Tuesday, December 28, 2010

HiHo Cherry-O!

We have a tradition of unwrapping a game and playing it as a family on Christmas Eve. This year we opened Hasbro's HiHo Cherry-O. It worked really well for our family. It has two sets of rules. One is for a cooperative game (everyone is on the same team) the other each person plays against each other. We used the cooperative game and had a wonderful time! It has the cutest little cherries, blueberries, oranges and apples to pick. If you spill your baskest or the dog gets into it, you have to put some back on the tree or bush - just like real harvesting! Okay, so it's not ture to life but the game is great for counting practice and doesn't require reading so it was a good fit for our family that includes a three year old and a four year old. HiHo Cherry-O has a 4.5 out of 5 star rating on Amazon.com (which is where I got both of these photos and the actual game). As I type this, the game costs $7.99 and has free Super Saver Shipping.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Building Birthday

We had a "Building Birthday" at our house. I made a state capital building cake - which would have been wrapped in a beautiful layer of fondant and had fondant windows put in if I hadn't just moved into our new house and been watching three extra children for four days. I'm still proud of it but it would have been incredible if I had finished it.

For some decorations I made some buildings out of Mega Bloks. I printed pictures of buildings my son would recognize on sticker paper, lined them up on the Bloks and cut out a portion of the picture for each block. I cut a small amount off between blocks so the stickers wouldn't be hanging off the edge. To help them last a little longer, I added a layer of Mod Podge on top. Each building was built in with a different color Blok. Along with the state capital, there was a temple, a smoke stack and our new house for him - and the rest of the guests - to build.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Story of Stuff

This twenty minute video is worth watching. It puts a lot of things into perspective.

http://www.storyofstuff.com/

Friday, July 23, 2010

Minimalism


We have cleared everything out of house that is not necessary for daily life and I love it. Everything stays much tidier and it takes less than fifteen minutes to get the entire house picked up and ready for the day. I love it. It has freed up so much of my time, energy and thoughts. I actually ran out of things to do yesterday and was able to relax without feeling guilty and without having something sitting in the back of my mind waiting to get done. It's been years since that has happened. This is the way I want to live.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Towel Rack


We have this towel rack in both our bathrooms. I like it because there is room for four towels to hang neatly in one small space. The bars move separately so it's easy to get any particular towel whether it's on the top, the bottom or somewhere in between. It can be purchased from Ikea for $14.99.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Harvest Begins


It snowed two days ago. Today I pulled these beauties from my garden. What an exciting day! I only wish I knew how to cook these so I like them! Any suggestions?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

French Fry Seasoning

This is supposed to be the recipe for the seasoning on Red Robin's steak fries. It was good but doesn't taste a whole lot like the real thing. To me, Red Robin's tastes more like a barbecue sauce seasoning. If you are not expecting Red Robin, you won't be let down. They are still good.

French Fry Seasoning
3 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon instant tomato soup mix
(Knorr tomato with basil works great)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Also, I couldn't find the instant tomato soup mix at the store so I made my own with this recipe:

Instant Tomato Soup Mix
4 tb non-fat dry milk
2 tb powdered dry tomatoes
1/8 ts basil
1/16 ts salt dash pepper

I dried my own tomatoes in my dehydrater and then ground to powder in my wheat grinder. Make sure your tomatoes are really dry. I think a few of the slices weren't quite there yet. Consequently, I spent quite some time unclogging the grinder.

I also found for this recipe for instant tomato soup mix at chef2chef a varation: "Add about 1/4 teaspoon of onion and/or garlic powder.
Reduce the amount of non-fat dry milk milk accordingly."
I am fairly sure that this will make a big difference. I'll have to try it next time.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Potty Training Books



These are books both take the no-pressure approach to potty training. Diaper-Free Before 3 would be great for those parents who are wanting to start as soon as possible. Lekovic doesn't feel there is a need to wait for signs of readiness. She suggests starting as early as 6 months and slowly working the child into being fully trained.
Potty Training Boys the Easy Way is even more laid back and does consider readiness to be a very important factor when actively working on potty training but that you should expose the child to concepts as early as opportunities present themselves. I like that it allows the child to own his success. I found it very helpful because it is gender specific. I recommend both books but Potty Training Boys the Easy Way was my favorite of the two. There is also a book called Potty Training Girls the Easy Way by the same authors.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Purple Petal Clips and Pins




