Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!! Do you know how it all started?


A lot of American people think the Halloween is truly a kid's American holiday. But the truth is that Halloween started many years back in another continent and it truly isn't that child friendly! As you know my husband is Scottish, so I have to tell you the true story or at least the one I was told!

The Celts started Halloween about 2,000 years ago (They used to live in what today is Scotland, Ireland, England and Northern France). On October 31st, they celebrated Samhain or the end of Summer and the beginning of Winter. With the end of Summer, came the end of all living things and on that night, ghosts of the past were allowed to come to earth for one day to visit their relatives. People will put out lanterns (made out of hollow turnips) to scare evil spirits and food to welcome their relatives souls. They would also sacrifice animals and burn crops to protect themselves from the winter months. They would wear these animal skins and heads to also scare evil spirits, these marks the beginning of dressing up for Halloween.

When the Roman's invaded the Celts, they did not like their non-catholic traditions, so they moved their All Saint's Day or All Hallow's Day to November 1st, thinking people would forget the night before and concentrate on their day. But then October 31st became All Hallow's Eve. With time that turned into Halloween!

When the Irish came to America, they took their traditions and their Halloween with them. Pumpkins were bigger and easier to hollow than turnips, so that is how we got our pumpkins. They also brought trick or treat. In the old days, the Celtic druids will wear masks and on October 31st will go around the villages and farms asking for food. If food was given, it was thought that the farmer or villager will have a year of luck and good harvest ahead. If food was not given, the druids were thought to curse the house or farm and often, a fire will start or a cow will go missing.

The lanterns were called Jack O'Lanterns to remember an Irish guy called Jack, that was not very good. He tricked the Devil several times. When he died, he was not accepted in Heaven as he was no good, and he was not accepted in Hell as he has tricked the Devil, so the Devil gave him a piece of burning coal to light up his way. He put in on a hollow turnip to light his wandering path until the end of time. Spooky ha! Now you are thinking differently about the pumpkins!! I am calling mine pumpkins, they do not belong to Jack!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Arts and Crafts Weekend Blog Hop







If you want to display the blog hop in your blog here is the code
get the InLinkz code

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How to plant Garlic in the Fall?

This is something I should have posted a few weeks ago, but somehow it got lost in this craziness of life that I live. However, I wanted you to know how to do it as if you live in warmer climates you may still be able to plant the Garlic for next year.

There are 2 times in where you can plant garlic, Spring and Fall. However, I do find the Fall planting makes more sense as you can harvest the garlic, the following Summer (If you plant it in the Spring you have to wait until the second summer to harvested as garlic needs to get cold in the ground over winter to achieve its fantastic taste).

Planting Garlic is very simple, you should simply keep bulb from your late Summer harvest (or buy a bulb at your grocery store);


Separate the individual cloves (do not peel the cloves).


Find a small patch on where to plant it. Make holes in the ground about 1 to 2 inches deep, put the garlic clove in with the pointy part facing up, cover with earth, water and wait!


After about 2 weeks the garlic will sprout and you will see small garlic plants. Do not disturb them. As winter come the leaves will die out, and that is OK.


Come Spring they will come back again and the cycle will repeat itself. You will get nice Garlic Scapes in the late Spring and yummy Garlic in late Summer.

Wordless Wednesday: Size Matters!

Normal Flower?

Look again!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thanks to Starsunflower Studio for my new Blog Hop Button!

Have you noticed my beautiful new Arts and Craft Weekend Blog Hop button? Well, I have Su from Starsunflower Studio to thank for it! Su joined one of my early Blog Hops. I went to her site to thank her and we started talking. One thing let to another and she very nicely offered to do a new button for me!

As you can see, I am a very creative person but digital art is something I have not been able to get a handle on, and it shows! look at the button I did,




and then look at the nice clean one Su did...


Su has just open a new shop and I would love for you to go visit her, she has amazing designs for your blogs or websites, hey she even has a few freebies in there! - Click here to be directed to Starsunflower Studio

And if you are nice and keep coming to my blog, Su and I will surprise you with a nice giveaway shortly!

Feel free to grab my new button and display it in your blog. I am looking forward to see your great crafts next weekend!








Friday, October 21, 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Brick and Blue Stone Patios: How to repair and take care of them?

I moved to this house about 3 years ago and I was taken immediately by their patios (yes plurals! there are truly 3 of them). Little I knew that you were supposed to do things to maintain them, I truly thought that as they were made with blue stones and bricks they will last forever!! Well, I was wrong. I started noticing little loose bricks here and there and big holes and shifting (or dare I say sinking holes) on my blue stones.

