Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Red, White & Blue Salad

I can not believe 4th of July is next week. Where is the summer going? We are burning up here, both figuratively and literally. If you've been watching the news you know that we have had five days in a row over 100º (like 106º!!) and half our state is on fire. We are praying for rain, and for the thousands of firefighters battling the blazes and we're mostly staying inside out of the heat and sometimes smoke. 

I had five popsicles yesterday and did not feel like cooking anything that requires heat. I'm thankful that our garden is starting to offer up some produce and that means easy salads. Our favorite salad is usually a sweet one (meaning fruit toppings rather than veggies), so in light of the 4th I thought I'd share this red, white and blue salad we made this week. 

Red, White & Blue Salad:

sliced sweet cherries
chopped pears
feta cheese
chopped or halved pecans or sliced almonds
mixed lettuce greens
poppyseed dressing or raspberry vinaigrette 

You could of course add chicken if you wanted to make it more of a meal. 

Keep Calm and Don't Play with Matches.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. Our town has a 4th of July picnic contest every year and I'm brainstorming our entry for this year, so I'm hoping to share more 4th of July projects with you next week.  : )

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Very Eric Carle Day

I signed Thing One up for  the summer reading program at our local library, so we've been going to story times and checking out lots of books so he can get in all his reading. A few weeks ago he checked out The Artist Who Painted A Blue Horse, by Eric Carle. He loved it and when we returned it we picked up several more Eric Carle books. We also have a few from Kohls. With all the E.C. books around I thought it would be fun to do an Eric Carle themed day (I told you, I love a theme!). I set out a stack of books for him to look at whenever he wanted, but I kept out a few to do something special.

I rounded up a few bags and made three sets of book bags. When I was in elementary school we got to check out book bags once a week. It was a bag with a story and a matching stuffed animal that you could read to. I loved book bags and because of that I am often a huge sucker for those Kohls Cares for Kids sets, which all have a matching stuffed animal. Even though we did buy some E.C. books at Kohls this year I didn't buy any of the stuffed animals, so I just found stuffed animals that we had.

Throughout the day I would let him choose a bag and he excitedly opened it with wonder, and read each one to the coordinating animal. It's amazing how a little thing like hiding a book in a bag can create so much excitement and anticipation. 

I also wanted to do an activity or two to go with the books. I really love Eric Carle's art. As I was looking through some of his books I noticed that the inside covers of several books really just look like finger paint; totally something a kid could do.

So we set out to make some Carle-esque art with finger paint.

I think they turned out pretty awesome. Thing One used Q-tips to paint on the blue one, and the back of the paint brush to make the squiggles on the orange. He was pretty excited that he could paint just like Eric Carle.

While we are on the subject I thought I'd show you a few pictures from The Very Hungry Caterpillar baby shower we did for my sister in law a while back. All the food was from the book, and labeled right from the story. I showed you the ice cream cone/cakes already.

My other sister -in-law made a cute diaper cake with food cut-outs from the story

We of course put up books everywhere. We also made a caterpillar with pictures of the Mommy-to-be every month of her pregnancy.

My favorite part was probably these little favors. They were tiny pots of basil with mini pom-pom caterpillars. "The caterpillar ate through one nice green leaf, and after that he felt much better."

That's our homage to Eric Carle. Since Thing One like this so much I think we will probably do other book themes through the summer (we do have lots of stuffed animal book companions), but I will probably stretch them out over a week instead of all in a day (the Eric Carle idea was kind of a last minute idea one night). It's fun to come up with activities that go with the stories. I hope you are getting in lots of summer reading!

Thanks for coming by.
- Haley

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Easy as {cream} Pie

It has been hot here. It was 100º yesterday, and that is no-bake weather in my book. For Father's day I brought the dessert and I decided to go with a couple of cool cream pies: white chocolate mocha, and s'mores. If you are looking for a crowd-pleasing, 5-minute, no-bake dessert; this is it. 

For the white chocolate mocha: I used a chocolate graham cracker crust and then I swirled some magic shell around the bottom. Put it in the freezer for a few minutes and it will form a solid chocolate layer. This is my cheater method because then I don't have to melt chocolate. Man, you can be lazy these days. 

Then I mixed up two packages of white chocolate instant pudding using 3 1/4 cups of milk and 1/4 cup of coffee concentrate, made using the toddy maker (which you can read about here if you missed it). I let it set up in the fridge and then poured it into the crust, but you can just let it set up in the crust if you want.

Finally, I topped it off with a tub of whipped cream and chopped dark chocolate-covered coffee beans. What is not to love about this pie? Just looking at this makes me really want a piece. I guess I should say another piece...

For the S'mores pie I used a short bread crust (because that's what I had on hand, even though, obviously a graham cracker crust would be even more fitting) filled with chocolate pudding.

Then topped it with mini marshmallows and chopped graham cracker and chocolate bar pieces. I didn't think of this until later, but it would have been fun to torch the top a little and melt the marshmallows. I don't have one of those tiny kitchen flame throwers or I probably would have done that. 

