Make a DIY Magic Wand

How to make a DIY magic wand? Yeah, sure.

What adults learn from children–if they pay attention–is that the world is a magical place. That there might be monsters under the bed, or a beanstalk that grows high into the clouds. Or, if I make the environment friendly to them, laundry gnomes.

Please, please let laundry gnomes be real!

Zach has been reading since November and his skill with it still makes my brain hurt. Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, it squeezes my heart in a vice and makes me all teary.

So when we started reading Harry Potter together (not that he couldn’t read it by himself– he just won’t) I began to consider all of the wonderful things I could do with my own magic wand.

Laundery gnomes

Then I saw some old chopsticks and got to thinking… which is how I ended up making the easiest DIY magic wands in the history of craft making.

Supply List for the Easiest Magic Wand:

      Hot glue gun

 

      Chopsticks

 

      A few beads (I used pieces from a broken mardi gras necklace)

 

    Paint

Apply hot glue to the chopstick. Twist and twirl it– uniform perfection is NOT the goal here. Let the glue harden up just a little bit.

Add a few beads. Just a few— I did a version with more beads and it looked like a bedazzled corndog.

It was at this point that I went and looked an actual image of Harry Potter’s wand. Ahem. I mixed brown and a little black to make it streaky.

Ta-da! A epoximise spell!

This Old House

This old house has seen a bunch of upgrades–some easy, some not. A corner here, a room there. Slowly it inched forward from 1969.

The poor kitchen started off with a look that only a DIYer could appreciate. We got new cabinets, and I was happy for awhile. But then I decided that the new cabinets were boring and needed to some spice.

Ah, turning the old-new into the new-new.

Insert insane cackle, since that project isn’t ahem done. Though all I have left (other than decorative touches) are the faux built-in from target bookshelves and leftover scraps hack. I plan for it to look something like:

Photo Credit: BHG

My brilliant idea for an inexpensive stainless steel backsplash is still my favorite all my DIY projects.

And I did manage to get the other set of shelves hung in the coat closet last weekend. But then I had to shove all of the misplaced stuff back in there (we needed to eat dinner). I refuse to let JB hang the door back up, because out-of-sight…

So instead I’m embracing my eclectic decorating style and making a pop-art statement about the Overload of Stuff in America–

Wait. That’s IT. I’ll just label my clutter as being an ode to Warhol and suddenly it’s a statement.

And why this montage of projects of Months Past? Because I was down in the basement– doing, yeah, laundry…

…when I started fantasizing about my perfect life. One where my hair stayed stick straight despite the humidity and I had an extra 1200 square feet of space.

Wait– I do have an extra 1200 square feet of space, but it’s not pleasant– and sometimes the dark corners are kinda scary.

If only the basement were done, everything else would be perfect. Cue my Rainbow farting unicorn, please.

Hey– who needs some baby stuff? Cloth diapers? Anyone? Bueller?

Can you see it with me?

Buh-bye to clown-vomit epoxy floor,
and also to the 1970s vintage accordion door.

No to wainscoting in shades of dark brown,
Acoustic ceiling tile? You’re first to go down.

Hello to a softly carpeted place;
to new walls creating happy-family space.

Oh– and bad poetry aside– I’m totally building this system for storage.

Trying… but Just. Can’t. Stop. Myself.

Photo credit: Family Handyman

To eliminate all of the closet over-pourage.

But before I can even think about the satisfaction of ripping out every spec of acoustic ceiling tile, I first have to finish the built-ins. And the closet. But you can watch me drool over ideas on pinterest.

Perhaps I should have FINISH IT tattooed on my forehead?

Mortal Kombat for ADHDers

Easy Magnet Lesson for Preschoolers

Do you need an easy magnet lesson for preschoolers (or older)? A few months ago my mother gave the Small People a book about magnets. This morning E found it buried under some other books and requested that we go magnet fishing. Like in the book.

