DIY Tiki Torch

During the summer months, I love being able to sit out on my porch in the evenings and enjoy a good book, watch the kids play, and just take in the beautiful weather. I’ve always loved the look and feel of lit tiki torches on summer evenings. Something about it just totally sets the scene for me. There prices, however, horrified me.

I was so excited last summer, when I came across little globular tabletop torches in the store. For a great price!! I could totally envision the queenly atmosphere they would create. The part of my brain that logically rationed as Queen of my Castle I deserved to stoke my fairy-tale inspired fire, demanded their immediate purchase. I automatically saw my little piece of far, far away where I could decompress, and just lose myself for a few minutes each evening.

Naturally, I came home with a matching pair, assuming we’d live out the rest of our days creating beautiful, enchanted Summer memories together.  Unfortunately, my happily ever after just wasn’t meant to be.  Both pots (let’s face it, at this point their ambiance setting fairy God mother had abandoned them and, in my eyes, their clock had already struck twelve) leaked horribly. Despite my valiant husband’s best efforts, they just weren’t salvageable. For me, the whole affair was quite tragic. So much for my illusions of grandeur.

Ever my knight in shining armor, my husband came to my rescue! If I couldn’t buy the perfect table top torch, then he would make me one! This was his brain child.

This easy to make tiki torch was a roaring success. Using citronella infused torch fuel I’m able to keep the mosquitoes at bay, all while adding a little ‘enchantment’ to my evenings. My still full wallet was feeling pretty enchanted too!

DIY Tiki Torch

4 Sons 'R' Us: DIY Tiki Torch

  • old, sturdy glass bottle
  • 2 washers that fit the lip of your bottle
  • 1 spacer
  • rubber grommet (make sure it will fit tightly down into your bottle creating an airtight seal that prevents the wick from moving around)
  • tiki torch fuel (I used one with citronella to keep the mosquitoes away)
  • tiki torch wicks

Directions

  1. Add fuel to your bottle. Be careful not to over fill.
  2. Place a wick into the bottle. Leave about 2 inches exposed above the lip of the bottle.
  3. Thread the end of the wick through the grommet, pushing the grommet towards the bottle opening. Force grommet down into the neck of the bottle, leaving it flush on top with the lip. Make sure to hold onto the end of the wick so it doesn’t also get pushed down into the bottle.
  4. Take one washer and thread it onto the wick, pushing it down until it rests on the top of the bottle. Make sure there’s not gap between the bottle and washer # 1.
  5. Thread a spacer onto the wick and push it down until it’s resting flush against washer # 1.
  6. Thread washer # 2 onto the wick, pushing down until it is resting firmly against the spacer. The washers will keep the flame away from the glass preventing it from getting hot, at all.
  7. Push the exposed wick down into the bottle, leaving only about 3/4 of an inch of wick exposed and ready to light.
  8. Allow the wick time to completely saturate with tiki torch fuel before lighting.

DIY Pinwheel Headbands

While watching my friend’s daughters one day, I decided we needed something crafty. It was my attempt to keep them from going stir crazy, in between our daily 30 minute reading time and a trip to the pool, while we waited for the littlest son to wake up from his afternoon nap. I had recently seen this idea, and knew I had most of the supplies on hand, and that it would take up just the amount of time I needed to fill. The actual headbands I found at the craft store in the jewelry making section. These simple headbands were an immediate hit with the girls. Even my boys wanted to get involved in making them and were surprised, and even impressed, at how something so simple could be turned into something so ‘professional’ looking. Next time you’re feeling ‘crafty’, create your own easy and trendy pinwheel headband. They’re so simple, you can even make a spare to share, or several, quickly.

DIY Pinwheel Headbands

4 Sons 'R' Us: DIY Pinwheel Headbands

  • 2 different colors of felt, preferably coordinating and 1 sheet of each
  • 3 buttons
  • headband
  • scissors
  • ruler
  • hot glue gun

Directions

  1. Cut out 2.5 x 2.5-inch squares of felt, 2 squares for each pinwheel.
  2. Starting at each corner, cut a slit toward the center of the square, measuring approximately 1.5-inches long. This should leave at least a half inch of the center of the square uncut.
  3. Now there are 4 “triangles” within each square.
  4. Place two of the coordinating squares together, one a top the other. Secure with a dot of glue in between each.
  5. Begin by folding over one corner of a triangle toward the center of the square. Place a small dot of hot glue in the center of the square to hold down the edge of the triangle. Continue around, gluing down every-other triangle corner to form a pinwheel shape. Continue for the second layer.

