Kids Summer Activity Drawers

I just got a letter sent home from my son with an ABC countdown to the end if the school year.  That can’t be right?  Only 26 days left!  PANIC MODE!!!  My daughter is in special ed preschool 4 days a week for a couple hours.  My son has been at all-day, everyday kindergarten.  Needless to say I have grown accustomed to having them both out of the house.  

Now I realize that summer comes with swimming, going to the park, paying in the backyard, bubbles, running through the sprinkler, and eating popsicles…however it also comes with a lot of down time too.  My son has become very concerned lately about “what are we going to do next?” My response?  I’m not your entertainment source, you have more books and toys that you can count to play with, figure out. 

In a preemptive attempt to ward off some boredom and keep my kids somewhat in the educational mindset (and not regress too much over the summer), I have gotten some stacking plastic drawers to fill with activies.  They will have things shoved in them from books to worksheets to coloring pages to games, etc.. I’m aiming to have my son’s activities more independent and my daughter’s more 1-on-1 with me.

More about the items I’m putting in for each kid…

My son has collected over the last year or two several workbooks that are partially done.  I am cutting out the pages and placing 2-3 workbook pages in each day’s drawer.  I’m also placing a book or two in each drawer.  He is a very advanced reader and I intend on keeping it that way.  I have intentions of puzzles, games, flash cards, and his iPad Osmo games going in his drawers. I am going to try to switch it up a bit with the extras.  I also got a Star Wars coloring book and he has other coloring books from before.  I will be ripping out individual coloring pages for each day too (1 or 2 for each day).

I wanted to start this as I have a bunch of “educational” stuff that just sits around in the closet and never gets used.  My goal is to get it out and usable.  By using the drawers, I can prep for the week in a couple minutes on Sunday or even Monday morning and be ready to ward off some boredom during the week while the hubby is at work all day.  

My son is already calling these drawers his “work.”  It’s super cute because learning is cool when you’re that young.  I will also be sneaking in occassional treats or microwave popcorn or even a new library movie into the mix.  Once school is officially over, I am planning on placing a recipe occasionally in his drawers to have him help make cookies, a snack, or even a box of brownies with me. (Gotta teach them from a young age how to cook a bake!)   Like I mentioned above, I’m going to try and mix the drawers up a bit so it isn’t the same thing everyday.  I will have at least 2 worksheets and a book in every day.  The rest is negotiable based on our week and what I find hiding in our house that hasn’t been played with for awhile. 

If you are super-mom adventurous, you could plan art projects too.  I don’t think this will be an every week activity but I’m sure we will bust out the scissors and glue and make something fun occasionally. 

For my daughter’s drawers, I will be including some laminated ABC tracing pages (she is obsessed with letters), play dough activity sheets, board books to read, and other toys she doesn’t play with much unless someone is guiding her and interacting with her (dolls, magnetic dress up dolls, musical instruments like shakers and tambourines).

My daughter also has some Tiggly iPad games (yes, my kids both have an iPad Mini 2).  The are both loaded with only educational games and my son has a rule that he has to complete a sight word “set” on one of his apps before he can do anything else.  It works great to have that rule!  I highly suggest it to parents with kids learning how to read.  

I also will be finding and/or making a couple more speech-related tools for my dauggter to put in her drawers as she needs continued help in that area. 

So that’s about the gist of it.  I am excited to have these ready for the start of summer. (They will be great next winter too when it’s too cold to go outside in Minnesota and we end up watching too many movies).

Let me know if you decide to the something similar or if you gave any goods suggestions for the drawers!  

P.S.- here is a sneak peak I took on my Kindle, terrible quality.  I will get better photos up tomorrow including photos of the items in the bins.  Plus I have printed the days of the week to tape to the front, so those will be on tomorrow as well! 

Vegetarian Bento Lunch

bento6Today, my daughter was supposed to have an appointment in St. Paul.  Got there and realized quickly that they were over scheduled for the test she needed.  Not a big deal, but she needed a room at would accommodate a kid, and she was scheduled in an adult room.  We could have waited about 30-45 minutes or reschedule.  We choose to reschedule.  (Doing the test today had a disadvantage of not being able to seeing her doctor afterwards to discuss the results.  He had to leave the office before we would be done and would have just called us tomorrow.  Seeing as how this isn’t a life threatening situation, we decided it would be easiest to just come back).

As her appointment was at 12:30 pm and about an hour away, we had decided to leave early and head to a park first.  She is a very energetic 3.5 year old so running around after sitting in the car for an hour was our plan.  We left out house at 10:45 am, so we were either going to need to grab lunch somewhere or bring something with.  I packed bentos for my daughter, hubby, and myself.

