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Monday, December 24, 2012

Glittery Christmas Salt Dough

Looking for a quick and kid friendly activity this Christmas eve? I modified this simple recipe from Mom on Timeout to add a little sparkle to our salt dough creations.  We are making ornaments and will try our hand at coasters as well - I'll get back to you on how the coasters turn out after they cool and we test them. 

Glittery Salt Dough

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon glitter
food coloring, if desired (make your water measurement a bit scant if you're using liquid color)
1 tablespoon cinnamon, if desired
knead for about 10 minutes

The girls loved kneading the dough, and the smell of the cinnamon.  Let the dough rest for 40 minutes and then roll out to ~ 1/4 inch thick, cut as desired.  Cook at 200 degrees for 4-6 hours, or until dry.  If you're going to use these as ornaments, be sure to poke a hole in them for hanging!

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fast and Festive Rice Salad

As we've officially reached the "holy cow it's crazy busy" season, I'm happy to share this quick and healthy side dish from Mizkan using Nakano natural rice vinegar!  Aren't we all looking for fast and easy side dishes this time of year, something a little different than mashed potatoes and green bean casserole?  This salad is done in the time it takes the rice to cook, and is even better if you make it a day or two ahead, which is great when there are always other things you could be doing, right?

I should also add that this dressing is a favorite with my girls - so we make it for "everyday" salads as well, the kind with lettuce as the main ingredient rather than rice...and as a dipping sauce for vegetables and chicken tenders, etc.

Check out the Mizkan recipe site for the original recipe. My variation is included below.

Fast and Festive Rice Salad

4 cups brown rice
(make according to package instructions, and while it is cooking, prepare the remaining ingredients)
1/4 cup Nakano natural rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons dijon or honey mustard
1 large fiji apple, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup of dried cranberries
1/2 cup of nuts of your choice, I prefer pine nuts or chopped almonds
1/4 cup of diced onion (green onion would be great as well)

Mix the vinegar, oil and mustard. Add apple to keep from browning. Toss the dressing, vegetables and rice once the rice has cooled.  Chill and serve, or prepare a day or two in advance and refrigerate. Yum!

I was supplied with vinegar and compensated for my time, but as always, ideas and opinions are my own.

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Conscious Christmas Gift Guide

This year we are continuing the pattern of less is more with our gift giving.  The girls will each get a few things they really want, and we will focus on giving to others - friends, family and those less fortunate than ourselves. For those gifts we're buying, I'm trying to stay local when possible, and from there find companies I can trust to make safe quality products in the USA. Anything made outside the country I want to see has been made in a way that supports the local community. In case you're looking for ideas, I thought I would share my list of favorites with you!

Ceader Hill Heirlooms is an etsy shop that provides handmade wooden toys in Minnesota. These Waldorf inspired wooden animals and nature scenes are incredibly detailed and beautiful. I get just as excited as my girls when we make a purchase from this shop, and the owner is very sweet and responsive.

Looking for more wooden toys or a beautiful doll for your little ones?  I discovered TreeHouse Kids on the recommendation of a friend, and just purchased some lovely toys there as well.  All toys are made with eco friendly or recycled materials, and the shop owner plants a tree for every purchase! You'll find colorful blocks, peg people, bean bags and adorable rag dolls and doll clothing. If I wasn't already finishing a set of Waldorf inspired dolls for the girls, I would have purchased these in a heartbeat.

If you have a little artist in the house, Kiddie Closet by GrammasShop has adorable art totes at a very reasonable price. With a huge amount of fabrics to choose from, you're sure to find a tote that suits your child's interests. My girls love to play with their art totes anywhere - they are great for entertaining around the house, in the car or airplane, or while out running errands. We've had ours for nearly a year now, and they are holding up really well. This is another etsy shop, located in Utah.

I adored Amy long before I realized she and her husband were the creators of Little Alouette. If you have younger ones in the house, these wooden teethers are just the thing.  In addition to the beautiful bird teether that Amy gave Sugar Plum when they first met, the girls also have a darling dinosaur set that Santa sent for Christmas last year. I love how these beautiful toys grow with my girls, and they are so beautiful that they will be treasured for years to come.

