Investigator Anne

Introducing our mystery-solving adventurer…Investigator Anne!

I don’t even know when she first became our Investigator–she’s just always loved solving problems and figuring things out.  If there’s ever a mystery to be solved around here, I know who to go to–the one and only, Investigator Anne!

For example, the other night we had a “Missing Sippie Cup Mystery.”  (Everyone has a drink by their bed at night, and when they crawled into bed that particular night, the drinks were mysteriously gone!)  I heard Anne call out, “Mom, the drinks are gone, and Eliza looks suspicious…I think I better investigate!”

So out came the “Kit”–the Investigator Kit.

Looking for clues…

Searching high and low…

CLUES:  (1) Eliza running into her room with her hand behind her back.  (2) Eliza closing the door fast.  (3)  Water on Eliza’s face…

This mystery wasn’t too hard for Investigator Anne to figure out.  Yep, she found three waters on Eliza’s night stand.

And when the culprit was confronted…well…

She played cute and innocent…

But was confirmed to be the presumed “Sippie Cup Snatcher.”

“But I like 3 waters Mom…” is all she could say.  Sorry ‘Liza, just one tonight, but I’ll give you lots of kisses just for being so cute.  Funny girl.

Okay, the Case of the Missing Sippie Cups is solved!  Good work Investigator Anne!

The Investigator Anne Kit

Our mystery solver has been solving mysteries for as long as I can remember.  Last Christmas I thought it would be fun to create her own kit for her.  I designed her logo and put this bag together.  I actually found the satchel online, but it was way too big, and I had to cut it down and re-sew parts of it to make it the way I wanted.

Inside holds the very important clue-finding, mystery solving tools:

The Clue Book, magnifying glass, mini maglight, pen and pencil, a compass, a camera, and Mr. Everything’s old Pocket PC (which we filled with hundreds of photos of animals, animal tracks, maps, pictures of leave varieties, and things like that.  She also uses the Pocket PC to write down little bits of information or clues as well as her clue book).

This pic shows the compass and smaller logo under the front flap.  The little keys are for her other journal.

She also has a nifty Science Experiment Book.

Sometimes Anne’s mysteries have been scientific, like when she read about capillary action in her Science Experiment Book. She and her sisters had me buy carnations and then tried the experiment for themselves.  Here is Anne’s Clue Book log of capillary action predictions and discoveries.  She even took the photo with her camera and glued it in the Clue Book.

And below is her account of when I was missing a shoe…

One day last Fall, we had a “Case of the Missing White Ballet Slipper.” (That is also another story that I’ll get to at another time–about Mary Tutu.”)

Here, Investigator Anne wore the investigating cape.

Need the Clue Book…

The Ballet slipper was a tough mystery, but was later found deep in the extra closet beneath all the dressup clothes (not in the ballet bag where they are supposed to be).

Oh, and here she is on another case, looking for bunny tracks…

Sometimes she asks me if I have any mysteries that need to be solved.  Sometimes I do, and sometimes the biggest mystery is what might be under the couch.  So she investigates…

The mini maglight is very useful for this kind of case.

She sometimes has to get extra tools.  Here she uses a long-handled spoon for reaching.

There it is!!! Wow! That little ball belongs to another toy and we’ve been looking for it for months!  Way to go Investigator Anne!

Along with being a mystery-solver herself, Anne also loves mystery-solving books.  Right now, her favorite series include Magic Tree House, Cam Jansen, Flat Stanley, and A-Z Mysteries.  She pretty much devours them, and now is reading almost two a day!

She’s read an amazing number of books this year and won two books from the school librarian for her accomplishment!  Way to go Anne!

Well, if any of you know me well, you might guess I’ve got a book in the making…

With Anne’s love of books and her investigating skills, I just have to write her a chapter book…working on it.

Anne knows this, and for “Dress as your favorite storybook character Day” last year, she dressed up as, well, Investigator Anne!  Storybook characters in the making count, right?  Yes, I think so.

