06/23/2017

Ultimate Guide to Leisure Activities

Leisure activities are not just the sport of Victorian ladies who could paint tea cups while keeping their crepe dresses spotless. Leisure is a fancy word for unplugged. That novel concept of turning off your devices and returning to the activities that padded your childhood, a childhood you survived despite the inability to engage in a cyber world that offers you everything from slaying an Ender Dragon to reading about Kate Middleton’s breakfast.

Cards offer countless options for leisure play.

Weave classic play into your lifestyle and you may find such benefits as crisper thoughts, improved health and overall calmer existence. Create a “Leisure Activity Day” in the same spirit as donuts at the office on Casual Fridays. Secure a weekend where electronics are outlawed. (Yes, that includes anything with a plug). Then revisit customs that may require some physical or mental activity.

Once you hit the pedal, cycling revs the spirit.

Weather is a natural consideration. If the day is worthy of the season, fill the bicycle’s tires with air, liberate the garden tools from the shed or take your dog for an epic walk so she will reconnect to her true canine spirit. Allow the kids to fight off the bramble, dressed in long socks and coated in bug spray (ticks are the new Gollum) for a quest that acquaints them with enchanted play.

On rainy days there are options besides undergoing the hypnosis of screen viewing. Play board games, cards, crafts and puzzles—there’s a reason why these activities are still thriving in rec rooms at camps—it’s fundamentally enjoyable.

We provide a list of those activities that are worth your leisure efforts.

Leisure Activities Refresher 101:

Baking
Bike riding
Bird watching/nature expeditions
Cards
Chess/Checkers/Backgammon
Coloring
Collecting
Crafts
Croquet
Crosswords
Creative writing
Dog walking
Flower arranging
Journal writing
Kiting
Gardening
Needlepoint/sewing
Music/instruments
Park exploration
Photography
Pottery
Puzzles
Reading
Recreational sports
Scrapbooking
Sketching
Woodworking

Resources:

Frederick & Mae playing cards: http://www.papress.com/html/product.details.dna?isbn=9781616893590&ipA25
Board games: https://www.hasbro.com/en-us/brands/monopoly
Chess set: https://www.burkedecor.com/collections/wild-wolf/products/chess-design-by-wild-wolf
Townie Electra bike: http://www.electrabike.com/Bikes/townie
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06/02/2017

Ultimate Boy’s Birthday Party

A styled celebration with games is not exclusive to brides-to-be or expecting moms who have to wear silly hats made from the gift wrapping. You can tastefully host a group of elementary schoolers without depending on a Xbox truck.

Such was the agenda with my son’s seventh birthday. In fact, the main source of entertainment was chests of sporting goods dragged from the shed. Then something miraculous and innovative happened. Luc and his guests created their own games! Yes, that old-fashioned concept where children use their imagination to entertain. While moderation was needed for a few moments where the play became a tad aggressive in homage to Lord of the Flies, overall it was fun and they got their after school ya yas out. What may be most surprising is that they chose to play over breaking for the inviting spread of food, which included sweet options. Playtime trumped eating. My son actually became slightly annoyed when I intruded on their activity to see if he and his guests would like to have the cake.

Assemble a group of boys, add some sporting goods, and healthy play happens. Batteries not needed.

The scheme of the party centers around the season. Luc’s birthday fortunately falls on June 1. Its subtle launch into summer has always revolved around an outdoor/at home party. While organization and cleanup can be a challenge, I mix festive dishware in our color palette with paper plates, napkins, cake topper and straws that share the look.

 

A mix of paper goods with my own pieces, which are both attractive and cuts on cleanup time.

A colorful cake topper can compensate for an imperfect homemade cake.

We have created an annual tradition where Luc picks the kind of cake he wants for us to bake. This year he chose lemon with vanilla frosting and coconut. However, as a working mother, I always have a bakery back up as insurance for a possible cooking catastrophe. I had been scouting the fondant cookies at my local market since Memorial Day and became overly enthusiastic when, on the morning of the party, they had cookies made as hotdogs, lemonade and watermelon. It was meant to be. Every year we serve Luc’s favorites of seasonal watermelon and lemonade drunk from small milk jars.

To accommodate the young guests, and offer something that’s not pulled from a cardboard box, we had hotdogs, corn, fruit and a cold Greek pasta salad simply made with penne, cut tomatoes, onion, cucumber and an Italian vinaigrette.

As the table is being set, the colors of seasonal foods stand out.