These can be purchased from SimpleBlue as either pins or clips.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ticket to Ride



We just got this game and really like it. We have played it with the kids. We just split it so the little ones were on a team with either Mom or Dad. They were the ones who got to draw and discard cards and put the train pieces on. We also like to play it ourselves because it has strategy for my husband and just enough chance for me.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Parenting With Love and Logic

I believe it is a good idea to read parenting books and ideas regularly. I don't always agree with what I read and sometimes what I read just isn't right for the stage my family is at or for our family dynamic but I think just thinking about doing a good job at being a parent is important. I just finished reading Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jay Fay for the second. This is one I think every parent should read.
This is the description Amazon.com gave for the book:

From Library Journal
Psychiatrist Cline and educator Fay's "Love and Logic" parenting method advocates raising responsible children through practice. "Helicopter" parents hover around their children while "drill sergeant" parents give orders to theirs, they claim. Neither of these styles permits children to learn how to make choices and learn from the consequences. The result is that as early as adolescence these children too often make bad decisions. In the context of a healthy, loving relationship, "Love and Logic" parents teach their children responsibility and the logic of life by solving their own problems, providing skills for coping in the real world. After laying out the principles of "Love and Logic," the authors provide "parenting pearls," which are strategies for applying the method to actual situations such as back-seat battles in the car, homework, and keeping bedrooms clean. The narration, performed by Tim Kenney and Bert Gurule, is clear and energetic. This is an upbeat and sensible approach to child rearing that will be popular in public libraries.?Nann Blaine Hilyard, Fargo P.L., N.D.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review
If you're looking for practical parenting skills, this book is a must. The pages are chock full of tips that you can implement right away...this book is one of the best parenting resources I've seen. Because of what I learned from this book, I've already seen positive changes in my relationship with my son. Don't let this vital resource slip by. (Jolene L. Roehlkepartain, OURS Magazine, February 1993)

Without question, this is the most practical book I have ever read on this subject, and I hope that every parent gets a copy and puts it into practice. -- John Kennington, Fellowship Today Magazine, December 1990


It really is that good. However, I would like to say that many of the "parenting pearls" at the back of the book were a little extreme. For example: To fix the "'That looks gross!' when a new meal is placed in front the kids" problem, the book says to say "That's no problem," dump the food down the garbage disposal and tell the kids to go play because their meal is over. Later, when they come in and get themselves something to eat, you stand and watch. When they are done eating, you tell them the food they just ate cost $1.90 and ask if they want to pay cash or if they want it taken out of their allowance. I can see that this would make a big statement but I think, in my house, when the kids say "that's gross!" if I told them that if they complain like that, they can chose to not eat and they won't be getting anything later. If they do indeed choose to not eat and they are asking for something later, I could offer that they can pay for the extra food or stay hungry. Or I could not offer at all. They made the choice to go hungry. I want my kids to feel like they live in a stable house and that Mom isn't going to be springing all these strange rules up at any given moment. I understand that the problem that is being addressed is not having to deal with kids saying they hate the food at every meal and I think they certainly will think twice before saying it at another meal if their food gets disposed of and then they are charged for extra food but I also think that letting them know that if they complain about the food, they know what will actually happen.
Using a less drastic approach may require a reminder when they start to complain at the next meal but if there is a third time, there doesn't need to be a warning. The rule is in place and it must be followed through with - and the children will know what they are getting into when they complain about the food. I prefer consistent consequences to unexpected consequences.