How to Play Football

About 2 weeks ago, my nephew came over to play for the afternoon.  He marched through the door and straight in to the kitchen.  He pounded a football down on the counter, turned around and said to me, “I brought this [football], ’cause I don’t think your girls know what it is–and they have to learn this stuff, ’cause you’re gonna have a boy soon.”

So Tyler taught us girls how to play football…

Now that I’m a well-trained Football expert, I thought I’d better design some t-shirts for the little football fans in our lives.   Click on the images to see more.

Geo Cache?

Finding Treasures–

I took the kids on a walk, and they decided to make it an adventure.  They called this place the “Savanna” and we were exploring, looking for interesting objects and treasures (mostly leaves, twigs, grass, rocks, etc) .

We wandered along looking at every rock, every twig, every everything, and collecting the “treasures” in grocery sacks.

I had to really remember to be patient—it seems like when I’m on a trail and have my walking shoes on, I’m in automatic “fast walk mode…” 

…but when you’re on the “Savanna” looking for “treasures” with the kids, you have to switch to “slowdown and look at everything mode.”

After a while of walking and wandering and collecting quite an assortment of rocks, Mary’s plastic bag broke and so did her heart.  Tears were streaming. (That’s what I get for using that yucky plastic…Note to self: take canvas shopping bags when treasure hunting).

So we took pictures of their favorite finds and put the bursting bags in the bottom of the stroller.

An amazing twig…

A very cool rock…

A beautiful pebble…

After the bag burst, that was about the last of the adventure until…

We ran into some interesting people!  We saw them walking on the trail, about to pass us, then suddenly they looked at these electronic things around their necks, and darted off into the grass.  Weird…It was so curious that we kind of had to stop and try to inconspicuously figure out what they were doing.

One of the girls suddenly called out “here it is!” and she picked up a rubbermaid box.  [What in the world?]

Forget the inconspicuous!–I couldn’t help it and asked what they were doing.

Turns out they were treasure hunting too!  They are called Geo Cachers…

“The hobby is called Geo Caching,” they said.  Then they explained the whole thing.  There’s a website you can go to,, and find locations in your area.

You use a GPS to find each location.  You find the box (be sure it’s an official Geocache box)…

…add your name to the tally, then you can choose something out of the box, and replace it with another item.  You carry a notebook with you too.  If there is a stamp in the box, you stamp your notebook.

This one had stamps, poker chips, little funny leprechaun toys, and bouncy balls.

So how about that?  The kids actually found a real treasure…

–well sort of.

Since we didn’t have any goods to put in the box (besides rocks and twigs), the Geo Cachers gave the kids some of their treasures…

Thank you GeoCachers!

I think we’ll be trying out Geo Caching for ourselves very soon.  It looked fun!

Welcome Bunny Rabbits

Meet Chester.

Meet Marshmallow.

Here’s Molly…

…and Beatrix

…and now I’ll introduce you to our newest rabbit, Jack. (Short for Jack Frost.  The kids named him this since he came to us on a snowy day about 3 weeks ago).

Jack, Chester, Marshmallow, Molly and Beatrix, are just a few of the MANY rabbits that have come to our house since last Fall.

Here’s our bunny story…

Last Fall hundreds of rabbits were loose in the neighborhood.  (To make a long story short, let’s just say a local rabbit farm, plus an animal rights group, equals a lot of loose bunnies).  

When we heard about what happened we thought we’d keep a look out for rabbits–and we even put some carrots and rabbit food out in the backyard.  We knew the little baby bunnies wouldn’t survive the winter that was quickly approaching, so we figured we should help find them a home.

Well, the carrots worked!  I don’t even know where the rabbit farm is, but we found bunnies in our backyard for weeks!

We had been digging a little trench for a water drain, and many mornings we would come out to find bunnies snuggled up in it.  It was so much fun!  A lot of them were just babies and sometimes we would find 3 or more huddled up together.  Once Anne found 6 together!

