Sunday, October 31, 2010

Too Cute to Keep to Myself

Kim Komando selected this as a Cool Site of the Day, and it's too cute not to pass on.  Miss M is in love - she keeps cooing or awwing at every picture.  If you have kids who love cute animal pictures, this site is for you!

Click HERE - Cuteness Ahead!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Who doesn't love a Friday?

Ah, the end of the week.  I do love Fridays.  Today our FUN plans include playing in the sandbox and finishing up our pumpkin carving.  We carved two pumpkins yesterday but Miss E created quite an elaborate design and didn't have time to finish it last night.  Actually, she didn't have the attention span to finish.  Funny how that can happen even with the best of activities.  We're also getting ready to have friends over for trick or treating tomorrow night. (Yes, I know tomorrow is not Halloween.  It's tradition in our community to celebrate on a Saturday if it falls on Sunday.  It's a religious thing...)  So, we're off to carve roads in the dirt and faces in the pumpkins!  Have a great weekend and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Add caption

A pretty good start!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What a puzzeling day.

Potty training is underway with Mr. A, and it's been and up and down experience.  On one hand it's been great because he's so willing to try and is so close to really understanding. But then there's the down side...  With my girls I bought them a bunch of little toy "potty prizes", and they got one every  time they went potty as encouragement.   It was a pretty easy process and there was very little drama.  Mr. A is obsessed with his bucket of prizes.  He stands in the bathroom moaning for a prize and is so sad when he can't have them he has resorted to walking around whining "prize".  The bright side of this is I am more determined than ever to stick with training and move him past this stage as quickly as possible.  He's very close so it's full steam ahead.  This will keep us close to home, but hopefully it's only a few days.  And it's compatible with our FUN plans, since we were going to play with puzzles again today.  That's a nice, indoor activity so he can run around in his undies and we'll close to a potty all day.  Also, since Halloween is just three days away, I guess we'd better carve some pumpkins.  We meant to do that yesterday, but didn't get that far with our plans.  Today is a new day though, and it's another chance to do the things we want to do.  Here's to sticking to our plans!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Who doesn't love board games?

Growing up, I was the baby of the family by many years.  I always LOVED board games but no one wanted to play with me because they hated the games that were right for my age.  I vowed that I'd play endless board games with my own kids.  Somehow, that hasn't really happened.  We have shelves full of the things, and they are pretty dusty.  But, today is their day!  We're gonna knock ourselves out with board game FUN!  We have a shape matching version of Candy Land that Mr A. likes, so maybe we can corral him for at least one game before he heads back to his Hot Wheels.  Miss M likes to play a phonics game we have because it comes with little rubber dogs that she isn't allowed to touch unless we're playing the actual game.  She's fascinated by these little dogs so I'm sure that will be her choice. Miss E likes the dreadful Harry Pottter and the Sorcerer's Stone game, so I'm fairly certain we'll spend time with that one, too.  (Honestly, with such great source material, why, oh why did they develop such a boring game for that book???)  Or, maybe they'll all choose totally different games.  Who knows?  It ought to be a FUN afternoon, no matter what.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rainy Day Blues

Today didn't start out so well.  First, I forgot the girls don't have school today so I got Miss E up and ready to go for no reason.  That woke Miss M and Mr. A.  Now they're all rocking and rolling and I'm ready to go back to bed.  Urgh.  And to top it off, it's raining and windy and generally a BLEH sort of day.  Typically I'd say "Movie Day!" but we've spent the weekend vegging on the computer.  I'm pretty sure the kids are going to mutiny if we don't do something active and fun today.  Fortunately, this week's FUN plans are similar to last week's plans - we're playing with toys we haven't played with for a while.  Today is the perfect day to break out our Cranium Hullabaloo game.  It's fun, it's active, and I don't remember the last time they played it.  Perfect!