  6. Next, glue a button over the center of the pinwheel where all the triangle corners come together. Finally, put a little dab of glue on the headband and place the pinwheels!

Son # 2 ‘pouting’ that he didn’t get a headband too! I couldn’t help but laugh, I love my little comedians.

4 Sons 'R' Us

The 5 Minute, No Sew, Bottom Bunk-Bed Fort

I often hear the saying ‘Boys And Their Toys’, but after having four of my own, I feel like it should really be ‘Boys And Their Forts’. It seems boys, or at least all four of mine, are biologically programmed to build forts. Almost like clock work, their first fort seemed to signify their ‘christening’ into Toddler-dom. After that, the building never stopped. Without fail, anytime I step foot into one of their bedrooms I find sheets strung up, taped up, tacked up. Up! Bins have been used as room dividers, with blankets for doors, and pillows inside serving as child-sized divans for lounging and comfort.

While I love the little kingdoms they create for themselves in their world of blankets and imagination, sometimes we just don’t have time for all the construction, and eventual clean-up, that that kind of creativity requires. When that happens, I go from being the beautiful ‘Mom Princess’, as the littlest son has dubbed me, to the mean old ogre storming the gates. I hate ruining harmless fun. Then I really feel like a giant grouchy, green ogre.

Stumbling upon Laura’s idea for an easy, DIY Bunk Bed Fort was a Godsend. It’s fast, easy, and there’s not a single thing to cut or sew! You can literally throw it up in 5 minutes. There’s not even a mess to clean up afterwards, and it’s always ready and waiting to play. Perfect for any ‘Mom Princess’ or ‘Queen of the Castle’, whether you’re raising young lords or little ladies, who wants to keep letting the good times roll, even when you’re running out of time.

The 5 Minute, No Sew, Bottom Bunk-Bed Fort

4 Sons 'R' Us: The 5 Minute No Sew Bottom Bunk Bed Fort

  • flat sheet, twin sized
  • 12-14 curtain rings with clips
  • tension rod

Directions

  1. Slide your curtain rings onto the tension rod.
  2. Mount the tension rod to the bunk bed.
  3. Fold your twin-sized, flat sheet in half, lengthwise.
  4. Attach the clips on the fold, spacing them as evenly as possible so the whole sheet is evenly held up.
  5. You’re ready for playtime!

Look how it works.  The curtain can be all tucked away when not in use, but just slide it closed for your very own Bottom Bunk-Bed Fort. The sheet easily un-clips for washing, and the tension rod is equally easy to remove whenever desired.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Bottom Bunk Bed Fort

Ranch Chicken Enchilada ‘Lasagna’

There’s just something about ranch dressing and Mexican spices/flavors, that spells perfection in our house. I love an easy alternative to our beloved, more traditional, heavy ‘lasagna’. This recipe offers all the flavors of regular enchiladas, but with less prep work and an easier clean up. It makes a perfect meal for a summer evening when I’d rather spend more time playing with the boys, or enjoying some pool time. It’s summer, so allow this meal to help you kick back and relax while your crockpot and oven do (almost) all of the work for you.

Ranch Chicken Enchilada ‘Lasagna’

4 Sons 'R' Us: Ranch Chicken Enchilada Lasagna

  •  4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 packet ranch dressing mix
  • 4 flour tortillas (burrito size)
  • 1 cup ranch dressing
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • cilantro or parsley to garnish, if desired

Directions

  1. Place chicken in the crockpot and sprinkle seasoning mixes over top. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
  2. Shred chicken with two forks and stir to evenly distribute juices and seasonings.
  3. In the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan, cover the bottom with two tortillas. Spread half of shredded chicken on tortillas, then 1/2 cup ranchdressing drizzled, and top with 1 cup shredded cheese.
  4. Repeat layers once more.
  5. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and lasagna is heated through.
  6. Serve with additional ranch dressing as desired.