We called the farmer to see if he wanted them back, but said he couldn’t take them back because of certification reasons and stuff.  So we very quickly became the neighborhood “Free Bunny Adoption Center.”

We put up a large play pen and the kids loved climbing in and playing with the bunnies.

This one was Eliza’s favorite (and mine)…

We started learning a lot about these cute little creatures.

Did you know that rabbits can be house trained?  Yes, with just a litter box and a little practice, you can confidently keep a rabbit indoors.

We checked out a lot of books from the library and Anne did a report on bunnies for her class.

Did you know that two United States presidents had pet rabbits? (Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy)

The Flemish Giant breed of rabbit is the largest kind of rabbit and can grow to 20 plus pounds!  The smallest breed is the Dutch Dwarf and can weigh only 2 pounds.

We made a chart for the report too, and Anne kept a tally of how many bunnies we found.

Thirty-two rabbits was the total at the time of the report, but the number grew to be well over forty!

Why do rabbits wiggle their noses?  It’s not just for smelling, they also communicate with all that wiggling.  If the rabbit is scared, the wiggling gets faster.  If the rabbit is calm, the wiggling will be very slow, and sometimes nearly stop.

So what did we do with all those rabbits?  Well, lets just say we have a lot of friends and neighbors who are now proud owners of pet bunnies.

And of course, WE still have some bunnies…and every once in a while we find more.

Last Fall, we kept the bunnies in the garage.  But they needed a better place, so Mark and I designed a little bunny hutch–or, as my father-in-law likes to call it, the “Bunny Hotel.” 

Mr. Everything deciphered my little design (and did all that number figuring stuff again)…

…and then started the cutting and creating…

…constructing…and shingles…


…and the final result is AMAZING!

Three-quarter view.

And the back.

(Mr. Everything, you are SO amazing!)  Hope you like your new home bunnies!

 These little bunnies remind me of the timeless classic childrens stories, and it kinda feels like we’ve been living in one of those stories–like Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit.

Or H.A. Rey’s Curious George books.

So this is our own little bunny story.  And when the bunnies start multiplying, there will be another chapter.  I’ll keep you posted. ;)


Trip to the Dinosaur Museum

I am so in to dinosaurs lately!  They are just the most amazing creatures–so huge, so unique, so mysterious…

Our trip to a local Dinosaur Museum was fascinating and inspiring…so of course I’ve been designing new products.

This Angel Street Kids bag is new and ferocious! (BTW, Dino bags available for pre-order now! Click here)

…and has a matching dinosaur lunchbox

…and a dinosaur t-shirt

Do you know any little boy who doesn’t love dinosaurs?  Here’s Dinosaur Territory

I wasn’t sure how my girls would feel about dinosaurs, but they totally loved the dinosaur museum!

I was amazed at every fossil and dino model!  They are so much bigger than I imagine and it’s amazing to think of these enormous creatures roaming around so long ago.

Dinosaurs are some of those creatures that can be portrayed as ferocious, big boy cool, or just plain cute.  Here are some cute prehistoric pals.  Say hello to Angel Street’s new pals, Woolly and Saber

…and their friend, Doc, the Long-Necked Dinosaur (or to be absolutely correct, he’d be called Diplodocus, according to the museum)

The museum had  the sandbox of all sandboxes!  It was a giant sand-filled winding cement table with flowing water and tons of mini toy dinosaurs and plants. 

We spent over an hour in just this area creating all kinds of dinosaur islands and waterways. 

It was a kid’s heaven. 

I’m dying to go back to the museum!  One day was just not enough!

Lunch with “Martha Speaks”

“Mom, I want this one!” “Mom, it’s my turn!”  “Mom, I can’t see the pictures!”–this craziness is called bedtime stories with three kids and a tired mom!  I can’t read to all of them at the same time.  So, with a sudden stroke of inspiration one night, I asked Anne to read Mary a book and I read Eliza a book.  (Why hadn’t I thought of that before!?)