Well, I do love the science-y stuff, and the entire lesson plan is laid out in the book.

Stay tuned for my explanation for how to hand-carve your very own bamboo magnet fishing pole. And also how to use your regionally available fish to handcraft the fish magnets. Please don’t forget to place them all in your hand-thrown, kiln fired porcelain pond.

Or not.

Because I’m making fun of myself too, when I start thinking craziness like that. Did the above-mentioned occur to me? Yeah, for at least 6 seconds. Then I recognized how insanely stupid and time-wasteful that was for my purposes.

In this case, I needed to Just Say No to Pinterest and yes to projects that Small People could theoretically replicate without me.

Every item needed for this project could be found in my catch-all bowl bucket to my microwave. So I’m even giving myself bonus points for cleaning some crap off the counter.

I’m turning over a new leaf when it comes to this stuff. Because you know what meant more to my kids than a hand-carved magnet fishing pole?

1) Going from request to completion in less than 5 minutes. Because that never happens here.

2) Not fake smiling as I photograph their every magnet fishing moment.

3) Playing with magnets and catching fish with every cast. Trying to beat each other for catching and carrying the most objects.

Make a DIY Upcycled Repurposed Deck Planter Box

Between our fence and the house, where a sad, sagging thing called gate once lived, we now have a giant deck box planter. A rocking, upcycled, no-cost deck box planter. Of course there are flowers in it now!

Ghetto gate was removed when the boys decided on Birthday Extravaganza 2011 being a home party. I then spent the next 6 months screeching “hurry up” as Old Dog #1 looked oh-so-carefully for her special pee-pee place.

The solutions I had come up with were laughably painful. Brick and mortars walls, for example. But there is concrete under there, and I don’t want any part of a jackhammer.

Then pinterest delivered unto me a living hedge.

I’m not going to lie, I adore the stainless steel trough look. As it turns out, they are pretty damn expensive. I tried to convince JB that we could fashion something similar from flashing, or stainless steel sheeting like the kitchen backsplash, but he wasn’t buying it.

Then there was the issue of Small People and scorching hot metal all summer long.

Soooo… since I had already built a wood deck box, back in the old days–Wave hello at gestating Zach!–JB and I decided that we could use the deconstructed gate and panel to make a new box.

Almost all furniture building, starts with a basic shape (in this case a rectangle).

First you need a base.

Then you need uprights and a helper.

And some sides.

And a superhero.

Having an identity crisis.

Leftover stain. I used 3 different kinds and mixed ’em.

But I don’t own staining gloves. What’s up with that? Ah, but I do have plastic bags.

Now I didn’t want to fill this bad boy up with dirt, because that would make it weigh more than a show pony. I also didn’t want to spend the money on containers… but I did have a perfectly sized trashcan.

That said, I didn’t want to fill the trash can up with dirt, either. Oh…gallon milk jugs that JB wanted to recycle.

And the newspaper I’ve been saving.

My mixture.

You’d never know what’s down below!

Now it’s all filled in so you can’t see the containers unless you are right on top of it. Which I can (and will) fix with landscape fabric. Eventually.

A few of the other plants.

I’m going to miss tiki man so much when he finally breaks. But 8 years off of a $5 Big Lots purchase makes me smile.

DIY with your kids: Mudpie Kitchen

Yet another brilliant idea from pinterest. Mud pie kitchen? Yes, please.

Why, mud pie?

1) I’m developing a moderate hatred of sand boxes. Sand on its own irritates enough; sand on a Small Person morphs to something parasitic. Hitching a ride in underwear, hair, socks, shorts pockets (grrr!) until it finds my bed sheets. Then–and only then– sand detaches from the Small Person. I’m like the Princess and the Pea with that stuff.

2) Using only upcycled/repurposed wood, the original project plan cost $5 (sink and cooking supplies from the dollar store). The final version included a $10 splurge for new lumber (1 x 2 Pressure-Treated Pine Strips). Pulling splinters out of the hands of Small People has to qualify as a circle of hell.