My good friend Lisa has just finished a new patio in her house (well her husband did help a lot!!! lucky girl!) and she was telling me all about the sand this and the sand that.And I was like: Sand? what sand? Well thanks to her, I finally got to understand that I was supposed to add sand to my patios and front path to keep them from sinking and getting lose. Thanks girl!



Before

After
 

So what did I do? off to the garden center to buy the materials and start reversing the wear and tear on my outdoor flooring. I will tell you one by one how to fix and maintain both the brick and the blue stone patios and stairs. I actually enjoyed doing this although it was hard work (particularly the blue stone - they are heavy!!)

How to fix and maintain brick patios and paths:

My front entrance path is made of bricks, I love the terracotta color and how nice it looks. I have always kept an eye on weeds as they like to grow in between the bricks, but have never attempted to fix the loose or sinking bricks until now!


Before

After

After
What do you need?
  • Play sand and Paving sand (available at home improvements stores)
  • A chisel to lift the bricks
  • A big old knife
  • Rubber Mallet
  • A big broom
  • Weed killer for patios (you can go ecofriendly here)
First of all remove all the weeds that you may have on the bricks, I recommend you pull them all by hand as if you spray them you will get the little roots in between the bricks and that will stop the sand from getting into the space. You can also remove any moss that you may have (some people like moss, so it is up to you to do this step -I like my bricks moss free but I like the moss in the blue stones - I know, it is crazy) Anyhow, to remove the moss, simply get your old knife and running along the sides of the bricks, it will fly off! I actually got my kids to help me with this (I gave them screwdrivers though - no kids and knives please!!!).

Once the area is free of weeds and moss, brush it thoroughly to remove all dirt, stones, leaves etc. Quite challenging in the fall, but do as much as you can.

Then, find the areas to fix if any - I found two areas with sinking bricks. Carefully remove the bricks one by one by lifting them with the chisel or a screwdriver, put them to the side in the same pattern they were on the ground (you do not want to forget how they were as you may not be able to put them back the same way!)

Flatten the sandy surface underneath and take some paving sand and put it on the space until it is level. Make sure you pat the sand. Put a little bit at a time and try to put one of the bricks back to see if they are still lower than the rest. Keep adding sand until you have the area at the level you want.

Put the bricks back and gently pat them with the rubber mallet to compact the sand. Do this with all your sinking bricks.

Then comes the fun part. Take your play sand (thinner than the paving one) or a mixture of play and paving sand (it all depends on how separate are your bricks, the bigger the separation the more paving sand vs. play sand) and spread it on all the bricks. Take your brush and with a back and forth movement, make sure the sand goes in all the spaces between the bricks - all the bricks, but pay special attention to the ones that you just fixed.

Once all the sand has been spread, very gently spray some water on the bricks - use the mist or gentle shower set on your garden hose or do the fixing just before it rains (like I did). The water will help the sand move into the grooves and little spaces that you could not get at. It will also clean any excess sand from your bricks. Once the bricks dry, you may still see spaces with little sand that have been displaced by the water, do not worry, put more sand on it and repeat the process until they are all filled!

Spray weed killer around the bricks to prevent weeds from coming back.

How to fix and maintain blue stone patios and stairs:


The process is very similar to that of the bricks, with the difference that the stones are significantly heavier and break relatively easy - so you need to be careful - I could not lift all the stones that I wanted to fix.

Before


After

What do you need?

  • Paving sand (available at home improvements stores)
  • A chisel to lift the stones
  • A big old knife
  • Rubber Mallet
  • A big broom
  • Weed killer for patios (you can go eco-friendly here)
First of all remove all the weeds that you may have around the stones, I recommend you pull them all by hand as if you spray them you will get the little roots in between the stones and that will stop the sand from getting into the space. You may also remove any moss that you may have (I like the moss in the blue stones so I left it there).

Once the area is free of weeds and moss, brush it thoroughly to remove all dirt, stones, leaves etc. Quite challenging in the fall, but do as much as you can.

Then, find the areas to fix if any - I had sinking stones all around the edges of the patios and my stairs.



Carefully remove one or two stones at a time and level them before lifting more, remember they are heavy!!. Put them to the side in the same pattern they were on the ground (you do not want to forget how they were as you may not be able to put them back the same way!)



Flatten the sandy surface underneath and take some paving sand and put it on the space until it is level. Make sure you pat the sand. Put a little bit at a time and try to put the stones back to see if they are still lower than the rest. Keep adding sand until you have the area at the level you want.

Gently pat them with the rubber mallet to compact the sand. Do this with all the stones you lifted. I also tried to gently see if I could rock the stone back and forths with my hands, if I could I need more sand. The idea is that the stone should be steady and firmly pressed on the sand.