As an extra cool-desserts-for-hot-weather note: I turned some of the chocolate coconut dip into little popsicles today. Wow is that good. I immediately ate two. Thing One started asking for them at 8:30 this morning. It was already 82º. I plan to eat at least two tomorrow, and I don't even feel guilty about that...they're good for you! Have another one, it's hot! Hope you are staying cool. 

Thanks for reading!
- Haley

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Of Strawberries and Sandy Shores

We just got home from a long road trip to see our family in Michigan. I told my husband on the way home that I love traveling because it makes the world feel smaller and bigger at the same time. Do you know what I mean? 

We had a great time and I thought I'd share some of the highlights. If you never thought of Michigan as a vacation destination you might reconsider. : ) One of my fond memories of summer vacations to Michigan is strawberry picking. 

I guess it's kind of like treasure hunting for me. See those little red gems? 

Five and a half of us went picking. The berries were smaller than usual, so at first we thought it was going to take a long time.

But pretty soon strawberries were spilling into the crates by the handful.

And before long the crates were heavy with ripe, red fruits.

My goal is always to pick enough that we have to eat them for every meal in order to eat them before they go bad. Mission accomplished. See Thing One's mini basket? He was quite the little berry picker. A boy after his Mom's own heart. : )

Later in the week we went up to a friend's beach house on Lake Michigan. We stayed in Arcadia, a tiny little town on the coast. My grandma took us all to ice cream at this awesome little shop. It was the best ice cream I've ever had and the shop itself was so cute. They have a story behind every piece of wood in there. Part of the bar is made out of pieces that used to be an old church. It was a step back in time.

We also made it to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. It was the first hike I've ever done that was easier without shoes (most of the time). A crazy thought for a girl that's used to hiking in the mountains. It was so beautiful. We are already missing the beach.

On the way back from the dunes we spotted this chocolate shop. Half an hour later and a little bit poorer we emerged with our chocolate prizes: dark chocolate covered cocoa nibs, dark chocolate nibbling disks, and earl grey chocolate bars. Wow. Little road-side stands and shops like this are my favorite; the road less traveled.

I'm so thankful we got to go on this trip and experience all this stuff with our kids and all our family. We all stayed at the same house by the beach so it smacked of Dan in Real Life, and we loved it, but we are glad to be home. I don't know when our next adventure will be, or where it will lead us, but I'm thanking God for this one and for the privilege of living in such an awesome and diverse country. I hope you are having some summer fun and that you enjoyed Father's day!

Thanks for reading.
- Haley

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sidewalk Paint & Popsicle Holders

We recently tried another Pinspired kid project. I found the info on how to make this sidewalk chalk at Mom's Crafty Space. Basically it's 1:1 cornstarch and water then divide and add a few drops of food coloring. 

The first time we did 1:2 cornstartch:water, like Heidi suggested.

Thing One loved it!

It looked kind of watery as we were doing it,

but when it dried it looked like this.

The second time we tried closer to a 1:1 ratio, for a little bit thicker paint. I think I liked that better. Plus when we were doing it it was so hot it dried as we were painting it on. It was cool to watch.

Even my Hubby tried his overly artistic hand at it. It's really fun to do. 

Seriously, this is one of those things that you are glad you have kids for so you can spend your days doing this. Meaning: you should try this even if you don't have kids. : )

 We even tried the flicking method (I'm sure that's the artistic term for it). So modern. So Jackson Pollock.

Thing One spent most of his time drawing letters. They still hold a magical power to him. (They are cool by themselves, but they can be combined to make words. What?!!)

Anyway, as I mentioned, it was HOT. So after we quickly used up all our sidewalk paint we retreated to the shade for some icy treats. I love that Snapple makes these popsicles now. They feel like the grown-up version of the summer kids' classic; in yummy flavors too.

They feel more grown-up because they aren't dyed crazy colors. Which is nice because I'm kind of over having a blue tongue. 

Whenever we have these kind of popsicles I whip out the popsicle sleeve I made for Thing One. Especially when he was even younger he hated holding anything cold, but he did like to eat popsicles. Since I wasn't going to stand there with his popsicle for him every time he ate one, I just made him a little holder. These are so easy to make. It's just two layers of felt cut to 2 1/4 in. x 4 in., and sewn (or hot glued) 1/4 inch from the side edges. Keeps summer cool and little hands warm.

I hope you are having some fun in the sun! 
Thanks for reading!
- Haley

Thursday, June 7, 2012


It's time to highlight another awesome organization that's making a difference in the world. This month I chose Compassion International. In their own words here's what Compassion does:

"In response to the Great Commission, Compassion International exists as an advocate for children, to release them from their spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enable them to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults.

Founded by the Rev. Everett Swanson in 1952, Compassion began providing Korean War orphans with food, shelter, education and health care, as well as Christian training.

Today, Compassion helps more than 1.2 million children in 26 countries."