3) The purpose of the project made it really easy for to say “yes” when the Small People asked “can we help”.

Here’s how:

Step One (not pictured):
Determine your dimensions, make measurements, and gather supplies.

My table is 48 inches long, 22 inches tall, with a depth of 23 inches. Yes, it’s an odd height/depth– using scraps of wood for a project often requires flexibility.

Step Two: Assemble the frame for the counter
Two kids equals a need for two sinks, so the counter is a rectangle. I used standard 1x2s, repurposed from the now-dismantled fence gate.

Question: You have 2 Small People to drill eight holes, in 4 pieces of wood. If both Small People start getting grabby at their second turn, how long before one Mom gets the fake smile face?

Answer: Quicker than it should.

Patience practice– not just for kids.

Elliot drills his first hole; I’m reminded to use more oomph on chuck-tightening.

Step Three: Add reinforcements at the corners

When involving furniture with children, one should always add reinforcements at the joints.

When involving furniture building with children, one should anticipate it taking about the same amount of time as it took the tree to grow.

I mostly managed to remain cheerful. Watching E manhandle a drill that packs almost as many pounds as he does was sorta awesome. Some additional time spent debating with JB about the intelligence of letting Z use the miter saw.

Check it out– hearing protection, eye protection, my hand on the wood (keeping his hand out of blade range) while he pushes the button? I feel like the only one at real risk is, well, me.

When involving children with furniture building, one should be expectant and tolerant of imperfections. Secretly fix the tetanus risk later, while they dream the sweet dream of real power tools.

Step Four: Measure and cut the slats for the countertop
Like I mentioned, my original plan was to use fence paneling, but I just wasn’t happy with the look and feel of them during the dry fit.

So I sent JB to the hardware store to grab some more 1x2s, and used those instead.

I added a top frame of 1x2s to the base, for stability, and a place to screw the the cross slats (from the bottom). I screwed them in with the “sinks” in place to make sure that each one was snug, but still removable.

I have this thought to eventually replace the plastic bins with real sinks. Which makes me kick myself for not keeping the sinks from the bathroom remodels.

Step Five: Attach the legs

Four pieces of wood, wood glue, and some screws. I totally confess to using netflix and Spiderman as a bargaining tool for doing this part solo. Next time I run across some old wheels/castors, I’ll add those as well.

At 22 inches, I love the height for Elliot (~38 inches). If it were just Zach, I would have gone taller.

The minute the I put the drill down– literally, see the glue still dripping– I had two Small People ready to test the mud pie kitchen for the first time.

Step Six: Stain the Wood

Despite using pressure treated wood, I added stain. One, because of the table’s purpose– mud and water, and two because the stain was sitting right in front of my face from the upcycled deck planter box I’ll show you tomorrow.

Yeah, we dig it, Mom.

Vermicomposting with Kids

I won’t say it’s a boy thing– since it isn’t. But the Small People do love insects, arachnids (spiders), and annelids (worms). Vermicomposting with kids combines all of that with dirt.

Now, because they are tech-age kids, they will dig for a few minutes, give up, then move over to stand 8.5 inches away from my leg, waiting for whatever worms I find. It makes my chest hurt that they don’t have enough patience to dig for their own worms.

Which begins the choruses of “Can I help with that?” Or, and this was my favorite since it happened right when the Jehovah’s Witnesses should have (they skipped us) walked up the driveway, the gnashing of teeth and eardrum splitting screams of: “YOU JUST TOOK MY WORM. I DON’T WANT YOU TO DO THAT.” For 38 minutes, the Smallest of the Small People loudly defended his worm against what he purported was illegal worm deportation.

A few days later, they found a DIY worm bin in one of my gardening books, beginning Vermicomposting Campaign 2012.

“Mom, can we have worm pets?”

Which, my friends, was a marked improvement last month’s campaign:
“but why can’t the termite friends live in our bedroom? We promise to keep them in the bucket!”

