Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snow Bark Recipe/Tutorial

Today my son and I invented a new delicious treat that is so easy I wanted to share! We decided to call it "Snow Bark"!
Basically, you pour Magic Shell on fresh, clean snow and add whatever goodies you want, wait a minute or two until it solidifies, then eat it like a yummy candy bar complete with a layer of snow!

We used:
  • Chocolate flavored Magic Shell
  • Mini M&M's
  • rainbow colored sprinkles

It's important to make sure the snow you are using is free of human and animal footprints and any yellow or other interesting colors or dirt or leaves.
Also, if you push down on your snow bark, it may sink way down, so it's better to sort of scoop it up from underneath, especially if you are a preschooler in mittens.


I can't wait to try it with some different flavors of Magic Shell and some different toppings! How yummy would chocolate fudge Magic Shell be with some marshmallows and graham cracker bits???

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cure for the Mondays December 10th, 2012

On Mondays I post fun ideas I've seen in the last week or so that made me laugh, smile, and want to create. I hope they brighten your day too, especially if you've got a "case of the Mondays"!

Yummy and cute?  These cinnamon sugar snowflakes are right up my alley!

These would be so fun to make for the tree:
 

This nursing cover looks easy to sew and comfy and cute enough I might actually be willing to wear it (although I might choose a more sheer fabric or a knit with a loose weave and a color other than black. This woman is obviously better than I am at nursing-I needed to see what I was doing!)

Make your own sparkling cider by adding club soda to frozen apple juice concentrate-brilliant!! I am totally going to try this with apple and lots of other kinds of frozen juice concentrate!

And I love people who post things like this so I can make snowflakes that don't look like a kindergartner made them despite my lack of spatial skills:

What ideas have inspired you lately?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cure for the Mondays December 3rd, 2012

On Mondays I post ideas I've seen in the past week or so that made me laugh, smile, and want to create! I hope they brighten your day too, especially if you have a "case of the Mondays"!

This makes me giggle and would be super fun for any winter party: relabel water bottles as "melted snowman"!
Source: hwtm.com via Erika on Pinterest

I can't wait to try making one of these paper chains:
Source: craftjr.com via Deanne on Pinterest

And interesting flavors of cinnamon rolls have been catching my eye lately, like lemon blueberry:

or cranberry:

On a non-edible note, I love the idea of tying peppermint sticks to a white pillar candle with a prety ribbon like this:


And I think this new fabric line coming soon looks super fun:

What ideas have inspired you lately?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

DIY Felt Activity Advent Calendar!

Here is the Advent calendar I made my preschooler. Below you'll find info on all the materials and techniques needed to make the tree, plus a printable PDF of all the activities we are doing.

Still need to stitch it together & sew on buttons...
I'm super excited to share with you the felt Advent calendar I've been stitching up for my preschooler. I saw the idea of having activities for each day in Advent rather than the focus being on getting a small toy or piece of candy each day, and I LOVE it! I know it will be fun for my son, and it will be a great way to keep me accountable to actually do all the fun things I'd want to do with him in Advent but would be too disorganized to actually make happen otherwise probably. By putting them in his Advent calendar, I'll * have* to do them!

I decided to make a felt Christmas tree covered in buttons along with 2 1/4" square felt pockets to hang on each day (I have a 4.5" quilting ruler that made the cutting fast for that size which was my primary motivation in choosing it-you could use any size square you wanted!) Since Advent can vary between 22 and 28 days and I want this to be usable every year, I didn't put numbers on the pockets*. I made some of the pockets special colors to represent special days. For example, the Sundays of Advent have pink or purple pockets that correspond with which color of candle ought to be lit on the Advent wreath that night, and a few Saint days have special colors as well.
I ended up with:
  • 3 purple (Sundays in Advent)
  • 1 pink (3rd Sunday in Advent)
  • 2 blue (Feasts of Our Lady of Guadalupe and of the Immaculate Conception)
  • 1 yellow (St Lucia Day)
  • 2 white (St Nicholas Day and Christmas Eve)
  • 9 red
  • 9 lime green
Some of the pockets!!