The Week at a Glance page is also updated!
As I mentioned above, this week's FUN plans are still about making our way to old toys or games we haven't enjoyed lately.  I haven't found anything the kids wouldn't miss if it disappeared yet.  They've all been happy to play with whatever I've suggested.  I'm still hoping though!  For this week's meal plans I turned to a feature on the Kraft website that I've been meaning to try for a while now.  They have something called "1 Bag, 5 Dinners" that simplifies both shopping and cooking.  I haven't tried it before because some of the recipes look a little funky, but hey, shopping this week was a DREAM, and I only spent about $30 on the bag of stuff.  They have different combinations you can choose from (chicken and beef, healthy living, chicken and pork, etc...) and each combination has several options.  Hopefully, we're all happy with this little experiment because it really could make my life much easier. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Scrump-dilly-umptious! Caramel Apples

I must share a grand discovery.  Honey Vanilla Caramel Apples.  Two words: Yum! O!  I don't think I've made caramel apples since I was a tiny kid and one of my sisters was home from college with nothing better to do.  I haven't even really thought of them for years until one day a few weeks ago.  A friend mentioned she was making these with her little girl.  I quipped that if there were fewer than 10 steps I'd have to make them because they sounded so good.  It turns out there are far fewer than 10 steps and every single step is is well worth the trouble.  These are the yummiest, sweetest - but not too sweet - caramel apples I think I've ever had.  Miss E doesn't even like caramel but she couldn't get enough of these.  I'll put the link to the recipe under the picture.  Thank you Rachael Ray (and my friend, Alisha)!
*Honey Vanilla Caramel Apples Recipe*

***Feb. 2015 UPDATE***

I went to use this recipe and the original link was dead.  I was so sad!  Fortunately, google told me it was just on a new Rachael Ray site, but I don't want to take any chances with not having it next time I want it so I'm reposting the whole recipe here.  If you would like to see it on Rachael's site I have updated the link under the picture.

Rachael Ray's Honey Vanilla Caramel Apples

  • medium red apples, such as braeburn, cortland or fuji, chilled
  • Ice water
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups honey
  • teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Skewer each apple stem with a lollipop stick or thick bamboo skewer. Fill a large bowl one-quarter of the way with ice water. 
  2. In a 4-quart, heavy saucepan, heat the cream and salt over medium-high heat until steaming hot. Stir in the honey and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat to medium and continue to boil, stirring constantly, until the mixture registers 260 degrees on a candy thermometer, 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the vanilla. Place the pan in the ice water, stirring the caramel with a wooden spoon until its thick enough to coat the apples without running off, about 5 minutes. (If the caramel thickens too much, return the pan to medium heat and stir.) 
  3. Wipe the chilled apples dry. Working with 1 at a time, hold the apple by the stick and dip into the caramel, tilting the saucepan and twirling the apple to coat all but a 1-inch border around the stem. Place the caramel apples on the prepared baking sheet and refrigerate for 20 minutes before serving.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The sandbox is a mud box.

We're supposed to play in our sandbox today, but we've had rainy weather the last few days so our sandbox is more like a mud box and I'm not sure if I'm up having to cold, muddy kids just so I can say we stuck to our plan.  Plus, we did such a great job knocking out our To Do list yesterday, we didn't get around to playing with the puzzles.  I think that means today is the perfect day to put together puzzle after puzzle.  Then, since we skipped our FUN plans on Wednesday, I will encourage the kids to play with their various dolls, horses, etc... so I can get a feel for what they're still interested in playing with and what they're ready to move on from.  Phew!  That's a lot of FUN!  Happy Friday All!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

We Have a Hankering for Puzzles!

Today's scheduled FUN time involves one of our favorite things - puzzles!  The girls and I really love puzzles but since Mr. A became mobile we haven't played with them as much as we'd like because they can't be on the floor.  It's surprisingly less fun doing puzzles on the table where everyone has to jockey for space or pieces.  It's been a while since we've had them around Mr. A, and I'm hoping he'll be better about not eating or bending or throwing the pieces.  Miss E is home from school today, so it will be fun to have her part of our FUN plans!

