Flavored Water Ideas

Posted by: on May 26, 2014 in Blog | 5,678 Comments

Flavored Water Ideas

I’m jumping up on my soap box for a bit. Be prepared.

It’s getting warmer outside and we are getting more active. What’s in your cup, glass or bottle to keep you going? What about your child’s?

We drink what we are trained to drink. The only thing we need to drink once we are weaned from mother’s milk or formula is water. Everything else is conditioning. Most of that conditioning is meant to put money in someone else’s pocket.

Because of that conditioned habit, there are people who “don’t like the taste of water” because they are so used to drinking something sweet. Or carbonated. Or both.

Think you’re making progress by purchasing flavored water? Store bought “flavored water” may not be what you are expecting. Check the label on purchased flavored water and you may find you are simply drinking flat pop.

Companies believe they can keep you coming back if there’s sugar/sweetener somewhere in that bottled concoction. It may not be called sugar but check the nutrition/ingredient label, chances are, it’s hiding in there somewhere.

Get your taste buds back under control with homemade flavored water. It’s made from just a couple of ingredients and it’s easy to customize for your family:

  • Almost any combination of fruits, vegetables and herbs will do the trick. Just place some slices of your favorite flavors in a pitcher of water and store in the refrigerator. Play around and see what works for you.
  • Have a tasting party with your children. Let them come up with some combinations of their own. They are more likely to taste what they make themselves.
  • Do yourself a favor and try some water made with local fruits in season. The flavor can be quite different than what you get when you buy something that has been shipped across the country.
  • You can make fruit/vegetable ice cubes as well. Add pieces of fruits and veggies to an ice cube tray then fill it up with water. When they are frozen, add them to your flavored water for an extra tasty visual treat.

Combination Ideas:

  • Cucumber/Lemon
  • Strawberry/Mint
  • Carrot/Apple
  • Pineapple/Ginger

Ok, I’m climbing off my soap box and going to get something to drink. My current flavored water of choice is cucumber and bell pepper. Let us know what yours turns out to be!

Ideas for a Spring Water Adventure

Posted by: on May 23, 2014 in Blog | 341 Comments

Ideas for a Spring Water Adventure

When I was growing up I had lots of different types of footwear. I admit that my childhood was free of the highly washable, hole filled rubber shoes that can be cleaned in the dish washer (who in the world thought that was the way to go?) but somehow I survived. In the spring, the most important footwear I owned? Rubber rain boots.

What to bring when exploring a ditch, a creek or a small pond with a young child

  • Tall rubber boots (even tall boots will get water inside them but give them a go)
  • Plastic jars for collecting creatures or other specimens
  • Tweezers or tongs, long handled spoons or small garden shovels
  • Magnifying glasses
  • A bucket or two for carrying everything as well as filling up with “treasures”
  • Rubber “dishwashing” gloves (optional- I would hate for someone to miss out just because things “feel icky”)

Some thoughts for once you get to the water’s edge

  • Let the child take the lead. You are the ever helpful pack mule/sage on this trip; there to carry, guide and stay out of the way (hey- you’re a parent; you can do all of that in your sleep by now).
  • This is no time for admonitions of “Don’t get wet”. Rather this is the time for “Give it a try, you’ll dry”.
  • After your child has dug, filled, rearranged and had their fill of gathering, encourage them to leave it there when you go. Things gathered from the creek/pond tend to smell after a while and spill (trust me).
  • Remember: In the spring the water is cold. Have warm dry items to change into close by. When you get home have warm soup planned for lunch or snack.

Why Now?

I bring up the idea of exploring small bodies of water in the spring for a couple of reasons.

In the spring there is a lot of wetness just waiting to be explored. Melted snow and rain, rain, rain can really get the landscape ready for water exploration.

Starting now gives you and your child all the way into early next winter to go back to the same body of water and really get to know it. Notice changes; revisit what you might consider the familiar only to be impressed by the newness of it, not only through the eyes of your inquisitive child but your own as well.

I mentioned what your child might want/need on their trip to explore the wet wild. What will you need? Your own rubber boots, a sense of adventure and more questions than answers (try to keep your knowledge from interfering with your child’s learning).

Let us know about you and your child’s water exploration. Do you have other useful tools for us to add to the list? Let us know. We love to hear from you!

Rainy Day Activity- Book Marks

Posted by: on May 19, 2014 in Blog | One Comment

DSC00868 Rainy Day Activity- Book Marks

Maybe it’s been raining for a couple of days now and you’ve already been to the library and loaded up on books.