Mine is the vegetarian bento, the hubby got some turkey and co-jack cheese kabobs in his.  My daughter and I ate ours in the car on the way and my hubby ate his on a bench at the park.

bento1

Mine consisted of 1 kiwi, 4 strawberries, cherry tomatoes, about 1/2 a sliced cucumber, about 1/4 a green pepper, 2 hard boiled eggs, and a hummus packet.

bento2

Hubby’s bento consisted of about 3/4 green pepper, cherry tomatoes, about 1/4 cucumber, turkey and co-jack cheese toothpick kabobs, a cutie orange, and 2 hard boiled eggs.

I like to eat out, don’t get me wrong.  We could have easily stopped somewhere for a burger or sandwich today.  The lunches I packed though were UBBER healthy and quite a bit cheaper then we could have had lunch out, even from a fast food restaurant.

Yes, it took a bit of time to put together, considering I had to wash and cut fruit and veggies.  The hard boiled eggs cooked while I got everything else ready.  I then threw the cooked eggs in ice-water to cool them off quickly before we left… cuz who wants to eat warm hard boiled eggs, yikes!

If you like the idea of cheese in the bento but want to pass on the meat, throw some crackers in instead and you’ll have yourself an adult lunchable.

bento3

#tryingtoeathealthier

Peach Berry Smoothie

peach berry

Happy Sunday y’all! I’m so excited it is finally getting nicer out consistently!  (Result of living in the midwest).  My shorties and I went to the park today.  Came home and whipped up some smoothies for snack.   It’s a great way to sneak in some extra fruit for the day, and a great way to cool off in the summer from the heat!

I have recently switched my daughter to a gluten-free and dairy-free diet.  As mentioned before, she has some developmental delays and medical issues and from what I’ve read, skipping the gluten and dairy can be beneficial for her.  We are giving it our best shot.  She has been gluten free and dairy free for a little over 2 weeks now.  We have already seen an improvement in her sleep and her attention span.  We shall see if it helps with her communication over the coming weeks and months.

On a different note, this smoothie is very similar to the White Peach Berry smoothie from Caribou Coffee.   I really enjoy it, but the small is like $5!  I just can’t do that on the regular.  It hurts my head when I think about people who spend that kind of money on a smoothie or coffee every morning, yikes!

Now, this isn’t an exact knock-off, but it’s close.  I’m sure you could make several smoothies for the cost of one at Caribou.  Once blended, this recipe it made about 4 cups of smoothie.

peach berry3

Peach Berry Smoothie
Ingredients:
1 cup frozen peaches
1 cup frozen pineapple
1 cup frozen raspberries
2 cups apple juice

Directions:
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smoothie-consistency is reached.  If it’s too thick, add a little more apple juice.  If it’s too thin, add another couple pieces of frozen peaches.

Notes: I use frozen fruit as it is quick and easy.  It is sliced and ready to go.  Having frozen fruit also allows you to blend this drink without ice and it’s still nice and cold!

peach berry2

Donut Burger

donut burger6

There is a restaurant in Fort Collins, CO called Stuft Burger.  They allow you to design your own burger and put pretty much any thing on it from peanut butter and jelly to basil tomato goat cheese to maple syrup.  It goes without saying that anything and everything you would probably never think of can be added to you burger, including a glazed donut as a bun.  I will admit, I was skeptical too.  My sister-in-law was adventurous and ordered one and absolutely swore by it so I jumped on board and ordered a cheese burger on a donut there too.  Let me just say OMG it is AWESOME!

As we have since moved away from this awesome restaurant, I decided it was time to recreate my delicious, gooey burger and post it so the world would know of it’s awesomeness.  FYI- the donut sweetness just adds another layer of deliciousness that is hard to describe.  Trust me on this.  It is amazing!

If you were to talk to my husband, he would want you to throw a fried egg on this as well to put it totally over the top.  I will let you decide your adventure level on this burger.  If you do try the egg, cooking it over-easy is a very acceptable doneness and will cause you to become extremely messy in the process to the point of feeling like a toddler while eating your burger.  Again, your choice.  I don’t add the egg, feel free to if you want.

donut burger1

Obviously this is probably the most-unhealthy thing one could consume considering the ingredients.  Bacon, cheeseburger, donuts with a side of fries.  But I don’t care.  It’s called balance.  I eat fairly healthy most days so I tend to not stress on the occasion when I make a meal that is over-the-top in calories and cholesterol.

donut burger2

Enough with the chit-chat, here’s the recipe, broken down into sections…

Directions:
1. My suggestion, start with the bacon.   Either fry it in a pan or get it in the oven and cooking as it takes a minute.

