Jun 302012

Here’s a little 4th of July project – patriotic napkin rings (or napkin belts? I don’t know what they’re called if they’re not actually rings). They’re a work in progress so maybe I’ll put better photos up tomorrow or Sunday when they’re done.

Pruning Bushes in the Garden

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Jun 282012

Another sunny day – I have to take advantage of them when I can, so today I pruned some of the unruly bushes in the backyard. I forgot to take ‘before’ pictures, so no photo today. I’m pretty thoughtful about pruning, so it is a creative endeavor for me – I stand back and contemplate the bush, then prune some off, take another long look, then another little snip. .  . I was just getting into the zone when I realized the yard-waste bin was full and there was already a pile waiting to go after that so I’ll have to finish the prune-fest another day.

Cherry Tart with Almond and Dark Chocolate

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Jun 272012

After gorging on cherries the other day I had an inspiration – a free-form cherry tart. I started pondering how to execute it, and decided first that I would add a hint of almond. Later I decided to shave some dark chocolate onto the cherries as well, so that the final recipe went something like this.

About 1lb. fresh cherries, pitted and halved
3 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 oz dark chocolate
1 ready-made refrigerated pie crust

I mixed the cherries with the sugar, cornstarch/water and almond extract, then grated half of the chocolate into the cherries and mixed gently.

Next I laid the cherries out cut side down on the rolled out pie crust, poured the remaining cherry juice on top and crimped up the edges of the crust over the cherries. Then it was into the oven for 35 minutes.

 Us adults liked it; the kids not so much. I could have skipped the chocolate since it ended up imperceptible – either that or maybe next time I’ll put a thin chocolate layer under the cherries. Also, it looked very elegant to have all the cherries lined up in circles, but I think it would have been yummier with two layers of cherries.

Jun 262012
24 tips and tricks for surviving road trips with kids

As the veteran of various long road trips with kids, starting when my 4 1/2 year-old daughter was 18 months old (we also have a 2 1/2 year-old), I’ve managed to come up with a few tips, tricks and activities to help keep my kids occupied on the road. I’ve compiled them here to share with you! Here they are, in no particular order (except for #1 – that’s non-negotiable for our family):

(Disclosure: Please know that if you make a purchase using a link on this page, I may earn a commission and I am very grateful for your support of this site. Thank you!)

1. Travel fairy gifts – wrap everything you’re planning to give them and let them know that the travel fairy will have little gifts for them along the way if they’re behaving appropriately (You can skip that last part if you know you’ll be using them as bribes to get them to be quiet for 5 minutes!). Remember to keep some things held back for each leg of the trip – I try to stash them in a box or bag that the kids don’t know about and then pull out the day’s gifts each morning. On a long travel day (8-10 hours) I might have four little gifts for each child.

2. Lots of little snacks individually packaged and if your kids are like mine, try to have the same snacks at the same time for each kid. If you’re really feeling ambitious you could even wrap these in gift wrap!

3. Water bottles for each child – and it helps if their car seats have cup holders.

4. Music that is fun for both kids AND parents. Some of our family’s favorites are Recess Monkey, Justin Roberts, Caspar Babypants, the Not-Its, Barenaked Ladies and They Might Be Giants. Putumayo World Playground and Latin Playground are great too!

5. A folding travel potty seat for toddlers who are just toilet trained can be a great thing – plus then they don’t have to sit directly on the gross public toilets in rest stops or gas stations.

6. 1/4 size sheet pans for each child – these can be used as an eating tray, lapboard, and magnet board. Glue felt to the back side for use as a felt-board as well.

7. Portable DVD player – we have one in our car but we only let the kids use it on long car rides (over 2 hours) which makes it more special.

8. Kindle Fire (our favorite), iPhone, iPod touch or iPad loaded with entertaining apps.

9. A map to color in the route along the way. I’ve found this really helps kids to visualize that no, we’re not there yet, and how long halfway there actually is. Older kids could follow the route on a real map, drawing or coloring the line from town to town. Here’s a link to one I made for our last road trip.

10. Think about investing in a Leappad or Innotab tablet, or a Tag Reader, Tag Junior, or Vtech V.Reader system so that pre-readers can read books to themselves and play games in the back seat.

11. Lots of children’s websites have printable activities – puzzles, coloring pages, games etc. Some of the sites I’ve used are Nick Jr., Sprout Online, PBS Kids, and Disney’s Family Fun.

12. Light blankets, especially for kids in car seats with 5-point harnesses. Its better to dress them in cooler clothes with a blanket handy than to have to deal with the inevitable “I’m hot – get this sweater off me!” at some point in the trip.

13. Find fun spots for your rest breaks. Even smaller towns might have a children’s museum or a really great playground. If you have a membership to your local zoo, aquarium or children’s museum check your membership; you might be able to get reciprocal admission to a museum en route or at your destination. Some research ahead of time will make a great deal of difference. Here are links to the National zoo directory and children’s museum directory.