Greek pasta made with vegetables, feta cheese and diced herbs from the garden.

Overall the young guests enjoyed themselves and were reacquainted to classic celebrating.

Blowing the candles brings out the best in a birthday boy.

04/28/2017

Ultimate Guide to Healthy Kid Snacks

The morning whirl of organizing meals on-the-go can become more of a battle than preparation. You are competing with other activities like inspecting socks or packing a lunch free of snacks so salty they could brine a turkey. Discover ways to alter the snacking slump by considering healthy, packable options that don’t scrimp on nutrition. Call upon those good for you snack sized brands–packaged items with happy fonts, colors and illustrated logos made to look like cartoon characters. They become your support system in the morning jam. Another handy tip that works: prep the night before.

Portrait of a healthy, fuss-free snack bag.

Says Eliza Whetzel, RD, of Middleberg Nutrition, “Always follow nut-free or any guidelines for your child’s school or camp.” Then plan a day of balanced meals where every food is derived from a natural source. Says Savage, “Read the ingredient list! if you can’t read it, don’t eat it! try to keep to foods that are as unprocessed as possible.”

The beauty of fruit, an one ingredient food.

Whetzel offers these suggestions for a healthful, tasty day:

Pair a carb with protein or a healthy fat to promote satiety: protein and fat take longer to digest than carbohydrates, and will help to modulate blood sugar levels. This means no sugar high and then subsequent drop.

Snack sized hummus and crackers pairs carbs with protein.

Portion and frequency control—especially with children. I see kids who are grazing all day long, don’t eat their meals, and the parents can’t figure out what is happening. Create a specific snack time or times (maybe 10am and 3pm) and stick to it.

Healthy snacking is an early life lesson. Fruit will always be a go-to healthy option. Create designated meal times in order to avoid snacking.

Sensible Snack Options:

Apple sauce/fruit smashersCheese/string cheeseCereal/granolaCrackersDried fruit. Energy bars/granola bitesFreeze dried fruit. Fruit. Graham crackers. Guacamole. Hardboiled egg. Hummus. Lean, low-sodium deli meats like turkey and chicken. Low-calorie cookiesLow-fat milkNut butters. Olives. Popcorn. Rice cakes. Pretzels. Veggies and healthy dips like hummus and salsa. Yogurt.

Resources:

Almond butter packs: http://shop.justins.com/Chocolate-Hazelnut-Butter/p/JNB-000490&c=JustinsNutButters

Peanut butter packets: https://www.nuttzo.com

Apple Crisps fruits: https://www.horizon.com/products

Cactus water: http://truenopal.com/

Cookies: https://www.dickandjanebakingco.com

Dried fruit: www.madeinnature.com

Hummus: bluemooseofboulder.com

Granola bites: www.mysuperfoodscompany.com

Granola minis: www.madegoodfoods.com

String cheese: https://www.horizon.com/products

Organic low fat milk: https://www.horizon.com/products

Special K cereal: https://www.kelloggs.com/en_US/brands/special-k-consumer-brand.html#filter-gsaCategory=Crackers&num=12

Rice rusks: www.mummums.com

Rice cakes: https://www.lundberg.com

Yogurt: http://yoyummykids.com/

Glass containers: http://www.shopworldkitchen.com/simply-store-14-pc-set-w–multi-colored-lids/1081886.html#start=27

Lunch bag: http://dabbawallabags.com

04/04/2017

Easter Egg Decorating Basics

Let nature take its course is the theme for holiday decorating in our home. There are no Dollar Store outings where we rip items from their cellophane prisons to add loud package flash that looks inspired from a children’s cereal box. Decorating Easter eggs also follows a simple approach. It comes down to a few basics: non-reactive bowls, hardboiled white eggs, distilled vinegar and food coloring.

Easter egg decorating simplified when made with household items.

White eggs hold their own beauty and can mix well within the decor–even the carton has its own design appeal. For the dyes, stick to the main colors of the spectrum and you can play with combinations as you watch how your eggs hold their color. We also kept our bowls shallow and less colored to achieve the pastel shades.