Monthly sponsorship of a child provides food, health and hygiene training, medical checkups, educational opportunities, and funding for programs at a local compassion center or church. 

We sponsored a little girl last fall. Her name is Ruth and she shares a birthday with Thing One : ) It was something that we had thought about doing for a while, and then just finally did. It's kind of a big commitment. When you sign up you are supposed to plan on sticking with your kiddo until he or she is an adult. Ruth is six. It's going to be awesome to watch her grow and hear from her several times a year. I love that Compassion encourages sponsors to go and visit their sponsored child(ren). I feel like that's a lot of transparency especially when sponsors actually go, which we hope to do someday. I also love the updates we get from Compassion, regional Compassion staff,  and even her local pastor. I feel like they are keeping us in the know and telling us more about what's going on there in Guatemala. 

Sponsoring Ruth has affected our family more than I thought it would. It has turned out to be an excellent opportunity to teach Thing One about poverty, culture, and caring about others. Compassion sent us a book mark with ideas of things to pray for Ruth each day. Every night when we pray for Ruth we also end up talking about what each request means and how we want to develop the same character ourselves that we are praying for Ruth to develop (like tender hearts, the ability to resist peer pressure, and trusting God for everything). Putting our focus daily on someone with so much less, is a constant reality check and one I wouldn't want to do without now. 

If your kids are a little older they might like Quest for Compassion, it's an interactive online program that lets kids learn about poverty and how it affects children; and how other cultures differ from our own. The Compassion website is full of good resources for teaching kids to have compassion and a desire to help others. They even have a little quarterly magazine for kids. We are totally getting this in a few years. 

I hope that you will take a minute to check out the Compassion International website and see the great stuff that is happening with kids in 26 countries around the world. If you are looking to invest in a worthy organization that's making a difference for kids, may I humbly suggest this one?  

Thanks for reading. I'm including a few poverty facts below in case anyone is interested.

Poverty FactsLearn the facts about poverty and how it affects children in need and their families.
  • Every day 1,500 women die from complications in pregnancy or childbirth that could have been prevented. Each day 10,000newborns die within a month of birth, and daily the same number of babies are also born dead.
  • Children under age 18 make up nearly 48 percent of the population of the world's least developed countries, compared with 21 percent of the population of the world's industrialized nations.
  • More than 1.6 billion people lack access to electricity and modern forms of energy.
  • Over 1.4 billion people in the developing world live below the poverty line (U.S.$1.25 per day).
  • Annual world economy breaks down like this:
    1. Low Income, $935 or less: 37%
    2. Lower Middle Income, $936 to $3,705: 38%
    3. Upper Middle Income, $3,706 to $11,455: 9%
    4. High Income, $11,456 or more: 16%
  • In developing countries, approximately 130 million children and teens — age 17 or under — have lost one or both parents.
  • More than 9 million children under age 5 die each year. Two-thirds of these deaths — more than 6 million every year — are preventable.
  • Approximately one-third of the world's poor people live inIndia.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Summer Bath Stickers

I know I already posted about how to make your own foam bath "stickers," but I thought you might want to see our newest collection. I made Thing One a summer set. We are planning a trip to the beach this summer so I wanted to do a beach scene, complete with wildlife.

I forgot to mention this last time, but the trick I use to cut out good looking shapes is to first draw the shape lightly on the foam with the scissor point. It makes a slight indent in the foam and then you can look at it and adjust it (trace new lines) if you want. Then when you're happy with it, cut it out and other lines you traced will disappear in a few minutes so you don't have any pen or trace marks and you don't waste any foam if you don't do a great job on the first one. I'm not a super artist, so I am a big fan of lots of chances to get it right! (Yes, I'm the mom that draws something and then nervously asks my kid, "Look what I drew." and half the time he says, "What is it?" and then I say, "It's a duck!" and he says "Oh yeah it kinda looks like a duck...a little bit.") 

I drew on them with fine point permanent markers again to create some details. I only had a few colors of foam on hand, but when you work with what you've got you get something new for free : )

Thing One has been begging me to make him some letters. He's really into spelling right now, so I made some that I think he will be able to make quite a few short word combos out of.

And now for something disturbing: I had heard once that rubber squirty bath toys can collect bacteria that you can't get out. I didn't think it would happen to us. I rinsed his toys every time, bought a special container to drain and keep them in, and tried to squirt the water out of the toys most the time. But alas a couple of months ago we became suspicious that his toys could be collecting gunk inside. So I cut open a rubber duck and it was grey-black inside. I immediately threw out all of his toys that suck up water. And now foam stickers are our bath toy of choice.  The other thing I love about these bath toys is that they fit into a flat little ziplock so they are perfect to bring with you when you travel.

I'll let you go look suspiciously at your kid's squirty bath toys now. I'm sorry that you'll never see them the same way. But on the bright side, these foam scenes are cheap and easy to make : )

Thanks for reading.
- Haley

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