Saturday, July 25, 2015

Skittles Orchards Candy for a Special Treat

I live in the Pacific Northwest, where apple and cherry trees abound. So it makes me smile to think of treating my nieces and nephews to orchards-themed Skittles. Perhaps I'll tuck a bag into our my purse ahead of our next road trip. I don't normally buy them Skittles in particular (we prefer M&Ms) other than occasionally at the movie theater. But we like doing taste tests on limited edition candies and foods, so this could be fun.

The flavors include lime (I wish it was green apple instead!), red apple, cherry, peach and orange.

Skittles Orchards, on Amazon

Related links:

Skittles Orchards Review at CandyBlog.Net

Skittles Orchards Review at Eat Up Albany

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Auntie's Backyard Lunar Colony

What if you could create a space or Moon-themed play area in your back yard? Build your own simulation of a lunar colony for your nieces and nephews to play in?

This fantasy idea wouldn't work in my green grassy Pacific Northwest back yard, but it would work in an aunt or grandmother's desert home, or drought-inflicted California, or at a home with gravel instead of grass.

This amazing inflatable bubble tent is not affordable unless you win the lottery. To me, it looks like a perfect "lunar colony" playhouse.

I wouldn't want to actually camp overnight in one of these bubble tents (No privacy! Too much sunshine waking you up early in the morning!) but what a fun playhouse this would make.

If you were wealthy, you could add on and connect more bubble tents, sort of like a human hamster Habitrail!

Here's a more affordable tent: a Space Module tent by Pacific Play Tents.

This retro styled rocket ship tent is super colorful.

This "Blast Off" rocket play tent offers a metallic look.

Your younger, smaller nieces and nephews (toddlers) could pretend to fly this inflatable space shuttle to the Moon to visit the lunar colony.

If you have artistic nephews and nieces, they might enjoy coloring or painting this corrugated space shuttle and then playing inside it.

This inflatable astronaut could be a nice decoration or prop for playtime.

This astronaut costume fits nieces and nephews aged 3-6 years.

This astronaut costume is for older kids.

This astronaut costume comes with a helmet. It's from legendary Halloween costume company Rubies.

Check out Amazon's astronaut food you could serve the children after their long day of space-themed play!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Little House-Shaped Cornbread for my Theme Party

Later this month I'm having a Little House on the Prairie themed party for my friends' children. Ahead of the party, I'm practicing making some of the things I want to serve - I don't want any nasty surprises on the day of the party!

One of the things I'm hoping to serve is a couple of cornbread loaves shaped like little houses. I got inspired when I picked up a vintage house-shaped mold on eBay. It was probably meant for gingerbread, but I've already baked a lemon cake in it. I discovered the hard way that one box mix of Betty Crocker cake does not fill the house mold completely. Next time, I'll use 2 or even 3 boxes. It will be ok if the cake overflows at the top - I can always slice it off to make a level surface on the bottom of the house.

I used two inexpensive boxes of Trader Joe's cornbread mix. The mix uses eggs, oil and water. Simple! I remembered to double the ingredient quantities from the instructions on the first box.

Next, I flipped the mold upside down (it has "feet" built in to keep it level on your cookie sheet) and sprayed Trader Joe's baking spray generously all over the mold. I didn't bother to flour the mold - I learned from my cake baking experiment earlier that I didn't need to. Why add an extra step (and an extra hand washing session) if you don't need to!

Even using two boxes of mix, the cornbread mix didn't come close to filling the house mold. This made me nervous. It's normal for some of the batter to leak out onto the cookie sheet. That's ok, it just burns and gets a bit smoky during the baking process, but no big deal.

I popped it into the oven at 350, but wasn't sure how long to bake it for. The box suggested 40 minutes, but that was assuming a different kind of pan (a cornbread pan). I set my timer for 50 minutes. Ohboy, that was not long enough. The top of the cornbread (the bottom of the house) was really gooey and jiggly still. Despite my reservations, I stuck a knife into it. Yuck - a gooey sinkage happened. I baked the cornbread for 10 more minutes (so far a total of 60) and it still was gooey. So I turned the mold over, letting the sort of gooey bottom rest on the cookie sheet. 15 minutes more of baking - crossing my fingers the roof didn't burn.

Ta da! 75 minutes later, the cornbread house emerged. I was glad to see it was nicely browned (darker than I'd prefer, but oh well), thoroughly cooked, and not burned.

I was even surprised that some of the definition on the windows and door depressions still showed up.

Once this is sliced open at the party, it won't look cool any more, but at least when people walk into the yard and see this set up on the buffet table, it will look pretty nice. Since it's not a cake, I don't have to bother with frosting or sprinkling powdered sugar on top of it.

I consider this a success, and can't wait to see my nephews and nieces chowing down on cornbread (which I will bake the evening before the party!)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Creating Jurassic World In Your Back Yard

Your nieces and nephews might be too young to see the super scary PG-13 rated Jurassic World. Still, they might love dinosaurs. So just build them a Jurassic World in your back yard!

The inflatable Triceratops is 43 inches long.

Surely this velociraptor will be much friendlier than the ones in the films!

The inflatable brachiosaurus is extra large, and extra expensive.

Here's the smaller, much more affordable brachiosaurus. It's still an impressive 48 inches long.

