Monday, September 12, 2011

It's a Good Kind of Busy

I've been so busy lately with my family and work that blogging has taken a bit of a back seat. I miss it and all of you, but there just isn't always time for everything I want to do. Normally I'm a fan of having plenty of white space in my calendar, but I'm actually enjoying this busy season in my life. Maybe it's because the things on my calendar are things I really want to do, not things I feel pressured into doing. Well, dance chaperone isn't the most fun thing I've ever done, but getting to know my kids' friends and spending time with them in these last few years I have them at home IS.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

French Toast Bread Pudding


I try to make something special for breakfast every year on the first day of school. This year it was sausage cheese balls and French Toast Bread Pudding. Both recipes are easy to put together the night before.  It's nice to have everything ready to go for the first day of school so I can spend my morning taking pictures. :)

Yes, I know this isn't exactly the healthiest breakfast out there, but it sure is delicious for a special occasion!

Famous French Bread Pudding
1 loaf white or wheat bread
1 quart half & half
6 large eggs
2 large egg whites
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 stick butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cups chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Grease a glass pan.  Break bread into small bite-sized pieces and place into pan.  Beat eggs and egg whites in a large bowl.  Add half & half, sugar and cinnamon; mix well.  Pour over bread.  Top with powdered sugar and additional cinnamon.  Slice butter and place on top.  Sprinkle chopped pecans over all.  Cover pan with foil and bake for 40 minutes; uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.  If you want to make it even more decadent, serve with whipped cream and caramel sauce on top!

You can also put everything together the night before, cover with foil and keep it refrigerated over night.  Then bake as directed.

Do you make a special breakfast for the first day of school?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bust Summertime Boredom with 10 Wallet-Friendly Ideas from Primrose Schools - Guest Post

By: Kathleen Thomas

What could be worse than a rainy summer day, when your children are cooped up inside and you have nothing planned? For parents, even sunny days that seem filled with endless opportunities, still yield the inevitable “I’m bored!” Undoubtedly, your children will utter those words at least once during the upcoming summer months.

Studies show that without stimulation, children can lose up to 60 percent of what they learned during the school year. Primrose Schools, a family of 200 accredited private preschools, suggests the key to overcoming summertime boredom and the “brain drain” effect is to encourage imaginative play and have a plan in place to keep children engaged during the summer months.

“It’s important to keep children’s minds active during the summer, but it doesn’t take an expensive activity or big vacation to capture their attention,” said Dr. Mary Zurn, Vice President of Education for Primrose. “After all, imagination is free.”

Summer is a great time to encourage children to let their imaginations soar. School schedules can sometimes be demanding and time for less structured, imaginative activities is often scarce. The freedom of summer gives children large blocks of uninterrupted time to create projects of their own choosing that can last several days or even longer.

Here are 10 ideas parents can use to keep young minds active during the summer months:

1. Beat the Boredom Jar: At the beginning of the summer, sit down with your family and brainstorm a list of activities that can be done alone or that you can enjoy doing together. Encourage your children to share their own ideas and help you decorate and label a simple jar as the family “Boredom Buster Jar.” They’ll feel more involved in the project and more likely to think this is a “neat” idea, if they participate in the creation and idea generation. Next, write everyone’s ideas down on slips of paper and as a group decide which ones should go in the jar. Anyone in the family can pull any idea out of the jar to fight the summertime boredom blues.

2. Stories Alive: It sounds too simple, but reading is one of the most important ways to keep young minds engaged during the summer. Make reading even more fun by finding ways to bring the stories to life. For example, in the book Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran, children create a make-believe town in the desert out of rocks, boxes, and their imaginations. Read the book with your children and then challenge them to create their own town with materials they find in the backyard.

3. Art Treasure Chest: You’ll need to gather basic art supplies–child safe scissors, glue, markers, tape, and construction paper. Put them in a special box along with empty oatmeal boxes and paper towel rolls, colorful magazines, and bits of aluminum foil. Occasionally add a special surprise like chalk, stickers, or stamp pads so there’s always something new for the children to find. Even if you normally have these supplies around the house, it‘s fun for children to know that the Art Treasure Chest is just for them. They’ll probably have some good ideas of other household items that can be recycled to fuel their creative energies.

4. Family Performances: Break out old clothes or costumes and encourage children to make up characters and create a play to act out. They are the directors, actors, and producers. They can also make musical instruments out of pots/pans, wooden spoons, empty canisters and have a parade; or everyone can play along to your family’s favorite songs. Record or video the performances, and enjoy the replay. You’ll also be capturing a bit of family history everyone will enjoy for years to come.

