Chase Fireflies


Re-purposed: DIY Autumn Wreath with Felt Flowers

Up till yesterday, there was a life saving device hanging up in our hallway.  It had the word “Welcome” on it, which was odd on a buoy ring.   Equally bizarre was that it was a decoration in our well inland home. 

Alas, it was time for the misplaced welcome buoy to come down.  I thought I might re-purpose it into an autumn wreath and I really love the outcome.  It cost $3 change, which I like even better.  The supplies were purchased at Michael’s with online coupons and a 15% off teacher discount. 

I wrapped the buoy tightly with an understated color of yarn and hot glued it in place.  For the flowers, I used a quarter of a package of Feltworks multi-color Roving Rolls.  The rolls were unwrapped, cut in half lengthwise, rolled into flowers, and hot glued also.  I really like the re-purpose!

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A Sweet Autumn Acorn Snack: Kids in the Kitchen

So it’s kind of weird to make edible accorns, I suppose.  Being that we’re not squirrels and all.  But these little nuggets are adorable, delicious, super easy, and the kids made them from beginning to end all by themselves. 

Adden is learning about the long A sound in phonics.  A is for aaaaaaacorn.  He got a big kick out of eating the first letter of the alphabet, so I justified a little donut for the sake of literacy. 

These would make a great fall snack for kids.  To make them healthier, cinnamon bagel holes could be substituted with Nutella or plain bagel holes with peanut butter.

But honestly, we liked them just the way they were:

Make Your Own Acorns:

1.  Melt chocolate chips in a double broiler. 
2.  Dip munchkins in the melted chocolate.
3.  Cover the chocolate with sprinkles.
4.  Add a pretzel stick to the top.

For other A foods to eat, try:  apples, alphabet soup, ants on a log, apricots, animal cookies, angel food cake, applesauce, etc. 

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A Little Girl’s Tangled (Rapunzel) Birthday Party

Here is what six looks like.  With friends, dresses, ruffles, braids, bows, and Rapunzel everything.   

Here is what the easiest cake ever looks like.  Donuts tossed on a dowel rod cut to size.  The rod is positioned in playdough in two bundt pans.  A little random frosting drizzle and a top made of two cupcakes and an upside down ice cream cone finished it all off.  Cupcakes were made for the guests and decorated with silk flowers. 

 Rapunzel’s Donut Tower

Here is “Pin the Pan on Flynn Rider,” a game idea  found here

Pin the Pan on Flynn Rider

Here is the free homemade piniata, constructed with an oatmeal container, a cardboard piece shaped to size like a cone,  some paint, tissue paper, and a glue gun.  If you make this, just make sure you secure the candy in there well.  Ours sort of fell out before the first hit, which was pretty funny. 

Once the candy was stuffed back and taped in though, everyone seemed to have a good time with the batting practice and no children or piniata holders on chairs were maimed in the process.

Rapunzel’s Castle Piniata

Here are the Pascal Party Blowers that we completely forgot to distribute.  (That’s a me thing to do.)  The kids helped me make them and I do believe this was their favorite prep for the party.  The template can be found on Disney’s website here

Party Blowers

Here are the party favors.  Since Rapunzel  Selah paints in all of her free time, we thought it was a perfect thank you for coming to the party.  The template is one already created, found here. 

Party Favors:  Watercolor Paints

Here are the thank you cards.  We made them from an inexpensive pack of blank cards, but cardstock would work just as well.  With some leftover yarn, Selah worked on the braids and I attached them with glue dots. 

Rapunzel’s Braid Thank You Cards

And here, on this keyboard, is a tired momma still smiling because the little girl (and her little brother) LOVED the party so much that they are still talking about it.  That makes it all worthwhile!


RADical Days in Pittsburgh

I love fall for oranges, yellows, and reds; for plaid flannels and boots at the farm; for honey crisp apples and pumpkin everything.  I love fall for the brisk air and the way our kids run around with it in their lungs. 

Autumn in Pittsburgh is incredible for many reasons.  One of my favorites is all that it offers for families.  RADical Days are free days at area museums, art centers, parks, and performance halls, extending from September 24th thru October 16th.   

It is by far the best time of year!  Last year the kids and I trapsed all around the city.  We visited PNC Park and Heinz Field, breathed in beauty at Phipps Conservatory, toured museums, and took in breathtaking art and music performances.  There is nothing better than hands on education.  And for it to be free makes me smile. 

Here is a compilation of some of my favorite places for kids (and a couple I just want to explore for myself!) 

Sunday, September 25

Free Admission 10am-5pm
One Allegheny Avenue (North Shore)
Carnegie Science Center offers hands-on exhibits to delight and to inspire all ages. Interact with robots, explore the stars in our planetarium, visit sea creatures, shoot a foam rocket, practice the skills a surgeon uses, climb a wall in Highmark SportsWorks®, even tour a real submarine.  Special Performance:
Prime Stage Theatre and the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra will present short staged readings from their new stage adaptation of the award-winning fantasy novel, A Wrinkle in Time. Shows at 1PM and 3PM.