I will warn you, our finished project lacks a certain…polished professionalism. Which should tell you that it was indeed made almost entirely by a 5 and 3 year old. Who think it’s the best worm bin, ever.

We started the vermicomposting process a website and some youtube videos. Next, I used Z’s interest in the project to have him practice copying words/letters. The squiggly letters are in worm-font. Duh.

Then I tried to find non-internet-shipped red wigglers. Apparently you can’t just dig worms out of your backyard– who knew?

First stop, Walmart- I know, I know— but it’s less than a mile away!. Walmart locks up their bait worms, by the way. Requiring a walmart manager (as elusive as photographic evidence of Big Foot) make a worm purchase. Which didn’t much matter, since Walmart only carries a warehouse worm not good for bin composting.

Back in the car, across town to the bait store we go. Success! Return trip home, where I work on convincing the children that we will need to use a dark bin, and they suggest we use a clear bin, paint it black, but leave a window– so the worms can “see us”.

Lots of tongue-biting and cheek-chewing, after all, it’s their worm bin, right? But, it was hard. So very, very hard.

Then Zach piped up with, “look, Mom. There’s black paint right here.” I still had the black paint sitting in the kitchen. Next to the white paint from the cabinets and the eventually to be up-cycled built in shelves.

Drill air holes. Actually, let your children drill the air holes. The smallest of the Small People will first insist on appropriate hearing protection. While reading a coloring book about birds. Get it? Worms/ Birds.

Gather paint and brushes. And more damp paper towels than you will think necessary. Have mild freak out moments because you are letting 2 children paint with non-washable paint– INSIDE. Why inside? Because it’s raining pollen right now. Yellow pollen + black paint + Allergic Small People = no good.

Give them a lot of paper to shred for the worm beds. Show Small People how to make strips. Walk away to check facebook fold laundry . Come back in 20 10 minutes to exactly one sheet of newspaper ripped in half.

Heave a large sigh, and begin to deliver a lecture about the importance of caring for pets. Realize pretty quickly how stupid you sound (and that they aren’t listening) and start ripping paper with them.

Instruct Small People to wet the bedding until it’s damp, like a sponge. Remember too late that damp to Small People is synonymous with dripping wet to everyone else.

Tell Small People that if they can get ready for bed without crying, screaming or yelling (mine, not theirs) that we can add the worms into the hottest new city view worm bin in the South.

Watch a squiggling wet mass of–thankfully–alive worms. Explain to the worms how they were on their way to being bait, but instead now get to live in a giant plastic bucket of newspaper and veggie scraps.

Currently, the bin lives outside as I work on the correct green/brown ratio. I have already explained to my husband that he couldn’t just put a whole apple in there– worms have small mouths, after all.

I assume the worms like it better outside, since they have stopped trying to escape. One, which I’ve named Bent Tail, seems to the be the leader of the worm revolt. Me? I’m looking at a long driveway, lots of birds, and several exuberant boys thinking, “stupid worm, you’ll never have it as good out there as you do right here.”

Pinterest Perfection and Flower Shaped Soap

Shoving pinterest perfection up your flower shaped soap

Okay, so the newest viral facebook thing is a post (both well-written and topical) about the dark lure of perfection, as represented on pinterest.

As a woman who regularly tries–and fails–at some brilliant thing I’ve found on the internet, I get–and sort of agree– with the point she is making. No one should look at another person’s life– as they are representing it on the internet– and assume complete objectivity. Very few people showcase their failures, or the piles of dirty underwear– perhaps that should be the next blog movement? A new link up party for Show me Your Piles of Dirty Underwear Sundays?

Except– and we all know this would happen– people would start staging the underwear piles; adding creative lighting and photoshop actions. Posing their dirty undies in creative and witty ways. Next thing you know, instead claiming ownership and pride for the piles of dirty underwear (after all– piles of dirty underwear are the marker of an involved mom!) we’re competing and judging the ones that got a wee bit carried away by the dirty underwear display challenge.