To cook in the oven, pre-heat oven to 400 degress F.  Line cookie sheet with tin foil (this will keep most of the bacon fat off the cookie sheet, making clean-up easy).  Line the bacon next to each other on the cookie sheet.  Fill the pan with as many bacon strips as it can hold (or as many as you need).  Use an additional tin foil lined baking sheet if necessary.

Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes, until your bacon is cooked to your desired doneness.  Using a tongs, remove bacon from cookie sheet and place onto paper towels or napkins to remove some excess grease.  Set aside until needed.

2. Next, cut up the onions and peppers and get them cooking…
Slice into small strips (1/2 and onion and 1/2 a green bell pepper, more if you are feeding several people).  In a medium pan, add 1 T. oil, sliced onion, and pepper.  Cook onions and peppers on medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes until soft and starting to brown.  Again, timing is going to be based on your preferred doneness.

3. Finally, get the hamburgers going…

Ultimate Burgers
1 lb. “fatty” ground beef (80/20 or 85/15, this makes for “juicy” burgers)
1/2 cup instant oatmeal
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 egg
1 T. McCormick’s Grill Mates- Hamburger seasoning

Place all ingredients into a medium-sized bowl.  Mix either with a spoon/fork, with your hands, or with a mixer.  Divide into 4-6 patties.  Flatten and shape to match your bun size, remembering that the burgers will shrink down a little while cooking.  Cook in a pan on your stove or on the grill over medium-high heat for several minutes on each side.  We like our burgers well done, cook to your preferred doneness.

4. Cut your donut in half, add cheese of your choice (mine had pepper jack), burger and toppings.  Serve and ENJOY!  (I topped mine with spinach, bacon, pepper jack cheese, bacon, grilled onions and grilled green peppers.  I also dipped mine in ketchup, because I’m classy like that).

donut burger3
One final warning, your hands will be a sticky, gooey mess after eating this burger.  You probably won’t want to put the burger down once you start as that’s how sticky you will be.

Have a good weekend! 

Alcoholic Peach Iced Tea

teaOne of my New Year’s “resolutions” is to use up stuff around the house and to upcycle items found at home before going to the store to purchase something new.  You will see this coming up on the blog in the next couple months as I plan to upcycle come old clothes and use the fabric for some of my projects.

If you know me, you know I am a red wine gal.  The other week, I looked at our alcohol stash I noticed I have a decent amount peach schnapps still left over from making white wine spritzers for a party last summer.  I also have whipped and birthday cake vodka from a girls night (martini night) at my house.  So instead of running to the store to grab a bottle of cabernet, I decided to try something new.  Here it is… alcoholic peach iced tea.

tea2

To make the sweet tea:
Ingredients:

6 cups water
4 black tea bags
1/3 cup sugar

Directions:
1. Pour water into a small pot, add tea bags.  Turn on burner to high and allow the tea to steep for several minutes.   (I am no tea connoisseur, so there is probably a “correct” way to make black tea.  I however, don’t care.)  There is no need to boil the water, I just got mine nice and warm to help the tea steep.
2. Once your tea bags have done their jobs, remove them from the pot.  Add the sugar, stirring until dissolved.

Allow your tea to cool a bit (even let it come down to room temperature, so you don’t water it down with ice melting in your drink).

Alcoholic Peach Iced Tea:
Ingredients:
1-1 1/4 cups sweet tea
1/2 shot vodka
1 1/2 shots peach schnapps
ice

Directions:
Mix all ingredient above in a tall glass.  Enjoy!

YUM!  This would be great on a hot summer day as the peach schnapps make it taste just like peach iced tea, but with the added benefit of it being booze-infused!

Happy Friday!

Find Joy in the Journey Sign

joy6I’ve been meaning to get on here to post more regularly but life at my house seems to be pulling me in every direction imaginable.  Never a dull moment with my kids and it seems like I hardly have time to sit down.

I had been meaning to make this sign since the end of February.  (As you will see below, the other side is painted Valentine’s  with “Be Mine” and arrows).  But, like I just mentioned, my life seems to be a bit overly- busy at the minute.  Hopefully things will calm down a bit once the weather finally stabilizes into a warmer “spring” temp and then into summer.  My kids are not doing well with the change from winter-to-spring this year.  (Ear infections and colds like it’s cool at this house).