Then comes the fun part. Take more paving sand and spread it on all the patio. Take your brush and with a back and forth movement, make sure the sand goes in all the spaces between the stones, pay special attention to the ones that you just fixed. I even pushed the sand down on this ones with  my fingers (Use strong gloves).

Once all the sand has been spread, very gently spray some water on the bricks - use the mist or gentle shower set on your garden hose or do the fixing just before it rains (like I did). The water will help the sand move into the grooves and little spaces that you could not get at. It will also clean any excess sand from your stones. Once the stones are dry, you will see spaces with little sand that have been displaced by the water, do not worry, put more sand on it and repeat the process until they are all filled! It took me three times to fill the gaps between my stones.



Spray weed killer around the stones to prevent weeds from coming back. Be careful not to spray your moss if you like it and left it there.


You are to repeat this process yearly or every other year to prevent other stones or bricks getting lose or sink beyond repair!

Have fun!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Around the world with Language Stars! Review and giveaway. Bonus: FREE Language Class in Chicago and Washington D.C.


As you all know, my kids have been learning Spanish at Language Stars and I could not be happier! They are really learning a lot and little by little they are speaking more and more. Music, has always been a good way to introduce a language to kids. At least my kids truly enjoyed singing the "Good morning" song or "Buenos Dias" in the classroom. It allows them to say the same thing over and over again without getting bored.

I have been reviewing Language Stars' music CD "Around the World with Language Stars" and I am super impressed. I first thought that it would be a nice way for the kids to reinforce their Spanish, but then I realized that I have been learning as much as my kids!!! why? well, because the CD has 77 songs in Spanish, French, Italian, German and Mandarin!!!

The songs are simple and fun and are the same songs that they use during the classes with the kids. The CD is hilarious, really! The mandarin part is my favorite, mainly because it was the most foreign to me, so I am having a blast singing and listening to "if you are happy and you know it" in Mandarin!!

I really wanted to make sure that you all get the chance to share the wonderful gift of language with your kids, so today I am offering a few things:

First of all, for all of you in the Chicago and D.C. areas, you can get a FREE class of whatever language you choose at one of the Language Stars centers. Really, it is FREE, no strings attached, just click here, follow the instructions to schedule it and enjoy it! Please remember to let them know that you heard about them from Party Artist, a parent blogger!

Now if you are not in Chicago or D.C. please do not worry, everybody can have a chance to win a copy of the "Around the World with Language Stars" CD and a nice T-shirt. Just join my giveaway below!



Photo provided by Language Stars

Rules: I will be choosing a winner randomly using random.org's sequence generator on November 18th at 10:00pm CST. US Only.


Required entries:

  • Write us a comment about which language are you most curious to listen to on the CD.
  • Follow my blog!

Additional entries (Place one comment per item to increase your chances of winning):

  • Like Language Stars facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/LanguageStarsChicago
  • Like P-ART-Y facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/thepartyartist
  • Subscribe to my RSS
  • Share this review and giveaway on your facebook page (s) - one entry per page - leave us the link
  • Share this review in twitter and use @partyartist1 #languagestarsgiveaway and link them back to this page:
    • Win a Language Stars CD with 77 songs in 5 languages at http://bit.ly/nmokbC @partyartist1 #languagestarsgiveaway
  • Follow me on twitter @partyartist1
Good luck!!!

Disclaimer: I received free product as stated above to do this review. However, the opinions given are truly my own. This post has not been edited by third parties.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Arts and Crafts Weekend Blog Hop (bilingual)






Thursday, October 13, 2011

The best way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month: Giving back to our community!!


Monday was a beautiful day! Not just because it was about 75F during mid-October, but because 276 families in need received much needed food, thanks to ConAgra foods and its employees. What a better way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage month than to help our closest Hispanic community, right here in Aurora.

On Monday, sponsored by the ConAgra Latino Network, 10 volunteer employees distributed 10,000 pounds of food, including ConAgra products, fresh fruit and meat. A total of 276 families lined up to receive food from the mobile pantry, many of them with kids. As usual, the gratitude was abundant and the spirit of community and collaboration was present. I was particularly touched by the young church volunteers who helped the women and children carry the heavy boxes of food. These kids (all teenagers) worked so hard to help others, it was truly inspiring.


I have been lucky enough to be able to organize this event in our community for 4 years in a row. I truly enjoy giving back. We have partnered with the Northern Illinois Food Bank and local churches to make sure we distribute the food to Latino families in need in the area.

As usual, I got my payment with the kids' smiles and the blessings from all the men and women who benefited from the event!





