Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Edible Magic Wands

It all started when we went camping and Eli wanted to hear a story. I told him Cinderella and got really dramatic with the magic wand "bibbity, bobbity, boo" part. Here is my version of the Fairy Godmother's Magic Wand.

* pretzel rods
* colored candy melts (found in the baker's aisle at the craft store)
* sprinkles

1. Melt the candy melts according to instructions on the package.2. Pour the melted candy into one side of a shallow pan. Make sure the pan is long enough to lay the pretzel down flat without covering the entire pretzel with the cany coating.

3. Roll 3/4 of the pretzel in the candy, coating it well.

4. While candy coating is still wet, add the sprinkles.

5. Lay the completed magic wands on a cookie sheet covered with waxed paper. Place them into the refrigerator to harden.

6. Think long and hard about the magic spell you're about to cast.

6. Enjoy!

Monday, July 28, 2008


I'm so far behind on this blogging thing. Sorry for being lame and not posting much lately. I promise things will be changing soon. Dennis will be starting his pharmacy rotations this week so our lives will be more scheduled and there won't be any last-minute camping trips coming up any time soon.

We are in the midst of planning for Eli's big, bug-themed birthday party that will be coming in a couple of weeks. I was really hoping for a laid-back party at a park with a couple of friends, but it turns out that Eli wants to invite every single person in the neighborhood so we're just going to have another big backyard barbecue with about 50 people or so. Last year I swore I was not going to have another big huge party again, but here I am doing it again. Oh, well. It's good to get the neighbors together every once in awhile even if I have a big huge panic attack while it's happening. My goal this week is to get the invitations made.

My sister-in-law is having her baby shower on Saturday so I've been busy making swaddling blankets, burp cloths and bibs. The shower is in Minnesota so I won't be able to make it. I'm pretty sure she doesn't read my blog so I'm not worried that she's going to see these pictures. The bib pattern is from Amy Karol's Bend-the-Rules Sewing. The burp cloth directions come from here. The swaddling blankets are just squared flannel pieces with the edges hemmed.A friend of mine told me of this genius idea to keep the kids occupied in the backyard: give the kid a pair of scissors and let them trim the grass. I love this idea. No wasting paper and it helps build up hand strength for all those fine motor skills. By the way, I got these child safety scissors in the back-t0-school section at Target. All plastic scissors with no metal blades are really hard to find, so I snatched up a couple of pairs. No more worries about Sadie cutting her finger off.

I'm starting a yoga class this week. I've never done yoga ever in my whole entire life. I'm really excited and am looking forward to devoting an hour to my health every week!

Coming up later this week: cloud painting and edible magic wands!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tips For Camping With Pre-Schoolers Or Toddlers

Long gone are the days when Dennis and I could throw our camping gear in the back of the pick-up, drive until dark, pull over onto some random gravel road, and sleep in the bed of the truck. Long gone are the days of 15 mile hikes that took all day, but led you to the most awesome viewpoints. Long gone are packpacking trips into the wilderness where you don't see anther soul for several days. We've entered a new phase of our outdoor lives. It's the "camping with young children" phase and it's been exciting and exhausting all at the same time.

We haven't attempted anything too rugged yet only car camping in state parks, which has given the kids a good feel for tent camping. I think we might be ready to do some backwoods primitive camping, but we're no where near doing any backpack camping with the kids and probably won't be until Eli is old enough to carry his own stuff!

On the car ride home from our last camping excursion, Dennis and I compiled this list of tips for camping with your pre-schooler and/or toddler:
1. Have a practice campout in your backyard (or someone else's backyard) before you go-- camping comes with all sorts of noises: rustling of sleeping bags, tents unzipping, owls, crickets, footsteps, nuts dropping as well as sleeping with family members on the hard ground that your kid may or may not be used to. It's good to see how your child will handle this situation. It's better to try when you are at home and can escape by going inside instead of when you are at a campground and it's 3am and you're worried about your toddler screaming her head off and waking other campers.