Yesterday, I finally decided to take my daughter’s special-ed preschool time and sit and watch some Netflix and make this sign.  You know, “me time” instead of cleaning a bathroom or doing a load of laundry.  The sign is now hanging in my front entry and I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out.  As mentioned in passing in other posts, my daughter has a lot of special needs and has some medical issues.  We are slowly starting to figure her out and get some more specialized treatments and therapies for her.  We are on a “journey” with her and the reminder to find joy in the process is a nice to have.

joy3

The placement of the sign at the door is also appropriate, I think, as it’s on the way out of the house.  Everyday is a “journey.”  Whether we are headed out the door to another doctor’s appointment or to a baseball game, we are reminded to find joy in the day.

For all of you wanting to make one of these signs too, I’ve included the pdf here and below in the directions:
Find Joy in the Journey

Find Joy in the Journey Sign
Supplies:

board (mine is 13×11 inches and 3/4 inch thick)
stain or paint of your choice
sandpaper
fine-tipped white Sharpie paint pen
hooks to hang sign up
ribbon, yarn, or twine
printer with printer paper & ink
pencil & pen
printable pdf Find Joy in the Journey

Directions:
1. Prep your board.  Cut if necessary to your desired size.  Mine is 13×11 inches by 3/4 inch thick.  Feel free to use any size board you want that the saying fits onto.
2. Lightly sand and and stain or paint your board, allow to dry.
3. Print pdf Find Joy in the Journey from this page.
4. Transfer the outline onto your wood.  I did this by printing the pdf, flipping the paper over and “scribbling” with a pencil around the text (shown below).  Flip the paper right-side-up, onto your wood.  Using a pen, trace around the outside of the letters.  The pencil from the back of the paper should leave you a faint line to use as a guide.
5. Remove printed paper and trace the outline with your fine-tipped paint pen,  Go back and fill in with a “hashed” line, not filling it in perfectly (unless you want to).
6.  Allow to dry and add hooks.  I used the ones shown below that I just screwed in with my hand.  (Sorry, I don’t know what they are called).
7.  Hang with ribbon, yard, or twine.

Notes: I used a white Sharpie paint pen- fine tip I found at Walmart.

Pencil scribbles on the back of the printed text page, this allows the pencil to be transferred to the wood.
joy7

Flip the paper right-side-up.  Line up on your board and trace around.  This will leave a faint pencil outline to follow.
joy8

Do the outside of the font first and fill in.
joy2

Hooks used to hang the sign, just screwed in from the top. joy5

The other side… click HERE for the post about the Valentine’s sign.
joy4

Good Luck!

Sex on the Beach

sexonthebeach

Yum.  Seriously.  I don’t know if I have ever had a Sex on the Beach until tonight.  I have had my fair share of fun cocktails, but I don’t ever remembering making or ordering one of these.  I had all the ingredients already, so I figured I would give it a shot.

sexonthebeach3

Sex on the Beach
Ingredients:
3 parts Orange Juice
3 parts Cranberry Juice
1 part Vodka
1 part Peach Schnapps

Directions:
In a tall glass, pour all the above ingredients.  Add a handful of ice.  Stir well and enjoy!

Notes: I used a shot glass to measure all my liquids, so I did 3 “shots” of both juices and 1 shot each of both the alcohols.
sexonthebeach5
Enjoy!

 

Re-stuff a Bean Bag

bean bag4

bean bag1

Isn’t that just a sad looking bean bag chair?  (Truth be-told, it’s actually more of a floor “poof” when it’s full).   I bought it 3-ish years ago and it has taken a beating.  I set out to perk it up a little and ran across this idea that I wanted to share.

bean bag 2

See all those plastic grocery bags?  I shoved them inside my bean bag.  Best part is, it’s FREE and it’s a great use for all the plastic bags we all tend to over-accumulate.  I have been trying lately to use our reusable shopping bags more when I go grocery shopping, but clearly I still had a bunch of the plastic bags in my house.

Incase you were wondering, the chair already made noise when you sat on it due to the filling, so adding the “crinkle” of the plastic bags isn’t noticeable.

Directions for this are pretty self-explanatory.   Don’t use any bags that held raw meat or are gross.  You will need either a safety pin or a paper clip to open your bean bag chair.  The zippers are made without pulls so that kids can’t open them.  My bag actually has a double zipper.  You have to get the first zipper pulled all the way down to the bottom to expose the second zipper.  Pretty nifty if you ask me!

bean bag3

Once you open your bean bag, be careful not to spill all those pellets.  Then start shoving the plastic bags into the bean bag.  I ended up shoving about 60 plastic bags in mine.  In all honesty, it could probably use another 10-20 bags to really perk it back up to more of a “poof.”