14. Stickers. ‘Nuff said.

15. Puzzle books – hidden picture puzzles, mazes, connect the dots books are all fun. With my pre-reader I’ve found that the funnest for her (and me) are ones that are one type of puzzle only, so that she doesn’t need me to read her new directions every 30 seconds.

16. Don’t reveal the snacks and treats and printables ahead of time – make everything a surprise.

17. These foam cutout puzzles do double duty as easy puzzles for toddlers and stencils for preschoolers’ drawing time.

18. Alphabet game – spot letters of the alphabet (in alphabetical order) on roadway signs, billboards and businesses. For younger kids give them a printout of the alphabet and let them mark letters when they see them – out of order allowed!

19. License plate hunt – spot license plates from as many states as you can.

20. For littler kids instead of the alphabet or license plate game, try a rainbow bingo game using car colors. Make it a little more difficult by asking them to find the car colors in rainbow order (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple).

21. Travel bingo – you can buy these sets, make your own or download the ones I’ve drawn for my kids. Make sure each kid has a different card filled with common sights along your route (farm animals, farm equipment, construction equipment, gas stations, fast food restaurant signs, etc).

22. Find-It bottles are always good for at least a few minutes of fun. First just let the kids explore them, then ask them to find specific items – you can even make it a race. If you put a lot of items into the bottle you might want to keep a list for yourself so you know what to ask them to find.

23. Consider letting even young kids pack a backpack or bag with toys they’ve chosen themselves (if there’s room). We usually have to supplement what they’ve picked, especially with the younger one, but it lets them feel more ownership about their own entertainment.

24. Travel journals – I found notebooks at the dollar store and pasted a lot of the printables in them, along with a faceplate that had the kid’s name and the trip information. It was nice to have things in one place, plus the kids had plenty of room for stickers or postcards or other things they picked up along the way.

Also, check out my post on tips and tricks for airplane travel with kids for more travel ideas!

I’m sharing this post at some of these great link parties – check ’em out!

Patio Supper

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Jun 252012

We finally had a weekend afternoon that we could spend outside, visiting, cooking and playing. I made a Peruvian onion relish (salsa criolla) to serve with grilled sausages and a grilled pepper salad.
The relish is made with thinly sliced red onions, jalapeños, mint, lime juice, cider vinegar and salt.

After its all mixed together it sits for a few hours to let the flavors meld and the onions wilt and pickle in the vinegar and lime juice.

We also snacked on Rainier cherries

and invented a new cocktail. It still needs a name – it’s limes muddled with sugar and fresh oregano, gin, ice and tonic. Sooo summery!

Activity Cube for Little Kids

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Jun 242012

We worked on a kiddo craft today – an activity cube to use for an active indoor game – perfect for a day like today when it was completely pouring outside (yay summer). This was a fun, easy craft to work on with the kids.

I found a piece of cardboard to use – it was white on one side which worked well for the illustrations. The first step was to measure and draw out the template for the cube on the back side of the cardboard. I decided to make 4″ squares and used a yard stick to measure and draw the sides.

It would have been a bit straighter with a T-square or a triangle, but it worked out ok. Next I used a craft knife to cut out the cube, and scored the rear side along all the lines to make the folds easier.

We decided on which movements we wanted on our cube, and drew the illustrations on each side. Vivi did three and I did three.

Finally we folded up the sides and taped the cube together.

We had a lot of fun with the cube today, taking turns throwing it and doing the activity/movement that came up. Our six movements were tree pose, star pose, touch your toes, jump up and down, spin around and stand on one foot.

Crafting Remote Control Instructions

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Jun 232012

My mom is babysitting tonight, and since it’s movie night for the kids I’ve got to come up with some instructions for the tv/blu ray/stereo.

Its not as easy as it might seem – I think I might have too many pages of instruction right now! The trick is to make it clear but not overwhelming.

Jun 212012

Ok everyone – you’ve got to do this project! Its just too easy with such great results – and it takes no time at all to do. I saw this on Pinterest the other day and it seems like this or other similiar tutorials are getting pinned like crazy – I used the easy to follow tutorial from crafterhours.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to sacrifice a shirt on an experiment, so I headed out to the local thrift store tonight to pick up a few cheap tees – a few dollars later and I was ready to go. The first thing to do is cut the sleeves off, then cut across the top of the shirt just under the neckline, and finally cut the hem off (this becomes the tie/straps for the tank, but if you wanted to leave it hemmed you could use something else – cord, ribbon, part of another tee – for the straps).

Here’s an (almost) before shot of one of the shirts

The other shirt, trimmed and pinned and ready to sew

Once you’ve got the shirt trimmed, just fold over the front and rear necklines, pin the hem, and then sew them with a straight stitch, leaving a tube open so that you can pass the tie through each side.

After the tie is through, adjust the length, tie it together, and that’s it! 15 minutes tops if you’re machine sewing, longer by hand but its straight stitch so you can do it while you watch tv or something. Seriously, go do it!

Here are the finished shirts: