Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Candy Corn and Preschool Math

It's Halloween week, but I can't help but think of Elf and his four food groups: Candy, Candy Canes, Candy Corn, and Syrup. Sounds like our menu for the week this week. Better add more toothpaste to the grocery list... I get sugared out really easily, so I never eat candy corn without some salty dry roasted peanuts. A bowl of this stuff is a fall standby for our family.



Speaking of Candy Corn, I saw this math exercise from Hey Mommy, Chocolate Milk and I knew Thing One would love it. He totally did. 


We do a little preschool everyday during the week, so this is a fun alternative to a worksheet.


Hope you are all having a fun and safe week!

Thanks for reading.
- Haley 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Fall Gardening with Miracle-Gro

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Miracle-Gro. All opinions are 100% mine.
(1) Miracle-Gro

The Fall season always feels too short in Colorado, but even as we know Winter is right around the corner I am never ready to let go of my garden yet. This year I decided to to add some fresh plants to the garden to create a little color and interest for Fall. In my front planter most of my summer flowers had faded or died off for the season so I decided to replace them with mums and cabbage.


I also transplanted some coleus that were by this time the lone survivors in many of my pots, giving them a second chance to flourish.


If you too are not ready to give in to the elements and abandon your garden, check out the  Miracle-Gro Gardenieres videos for helpful tips and ideas of how to create and maintain a beautiful garden year-round.

 Gardenieres
We use Miracle-Gro LiquaFeed on all our gardens about every three weeks. From veggies to herbs to flowers, everything looks so much healthier after a good feeding of Miracle-Gro.

Liquafeed_Advanced.JPG
We also have used and loved the Miracle-Gro Potting Mix for container gardens. I always worry about my potted plants getting enough nutrients but this soil has fertalizer mixed in and feeds plants for six months, so plants get all the nutrients they need!

MG_Potting_Mix.jpg
It's always fun to see what others are doing with their gardens and get new ideas. Check out the Miracle-Gro Facebook page to find great gardening community.
Miracle-Gro Facebook page
Fall is one of the best times to garden and enjoy the outdoors because the weather is so perfect; not too hot, not to cold. I hope that you will be inspired to extend the life of your garden and enjoy color and interest for a few more weeks or months.
Thanks for reading.
-Haley
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Friday, October 26, 2012

Make a Difference: Christmas Shopping

Hi Fiends! This is part 2 of my Making a Difference feature for Samaritan's Purse. And now the rest of the story (of why I like them so much)...

I don't really like shopping. But once a year there is a catalog that I can not wait to shop through. I dog ear pages, we talk with Thing One about all the things you can pick, and then we go online and fill up the cart. I love this kind of shopping.


The Samaritan's Purse Gift Catalog has something for everyone. Gifts range from $2 to $35,000, and include things like shoes and socks for kids who have none, bikes for those who have no transportation, farm animals to help families feed themselves and make a living, and clean water. I really encourage you to download the whole catalog so you can read the amazing stories and see how your gifts are used.


I always like giving chickens because I like the idea of fresh eggs, and animals to sell and eat. Thing One was drawn to stocking the fish pond, since he's gone on his first fishing trips this summer.


It's so cool to be able to give in such a specific way; to know exactly what your money will be used for and picture it making a difference in someone's life. Although most of the items or financial gifts in the catalog go to helping those in third world countries, I am excited about this new ministry for returning military service members and their spouses. I can't imagine the toll deployment takes on families, let alone injuries. What a great way to help couples relax and reconnect after difficult months. 

Please visit Samaritan's Purse online to view and browse their catalog and consider shopping for the person who has nothing, in addition to (or or maybe instead of)  the person who has everything. 

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:40 (NIV)



Thanks for reading.

- Haley

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Make a Difference: Operation Christmas Child

Of all the Making a Difference projects and opportunities, this month's organization is my favorite. Probably because they were one of the first organizations we started giving to, or maybe because they do so much for so many in so many ways-- I love Samaritan's Purse.


I love their desire and ability to respond immediately to help people affected by a natural disaster or other crisis here in the U.S. or anywhere in the world. I love that they are financially transparent, and responsible, spending 88 cents of every dollar donated directly on those in need. And I love that you can do more than just write a check. Which brings me to today's opportunity: Operation Christmas Child.


Operation Christmas Child delivers a shoebox full of gifts for impoverished children all over the world.  Volunteers (that's you!) fill the box with toys, school supplies, clothing and hygiene supplies and Samaritan's Purse delivers them via their own planes. This year they expect to surpass a total of over one hundred million shoeboxes distributed since the program was started in 1993.


If you want to read an awesome story about some of the kids who received these boxes check out this post.  It is so cool to hear these stories. It's also cool that you can track your box to see where it ends up.


Now is the time to pack up a box and brighten a child's world. This year the boxes have to be turned in the week of November 12. To find the closest drop off spot to you check here.


Thing One and I had so much fun going on a shopping spree to fill our boxes. I figured if he liked it, another little boy his age would like it. Here's a quick overview of the program. 