Bonus: Fly Lady's facebook status got me revved up this morning.  She's doing something I sometimes try on days when I just can't get moving but I really have to get things done.  She's having a 15 minute day, where she'll get up and do something new every 15 minutes.  I don't think that would work for me- too much transition and I'd never complete anything.  I do like to give myself 10 or 15 minute challenges.  I will think "Can I get that huge stack of dishes taken care of in 10 minutes or less?"  Then I get busy and feel all self-congratulatory when I beat a challenge.  I also don't feel like I've been slaving all day because I'm only working in short spurts.  I think I'm going to try that today and see if I can completely knock off a To Do list.  It's been a while since I've totally finished one and it would feel good to do it today. 

Happy Thursday Everyone!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Happy Belated Columbus Day!

After this week's plans were posted, Miss E brought an invitation home for a Columbus Day program they've been working on at school.  Our FUN time today will deviate from the schedule so we can all go to her program.  She's very excited for us to come see a particular song they play with bells.  After the program, we're going to decorate the house for Halloween.  The girls have been begging to deck the place out for a week now, and since Halloween is just over a week away I guess we should get it done.  We're all especially excited to set up our giant inflatable Tigger, who is dressed as a vampire.  It's by far our biggest and favorite decoration.

Me and the kids with friends (and Tigger) two years ago.

Does your family have a favorite decoration?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Handy Pocket Organizer/Paper Craft Project

Miss E's Story Board Pocket Mod     
I came across this cute paper craft/pocket organizer while continuing the search for the perfect meal planning calendar.  It's still not quite what I was looking for, but it is a handy dandy little application.  I printed one this week for my shopping list and general weekly notes.  It was great at the store because it really is pocket size, but substantial enough I was able to make notes on my shopping list at the store - unlike the post it note I usually use.  I also printed one using only the story board template for Miss E.  She set a goal at school to have a story published, and I hope this cute little booklet will be less intimidating than a whole blank sheet of paper as she starts to write.  I also love the small spaces just right for illustrations.  Folding them into their booklet form is simple and the girls thought it was cool that we could turn a flat sheet of paper into a book.  I love finding useful little things like this!

Boys don't play with dolls.

Yesterday, Mr. A and I were building things with blocks.  We were pretending one block was a bale of hay and  Little People cows were eating it.  I picked up a Strawberry Shortcake doll and tried to make her part of the conversation.  Mr. A grabbed the doll and threw her across the room.  I retrieved her and tried again, and again he chucked her as far as he could.  Apparently, Strawberry Shortcake was not invited to that party.  I'm going to experiment with some different dolls today.  Our scheduled FUN plan is to play with our sizable collection of Little People and all their buildings, cars and pets.  I'm curious to see if he simply objected to the obvious "girlishness" of the Strawberry Shortcake doll and maybe he'll accept the less aggressively feminine Little People characters, especially if they are the same as all the other people we're playing with.  Miss E is possibly the most stereotypical girl ever born, and Mr. A the most boyish boy.  (Miss M is just her very own little person.  It's impossible to predict what she'll do next.  There are no stereotypes which apply to her!)  I think it's very interesting to watch all these little personalities unfold.  It's all part of the FUN!

Monday, October 18, 2010

We're breaking out the blocks!

When Miss E was a baby I bought a big bag of MegaBloks and we spent many happy hours building castles and towers taller than she was.  Miss M always likes building short castles with huge yards surrounded by the colorful blocks.  Mr. A doesn't really like building anything, he just lines the blocks up and ocassionally stacks a few.  We also have two really great sets of wooden blocks but they are so heavy the kids can't get them off their shelf alone, so they don't get played with as much as the kids would like.  We're going to get out all these blocks for our FUN time today.  I'm sure we'll build roads and castles and fences galore.  (If you're interested in this sort of thing, here's a good article about the developmental benefits of block play.)