Notes: I tried to shove my plastic bags more towards the bottom of the bean bag and left the pellets towards the top.  (In the photo shown below, the bottom of my bean bag is actually at the top of the photo).

bean bag5

Once your bean bag is full of plastic bags, zip it back up and remove the safety pin or paper clip.  Enjoy your FREE filling!

bean bag6

Ah, much better!

Homemade Yogurt

yogurt2

Meatless Monday!  Doing homemade yogurt today.  I love doing yogurt parfaits for meals.  McDonalds used to make the big ones that were “meal-sized.”  I ate them in high school during marching band trips.  Yes I was in band and yes it was “cool.”  I played the drums.  The best part of the whole experience?  We traveled.  My first year we went to NYC (summer after 9/11) and Niagara Falls.  Second year, our marching band went to Colorado and went white water rafting.  My last year, we headed out to Seattle and visited the Space Needle and Experience Music Project.  (See, I told you it was “cool.”)

To make parfaits is really up to your personal preferences.  Throw some granola (I like frosted shredded wheat), fruit, maybe some chocolate chips or nuts if your feeling adventurous, and you have a nice meatless meal or even just breakfast.

I had a gallon and then some of milk that was getting close to it’s expiration date.  I didn’t really feel like chugging the gallon and I didn’t want to waste it and pour it down the sink.  So, I decided to try to make yogurt!

It’s pretty easy.  You can easily cut this recipe in 1/2 or 1/4 to better suit your wants and needs.

yogurt3


Homemade Yogurt- Vanilla

Ingredients:

1 gallon milk (I used 1% and because I didn’t use whole milk, I added powdered milk)

3-4 cups powdered milk

2 individual yogurt cups, vanilla (6 oz.) with live, active cultures

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 T. vanilla

***You will need a thermometer.  I used a candy one that hooks to the side of my pot.

Directions:
  1. In a large pot, bring the milk up to 180 degrees F over medium to medium-high heat, stirring with a whisk constantly to prevent burning.  (Mine did burn a little on the bottom and I strained my milk with a wire-mesh strainer with very small holes to prevent the burnt bottom from mixing into my yogurt).
  2. Once your milk has reached 180 degrees F, take it off the stove.  Place pot into sink filled with cold water.  Once your milk has cooled to 120 degrees F, take it out of the cold sink water.
  3. Remove about 2-3 cups of milk and place into a medium bowl.  Mix purchased yogurt cups into the 2-3 cups of milk until fully incorporated.  Place yogurt-milk mixture back into large pot.  Stir well.
  4. Add sugar and vanilla to pot.  Stir well.
  5. Cover pot with lid.  Wrap pot in several towels and place on the kitchen counter.  Let sit 8-10 hours (or overnight, if you make this in the evening hours).
  6. In the morning, or after 8-10 hours, place in container(s) in the fridge to allow to cool.  Serve alone, with fruit, granola, etc….  *It is best to eat your yogurt within about 7 days.

Vodka Soda Lime

vodkasoda

March, the saying is it comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.  That couldn’t be more true for our family.  March came in like a bang for us and we ended up spending a bit of time in the hospital with my daughter on March 1st.  The temperature changes does not sit well with either of my kids and they get sick in the fall-to-winter switch (November) and the winter-to-spring switch (March).  I am so excited and so ready for tomorrow to be April!  I realize nothing much changes between today and tomorrow, but it’s definitely a mental thing for me.  April brings the promise of even nicer weather and a “fresh” start, if you will, from March.

As we are inching into Spring and warmer weather, this is a nice fresh drink to kick it off!  This adult beverage is nice and light and crisp.  Would be PERFECT for a hot summer day!

The best part?  This is one of those “skinny girl drinks.”  Now, I’m not going to pretend like I’ve done the math on this one to figure out the calories, but I know it is on the lighter side as far as alcoholic beverages go.

vodkasoda3

Best part?  It’s pretty simple and straight forward and only requires 3 ingredients.

Vodka Soda Lime
Ingredients:

2 ounces vodka
6-8 ounces club soda
lime
handful of ice

Directions: 
Place ice, vodka, and club soda in a glass.  Squeeze some lime in, stir, and enjoy!

vodkasoda2

Cheers!  (And happy last day of March!)