Monday, September 26

Free Admission 9:30am-5pm
One Schenley Park Dr. (Oakland)
Step into the whimsical and sustainable world of Summer Flower Show: Living Harmoniously with Nature and you will find many surprises among the blooms, from playful animal topiaries to unique recycled art. Come and let us capture your imagination like never before. Performances by
Tuesday Musical Club (Noon) and the River City Brass (1P).

Free Admission 9am-3pm
1531 Mayview Road (Upper St. Clair Twp)
Explore Boyce Mayview Park with The Outdoor Classroom naturalist staff. Enjoy a birding stroll. Look for salamanders along Chartiers Creek. Bring a picnic or relax in our peaceful atmosphere as families explore Hawk Meadow during a nature scavenger hunt. Scheduled family-friendly activities from 9AM-3PM.

Free Admission 10am-5pm
1212 Smallman Street (Strip District)
From the French & Indian War to the Super Bowl-winning Steelers, discover 250 years of Pittsburgh history at the Senator John Heinz History Center. An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the History Center is the largest history museum in Pennsylvania and includes the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum. Performances by
South Hills Chorale (noon), Children’s Festival Chorus (1P), Calliope Folk Music Society singers and musicians (2P) and Chatham Baroque (3P).

Free Admission Noon-4pm
South Park Fair Grounds (South Park)
Kids of all ages can enjoy fun fall activities like hay rides, pony rides, petting zoo, face-painting, bounce houses, strolling artists, arts & crafts, food and beverages for sale and more!

Sunday, October 2

Free Admission 10am-5pm
101 Commonwealth Place in Point State Park (Downtown)
Through interactive exhibitions, life-like historical figures and recently added artifact, the Fort Pitt Museum brings to life the story of Western Pennsylvania’s pivotal role during the French & Indian War, the American Revolution and the birthplace of Pittsburgh. Visit the newest exhibit, The American Frontier Rifleman: Tall Tales & Truth.

Free Admission 11am-1pm
Pittsburgh Center for the Arts School, 1047 Shady Avenue
Free mixed media workshops for kids ages 5-13 based on work in the 2011 Pittsburgh Biennial. PCA will be offering workshops for children as well as workshops for parents and children to work together.

Free Admission Noon-5pm
4400 Forbes Ave. (Oakland)
Visit one of the world’s best natural history museums, and the art museum where the local and the global meet, in one dynamic destination! Enjoy hands-on activities for kids and grown-ups, and see some of the most exciting collections of art and science anywhere on Earth.

Free Admission Noon-5pm
10 Children’s Way (North Shore)
Take off on fantastic flights of imagination and return to earth to build and launch a boat down a 53-foot waterway, ink your own silkscreen, catch words that fall from the sky, visit King Friday’s Palace & much more. In 2011 the Museum was named one of the nation’s ten top children’s museums by Parents Magazine. Expected performers are the Otets Paissi, the dance ensemble of the Bulgarian Cultural Center, and the Aeolian Winds, featuring musicians from the Edgewood Symphony and the Pittsburgh Philharmonic.

Free Admission 1-5pm
500 Sampsonia Way (North Side)
The Mattress Factory is a museum of contemporary art that presents art you can get into — room-sized environments, created by in-residence artists. Located on Pittsburgh’s North Side since 1977, the Mattress Factory is one of few museums of its kind anywhere.

Tuesday, October 4

Free Admission 10am-3pm (tours only)
115 Federal Street (North Shore)
Take a behind-the-scenes tour of The Best Ballpark in America. Places you may visit are the batting cages, press box, seating area, and Highmark Legacy Square. Tours take place on the hour from 10am to 3pm with the last tour starting at 2pm; 60 guest maximum, on a first-come, first-served basis. Please enter at the Left Field Gate on Federal Street, by the Willie Stargell Statue. All areas, date and times are subject to change without notice.

Sunday, October 9

Free Admission 9am-5pm (gates close at 4pm)
One Wild Place (Highland Park)
Come see some of the most amazing animals from around the world, including tigers, elephants, polar bears, gorillas giraffes, sand tiger sharks, and much more. Performances by Pittsburgh CLO Mini-Stars (11AM), Gateway to the Arts roster artists Joe Wos (noon) and Betsy Lawrence (12:30P) and Jazz Workshop (1P).  Sponsored by PPG Industries.