Want a cute shirt or tutu set for the holidays, or all year round?  I discovered Sticheroos when I wanted a personalized diaper cover for Sweetpea's first birthday party.  I have since bought the girls 2 sets of shirts.  The shop owner is willing to make custom designs to suit your needs or your child's interests, and the shirts we have purchased lasted well past the time the girls outgrew them. 

Does your little one love lovies? These darling elephant sensory lovies are just the thing, from Icing on the Cupcake.  I purchased one similar to this and a minky blanket to match.  Now that Sugar Plum is a bit old for her lovies she shares them with her dolls.  Unique, well made and adorable, they make a great gift.

In addition to the gifts mentioned above, I love giving experience gifts - memories that don't take up space in our small home!  What child wouldn't love a Membership to Zoo or Children's Museum, or an Art, Dance or Sports Class?  This kind of gift is so easy to personalize to your child's needs, and helps to support the local community as well.  Is a membership or class more than you were looking to spend?  Maybe a show or musical performance would be more your taste.  We have a fabulous children's theater that has regular child themed performances (as well as acting classes available!) that Sweetpea loves.  In our case, grandma takes her and they make an afternoon of it - she loves the special time and chance to feel like such a big kid!

One last idea, and something we do each year as part of helping the girls understand the importance of giving.  For those especially hard to buy for relatives, I have the girls help me pick out a gift from Heifer International.  There are a wonderful variety of gifts, and you can buy a relatively inexpensive "share" of an animal, up to a large gift meant to help an entire community.  I love that Heifer gifts keep on giving, because by being in the program, families agree to "pass on the gift" by giving the offspring of their gifts to others in need.  Gifts such as honeybees, rabbits, goats and more provide families with income and food to become self sufficient.  The girls love to hear about the types of gifts, how they will help a family, and make their own choice (given a fairly specific price target) as to what they want to purchase.  Then we create a card to share with the person who we are buying the gift in honor of, explaining the program, the gift, and how the girls came to choose their specific gift.

What are you buying this year?  I'd love to hear what you love to buy for your family and for others!

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Chris Mann wows with Roads Album

I have been eagerly anticipating an album from Chris Mann for some time now - ever since Sweetpea and I were taken with his charm, thoughtfulness, and oh yeah - that amazing voice at BlogHer 2009.  There we were, unexpectedly together in Chicago as my babysitter had changed plans at the last minute. Sweetpea was a few months past two years old, and I was every bit of eight months pregnant.  I'm sure we made an interesting couple at the parties each evening, but we were having too much fun to care - especially at the people's party, when we were goofing off and dancing the night away with Anissa Mayhew and a few other newly aquainted friends from my online world. Chris was kind enough to invite Sweetpea up on stage and she loved every second of her time in the spotlight. I'm not sure she really remembers the experience now that several years have passed, but she still loves to hear the story, and to listen to Chris sing.

We were both excited when One2One Network sent us the new album, Roads, to review. And I'm happy to say that it was every bit what we had hoped it would be.  Showcasing Chris's fabulous voice and staying true to the sound you heard on The Voice, Roads will leave you wanting more (songs, that is). And for those of you who truly do want more, there is a Christmas Album that I'm sure is fabulous as well!

To preview four songs from Roads, follow this link.  Roads can be purchased on iTunes and Amazon.  I was supplied with a copy of the album for review.  As always, all opinions are my own.

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Turnips with a twist - Love me some greens!