What you need:
  • 3-4 triangles of green felt so that the tree is tall enough to accomodate all of your pockets (or one big piece of felt, then cut it to be shaped like a tree. I used scraps from a previous project so triangles was my only option!)
  • a brown rectangle of felt for a tree trunk
  • a yellow star or white angel cut out of felt for a tree topper
  • 56 felt squares (see above for color suggestions)
  • 28 buttons-bright Christmasy colors or shiny gold, white, or silver recommended!

What you do:
  • Cut your triangles out. Fold each in half to make sure the sides are even and the bottom is straight all the way across.
  • Layer them on top of each other in a way that look cute to you, tucking the trunk under the bottom layer, and pin the layers together (or glue, if you aren't interested in sewing).
  • Stitch the layers together. Either use green thread and sew just in the overlapping portions, or choose a contrasting color like red or gold and make your line twist and turn across the tree like garland! Be sure to glue or stitch your star or angel for the top as well, and attach a loop if you want to use a loop to hang it up (I'll probably be using masking tape this year to stick it to the side of a desk I think)
  • Stitch or glue the squares together in pairs, stitching or gluing only 3 sides to form pockets.
  • Sew or glue a small loop of ribbon to each pocket so it can hang.
  • Sew or glue your buttons on your tree so that pockets can hang from them. Be sure to add 28 buttons, or leave spaces that you can do so in future years (brown buttons on the trunk can be a discrete way to add buttons for years with "extra" days)
  • Print your activity slips off for each day of Advent, and choose a place for a new pocket to appear each day for your child to hang up on the tree! Each night, put the next day's activity slip into the pocket (or have them all in ahead of time) to get it ready for your child, and prepare any supplies you need for the activity-they may want to start on it immediately after reading their piece of paper for the day!!
Activities:
You can find the word document version of the activity slips I plan to use here, and feel free to customize it for your own family (I included specific movie titles and specific types of cookies we plan to make, and we are Catholic so I used the word "Mass" instead of "church", so you may want to change those and other specifics!). But in case you don't want to read that document, here's an overview of our activities:
  • Mondays: bake cookies (eat a few, freeze/store most to save for Christmas)
  • Tuesdays: theme days based on songs-Away in a Manger (get out Nativity, read story, sing song), Jingle Bells (bell related craft, sing song), and Frosty the Snowman (build snowman if weather permits or do snowman craft indoors, sing song, watch movie)
  • Wednesdays: make ornaments
  • Saint days (mostly ended up on Thursdays): St. Nicholas day we'll be learning about how Christmas is celebrated in France, St. Lucia Day we'll learn about how Christmas is celebrated in Denmark, and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe we'll learn about how Christmas is celebrated in Mexico
  • Fridays: "Be Santa to someone else" by donating toys to Goodwill, caroling to Grandma over the phone, etc
  • Saturdays: Watch a Christmas movie with mom and Dad and eat popcorn
  • Sundays: Go to church, light a new candle on the Advent calendar.
  • Christmas Eve: read "Twas the Night before Christmas"
I like that by the end of Advent we will have baked lots of cookies to share with family on Christmas, made some new ornaments, learned about other cultures, helped others, practiced some good songs, and had tons of Christmasy fun. And I love that it is flexible. If I ever realize that I'm out of butter or have a sore throat and can't sing, I can easily change the next day's activity!

We have all been sick for at least a week or two each this November, and my sewing projects got pushed aside. But I'll try to post another pictures when I have it all sewed up and the buttons on! And I'd love to hear what you are doing for Advent with your kids!


*Advent refers to the liturgical season before Christmas and the start date changes each year (but always falls on a Sunday-the 4th Sunday before Christmas, to be exact!); many people choose to have Advent calendars that begin on December 1st instead of beginning on the first Sunday of Advent, which could be before or after December 1st.. If you are one of them, just use 24 buttons and pockets!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Catholic Family Advent: Book Review

I recently had the opportunity to reivew a great new book, A Catholic Family Advent, and I'm excited to share my thoughts about it with you!

What it is:
A Catholic Family Advent is a book with Bible verses, prayers, discussion questions, activities suggestions for families to do each day in Advent.

Who wrote it:
Susan Hines-Brigger, a Catholic mom of 4 and managing editor of the St. Anthony Messenger. She writes the "Catholic Mom Speaks" column for the St. Anthony Messenger and blogs at Too Tired to Blog.