At the end of the day, it’s all flower shaped soap, people. (BTW– that transition won’t make the least bit of sense if you haven’t read the original piece.)

Isn’t it ridiculous how often we– moms, women– allow ourselves to feel inadequate by other women? Good gravy, I bet some of y’all can cook, right? I hate to cook– and my disdain shows with almost every meal I forcefully slam on the table. I don’t feel down on myself when my friends cook delicious feasts– I do the dishes so they’ll invite me over again.

No mom should feel pressured to make flower shaped soap (or, in my case– mud pie kitchens). No mom should feel pressured to spend $100 on scholastic book orders, or to volunteer more of her time because she is, you know– a SAHM. Or to dress stylishly for carpool, or to always have a guest-ready house, or to always have clean, well-mannered children.

Now, there will always be bitchy women who want you to feel inferior for your store-bought play-doh. To them you should just smile, while delivering a mental double middle finger. These women just suck. They sucked in high school when they tittered about your clothes and motherhood didn’t make them suck less. They will find fault with whatever you craft/cook/wear because they have identified you as someone who cares about their opinions.

Screw ’em. They have vapid, empty lives. It confuses them when you stop caring. It’s so MUCH fun to confuse them.

However. In my– and the rest of my fellow flower-shaped-soap (mud pie kitchen) making moms— defense, it’s unfair to lump all of us into the “that mom” category. Perhaps my need to attempt ridiculous things like mud pie kitchens is selfishly driven.

Perhaps– and this is truth– I choose these projects because I need to have tangible accomplishments. Moments in my life beyond housework, playdates, tantrums, and the sound of Mooommm….come wipe my butt occurring at the same moment a forkful of warm food approaches my mouth.

So, for the moms that don’t want to make flower shaped soap, for the love of Cool Ranch Doritos–DON’T.

There are so many other reasons to feel inadequate. Here are a few I thought of:

        Punctual moms.
        Moms who don’t yell in public (I KNOW y’all are doing it at home! Dammit!).
        Working Moms who serve The Man (Woman) all day, and then serve The Family.
        Moms of special needs, or critically ill children. Just… yeah.
          Single Moms that manage not to spend the evening locked in a closet singing

“WARM KITTY, SOFT KITTY”.

    Shrug.  The rest of it is just noise.

DIY Master Bathroom upgrade

We finished this particular DIY bathroom upgrade project a year ago, but I never got around to scratching out the details. And since I have lost my motivation to finish the kitchen remodel, I needed a boost. Especially now that Zach is wandering around and asking when we can throw a big party thus providing me with a deadline.

So, here’s how we spent about $1500 dollars on a bathroom upgrade that has an estimated value return of at least $10,000.

In the beginning, there was a HALF bathroom and it was f-ugly. A woman was forced to share a shower with three males, and many toilet aiming fails.

A wall full of sink and counter, but no shower in sight. Surely you see how this situation just isn’t right?

A grizzled old toilet that gushed away 9 gallons of water per flush. Then a beauty with buttons swept in with a demure hush: 0.4 gallons for #1, and 1.4 for #2– a hippie heart filled with joy– what about you?

Alright, enough rhyming. Thank me now.

The only perk of the old bathroom was that the giant mirror let me photograph the whole thing. See that peculiar corner cabinet, because the giant counter was somehow lacking in storage? Now there lives a lovely little sink.


How’d we do that?

Step 1:
Decide one afternoon to start peeling wallpaper, in order to encourage husband’s enthusiasm for the project. By the way, I’m a fan of asking for forgiveness over permission– that doesn’t mean it always works in my favor.

Encourage your then 4-year-old to peel wallpaper when he’s pissed off about something. Which will work until he realizes that he’s working.

Step 2:
Fight with wallpaper for several weeks (I have a focus problem, remember?)

