Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Zoe's 5th Frozen Birthday Party

Our second born, Zoe, turned 5 this month.  FIVE!  How we got to this point so quickly, I'll never know.  Yet here we are, with a beautiful, spunky, independent little girl.  Zoe, like every little girl, loves the movie Frozen.  How could you not?  It's simply amazing.  Her birthday party was OBVIOUSLY a Frozen theme.

We made a "Love is an open door!" sign to hang on our screen door using scrapbook paper from Michael's.

For party favors and party fun, we made these snowflake wands.  Thank goodness for Hobby Lobby stocking a Christmas department in the middle of summer!  We just used blue snowflake ornaments, ribbons, and small wooden dowels to make these (and a hot glue gun to attach the pieces).

We bought shiny white and purple gum balls, and light blue sixlets in the cake decorating section of Walmart and Hobby Lobby.  They went inside mason jars (of course-because they're awesome), and then we added some ribbon around the top.  We also bought blue and white chevron striped straws.  

In honor of Olaf hoping to enjoy summer, we put blue jell-o into clear cups and topped them with umbrellas (Dollar Store).

For food, we had sandwiches.  The little tag next to them reads, "we finish each other's sandwiches."

"Olaf's Noses" and ranch for healthy snack points.

Purple & blue forks/spoons (Walmart) and dipped pretzels in white & blue candy melts.  My pretzel-hating husband thinks these are good.  I'd have to agree, but I also love pretzels.  Anyway, I always do a pretzel dipped in candy melts at our kids parties, and they are always GONE by the end.  So good.

Instead of a cake, we had a "frozen ice cream" bar.  We actually already had all the sprinkles in our cabinet, but we bought jelly beans and gummy worms, as well as chocolate and caramel syrup.  Zoe got to pick out two ice creams at the store.  This was so fun.  I had a couple grown-ups help me with an assembly line to serve the kiddos.

Do you want to build a snowman???  These kids did!  We used toilet paper and cut out black circles and orange triangles.  They teamed up, wrapped a partner, and then stuck their buttons and nose on top!

^^^The birthday girl!  

In total, I spent $117 on this party, which is a little over my target party budget of $100.  But, I have tons of the wands left over that I can perhaps sell online or on etsy, lots of scrapbook paper left over for other projects, some ice cream and most of the syrups left over that will go to my belly, gum balls that I've been using for bribing my kids all week long, and of course the sprinkles are mostly left over too.  

Most importantly, Zoe had fun and enjoyed herself!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Parachute Play Without a Parachute

This week my sister and law and nephews joined me for one of my Kindermusik classes that I taught.  Half way through the class, we were doing an activity that utilizes a parachute and some balls, which, of course, is every child's favorite!  Really, if you've never experienced young children giggling with a parachute, you have been seriously missing out.  Anyway, I don't actually own a parachute, so I use a huge King size flat sheet. 

I got out my sheet for the activity when my sister in law, Jenny, was suddenly so excited.  "What a great idea to use a sheet!  You should totally blog this!"  And so, because I've been seriously lacking in the blogging department lately (my apologies), I said, "of course I should!"  Thus, here we are now. Parachutes can be pricey, and so I highly recommend pulling out a bed sheet to be used as a parachute.

Parachutes are great.  They are fun and versatile.  Here are a few ideas to try when playing with your parachute AKA large bed sheet:

*Baby, momma, and daddy waves...use your hands to shake the sheet to make small, medium, and large sized waves.
*Squat & those gross motor skills as you bring the sheet all the way to the ground in a squat, and then all the way up high in the sky on your tippy toes.
*Directional...pull the sheet out flat and tight as everyone walks to the left, right, center, and back out again.
*Rocket balls in the middle of your sheet and squat down to the ground.  Count backwards-10, 9, 8...blastoff!  Everyone lift the sheet up high on "blastoff" to send your balls high into the sky.
*Bouncing balls...make baby waves, or monster waves with balls in the middle.  How long can you keep the balls on the sheet without them falling off?
*Under the sheet...let a few people under the sheet at a time to enjoy watching the sheet rise and fall.
*Pop the bubbles...everyone sits on the ground and one person sits in the middle of the sheet.  The people around the edges shake the sheet while the person in the middle crawls around and tries to "pop" the bubbles.

Have you ever played with a parachute before?  What games do you like to play with a parachute? 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Homemade Butter in Jars

We bought this huge container of Heavy Whipping Cream at Costco a few weeks ago for Ben's birthday cake (costs about $4.50 there).  But, of course, we had a ton left over.  So this last week, we made a bunch of butter.  It is seriously the easiest thing ever, and it's a great science experiment for the kids (and grown ups).  Making your own butter this way will actually yield two things: butter and buttermilk.  We used our buttermilk to make buttermilk pancakes with a buttermilk syrup.

To start: All you need is heavy cream.  Fill a jar half full with the cream.  I gave each of my children their own jar.  We used glass, but if you are worried about them dropping it, you may want to use a plastic jar instead.  Tighten the lid on and then start shaking.  