5 Minute Ice Cream In A Bag

While Summer doesn’t officially start for a few more days, the summer temps (and humidity) have already invaded central VA. Now that the kids are out of school, they’re ready to spend every waking minute outside in the sun playing, wrestling, fishing, climbing trees, and all the other outdoor activities a boy can think up. On top of making sure they stay hydrated, sometimes they just need a little something extra to take the edge off and help cool down. A quick, easy, sweet, and COLD treat is always a summer-time hit. I love this easy ice cream because it’s so simple they can actually take pride in making their own. The mess is contained and easy to dispose of when they’re done. Science experiment, anyone? This activity is so easy to incorporate, as a little extra sensory play and learning, in your daily routine without the kids actually realizing they’re being ‘schooled’. Everybody wins! This is, without a doubt, one of the kids (and, secretly, mine too) favorite ways to beat the Summer heat.

5 Minute Ice Cream In A Bag

4 Sons 'R' Us: Ice Cream In A Bag

  •  1/2 cup whole milk, half and half, or cream
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 cups of ice
  • sandwich sized ziplock bag
  • quart sized ziplock bag

Directions

  1.  In the sandwich sized ziplocking bag, add milk, sugar, and vanilla. Seal bag tightly.
  2. In the quart sized bag, add the ice and salt.
  3. Place the smaller bag inside the larger bag and seal tightly.
  4. Shake the bag as hard as you can, without popping it open, for 5 minutes or until it reaches the consistency of ice cream.
  5. Remove the smaller bag and give it a quick rinse to remove any pieces of salt. Make sure you rinse the opening as well.
  6. Open the ice cream and eat it straight out of the bag with a spoon.

Korean Beef

I always have ground beef on hand. I get the best bang for my buck on lean ground beef by purchasing it in bulk at Costco. I come home and package it in meal sized portions, and then store it in the freezer. Knowing I’ve always got ground beef on-hand ready to defrost for supper, I’m always on the lookout for something ‘new’ to do with it. When I found this Six Sisters’ recipe and tried it, it was amazing! Simple, easy, and satisfying anytime I’m craving those ‘Asian’ food flavors. Save money, and forgo ordering out. Make your own meal, at home, tonight and still get your fix.

Korean Beef

4 Sons 'R' Us: Korean Beef

  •  1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1/2 -1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 bunch green onions, diced
  • basmati rice, cooked according to package directions

Directions

  1.  Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Brown the ground beef, with the garlic, in the sesame oil.
  2. Drain most of the fat.
  3. Add brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, salt, pepper, and crushed red peppers.
  4. Simmer for a few minutes to blend the flavors.
  5. Serve over cooked rice and garnish with green onions.

‘Break In Case Of Emergency’ Grad. Gift

Another graduate, somewhere, is preparing to walk down the aisle to receive their long sought-after diploma. Friends and family are trying to figure out the best way to recognize their achievement, or a way to put some finishing touches on a celebration or gift in their honor. I remember, after my sister’s graduation, when she was preparing to leave for college, she couldn’t help but be nervous. I mean, college is a big step. Life on your own for the first time since birth. I wanted to give her a little something at her dinner the night before she left for school, and I hate just sticking money inside of a card. This was the resulting ‘brain-child.’ She truly got a tickle out of it, especially after having seen all of the fire extinguishers in the dorm room whose displays had read them same. This is a quick and easy graduate gift, perfect for the high school graduate preparing to head off to college. It’s easy to make ahead, or even throw together last minute if you’re scrambling for some creative way to display a monetary gift. This would also be cute to give to the college graduate preparing for a move into their first home or apartment. Who doesn’t love a gift that gives them a good laugh? Especially when preparing for such a tremendous transition as embarking on the next chapter in life.