I love that we are still picking turnips from our garden in November. When cooking with the turnips, don't overlook the greens - they are a nutritional powerhouse and are very tasty when cooked up the right way! For years I've been cooking any and all greens coarsely chopped and boiled in chicken broth. Just as they finish cooking, I freshly grate some nutmeg into the mix and serve.
As the weather gets colder, the turnip greens are getting a little extra bite, so I added a few splashes of Nakano Natural Rice Vinegar to the chicken broth.  The added tang paired well with the stronger taste of the late season greens, and added a nice flavor without being overpowering. With no sugar, preservatives or calories, it's a great way to add flavor and feel good about it!
I love these greens as is, but they are also wonderful in other things like soups and casseroles.  An extra big batch means there are leftovers to sneak into other dishes... Next week I'll share my "let's keep us all healthy!" chicken and veggie soup, with turnip greens as one of the star veggies.
Tangy Turnip Greens
1 large batch of greens - about 4 turnips worth
Olive oil to coat your pan
1 - 2 cups of chicken or other broth
dash of nutmeg, freshly grated is preferred
Coarsely chop your greens and rinse them well. (I find this is the best way to get rid of any dirt or grit that might have followed you in the house!) Don't worry to much about draining them thoroughly, as you're going to be boiling them anyway...toss them in the pan with a little olive oil and allow the greens to wilt for a few minutes. If necessary, add any remaining greens as the wilting begins.  Now add the broth and vinegar. Cook until tender, then grate a bit of nutmeg over the top. Serve warm, and save leftovers to add to soups, casseroles and the like!
*disclaimer* I was provided with Nakano vinegar to test in my favorite recipes and compensated for my time. As always, all opinions are my own, and I only recommend products that I use and love. 

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Stop and pick the roses

This past week was a whirlwind. Emdee was working late every night, which mant it was just us girls for dinner, play and bedtime. The weather was wonderful, warm, sunny and full of fall color. We spent each evening playing outside and soaking up the last of the weather - having heard at each weather report that Sandy was bringing high winds, cold temps and maybe even our first snow.
This past week I was reminded again just how much the girls have taught me. To slow down, to soak in the blessings of each day...and as we headed in for baths on Thursday, the sky blazing orange and pink, Sweetpea asked me to wait a minute longer.
She headed toward the flower garden with nearly all the flowers dead and removed for the season, and came back with a bouquet. "Now we can enjoy these a little longer, mommy."
So as the rains came, and the wind and the cold, we have these sweet flowers as one lst reminder of a fabulous season. Now if someone could just tell me how to hang on to this moment, these girls, this age, just a little longer...

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Visit Panera in October and support the American Cancer Society of Southwest Ohio

Panera Bread kicks off the 11th Annual Pink Ribbon Bagel campaign with “Pink Ribbon Bagel
Day” on Monday, October 1 to support the American Cancer Society of Southwest Ohio and
breast cancer research as part of a month-long campaign. Panera Bread will donate 100
percent of proceeds from its signature Pink Ribbon Bagel sold on Oct. 1 to the American Cancer
Society as part of the company’s commitment to the Cincinnati community. For the remainder of October, Panera Bread will donate ten cents of the proceeds from each Pink Ribbon Bagel sold.

The Pink Ribbon Bagel is baked fresh each morning in the shape of the iconic pink ribbon,
featuring cherry chips, dried cherries and cranberries, vanilla, honey and brown sugar. The
bagel was developed by Sue Stees in 2001 to help support breast cancer research. Stees is
a breast cancer survivor and one of Panera Bread’s first franchisees. To find out if a Panera
Bread near you is participating, visit http://www.panera-ohio.com.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Gentle reminders to help family reuse

I have been taking baby steps toward a much greener life since Sweetpea was born. Many of them don't require buy in or even get noticed by the rest of the family. When I started sending reused containers (yogurt, cottage cheese, etc) with EmDee's lunch, I noticed many of them weren't making it back home for another round. He would forget and throw them in the trash...these fun notes are a gentle reminder to bring home his containers, and also that I love him! :)
How do you help your family participate in your "greening initiatives"?

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Summer, Fabulous Summer

I absolutely love this photo of the girls...the relaxed, fun and spunky feel really captures the entire summer for me in one moment.  As Sweetpea is fast approaching kindergarten and I'm headed back to school myself (this time as a teacher - my career transition is finally complete!) I will be keeping this photo handy as a reminder of the fabulous summer we had!

There were some wonderful trips, and many fun days exploring and relaxing at home as well.  I'll be sharing some of our favorites in the coming days, as well as some ideas for easing back into the structure and routines that the school year brings.  What have you been up to this summer?!

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Make your own grass head friend!

