Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Crazy Glasses Toddler project

I saw this idea in Disney's Family Fun Magazine and thought we would try it.
Brant participated but was not really into it. Mason on the other hand LOVED it.

Here is what you need:
  • I found kids' sunglasses for a dollar at the grocery store of all places. I tried to pick out ones that had thick frames.
  • Left over craft items - googly eyes, pom-poms, etc.
  • Glue
End Result:

setting the table

This was so cute I had to write about it!
I was in the kitchen making breakfast for the kids and I could hear that Brant's feelings were getting hurt because Jaxon would only sit on Mason's lap - not his. Lately it seems like I can't cheer Brant up like I used to - I need a new bag of tricks.
I went downstairs and went through this "Birthday Party" bin that I have - basically leftover party supplies. I found a bunch of different charactor napkins, paper placemats, etc.
I called Brant into the kitchen and his whole face lit up when he saw the pile of stuff. I told him he was in charge was setting the table for the family today. He did a great job remembering who liked which plate, he put out Mason's favorite fork, etc.
I have been meaning to give him this job anyway - I remember doing it at his age and loving it.
This simple thing changed Brant's mood, made him feel special - did exactly what I wanted. He was so cute about it - gave me a BIG hug when I was praising him.

Monday, June 20, 2011

garden update

I'm so excited! The garden is doing great!
These are pictures of our garden less than three weeks ago.

I took this picture today!

Homemade strawberry champagne sorbet

We have "The Ultimate Ice Cream Book" by Bruce Weinstein. It's awesome. He has a recipe for raspberry champagne sorbet so I just switched out the berries.

  • 1c sugar
  • 1/2c water
  • 1 quart fresh strawberries (about 1 pound)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1c champagne (I used brut since strawberries are sweeter than raspberries)
Make a simple syrup by combining the sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat. Stire until sugar is dissolved. Remove and cool to room temp.
Place the berries in a blender with the cool syrup and lime juice. Blend until smooth. Pour into ice cream maker and use as directed. Transfer mixture to a freezer-safe container, gently fold champagne in, and freeze for another two hours.

18 pounds of strawberries

My family and I went to the Strawberry Madness Festival (at Johnson's Farm in Hobart, IN) on Saturday and we bought 10 buckets of berries. And I want more. I know, makes no sense. But I get like this in the summer because I HATE the produce in grocery stores - especially the strawberries (prematurely picked, barely any nutrients, chemicals added, I wonder who picked the fruit? Was it a child?). I do remember Alton Brown, from Foodnetwork, doing a show on strawberries and him saying that mass produced strawberries are groomed for size and shipping - not flavor.
I cannot afford to buy everything organic like I would prefer. So I take advantage of the farmer's markets/local farms/our garden and stock up over the summer.

This is what my mom and I did with our 18 pounds of berries:
  • Sorted and quickly rinsed the berries (Be careful! They get waterlogged easily - so rinse before hulling)
  • Removed stems and caps
  • This is when Alton Brown swears by an acidic bath to prevent discoloration. Lemon water is common but he used red wine (1 bottle of red wine for every two pints of berries.) Discoloration doesn't bother me but I will try this and let you know how it goes.
  • Dumped 2 cups of berries into a bowl, then sprinkled 1 TBSP of sugar over them. Repeated this until the bowl was full. This prep was for our homemade sorbets, ice creams, cheesecake topping, etc. You are not normally supposed to add sugar to berries when freezing them long term. However, we want these berries sweetened and will use them within the week. To freeze long term, unsweetened, simply fill up a baking sheet full of strawberries and freeze until firm (a.k.a flash freeze). When thawed, they will be dark in color and be soft but will still taste way better than prematurely picked fruit. I use whole frozen berries in smoothies instead of ice cubes.
  • Let the berries sit for at least an hour

  • Measured out two cups of berries per ziplock bag (The sweet strawberry juice sitting at the bottom of the bowl is our FAVORITE part. Out of all of the berries, we collected about two cups of this juice. SAVE IT! GUARD IT WITH YOUR LIFE! We put a few teaspoons in our iced tea, it was amazing. You can add it to: milk (the best strawberry milk EVER), strawberry shakes, whip cream, pancake batter (or pour it over your pancakes instead of maple syrup)...possibilities are endless!)
  • Gently squished them to extract a little more juice (Mason's favorite part)
  • Stacked the bags in the freezer. This way they will freeze flat and you can just crack off what you need.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Making Fertilizer