Now is a great time to make a few book marks.

Yes, you can grab any piece of paper and stick it in a book but why go for the simple when you can enjoy the elaborate?

You’ll need a bookmark to keep your place in case the sun comes out and you need to make a quick dash for the door in the middle of a story.

Reading is great but get outside quick, before it starts to rain again!

Here are some fun book mark ideas:

  • Take a picture of your child stretching high into the sky, cut it out and seal it in clear contact paper for a fun place holder.
  • Are you into crafts or sewing? Chances are you have some ribbons and beads. String a bead on each end of the ribbon and knot them so they stay in place. Make sure the ribbon is long enough to stretch from the top of a page to the bottom so the beads don’t keep the book from closing properly.
  • Cut the corners off an old envelope and decorate to your hearts content. The corner slides right on to the book page and holds your place. I used some wrapping tissue to brighten up my corner “monster”.
  • Take a sheet of the hammered plant prints (posted on 5/12) that didn’t turn out “just right” and cut that page into strips. There’s bound to be a strip that looks particularly interesting that will make a great book mark. Punch a hole in the top and add a tassel as well.

Bookmarks are a fun and simple craft that don’t take very long and are a nice activity for children who don’t have very long attention spans yet!

Share any ideas you have for creative book marks. We’d love to add them to our repertoire.

New to Quinoa? Here’s a Recipe to Try

Posted by: on May 16, 2014 in Blog | 135 Comments

New to Quinoa? Here’s a Recipe to Try

As the days get longer and schedules gets busier, you might be looking for a make ahead dish that is both convenient and healthy. Consider this one.

Who would have thought that one of my favorite vegetarian recipes started in a chicken cook book? I was looking for a dish to bring to a pot luck party that included a group of healthy eaters. A casserole with cream of something soup inside and topped with crushed potato chips was not going to cut it!

I figured a little something made with chicken would be a better alternative so I turned to one of my favorite cook books. There I found a recipe for Chicken Curry Cous Cous Salad. Because it was a new recipe for me, I tried it out before the party, as written in the cookbook. Yum!

Then I began to tweak it.

Cous cous is yummy but quinoa has some additional health benefits and tastes great too. Quinoa is a seed that is a complete protein and can replace cous cous or rice in most dishes.

For the potluck I pulled out the meat and doubled up on the garbanzo beans and the dish was a hit.

I’ll share the recipe with chicken and you can modify it to fit your family’s taste. Feel free to use cous cous as well, but do give quinoa a try. It’s a great healthy addition to your meal plan.

Chicken Curry Quinoa Salad

Curry Dressing

  • 1/3 cup olive or grapeseed oil
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1 t. sugar
  • ½ t. curry powder
  • ¼ t. salt
  • 1/8 t. ground allspice

Shake together in a tightly covered container and let sit while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Chicken Quinoa Salad

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa (or cous cous)
  • 1 cup diced cooked chicken
  • 1 cup of raisins
  • 1 medium red or yellow bell pepper diced
  • 6 chopped green onions
  • 1 can garbanzo beans (chick peas) drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup chopped roasted almonds

Stir everything except the almonds together in a bowl. Stir in the curry dressing and refrigerate for at least one hour. Top with almonds just before serving.

Try it out and let us know how it worked for your family.

Hammered Plant Prints

Posted by: on May 12, 2014 in Blog | 4,515 Comments

12 Hammered Plant Prints

As the days get longer and brighter, we want to spend more time outdoors. Take a walk, collect some plant goodies and then give this activity a try. You can easily do this entire activity outside on a nice day.

Items to gather before you begin:

  • Water color or other “rough” paper (I’ve seen this done on fabric as well)
  • Fresh leaves and flowers (especially nice to do in the spring). Get an assortment, some work better than others
  • A piece of board or something flat that you won’t mind hammering the heck out of
  • A hammer (I’ll bet you saw that coming after I mentioned the board)
  • Some paper towel or wax paper (paper towel will soak up some of the plant goo but wax paper won’t absorb the color away from your project, you decide) this and then had two printed page for the work of one (depending on the plants of course)
  • Tape to hold the plants down (not always needed but handy if you are doing this with children)

Directions:

  • Make a “sandwich”:
    • Wooden board on the bottom
    • Paper
    • Plants (tape to paper if using tape)
    • Paper towel or wax paper on the top
    • Once everything is stacked up, it’s time to apply the hammer- really bang on it-take out the days stress and wind up with something beautiful. Expect to see color coming through.