This upcycled craft is both adorable and fun, and even better it provides plenty of opportunity to talk science! Sweetpea and Sugar Plum were able to attend "mad science" camp this summer and this was one of the fun crafts they brought home. If you've ever wanted to make your own chia pet like friend you'll love these!

Start with a white tube sock - if your house is like mine you have several orphan socks to choose from...but that's a post for another day :) I like to have a picture or sketch of our finished product handy when we get started. This provides an opportunity to brainstorm the steps with your kids. We want the grass to be the hair, so where/when do we want to add the grass seed? This leads naturally into a discussion of what grass (and more generally, plants) need to grow.  For more advanced learners, you can also discuss how do the needs of plants - water, light, soil and air compare to what people and animals need to grow and survive. Follow the questions and topics that seem to naturally interest your child, and if a question stumps you, head to the computer for a little research!

Now for the instructions!
1 tube sock
A handful of grass seed
A few cups of dirt or potting soil
Permanent marker
Google eyes or other embellishments if desired
A cup or pot for your pet to sit in

It helps to roll your tube sock up to shorten it while filling.
First, place the grass seed in the end of the sock. Add a few cups of potting soil to reach desired size of your pet. Tie a knot in the end of your sock, as close as you can to the soil. Now add a face and any embellishments! A hot glue gun works best for your embellishments as you will be watering your pet.  Now place pet in his cup or pot "home" add water and find a sunny spot for him to live. In a few days he or she will be ready for a haircut!

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Splash it On, Step it Up with Nakano!

Two things I'm always working on are staying active and eating healthy.  I want my girls to know how important it is for them to take care of themselves - and to really understand what that means.  As a Mizkan blogger advocate, I was really excited to see them launch the Nakano Splash it On, Step it Up challenge this summer.  The program encourages participants to get active and make healthy choices - one of the campaign goals is to help people eat more veggies - how cool is that?!

If you're interested in becoming healthier or could use support in your healthy lifestyle, I encourage you to check it out.  There is an app to help participants worldwide track their steps, as well as healthy eating and workout tips. Nakano rice vinegars are flavorful and pack a bold flavor that pairs wonderfully with vegetables.  The website has some great recipes that incorporate their productsEntrants are eligible to win gym memberships, personal training sessions and workout bags.  What are you waiting for - let's Splash it on and Step it Up!

Disclosure: I am compensated for my time working as a Mizkan Blogger Advocate, but my thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Hot Programs at the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County

Just because the Reading Rocks program is coming to a close in the next week doesn't mean there aren't fun things to do at the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County.  Michael Schelle, social media specialist for the library, was kind enough to share several exciting opportunities for fun and learning that are still available!

Looking for free activities you can do with your kids this summer? The Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County is always a great place to go with the family, but here are a few special programs going on this summer that Moms will really love!
Spending, Saving, Sharing for Kids (Wednesday, July 25th at the Norwood Library)
It’s never too early to teach your children the importance of a piggy bank! Join the Library for a special storytime for kids (ages 3 to 6) that incorporates the basics of spending, saving and sharing into an interactive story. The event is free but seats are limited, so click the link above to register online (it takes just seconds).
Free Summer Lunch Program for Children (click the link and search keyword “lunch”)
Make sure your child gets a good lunch every day this summer! The Library is teaming up with Cincinnati Public Schools and the Freestore Foodbank to provide free lunches to kids ages one to 18, with no registration needed and no income requirements. With 14 branches participating, there’s sure to be a lunch near your family, including at the Groesbeck, Main, Sharonville, Madisonville and Deer Park libraries. Call 513-369-6900 for details and a full list of locations, or click here to visit our Event Calendar and search for keyword “lunch” to view all our lunch programs.