In case you missed yesterday's post, I've made all our FUN plans for the week around toys we don't play with all the time.  We have a terrifying amount of toys so I'm trying to gauge interest by deliberately getting them out to play with.  If the kids just don't like something any more, I'm hoping it will be easier to get them to put it in the donation box.  Currently, any suggestion of passing a toy along elicits tears and cries of "I love that!" even if they haven't played with it for years.  And, even if I can't get them to willingly give something up, at least I'll know what they won't miss when it "mysteriously disappears" while they aren't looking. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ahhh... A well planned week.

After flying blind last week, I've buckled down and finished this week's plan nice and early.  (You can see it here.)  I tried something new while planning this week - I chose themes both for our meals and our FUN.  For meals I took all the recipes from the massive collection of recipe links I've emailed to myself over the last few years.  Most of the recipes wound up coming from the Kraft Site and I'm using one from two weeks ago when a recipe was way to big for my family so I cooked it in two pans and froze one.  It will be SO nice to have a meal all ready made and ready to reheat and eat!

I also used something of a theme for this week's FUN.  Like many families, we have toys coming out our ears.  We have so many we forget what we have.  This week I'm going to deliberately get out some toys the kids haven't used for a while.  This serves two purposes.  First, the kids and I will have something fairly novel to do.  Then, I'll also get an idea of what they just aren't interested in anymore.  Hopefully, if I find something they really don't care about it will be easier to convince them make some charitable toy donations.

Here's to a productive and FUN week!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A link too good not to share.

This link came in a newsletter from Family Fun last week, but I just got around to reading it today.  It seems everyone is grateful for tips and tricks for keeping their families more organized so this list of ten simple ideas is something most mom's will want to read.  A few of the ideas for weren't right for us for one reason or another, but I did get four great ideas so I thought I'd pass the whole thing along.  My favorite was using priority mailing boxes to store kids' art.  I currently use expandable file folders for their papers right now, but some art projects just don't fit so I have big boxes for them in the basement. The boxes I'm using don't stack, and they are also not always the right size so lots of stuff still ends up folded or worse.  I'm thinking that instead of the mailing boxes I'll get those under-bed boxes for each of the kids and then I won't have a problem fitting the larger items. 

One last tip - I label each paper with the artists name and date created before I put it in the boxes.  Because I just stack the new art on top of the old, it's kind of like looking back through time when we look through the boxes.  The girls love looking at what they created years ago and I love being able to say "look what you did when you were two!" 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Playdate and the Park

One of our favorite little friends is coming over before and after preschool today.  Mr. A is SO happy to have him here - he knows a fellow tractor lover when he sees one.  Miss M is also excited about having her very own little friend here.  She can't wait to show him all around "Magic Land", her name for the imaginary land where fairies live, which is conveniently located in our back yard.  So, those are our big FUN plans for today.  I'm also planning to take Mr. A to the park by himself while Miss M and friend are at school.  He needs some focused play time with Mommy.  It should be be a FUN morning! 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

About my ads...

A few people have asked me about the ads on this blog so here's their story. I give Google permission to put ads on this blog, but I don't choose them. I do get paid a small stipend if someone clicks on these Google ads. If I post a link to a product on Amazon, I have deliberately chosen that product and I do get paid a small commission if you buy something through a link I provide. Now ya know about my ads!

Library day, library day!

I have been trying to get us to the library at least every two weeks, but last week the weather was rotten and I just lacked the motivation to get us out of the house.  This week, the weather is gorgeous and we're going to story time at the library!  We're also going to play at a park with some friends, so we'll have a very FUN morning.  Of course, that means I'll have a big afternoon when it comes to getting my housekeeping duties finished, but I think I can handle that.  After playing catch up all week I'm feeling pretty good about being back on top of things - at least a little bit.  My house is still far from perfect, but it's a heck of a lot better than it used to be, and that makes it easier when I have a little schedule disruption.  Love that! 