If your kids get tired of shaking, tell them to dance with their jar!

After a few minutes, you'll first notice that the cream is not longer making noise when you shake it.  If you remove the lid to take a peek, you will notice that it looks like whipped cream (see above picture).  Keep on shaking!

A few minutes later, you'll hear a light "thump" as the butter suddenly appears and is separated from the buttermilk (see above picture).  How cool is that!?!  Shake a little while longer.  If you like your butter salted, add a little salt before your final shake.  We use unsalted butter, so we didn't add anything.

Strain the buttermilk away from the butter and store into a separate jar in the fridge.  SO easy, right?  This butter tastes great!  And with only 1 ingredient?  I love it even more.  My kids have asked to make butter a couple more times-they love it.  I usually have to help them shake the jar a bit, especially once the cream turns thick and it's harder to shake it, but it only takes about 5 minutes to make.  This would also be a great project to do when your kids are learning about cows, farm life, food, etc.

Have you ever made your own butter?  

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Last Week's Homemade Items

I've been slacking lately on the saving money/making things from scratch/planning ahead for meals type stuff.  These are all things I'm really quite good at, so it bothers me when I don't intentionally do those things well.  I HATE having to buy granola bars at the store.  And yet when I don't take the time to make them at home, I end up wasting money on granola bars at the store with ingredients I can't even read.  

This past week, I finally decided that I've had enough, and I got to work.  I planned out my menu for the week utilizing my pantry and freezer.  I went grocery shopping, and then I got started on a few things for the week.  First, I made a batch of granola bars.  These take 5-10 minutes of hands on prep, and 5 minutes packaging them up at the end.  The recipe yields at least 20 bars.

I had recently run out of my Costco sized taco seasoning, and so I made a batch of my own.  I buy my spices in bulk at Winco, which saves an incredible amount of money (if you don't have a Winco, you can buy some bulk spices on Amazon for a decent price, too)!  I tried it tonight on tacos for the first time and it was delicious.

We love yogurt at our house, so the next thing on my list was to start making yogurt regularly again.  I make my yogurt in the crock pot, and it is so easy that it's truly a no brainer for saving money and eating healthy.  Plus, I can make a tub of organic yogurt for just $1.50 (organic milk here in NV at Costco is $6/gallon, and I make 4 cups of milk at a time into yogurt).  

A new thing for my list this week was to make and can my own BBQ sauce.  I followed these directions here to make a double batch of BBQ sauce.  Her recipe calls for a 14-Spice rub mix, so I made that, too (which I used on chicken a couple one night this week-tasty!).  My BBQ loving daughter Zoe gave this recipe a thumbs up.  I was able to can 5 jars of this using a double batch (plus a small jar for the fridge).  I gave one away to a friend this week, and have the others in my cabinet.

Lastly, I started some peppermint extract. I use a ton of this in the winter, and I figured it would also make a great gift.  It's so easy, too.  It's just peppermint leaves and vodka.  It's sitting up high in a cabinet right now and will stay there for another month or two.  I have a huge peppermint plant in front of my house that I used for this.  

Next week, I plan to harvest more peppermint from my plant and dry them out to make tea for the winter.  Since the plant is going strong right now, we just use fresh leaves for peppermint tea.  Peppermint plants grow like crazy.  I planted this one two years ago and it was just a tiny thing.  I've harvested pretty big chunks off of it maybe 10-12 times this summer already, and it's even bigger than it was earlier this spring.  I should be able to get plenty of tea leaves out of it...perhaps I can also give homemade tea leaves for Christmas!

What things have you been making this week?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

GREAT Deal on Water-Bath Canner from Amazon

I've slowly been learning how to can things.  A month ago, I canned a whole bunch of cherry stuff from the cherries I picked at my mother in law's house.  The only issue was that my biggest pot was not big enough for my largest jars.  And even for my smaller jars, I really couldn't fit that many.  

So I started keeping my eyes open for a water bath canner that didn't cost $50.  Because, frankly, I didn't have $50 to spend.  And then this one popped up on Amazon....for $15!!!  It's currently on sale, and I'm not sure how long that sale will last.  For comparison, this pot is ON SALE at Kohls for $38! So this really is quite a good deal if you are looking for a pot for canning your garden goodies :)  You can find it on Amazon HERE.

(The links in this post are my referral/affiliate links.  Read my disclosure policy HERE.  Thank you for supporting the continuation of this blog by using my links!)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Why I Withdrew My Daughter from Swim Lessons

You know you've been busy when your husband comes home and remarks, "you know you haven't blogged since the 7th?"  And you snap back all rudely, "I KNOW!  I'm busy, okay?" 