Children practice reading aloud to registered therapy dogs at Tales to Tails.
Reading independently can be hard for children to learn, especially if they feel self-conscious about their reading level. One of the Library’s more unique programs, Tales to Tails gives kids a chance to read aloud to a certified therapy dog at several branches across Cincinnati. These pets are natural listeners, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly your child’s confidence rises! Tales to Tails goes on every Friday at the Main Library at 3:00 PM in the Children’s Learning Center, or click here to visit our Event Calendar and search for keyword “tails” to view programs at other branches.
Books Alive! For Kids®

 The Library is partnering again this summer with Learning Through Art, Inc. for a series of 10 performances of the award-winning Books Alive! For Kids®. This interactive program combines sight, sound and touch by presenting a book, engaging children in a performance, and providing a hands-on, “make-it-and-take-it” craft. The Books Alive! For Kids Summer Library Tour 2012 features “What A Wonderful World” by George David Weiss and Bob Thiele and illustrated by Ashley Bryan.

 This year, the series is performed in conjunction with the “What Children Believe” international art exhibition being hosted inside the Main Library Atrium. Take your children to a performance at a branch near you, then bring them downtown and show them the artwork of children around the world!
Artwork by Sorina Calinescu of Romania (age 11) is on display as part of the exhibit, “What Children Believe.”

It’s a hot summer in Cincinnati, but there’s always something cool (and free!) to do with your family at the Cincinnati Library. Save the date for any of these great programs, or simply grab your Red Cards and head down to your local branch for family fun anytime!

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

More Summer Reading Fun!

I wrote a few weeks ago about one of our local library programs and a staggering statistic regarding the reading and math aptitude loss many children experience over the summer months.  For those of you who aren't local, I would highly recommend you check out the local libraries in your area.  Looking for more reading inspiration?  Allison at No Time for Flashcards has a fantastic summer reading challenge going - with roughly a month left her challenge participants are more than half way to their goal!  Help them meet the amazing goal of 25,000 books and enter to win fun prizes just for entering your book totals.

What are you reading this summer?  Are you participating in a reading program?

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Melon Bowl of Fruity Fun

We grew melons this year for the first time - it has been so hot and dry the past month I wasn't sure they would survive. The girls have loved finding newly set fruit and watching the melons grow and change, and we have talked a lot about how to tell if they are ripe. (I'm still not sure about the watermelons, but I am fairly confident about the canteloupe now!)

Sweetpea isn't a big fan of the flavor, but Sugar Plum LOVES it - and I think she's going to love eating out of the melon "bowl" with a few of our blackberries thrown in!

What are you growing this year? How are things coming along? Happy harvesting!

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Reading Rocks with the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County

Each summer we create a list of things we want to during the slower summer months, with a heavy emphasis on FUN.  Folding learning into our daily fun is second nature around here, and I'm always looking for new ideas.  I've created a pinterest board just for play learning, and I recently added this post - 10 Tips to Get Kids Reading This Summer.  I definitely recommend it - not only does it include some great ideas, but also a shocking statistic regarding the average slip in math and reading skills that kids experience over the summer.  It was a good reminder of the importance reading, and the push I needed to finally post about some of our favorite reading programs! 

The first program I'd like to share with my local readers is READING ROCKS! from the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. In addition to a traditional summer reading program - with some pretty fun prizes - there are scheduled events that appeal to a variety of ages and interests.  The program runs through the end of July, so there are still plenty of upcoming activities.  I've included a partial list with dates and locations below - for more information, visit the READING ROCKS page and click on Programs on the left sidebar. (Be sure to scroll all the way down - my two favorite events are all the way at the bottom!)

The Frisch Marionette Company’s Variety ShowJoin the Frisch Marionettes and see hand puppets and trick marionettes perform songs, dances, and comedy routines. Sponsored by the Friends of the Public Library.
     Wednesday, July 25, 2:00 p.m. Green Township Branch Library
Hip Hop Dancing with Steve Irwin Learn some new dance moves and get your groove on wit hip hop dance instructor Steve Irwin. Sponsored by the Friends of the Public Library.
     Thursday, June 28, 10:30 a.m. Main Library - Children’s Learning Center

The Magic of Tom Bemmes Join magician Tom Beemes for a magical time full of lots of fun and intrigue the entire family will enjoy. Sponsored by the Friends of the Public Library.
    Wednesday, July 11, 2:00 p.m. Price Hill Branch Library
    Wednesday, July 18, 7:00 p.m. Blue Ash Branch Library
    Thursday, July 19, 2:30 p.m. Madeira Branch Library
    Thursday, July 26, 3:00 p.m. Mt. Healthy Branch Library