Easter Egg Decorating Tips:

  1. Mix 8 tablespoons of vinegar, 1/4 cup of water and 5 drops of coloring (less for pastels, more for deeper shades). The vinegar helps brighten the shade.
  2. Keep paper towels on hand to soak up dye splatter.
  3. Allow enough time for eggs to sit, from 5-15 minutes depending on how deep you want the shade to set. Switch non-dyed side to another color. You can also add more dye mixture if you want the eggs to be coated in one color.
  4. Let dry in egg carton or plate lined with paper towels.
  5. Keep your children’s art supplies on hand so they can be creative with their decorating.
  6. Save some white hardboiled eggs and have the children draw Easter motifs. Or, design yourself and at breakfast tell the children that the decorated eggs must have come from the “Easter Chicken”.

Breakfast made with eggs from the “Easter Chicken” began a new tradition with my son.

Non-dyed eggs colored with marker.

Resources:

Easter basket: www.themountainthreadcompany.com/shop/colorful-easter-basket-with-handle

Gigogne ice cream cups: 
https://www.duralexusa.com/tableware/Gigogne-Ice-Cream-Cup-Pink-8-75-ounce- Set-of-6-plu5002EB06-6.html

Carrot garland: hobbylobby.com

03/23/2017

Ultimate Easter Basket

Forget the Easter basket spilling with flammable straw that takes months to clean up, create a display that looks so good you won’t want to eat the treats (but don’t do that). When browsing your holiday market aisle with an assault of colors so bright you need to wear sunglasses, the natural response is to stock up on all things spring and festive. Take the classic approach of this time honored tradition by focusing on chocolates created by artisans skilled in their craft and custom woven baskets that will have an appearance each holiday. We rounded up the best offerings in a few styles that will make the Easter Bunny envious.

A delicious mix of chocolates and novelties.

Begin with a solid basket, like this willow style with a cloth insert. Add shredded paper in your color scheme and style with Easter candies, pom poms and toys in likeminded colors.

Even grownups can look forward to receiving an Easter basket.

Using a fair trade basket as the starting point, pull from the colors and keep the styling simple. Surround with mini pom poms and chocolate Easter eggs to complete the look.

A simple basket with thoughtful touches.

This basket has a story. Made from 100% cotton rope in the Mountain Thread Company shop and studio in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, it shows the beauty in handcrafted work. Complimented by chocolate covered marzipan bars with packaging that recalls Easter’s past and inserted with a festive tea cloth, the basket has a soft appeal that will work past the holiday.

 

A free trade market basket shows a green approach alongside organic chocolates and toys that do not beep.

After a season of cold and dreary colors, a bright scheme is welcomed. A scattering of purple and orange carrots connect to the jewel tones of the African market bag. Add some gift items, like artful watercolors, that fit the look.

What you’ll need:

Gather quality supplies and candies that pack in more style than your local drug store variety. Begin with a festive basket, fill with colored paper or straw, and adorn with foiled wrapped candies and treats. Take the theme further with organic sweets and free trade wares that make a difference.

 

Resources:

White willow Easter basket: https://www.burtonandburton.com/?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Branded&utm_term=burton%2Bburton&utm_content=burton%20%2B%20BURTON%20-%20E

Market baskets: www.BasketsOfAfrica.com

Blue rope basket: www.themountainthreadcompany.com/shop/colorful-easter-basket-with-handle

Stuffed bunnies, chicks: www.jellycat.com

Gold bunnies, carrots, bugs and bees, white truffle eggs: www.lindt.com

White chocolate bunny, dark chocolate purple carrots, organic filled chocolates, mini gift basket: http://www.lakechamplainchocolates.

Organic Easter candies and eggs: lilliebellefarms.com

Bunny Munny: http://m.rmpalmer.com/easter/

Yellow chubby bunny: http://www.thompsonchocolate.com/products-easter.php

Chocolate marzipan bunny bars: http://www.niederegger.de/en_GB

Mini pom poms, carrot garland: hobbylobby.com

Tissue, corrugated paper wrappings: www.nashvillewraps.com

Yellow pom poms, watercolor set: http://shop.eeboo.com

Organic jelly beans: https://www.jellybelly.com/online-candy-store

03/15/2017

Homemade Snow Cones

When life gives you snow make snow cones. Such is the motto I practiced when you experience the arrival of crocuses one week and then faced with a record blizzard the following. With only so many sled runs and ice forts to create when school is cancelled, we used our snow for an alternative kind of treat.

Turn snow into a delicacy with hand made snow cones.

What you’ll need:

Fresh snow

Vitamin Water (any flavored powder or liquid drink works)

Gummy vitamins

Cupcake holder

Directions:

Scoop a ball of snow into a cupcake cup holder. Add flavored water. Garnish with a gummy bear. Enjoy.