What you do with these prints is limited only by your imagination. They make beautiful notecards to use for yourself or give as gifts.

How do you plan to use your plant prints? Let us know.

Mother’s Day Breakfast Idea- Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

Posted by: on May 9, 2014 in Blog | One Comment

Mother’s Day Breakfast Idea Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

Rules were made to be broken.

The weather is getting better and everyone is thinking “healthy food” to get into the summer swing of things.

But this is Mother’s Day and who deserves a treat more than mom?

The intention of sharing this recipe is that dads and kids will make this breakfast while mom sleeps, runs, lingers in the hot shower or reads the newspaper. Big kids might be able to stand beside dad and swirl on the cinnamon mixture. Littler ones will want to be in charge of squeezing on the cream cheese glaze and pouring the juice with dad.

Start with the cinnamon swirl mixture:

  • 4 Tablespoons of melted butter
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ Tablespoon cinnamon

This is mixed all together and poured into a plastic squeeze bottle

Next, make the cream cheese glaze:

  • ½ stick of butter, softened
  • 2 ounces of cream cheese softened
  • ¾ cup confectioners sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix this together until smooth and creamy. You can put this in a squeeze bottle as well or put it in a plastic sandwich bag and cut the tip off one corner.

Now for the pancakes:

You may have a favorite pancake batter if your family is really into pancakes, or you may prefer the boxed mix. This is your call; frankly this is more about the cinnamon swirl and the glaze. The pancake is simply the carrier for the sweet goodness!

Once the batter is ready, pour some onto the oiled skillet or griddle. Take the bottle of cinnamon swirl and squeeze it on the pancake so that it looks like a cinnamon roll. Flip the pancake when bubbles no longer fill in and the edge looks dry.

When your pancake is ready, it’s time to add the glaze. Squeeze the glaze gently and pass back and forth over the pancake to make it striped and delicious. Serve to mom with a hug and a kiss then get back in the kitchen and make some more!

Let us know how your pancakes turned out (and who really made them).

Egg Shell Window Garden

Posted by: on May 5, 2014 in Blog | 16 Comments

 

Egg Shell Window Garden

 

You can find lots of debate about the best way to get seeds started but if you are simply looking for a fun sunny window project, try this egg shell window garden.

 

Start with a plain old egg.

 

Carefully break the shell of the pointed end and pour the egg yolk and white into a bowl.  Break off about a third of the shell. Refrigerate the eggs and use them soon.

 

Wash the shell (gently).

 

Put the broken shell bits in the bottom of the egg “cup”.

 

Spoon some potting soil into the egg.

 

Sprinkle some seeds on the soil and cover with a bit more soil.

 

Water gently. You don’t want to see any puddles!

 

Place the egg cups into a carton and place in a sunny window.

 

Watch for seedlings to begin growing, watering as needed.

 

You can thin the seedlings after they have a couple of leaves.

 

If you are growing grass or chive seeds you can draw a face on your egg and the children can give the egg a “haircut” every week or so.

 

This is a pretty way to start herbs and if you decide you’d like to transplant your egg garden outside, simply break the bottom of the egg shell so the roots can get out and plant the shell and young plant in the ground.

 

Try this out and send us some pictures!

 

Is it Warm Yet?

Posted by: on May 2, 2014 in Blog | 14 Comments

 Is it Warm Yet?

Did you have a cold mom when you were growing up? Are you a cold mom?

I don’t mean emotionally, I mean physically.

Moms tend to dress their children according to their own body temperature, rather than their child’s. If you had a cold mom, you may have found yourself, let’s say, “over bundled” during the spring season.

If you are the cold mom yourself, your child may be heading outside looking like Ralphie’s brother (think A Christmas Story) when other children look more like Mickey Mouse (think just enough to be publicly acceptable and maybe some gloves)!

Children have a harder time regulating their body temperature than adults. Infants have the most difficult time but toddlers and preschoolers have their issues as well.

  • With toddlers, they have not only heat/cold issues but they can have problems with textures. If something starts to feel warm and prickly (yarn hats on a sunny day) they will likely pull it off repeatedly even if it is a bit chilly and windy. If mittens are wet or dirty from exploring sticks and mud, off they go.
  • Preschoolers are all about the movement. If it restricts them, it’s coming off. If they think they are going to be told to wear something that they don’t want to, it may suddenly become “lost”.

Check their cheeks, noses and fingers, not yours to see if they need to add or remove a layer of clothing.