My removal method included scoring holes in the paper, wetting down small sections of wall with fabric softener, and carefully scraping away at the loosening paper. For about an hour.

Eventually impatience and cussing smacked careful right out of the house.

Scrape, Cuss. Scrape, Cuss. Scrape, Cuss. Gouge holes in the drywall with the arrival of an unnatural focus to WIN against paper and glue.

Step 3:
Remove the massive sink vanity. JB did this while I took the kids to a mud and i-phone filled renaissance faire. I thought it would take an hour. Four hours, a broken circular saw, and lots of scraped knuckles later he finally peeled it off the wall. But he had to cut it in half first. They didn’t skimp on much back in the Sixties.

Quickly, why would someone wallpaper a wall behind a large mirror? Why? Archaeology?

At this point we had to make a decision about the walls. Either we did a whole bunch of mudding and sanding, bought new drywall, or I applied a faux finish– Venetian plaster style. Lemme see… Yeah, faux plaster won.

Step 4:
Spend a few days pretending to be a 17th century master plaster. I have a lot of fun with plastering having done it around a fireplace as an accent wall in our previous house. It’s like grown up play dough, kinda.

There are many internet resources on faux techniques, and I took what I liked best from from several. This is a good general overview.

    1. Patched the largest of the holes.
    2. Primed the walls– mostly to seal the stale ashtray smell that wallpaper removal had released.
    3. Grab assorted trowels, scrapers, spreaders, and giant bucket of joint compound. I didn’t purchase special plaster– since I had the other in the basement already. A year later and my walls have suffered no ill effects from this choice.
    4. Small, thin coats of the plaster (or joint compound) and let each one dry completely.
    5. Lightly sand between each coat.
    6. Repeat until you are satisfied with the look, or tired of dealing–whichever comes first.
    7. Prime.
    8. Finish coat.

Seven years ago, I bought a bunch of tools for $5 from a Habitat Reuse store. And JB said we’d never need them!

Step 5:
Start laying the new floors. I highly recommend this particular flooring option from Allure: inexpensive, peel-n-stick vinyl, that is also water-proof and gorgeous? Yes, please.

Gorgeous, simply gorgeous.

Step 6:
Remove the old toilet, stuff cloth diaper into the smelly nastiness that is the sewer line. Scrape old wax ring.

Puke in your mouth. A lot. Use all the crime drama TV acquired knowledge, and rub vick’s vapor rub under your nose.

Lay new floor around the hole in the toilet.

REMOVE THE CLOTH DIAPER.

Install new toilet. Note: Read the instructions carefully. Don’t ignore the part that mentions leveling and shimming the toilet bowl. Unless noticing a toilet leak as IT DRIPS ON YOUR HEAD IN THE BASEMENT sounds like fun.

Step 7:
We did use a plumber to install the new lines, because neither of us wanted to cut into the main cast iron pipe down in the basement. And by neither of us, I mean JB. I think we could have handled the plumbing– but wasn’t enthusiastic enough to argue my point. After that, paying the electrician to run new lines for the wall outlets–since neither bathroom came equipped with a place to plug in a hair dryer. That was just laziness on my part.

The plumber was nice enough to install the shower pan (we only paid for roughing in), though he didn’t read the instructions, either. Which turned out to be a good thing, since I had purchased the wrong size shower pan (my focus needs more focus).

This is the wrong shower pan, which was supposed to be laid and leveled with plaster of paris. And the drywall needed to come off the studs.

One new shower pan, 30 minutes of blaring Godsmack, a crowbar and a mallet, and we were back in business. Good times, destruction.

Then we had to put up the fiberglass wall surround. In retrospect, tile would have been just as easy and cost-comparable. Actually, tile probably would have been easier, once you factor in what a PITA it is to get those surrounds perfectly level and plumb.

The accent tile around the top came in 12×12 sheets, and took a few hours one Sunday morning. Which is really nothing, considering the damn wallpaper.