The boys and I made some plant food today. I was surprised at how much they liked the process of making it, "feeding" it to the garden, etc.
This is what I did:
  • All week I saved my egg shells and K Cups. I threw the eggshells in a ziplock baggie and stored them in the crisper drawer in the fridge. I just hid the K Cups from my husband...cannot reveal where in case he reads this entry.
  • I put the eggshells on a baking sheet and put them in the oven on 250. I just dried them out a bit, browning them in some spots. They were in there about 10-15 minutes.
  • Then I threw them into a blender, along with my coffee grounds and grinded it all up.
 I would make a mulch if I could but I don't have the space.
And it sounds weird but I hate throwing out eggshells and coffee grounds - seems like such a waste. Author Ruth Yaron suggested in her book, Super Baby Food, to save the water you make hard boiled eggs in and water your plants with it (the shells are full of minerals). I think its a great idea but I don't make hard boiled eggs. I probably could just throw the eggshells in the garden whole but I knew the boys would like to sprinkle this over the plants.

As for coffee grounds I have read several things about it: the coffee-eggshell combo sprinkled at the base of a plant can repel pests, sprinkle grounds before watering for a slow-release nitrogen, etc. It's my first year using coffee grounds in the garden so I will keep you posted on the progress.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Park project

I saw this idea, make a park passport, in Disney's Family Fun magazine and thought it was kinda cheesy. But then I reconsidered...it would add something new to our park outings. So we tried it today and the boys loved it!
Here is what we did:
  • I printed out a map and we used double sided tape to adhere it to a 4x8 card. Brant loves looking at maps and comes up with amazing stories about where he is traveling, etc. I almost recorded him talking today it was so darn cute. I think this was his favorite part of the project.
  • I had the boys decorate the cover for our "park book."
  • I printed out the pictures we took at the park and we pasted them onto an index card to make a "page" for our park book. 
  • Beneath the pictures on the card I wrote the name of the park and the date we went. Normally we talk about the month, etc. when we are doing our "daily planner" (see blog entry on 3/21/11). This was a good way to talk about dates, months, etc. in a different setting.
  • We talked about what their favorite part was about the visit (of course this was my favorite part). On the back of the park "page" I wrote down what they liked, etc. They also have their own names for parks ("Let's go to the red park, mom." "Let's go to the rock park.") and I document that as well.
  • I'm going to keep the pages together and when we run out of parks to visit I'm going to tie them all together. I'll keep you posted on this project.


Today while Mason and Jaxon was sleeping, Brant and I made pom-pom caterpillars. I was shocked at how much he loved the end result. He carried it with him for the rest of the afternoon. No name yet.
You need googly eyes, glue and pom poms.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Vamp up your PB&J

I stress out about my kids getting enough nourishment because it feels like they only want the same stuff all of the time. PB&J is a perfect example. Brant is always asking for it; here is what I did to bump up the nutrition.

Combo 1: Use real peanut butter. We did for a while and then bought a huge container of Skippy at Cosco and and now I have to wean my kids back onto real peanut butter (Krema is my FAV). I do this by mixing together half Skippy, half real PB until in a few days I'm only using the real stuff.

Combo 2: Once on the real PB, I will take a few scoops of PB and put it in a small bowl. I then add a teaspoon of flaxseed oil and mix. I LOVE flaxseed oil. It has no flavor and your body instantly absorbs it. All seeds are awesome for you but your body cannot break it down unless you chew the seeds really well. I have seen whole flax seeds in oatmeal, granola bars, etc. That's great but those seeds will just pass through your body whole if not chewed down properly. Flaxseed oil or flaxseed meal is better because the hard work is done for you, all you have to do is swallow. Same with chia seeds. People are adding these seeds to breads, smoothies, etc. But if you are not grinding them before you add them to your food, your body is not absorbing any of the nutrients. Anyway, I put small amounts of flaxseed oil in their yogurt, smoothies, etc. I started doing this as young as 8mons. A good flaxseed oil will cost you minimum $10 and must be kept cold.

Combo 3: Mix PB and 1 teaspoon of Tahini. Tahini is ground sesame seeds; it's in hummus. Test Tahini first as it, and all nuts really, are a high allergen food. However, they are extremly good for your body - so many nutrients, high in calcium and protein. When I made baby food for my boys, at 8 mons I always added tahini to at least one or two feedings per day. "Seeds are loaded with nutrients. If a seed is placed in the ground, it grows. If a seed is placed in water, it sprouts. Nature must have put a concentrated store of nutrients in the seed, which can grow a new plant with no soil and nothing more than plain water. The seed is life itself." Ruth Yaron Super Baby Food on "nuts, seeds and sprouts".