First Impressions:
I immediately liked this book because it is so pretty! Obviously that isn't enough to make a great book if the content is bad, but it sure makes me happy...and luckily the rest of the book lived up to the high expectations set by its prettiness!

Overall Impressions:
I really like this book! I love that each day has scripture excerpts, prayers, disuccsion questions, and activities. It seems like it'd be easy to adapt to fit our family. Some of the activities and many of the discussion questions clearly wouldn't work with my 3-year-old, but would be great for elementary school kids. I love the activity suggestions and plan to incorporate some of them into my activity Advent calendar rather than doing them when we do the Advent wreath. I think I'll probably plan on lighting the wreath each night before dinner and reading the Bible verse of the day, then blow them out after a nice candlelit dinner. One other thing I really loved about this book is that it is written to be usable every year. Advent can vary from 22 to 28 days depending on which day of the week Christmas falls, and I think it was a great idea to include pages for every day of the longest Advent to really make this a preactical, usable book for more than just one year. And at the time of posting, the book was only $6.95 from the Catholic Company, which is a really awesome price for a book to use each Advent!

The Bottom Line:
A great book for Catholic families to use year after year. Especially appropriate for families with elementary school aged children
.
Get it: To order A Catholic Family Advent directly from the The Catholic Company, click here.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on A Catholic Family Advent. The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your family Advent activities and supplies this year, such as Advent wreaths and calendars for kids, as well as Christmas decorations such as nativity scene sets and religious Christmas gifts for the whole family.

**Last time I checked the book was sold out from the Catholic Company and the link was directing to their homepage instead of the book itself. I still highly recommend getting it when it is back in stock!**

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cure for the Mondays, Nov 26, 2012

On Mondays I post fun ideas I've seen in the past week or so that made me laugh, smile, and want to create! I hope they brighten your day too, especially if you've got a "case of the Mondays".

In honor of December and Advent both beginning this week (Saturday is December 1st; the liturgical season of Advent begins on Sunday, December 2nd this year), I thought it'd be fun to post my favorite Advent calendar and Advent wreath ideas. Tomorrow I'll post about the Advent calendar I'm working on for my son (it's a big felt Christmas tree!) and about what we are doing with it (activities instead of candy-or or some days, in addition to!) But for now, here are some of my favorites from around the web:

I love these brown paper packages tied up with string and clipped to festive clothespins for each day of Advent:

I think I know what activities I want to do with my son, but I'll definitely be checking out all of these great suggestions-I may want to change a day or two!! And I love the cute design of these cards for each day.

These muffin tin Advent calendars are cute and easy enough for even super-busy or not-interested-in-crafts moms!

And this was the inspiration for the felt Christmas tree Advent Calendar I'm making:

I think this Advent wreath is really cute (and I'd be tempted to make the construction paper candles shorter and fatter and put some battery-powered tealights inside each so they could really glow!)

What Advent traditions do you celebrate at your house?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cure for the Mondays-Nov 19th, 2012

On Mondays I post ideas I've seen in the past week or so that made me laugh, smile, and want to create. I hope they brighten your day too, especially if you've got a "case of the Mondays"!

A little shameless self-promotion: last year I saw some cute cookies that look like acorns made of Hershey Kisses and Nutter Butter bites on Pinterest, but there was no tutorial with it. So I made up my own, and blogged about it. It is super easy and fun and you get to eat half of each Nutter Butter cookie while you are making them, so I highly recommend it. Anyway, click on the pic below if you want to see how I make them!


These cranberry apple galettes from The Way the Cookie Crumbles look super scrumptious:

I'm bringing a veggie tray to Thanksgiving this year and I admit to being quite tempted to make it cute like this one from Living Locurto:

And I'm really excited to try this color-by-numbers turkey coloring sheet from Criss-Cross Applesauce with my 3-year-old who is just starting to recognize numbers bigger than 10.

What fun ideas have inspired you lately?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Steps to a Lactose-Free Thanksgiving!

