Thursday, June 30, 2011

There and Back Again...

Tonight I will, once again, board an airplane with my little girls (and the help of my husband for the first time EVER!) and head out for a vacation! We are headed to Utah to visit both of our families, and although Kevin will be back in a week, I won't be home until the end of July. What does that mean for you? Well, if you are in Utah it means a possible visit :) If not, it just means I won't be posting very often... if even at all. Anyway, I hope you all have a fantastic and fun filled July! See you soon!


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes

Today I thought I'd skip my regular calorie-packed-recipe and give you one of my FAVORITE healthy recipes instead. I found this Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes recipe by Laura Zapalowski on the My Recipes website and it is AMAZING! So here goes:

  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups halved grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese (I used twice as much!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cook asparagus in boiling water 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain.
  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and garlic; cook 5 minutes. Stir in vinegar; cook 3 minutes. Stir in salt. Arrange asparagus on a platter; top with tomato mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and pepper.
(Personal note: I cut up my asparagus before cooking and then added it to the tomato mixture when the heat was off to get more flavor. I also added pine nuts to the tomatoes and it really added a nice touch to the meal. Then, I served it with Parmesan and butter rice. YUMMO!)

Hope you all get a chance to try this out. HAPPY COOKING!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Outdoor Adventures: Backyard Camping by Erin Uda

Today we’re setting up camp – city style!
(click here to find image source on: The Reed Life)

Put up a tent in your backyard (or garage/living room if the weather doesn’t cooperate). Pack it full of blankets, pillows, flashlights and camp snacks. Set up a picnic or craft table nearby, and make a ‘campfire’ out of colored cellophane and toilet paper rolls. Put a flashlight or small electric lantern in the middle to simulate real fire. If you want a more realistic effect, place a small fan at the bottom to make the cellophane move and crackle.

(click here to find image source and tutorial on: Ape 2 Zebra)

You could keep things simple by reading and playing in your tent for as long as you choose to leave it up, but here are some fun activities to try:
  • Inflate an air mattress or pool float and put it on the grass. Have your children lie on it and pretend to be Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. What do they see as they float down the river? What kind of adventures do they have? This can be altered to fit any storyline.
  • Put two ‘rafts’ next to each other and give each raft a supply of water balloons. Tell the children they’re pirates and see who can take over the enemy ship. If you don’t want to use water balloons, blow up some beach balls and use them as cannons for a unique version of dodgeball.
  • Pool noodle wars are always fun. Use the noodle as a sword and see who wins the battle.
(click here to find image source and tutorial on: Dandee)
  • Go on a trail ride using stick horses. Take turns being the lead rider.
  • Learn some camp craft together – my favorite is the plastic lanyard key chain, but there are a ton of kits out there. Check out Oriental Trading Company or Tandy Leather for ideas. Try making dream catchers, friendship bracelets, bookmarks, wallets, and more. One of my favorite sites is, which shows you how to make amazing things like roses and wallets with Duck Tape.
  • Go fishing! Use a toddler/wading pool and fill it with water. Place some fish (made out of duck tape, with a magnet in the center) in the pool. Hang a piece of string from a stick and put another magnet at the end of the string. Let the kids see how many fish they can catch. Another option is to give them all a specific color to catch, and use a few different colors of duck tape for your fish.
It’s always a good idea to learn camp skills. Try working on a few of the following while you’re outside:
  • Learn how to tie some basic knots. The square knot and slip knots are the easiest, but knots like the half-hitch and the sheep-shank are relatively easy to learn and very useful. Grab some rope or cord from the garage, or use shoelaces as a last resort. Once they’ve learned a few, hold a knot relay race, or create some fun situations where they can use their new knot-tying skills.
  • Go on another nature walk and collect a bunch of flowers, leaves and other items. Set up a station at the picnic table where the children can create rubbings, pressed flowers, or collages. If you don’t have much nature nearby, grab some Popsicle sticks and glue them together to make fun camp items like a jewelry box or a bird cage. Or just pick some grass and try to make whistles.
  • Make a flag for your camp out of some fabric and markers or paint. If you don’t have material handy, use a plain-colored pillowcase. Once you’re finished, tie it to a tall stick and fix it in the ground near your tent. You may need to use a pot or a few large stones to make sure it stays upright.
Camp isn’t camp without the food, and who doesn’t want a night without dishes? Try a few of the following ideas when it’s time to feed your campers:
  • Tin foil dinners are easy and can be done in your oven. Check out THIS LINK for a few starter tips, then have dinner outside around the campfire together. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different ingredients; it’s like a single-serving casserole!
  • Grill hotdogs on your ‘fire,’ by putting some pre-cooked dogs on skewers and having your children hold them over the fire until they cool.Then doctor them up with your favorite condiments.