Everyone loves that routine now!  Anne and Mary will often fall asleep reading to each other.  One of Mary’s new favorites for Anne to read to her is the  “Martha Speaks” chapter books.

There are a lot of beginning level chapter books out there.  I tend to love the ones that are entertaining and imaginative, and where the kids in the story are, well, NICE!  I really don’t go for the bratty kids books. (It would be like giving my kids a textbook on how to be a brat! Why would I do that!)

Anyway, “Martha Speaks” books are great and are taken from the PBS show.  My kids mostly came to love them by first playing the Martha games on  They were excited when we found the books at the school book fair.  They are a lot easier than Anne’s reading level, but she is still entertained by them and mostly loves reading them to Mary.  They also have a lot of pictures, which is another great thing for Mary or any four-year-old.

Here they are opening some of the new books that came in the mail…

…they pretty much devour them.

So about “Martha Speaks.”  Martha is a dog that belongs to a girl named Helen.  One day Helen fed her dog some alphabet soup and by some crazy phenomenon, the alphabet letters traveled to the dog’s brain instead of her stomach!  So now Martha the dog can speak, and she gets into fun and imaginitive adventures with her one-of-a-kind talking talent.

The Martha Lunch

Since the kids have been loving these books lately, I thought it would be fun to have a ‘Martha lunch’ and have ABC Chef Boyardee.

They’ve never really had anything like this before, and when I explained it was like ‘Martha’s alphabet soup,’  Mary looked down and said… “You mean it’s dog food?”

No Silly!  I told her it was like the alphabet soup that made Martha talk.  Then she was excited.  We started being silly and pretended that maybe the soup would make us talk like a dog instead!  Or that maybe we would speak Spanish or German!  After that, Mary and Eliza just had fun finding the letters of their names, or just sounding out the letters before eating them.

F is for “Fun.”

M is for “Mmmmm.”

Buried Treasure

Buried Treasure Part I

My girls found these craft jewels the other day. I have a whole tub of them.  I had them in the house for a project I did awhile ago.  I kept them around because, well, you just never know when you need craft jewels.  Anyway, they have also been a good “busy activity” when the girls need one.  I can just put the tub of jewels in the middle of the floor and it will entertain them for quite awhile.  Sometimes they sort them, sometimes they put them in toy pots and pans and just stir them around.  Well, this time they wanted to play ‘buried treasure.’ 

Mary looked all over for a treasure box to put them in and asked me to help her.  The best thing I could find was an empty baby wipes box.  It was kind of in the treasure box shape, so we decided to decorate it. 

Eliza snagged the camera and took this photo of me.  Not bad for a 2 year old–I mean my whole head is in the picture!


I love this picture.  It’s called “When You’re Being Creative, You Have To Stick Your Tongue Out.”  (It’s the sign of a true genius)

With a little craft foam, ribbon, and jewels, and only 10 minutes of time, we had a great little treasure box.  (There’s no way I was going to spend oodles of time on this, I mean it was going to get buried for heaven’s sake!)

Here’s the precious loot:  craft jewels, a homemade necklace, and some Chuck-E-Cheese tokens.

 …and here they are burying the treasure!

Aren’t sandboxes a wonderful thing?

I especially love our sandbox, and I’ll tell you why…

Buried Treasure Part II

Yes, this is part two, but really it happened before–long before–part one.

So about 25 years or more ago, Mark’s dad built a bunkbed for Mark and his brothers–a triple bunkbed.  About 2 years ago, we inherited the bunkbed.  We really didn’t have a need for it, but kept it in the garage in case another family member did–because that’s just what we do.  Anyway, it so happened that one of our awesome neighbors ordered a little too much sand for their sandbox and asked us if we wanted it.  Hmmmmm…

 Well, yes!  Soon those triple bunkbeds were reconstructed to make our little sandbox.  So how’s that for “reduce, reuse, recycle!”  A free sandbox, and hundreds of hours of entertainment for the kids.  Not bad.