2. Pick a park that has activities that the whole family will enjoy-- Entertaining your wee ones won't be so challenging if they have things to do that they enjoy. We try to pick locations that have good hiking for us and swimming for the kids. Playgrounds at the campgrounds are also a plus and so are fishing, canoe rentals, and ranger talks/activities.
3. Pick your campsite wisely-- Is it close to the bathrooms? Near water? Away from other campers so it's more quiet? Also, make sure that it is safe for your children: no steep drop offs, large pools of water, too close to a busy road.
4. Expect all schedules to be off-- As with all vacations, your child's schedule will be different than usual. Plan for an afternoon drive and plan to stay up late as it's really hard to go to sleep at 8pm in a tent when the sun is still beating down on you and other campers are having a good time. Even if you go to bed late, your toddler may still do laps inside the tent before she finally falls asleep.
5. Have kids help with camp chores -- It's never too early to teach your children how to set up camp. There are plenty of jobs around the camp site that your kids can help with: gathering kindling for the fire, unloading the car and washing dishes are good ways for the little ones to help. Our rule when we camp is to leave the camp site cleaner than we found it so everyone must pick up at least 5 pieces of trash before we leave.
6. Bring a complete first-aid kit-- Make sure that it includes extra band-aids, allergy medicine, ibuprofen, and anti-itch ointment as well as sunscreen and bugspray. It's amazing how many tumbles little ones take when there are random rocks and tree roots thrown into their path.
7. Dress your kids in layers-- It can get kind of cold some mornings when you're sleeping in your tent even in the middle of July. Bring long pants, long-sleeve shirts, sweatshirts and even hats and mittens (if it's early or late in the season) for unpredicatable weather. Also, bring several extra items of clothing to prepare for accidents (potty-training toddler, leaky diapers, falling in mud, etc.).
8. Encourage your kids to look for little details-- One of the things that Dennis and I love about hiking with our kids is their ability to see things that we would have hurriedly walked right past. We love that it takes an hour to walk 1/3 of a mile and delight in their excitement over gigantic mushrooms, blackberries, big black bugs, croaking bullfrogs, and "crazy" water.
9. When it comes to packing toys, less is more-- I strongly encourage you to leave the children's toys at home. There is so much to do out in the wilderness if you give them the opportunity to discover all that there is to do. We usually bring a soccer ball and that's it (though we always kick ourselves for forgetting sand toys). Teach your kids new games or songs or make up new ones. On our last camping trip, the sun was at the perfect angle the we could see perfect shadows of ourselves. We had an impromtu dance off complete with head stomping and everything. And my husband always jumps at the chance for a rousing game of "shoe kick".
10. Teach your kids to pee and poop in the woods-- This just makes camping a whole lot easier.
**If you want tips on camping with a baby, I am not the one to ask. We took Eli camping once when he was a baby, but I was 7 months pregnant with Sadie and peeing every 2 hours and it was almost impossible to sneak out of the tent without waking Eli. And we didn't go camping at all when Sadie was a baby because she was a really hard baby and the thought of camping with her just made me sick with anxiety. The thought of going anywhere when Sadie was a baby made me sick with anxiety!

Monday, July 21, 2008

And the Winner Is...

#4 Artistmama!! Congrats, you are the winner of a handy little dinner planning notepad and a handful of recipes. Drop me an email with your address and I'll get it out to you sometime this week. Thanks everyone else for entering. If you are really interested in one of these notebooks, drop me an email and I can send you the document.

Just in case you're interested: Last week's grain was wild rice and we had this wild rice salad from Simply Recipes. This week's bean are lentils and we're going to make Rhubarb Lentil Soup from Cooking Light. I have put a couple more books on reserve on the library. It seems that whole grain and bean cookbooks are a hot item as there are pretty lengthy waits for both of them. One is 366 Delicious Ways to Cook Rice, Beans and Grains and another is The New Book of Whole Grains.

What have you been cooking?

Sunday, July 20, 2008


I think mushrooms are one of the coolest things on earth. Fungus, in general, fascinates me unless it's growing in my shower or the back of my refrigerator. I have never taken a class in collecting mushrooms though I'd love to. While camping, Eli and I (and Dennis and Sadie, though they weren't as into it as Eli and I were) went for a mushroom walk. We found some good ones and took a lot of pictures. It turns out that Mushrooms love southern Ohio because we didn't have to look very hard or walk very far.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cute Dress Alert

Isn't this a cute dress? No, I didn't make it, but I wish I did. You could win it. Just visit Play Is the Thing and enter the giveaway here. It's so easy.

