photo files¬†to have a “hard copy” for¬†posterity.



¬†¬†Chalkboard art came first – I chose a quote from Berkeley Breathed’s Goodnight, Opus, which I absolutely enjoy as an adult, and it’s a fun one for kids too – those make the best children’s literature, that appeal to adults as well as kids…and include fabulous illustrations that incite the imagination.

To draw, I started with a chalkboard tutorial for a cool banner that my sis sent to me, via Pinterest.


Then, I added in the quote, drew balloons, and then, feeling like it needed something more…I scavenged for colored chalk in the chunky outdoor chalk box that Pen Elaine gets to use and found colors for a rainbow. This turned out perfect for a birthday celebration that is colorful and for a little girl who loves Rainbow Dash.


¬†Once the chalkboard art was finished, which I finished the night before Pen Elaine’s actual birthday morning as a center point above the kitchen table, I strung up a

  • banner of balloons in the same room
  • Birthday banner in its traditional spot
  • balloon and pinwheel above the kitchen table
  • pinwheel in a main doorway off the living room/entry way



 Instead of gifts, I asked on the invitations for guests to bring a hand-made picture for Penelope, so I had a garland with clothespins attached along it, waiting  below the mantel to display the pictures that were given at the party.


¬†The kid pictures were precious and sweet while the adult-made pictures got pretty creative and artistically finished! It seemed like a few closet artists had just been waiting for an excuse to stretch their artistic wings ūüėČ



Birthday Party Activities!

We made maracas using

  • plastic Easter eggs,
  • plastic spoons,
  • uncooked rice, and
  • pretty duck tape

(inspired by apartmenttherapy) and some pretty masking tape for extra cuteness. Pen Elaine is still playing with the one that she made ūüôā


 When guests entered, we had a table set up as a {pirate} tattoo station and spot to pick out a birthday party hat. I had bought pirate tattoos from a party supply section and some mustache tattoos from Hobby Lobby that were for the more adventurous seafarers. Supplies needed were:

  • temporary tattoos
  • safety scissors for cutting out the tattoo they want
  • water squirt bottle and
  • washcloth for applying the temporary tattoo


I had seen a cute idea for decorating party hats, but I never cut out blank paper to decorate them…however, I did buy sparkly pipe cleaners that added some extra pizzaz!


I turned our summer castle into an opportunity to play a game of ring toss, using paper plates with their centers cut out.


 Party Refreshments



  • Pancakes, of course- my Honey made banana-chocolate-chip and berry-chocolate-chip, I think…
  • awesome, easy flavored cool whips by growingajeweledrose, I chose a pink and a purple one and mixed in some sparkly sprinkles
  • chopped pecans
  • Nutella
  • cold pizza!
  • totally addicting Cake¬†mix Funfetti¬†Buddies by SixSistersStuff
  • our version of a Watermelon Monster, copied from Lovethispic
  • Cinnamon rolls inspired by a¬†combining a funfetti cake mix¬†recipe and a bread machine recipe, complete with cream cheese or (electric purple) vanilla frosting…and sprinkles!
  • little pink, polka-dot paper cups of Lucky Charms
  • (Pink, strawberry) Pop rocks, inside their cute packages




¬†Here’s Pen and I rolling out our cinnamon rolls on the morning of the party – everything else could be done ahead of time, but I had to throw the ingredients in the bread machine when I woke early to feed Snuggly Man, then Pen Elaine helped me roll out the doll and cover with butter, cinnamon, and sugar before rolling and cutting them into rolls to rise and bake in the oven before the party started at 9.


¬†For drinks, I used mason jars and cute lids to work with pink paper straws. I even found plastic, lidded¬†“mason” jar tumblers at the dollar store for the kids to use!


We had a pitcher of water and a pitcher of “Pink Punch” (also made the morning of the party – Pink Punch Ingredients: 1 (46 oz.) can pineapple juice 1 (6 oz.) can frozen pink lemonade 2 1/2 c. water 3 (28 oz.) bottles ginger ale 1 qt. strawberry ice cream).



 Final take-home treats: Adopt a Pet Butterfly

Pen Elaine and I made butterflies (inspired by JugglingwithKids)¬†with snack bags, clothespins, pipe-cleaner antenna, and filled with sweet tarts, since they’re toddler safe candies…and I could set this up days in advance. I forgot to take a photo before the party, when the chicken-wire frame was full of butterflies, but here’s how it all ended.