5. Fort Building: Children love to build all kinds of structures--from small towns to large towers. Constructing forts or tents is an activity that can keep children focused and problem solving for hours. All the items you need can be found around the house–some chairs, cushions, blankets… and of course adult supervision.

6. Cookbook Fun: Have you ever shared your favorite cookbook with your children? Take it out and ask your children to choose a recipe to try. Measuring can be a fun and easy way to keep math skills fresh.

7. Summer Scrapbook: All you need for this project is a spiral notebook. Encourage everyone in the family to draw pictures of favorite activities and collect mementos from special events throughout the summer. Children love to go back through scrapbooks and albums and tell about what happened at each occasion. They will also be building their storytelling skills at the same time.

8. Listening Game: Lie down in the backyard, in the den or at the park and listen. What do you hear? Do you hear what I hear? Can you imitate the sound? This is similar to watching the clouds and naming the shapes, and it encourages everyone to slow down and focus on listening.

9. Camping Out: Pretend to campout in the backyard. Plan a meal, pack a backpack and set up a campsite. You might even decide to spend the night!

10. Scavenger Hunt: Make a list or picture cards of common household items and have your children find the items on the list. Invite friends or neighbors to join in the fun to make it a competition.

Parents can use this list of ideas as a starting point for summer activities that offer a balance between the freedom of child-initiated play time and more structured activities.

“Keeping children engaged with open-ended activities that stretch their imaginations during the summer months helps them develop their independence, creativity, and thinking,” said Dr. Zurn. “We want to help parents keep the “brain drain” at bay while their children play.”

When preparing for a brain-drain-free summer, remember to suggest or provide age appropriate activities. Many times, children say they are bored because the activity they were doing was either too simple or too advanced to keep them occupied for long. Activities should be fun and challenge what they know, but should keep in line with the interests and developmental levels of your children.

Ultimately, we know every child is different, with different interests and learning styles so having a variety of ideas is a great way to be prepared during the summer months. Involving children in the planning of ideas gives them an opportunity to express their individuality and creativity.

So with these tips in mind, sit down with your family and make a plan for an engaging, imaginative and fun summer.



Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday


“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
-John Wesley

Happy Sunday!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Happiness


"I am a happy camper so I guess I’m doing something right. Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder."
— Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Simple Life



In these tough economic times, what's a girl to do? To quote Thoreau "Simplify, simplify".
  • Bake homemade bread (maybe not much cheaper than store bought bread but oh such much more satisfying)
  • plant a garden and save the seeds for next year
  • eat at home
  • hang the clothes out on the line
  • re-use or re-purpose instead of buying new
  • carpool when possible
  • throw away the TV (OK, not really, but watching less means more time with the family and less ads telling us about all the things we "need")
  • cook from scratch
  • start making Christmas gifts now
  • Volunteer in your church and in your community
  • Appreciate the gift of now
Everything may not be the same, but it will be OK.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Lunch Box Ideas


I feel like we didn't even get a proper summer this year. We didn't have much time for sleeping late and no one got bored. What kind of summer is that?

Marcia and Bobby are already in "back to school" mode with summer sports. They have to pack a lunch every day (the cafeteria isn't open even if they wanted to eat there) and it's too expensive to let them do what some of the kids do and drive to the nearby fast food joint for lunch.

They pack their own and I try to have things that are fairly healthy and easy to pack as they often wait until the last possible second, no matter how often I suggest they pack them up the night before. 

Here's a list of lunch box foods I like to keep on hand that can be combined in all sorts of ways:
  • whole grain sandwich bread
  • tortillas
  • peanut butter
  • tuna
  • cheese sticks or those Mini Babybel cheeses (we all love those but they're more expensive than cheese sticks so I don't buy them as often).
  • yogurt
  • applesauce or fruit cups
  • lunch meat
  • whole grain muffins
  • crackers
  • carrots
  • apples
  • granola bars
  • tortilla chips (they can add a small container of salsa too)
  • bananas
  • plums
  • hard boiled eggs (I don't make these very often, but they love them)
  • Tea (is that weird?).  They love Snapple Lemon Tea, but it's too expensive for everyday.  They also like homemade tea packed in a water bottle or a re-purposed Snapple bottle.  You can freeze it the night before and it will be nice and icy cold at lunch time.
  • oranges
  • Leftovers (which are rare around here)
  • And of course the occasional oatmeal cookie or slice of banana bread

Do you have any other good ideas for lunch box foods to keep on hand?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Despite the Heat

Despite the fact that all I want to do is lie under the ceiling fan, eat ice cream, and spritz myself with cold water, I've actually been incredibly busy the past two weeks. Friends and family have been visiting, Bobby and Marcia have camp, and I've been helping Mom paint her fixer upper in small town, USA. There's not a chain store or traffic light in her town, but there are three churches.