Speaking of giveaways, I know I said that I was going to close my little notepad/recipe giveaway this Wednesday. But, we've decided to go camping so I'll be away. I'll close it on Sunday, June 20 and announce the winner on Monday.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Melty Goop

I'm pretty sure every adult has made "Melty Goop" at least once in their lifetime probably in their Junior High science class. If you have never made melty goop then you are in for a treat because this stuff is so much fun to play with. You see, melty goop is a non-Newtonian substance which means that a liquids viscosity changes by the force that is applied. (I normally would not know this, but I have a husband who used to teach HS science. Kindergarten teachers can call it "melty goop" and not really care a whole lot about it's physical properties.) Melty goop is a mixture of cornstarch and water. When you squeeze this mixture it forms into a ball, but as soon as you release the ball it melts in your hand. You really should try it, it's about the coolest thing ever. It's fun for all ages; I promise that you will have just as much fun as your child.Instructions:
Put 1/2 cup corn starch into a mixing bowl. Slowly start to add water stirring as you go, you'll need between 1/4 and 1/2 cup. Your mixture is ready when it feels sort of stiff as you stir it, but if you touch it, it hardens up. You should be able to form it into a ball and it should melt as soon as you stop rolling it, so add more cornstarch or more water as needed.

For clean up: just add more water and wipe up!You can learn more about non-Newtonian fluids and why this happens here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Resolution Update and a Give-Away

Edited 7/15/08: Yikes, we've decided to go on a last minute camping trip. The giveaway will close on Sunday, July 20 instead. I'll post the winner on Monday, July 21.

It's been a week since I made my Mid-Year resolutions and I've made some progress so I thought I'd give you a little update. Please forgive all of these pictures; they're all horrible, but that's what I get for taking pictures late at night!Let's start with Resolution #2 (because that's how my pictures came up and I'm too lazy to rearrange them).

Resolution 2: To do more art activities with the kids.

1. Get ideas: I went to the library and checked out a few books. Most of them are by MaryAnn F. Kohl. First Art, The Big Messy Art Book, Scribble Art, Snacktivities, Storybook Art, Preschool Art and Play and Learn by Parents Magazine.

2. Organize an art space: I bought a vinyl table cloth so most work can be done at the kitchen table. My kids love to stand and work though, so I've been using the benches for our table instead and this works great. I've been trying to have them do most of their art outside right now as the weather is nice and clean up is easier.

3. Purchase and organize art supplies: Because our one and only storage closet is filled to the maximum, I bought a $5 vinyl shoe rack at Target to hang over the back of the closet door. This works perfectly; I can see where everything is, it's out of the way yet I can find everything I need in a snap, it has 24 pockets so it holds all of our supplies plus there's room for more, and the kids can see it so they've been asking to do "projects". I had to buy only a few items: paintbrushes, watercolors and some paper.

4. Let the kids be artists: I'm working on it. I still cringe when Sadie wants to put the red paintbrush in the yellow paint, but I'm working hard on just letting the kids experiment.

5. Display art: I'm still working on this too. Right now, work goes on the fridge. (see picture below!)

For one week, I've made some progress, but a lot of work still needs to be done especially as far as me going with the flow when the kids are being "expressive" with their work.

Resolution 1: To make one new recipe per week. This recipe must contain either a whole grain (barley, bulgur, couscous, oats, quinoa, etc) or beans.

1. Find recipes: I checked out a book The New Whole Grains Cookbook by Robin Asbell and have used several recipes. I think I will be continually looking for new recipes depending on what ingredients I have, what's in season and what I'm craving.
2. Make a meal calendar for each week that has a place to write the ingredients I need so I can make sure that I am indeed trying one new recipe per week! Done. I know this picture isn't very clear, but I took a half sheet of paper and added boxes for each day of the week along with a box for a grocery list. I took it to Kinko's and had it made into notepads, put magnets on the back and stuck it on the fridge (it's the blue notepad):

3. Buy ingredients for the particular recipes and keep the pantry stocked with dried beans (ready to be cooked and stuck in the freezer) and a variety of whole grains: Done! And well, not done, I will buy ingredients as needed.

4. Actually cook the meal that I have planned instead of resorting to something like Mac-N-Cheese: Ha, Ha! I can only say that I have made a new recipe for last week (buttermilk wheatgerm pancakes) and this week (zuppa fiorntina--soup with barley and spinach) . I'm hoping I can make whole grains and beans a regular part of our meals without working too hard at it!!

I'll keep you posted. I promise.

And now for the Give-Away. I just happened to make an extra "What's For Dinner?" notepad because I thought that one of my faithful readers might be interested in organizing their family's meals. So, that is what you'll get. One "What's for Dinner?" 50 page notepad (without the magnets) and several hand-written recipes for you and your family to try out. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post by midnight Wednesday, July 16. I will have the Random Number Generator pick a number and I will announce the winner on Thursday, July 17. One vote per person, please. Good luck.