When you have a food sensitivity or intolerance, holiday meals can be much more stressful than they ought to be. My lactose intolerance sure throws a kink in my usual Thanksgiving strategy of eat-as-much-as-possible-of-everything-yummy! Here are a few of the strategies I've developed for making sure the only reason I regret eating Thanksgiving dinner is the excessive caloric intake!

Identify Threats
If you aren't a big cook yourself, take time anyway to look up how common Thanksgiving foods at your house are made. Some of the most common Thanksgiving foods that most people use milk in are mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and rolls. But many other things have milk products in them. Be suspicious of dips and spreads, desserts other than fruit pies and cookies (especially watch out for chocolate cakes and anything that resembles pudding), and any kind of casserole. Pre-meal mingling is a great time to say things like "Aunt Julia, that kumquat quinoa casserole looks delicious! How did you make it?" without any pressure to actually take some at that time.

Managing Threats
  • Offer to make them yourself: this year I'll be making the pumpkin pies and bringing the veggie tray. I'll use lactose-free milk to make both the pies and the ranch dressing dip so I can enjoy them as much as everyone else. Last year I made rolls too, but my husband's family prefers the storebought ones they tradtionally have at their home. Even my hand-kneaded efforts couldn't trump years of history!
  • Buy lactose-free milk for the hostess: my MIL is kind enough to just buy a half gallon of lactose-free milk of her own accord for use in the mashed potatoes and some chocolate cake/pie things she makes, but if she weren't the type to think of it herself, I'd offer to buy a half-gallon for her. Doing that makes sure your dietary restrictions don't result in added cost and inconvenience for your hostess.
  • Bring your own: if someone else is bringing the veggie tray, for example, you could bring your own small container of ranch dip. Or a single portion of mashed potatoes, or bake yourself a pie and bring just two slices if there will already be ample pie provided by someone else. This would probably be my last resort, as in many cases it would be very easy for this to come off as tacky and/or rude (this would work better in a situation where you go through buffet tables to get your food than one where everyone is sitting around the table passing things. If everyone goes through a line then disperses to eat, probably no one would notice you disappear into the kitchen to get your own special food.)
  • Avoidance: If there are enough delicious lactose-free options, just eat them instead. You could eat your heart's content of turkey, corn, beans, cranberry sauce, apple pie, etc without having to worry one bit!
  • Nibbles & Pills: My other strategy on Thanksgiving is to take a few Lactaid supplements and then take just a very small scoop of things that look tasty, but suspiciously milky or cheesy. Judge your own tolerance the best you can, and keep in mind your obligations for the next day before choosing quantities. Personally, even with lactaid supplements, I still can't have a scoop of ice cream, or a big dollop of normal ranch dressing. But I can have a little bit of a cheesy broccoli rice casserole and all the rolls I want! 
What are your strategies for managing food sensitivities and intolerances at family holidays?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cure for the Mondays-Nov 12, 2012

On Mondays I post fun ideas I've seen lately that make me laugh, smile, and want to create. I hope they brighten your day too, especially if you've got a "case of the Mondays"!

I love this idea of enlarging the sheet music of your favorite song for some custom wall art. One of my best friends from high school (who is also the best pianist I know) is pregnant...I'm thinking Brahms' lullaby as a shower present?

Totally drool-worthy cranberry eggnog muffins. I hope I can find lactose-free eggnog to try them this year (last year my grocery store never got the lactose-free eggnog they ordered-so sad!!)

This makes me think of my lego-loving big bro, but I know my son would love it just as much! The gist of it: clean Legos well and use them as jello molds!! I am thinking the Duplo sized ones would be just right for a kid's serving size!
Source: squidoo.com via Kesha on Pinterest

I think these beeswax candles are so pretty, and would smell nice without any allergy-inducing artificial scents! Definitely going on my list of things to make sometime!

What ideas have inspired you lately?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Cure for the Mondays Nov 5, 2012

On Mondays I post ideas that made me laugh, smile, and want to create in the past week. I hope they brighten your day too, especially if you've got a "case of the Mondays"!

How amazing is this: apparently you can make your own color catcher sheets! Totally doing this.

I think the idea of making a penny ball for the garden is super cute (and functional as slug repellent!)