Be sure to check out the guidelines for what you can include. I really like starting the holiday season off with the focus on giving. 

Thanks for reading.
- Haley

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fall Color Tour for Kids

This has been one of the most beautiful Autumns in Colorado that I can remember. Usually we get a big snow and all the leaves come down before they ever get to turn orange or red. This year fall has been slow and steady and gorgeous. You can do this activity any time of year, but I like to do it in the fall because it seems like you always see so much color at once. 


I originally saw this activity at I Am Momma Hear Me Roar. If you want more of the how-to you can go there and check it out. Last year I had Thing One color in the paint palette. He was learning his colors so having him color the palette was a good activity by itself. This year we were in a hurry so I just colored it in real quick. Once you cut out your palette from a cereal box and color in your colors, you add a glue dot to each space. I tore up the paper roll the glue dots come on, making a little paper square for each dot. I stuck the sticky side on the palette, and left the paper stuck to the top until we were ready to start our nature walk (exposed glue dots are super sticky). Once we were ready to start finding stuff I just peeled off all the little papers. 


Then Thing One found something from nature for every color on his palette. Every time we do this I think we will not be able to find a color, but so far we always find them all. It's interesting what you can see when you are looking for it. It's a reminder to me of how creative and artistic God truly is. Can you imagine living in a world without color? Or even just with fewer colors? I can't, yet I feel like I take the beauty around me for granted so often.


This has been one of Thing One's favorite activities ever. I'm so glad Cheri shared this idea. If you've never done this, your kids will love it! Here's his palette from last year.


Speaking of the beauty around us, look how beautiful our little backyard tree is this fall! It looks good with the red fence doesn't it?


Lastly this week, while we are talking about leaves, I have to share my new favorite children's book with you. One of the advantages of being a substitute is that you get to read a lot of new and different books. I read Fletcher and the Falling Leaves  to a class a few weeks ago and fell in love with this little fox Fletcher. I ordered it for my boys and it came yesterday. I have a soft spot in my heart for little woodland creatures I guess.


I hope you are having a wonderful week and enjoying the beauty and color around you!
- Haley





Sunday, October 14, 2012

Four Fun Fall Crafts

We've been busy doing some seasonal [kids] crafts here lately. Here's four of our favorites that you might enjoy this Fall.

1. Leaf Animals

Materials: 

construction paper
tacky glue
variety of freshly fallen leaves
optional- marker for eyes


This indoor craft starts with an outdoor leaf hunt gathering all sorts of shapes and colors of leaves. Try to get fresh ones that are not too dried out. This will make them easier to work with and less of a crumbly leaf mess to clean up. We looked at this website for some inspiration. Thing One went with Foxes,


a peacock,


and an elephant.


Leaf animals were even more fun than I thought they would be (which is always a plus for a practically free craft). I'm sure older children would enjoy coming up with their own animal ideas, so I think we may be doing this one for year to come.

2. Painted Magnets

Materials:

wood cut outs
acrylic paint
paintbrushes
magnets
hot glue

This was another cheap and fast craft. I saw these little wooden cut outs in the fall section at Hobby Lobby for $0.49 each. I grabbed a pumpkin and an acorn. I made Thing One wear an apron to work with the acrylic paint, but then let him just go at it. He painted the acorn green and then decide to paint over it with the gold (because preschoolers can't leave a provided color unused). I think it came out really cool! Then we used a toothpick to make a couple highlights on the pumpkin too. 


Once the paint was dry I hot glued a button magnet on the back of each. Always make sure you are gluing the magnetic side out before you stick it on there--just a little tip from me to you : )



3. Pumpkin Stamping

Materials:

paper
bottle tops (like milk jugs)
any round recycled material : )
TP tube + duct tape
orange paint
green marker

I love doing crafts from the recycle bin. For this one we used recycled tops and containers to make a stamped pumpkin patch. 


I actually liked the bottom of the yogurt carton the best.  It was cool to have different sizes and shapes, all free again. Although I think Thing One's favorite stamp was his finger. So you could save yourself so time on the materials round up and just make a whole patch of finger-print pumpkins : )


We made the pumpkin with stripes by cutting a TP tube in thirds and then cutting little pieces out of two of the sections. Then I taped them together and put them all inside of each other, securing with a piece of duct tape on the bottom.

 4. Slimy String Pumpkins

Materials:

orange yarn or string
brown or green yarn
green yarn
glue
a small bowl
wax paper
baking sheet or piece of stiff cardboard
optional- glitter glue, marker

This is a really fun hands-on activity, although it does take some patience to wait for the final product. This project was inspired by one I saw at I Can Teach My Child
For younger kids draw some pumpkin shapes (about 3-6 inches seemed good for us) on the wax paper to give the kiddos a pattern to follow.
Empty about 1/2 a bottle of glue into the bowl and mix in a couple tablespoons of water to make it a more watery consistency. We also added some glitter glue for a little sparkle. Cut a long piece of orange yarn and put it in the glue. Mix it around until it is totally coated in the glue.