Costs:
Plumber and Electrician: $500
Flooring: $1.99 per square foot x 30 square feet= $59
Tile: $40 (and I have enough leftover to do a backsplash around the sink
Sink and Cabinet: $99 (it was on sale!)
Sink and Shower Faucets: $200
Shower Surround: $245
First Shower Pan: $100
Second Shower Pan: $158
Paint: $40
Toilet: $199 -$100 state refund for replacing water-hog toilets = $99

Total Cost: $1540 + tax Estimated added value: $12,000.

Hunh. Yeah, I think I DO feel sort of motivated toward the kitchen now.

Rewarding the Good Stuff

Listen, I’m a consistency pro when it comes to punishment/consequences. Should you ever hear me say “if you do X, then we are leaving”, followed by one of them doing X right in my face, you can be assured your next view will be of our departing backsides. Note: I’m not saying I’m perfect at this, but I trend toward follow through far more often than not.

I usually have enough self control to warn them realistically: for example, I’ve never threatened to throw away all their toys. I have promised– to put 80% of them in the basement for a month. And there was the time when frustration killed my filter and they tried to call my bluff on the no-TV/no-playdate for a week promise. Painful week that was, for all of us.

That left hand pats me on the back for my good parenting, while the right hand reaches around and POP-SMACKS me on the head. What I realized? Because my FIVE year old pointed it out to me yesterday? That I am sucking at the reward follow through.

Now- to be sure, he brought this up at the wrong moment, and said it with the wrong tone of voice. He suffers from middle-class-spoiled-kid syndrome, just like all the rest of ’em. He also suffers from remember-that-time-you-said-that-thing? No? Well, I DO.

I sympathize with the kid– when I was five, my parents promised me a pet pig and a treehouse– neither of which were received, nor (obviously) forgotten.

Z: “Mom can I do chores to earn money so I can buy a light saber?”
Me: “Sure, that’s a great idea! Just let me decide on a list of chores and their corresponding monetary value. Then I need to make these super cute button things from pinterest. Those buttons will need a home, so first I need to finish start the organizational system.”

And, well you can imagine how quickly that’s all going, right?

My conscience has been dancing around this whole issue of them perceiving these things as broken promises, when I intended nothing more than, yeah that would be cool. While it doesn’t excuse the attitude problem, it does offer an explanation for some of the source.

Last night, while painting a bookshelf for their arts and crafts nook– another vital part of chore magnet creation, promise– I had to consider that perhaps just a smidge of primary-colored-good-job-sticker-love could make my life easier. I prefer easy. I can give out stickers, and work up more enthusiasm for the successes. I cannot play hide-n-seek without dusting; I have limits, people.

In the meantime, JB and I settled on a reward for a truly glowing parent/teacher conference. One full hour of lego star wars with JB. According to Z, this was PERFECT!

Eggless Chocolate Black Bean Muffins

I made heart-shaped, chocolate black beans muffins for Z’s preschool Valentine’s Day Party. Why? Because I saw how on pinterest, (original link, here) and it’s just too easy.

Insert marbles before baking to hold the cupcake liners and bake. I filled the liners first, then placed my marbles.

Heart-shaped, chocolate-y goodness? But of course. Heart-shaped chocolate-y goodness that is made with black beans(!) but not eggs(!!)

Huzzah, folks.

In general, I’ve found Madhuram’s eggless cooking to be a real asset in my I’m-going-to-sneak-healthy-into-you-without-your-consent quest. It’s moderately important to me that I provide them with a choice selection of sweet goodies, but I never promised not to use black beans, whole wheat flour, and dark chocolate.

If you don’t want to click through to Madhuram’s site (and you should), here’s the recipe.