Brilliant travel tip: use a shower cap as shoe storage so you don't have to worry what you put your shoes on top of:

And I definitely need to do this-we already have alphabet magnets and a dollar store cookie sheet we use for playing with magents, so all I need to do is print some of the amazing printables from the blog that came up with this idea:

What inspiring ideas have you seen lately?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Jack O'Lantern last-minute-Halloween-headband! Pics & tutorial.

Still need something Halloweeny to wear later this week? Or just want something fun? Try making an easy jack o'lantern headband. I whipped one up this weekend to wear to a Halloween event we were taking our preschooler to and am really happy with how it turned out. Here's how you can make one too:
I hate taking pictures of myself...but I love my new headband!

What you need:

  • Two scraps of fabric 2" by 14" (at least one needs to be orange)
  • Black embroidery floss
  • Needle n' thread
  • Sewing machine (optional)
  • Black grosgrain ribbon cut into two pieces-I recommend at least 18 inches of grosgrain so you have plenty to tie with! (measure your head to be sure how much you'll need and add several inches to accomodate tying a bow.

My embroidered jack o'lantern headband!!
What you do:
  • Cut the strips of fabric so that they taper slightly and are identical to each other (my headbands are 1/2" wide at the narrowest point) at the ends (or use this wonderful headband tutorial to get a basic headband template-it is quite a bit wider than my headband though, and I still recommend just using the main portion of it, and using ribbon for the rest of it!). It doesn't matter much if the ends are rounded or squared off, as long as you like the way it looks!
  • Embroider a jack o'lantern face right in the middle of the orange strip, or sew on pieces of black felt to make an applique pumpkin face! I drew mine on first with a water soluble pen (use an orange Crayola washable marker if you don't have a water soluble pen!). You can make it up yourself, or find a cute one you like online-I love these jack o'lantern shirt stencils from Craft Buds and think it'd be easy to adapt them to this project!
  • Place the ends of each strip of grosgrain in between the edges of the headband
  • Sew the two strips together-I used a zigzag stitch with black thread on my sewing machine 1/8" from the edge of the headband. I recommend using a decorative stitch since it will show!
  • Cut any excessive fraying off (a little bit of fray is cute!), tie on to your head, and feel cute!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Artisan Soda: Cookbook Review

What it is:
Artisan Soda Cookbook is exactly what it sounds like: page after page of easy recipes to make your own syrups for soda!

Who wrote it:
Food writer Andrea Lynn, a pro with a culinary degree and a background writing for a variety of foodie publications. She blogs on her website here.

What I loved:
This book is chock-full of easily customizable soda syrup recipes ranging from classic cola to more exotic fare like basil. It's pretty comprehensive-the only type of soda I can even think of that wasn't in the book was a Dr. Pepper knock-off. And it had a bazillion types of soda I'd never even thought of! I was especially thrilled that it had a recipe for chocolate soda. Chocolate soda is my dad's favorite, but has become increasingly difficult to find at restaurants, even ones with soda fountains. I love that we can now make it at home for him anytime!

What I'd change:
I wish more of the cooking terms were defined. My first attempt was cherry limeade, and I wasn't quite sure what "muddle" meant. And I'm afraid that resulted in me muddling the recipe instead of the cherries...

The Bottom Line:
A worthy read for anyone interested in making their own soda!

I received a free copy of this book for review purposes, but received no other compensation for this post.

Halloween Must-Have: Kidz Bop Halloween!!

I thought I was not a huge fan of KidzBop CD's in general, but decided to take one for the team and review their Halloween CD, Kidz Bop: Halloween Hits because I knew my son would like it. But then to my surprise, my monster from his slab began to rise I actually liked it too!

What it is:
14 upbeat Halloween themed songs sung by kids plus a spooky background noises track including:
  • Thriller
  • Disturbia
  • Candy Girl
  • Witch Doctor
  • Ghostbusters
  • Werewolves of London
  • The Addams Family
  • Monster Mash
  • Scooby Doo, Where Are You?
  • A Nightmare on My Street
  • Somebody's Watching Me
  • Purple People Eater
  • Ding Dong the Witch is Dead
  • I Want Candy

Who makes it:
Kidz Bop, maker of kids' versions of hot pop songs. You can follow them on Twitter as @KidzBop

What I loved:
I loved that they included classic Halloween songs that are great to sing along with, like "Witch Doctor"and "Purple People Eater". And I appreciated that they didn't go the easy/ route with just magic themed songs.