And that my friends is the other buried treasure of this story.

Mother’s Day!

Wondering what to do for Grandma for Mother’s Day? 

This is a really fun thing for kids to do at home or at school.  Kids love to decorate cookies and they love it even better when they get to present it to someone they love.

Just cut out the ‘Grandma Recipe’ and paper cookies.  You could use the recipe card to write a sweet note on the back, or just use these as embellishments to decorate a plate or bag filled with your grandma’s favorite treat.  Even if your sweet grandma can’t have sweets, you could still use these to decorate a cute gift bag or Mother’s Day card.

Click on either the Grandma set or the Mom set to print out the full-size PDF.

BTW-I don’t really bake cookies a whole lot.  It takes too much time!  So if you’re a fabulous dessert maker, go make something that will knock grandma’s socks off!  If you’re a not-so good dessert-baker, like me, and like to save time, there are several different things you can do and still give a little homemade touch.  You can buy sugar cookie dough already made, or even the already baked plain sugar cookies, and then just frost and decorate them.

Pizza Pizza

What’s for dinner?

But first, a little clip from last summer…


We had some extra sauce and peppers in the fridge, so I picked up some mozzarella and pepperoni and other favorite toppings at the store, and decided it would be a good day to have a “make your own pizza” dinner.  I usually don’t think of what to do for dinner until it’s just about dinner time, but today I happened to.  It was Friday and I just thought it would be a fun thing to do.  Making pizza is  kind of a messy process when all the kids are rolling their own dough, but hey I have to wash the floor anyway.  (Generally I try to go by the philosophy of if the entertainment lasts longer than the time it takes to clean up the mess it’s worth the clean up.  Making pizza is the exception to that rule.)

I tell everyone to roll the dough into a circle and then put it on the tray.  Usually, however, they just squish the dough around, roll it out, squish again, sprinkle flour, and sometimes Anne even tries to spin it in the air.  Sometimes the pizza ends up in a circle, sometimes it looks more like Mickey Mouse or the Loch Ness Monster.  It’s yummy in whatever shape it turns out to be.

Putting on the toppings…

Like I said, this really takes longer to clean up than to actually make and bake.  It’s because the recipe is SO easy.  When it comes to cooking, I’m all for the easy way of doing things.  You might say, well why not just used prepared dough, like Rhodes Rolls or something?  That’s a great idea!  I do use Rhodes for other things, but for this I usually do it the ‘from scratch’ way.  Part of the experience for the kids is to help put the ingredients in the mixer and see chemistry in action.  They’re always amazed that the liquid-y goo turns into something great.

So here is the recipe:

No Fail Pizza Dough (the name must be true, because it’s never failed on me and that’s saying a lot!  Cookies and other bread recipes fail on me regularly)

 1 C. Warm water

1 T. Dry yeast

1 t. Sugar

1 T. Oil

1 tsp. Salt

2 1/2 C. Flour

Place warm water, yeast and sugar in bowl.  Let yeast activate until slightly bubbly (about 5 min).  Add oil, salt, and flour.  Mix in Bosch or other mixer until flour is absorbed.  Sometimes I add a little more flour at the end if it still feels too sticky.  You should be able to roll it out without getting it stuck to the counter.  Split the dough into 3 balls if making individual pizzas, or you can roll it out on a cookie sheet (I always spray the cookie tray with cooking spray first).  Top with your favorite sauce, toppings and cheese.  The dough will rise while you add the toppings–that’s why I love this recipe!  You don’t have to wait for it to rise!  Then stick it in the oven at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  (Individual pizzas take about 25 min.)  I double this recipe for our family, and then we will have leftovers for another night.