Combo 4: Mix PB and almond butter or walnut butter, cashew butter, etc. Trader Joe's has reasonable prices on their jars and its worth it if its going to add nutrients to your kids' diets.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Baking Soda uses

My obsession with baking soda began because yes, I wanted to use something safe around my kids but also when I was pregnant most smells made me sick - cleaning products were one of them. We bought two 13-pound bags of baking soda at Cosco last week for $8. It sounds like a lot of baking soda but we are already down to one bag.
Here is how I'm using it:

Pool care: This was the first year we used baking soda to open our pool. It was the worst our pool ever looked so my husband and I were both worried. We poured bleach and baking soda (I know my husband added something else but not sure what) into the pool and in less than three days our pool looked amazing. We saved so much money and time getting the pool opened this year it was awesome!!

Neutralizer: I keep baking soda by the sink and wash my hands with it at least once a day. It takes the odor from garlic or onion right out and makes my hands feel smooth.

Teeth: Ever since being pregnant with my first, Brant, the taste of ANY toothpaste makes me sick. Sometimes I can use Sensodyn but I usually just sprinkle baking soda on my toothbrush. A few times a week I make a paste out of peroxide and baking soda and brush away.

Traction: The first year we were in the house with Brant and it snowed, he wanted to eat the salt from everyone's shoes. It drove me crazy!! I was worried all of the time about who was tracking in what. I read about using baking soda on your sidewalks instead (Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron). It was awesome and if any tracked on a rug or tile it actually helped clean your floors when you wiped it up.

Laundry: I always add a cup of baking soda to my towels and blankets. When I was pregnant with Brant I bought a bag of Charlie's Soap (charliesoap.com) for $14 - to clean Brant's cloth diapers. Well who knew I would be so grossed out by cloth diapers? I sold the cloth diapers on craigslist but didn't want the soap to go to waste. So I kept adding it to my loads of towels and blankets. I loved the result. I can't find a list of ingredients to Charlie's Soap but I'm sure it has baking soda in it - my towels and blankets feel the exact same for an eighth of the price.

Cleaning: When I clean with baking soda I get flashbacks of being little and having comet in a can under the sink. Just like that powdery comet, baking soda works best on the tub, sink, or toilet. You can make a paste with water and safely clean anything but you need to wipe it down with a wet towel, which I will forget to do.

Garbage and Fridge: I grew up with every trash can having baking soda on the bottom of the can. I do the same in my house and also have a box of baking soda in every refrigerator and freezer.

Carpet: We have carpet in the basement so I always sprinkle a generous amount over it and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. Ideally I would like it to sit overnight but it doesn't always happen. If I'm having company and feel paranoid about how the basement smells I just mix a pinch of cinnamon into the baking soda I'm sprinkling over the carpet. I also sprinkle baking soda over stuffed animals (either shake it out or use a vacuum), car seats (child and adult) and carpet in van.

Friday, June 3, 2011

rock painting project

A dewy summer morning is my favorite part of the day. Beautful sky, birds chirping - what could be better? Enjoying the scenery with a cup of coffee engaging the boys in a project (so I can enjoy a hot cup of coffee). So far I have been engaging them in garden stuff but I came across this rock-painting idea from Disney's Family Fun Magazine and thought it would be great to do outside.

  • Rocks
  • Paint
  • Paint brush
The boys and I gathered rocks from our front yard and cleaned off any that had dirt on them. I put down an old vinyl tablecloth on our back deck and had them paint the rocks. It was easy to clean up with the hose right there and I think the rocks turned out great! Have a look!

Fish race for kiddos

Easy project I read about in Disney's Family Fun Magazine. One of those things where you say, how did I NOT think of this idea?? Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr

  • Scissors
  • Construction paper
We picked out a color to make the fish then cut fish shapes out of construction paper. Each boy got three fish. Then I lined up three blue sheets of construction paper, spaced apart down the hallway. I had the boys stand at our "start line" and yelled GO! It was a race to see who could put their fish back into the "ponds" first.

Then we played a different way.
I gave all six fish to Mason and had him close his eyes. I placed the "ponds" all over the room. READY. SET. GO. Mason had to see how fast he could find each "pond" and safely put the fish back in it.

You can customize this to your child's liking. For example cut out bug or flower shapes and have your child return the bug/flower to the grass (a sheet of green construction paper).

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Soil combo for garden

I feel a TON better about the garden! We, which means my husband, tilled it and it just looked so awful - almost clay-like. Today we mixed together miracle grow plant soil, cow manure and peet and planted the rest of the plants. I still have more to plant but feel we put a huge dent into it today.
I will keep you posted on the progress.