What my kid loved:
My son loves the whole CD and really loved having his own CD to request we play every single time we drove anywhere, but his favorite was the TV theme songs like Ghostbusters and Scooby Doo!

What I'd change:
A few of the songs weren't ones I would've chosen, especially "Candy Girl". It's not one that I am very familiar with, so it didn't bring back fun Halloween memories like most of the others.

The bottom line: Definitely worth buying and/or downloading for Halloween parties and to play while handing out candy to trick-or-treaters! (If you are planning to purchase just a few songs from iTunes, my absolute favorite was Monster Mash, so be sure to include that one...but you get more songs for the same price if you just download the entire CD rather than downloading half...)

Get it: You can buy KidzBop Halloween Hits online directly from KidzBop, on iTunes, or in many local retailers!

Thank you to KidzBop for sending a free copy of Kidz Bop: Halloween Hits for review purposes!  I received no other compensation for this post.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cheesy Spider Dogs: Halloween Recipe!

My son wanted hotdogs and macaroni & cheese for lunch the other day, so I decided to try my own spin on something I saw on Pinterest recently. The basic concept I saw online was to put spaghetti noodles through hotdogs and then cook them. To make a Halloweeny fun treat, I cut the hot dogs into fairly small pieces and put exactly 4 spaghetti noodles through each so each "spider" would have 8 legs! Wanna make cheesy spider dogs for your own family? Here's how I did it:

What you need:
  • hot dogs! I used 1 nitrate/nitrite free all-beef hotdog per person
  • noodles-I used 4 per spider piece, about 16-24 per hotdog, plus added extra to fill the pot to the place I usually fill it to for 2 people's worth of macaroni!
  • cheese-I used about a cup of cheddar and 1/4 cup colby jack for 2 people
  • milk-1 used 1/4 cup for 2 people
What you do:
  • First, cut the hotdogs into 4-6 little chunks to be your spider bodies.
  • Poke 4 spaghetti noodles through each hot dog portion to make 8 legs on each spider
  • Boil noodles and spaghetti until spaghetti is cooked
  • Turn heat down to low and add milk and cheese
  • Stir until sauce is creamy and all cheese is melted
  • Add salt and pepper to taste, serve, and enjoy!!
My tips:
  • To make this almost lactose-free, I use lactose-free whole milk and cheddar cheese (hard cheese have almost no lactose-hurray!). I do add a tiny bit of colby jack because it improves the texture so much, but you could leave it out!
  • If your noodles break when pushing them into the hot dog, try using a broken piece to poke the holes and then put whole noodles through the holes you've made.
  • Consider serving these on a fun Halloweeny plate to add seasonal flair!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Cure for the Mondays Oct 25th, 2012

On Mondays I post ideas I've seen lately that made me laugh, smile, and want to create. I hope they brighten your day too, especially if you've got a "case of the Mondays".

I think these turkeys made of construction paper and fall leaves are totally adorable:

This pumpkin creme brulee looks so scrumptious I wish I'd bought myself a kitchen blowtorch too the year I got one for my little brother...

How adorable are these pom pom bookmarks from Design Mom???

And I think this burlap table runner is a great way to get all the rustic fun of burlap, but with a little bit more polish...

What ideas have inspired you lately?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tell Tale Fairy Tales: My New Favorite Kids' Game!

Have you heard of the "Tell Tale" games from BlueOrange Games? They were kind enough to send us a free tin of "Tell Tale: Fairy Tales" and my husband and preschooler and I all love it (Hubby said it was "like the perfect kids game!")

What it is:
Tell Tale: Fairy Tales comes in a cute tin and consists of 60 double-sided cards with pictures of people, places, and things on them straight out of your a classic fairy tale! There are a many different ways to play, but our favorite is to have each person in the family draw 6-8 cards out of the pile, then everyone makes up a story using all of their cards, then we take turns telling the rest of the family our story!

