Dec 29

My Christmas Project

by Hannah Holt »

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This year we did a homemade Christmas. I thought it would simplify  the season and make it more meaningful.

It did make the season more meaningful, but simplify…not so much.

I made a personalized fan art for my nieces and nephews.

The first step was easy. I googled high resolution images of their favorite characters, printed these, and copied the scene using tracing paper and pencil.


After the initial sketch I went over all the lines heavily with a #2 pencil.

Then using a family photo, I traced in an additional character (or in this case a new face):


{Here I taped the tracing paper right to my computer screen using masking tape. This made it easy to zoom in and out until the picture was the right size for the picture.}

Once I had all the lines the way I wanted them. I took my tracing and transferred it to 140lb watercolor paper by placing the drawing face down and rubbing the back with pencil.


This makes a light mirror image copy on the new paper:


From there on out it just became a a process of coloring in the lines with watercolors:


Peter pan fan art

So it wasn’t overly difficult, but it was time consuming, especially considering I made five of these this month. But it was fun and it felt good when they finally all went out in the mail.

Happy holidays all!





Dec 19

Star Wars Birthday Party

by Hannah Holt »

one comment

My big-little-man turned eight this month. His current passion is Star Wars, and that’s convenient for me because Star Wars is everywhere.

I picked up this banner from my local party supply store for about $3, and we played pin the lightsaber on Darth Vadar:


We pinned lightsabers by printing off paper lightsabers from this post.

At first the kids were, like…

Kids: Hey, Darth Vadar already has a lightsaber!

Me: If you win, you get silly putty.

Kids: Ooooh, can I go first? No me! No me!

Cheap motivational prizes solve pretty much all potential birthday party problems.

I also made a Death Star Piñata:

death star pinjata

Really, who doesn’t want to take a whack at the Death Star?

The nice thing about the Death Star is it’s round.


Don’t tell Darth Vadar we built this Death Star around a pink balloon. The piñata paste was made by combining all-purpose flour and water at a 1:1 ratio (one cup water, one cup flour). I dipped newspaper strips in the paste and covered the balloon until I felt like it was strong enough to withstand a rebel attack.


I let it dry for a few days and the cut a hole for the prizes. Then I taped up the hole really well and painted over the entire thing with black and gray acrylic paint (see above).

For the pièce de résistance, I made a Millennium Falcon cake:

melennium falcon cake

I baked two cake rounds, chopped one of the circles up, gave the entire cake a drizzle glaze (regular frosting with extra milk added) of white over they entire cake, and marked it up with gray and black cake decorating gel (click to see a larger step-by-step photo process. I usually frost my cakes with wax paper liners underneath. Then I can remove the wax paper and any frosting drips.

millenium falcon cake inst

Dec 10

Book Review – If You Want to See a Whale

by Hannah Holt »

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Have you ever wanted a Big Improbable Thing? You know, one of those things you can’t control. And yet, you prepare and plan for it anyway. Because should Big Improbable Thing ever happen, you want to be ready.

Char and Elenasmall

{My Improbable Things: Twin A and B.}

That is the heart behind Julie Fogliano’s picture book, If You Want to See a Whale.


In this story, a little boy really, really wants to see a whale. Erin E. Stead’s gorgeous illustrations complement Julie Fogliano’s subtle and enticing text.

This book has an ending that will surprise and delight children. As an adult, I like it because it reminds me that journeys can be just as beautiful as destinations…


…and Big Improbable Things are still possible.

if you want to see a whale2

Dec 04

Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House (in Gingerbread)

by Hannah Holt »


If you could make any building from children’s literature out of gingerbread, what would it be?

I would love to make The Plaza Hotel from Elouise or Harry Potter’s Hogwarts. I used to make gingerbread castles, creating full scale models from cardboard and etc (hey, I was a civil engineering major).

But these days, with the kids, my gingerbread creations are more modest. This year I made Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House.

The Little House in Gingerbread

I used the recipe and gingerbread template from Bon Appétit. This recipe is super-delicious, and it makes enough dough for six small gingerbread houses (like the above) or if you are feeling more ambitious…perhaps, the castle from Journey:

What would you build?

Nov 14

Job Jar for Tots

by Hannah Holt »


My children went through a phase a while ago where all their speaking vowels became extra extended. It sounded something like this: “I waaaant peanut butter. I doooon’t like tuuuuna.”

And this, “I waaant to plaaaaay. Plaaaay with meeee nooooow.”

It was driving me crazy, so I created a job jar for whining.  Every time a child came to me with “the voice,” I sent them to pulled a popsicle stick from the jar. The sticks had a variety of tasks written on them. They included things like:

  • give someone a hug
  • pick up three toys and put them away
  • draw a picture for Grandma
  • find two pieces of paper on the ground to recycle
  • pick a toy to share with your brother

The tasks were all simple things that 1) required almost no supervision on my part and 2) redirected their behavior. After a child understood their job, I had them put the stick back in the jar to use again later.

I’m not sure whether or not the job jar made this phase shorter, but it made it easier for me to pass through it. And that is a small victory in itself.

Me = 1, Whining = 0