The Pittsburgh CLO Mini-Stars have built a reputation as Pittsburgh’s leading young performance company.  This talented group of 16 young professional artists, ranging in age from 12-16. provide spectacular live musical theater entertainment.
Gateway to the Arts presents two special family performances, taking their acts out of the schools and into the Zoo.  Once Upon a Toon with Joe Wos combines the performing, literary and visual arts in a unique performance for all ages.  This interactive adventure features original stories by Joe Wos will will delight families with his heartwarming and hilarious rendition of folk takes and fairy tales —with a twist!   In Women in Song, sing along with vocalist and guitarist Betsy Lawrence and pianist John Burgh as they trace the roles of women in music over the past 70 years through popular American songs.  Jazz Workshop, Inc. provides musical instruction and presents performances of America’s classical music: jazz. 

Tuesday, October 11

900 Art Rooney Ave. (North Shore)
Free Admission 10am-3pm (tours only)
Home of the AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, the Pitt Panthers and host of special events and concerts. Tours on the hour; last tour starts at 3PM. Limit 50 guests per hour. First come, first served. Enter under the Coca Cola Great Hall sign along Art Rooney Ave.

Find the complete listing of RADical days and events  here.

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do not be overcome (september 11)

We had just been married a month when the planes struck the towers. 

I was teaching first grade when the secretary walked in and whispered in my ear.  It didn’t seem real until the images burned through my disbelief; soon after school let out that day. 

There in our nearly one room apartment, I did not want to ever leave.  Having travelled the world, I wanted to now stay huddled on brown shag carpeting.  I made coffee and drank it slowly; Paul at my side. 

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

While the news reports were still pouring in weeks later, Paul wanted to go to the city.  He wanted to help somehow.  I didn’t.  The distance was all well and good, as far as I was concerned. 

Convinced that we were going to be hit with a second wave of attacks, I went with him anyway.   I think we took his brother with us the first time and our second trip in we took high school and college students.  I still remember that default mechanism of fear.  It was so pervasive it was all I could think about.

Having not cared an ounce about dying, all of a sudden I cared an awful lot. 

Nothing we did there those days came anywhere close to the bravery and sacrifice exhibited by responders following the attacks.  Theirs was the bravery.  Ours was the ordinary.  To put our presence and their heroics in the same sentence is even absurd.  God knows my heart; I didn’t even want to be there either time.  I am ashamed to say that I didn’t want to be there.

That being said, it was where I had to be to confront my own fears.  It was where Paul lead us to begin our new marriage and our faith on streets still filled with dust and wreckage and people scurrying to work anyway. 

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

Tonight, I am hanging up our five year old’s dress and she tells me that there were planes that once came and crashed into buildings because of people who wanted to make us afraid.  And then she asks me if I am afraid.   

And though I find myself sucked back into fear like a vacuum and though I am so easily overwhelmed by everything in this life and though I want to protect our kids with everything in me, my words will always begin and end with my actions. 

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

(Thanks for your consistent example to me, Paul.  I love you ten years out.  And counting.)


Where Butterflies Find their Wings: Art for a Girl’s Room

Selah makes her home in a tiny pink fanciful room.  It’s where fairies fly and imagination soars.  Where pretend stories are told and tea parties are had and butterflies find their wings.  This piece of art fits perfectly there. 

I started by scavenging around my in-laws beautiful home looking for a good frame.  This one was hidden up near their attic.  Can you see Paul’s profile shot?  It looks just like Adden now.  Those boys have good heads of hair, I tell you. 

I then proceeded to take out the cute kid and spraypaint the entire frame white.  Selah and I punched out a million little butterflies out of old scrapbook paper, glue dotted them to a matte board, and then opened their wings.   

The hardest part was cutting out a picture frame mat because it was an off size.  Besides that, I loved the final product.  It was simple, inexpensive, and it was something that we could do together.  I initially found the idea here.


Back to School Cupcakes: Kids in the Kitchen

Can you tell that I’m trying to get the kids excited about school?  Or maybe I just wanted an excuse to eat cupcakes?  Or maybe we were looking for a way to finally welcome our new school age neighbors?  Whatever the reason, these Back to School cupcakes were a huge hit with everyone!

I’ve been attempting to have the kids help me in the kitchen more and more lately.  Selah is learning some practical skills.  Adden is learning to get everything everywhere.  They made these little guys with direction and I did the gel decorating work. 

For ease, we used a box mix and canned frosting.   For decorating, I used black decorator gel  to put the kids’ grade levels on the fig newton books.   However, Adden insisted that his “P” was not for Preschool, but for the Pirates.  I tried.

Also, the small rectangular thing is supposed to resemble a calculator, but it looks more like a domino.  We used Pez candies to make it, with icing dots.  While the girls were decorating, we were not paying attention to the little Pirate, who happened to be quietly consuming an entire package of Pez refills (upwards of fifty candies).  Adden scores every time with my negative observational skills.

Anyway, we found the idea on Family Fun and adapted it.  Here are the ingredients we used:  cake mix, white frosting, cupcake liners (optional), black gel, Fig Newtons, Pez candy, Red runts apples (for pennies, we got a dozen apples from the grocery store bulk candy isle), and a green Fruit Roll Up.