Who makes it:
Blue Orange Games, a company focused on creating high quality games from eco-friendly materials (and they plant two trees for every tree they use to produce their games!) You can follow them on Facebook, or on Twitter as @BlueOrangeGames

Pros:
  • Teaches sequencing
  • Encourages creativity
  • Great for all ages
  • Great for both genders
  • Colorful illustrations
  • No batteries

Cons:
  • Characters depicted were not very ethnically diverse

The Bottom Line:
This is my new favorite game for kids-our 3 year-old has as much fun making up silly stories about daring rescues and magical beasts as my husband and I! Playing it makes me want to also buy the original version to have 60 more cards to play with, and to buy it for my niece when she is old enough! I highly recommend it for kids of all ages, but especially for families that include preschoolers and early elementary school kids.

Get it:
You can buy Tell Tale: Fairy Tale directly from BlueOrange Games, online from one of their partner sites, or in specialty toy stores (click here to search for stores near you)!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Breast Cancer Awareness Au Naturel

A wonderful woman I know passed away earlier this year from breast cancer; I've recently been lighting a candle she gave me last fall and thinking of her. In her honor and because it is "Breast Cancer Awareness Month", instead of a breast cancer awareness post full of pinkwashing*, I wanted to briefly mention three ways you can reduce your risk of breast cancer that aren't often discussed. If you can't or don't want to try to do one or more of theses things, you can still help reduce breast cancer risk in your friends and relatives by supporting them if they do choose to do these things. After a short blurb about each idea, I'll post a few links discussing breast cancer and the activity in question. Some of these are controversial, but the evidence has convinced me. I'll let you read for yourself though!

Pink Ribbon Chocolates by Wish Upon a Cupcake via Flickr Creative Commons
Avoid Parabens
Parabens are chemicals that are used in an alarming number of skin products. Many commonly-used toiletries contain them, and they've been found in almost all tissue samples taken from cancerous breasts. Check the lotions, sunscreen, and makeup you use and try to use paraben free ones whenever possible, and buy paraben-free toiletries for friends and relatives if you are buying lotion etc as Christmas presents. Also, consider switching to a paraben-free deodorant or deodorant alternative (like rock crystals).

Huffington Post
USA Today

Breastfeed
There is a large body of research showing that breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer, and that in general, the longer you breastfeed, the more you reduce your risk! If you are a woman planning to have children/more children, try to breastfeed if you can, even if you need to supplement also, and support friends and relatives who breastfeed and in particular those who practice "extended nursing"-nursing beyond the norm for our society and mothers who nurse in public. Many mamas face a great deal of criticism for breastfeeding practices that are healthy for the baby and reduce their breast cancer risk but make others feel uncomfortable because they are not used to it.You can help these women feel supported in their right to choose when and where and for how long to nurse with a simple smile or supportive word!

National Institute of Health
WebMD

Avoid  Hormonal Contraceptives
"The Pill" is considered by most reputable health organizations to be a carcinogen (cancer-causing substance). Natural Family Planning/fertility awareness methods and barrier methods are all alternatives that avoid the risk of carcinogens, along with the other health risks of hormonal contraceptives! (Many people who are not opposed to contraception for religious reasons use a combination of both fertility awareness and barrier methods.) Research NFP/FAM online or with the help of library books, and/or be encouraging to your friends and relatives who are interested in or already practice these methods.
Dance of Love by KJunstorm via Flickr Creative Commons

Cancer.gov
World Health Organization (see page 5)

*"Pinkwashing" refers to the pink merchandise you are probably noticing in stores across the country right now, including products that promote unhealthy lifestyles that would ultimately increase your lifetime cancer risk, and of which only a very small portion of the proceeds go to "cancer research and awareness." Check out Think Before You Pink for more information on pinkwashing.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cure for the Mondays-October 15th, 2012

On Mondays I post ideas I've seen recently that make me laugh, smile, and want to create. I hope they brighten your day too, especially if you've got a "Case of the Mondays"!

I made these apple pie bites the other day and they are delicious and easy! I especially love that they are essentially finger food-fun anytime, but especially perfect for parties and kids!


I think these would be great to keep on hand, and would be fun gifts at Christmas too: lotion bars!

These Star Wars pillows make me giggle:

And I am dying to try planting my own garlic, thanks to reading this:




 

Hurray! Blogger doesn't hate me anymore!!