  • Trail mix is a great snack; make it even more fun by telling the children they have to eat it while hiking around the yard. I recently tried some trail mix cookies and they were incredible!We used peanut butter cookies as the base and added in ¼ cup each oats, raisins and mini chocolate chips, plus ½ cup of regular size M&Ms.
  • My favorite camp treats are s’mores. Naomi posted an incredible recipe for BAKED S'MORES earlier, but if you want a few more unique takes on this treat, check out THIS LINK.
Once you’ve eaten, you may be tempted to go inside, but there are so many things about camp that are unique to the dark. Try a few of these ideas before you hit the sleeping bag:
  • Play flashlight tag. Same rules as regular tag, only you ‘tag’ someone by turning on your flashlight and hitting them with the beam. Note: only play this in a safe area, since you’ll be running around in the dark.
  • Tell ghost stories to each other. You can do this sitting around the fire or cuddled up in the tent. Either way, you should have something fun to do afterward or your little ones may not be able to sleep.
  • Take some time to look at the night sky. Being in the city, the stars won’t be nearly as bright as they are in the woods, but you can still find the big dipper, the north star, and a few of the more famous constellations.
  • Watch a movie projected on the wall. If you don’t have a projector, hang a blanket on a clothes line and use a bright flashlight or lantern to make a shadow puppet show.
  • Sing songs around the campfire. There are a ton of songs to choose from, but THIS SITE has all the ones I remember from my years at camp, plus tons more!
  • If you’re worried about losing your little one in the dark, try putting a light stick around his neck. He’ll love the ‘light saber’ and you’ll love knowing exactly where he is. If you’re looking for a light-related craft, try combining a button cell battery, and an LED diode (one wire on each side; there is a right and wrong side) and taping them together with electric tape. Add a magnet if you want to attach it to something. It will work for hours.
Suggested Reading:
  • Cam Jansen and the summer camp mysteries, David A. Adler (Call #: J Adler; ISBN: 9780142407424)
  • The Berenstain Bears Go to Camp, Stan and Jan Berenstain (Call #: P Berenstein; ISBN: 0394851315)
  • Curious George Goes Camping, Margaret and H.A. Rey (Call #: P Rey; ISBN: 9780395978351)
  • S is for S’mores, A Camping Alphabet, Helen Foster James (Call #: P James; ISBN: 9781585363025)
  • The Morrow Guide to Knots (Call #: 623; ISBN: 9780688012267)
  • The Art of Hand Shadows, Albert Almoznino (Call # 791.5; ISBN: 9780486418766)
  • Duck Tents, Lynne Berry (Call #: P Berry; ISBN: 9780805086966)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Family Home Evening: Brigham Young on Thrift

For this week's Family Home Evening, we will be learning about the Prophet Brigham Young!

Opening Wiggle Song: Hinges (click on song name for music)

Opening Reverent Song: I am a Child of God (click on song name for music)

Opening Prayer: Given by Daddy

Lesson: Given by Mommy

Lesson Plan: Today we are going to learn about a prophet of God. A prophet is a living person who helps us to know what Heavenly Father wants us to do. This is the Prophet Brigham Young:

Brigham Young was the second Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He taught us to be thrifty and self reliant and said “Instead of searching after what the Lord is going to do for us, let us inquire what we can do for ourselves.”

Being thrifty is when we make good decisions with our money and other belongings so we don't waste and so we can save up for more important things.
Lesson Application: Today we are going to practice being thrifty by going to a THRIFT STORE and picking something out that we need, or that we can make into something we need/want, for a cheaper price! Everyone can have a certain amount of money to spend, such as $2-$5, and can pick out their own item.

You can get anything really, like a new toy, pot, or book. Or you can buy something like an over sized sweater and turn it into a SKIRT just like Rachel Hutton did on the website Ready Made.

You can even decide to combine your money to buy something like a night stand that you can turn into a PLAY KITCHEN just like Toni did on her blog Design and Dazzle!

(The actual shopping and project making can be done on separate days so you don't get overwhelmed.)

When you are all done with your activity, end with a closing song and prayer.