And that's my life.  I'm currently working on balancing EVERYTHING, because, you know, stay at home moms don't do anything (sarcasm).  I actually like being slightly busy.  Not "too crazy for my family and important things kinda busy", but busy like "wow, I have so many awesome things going on" kinda busy.  I think I'm currently in the latter, which is good, and enjoyable for me.  Sitting at home is incredibly boring, and only talking to my kids all day makes me a little batty (Need.  Adult. Conversations.).  We've had lots of playdates with lots of different people.  We've had swim lessons , trips to Lake Tahoe, volunteer opportunities, and my new job as a Kindermusik instructor.  And THAT, my friends, is why you haven't heard as much from me lately.

Moving on to the main point of this post: swimming.  I signed my 3 oldest (6, 4, 3) up for swim lessons this summer.  I fought with my 6 year old EVERY day of the first session (6 lessons total).  She occasionally would get in, maybe try one of the activities, and always smiled the whole time once she did something.  Yet we fought about it every day, still.  She's not afraid of the water.  She is just so freaked out about lessons with the male instructors (you know, in her defense, "hi, I'm not wearing a shirt and I'm in the water, come grab on to me while I teach you to swim" is kinda an odd situation, right?).  The one day that a female teacher was present she was just fine.  So when she flat out refused to get in the water on the first day of the second session, I walked out and withdrew her.  She was so relieved, and so was I.

Here's the thing.  Knowing how to swim is a non-negotiable.  My children NEED to learn for safety reasons.  But aside from pushing her in the water (which certainly would disqualify me from any mom-of-the-year awards), there's really nothing I could do.  Throw on top of it that I also am holding my 8 month old through her fits (and that I was missing watching my middle children in their class), and these lessons were EXHAUSTING for me. 

 I really fought with myself over whether I should keep her enrolled and keep pushing for her to get in, or withdraw her from the class.  We generally make our children finish out whatever they've started (Zoe hated ice skating lessons last year, but we made her finish the session).  I don't mind if they just don't like something, but they have to finish.  But knowing how to swim is excluded from my quitting rules.  It's not an option to know how to swim.  They don't get to decide that swimming just "isn't for them."

In the end, my decision came down to knowing my child and responding to her individual needs.  We have four kids.  Two of them hop right in the pool.  It's so easy to say, "well it's fine for them, so it's fine for you."  But Ellie is not Zoe, and she's not Aaron.  Zoe is bold and daring and fearless.  Aaron is cautious but curious, and has a big sister in his class.  Ellie is slow-to-warm-up, stubborn, very cautious, and likes to learn by watching and then trying on her own when she feels secure.  And she has this weird thing with male teachers, apparently.  Once I processed all this information, I decided that withdrawing her from this class and finding something else for later was the best option.

Ellie needs more of a one-on-one situation.  And if it's not with me or dad, it's going to need to be a female instructor.  In my ideal world, I'd have access to a pool where I could take her and teach her myself.  But since I don't live in my ideal world (boo!), it means we're going to suck it up and get some private lessons to ensure that our children can swim (and swim well).  

Each child is different, and as much as I'd like them all to be the same in this one area, they're not.  Pulling Ellie to the pool side every lesson does nothing good for her, and it certainly does nothing good for my sanity.  And so, that's why I withdrew her from swim lessons.  Hopefully we'll find something more suited for her soon.

Monday, July 7, 2014

DIY Maxi Skirts for Kids

I recently fell in love with the Maxi Skirt.  Well, actually I fell in love with them last year, but I never bought or made myself one until this summer.  I bought my first one, and then debated over how many days in a row was too many to wear it.  Turns out the answer is 4.  

I remembered pinning some maxi skirt tutorials on good ol' Pinterest, so I hunted them down, and then ordered some fabric.  

Jersey knit fabric can be quite pricey at the store, and I am quite frugal.  I kept hearing about this magical online fabric store called Girl Charlee.  Let me tell you, it is indeed magical.  I bought 2 yards each of purple and yellow chevron jersey knits.  Each set of 2 yards was enough to make 1 skirt for me, and 1 skirt for my girls.  The fabric was $6/yard.  So, I spent $25ish for 2 skirts for me (a long and a knee length) and 2 skirts for my girls (a long and a knee length).  We have enough of the yellow left over to make some American Girl doll skirts, too.  I will say, though, that the quality of fabric is not as nice as the one I bought from Maurices (which cost me $30).  BUT, for the price (which was a fraction of the cost), I personally think it was totally worth it, and I will be buying more soon.

I followed the tutorial HERE for the skirts.  I followed the same instructions for my girls skirts, with smaller measurements.  I found that while the figures for the waist for a grown up (measure your waist, divide by 2, add 1) were about perfect for me, it was not for my girls.  I ended up taking them both in at least an inch...not too difficult, just fold the top band back out, zig zag stitch it tighter, and then fold it over won't even notice it when they are wearing it.  I reduced the thickness of the waist to 10" on the girls skirts.  For the shorter skirts, I followed the same directions, simply reducing the length of the skirt.  

Aren't they the cutest little maxi skirt models ever?


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