I love small town churches.  I wonder what their attendance is on a Sunday morning? 15? 20?


I'm happy living in my relatively big city with it's restaurants, movie theaters, universities, and symphony, but there's something so appealing about a tiny town.

I haven't seen a gas pump like that in years.

Look what my mom has right outside her back door!


Turkeys! I can't believe how close they let me get.

More and more of these windmills are popping up nearby. I pass lots of them on the way to Mom's house. They're huge and somewhat bizarre standing in the middle of a field--lonely yet compelling.


Are you having a busy summer too? Hope you're all staying cool!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Weekend

Greg is home, so it has been a weekend of food and family! My favorite!








Thursday, July 21, 2011

You Know You're a Reader When...


You can't get through cooking dinner without a book nearby.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tie Dye

In our continuing "Summer O Projects" the girls and I made tie-dye t-shirts. We bought white t-shirts on sale for half price and a neon tie-dye kit. There are all sorts of suggestions in the pamphlet that comes with the kit, but we decided to do a traditional tie-dye style. We folded the t-shirts up accordion style and tied them with rubber bands (then twine when I ran out of rubber bands).

Then we sprayed on the dye. The dye in the kit comes in handy little spray bottles so no mixing which is nice. The girls had fun deciding which color to put where.

We let them dry tied up overnight and then hung them up to finish air drying the next morning. After they were completely dry I set the dye with an iron.

They turned out really cute and the dye has survived the wash with no running or fading.  Next on the list, tie-dyed socks!

On a side note, you should have seen the smiles we got when the three of us wore our matching t-shirts, friendship bracelets, and dyed shoes.  I'm just hoping we didn't look like craft crazy clowns and people were just smiling because we looked like we'd been having fun!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Thinking Ahead


After noticing that the stores are already setting up their school supply displays, I checked my calendar and realized that school starts 6 weeks from today! That means our summer is almost over, which in turn means it's time to start thinking about back to school.  Whew!  How did that happen so fast?

Ideally, I start planning for school a month or so before it starts.  Last minute panic is no fun and makes for a stressed out family!  Here is what I hope to accomplish in the next few weeks:
  • Dental check ups and cleanings for the kids (they've already had their annual checkups with the doctor)
  • Go through their jeans and school clothes to see what still fits and make a list of what's needed.
  • Check the school website for registration dates and complete paperwork.
  • Make sure school phone numbers are in my contacts list on my phone
  • Start going to bed earlier
  • Make sure the kids finish up their summer reading
  • Take the kids for haircuts (me too, if I can find the time)
  • Declutter - this is an ongoing project around here
  • Gradually start shopping for school clothes and supplies

Have you started your back to school organizing yet?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Country Evening

I love the friendly people in our town with their laid back attitudes, the gorgeous sunsets, and the wide open spaces.





Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Random Vacation Thoughts

Fair warning: this is going to be one of the rambling, non-cohesive type posts.

  • Despite leaving "clothes" off my packing list I did actually take some with me and didn't have to spend my vacation in nothing but a swimsuit and PJs. My most versatile and favorite piece of packable vacation clothing is my foldover jersey skirt. I have the dark heather gray color which is so versatile. It goes with everything, doesn't wrinkle, is light weight and cool, and the foldover waist makes the length of the skirt adjustable. I'm hoping to get a few more in different colors.

  • I haven't had a swimsuit I actually like in years and years.  Of course that's probably because I usually just buy whatever keeps me covered and is cheap.  This year I decided to buy a "real" swimsuit so I bought the hidden assets one piece at Target.  The only problem is I bought it without trying it on (shame, shame...I know,) and I should have sized up.  It is very slimming and cute, but it's a bug bear to get on, and once it's wet, there's no taking it off and putting it back on.  That sort of creates a problem if one needs to make use of the restroom facilities.  So instead, I wound up wearing my board shorts and halter tankini top which provided no support (should have sized down. Again, I bought without trying on.  Must be a phobia.) but was at least easy to get back on when wet.