Learn About Reptiles with Cool Critters Outreach
Meet and learn about reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. Don’t forget your local has plenty of books to help you learn even more about how these cold-blooded creatures live. Sponsored by the Friends of the Public Library.
    Thursday, June 28, 2:00 p.m. Bond Hill Branch Library
    Thursday, July 5, 1:00 p.m. Avondale Branch Library
    Tuesday, July 24, 10:30 a.m. Main Library – Children’s Learning Center
    Tuesday, July 24, 6:30 p.m. Mt. Washington Branch Library
    Tuesday, July 31, 6:30 p.m. Hyde Park Branch Library

Honey Hill Farm Petting Zoo Feed and pet friendly animals from the Honey Hill Farm (including a miniature horse, miniature donkey, an alpaca, bunnies, goats, sheep, and ducks). Sponsored by the Friends of the Public Library.
    Saturday, June 30, 2:00 p.m. Monfort Heights Branch Library
    Saturday, July 7, 2:00 p.m. Sharonville Branch Library
    Saturday, July 28, 11:00 a.m. Delhi Township Branch Library

"Once Upon a Time… with ArtReach ArtReach, a division of The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati, will bring new life to classic fairy tales. Children will have the opportunity to bring some of their favorite fairy tales to life. Sponsored by the Friends of the Public Library.  
    Tuesday, July 17, 2:00 p.m. Wyoming Branch Library 
    Tuesday, July 17, 6:30 p.m. Mariemont Branch Library

"Sounds Like Fun" with Crystal Clear Science A fun and face paced program that will unlock the secrets behind the sound of music and so much more. Do some amazing experiments using everyday items, listen to a cup talk, a rod sing, and find out why you sound so weird when you hear the sound of your voice on a recording. Sponsored by the Friends of the Public Library.
    Wednesday, June 27, 2:00 p.m. Blue Ash Branch Library
    Thursday, June 28, 3:00 p.m. Miami Township Branch Library
    Tuesday, July 3, 2:00 p.m. Bond Hill Branch Library
    Thursday, July 12, 2:00 p.m. Madisonville Branch Library
    Thursday, July 26, 3:00 p.m. Symmes Township Branch Library

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Friday, June 8, 2012

Planning your BEST Summer with the 100 Days of Summertime eBook

Summer List 2010
If you've been reading the blog for very long, you know I'm a bit of a list addict...and I'm a firm believer that everything goes more smoothly with a bit of planning.  I've been making summer and holiday lists for years now to help ensure that our family makes time for the most important things.  It's been fun this year to finally solicit input from the girls and include their ideas into our activity lists.

As a planner and a list maker, I was very excited when Jen from ListPlanIt.com 's sent me her new 100 days of summer ebook to review!  Filled with ideas for the summer season, as well as downloads from ListPlanIt and Pinterest boards for additional inspiration, this book is a great resource regardless of how organized you might be at the moment. The variety of ideas appeal to a wide audience - no matter what you're doing, Jen has it covered - from travel plans to summer holidays, creating a camp like environment at home and even rainy day activities.

I mentioned downloads - for those of you who are looking for organizational assistance all year long, this ebook includes 31 downloads from the ListPlanIt site - a great way to see (for just $5!) whether you might be interested in a membership to ListPlanIt.  I received a complimentary ebook for review, and liked it so much I became an affiliate.  If that doesn't speak to how much I liked it (and how much I think you will too!) I don't know what does. :)  I would love it if you'd use my link to make a purchase if you are interested!

Summer is filled with possibility, let's make the most of it!

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cooking with Kids - Little hands helping in the kitchen!

Mommy, Can I Help?
Our family spends a lot of time in the kitchen, as I'm sure is true about many families.  I love that the girls want to help while I'm cooking, and there are a lot of lessons about math, science and life that occur in the time we spend there, whether they recognize it or not.  That said, many of the activities we enjoy together take a lot of preparation, not to mention careful management and cleanup!  Every once in awhile I want the girls to be able to enjoy themselves and play a bit in a way that actually helps me and also allows me to be productive at the same time.  This is one of those activities!