Here are a few ideas for outdoor comfort in the spring:

  • Baseball hats- while I’m not a particular fan myself (hat hair and vanity you know) they do fill in a seasonal gap. It can be too warm for a winter hat but too cold to have a bare head. Something dark to absorb any heat the sun is offering that day  if your child tends to be chilly, or light if your child tends to be a “little furnace”.
  • Inexpensive stretchy gloves- Now is the time to break out these crazy little gloves. Swing chains can still be really cold and the wind can get to your hands in a flash. Have several pair hanging around. They get wet and dirty quickly in the spring rain and mud. You’re likely to wish you had a second or third pair handy if you and your child are planning to be outside for any length of time.
  • Layers- short sleeves, long sleeves, a fleece hoodie and a vest will get you pretty far in the spring. You can pile on or shed layers as needed. Add or remove the hats and gloves and you are ready for just about anything.
  • Rubber boots and extra socks- The world is meant to be explored. You never know when you are going to find a puddle or creek in the spring. Clean, dry socks are essential after any exploration!

Let us know your essential spring time gear and tricks to help your little one stay comfortable outdoors. We’ll be happy to pass them on!

March is Reading Month part 3- Preschoolers

Posted by: on Mar 31, 2014 in Blog | 844 Comments

March is Reading Month part 3- Preschoolers

On the last day of “Reading Month” let’s celebrate books for your preschooler. By this time they are so close to reading. Some of them are sitting with a book and telling the story word for word, an important step if ever there was one! They enjoy rhyme, repetition, humor and often, a bit of a scare- as long as it turns out in the end. Here are some book recommendations from the preschoolers themselves:

  • Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos
    • Faith- “He can be mad and chase the bad guys.”
    • Max- “He’s so little and he has a mustache.”

This just goes to show that you never know what will strike a preschooler’s fancy, so try out as many books as you can!

  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin
    • Maddie- “I like the alphabet and the coconuts.”

I know many preschoolers have had this book in their lives for several years, but a good book is a good book!

  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
    • Jayden- “I like it when he said he was dreaming about it.”

Mo Willems is one of those authors you either like or don’t. My preschoolers like!

  • Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin
    • Truman- “I like the colors.”
    • Megan- “I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes!”
    • Adysen- “I liked when his shoes were wiped off again.”

I have to admit I had no idea about Pete the Cat until Miss Amanda mentioned that she was happy to see him in the book order. I checked him out and fell in love!

I know we didn’t get to talk about these books until the end of reading month but frankly, every month can be reading month.

Let’s keep those book recommendations coming, and I’ll see you at the library!

March is Reading Month part two- Toddlers

Posted by: on Mar 28, 2014 in Blog | 75 Comments

March is Reading Month part two- Toddlers

Toddlers are on the go; make sure that their books can keep up with them!

Be prepared to replace books during this age for a couple of reasons:

  • They may still put the books in their mouths for a while yet. Mouthing books or anything for that matter is how they explore. Mouthing will go away when they don’t need that stimulation any longer. Just keep “chewable” books in the book basket.
  • They have “pinchy pinchy” fingers. This is another typical behavior for toddlers. Picking up food with a pinch is great; picking apart the pages of a book….not so great but it’s going to happen. Any loose bit of paper is likely to become victim of a page turning incident. When it comes to the board books, if the edges become frayed (they are just layered paper after all), curious toddlers looking for the page they haven’t seen yet may rip the print right off the page.

I’m not suggesting that you don’t talk to your child about treating things well. I wouldn’t let a child sit and rip a book to shreds. I am suggesting that this is a time for patience as they practice. Consider getting most of their books at a resale store so you can replace torn books for them without going broke!

A couple of extra thoughts:

  • If your child has a favorite book and you’d like to have the book for a keepsake, buy a second copy and put it up high! Let them “love” the books in their book baskets.
  • “No, no, don’t touch” sends quite a different message than, “Let’s read your special book together”.

Why do I suggest book baskets rather than shelves? Ease of clean up, movement and you will lose your mind if you try to get a toddler to keep books lined up on a shelf, spines out!

Here are a few authors/titles you and your toddler might enjoy:

Margaret Wise Brown- Goodnight Moon, The Little Fur Family (a personal favorite of mine), The Runaway Bunny and more.

Dr. Seuss- Toddlers like his books and parents love them. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, Fox in Socks, Hop on Pop and the ever popular Green Eggs and Ham. The rhymes and colors just keep the fun coming.

Eric Carle- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? You know where I’m going with this author; his books will likely be one of the first books your child “reads” to you.

Continue to enjoy reading month with your child. Any favorite book titles for you and your toddler? Pass them on to us!