Other than toning down the drama a bit (we already have enough of that here), I think it poses a very good way of thinking about parenting. It provides parents with the way to give the responsibility of being a good and responsible kid to their kid.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Sunflowers (not Snowflowers)

It's been snowing for the last couple of days on our Earth Day Sunflower House. I covered many of the flowers with little milk jug "greenhouses" in hopes of keeping them a little bit warm. The rest I covered with a sheet set that has silly putty stuck all over it. When I checked the sunflowers yesterday, they were doing okay. I haven't checked today -- it's too cold to go out! That is why the picture is from so far away. I didn't want to leave the comfort of my warm home to snap a picture of my garbage (and snow) covered flowers.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Kid Projects Displayed


We have a lot of projects the kids make at story time, church and school. They are often not just flat peices of paper. The kids are proud of them and don't want to get rid of them right away. We made these display boards to keep them in one place. When it's full, they have to decide which item to take off, take a photograph of and then get rid of so that the new one can be put on.



For the blue board we used: Foam board, the sham from his comforter set, red ribbon.
For the pink board we used: Backing from a broken poster frame, sequin fabric, purple ribbon

We used hot glue to glue the fabric to the boards. The ribbons were glued 5" apart and were woven to hold the items better.




Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day

To celebrate Earth Day, we planted sunflowers and morning glories to make a sunflower house that the kids can play in during the summer. The idea came from Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots I bought heirloom sunflower seeds from Seed Savers so I can harvest the seeds and replant next year. We also reused household items that would have been thrown away or recycled for the containers (newspaper, milk jugs, toilet paper tubes, paper grocery bags, etc.) when starting the seeds. We talked about the things we love about our earth and what we can do to help the earth.
These are our sunflower starts. We used most of them.
This is what the base of our house looks like:

Now we just have to watch the weather carefully to make sure they don't get too cold. We love our earth!

Oh, and we bought second-hand bikes for the kids today so they can spend time outside enjoying our earth.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hamburger Buns

I got this recipe from my friend Marisa from Backyard Farming gave me this recipe for hamburger buns:

Hamburger Buns
2 Tbsp yeast
2 cups warm water, divided
3 Tbsp sugar, divided
1 Tbsp salt
5 Tbsp oil
5-6 cups all-purpose flour, divided

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. Stir in 1 Tbsp sugar. Let this mixture stand while you combine the remaining water (1 1/2 cups), remaining sugar (2 Tbsp), salt, oil and 3 cups flour in a seperate bowl. Add yeast misture after it becomes frothy. Add the rest of the flour. Mix until it is kneadable. Let is rest for ten minutes then knead for one minute. Do this three times. Let it rest for an additional ten minutes. Make them into 3.5 oz. balls (makes about 12) and place them on a greased cookie sheet. Flatten them with the palm of your hand. Check back in a few minutes to make sure they are still somewhat flat. If not, flatten again. Let rise for one hour. Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes.

This may seem like a time-intensive process. It does take a lot of time but most of it isn't hands-on time. The first time I made these I got a lot done while I made them. I listened to an audio book during the first part. During the first ten minute rest time I unloaded and loaded the dishwasher. During the second I sorted and started a load of laundry. During the third I tidyed up the house. During the fourth I colored with my kids. During the one hour rise time I went for a run. During the bake time I got all the burger fixings ready. (My husband was working the grill.)

The second time I made these I used 2 Tbsp of honey in place of the sugar that didn't get mixed with the yeast. I also used half freshly ground wheat flour and half all-purpose flour.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Children's Poetry Book

I love this book of poems for my little ones. When my daughter turned three, she recited this poem from it:

Three little candles on a birthday cake
Count them very carefully so there's no mistake.
We've counted three and there's no doubt
Now it's time to blow them out.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Version of Homemade Samoas Cookies

*Be sure to scroll to the bottom for my Carmel Delights variation for those who don't like coconut or don't have it on hand. They are awesome too! Oh, and they are less work.*


Homemade Samoas Cookies
1 cup butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt at a low speed, followed by the vanilla. The dough should come together without being sticky. If the dough is too dry, add a tiny bit of milk (no more than 2 Tbsp should be needed). Add a bit of extra flour if it's too sticky. Roll into little balls about the size of a nickle. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and flatten with the palm of your hand to 1/4" thick or less. Use the end of a WIDE straw to make a hole in the middle of each cookie. If you don't have a wide straw, a regular straw will work. Just do three holes overlapping and kind of smooth the edges with the straw after the last hole. *Tip: When you make a hole, twist the straw a bit and it will collect the hole inside the straw.* Repeat with remaining dough. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until the bottoms are lightly browned and cookies are set. Cool for few minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Topping
3 cups shredded coconut
12 oz chewy carmels
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp milk