Look! A clean potato!

I had a huge sack of potatoes and was making several dishes at the same time - all of which required slicing and dicing of cleaned potatoes.  In came two sweet little girls wanting to help, and so we got out two big bowls, a stack of towels, and two vegetable scrubbers.  With towels spread out underneath, I filled the bowls halfway with water and the girls went to town scrubbing and splashing.  When they were done, we dumped the water out and used the wet towels to clean the floor - how's that for serving double duty!

Do you have little hands that like to help?  What are your favorite activities when your kids are in the kitchen?

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Finger Print "Rain" Art

Even though it's only April 4, we've already had several "April Showers". The weather overall has been fantastic this spring, but even so this mama has been around the block enough to know it's important to have several rainy day activities in her toolbox! :)
Most kids love to paint, and if mine aren't closely supervised things nearly always dissolve into finger/hand painting. Imagine their delight when I squeezed out the paint and encouraged them to make finger prints all over the paper!
We started with a blank sheet and made several finger prints in different orientations and colors. We talked about how the blue ones looked a bit like raindrops. Then I drew an umbrella on a fresh sheet for each of them and encouraged them to create their own rainy day scene - complete with fingerprint raindrops! Both girls loved this, and afterward we switched back to free painting which they also enjoy. It was fun to see them plan their project in advance, get started and make edits along the way. We will definitely do this again!
What are your favorite rainy day activities?

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Free St Patrick's Day Fun - all week at McAlister's Deli!

YUM! McAlister’s Deli celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with Free Cookies
Looking for a little luck of the Irish?

McAlister’s Deli is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day

all week

by giving away free cookies to patrons wearing green.

McAlister’s Deli “Lucky Days” run through the week of March 12-17.

Show off your best green attire for a fabulous sweet treat!
The following locations are participating in "Lucky Days":

7720 Montgomery Rd. Cincinnati, OH 45236

4560 Cornell Rd. Cincinnati, OH 45241

7622 Cox Ln. West Chester, OH 45069

5040 Deerfield Blvd. Mason, OH 45040

2865 Dixie Hwy. Crestview Hills, KY 41017

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Entertaining Kids at the Grocery - scavenger cards

If you're like me, the thought of inviting kids along on a shopping trip can set your nerves on edge! If someone had told my 16 year old self that sneaking out of the house for a solo grocery trip would be a rare chance for some alone time, I would have thought they were crazy. With EmDee's work schedule, the girls and I do most everything together and that solo trip really IS a rare one. I've found that involving the girls in our errands always makes things go more smoothly. So does avoiding meal and nap time, but that's a post for another day! ;)

Tis the season for seed catalogs, and we always seem to receive more of them each year. I've started crafting with them, and this is one of my favorites yet. I had the girls search for their favorite fruits and vegetables, along with some that I picked for them. Once the produce had been located, Sweetpea and I cut them out and Sweetpea and Sugar Plum glued them onto squares of cardboard from a cereal box we'd finished.

Once the cards were dry, the girls hole punched a corner, and we added the cards to one of our Dandelion teething key rings! Aren't these adorable? We can add or subtract to include produce that is actually on the grocery list, and the girls each get a ring. They are responsible for locating their produce, and if the trip is going well they get to help load their items into the cart as well.

I'm thinking of upcycling a grocery ad or two to include some more items from our shopping list.

What tricks do you use to make shopping with kids go more smoothly?

*disclaimer* Dandelion sent me several of their corn based teething rings to compost, and a few extras for the girls to play with. (isn't it cool that their corn based bioplastics will compost?!) I'll keep you posted as to how the composting is going, and in the meantime, the girls love their keys and grocery cards!

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sweet, soft and sustainable: Dandelion handcrafted hats!

In the pursuit of eco friendly and sustainable products, I'm so glad I was introduced to Dandelion Earth Friendly Goods. Dandelion makes several products, from feeding accessories to toys to layette items.