Once I had a get-together with friends for a pizza night.  I cut out 8″ cardboard circles, wrapped them completely (so it covered the top and bottom of the cardboard) in heavy tin foil.  I made the dough and rolled it out, then I actually cut it out in 7″ circles and placed each circle on a foil wrapped cardboard circle.  I made 12 of these and put them in the fridge until the party.  We set out lots of various toppings and everyone had fun making a custom pizza.

FYI-you can also make the pizza with all the toppings and then freeze it without baking it.  When you are ready to eat it, take it out of the freezer and put it straight in the oven, 350 degrees for about 3o-35 minutes.

Holey Rocket Shoes!

Run Jump Play.  It’s a kid’s job.  How well do they do that job?  You can judge it by their shoes.

For example, we were all doing the morning rush this morning and had 10 minutes to get to school before the bell would ring.  I told everyone (for the hundredth time) to get their shoes on.  Suddenly there was a flood of “I don’t know where they are,” “Mine don’t fit,” and “Mine have holes in them.”  What? Holes?  As I gathered the shoes and examined them closer I was shocked to realize that Mary’s and Anne’s shoes were completely worn through the toes. 

So this is why she’s been coming home with wet socks the last few days.  Why didn’t I notice that big hole before?  How did this happen so fast–I seriously only bought these shoes less than 2 months ago.  Mary’s shoes were in the same, if not worse, condition.

Well, with only a few minutes until school, I raced upstairs to our trusty little closet called the “Stuff From Cousins Closet.”

This closet is awesome.  Each box has something different–things like winter clothes, summer clothes, snow clothes, dresses…and of course, shoes.

We save them all and pass them down.  It comes in so handy and saves money!  Kids grow out of shoes fast, and if they’re not grown out of, they are worn out before you know it.  This box is the place where shoes go if they have any life left in them after they are grown out of.

Happy day, we found a pair that fit Mary.  Just added some new shoelaces, and voila, new shoes!  Mary was totally excited over her “new” shoes.  She especially loved the laces because they were “just like Anne’s.”  She wanted to learn to tie them right then and there.

…and look who just found her precious cowgirl boots.  Yes, Eliza has happy feet today too!

But oh, sadness.   After searching the box we still couldn’t find any shoes Anne’s size.  She had to run out the door with the ones she had on (the swiss cheese sneakers).

When I came back home again, I started to put all the “cousin shoes” back in the box.  Suddenly this box of little old shoes brought back a flood of memories.

These little red shoes were worn one Halloween when Anne dressed up as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.  They became the favorite of hers, and of both sisters, and were worn EVERYWHERE.  I used to find red glitter on everything.

These darling little pink shoes were a birthday present one year for Mary.  Mary is a shoe person.  She would rather get shoes than toys anyday, and she loves the Mary Jane style, especially with sparkles.  She used to call these her “sparkle shoes.” I’m surprised they survived and made it to the box!

These little Airwalk shoes are another favorite of mine.  Once when Grandma T. was babysitting, she took the girls shoe shopping and each got to choose their own pair.  Anne chose these.  She wore them all the time, and since they said “airwalk” on them, she was convinced that they made her run faster.  She called them her rocket shoes…and since that time every pair of sneaker-type shoes in our house are called rocket shoes.  They are not sneakers or tennis shoes, they are called rocket shoes.

So anyway, back to the shoe problem.  Mary and I decided we’d better give the old shoes away.  There was a clothing drive at school this week to collect items for the people in Haiti.  We gathered some things together and put them in a box.  I don’t know if people there will want shoes with holes in them, but we put them in the box anyway.  Maybe it could help someone just a little bit.  At least Mary seemed excited that her shoes might go to some other little girl far away who really needed it.

I picked up some new shoes for Anne when I was out, and the second she was out of school, we delivered her shoes along with the other things, to the school.

No more holes.

I wonder how long these ones will last.  If she’s doing her job well, it won’t be very long!

C’est la vie!