Next, arrange the slimy yarn inside the pumpkin pattern making sure to stretch to all the edges and try to spread out any clumpy parts. 


Then repeat the glue process with a much smaller piece of brown or green yarn, and arrange at the top of the pumpkin to make a stem. Be sure to loop the stem around a few of the pumpkin strings to make sure they will stay attached. Fill all the pumpkin spaces. Then allow to dry overnight.


You can then thread a long piece of green yarn through all the pumpkins and make a pumpkin patch bunting if you want.


Here's the part where I tell you I didn't follow the directions. It was taking forever to dry so I thought I would put it in the oven for a little bit (I did about an hour at 200º). It finally did dry out the yarn, but by then it was completely wax-welded to the wax paper, so there was no getting it off. I had to just cut out the pumpkin shapes and I threaded the "vine" right through the wax paper (which I actually think gives it a lot of stability and you  can hardly see it unless you are really close.) Kind of my kids craft "make it work" moment I guess.


Phew! That's a lot of Fall crafts! I hope that you are enjoying the weather and some fun time with your kiddos if you have them.
Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Have you ever had one of the pumpkin muffins at Starbucks? I don't usually love cream cheese frosting, but I love it in the middle of these muffins. It just goes together perfectly. A few years ago I got this pumpkin muffin recipe at a church event. It was a healthy holiday recipes workshop, and I've been making these ever since. I just recently added the cream cheese filling and like them now even more. They are probably among the top five most delicious things I can make, and they are incredibly easy (three ingredients? yeah that's easy). Today I'm sharing the recipe with you so you can have strangers stop you in the store to ask how you made those delicious little muffins (yep it's happened; they are that good).  


I usually make these as mini muffins. This recipe makes more than four dozen of the minis, so you can eat a bunch and still share a plate with a neighbor. 


If you want to add the cream cheese filling however, you should make them as regular muffins.

Pumpkin Muffins

Ingredients

- 1 box cake mix (yellow, spice, white, really anything but chocolate)*
- 1 can pumpkin (15 oz.)
- 1/2 cup water

* add 1/4 cup flour to dry cake mix if at high altitude.
**when making mini muffins I also add 1 egg. I find this makes them even lighter and fluffier, but for the regular muffins you want them to be a little denser (so don't add the egg) if you are going to add the filling.

Directions

Combine dry cake mix, water, and pumpkin and mix thoroughly. Spoon into greased muffin pans.
Bake at 350º 
17-19 min. for mini muffins  
20-25 min. for regular muffins. 

Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

- 1 block neufchâtel (cream) cheese (8 oz.) - softened
- 2-3 cups powdered sugar 
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Directions

Use a mixer to mix cream cheese plus one cup of powdered sugar and spices. After completely combined add another cup of the sugar and mix thoroughly. Taste frosting. If desired, add one more cup of sugar. 


To fill muffins: use a frosting bag fitted with a filling tip (it's the long skinny one) to fill regular size muffins with the frosting, inserting the tip one inch, filling and finishing with a little dollop on top. Sprinkle with more pumpkin pie spice if desired. 

This also makes an amazing fall dip for sliced apples.


I hope that you are enjoying beautiful fall weather this week. There's nothing that goes better with crisp air and crunchy leaves than hot coffee and a pumpkin muffins.

Thanks for reading!
- Haley



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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fall Crafting Challenge

If you read other craft blogs you've maybe seen how some bloggers get sent products or materials to try out or to make into something creative. I like it when several blogs are sent the same stuff and they all come up with something so different. Anyway, I'm not one of those bloggers who gets free stuff, not from big companies anyway. But the other day my sister gave me some fabric and I couldn't decide what to do with it. So I thought I would have my own little craft challenge.


I checked around the house for some other stuff I wanted to use. 


Project 1:  I made a little liner for this small shoe box. It folds over the top and looks just like one of those little baskets you can by at Target or wherever. But I forgot to take a picture of the finished project, and already gave it away. It was cute, I know you'll take my word for it.  

Project 2 was a little more involved. 


I used the gifted fabric on the outside and some tan fabric from my stash for the inside lining. I added a couple of small pockets to the inside, 



and I used the sisal rope for the handles.


I made the liner about three inches longer than the bag and just folded it over and sewed it down twice. I didn't bother hemming it, because I figured with the look I was going for a little fraying would be fine.  I also tried my hand at eyelets for the handle straps. Once I used both a top and bottom it was really easy : ) 


I like the mismatched textures and fabrics, even though it's a little different.


For the bottom I used a little scrap piece of upholstery I bought a long time ago in one of those remnant grab bags they sell at Hobby Lobby. Have you ever bought those? They usually only cost about $6, and it's just a random set of small cuts of fabric. It's another motivator to come up with creative projects.


Speaking of creative projects, here's what I made a while ago with the rest of the upholstery fabric. He's filled with rice, and Thing One really likes him. 


So you don't have to get a corporate sponsor to try something you've never tried or make something you maybe wouldn't have normally made. I hope my goofy projects might inspire a little extra creativity at your house to.  Good Luck!


 Thanks for reading!
- Haley

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