By the way, I'm leaving late tonight on the trip my kids got me for Mother's Day. I will be gone 4 days, just me, myself and I. This will be my first day off since August 17, 2005. I'm so excited, I can hardly wait. You won't hear from me until then. Ciao!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Toddler Art: Bubblewrap Prints

Bubblewrap prints are a fun and easy painting activity for the younger crowd. The bubblewrap is very pleasing to paint on and the kids are excited to see what their prints are going to look like.


  • bubblewrap
  • paint
  • paintbrushes
  • paper
  • tape

1. Securely tape down all sides of the bubblewrap to the table.

2. Paint on the bubblewrap.

3. Place a piece of paper over the painted bubblewrap and rub gently. Carefully, lift the paper.

4. Ohh and Ahh over your finished print.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

30 Minute Mozzarella

I did it! After several failed attempts and several gallons of milk, I finally made the 30 Minute Mozzarella that I've been dying to make. I read the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. In the book, Kingsolver describes how she and her family spent a year eating only the food that they had grown/killed themselves or that they could buy locally with the exception of coffee, chocolate, and nuts (because they're not totally crazy!). In order to have cheese around, they had to make their own. The cheese-making process sounded so pleasing and so simple that it was there and then that my obsession to make my own cheese started. I ordered the kit and bought the milk only to discover that the organic milk that I had purchased was ultra-pasteurized, which is not good for making cheese. That batch had to be trashed as it never solidified properly. Then I bought this milk, a local milk that has not been ultra-pasteurized and has the cream on the top, and it all worked out much better. I'd recommend following the recipe on the website instead of the recipe that comes with kit as there are slight variations and after emailing the help-line found that those slight variations are actually huge variations when making cheese.
The process was very easy and very satisfying. It came together so easy and it really did only take 30 minutes. We kept some plain and to some we added olive oil, garlic and herbs. It was delicious. We ate a pound of cheese in about 30 minutes! I'll be making it again soon, as the kit makes 30 batches of cheese.
By the way, I just heard Barbara Kingsolver on Speaking of Faith, the American Public Media radio show, discussing the ethics of eating. You can download the podcast or listen to it here.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Book: Living Simply with Children

I recently finished reading Living Simply with Children: A voluntary simplicity guide for moms, dads and kids who want to reclaim the bliss of childhood and the joy of parenting by Marie Sherlock and thought it was worth sharing with you. This book guides you through ways to "downshift" your life in order to live more simply and have more free time to spend with your family. Time to explore interests together, volunteer together, do chores together. Time to get to know each other, learn from each other and enjoy each other.

From the very beginning of the book, the author asks you to question America's idea of success -- wealth and the accumulation of stuff. She goes on to say that most people will say that family is the most important thing in their life, but where most people spend their time and energy is not at home with their family, instead it's at work chasing the almighty dollar. Yes, you do need money to meet your living needs, but just how much money does one need? That is why this is a "voluntary simplicity guide". She wants you to ask yourself how much money do you really need and then to start simplifying from there. Can one parent quit their job and stay home? Can you reduce your work hours? Can you work from home? Retire early?

Ultimately, having less money means that there will be some sacrifices that need to be made. Ms. Sherlock questions if these things are really necessary anyways: a 3,000 square foot house, brand-name clothing, going out for dinner several times a week, or getting everything you want right now. She encourages you to avoid following and teaching the values of the American "consumer culture" and instead to follow and teach the things that you value: compassion, love, family, charity, respect for people and the earth, honesty, peace, tolerance, and responsibility, to name a few. She leads you step by step through the simplifying process as you do some soul-searching, brainstorming and goal-setting. She also lists techniques for dealing with peer-pressure, speaking with family members about your decision to live simply, ways to limit the TV, and teaching kids to be better consumers.

Simple families have many things in common: they care about the planet; are conscientious consumers and buy less; spend time in the outdoors biking, fishing, hiking or camping; are very involved in each other's lives; volunteer; limit outside activities; have down-time, quiet time, and guard family time; have family rituals; and enjoy simple pleasures.

Before I read this book, I knew that living simply is how Dennis and I want to live and raise our children. It probably helps that we are both naturally frugal people and that we were both raised pretty simply. Dennis is a lot better than I am and sometimes he kiddingly asks me if my desires are a "want or a need" only because he knows I'm working on it (otherwise, he would sound like a really cruel husband). Currently, our financial situation is forcing us to live simply. We still go on trips (usually to visit friends and family), go shopping (at garage sales), and eat out (on picnics)! But, with Dennis being a student it allows us to spend summers together and it allows Dennis to leave later in the morning and come home earlier in the afternoons than most people can. Advance planning and student loans mean that I can stay home too! I don't feel like we're deprived of anything. In fact, we are very blessed.