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes Recipe

Yields: 12 Regular Size Cupcakes & 12 Mini Cupcakes OR 16 Regular Size Cupcakes

INGREDIENTS:
1 And 1/4 Cups Sugar
1/2 Cup Prune Puree (Substitute For 2 Eggs) [or any other egg replacer– I’ve used both bananas and yogurt]
2 Tablespoons Water
1/3 Cup Canola Oil
One 15.5Oz Can or 1.5 Cups Cooked, Drained, Rinsed And Pureed Black Beans
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Cocoa Powder [I used special dark for that extra oomph]
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda

PROCEDURE:
Preheat oven to 375F for 15 minutes. Grease or line with paper liners 1 regular size muffin tin and 1 mini muffin tin.

Drain the black beans from the can, rinse it well under running water and puree it in a food processor/blender using approximately 1/4 cup of water. The puree should be very smooth without any lumps. [When you think you are done, go ahead and stay it for another 30 seconds or so. Trust me.]

To this also add the sugar, prune puree [or other egg replacement thing], 2 tablespoons of water, canola oil and vanilla extract. Process/blend it again for another 2-3 minutes. Transfer it to a large bowl.

In a small bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda.

Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in 3 parts. That is, first add 1/3rd of the flour mixture to the bean and prune puree, mix it well. Then add another 1/3rd and then the last 1/3rd of the flour mixture. Having some lumps is fine. I found that using a wire whisk to mix the batter worked well than using a spatula. The batter was in the consistency of pancake batter. Initially I felt that the quantity of the wet ingredients was way too much, but once I started mixing it to the flour I was relieved to find out that the proportions were getting right.

[Note– I add in a few chocolate chips to each muffin, for that extra oomph.]

Fill the muffin wells 2/3rds full, around 3 tablespoons of the batter. For the mini muffin tin, just use 1 tablespoon. I placed both the muffin tins in the same rack. The mini muffins were done by 9 minutes and the regular size muffins around 14 minutes. Oven temperatures may vary so check for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center and it should come out clean.

Cool in pan for 5 minutes. Slide a knife around the edges of the cupcake and invert the tin slowly. The cupcakes will fall down, cool them on a rack. Frosting is optional.

[Her] NOTES:
For the prune puree (she) used 2 jars (2.5oz each) of Beech Nut’s baby food. Applesauce [bananas, yogurt] can also be instead of prune puree.

Melted butter or any vegan butter substitute can be used in place of the canola oil. The original recipe called for soy margarine. [I use real butter]

I recently have found out that using 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda for each egg replaced gives the light and airy texture to the baked product. In this recipe I used 1/2 cup of prune puree to substitute 2 eggs, so I used 1/2 teaspoon baking soda in total. The result was vegan chocolate cupcakes with the spongy texture of the usual cupcakes. [We didn’t have prunes last night, so we used the Ener-g egg replacer instead. Result = tasted a lot like brownie cupcakes]

It’s challenging to cook for children with food allergies. Both of my children are allergic to eggs– which makes baking… fun.

Wait, fun isn’t the right word. Colossal pain in the ass? Meh– not so much. As it turns out, their egg allergy makes it simple for me to say no to a never-ending parade of unhealthy sugary deliciousness:

Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry– but donuts have eggs in them.

Beautiful– the egg takes it all- I can neither be blamed, nor harassed about the treat once the verdict of “it has eggs” has been delivered.

Now, I don’t give two flips about donuts– part of my seven circles of hell decade of servitude in the grocery store industry included a rotation in the deli. Donuts kinda make me hurl. Unless it’s a Krispy Kreme donut fresh from the Hot Now sign lighting. In college, there was a Krispy Kreme within walking distance– the red glow of the sign just strong enough to hit my bedroom window if I closed my left eye, while squinting my right eye, and wishing with all of my not-so-sober heart.

But I digress, in a huge way– you can’t even know how badly. At least not until tomorrow. Anyway, I don’t miss donuts. But I absolutely, with all of my hippie heart, miss greasy fried chicken and southern biscuit breakfasts.

But I don’t have to miss delicious muffins, masquerading as cupcakes. With 18 grams of protein.

Happy V-Day!