Here's the medium sized Tyrannosaurus Rex inflatable toy.

The T-Rex also comes in the extra large size.

I have a feeling this inflatable pteranodon would spend much of its life being swooped through the air accompanied by lots of screeching from the kids.

I've never even heard of a spinosaurus until just now!

Or save money by buying the whole five piece set.

Let the kids join in the fun by pretending they're dinosaurs too. (If your eardrums can take it, what with all the roaring they'll do). Costumes aren't just for Halloween!

Here's a plush T-rex costume for toddlers.

Here's another version of a toddler T-Rex costume.

This dinosaur costume comes with a sound chip. Oh joy.

Your nieces and nephews can zoom about your yard wearing these pteranodon wings.

Raptors aren't orange, so this costume might not be my first pick.

This one's the Silly Safari Tyrannosaurus costume.

Here's a plush T-rex costume for slightly older kids.

This T-Rex costume is corduroy!

Now in case you're really, really into hearing dinosaurs, Amazon has a whole section of dinosaur sounds CDs.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

My Suggestion for Bring-Along Restaraunt Toys for Nieces

I'm an aunt who likes to try to remember to bring little toys and playthings along when I'm going out to dinner with nieces, nephews and their parents. The parents seem to always be frazzled and to forget to bring things to occupy little people at the table. (Or, sadly, some of them are blissfully unaware that Little Junior isn't quite a model citizen at the table yet).

It's naturally very difficult for little ones to sit still in one place for long, and they get bored quickly. So I always try to bring a little doll or action figure with me, a book or two, or some stickers at the very least.

When I know we are going to be at a long dinner, I bring an extra soft tote bag full of bigger toys. Nothing that will take up too much room on the table or distract anyone else, just a little playset or something to keep little fingers busy.

I always make it clear to the kids that they are borrowing my toys, and can't take them home, and so far everybody has been clear on that concept. I might need the toys the very next day for a luncheon or dinner outing with another family!

Here are some Barbie Peekaboo Petites Storytime Room dolls. Each little set comes with a small room, a doll, and just a couple of accessories. (That way you have fewer tiny items to keep track of at the end of the meal).

The Mermaidia Peekaboo Petite room comes with a a clamshell throne, a treasure chest, and a little pink fish companion. The doll is blonde and wears a pink netting gown.

The Bo Peep Storytime Petite room comes with Bo Peep's sheep (I guess she did know where to find him after all!) a plastic bench, and her shepherd's crook. Bo Peep red hair and wears a cute blue and white polka dot dress.

I'm not sure which story The Island Princess is based on. This room doll comes with a throne chair, a watering can, and a bouquet. The doll features pink peacock wings and has blonde hair.

As you can imagine, the Goldilocks Peekaboo Petite doll has blonde hair. She wears a cheerful yellow-and-white gingham skirt. The roombox features three little beds - so cute!

You don't actually get twelve dancing princesses in this roombox toy, you get just one. But she's cute, with her pink gown with a tulle underskirt. The room comes with a wardrobe, a ballet barre and a set of golden slippers.

Enjoy your dining!

Cruise Ship Playsets

You probably don't have to get your nieces and nephews excited about going on a cruise. They're probably already stoked. But I might pick out a cruise ship playset or two to keep in my playroom. After we get home from the trip, they can continue the fun and enrich their memories by acting out our adventures with a fun cruise ship themed playset toy. There don't appear to be any cruise ships geared towards boys - these are mostly dollhouses.

So far I'm the most tempted by the MegaBloks Hello Kitty cruise ship. You do have to put it together, but it's far less pieces than it would be for Lego or Playmobil. The cruise ship opens up like a dollhouse, and features three levels. It comes with a Hello Kitty figurine, of course, and a few little friends for her. There's a cute dining area on the front of the boat, bedrooms for the crew, and a little cafe with parasol on the back of the ship. Darling!

For a younger niece (say 3 or 4 years old) here's a simple Hello Kitty cruise ship that you don't have to put together. It's not very exciting, but maybe it would be for a three year old, especially if you played with her enthusiastically.

I would probably only get the Polly Pocket cruise ship if I had a niece who was already obsessed with Polly Pocket. Check out the cool water slide, and the funky fuchsia "ocean waves" wallpaper.

The Lego Friends Dolphin Cruiser is really cool. However, at 612 pieces, I would only get this if I had a niece old enough and with enough patience to help me put the dang thing together. I love that it's not too "pinky stinky" like some of the Lego Friends toys can be. The cruise ship playset comes with a couple cute dolphins, a Sea-Doo or Jetski type water vehicle, tropical fruity drinks and a couple of sun loungers. One of the drawbacks is it seems once this is put together, it would be hard to put the little figures down inside the interior of the ship. This might not work well as a dollhouse-style playset.

If your niece likes Barbie dolls, here's the Barbie Sisters cruise ship. It doesn't look like much on the outside, but opens to reveal two sun loungers, two water slides, a pool, a swing chair, two bunk beds, a little dining area, and a precarious perch for the Barbie captain to steer the ship from.

For little babies (age 1-2 years old) here's a cute Disney plush cruise ship. It comes with Mickey and Minnie plush dolls you can store inside it.

Happy cruising!