Our efforts were also caught on the Local Tribune. Click here to link to the news article.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Little PIM Books Spanish - English - French: Review and Giveaway - CLOSED


We are slowly becoming real good fans of Little PIM! I really do like the little panda and my daughter enjoys him too!!! LOL! We have recently received two colorful Little PIM books to review and let me tell you how happy I am.

When we got the package in the mail, I knew they were from Little PIM (the Panda on the label gave it away) so I let my daughter opened the package, just to see her reaction. She opened the bag and saw the books, her eyes grew so big (she loves books and is an avid reader at age 5). She immediately proceeded to say (in Spanish to my surprise!) Mami, libros de Little PIM!!! even before we opened them!!! (just for that sentence I rate the books a success!)

She hardly speaks Spanish to me so the fact that she already associated Little PIM with Spanish is amazing!

The books are geared towards younger kids, but to be honest they are perfect for 5 year olds and kids who can read English too! They are colorful and full of flaps that they can open and engage with. My daughter was able to read the instructions for the games(which are in English) and also repeat the words in Spanish and guess what? French too! Yes the books introduce Spanish and French words!. If your child does not know how to read, you can read it to them and ask them to repeat the words in Spanish and French! I have been enjoying the French words myself as I have always wanted to learn French.

My daughter has been taking the books with her everywhere this week - that is always a good sign for a book. I have even caught my 7 year old having a good old read too.





Now, for your chance to win one of these wonderful books for your child, please join my giveaway!

Rules: I will be choosing a winner randomly using random.org's sequence generator on November 14th at 10:00am CST. US Only.


Required entries:
  • Follow my blog
  • Like Little PIM page on FB
  • Leave a comment in this post letting me know why do you want your child to speak another language

Additional entries:
  • Follow my FB fan page - The Party Artist
  • Follow me on twitter @partyartist1
  • Share this giveaway on your FB page
  • Share this giveaway in twitter - please include a link to this post:
  • Read any post on my "Raising bilingual Kids" section and leave a comment

Good luck!!!
Disclaimer: I received free product as stated above to do this review. However, the opinions given are truly my own. This post has not been edited by third parties

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Arts and Crafts Weekend Bloghop (Bilingual)






RULES:
  • Please leave a comment and follow this blog if you like what you see!
  • Please visit the other posts in the list and leave comments and follow if you like what you see.

Happy Hopping!

Wordless Wednesday Answer: Sunflowers!



If you guessed "Sunflower" you were right! These amazing flowers towering up to almost 7 feet in the air are made of tiny little flowers inside. They do eventually turned into the well known sunflower seeds we all like! You can do lots of things with sunflower seeds, from eating them straight from the pod to making yummy pesto (click here for my Sunflower Seeds pesto recipe).

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chicken and Vegetables Stir Fry


I am such a fan of Asian food, I am, I love it, I do!!! so if you see my pantry, you may be all confused: Where is she from? Japan? Thailand? China? Latinoamerica? I have the weirdest stuff there, truly. Anyhow, my mother in law is visiting and today I made a very simple stir fry that she loved!!!

So here is how to do a quick stir fry with chicken and whatever vegetable you have on hand... plus a few weird ingredients too, just for fun!

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breast - no skin and no bones
  • Vegetables: whatever you like and have on hand - here is what I used today:
    • Cabbage - 1 cup shredded
    • Zucchini - 2 cups julienne
    • You can also add carrots, broccoli, peppers
  • Bean Sprouts - 2 cups
  • Garlic - 2 cloves crushed
  • Sauce: you can vary this depending on your mood! you can use teriyaki, hoisin, or just the one I did today:
    • 3 tbsp of light soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp of rice vinegar
    • 1 tbsp sesame oil
    • 1 tbsp of ground ginger
    • 2 tbsp of store bought hoisin sauce (yes I cheated sorry!)
    • 2 tbsp of La Choy garlic and ginger sauce
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Noodles - Udon works great, but you can use whatever noodles you like

The first thing to do is to prep all ingredients - julienne the vegetables, clean the sprouts by putting them in water with white vinegar, chop the chicken in bit size pieces, boil the noodles in a pot until they are al dente, etc.



Make the sauce: put all the sauce ingredients in a bowl and mix until fully combined.

Heat 1 tbsp of canola oil in a wok. Stir fry your chicken first until is nice and golden. Remove from the wok.



Add 1 tbsp of canola oil to the wok and add your vegetables, one at a time, I first put the zucchinis, stir for about 1 minute,



then add the cabbage and keep stirring for another minute,




add the drained noodles, stir some more!



Add the bean sprouts, and stir for another minute or so.



Add the chicken, and guess what? stir!



Finally add the sauce, give it a little stir and you are done!

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