Closing Song: The Family (click on song name for music)

Closing Prayer: Given by Brooklyn

Treats: Prepared by Lily (and Mommy)... Chewy Coconut Lime Sugar Cookies!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Just some thoughts in rhyme...

Great Expectations

By Naomi Hanks

Before they came into my life

I thought I’d be the perfect wife

Clean and neat and organized

Social, fun, full of surprise.

And motherhood would be a cinch

There’d be no wrongs, no! Not an inch!

For each would have their own safe place

Their private things, their tidy space

No boogers running down the nose

Each child would smell just like a rose.

We’d cook and play and read together

Run outside despite the weather

The TV power never on

Cause we’d do crafts while dad was gone.

Play dates, preschool, training wheels

Princess parties, happy squeals

Stay at home mom come and get me!

I’ll rule the world if you’ll let me!”

Then I married my prince charming

And found marriage could be alarming.

There were hogged covers and snores all night

Crazy war movies that gave me a fright

Battles to control the money

Feelings hurt when not called “honey”

And I got tired, fat and frumpy

Left a mess that made us grumpy

Violated personal space

Forgot to react with love and grace.

But as the time has passed us by

Many things have caught my eye,

Not only does my love wash dishes

Do the laundry and blow me kisses

But he cheers me on and gives me praise

Stops me when I start to graze

Makes the bed and helps with dinner

Earns us money, thinks I’m a winner

Makes me laugh and buys me treats

And tries to help me keep things neat.

And even though he doesn’t know

Where anything in our house goes

I know he loves me, every bit

And on our marriage, will NEVER quit!

And what about said “Motherhood”?

I’m not the best, but I’m still good.

My kids are loud and love to fight

But I still teach them to do what’s right.

They spend most days dressed in pajamas

Are sometimes rude to both their grandmas

Their noses run and I don’t wipe them

And they watch TV like it’s a rare gem.

But we still laugh and dance and play

Albeit, not every day...

And when they do bathe, it’s a party!

And what I feed them is mostly hardy

And when they cry, I wipe their tears

Brush off their knees, and chase their fears.

I love them both and they both know it

Cause every day I try to show it.

Not with ponies, or pink dresses

But by cleaning up their messes.

And not with presents or fancy food

But by teaching them to not be rude.

So nothing turned out how I thought

My fantasies were all for naught

But I lucked out and got something better

Relationships that will endure all weather!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thousand Dollar Bars and a Guilty Confession

So, I'm obviously not doing great at only blogging in the evening these last few weeks. As it turns out, I'm helping to put on a big Luau with my church, for the community. Dance lessons and costume making have taken over my evenings and due to the large amount of people I am working with, I've been forced to check my email several times a day to keep things coordinated... which in turn, has caused me to become re-addicted to the computer, and to blog during my mornings. THERE! I confessed! And that's the first step, right?! RIGHT?!

Anyway, if you are in the Chicago area, you are welcome to attend. It is F-R-E-E to all and there will be great food and fun entertainment!

But if you're just feeling like being a homebody this weekend, you might want to try this Thousand Dollar Bar recipe that I found on the King Arthur Flour blog instead. As always, my creation doesn't look anywhere near as wonderful as the picture that accompanied the recipe, but putting that aside, these tasted AMAZING!!!

Thousand Dollar Bars:

Shortbread layer
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
Carmel Layer
  • 2 cups Carmel cut into small chunks
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
Chocolate Layer
  • 3 cups chopped milk chocolate or dark chocolate, melted (I used chocolate chips)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening (optional)


1) FOR THE CRUST: Preheat your oven to 300°F. Spray a 9" x 13" pan lightly with cooking spray, or line with parchment, and set aside.

2) In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla. Add the flour. At first the mixture may seem dry, but will come together as you continue to beat at medium speed.

3) Take the dough (it will be somewhat stiff) and press it evenly into the pan. Lightly flouring your fingertips will help with any sticking.

4) Prick the crust all over with a fork. The holes will allow steam to escape and the crust will bake evenly with fewer bubbles.

5) Bake the crust until it's lightly golden brown on top and the edges are deeper golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately run a knife around the edges to loosen the crust. Set it aside to cool completely.

6) FOR THE CARAMEL LAYER: Melt the caramel and cream over low heat in a small saucepan. Pour the caramel over the cooled crust and set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill and firm up.