As I have been relentlessly attacking the "stuff" in our house in an effort to simplify and declutter, I was looking for useful and fun Christmas presents for the girls this past December. These hats (with matching rattle balls) fit the bill - who could resist the cute? Made from bamboo fibers, they are cuddly soft.

My girls love to try on hats, but rarely leave them on. Finally we have hats that the girls want to wear everywhere! Here they are, modeling their favorite outerwear in the one snowfall we've had this year...

Mmmm, this white stuff is good!

What, you don't kiss your snowmen? :)

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Need some quick hearts? Easy Valentine's Decorations

Need a bunch of Valentine's decorations? These pipe cleaner hearts are about 5 seconds to make...

Take a pipe cleaner and fold it in half.

Twist the ends together carefully and fold the twist into itself toward the folded edge.

If needed, adjust to get that perfect heart shape. This is one my four year old made, so it's a fun craft even for little ones!

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Measuring and estimating with cookie dough - YUM!

For those of us who homeschool or want to supplement our child's learning, the idea of adding one more thing to our already busy family life can seem daunting. In order to maximize our learning and make the best use of our time, I try and integrate learning into our daily activities as much as possible. Opportunities to introduce new concepts and practice problem solving are everywhere!

Today we were baking rainbow sparkle cookies (otherwise known as my fake out snickerdoodles) and took the time to discuss how to divide the cookie dough evenly, so that all the cookies would cook correctly. Sweetpea is still a bit young to fully grasp fractions, but this was a good introduction. We cut the chilled dough in half, then half again. We counted how many dough balls we had. Everything went into half again, more counting...and so on until we had the sized dough balls that we wanted.

After we started rolling dough balls and covering them with colored sugar and cinnamon we talked about how the balls had to be two inches apart. How do we estimate two inches, and what does that look like anyway? We got out a ruler and thought about it a bit. We decided to measure Sweetpea's fingers, to see how many together made two inches. It turned out we needed three fingers between cookie balls.

Our cookies came out colorful and evenly spaced. Sweetpea is obsessed with estimating now, and the idea of how big something is. She thinks it is hilarious that a foot used to be determined by the size of the kings actual foot.

What have you been learning lately? Do you teach in the kitchen?

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Chocolate Peppermint Syrup, Oh Yes!

Our daycare provider shares my love of all things peppermint chocolate flavored. I love to pamper her with the occasional unexpected treat, as she is so wonderful to my girls when I have to work. So of course I thought of her when Rachel from Southern Fairytale shared her fabulous hot chocolate recipe with me. So much more frugal (and made with love!) to bring this yummy treat occasionally when I pick up the girls.

When I was considering ideas for homemade gifts this holiday season, the hot chocolate mix immediately came to mind. Who doesn't like decadently delicious hot chocolate this time of year, anyway?

Then I read Amy's peppermint mocha recipe that I had been seeing all over twitter and pinterest. Not only was it genius, but buried in there was the super simple idea of making peppermint syrup! I had to make some right away. As I was stirring my syrup and checking to see if I had the right amount of mint extract, it hit me - how fabulous would it be to stir in some hot chocolate mix to the still hot mint syrup? That was my own genius moment, as it was as spectacular as I'd imagined. Many thanks to Rachel and Amy for providing two delicious recipes that were a match made in heaven.

If you'd like to make this yourself, follow Amy's directions for peppermint syrup (all the way at the bottom of her post), and then after the syrup is finished and still hot, whisk in hot chocolate mix to taste. Refrigerate and enjoy as chocolate mint milk, hot minty chocolate or a peppermint mocha!

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Keep little hands warm with those unmatched socks

The Christmas season brought many magical moments with it this year, with both girls being in the perfect age range for enjoying our holiday traditions. In addition to those rapturous family moments, this season also brought several rounds with the stomach bug. The best way I found to keep the girls hydrated while they were sick was with the beloved Popsicle, more specifically those electrolyte freeze pops. In so doing I found a use for all of the mismatched socks the dryer seems to give me - as a sleeve to keep little hands warm! When not in use as a hand warmer, this particular one moonlights as a sock puppet, drawing smiles and giggles out of even the sickest little ones in the house. :)

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