‘Break In Case Of Emergency’ Grad. Gift

4 Sons 'R' Us: Graduation Gift

  • A typed up ‘Break In Case Of Emergency’ header, printed on 81/2 x 11 computer paper
  • Either an 8 x 10 or 8 1/2 x 11 picture frame
  • 2 bills in whatever monetary increments you choose

Directions

  1. Tape your two bills, evenly spaced apart, to the ‘Break In Case of’ sheet.
  2. Put the finished paper into the frame, and secure the back of the picture frame into place.
  3. Give to a wonderful graduate with a sense of humor.

A Splash of Pink: Disney Princess Necklaces

Although I haven’t mentioned it before, in order to earn some extra money, usually for crafts, or fun money for the family, I babysit during the day. Even though I love my boys, and wouldn’t trade a single one, I do consider myself extremely blessed that during the week everyday is now filled with a splash of pink. The beautiful baby girl I watch has given me a wonderful opportunity to experiment with all things girly, which up until 9 months ago was foreign territory for me. I can’t believe how much she’s grown in the 10 months I’ve had her in my life. That being said, her 1st birthday is approaching fast, and with a ‘Princess’ theme for THE Birthday Princess, I knew these necklaces would make the perfect party favors for her special day. They couldn’t have been any easier, and I thought the results were just adorable. Each necklace represents a different Disney Princess, and in order they are: Snow White, Rapunzel, Merida, Cinderelle, Tianna, Aurora, and Ariel. I love the simplicity and the how the different colors capture the essence of each character’s unique color-scheme. I opted out of making necklaces representing Mulan, Pocahontas, Jasmine, and Belle, but if those are your favorite Princesses, I have listed below the ideal colors to create necklaces for them.

Disney Princess Necklaces

4 Sons 'R' Us: Disney Princess Necklaces

  • 3/4 inch wooden beads
  • 5/8 inch wide white ribbon
  • wooden skewers
  • paint brush
  • acryllic paints

Directions

  1. Thread wooden beads onto skewer. I found up to four would work and allow enough room for drying without sticking to one another.
  2. Paint beads desired color. It helps if you use only one color on beads on the same skewer. While most colors only require one coat, lighter ones such as yellow and white, may require two coats.
  3. Set skewer on top of a bowl, with beads over the center of the bowl, and allow beads to dry. 
  4. Measure ribbon around neck and add 2 inches to the desired length. Cut. Repeat for the desired number of necklaces.
  5. To prevent fraying, use a match or candle, and very carefully melt each end of the ribbon.
  6. When the beads are dry, thread them onto the ribbon into the order shown above.

Pocahontas: 2 tan, 2 brown, 1 turqoise

Belle: 3 light yellow, 2 dark yellow

Mulan: 2 light blue, 2 dark pink, 1 purple

Jasmine: 3 turquoise, 2 gold

One Pot Spaghetti

Do you ever have those days, or nights, where there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day? Here you were getting off work, helping with homework, tidying the house with hours to spare until dinner when all of a sudden you check the clock and it’s already almost time to sit down at the table? Happens to me all too often. Just for those nights I like to have a list of quick, easy meals that use ingredients I always have on time. Especially on those nights, rushing to get a hearty meal on the table, a meal that makes minimal mess is essential. One Pot Spaghetti, wish it’s special secret ingredient, is at the top of my list. It’s easy to throw together, and has a to die for taste that will impress even the most traditional spaghetti lovers. From the time you begin, you can be seated at the table with your family enjoying an un-rushed conversation over a hearty, hot meal in less than 30 minutes.

One Pot Spaghetti

4 Sons 'R' Us: One Pot Spaghetti

  •  1 lb ground beef (or sausage)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 3 1/4 cup spaghetti sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 oz spaghetti, whole or broken into pieces
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan

Directions

  1. In a Dutch Oven, or a large pot, brown the meat with the onion. Drain.
  2. Add garlic and let cook until fragrant, about one minute.
  3. Add broth, spaghetti sauce, and water. Bring to a boil.
  4. Add spaghetti and reduce heat.
  5. Cook covered 17-20 minutes, or until the noodles are al dente, stirring occasionally. Add more water if needed.
  6. Stir in parmesan cheese.

You will never want to cook spaghetti the old way again. It’s incredibly tasty, and one pot makes clean up a breeze.

4 Sons 'R' Us: One Pot Spaghetti