This book gave me loads of resources to turn to during the trials and tribulations of simple living and also gave me some great ideas for discussions to have with the kids, and teaching about the powers of the media. I think this would be a useful read for anyone who is contemplating simple living or for anyone who is in the midst of it and needs a little extra support. It's nice to know that there are others out there living like you are and are trying to slow down and enjoy every moment that life has to offer!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Mid-Year Resolutions

The fam. and I have made it back from our trip to North Dakota with a short side trip to the Upper Peninsula. The trip was awesome. The kids traveled well thanks to the portable DVD player and a bag full of rocks that we collected along the shores of Lake Superior (below). It's always great to see family and friends and it helps when the weather cooperates. Sorry posts were few and far between and I hate to tell you that they're going to be that way until I can get things caught up around here. The house is a disaster, laundry is piled to the ceiling and I have two kids who are having some difficulty falling asleep by themselves after two weeks of co-sleeping. Good thing I bought coffee because I think I'm going to need it~more than two cups of it!Being that mid-year is here, I decided that it was time to review my New Year's Resolution for the year and perhaps make another one or two just to keep me on my toes. Since you didn't know me then, my resolution at the beginning of 2008 was to bring my own bags while shopping instead of using plastic bags. I have been pretty successful. I have not purposefully taken a plastic bag though sometimes the baggers at the grocery store like to wrap my meat in them and I don't catch it until I get home. Remembering my bags hasn't been a problem. The times I forget, I use paper bags instead or I just throw it all back into the cart and toss it into my bags once I get to my car. (Can you believe that they let me do that?) I have 6 large grocery-size canvas bags for my groceries that I keep in my trunk and I always carry my trusty backpack/diaper bag with a larger linen bag tucked inside just in case I buy too much. This system works great for me. There is still a fair share of plastic bags at my house because my husband did not make the same resolution.
Because I am already meeting this year's goal, I'm ready to challenge myself with two more.

Resolution 1: To make one new recipe per week. This recipe must contain either a whole grain (barley, bulgur, couscous, oats, quinoa, etc) or beans.

Rationale: I love to cook and try new things but my family's diet has really suffered because of Dennis' very busy class schedule this past year. I've been too busy and tired to cook and try new recipes so we've been eating more processed foods then I'd like. I'm worried about the kids only wanting to eat blueberry bagels and peanut butter and jelly. I feel that by introducing these foods to the kids early enough that they will eat them more readily. Whole grains and beans are good for you, perhaps some of the best food out there. They are protein rich, full of vitamins and minerals and pretty tasty too. As an added bonus, the inexpensive cost fits nicely into our "living off of student loans" budget.

Game Plan:
1. Find recipes: check out whole grain recipe books from the library, search through back issues of Cooking Light, and search the Internet. Make a list of recipes that I think we should try.
2. Make a meal calendar for each week that has a place to write the ingredients I need so I can make sure that I am indeed trying one new recipe per week! Plus, I'll have the other meals figured out and my grocery list too.
3. Buy ingredients for the particular recipes and keep the pantry stocked with dried beans (ready to be cooked and stuck in the freezer) and a variety of whole grains.
4. Actually cook the meal that I have planned instead of resorting to something like Mac-N-Cheese.

Resolution 2: To do more art activities with the kids.

Rationale: I worry too much about the "product" and don't focus enough on the "process" when doing arts and crafts with the kiddos. I want them to explore art their way using different mediums and techniques and just let them go for it and be creative while, hopefully, enjoying it all.

Game Plan:
1. Get ideas: check out art books and read blogs (I think the Artful Parent will be my main resource). Keep an idea notebook for a resource.
2. Organize an art space: I'm not sure how this is going to happen because we have absolutely no extra room in our house, but I think if I got a vinyl tablecloth for the kitchen table or just let the kids have free reign of the backyard picnic table for easy clean-up that could work just as well and will have to work with our limited space.
3. Purchase and organize supplies: I have a bunch of supplies, but it needs to be sorted and stored so it's at the kids reach or at least sight. Again, this will be difficult because of our lack of space, but perhaps supplies can be stored in a plastic over-the-door shoe organizer.
4. Let the kids be artists: Encourage the kids to try various art techniques and use different mediums all while sitting on my hands and let them do the creating.
5. Display art: find a place to show off art. I have a small wall that I could hang up a few fishing lines with clothes pins so the kids could have an ever changing art museum.

There you have it: my two new resolutions for 2008. I'll keep you updated as time goes on.