For some reason I've been locked out of my blog for the past several weeks-I could login, but not post anything! So I'm happy to report that they seem to have fixed the bug and I can blog again. Hurray!!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Homemade Playdough recipe

By request from some of my new friends on the BabyCenter messageboards, I decided to share my homemade playdough recipe with you! This is the recipe that my mom used to make dough for my brothers and I when we were little, and I love using it to make dough for my own son.

It's made of all edible ingredients, so it's safe to eat, but it's so salty, your kids probably won't be tempted to try it more than once (and yes, I know this because I ate it myself as a kid-I still remember the saltiness!)

What you need:
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cup salt
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp cream of tartar
  • Food coloring or unsweetened Kool-Aid powder as desired (it'll be sorta off-white if you don't dye it. Yellow was my personal favorite playdough color!)
What you do:
  • Mix all ingredients in a large saucepan
  • Cook over medium heat until it's thick (hard to stir) and starts to come away from the edges of the pan.
  • Plop dough onto some wax paper 
  • When it's cool enough, knead a few times to even out the texture/moisture.
  • Play!!!
My tips:
  • I store it in a large ziplock bag in the fridge until it eventually dries out or I decide it's old enough to be gross (usually a couple of months-I've never noticed any odors or mold or anything, I just figure dough that old wouldn't be good for him to lick!)
  • For kids old enough you know they won't even try to eat any, add glitter for extra fun! I'd probably add it at the very end right before kneading and work it in that way.
  • Babies may not be sure what to do with it, but will like feeling the texture and patting it. My son loved it when I pushed his foot or hand into the dough to make a footprint or handprint, and thought it was hilarious when I made shapes or animals (I'm a terrible artist, so they were pretty funny...)

Next batch I make I'm going to try putting some raspberry or blueberry teabags in the water for a while before making the dough to see how the colors turn out. I'll update this blog post to share how well it works (or that it didn't work).

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Catholic Family Fun Book Review

What it is:
Catholic Family Fun is a book of ideas families can spend time doing together. She suggests classic activities, and then also offers her suggestions to modify the activity to fit your family.

Who wrote it:
Sarah Reinhard, a Midwest mom of 3 who has written for Catholic Mom, Faith & Family Live, Catholic Foodie, and more. She blogs at Catholic Family Fun (the website connected with this book) and at Snoring Scholar, runs the Catholic Family Fun Facebook page, and is on Twitter as @PeeryBingle

First Impressions:
At first I was a little unimpressed. Some of the suggestions seemed so obvious-why would I need a book to suggest I tell knock knock jokes?

Overall Impressions:
As I read on, I liked the book more and more. I realized that the simple suggestions are there because they are so simple that we tend to forget them! And I loved how Sarah had suggestions for modifying activities to fit your family better and/or to incorporate faith if you wanted to, (like putting on a play about the life of one of the saints sometimes instead of always doing fairy tales, or looking at the animals in the zoo in the order they were created in the Genesis story!). I thought the book was really fun, and there were definitely ideas in it that I hadn't thought of

The Bottom Line:
A creative book full of ideas for family fun that could work for any budget and any amount of free time. I definitely recommend it for moms, Grandmas, and babysitters!

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Catholic Family Fun. The Catholic Company is also a great online store for all your Catholic gift needs, such as baby baptism and christening gifts. You can also find a wide selection of Catholic Bible Studies for both parish groups and individuals, as well as a variety of other Catholic Bible study resources.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cure for the Mondays Sept 10, 2012

On Mondays I post ideas I've seen that made me laugh, smile, and want to create. I hope they brighten your day too, especially if you've got a "case of the Mondays".

Brilliant: put a large marshmallow on top of cupcakes the last 5 minutes they bake for super easy yummy frosting!

I love these artistic coloring sheets; there's one for every letter of the alphabet, filled with animals that start with that letter. And they are free to print!

This makes me laugh (temporary tattoos on banana peels):
Source: flickr.com via Jessica on Pinterest

This makes me hungry (pumpkin apple bread):

And this is just amazing: make watercolors out of old markers that appear to be all dried up!

What fun ideas have inspired you lately?