Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Orange Creamsicle Cookies

So the other day I was looking for a fun cookie recipe to make for my Book of Mormon Book Club and I stumbled on THIS recipe on The Girl who ate Everything via Pinterest. The recipe was both simple and tasty, so I decided to share it with you all today. Hope you enjoy it!

Orange Creamsicle Cookies

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I used freshly ground whole wheat flour)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened (I used butter flavored Crisco in place of the butter because one of the ladies in our group is lactose intolerant)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons orange zest (for me that was the zest of 1 large orange)
2 cups Guitard Choc-Au-Lait Vanilla Chips (I used Ghirardelli white chips)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add flour mixture until combined. Stir in orange zest and chips.

Drop rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Do not flatten cookies; it will make them dry. Bake 8 - 10 minutes or until golden brown around edges. Do not overcook! Cookies will be plump. Cool for several minutes on cookie sheets before transferring to rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The "D" Date

Today was our "D" Date and it was SOOO much fun! First we Dropped off our girls with the babysitters, then we Drove to the Dollar Store where we picked out Disguises for each other (I got to be a Dinosaur and Kevin wore some burgundy Dreads) and then we bought some Drinks. Then we Drove to a Disc golf course and played 18 holes. (The first 9 were Disturbing but we DID improve the second time around!) Kevin Dominated, getting a score of -6 and I did OK for my first try with +15.

When we were Done, Kevin (somewhat Dangerously) Drove home and unfortunately caused the Death of a squirrel... but that wasn't part of the plan! Anyway, we had a great time together and are SUPER excited to see what "E" brings! Feel free to share your ideas with us too. We'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Liz's Daily Anthem

Recently my little sister has been working on a new blog. As she's gotten closer to finishing it, she's allowed our family to take a sneak peek. Anyway, I was poking around on her site the other day and stumbled on her daily anthem. Basically she just sat down one day and decided to write out a pledge to her self that she could strive to live by. It really struck home for me so I decided (after asking her permission) to share it with you today. Enjoy!
I PROMISE to look in the mirror everyday and FIND new potential, new ventures, greater motivation… I will turn a blind eye to the physical flaws that I may feel hinder my true beauty, and cause me to be more harsh and critical of myself.

I SEE my strengths, talents, hopes and desires to be better, and SEE to it that I act upon those things.

I ACKNOWLEDGE that I am a beautiful young woman that has only just started her journey. I am excited about every opportunity that presents itself on my daily path.

I DO my best each day to be an example to each person that may come in contact with me. I carry myself in a manner that will only generate positive thoughts, feeling and conversation.

I RECOGNIZE when I have fallen short of my goals but am not hard on myself. Instead, I make a more valiant effort to try harder tomorrow.

I ENJOY every moment that I experience; the good, bad, happy and sad, the stressful, overwhelming, unpleasant and uncomfortable. And I do this because I know that these moments are helping mold me into the woman I want to be, and because I am choosing to let them effect my life, as well as the lessons I want to learn from them.
        -By Elizabeth Mucci

Monday, September 19, 2011

Outdoor Adventures: Halloween Fairy Tale Carnival by Erin Uda

(Click HERE for image source)
Ok, so I know this is early and not so much outdoors- as it is holiday-inspired, but since the kids will be outside to trick-or-treat, (and since you will need sufficient time to prepare for such a big event) I thought I’d stretch it a bit this week. If you want to get outside, you could hold this at a park or pavilion. Just be sure to have a weather back-up plan.

I’ve never been a big fan of the scary aspect of Halloween, and I don’t know many kids who like to be terrified, so for this year’s party I’ve come up with a slightly-spooky theme that I think is entertaining as well as appropriate for young kids. Fairy tales are naturally a bit dark and spooky, especially since so many of them are set in a dense, shadowy forest. Add to that all the witches, wolves, beasts and magic and you’ve got a recipe for adventure. Hope you have fun!


There are so many fairy tales out there that the amount of activities available is endless. Choose a few from the list below, or use your favorite fairy tale as inspiration for a new station. If you’re having a bit of brain-block, post a comment with your favorite fairy tale and I’ll see what I can come up with.