  • My hair did not look cute in the humidity, so I tried to stay out of all the pictures.  Unfortunately my plan didn't work, and I'll always have reminders of the strange ways my bangs can curl up.
  • Ditto on the makeup in the humidity.  My skin tends toward the oily side, so my makeup just slid right off my face.  I finally gave up and wore Dr. Feelgood balm over my sunscreen with the addition of a little lip gloss and a swipe of mascara (I normally wear it under my foundation as a primer and it does help if the humidity is not 110%).  It didn't cover up the flaws in my skin like foundation does (at least somewhat), but that's better than looking like I was melting, right?
  • I came home sick (airplane germs?), but I've been cleaning and de-cluttering nonstop since I got back.  There's something about seeing your home with "fresh" eyes to make you notice things that need to be done.
  • I checked out In the Company of Others: A Father Tim Novel to take with me on the plane but then chickened out, because what if I lost it or got it wet or got sand in it and the library police came knocking on my door? WHAT IF? So I took my kindle instead because it actually belongs to me and only my husband and I would freak out if it were lost or destroyed (much better than freaked out librarians).  I've been reading it since I got back though, and I'm loving it so far.  I knew I would.
  • I LOVE looking at churches in towns and cities that I visit.  I'm always so tempted to ask if I can go in and look around.  I saw so many pretty, traditional, older churches of all sizes.  I'm a sucker for a steeple.  :)

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    At Home I'm a Maid But at the Beach I'm a Mermaid

    Vacation is over and it's back to reality (and laundry) but I have so many sweet memories.  There's just something special about spending time with my family at the beach.  I love the timeless sense of fun and freedom that we get from the the waves and the long stretches of sand.

    video 

    We're sleep deprived and in dire need of some vegetables (what is it about vacation that causes all nutritional concerns to go out the window?) but it was so worth it!

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    Wish You Were Here!

    I'm writing to you from the teeny tiny screen of my phone. I didn't bring my computer with me but I wanted to say hello and I'm having a great time! See you soon!

    Thursday, June 30, 2011

    Vacation Packing Check List


    As I've mentioned before, I love a good checklist. If I don't have one I'm liable to get distracted and forget something. It's bad when you pack for vacation and forget something important like underwear or PJs. Not that I've ever done something like that (ahem).

    It's almost vacation time for me (yay!!, so I'm making my packing list.   I thought I would share in case some of you are as organizationally challenged as I am.
    • Swimsuit
    • beach towel
    • camera and memory card
    • cell phone and charger
    • sunscreen
    • Sunglasses
    • Facial cleanser
    • toothbrush, toothpaste and floss
    • makeup
    • SPF Lip balm
    • Razor
    • Shampoo and Conditioner
    • PJs
    • Deodorant
    • Body Wash
    • Unmentionables ;)
    • Brush
    • Blowdryer
    • Kindle (I never leave home without it.  It's all charged and ready to go)
    • Hair products
    • Pillow
    • First Aid Kit
    • Money
    • Assorted family members

    Am I forgetting something?

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    Weekend

    Two words about the weekend: the heat! My word, the heat! I don't like cold weather, but I have to admit I'm not a fan of living on the surface of the sun either.

    I've given up on trying to fix my hair.  I'm not going to use any appliance that puts out heat when I break out in a sweat as soon as I step out of the shower.  I just want it out of my eyes and off my neck.  Summer has defeated me and it's not even July.

    So other than the pool and church, we went absolutely nowhere and felt extremely grateful for the miracles called central A/C and ceiling fans.

    I actually turned on the oven to make muffins. I think they were worth it.  A little cinnamon and sugar makes everything better.



    Most of my time Saturday was spent at the pool and in the water, but I did manage to drink a smoothie and read some of The Enchanted April on my Kindle.  When we got out of the pool we had to walk across the concrete to our chairs as fast as possible (while saying ow! ow! ow!) to avoid burning the bottoms of our feet. Of course it also helps to keep the lounge chairs that aren't in the shade covered with your beach towel so you aren't branded with stripes as soon as you sit down.




    By the time we got home from church Sunday it was way too hot to do anything outside so the girls and I worked on making a hobo bag for Marcia. We found a kit with all the fabric and instructions on sale for half price at Hobby Lobby. It turned out really cute! The polka dot fabric is the lining. We're going to make one for Cindy next with a zebra print lining.

    How was your weekend?