Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Rice Crispie Creations

I babysat these kids when I was a teenager, and they enjoyed this activity very much!

The next time you make rice crispie treats- instead of putting them right into the pan to cool- consider giving your kids a little extra fun with their snack. Give each child a piece of wax paper and a little pad of butter. They will need the butter to oil their hands so that the rice crispies won't stick. Then divide the still warm rice crispies among the kids and let them use it like modeling clay. I guarantee that a tyrannasaurus rex rice crispie tastes twice as good as a plain old square!

(Find more great Wednesday tips from moms here)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Out-of-Control Popcorn Popper!

Here'a fun idea for a rainy day! Spread a sheet on the floor in your kitchen; take the lid off of a popcorn popper (the tall hot air blowing kind are probably best for safety reasons) and gather your crowd of kids around the popper to try to catch the pieces of popcorn in their mouths. Lots of fun!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cushion Mountain Climbing

These days my fourteen-month old can't get enough of climbing. We've been having fun building mounds of couch cushions and placing one of her favorite toys on top. She gets a sense of accomplishment out of reaching her toy, and even if she slips off it's not a bad thing because we have cushions and pillows scattered about to soften the fall.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Alphabet positions

Do you remember Daisy and Demi from Little Women? They were the scrappy little twins born to Meg and Mr. Brooke. Every day Demi would work on learning the alphabet with his grandfather by contorting his body into the various letter shapes.

Friday, September 26, 2008

2nd Giveaway! Max Lucado Kids Books

This week I am giving away two children's books by Max Lucado. Both take place in the special land of the Wemmicks, and both teach a lesson about self-image from a Christian perspective. You are Special is a large hard back book. If Only I Had a Green Nose is a smaller board book. The person picked at random will win both books.

To be entered in the giveaway just leave a comment below. I use random.org to pick the number of the winner and will announce that person next Friday. The winner will then have 48 hours to contact me by email.

Have a great week!

Links to Inexpensive Ideas for Fun at Home

I have really found a goldmine of good links from the blogosphere this week. Check them out!

scribbit.blogspot.com is a wonderful blog with lots of fun activities such as:

The flour game
How to make a cheap mini pool table
Packing peanut art
Color-coded nature walks- love this one!
Ping-pong power ball

Berlin's Whimsy has a creative list of children's activities. My favorite is "Picnic around the world"

Vanilla Joy has a cute family game that would be fun for little kids called "Don't Eat Pete!"

Growing Great Kids has a terrific idea for painting with magnets

Toddler Learning Activities is a blog devoted entirely to toddler fun!

Have any more to add that you've found? Let me know!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

13 Reasons to have a Dress-up Chest

Friends who came over to our house and LOVED the dress-up chest

From the time I was a little all the way through highschool- the dress-up chest in our basement provided so much fun! I have so many good memories associated with it that I am taking up a crusade for every house with children to start one.

Here are

Thirteen reasons why you should have a dress-up chest at your house:

1. Promotes imaginative play. This is probably the biggest reason. Having interesting props and costumes around sparks so many unique kinds of play.

2. Creates great photo-ops. What's cuter than a little girl dressed up in her momma's wedding dress or in a ridiculous wig?

3. Inexpensive fun. All of the contents of the chest can be purchased at garage sales, thrift shops, or just inherited from friends and family. No need to spend a lot of money!

4. Handy to have costumes on hand for costume parties, harvest parties, and Halloween (if your family participates).

5. Preserves memories. An old evening gown, wedding dress, or army uniform may have lots of sentimentality attached to it, but without a possibility for future use it can sometimes be difficult to justify keeping it around. Having your kids dressed up in old things is a great opportunity to share stories from the past.

6. Thrill of the chase. Once your family has figured out what kinds of dress-up clothes it likes to collect, tracking them down at garage sales, etc can be a lot of fun!

7. Excites interest in history as children learn about period dress. My town growing up hosted a Civil War Muster every year. Some years we would take the contents of our dress-up chest and put together realistic outfits for attending.

8. Appeals to a wide age-range. Most toys are pretty age-specific, and kids grow out of them in a year or two (or less). A dress-up chest is an efficient use of toy space because it can be enjoyed by toddlers through age 12 (or even older).

9. Facilitates creative school presentations. We used the contents of our dress-up chest for book reports, speeches, and skits (not to mention all of the school plays that made use of our costumes).

10. Flexible enough to accommodate your family's changing interests. If your son develops a sudden interest in the Wild West, you are sure to be able to find cowboy boots, hats, and toy horses at garage sales. If, the next week, he is interested in the army, you can help fuel his imagination with fatigues, toy guns, and army tents.

11. Feeds a little girl's sense of femininity to be able to dress up in pretty dresses. I realize that this isn't necessarily a good thing in everybody's book, but it is in mine!