Inside note...

*****HAPPY * BIRTHDAY * CARRIE!!!!*****

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Still Just Doing It

Yesterday was an exercise in taking care of business.  I'd taken a few days leave of absence from my housekeeping responsibilities, and it was time to get back to work.  And work I did!  I accomplished a lot - and managed to spend some good time reading with the kids, too.  Today, I still have some of catching up to do so I'm making this another "Just Do It" day.  I've already accomplished more this morning that I did in multiple days when I was in the bottom of my slump.  I do still need to sit down and make meal and FUN plans, as well as print some one line coupons and write up this week's shopping list.  That could take all afternoon if I let it, so I'm going to have to exercise tremendous focus today.  Wish me luck!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Just Do It Day

I took the last three days off from my regular life.  I relaxed, went on a field trip, drove half way across the state and back for a wedding, and read two books.  Now, however, it's time to pay the piper.  I have so many fires to put out and messes to contain that it doesn't even matter where I start, just so long as I start.  So, that's what I'm off to do - get started.  Hopefully, I'll be back soon to make my meal and FUN plans for the week so I won't continue to feel frazzled all week.  Remember, as Fly Lady says, you're not behind, just jump in where you are.  Just do it!

That would be pretty cool!

Fire Station Friday!

I skipped blogging on Friday but I wasn't just laying around eating bon bons and watching talk shows.  Mr. A and I got to accompany Miss M's preschool class on a field trip to the fire station. We had such a FUN morning!  Miss M and her little preschool friends were so cute!  They were beyond interested in everything the firemen showed them, and were fascinated by all the gear and of course the trucks.  Mr. A, as anticipated, went completely nuts over all the fire trucks.  He makes the cutest little siren sound ("Whee-ee-ee-ee-ee-!) every time he sees a vehicle with lights on top and he certainly gave his little siren maker a work out while we were in the garage with the trucks.  Thanks to my good friend Michelle for wielding the camera!
The kids paid rapt attention to Fire Fighter Brunson as he taught about kitchen safety in the Life Safety Fire House, a cute little building our fire department has just for teaching children about home safety.
Our fabulous preschool teacher showing the kids how someone looks inside all that fire fighter gear.
Mr. A began making his siren sounds the second he saw the trucks, and didn't quit until we left their garage.  He was in heaven!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

To library, or not to library?

Today's planned FUN is a trip to the library.  Our books are due and there's a story time today.  We have friends who want to meet us there.  That makes four good reasons to go to the library.  I'm having a hard time finding the motivation to commit to going though.  *Sigh*  Miss M has a little cold and I'm very tempted to use that as an excuse to stay home.  I am one of those parents who keeps my kids home at the first sign of a contagious sneeze because I detest seeing other kids out and about with green noses, but really, I think I'm just looking for an excuse to be lazy.  The gloomy, windy weather is already getting to me.  Fortunately for me, I'm also one of those parents who values lazy time and I also know Miss M and Mr. A get to go to the book fair at Miss E's school later this afternoon so it's not like they'll be home and bored ALL day.   Maybe I'll just go get our day started and see what we're in the mood for as the day progresses.  I guess my question above should really be "To laze or not to laze?"  Does anyone else ever choose vegging at home over a fun trip out?

This is what I feel like doing this morning.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It's a very blustery day!

Well, our plans for today are kaput.  The rain continues so no trip to the park for us.  Instead, we're going to inflate our bouncy castle.  The girls have been asking for it all summer, but I put them off saying we'd wait for the weather to be too rotten to play outside and then we'd get it out.  I'd say their day has come as not only is it raining, but there are gale force winds howling around outside, too.  So, I'll hurry with my planned housework and break out the castle so we can bounce our afternoon away!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

And the rain goes on...