8 oz chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 F. Spread coconut evenly on a parchment lined baking sheet and toast in five minute increments. After five minutes, see if most of the coconut is toasted. If there is a lot not toasted, stir and return to the oven for another five minutes. It should take about twenty minutes before the coconut is golden. Cool on the baking sheet, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, unwrap the carmels and place in a large microwave safe bowl with milk and salt. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir a few times. When smooth, mix in the coconut. Have a bowl on water on hand to wet your hands with. With slightly wet hands, form a piece of the topping in to a snake shape, place around the top of a cookie and connect ends. Flatten slightly so the topping sticks to the cookie. Repeat for each cookie. If the topping gets to firm to work with, stick it back in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it.

While the topping sets, melt the chocolate chocolate chips in the microve for 45 seconds. Stir until all the chips are melted. Dip the base of each cookie in to the chocolate and place on parchment paper to cool. Drizzle the remaining chocolate (or melt a little more if necessary) over the finished cookies. Let the chocolate set completely before storing in an airtight container. Makes 3.5-4 dozen cookies.


Carmel Delights
Prepare as above except dip the base in the chocolate before adding the topping and don't add the coconut to the topping recipe. You can just pour the melted carmel mixture to the top of each cookie, drizzle with chocolate and wait until they are set.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Simple Kitchen Clean-up Tip

To easily clean up rice or pasta that has been spilled on the floor:

Leave it for an hour or two. It dries out and sweeps up like a dream.

If you can't handle letting food sit on the floor for that long, buy a corn broom. They seem to have a slicker sweep to them. They work better for me to clean up this type of mess than the plastic bristle brooms.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Goop

This is a fun and educational activity to do with children. Mix 2 parts cornstarch with about 1 part water. That's it. It's magic.
Sometimes it's solid,
sometimes it's liquid.
I don't fully understand it but it was really fun! Talk with your children about properties of liquids and solids -- and you could throw in gases too. Try squeezing the goop, pouring the goop...even just holding the goop is fascinating. I played right along with them for quite some time. They played for an hour. It washes off with water and is, of course, non-toxic. If you want to add color, add a drop or two of food coloring to the water before you mix it. It's really hard to mix in the color after you've put the cornstarch and water together.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Menu Planning


Menu Planning the SimpleBlue way:
Step 1 - Keep a Running Shopping List
When you are getting low on an item, write it on the shopping list
Step 2 - Create a Menu
Ask each member of my family what their favorite foods are and write them on a list. Ask what foods sound good to them (for meals or snacks) and write them on that same list.
Step 3 - Find Recipes and Create a Shopping List
Find a recipe for each of the foods listed. On your shopping list, write down any of the ingredients you will need to purchase. Keep all the recipes you just read through grouped in one place so when you are ready to make any of the meals, the recipe is easy to find. Also add any snacks/fruits and vegetables you'd like serve your family.
Step 4 - Shop
Stick to the list as much as makes sense so you don't have extra food hanging around that hasn't been planned for.
Step 5 - List of Meals
Write the list of meals you were able to get ALL of the ingredients for. I write them on a white board in my kitchen. Erase or cross them off when you make the meal if you don't have enough ingredients to make it a second time.

There is now a list of meals you could create on any given day for the next couple of weeks. You won't need to plan out a specific menu for a specific day. Just make sure you look at the list of dinner choices either the night before or in the morning so that you have time to thaw anything that may be frozen (or get it in the crock pot in a timely manner). You can make anything on that list that sounds good or that fits your schedule on that particular day. I think it will surprise you how flexible this menu is, how much your family will like what you have made (they chose the food, after all), that you will waste less food because you know what you have, how easy it is for you and how long you can go between your trips to the grocery store. This strategy for menu planning is flexible, convenient and makes sense for my family. What are your tricks to menu planning?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Friday, April 9, 2010

Super Sister

My sister will be occasionally be adding items to the shop! Look how cute this baby sling is!