7) FOR THE CHOCOLATE LAYER: Melt the milk or dark chocolate slowly in a double boiler or over very low heat. If it seems very thick, add a tablespoon of shortening to thin it. Pour evenly over the chilled caramel layer and spread to cover all of the caramel. Return to the fridge until the chocolate is well set. Cut into 2" x 2" squares to serve. It's best to store these bars in the refrigerator.

8) These bars can also be cut and dipped in milk chocolate to resemble Twix ® bars. After the caramel layer has chilled firm, cut down the length of the pan, splitting the bars into two long, narrow bars. Then cut each long strip into "fingers". Dip the chilled bars into melted chocolate and place on parchment paper to set for several hours.

I made them for Kevin for Father's Day and they were a HUGE hit. So give it a try if you get the chance, you'll love them. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Outdoor Adventures: Bugs by Erin Uda

Bugs. They’re creepy, crawly, shiny and gross. But kids love them. So today we’re going to explore our world on a miniature level.

Start by going outside and lying in the grass. Close your eyes and listen to the nature noises all around you. What other senses can you use with your eyes closed? Smell the grass and the fresh air. Feel the warm sun on your skin. Listen to the birds, the wind and the bugs. If you hear noises you can’t identify, try to figure out what’s making them.

While you’re lying so still, watch how many bugs magically appear around you. See how many you can find and talk about what it might be like to be a bug and live outside in such a giant world. If you’re looking for a game to play while you’re out here, try our bug bingo checklist.

Now that you have an idea of where all the bugs are hiding, try to catch a few. Nets and bug vacuums are wonderful tools that can be found at any toy store, but don’t underestimate the power of two hands and a little patience. Look under rocks or where there are tell-tale signs of life, like ant hills. Use a magnifying glass to look at your new friends and make notes about the environment where you discovered them. If you’re going to have your bug friend over to stay for a while, you’ll need to make sure all the same items are in his box: leaves, dirt, rocks, twigs, flowers, moss, a bit of water, etc.

If you’d like to sing while you’re searching, modify the words to the song “Going on a Bear Hunt” to say “Going on a Bug Hunt.” You can find the original lyrics and tune at this site:

If you can’t find any bugs where you live, there are plenty of sites where you can purchase live bug kits. Click on the image below to be directed to one of them!

It’s a good idea to make a bug habitat before you go on your bug hunt. Store-bought ones are easy, but homegrown ones are just as fun – all you need is a box or jar with holes in the top. You’ll add all the extras to either option when you catch your bugs.

Now that you have some new bug friends, do some research together to know more about them. What kind of bugs are they, if you don’t already know? What do they eat? Where do they live? How long do they live? How do they grow? What makes them special? This is a great time to educate your child about the bugs’ life-cycle, habitat and food. If you can’t care for your bugs long-term, plan on letting them go after about 2 days.

Now that you’ve seen them in action and learned more about them, pretend to be a bug! Make tunnels like ants, put on a ‘stinger’ (I recommend toilet paper rolls or birthday hats) and play tag with your bums (I call this Bee Tag), do the crab walk or hold spider relays. Or make up your own game using a part of the bug you found.

You can also take a field trip to a natural museum to see the insect display. It can be fascinating for your little one to see all the different kinds of butterflies, beetles and other creepy crawlies science has documented. Talk about your child’s favorite one and bring along supplies to draw a picture.

If you really want to see the world from a bug’s perspective, try watching a movie. There are plenty of amazing documentaries out there if you think your child would be interested, but even “A Bug’s Life” would be fun after these activities.

(Click on image for source)

Suggested Reading: (See call number 595 for a wide variety of non-fiction books on bugs)

  • Big Book of Bugs – Theresa Greenaway, DK (ISBN: 9780789465207; Call #: 591.53)
  • The Transmogrification of Roscoe Wizzle – David A Elliot (ISBN: 0763611735; Call #:J Elliott)
  • The Very Lonely Firefly – Eric Carle (ISBN: 9780399227745; Call #: P Carle) See also: The Hungry Caterpillar, The Grouchy Ladybug, The Very Busy Spider
  • Ant Cities – Arthur Dorros (ISBN: 0690045700; Call #: J 595.796 D7379)
  • Bug Boy – Carol Sonenklar (ISBN: 0805047948; Call #:J Sonenklar)
  • My Father’s Hands – Joanne Ryder (ISBN: 068809189X; P Ryder)
  • Miss Spider’s Tea Party – David Kirk (ISBN: 0590477242; Call #: P Kirk) Look for others in this series, as well as a TV cartoon series about Miss Spider. See also: Miss Spider’s ABCs