Fall has arrived, and it brought a three day storm.  I can't complain too much though, it was in the high 80s all through September.  That's not bad.  Also, today's FUN plans were made with the weather forecast in mind.  I'm going to visit Family Fun with Miss M today and let her choose some printable games.  She always loves printables and it's a mellow rainy day activity.  Again, Mr. A isn't one to sit and color with us, but he is a little more interested every time so I'll keep trying with him. 

Today is also my late father's birthday, so in his honor we're baking his favorite chocolate birthday cake for him.  We'll wait for Miss E to get home from school, and bake away.  Miss E doesn't like chocolate, so we'll probably bake sugar cookies for her. 

I hope you have lots of FUN today! 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hair Cut!

Mr. A and his new haircut...

It's raining today, so no fall leaf pictures...  Hopefully the rain will go away and we can get some later in the week. 

It's a big day for Mr. A!

Today, Mr. A will receive his first real hair cut.  Oh, he's had a trim here and there but I've never had the heart to go whole hog and actually take him to a salon.  He's my last baby, and I am in love with his shaggy baby hair, but really, it's time.  I know it will make him look more grown up.  That makes me sad.  I'm hoping that by waiting so long I haven't chosen a really terrible time to actually set him in the chair and he'll be a beast.  That makes me nervous.  The fabulous lady who cuts my hair doesn't usually do children but she does mine because I ask her to, and she's awesome.  She'll be fantastic with Mr. A, no matter how squirmy or whiny he is though, so I guess I should relax.  So, here he is, pre-haircut.  I'm sure I'll post again, post hair cut.

And, that opens the door to perfect FUN time today!  Since Mr. A will have a fresh 'do to show off, and the Fall leaves are in their prime, I think we'll all head for the hills and take some autumn pictures!  My mom is visiting, so she can help me wrangle kids, which will be very nice.  Trying to manage all three and still getting a decent picture here and there is just unrealistic but I always seem to want to do these things while Spouse is working.  With any luck I'll have a whole pack of fun new photos to show off by the end of the day.  Oh, and of course we'll be having little conversations about fall leaves and how nature is changing right now and all that jazz.  Oh, and we'll be collecting leaves for a future crafty FUN time.  Hooray for planning ahead! 

Happy Monday!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Photo Update: How to Make Kids Happy

Our FUN was sidetracked today by the opportunity to visit a new job site where Spouse (a General Contractor) was doing some work on the mini-excavator.  All the kids love riding in the mini-ex, but Miss E was still at school so she missed out.  (Don't worry, she was growing crystals which is much cooler than a tractor ride if you're seven.)  Mr. A, of course, was totally in heaven.  He just loves the rumble and action of any tractor.  Miss M also had fun, but what she really loves is her new Pillow Pet.  I let the girls take their money to the store once a month or so and they buy what they'd like.  She's been talking about the unicorn Pillow Pet for a while now, so she was thrilled to actually bring it home.  She named it Softy and immediately dressed it up.  So, that's what we really did for fun today.  What did you do?

Bicycle Party?

We have a whole gaggle of cute girls on our street, all close enough to Miss E in age that they're all friends.  The parents take turns walking them all to the bus stop in the mornings so the whole flock usually arrives our door step to collect Miss E.  One of them asked if Miss E could ride bikes after school, which fits perfectly with today's FUN plan!  Today we'll get out the bikes and the neighbor kids and ROLL with it!  (Get it - roll with it - on bikes!)  Miss M absolutely loves it when she's included with the bigger kids so I'll make sure we're already outside riding when they get home.  That will help her feel like she's the leader, and even if they ride around in the street, where she's not allowed to go, she'll still be doing the same activity.  Mr. A will love seeing all the bikes zoom up and down the street, and I'm certain that one of these days he'll figure out what to to with those pedals on his own trike.  I'm planning to enjoy my day, are you?