New Favorite Toy? A Bag of Rice

The other night I was reading Jamie Martin’s Steady Days (by the author of the beloved blog SteadyMom) and came across the most brilliant idea. Create your own portable rice table by pouring a giant bag of rice into a plastic underbed storage bin. So simple, so perfect!

Rice table

So yesterday, while we were at the grocery store stocking up for the 18 to 24 inches of snow expected this weekend (um, yikes!), I saw a gigantic bag of rice on sale for $6. I knew I already had an unused storage bin at home, so I tossed the rice in the cart.

Now, I can’t even begin to describe the hideousness of that particular trip to the grocery store. The parking lot was packed, and when we finally got inside, the kids picked up on the atmosphere of grumpy grown-ups immediately and just dissolved. They were both in tears within 30 seconds of entering the store. It was heartbreaking, but we had to soldier on. The toddler did not want to be in the cart, and was lashing out by attempting to pull everything on the shelves. The five-year-old wanted to push the cart herself but we were shoulder-to-shoulder with other shoppers. And when we were finally done, even the express self-check-out line was a 20 minute wait. Oh my, I thought my poor little ones were just going to go to pieces. We salvaged the outing with a silly face contest, but we were still all pretty wiped out when we got home.

And then I remembered that rice. As soon as the toddler was down for his nap, I pulled out the bin and poured in the rice. I grabbed funnels, spoons, and cups, and the five-year-old set to work. She was still at it when the toddler woke up and joined her. Three hours later, there were mighty protests when I had to put it away to clean up for dinner. Folks, they played with rice all afternoon.

More rice table

Yes, it did mean I had to vacuum before dinner, which is not usually part of my routine. But it was a very small price to pay.

We may be about to be snowed in for a few days, and let me tell you — this mama is feeling mighty grateful to have another trick up her sleeve. Thank you, Jamie!

Blizzard Mittens: What do you do when you’re snowed in?

What do you do when you’re snowed in? Well, when you have a toddler who refuses to wear his mittens because they’re just not comfy enough… you make mittens. Because, well, this snow is going to be here for a while. And mittens are just not optional clothing items right now.

Blizzard mittens

Actually, we’ve been doing quite a lot. Of course, the rice table has gotten a lot of play. The teenager has played piano (she’s working on New York State of Mind) and sewed. We tried our hand at felting for the first time — and the toddler now has some highly-prized balls of felted wool. We made a fantastic Indian vegetable stew from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home cookbook — outstanding. We made popcorn. We played in the snow. We shoveled the snow. We read books. We watched the birds. We made fires. We baked bread. We made snow ice cream. We used our bag of tricks quite a bit.

Matching set

And I made a pair of mittens to match the toddler’s hat. Thank goodness I had enough yarn left over, since I clearly wasn’t going anywhere for supplies! I used the basic mitten pattern from The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns. This is a fabulous book to have on hand because it gives the basic structure for the things you would want to knit most often, including exact directions for just about any size and gauge you might possibly need. It is a great reference, and comes in handy time and again. The best part about this mitten pattern is that the two mittens are identical — no need to worry about right and left.

He loves them. He has been wearing them around the house. Which is completely adorable, and useful because… I see more snow in the forecast! Oh my. I might have to think of a few more things for that bag of tricks.