12. Encourages the making of homemade movies and plays.

13. Provides a sense of connection and participation in the stories of old books. The classics are so much more fun when you can become Jo March or Huckleberry Finn.

Do you have a dress-up chest? Have you found perks besides the one's I've listed here? I'd love to hear about them!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A very merry unbirthday...

Does your family have a long space of time during the year when nobody has a birthday? Here's something to break up the monotony of everyday life: throw a surprise unbirthday party!

Giveaway Winner

Thank you everybody for all of your fun comments! The winner of this week's giveaway is:

Miss Kathy

(I use random.org to generate a random number- which this week was #57)

Please contact me within the next 48 hours with your address so that I can send you your three wonderful books!

Be sure to come back this Friday for the start of another great giveaway!

Wordless Wednesday: Olives!

What kid hasn't had fun with olive fingertips at one time or another? (and these aren't even the full olives!)

Works for Me Wednesday: "No" Tags

Problem: Our 14 month-old is generally pretty obedient, and when we tell her something is off limits, she almost always follows the rule. A little bit ago, however, we encountered a problem in trying to keep her from opening two of the kitchen cupboard doors (safety latches don't work very well on our particular doors). No matter how many times I scolded her, she opened them again and again.

Finally I figured out that she wasn't trying to be bad in opening them, but the rest of the cupboard doors (that weren't off limits) looked just the same, and it wasn't easy for her to distinguish the ones that she wasn't supposed to open.

Solution: I created "no" tags with a picture and the words "This is a "no" to go on the off- limit cupboards. It worked! She just needed a cue that was easily recognizable. I decided to label everything that was off limits in the apartment with the same tags. I figure that an added bonus will be that the tags are easy indicators of boundaries to show babysitters our rules.

This post is part of the Works for Me Wedneday meme at Rocksinmydryer.net

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dinosaur Birthday Party

Do you have a little boy with a birthday coming up? I have just come across a delightful idea for his party!

How about a dinosaur party with the following activities?

Dinosaur Dig

Save all of your chicken, turkey, and beef bones from dinner for a few months. Boil them so that all of the meat comes off. Then bury them in your sandbox or in an old garden bed. Give the birthday guests buckets and send them off on an archeological dig to find as many bones as they can.

Museum Creations

Let the kids create their own creatures out of the bones they have just found. Give them white modeling clay to hold the bones together. Distribute index cards so they can make placards for their creatures and encourage them to make up names and descriptions. Each guest can take his/her dinosaur home in a shoe box.

Colossal Volcano Eruption

As a climax to your party, make a giant volcano eruption in the sandbox. Ask the kids to make a big mound of sand. Maybe you can have little plastic dinosaurs and trees and such available for them to decorate the scene. In the middle of the mound, bury all but the top of a clean frozen juice can containing 1/4 cup baking soda. In another can mix 1 cup water with 2/3 cup vinegar, 1/3 cup diswashing liquid and a few drops of red food dye. When the kids are all paying attention, pour the vinegar mixture into the volcano and enjoy the foamy eruption!

(It's probably worth noting on the invitations that guests should arrive in play clothes that they don't mind getting dirty)

This idea for a party is from Prime Time Together with Kids by Donna Erikson

Monday, September 22, 2008

Museum Day!

This Saturday, September 27th is a free admission day for many museums around the country. Click here to see if there is a museum in your area participating.

Friday Night Pizza Tradition

From Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver:

Routines save time, and tempers. Like a mother managing a toddler’s mood swings, our family has built some reliable backstops for the times in our week when work-weary, low-blood-sugar blowouts are most likely. Friday nights are always pizza-movie nights. Friends or dates are welcome...We always keep the basic ingredients for pizza on hand- flour and yeast for the dough, mozzarella, and tomatoes (fresh, dried, or canned sauce, depending on the season). All other toppings vary with the garden and personal tastes. Picky children get to control the toppings on their own austere quadrant, while the adventurous may stake out another, piling on anything from smoked eggplant to caramelized onions, fresh herbs, and spinach.

Because it’s a routine, our pizzas come together without any fuss as we gather in the kitchen to decompress...and talk about everybody’s week. I never have to think about what’s for dinner on Fridays.

I like this idea, and have been toying with it for our family lately. It’s cheap (especially if you make your own dough), easy, and fun! Here is a recipe for basic pizza dough that I used the other night. (Turned out great)

Easy Pizza Dough
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  1. Combine flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Mix in oil and warm water. Knead in bowl for about 5-10 minutes (until elastic consistency is reached) Sprinkle with flour when needed to keep from sticking to bowl or hands.
  2. Allow to rise for 30 minutes to an hour. Knead again and roll out on oiled pizza pan.
Here are some additional tips:
- You can actually skip the kneading, rising step if you need a quick pizza
- For extra flavor, add 1 teaspoon dried basil, oregano, or garlic powder to the dough
- To keep the dough from bubbling, prick with fork
- Bake for 5-10 minutes without the toppings to allow the crust to rise a little
- At the very end, place pizza under the broiler for a couple minutes if you like the charred cheese effect

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Shaving Cream Fun

See how much fun my cousins can have with a 79 cent can of shaving cream? On a nice sunny day my aunt handed each of them a can and let them make as big a mess as they wanted with it.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Isn't this a pretty little plate of fruit? My Aunt and cousin had this set out on their table for us to eat when we came for a recent visit. Don't the tiny grapes make it special? Finding something that is special and a little unique and then sharing it goes such a long way toward making someone feel welcome!