01/18/2017

Ultimate Valentine’s Day Gifts with Heart

Valentine’s Day gifts covered with hearts is the equivalent of a text sent with more emojis than words, it gets a bit much. Rather than give a Whitman Sampler or checkout aisle trinket, say it with a sentiment that will be appreciated after the 14th.

Peeps marshmallow hearts is a fun way to say Valentine’s Day.

Let our guide to the heart, in a gift form that is, aptly convey the holiday message.

1. Socks 2. Valentine’s Day Class Cards 3. Love U Wool Beanie Kit 4. Girls Sneakers 5. Heart Pencils 6. Water Bottle

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01/13/2017

Classroom Friendly Blueberry Muffins

I’ve been assigned the role of Mystery Reader in Luc’s class. One of those parental duties when reading The Day the Crayons Quit with verve is simply not enough to engage your young audience. They want treats and sugar free lollipops aren’t enough. (Too trite and sticky). While other sweets could warrant a flurry of emails from parents on responsible snacks along with their child’s nutritional requirements if a future feeding should arise. I settled on gluten, dairy and peanut free muffins.

Fresh blueberries add natural flavor to a recipe.

In the thick of winter blueberries are thriving somewhere (Peru) and the taste of summer is missed (January in Connecticut).

Mini muffins is a healthy alternative over candy and cookies.

Following the mix’s directions–supplementing with fresh berries and almond milk–allows me to serve something homemade, not ripped from loud packaging, and requires minimal effort.

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins

(Courtesy of Authentic Foods)

Ingredients:

1 package Authentic Foods Blueberry Muffin Mix

2 large eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup milk, non-dairy substitute or buttermilk

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

1/2 cup fresh blueberries (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease the bottom of 12 regular size muffin cups or 24 mini size muffin cups or place cupcake liners inside the muffin cups.

Beat the eggs, vegetable oil and milk (or non-dairy substitute or buttermilk) in a large bowl until very bubbly.

Stir in the Authentic Foods Blueberry Muffin Mix and cinnamon. Stir until the flour is moistened and the batter is slightly lumpy.  Using a tablespoon or medium sized ice cream scooper, spoon the batter into the muffin cups.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the muffin top bounces up when touched (the muffin is not ready if it sinks down when you touch it).

Remove muffins from muffin cups and cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

Resources:
Ceramic berry basket: https://www.katom.com
Tea towel: https://pomegranateinc.com/

Bite sized treat that goes well with story time.

 

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12/15/2016

Ultimate Toy & Games Guide–Batteries Not Needed

The Christmas gifts that surrounded a tree chopped from the backyard, decorated in a home lit by lanterns, still hold currency today. You will see slight updates in colors and shapes but overall the shared concept of classic playtime with toys that won’t need a battery recharge will always work.

Chess Set by Wild Wolf.

  1. Kazoo 2. Chess Set 3. Daredevil Car 4. Steiff Giraffe 5. Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens 6. Classic 5 Mobile 7. Grand Piano 8. Circa Baseball 9. Blockitecture Building Set. 10. Spinning Top 11. Raggedy Ann and Andy 12. Matchstacks Little Hipster Memory Game 13. 4-Way Shut the Box 14. Harmonica 15. Roadster 16. Cicada Clicker
11/03/2016

Coloring Books for All Ages

Give a kid a coloring book and you may have given yourself 20 minutes of childcare without having to turn on Nickelodeon. Though coloring need not end once you hit middle school. There are books available for all ages and interests. It’s a classic way to calm the senses and release your artistic itch without having to live the life of a starving artist.

dg-colorhighlights

A clever offering ranges from fantastical stories ,where the child advances the storyline, to more grownup books so dense with art they could add style to your home. It’s a unique gift that will be appreciated and batteries are not required.

 

The Little Prince Coloring Book: http://hmhbooks.com/thelittleprince/books.html

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Doodle Adventures Slimy Space Slugs: https://www.workman.com/products/doodle-adventures-the-search-for-the-slimy-space-slugs

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Paint by Sticker Zoo Animals: https://www.workman.com/products/paint-by-sticker-kids-zoo-animals

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Boss Babes: https://www.workman.com/products/boss-babes

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Color Me Jane: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/543944/color-me-jane-by-jacqui-oakley/9780451496560/

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Colored Pencils: http://shop.eeboo.com/c/arts-crafts_colored-pencils-pastels-and-watercolors