Scarecrow from an old mop

Here is a fun use for a mop or broom that has reached retirement age. Let your kids build a scarecrow out of it for the pumpkin patch or garden in your yard! Here's what you need:

- an old mop, broom, or some sort of long pole
- rags (best if they are pieces of clothing, and a pillowcase can work for the head)
- straw (can be cheaply purchased from a local feed store)
- some good strong rubber bands for cinching the waist, neck, wrists, and ankles. (twine would work too, but it's a little more work)

He may not be as pretty as the scarecrows in the windows at JoAnns or Michael's these days, but your kids will think he's great especially if they do all the work themselves!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Pooh Sticks

Do you know of a bridge with water flowing underneath it, even if it is ever so slowly? If you have small children (or maybe even if you don’t) you really must play Poohsticks.

Measuring Spoons

A set of measuring spoons make a great baby toy. My baby likes them as much as a set of keys which is nice because they aren't nearly as dirty!

13 Ways to Make the Most of Apartment Living

My family is living in an apartment right now, and for us there can be a temptation sometimes to pine away for the home we hope to own some day instead of making the most of where we are right now. There are, however, a lot of benefits to living in an apartment, and I know I should try to enjoy them to the hilt. I have made a list of 13 tips that we have discovered so far toward that end.

Maybe you have some to add? I'd love to hear them!

Tips for Living Frugally and Pleasantly in an Apartment

1. See if you can share a wireless internet plan with one of your neighbors. Half of an internet bill is a whole lot more fun than the full thing, and apartment dwellers usually live close enough to one another to make it work!

2. If you have a porch or patio, hang birdfeeders and grow vegetables like tomatoes and peppers in containers. Many birds, especially hummingbirds will visit even an urban feeder. The garden will give you a little free produce and will help you feel a little closer to the outdoors.

3. Invest in wall shelves for extra storage. Being able to stock up when there are good sales will be worth the money.

4. Since there usually isn’t the option of painting or wallpapering make your own decorations. Use homemade photos and enlarge them. Get cheap frames at garage sales and hang them around the apartment. I used pretty satin ribbons to hang these in my baby’s room.

5. Talk with your neighbors about holding a community-wide garage sale. It’s difficult to have a garage sale when living in an apartment complex, but because space is tight, apartment dwellers, more than most people, need a way to recycle their stuff and pare down to what is really needed. If you can’t seem to organize a community wide garage sale, see if you have a friend that is planning an upcoming sale that you could share.

6. Invest in a cordless vacuum cleaner. I received this Shark brand rechargeable battery sweeper as a wedding gift and use it all the time. It’s pretty powerful, a lot less hassle than taking out a big vacuum, and takes up a lot less space in my closet.

7. If you have to use a coin operated laundry facility, consider getting a foldable indoor drying rack. Wash your underclothes in the sink and hang them to dry in the bathroom on your rack. It saves you money and you don’t have to leave your apartment as often to go to the facility.

8. Take out the trash every day, and place a box of baking soda at the bottom of your trash can to absorb odors. In a small place, it is much more vital to keep the bad smells to a minimum.

9. Scatter bay leaves strategically around your apartment. That’s right- bay leaves! Apartment complexes are much more likely to host an infestation of cockroaches. Keep them out of your apartment with bay leaves- they hate the smell! (I was very happy to discover this solution because, with a small child, I really didn’t want to have to use chemicals)

10. Pare down your collection of pots and pans to the bare minimum. Not only will this give you more cupboard space in your kitchen, but it will make it less likely that you will end up with a mountain of dishes in the sink.

11. Take advantage of the time you save not taking care of a yard by taking your family on outings to local parks, zoos, nature centers, festivals, and fairs.

12. Save counter space by using a magnetic tool strip to hang your knives instead of using a knife holder. Not only does it save space, but it's nice to be able to see the blades without picking up the knives to find the right one.

13. Make friends with the maintenance men and the apartment manager. Not only is it advantageous to you for getting repairs done more efficiently, but those are two jobs that are often unappreciated. Most of what they hear is complaining. Even if you don’t develop a personal relationship, show appreciation by baking them Christmas cookies or other holiday treats.

So now it's your turn. What good tips have you discovered that you wouldn't mind sharing with my family?