(Click HERE for image source)
Rapunzel’s Rope Climb Tower
  • Hang a rope from the ceiling. You can use a specialized rock climbing rope, a sturdy jump rope, or whatever else you have handy. If you’re using a gym, consider hanging the rope from the basketball hoop supports; if you’re doing this at a park, try the cross-beams of the pavilion. Remember to have some sort of cushioning underneath for falls (pillows or old mattresses work well for this). 
  • Decorate the wall or surrounding area with a fake stone tower. There are some great stone wall decorations available at party supply stores.  
  • The object of this station is to have the kids try to climb to the top of the rope. If you have both older and younger kids, try setting up two stations; one with the regular rope with a couple of knots tied into it for traction and another in conjunction with a slide or other slanted surface to help the little ones climb. 
  • Give plastic gold coins to those who participate. 
  • Attendant: The Witch, Rapunzel, or the Prince
Jack’s Beanstalk Relay
  • This is based on the same activity as Rapunzel’s tower, only a little more involved. Create an obstacle course with the following actions: Climb up a slide using a rope to help, then down the stairs, through some obstacles, pick up a ‘golden goose’ and take it back to the beginning. 
  • Try to keep the actions related to the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale. The obstacles could be giant versions of things, like a huge stone step they have to climb (made out of a table covered with a brown or grey cloth), or hula hoops spread out as stepping stones or clouds they have to jump on. 
  • Give plastic gold coins to those who participate. 
  • Attendant: Jack or Jack’s mother
(Click HERE for image source)
Little Red Riding Hood / Grandma’s Cottage
  • Create a cottage. Decorate the inside with Grandma’s bed, hang Red’s cape on the wall. Set up a few tables in the cottage.
  • Fight the wolf in a battle of wits as he sits in the bed. Or set up a few chess sets for the older children to play; they can play against each other or ‘the Wolf’ you have stationed there. If you don’t want to use the bed, include a few riddle stations, where the wolf poses easy riddles to those who visit the cottage. If you’re not feeling good about either of these, turn this station into an arm-wrestling booth. 
  • Give plastic gold coins to those who participate. 
  • Attendant: the Wolf or Granny
Hansel and Gretel
  • Create a forest trail running around (or meandering through) the entire perimeter of your park or facility. The trail can be created by strewing leaves (real or fake), mulch, rocks, or even carpet tiles or garden stones. 
  • The trail should lead to a witch’s cottage. For better Hansel and Gretel effect, leave bread crumbs along the path. 
  • Set up a candy buffet in the center of this station. You could decorate with ovens and gingerbread men, etc. The children trade their coins in for a small box or bag that they can fill with candy. Try small plastic bags that close with a twist-tie or paper take-out boxes for portion control. 
  • Fortune-telling by the Fates. Have a couple of witches give fortunes while the children are waiting for their turn to get candy. Remember the fake eyeball! 
  • Attendant: Witches
(Click HERE for image source)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ Cottage
  • Set up a cauldron and go bobbing for poisoned apples.
  • Set up a wishing well. To make it easier to fish for prizes (gold coins or small wrapped candies) put the well on a high table so the person attaching the candy can sit underneath. You could also try using a weak magnet and paper clips. 
  • This is a great place to add other traditional Halloween games.
  • Give plastic gold coins to those who participate. 
  • Attendant: Snow White or any of the Dwarves.
The Black Forest / The 12 Dancing Princesses
  • Create a dance floor decorated with forest trees, disco balls, spider webbing hanging from the ceiling, and other spooky touches. 
  • Plug your iPod into a large speaker and play some fun music for the kids to dance to. Playlists could include songs from fairy tale-inspired movies, Kids Bop, or your own personal favorites. 
  • On one side of the dance floor, set up a stool or small table. Stand the children on it (make sure it’s steady) and take pictures of the child’s shoes. Try to get a shot that includes her face while focusing on the shoes; she may want to take them off and hold them for the photo. Decorate the table with old ballerina slippers (found at good will) and other types of dance shoes. You can let the child make a craft using the photo (decorate a photo frame) or send it home later as a souvenir/thank you card. 
  • If you’re brave, you could have a real dance company put on a short performance. 
  • Attendant: The Dancing Princesses (or just parents)
(Click HERE for image source)
The Beast’s Castle
  • This watered-down version of a haunted house is where ordinary objects come alive and talk to you as you walk through the Beast’s castle. It shouldn’t be too scary for the little ones, but just surprising enough to make them jump. 
  • Give plastic gold coins to those who participate. 
  • Attendant: Beauty or the Beast
The Princess and the Pea
  • Set up a pile of sleeping bags, a small foam mattress, or yoga pad and put marbles underneath. Have the children lie on the bed and guess how many marbles they’re laying on. 
  • You can also have a jar full of dried peas displayed. Let the children guess how many peas are in the jar. 
  • Did someone say Edamame eating contest?? 
  • Give plastic gold coins to those who participate. 
  • Attendant: the Princess or the Queen
(Click HERE for image source)
Goldilocks and the Three Bears
  • For the youngest children, play a game with the sizes small, medium, and large. Place sets of small, medium and large items in this area; point to the different items in the room and ask what size they are. Try decorating with the items mentioned in the book: bowls, chairs and beds (or pictures of beds, anyway).
  • Play the cups game where you mix up three cups and they guess which one the gold coin is under. When they get it wrong, say “Too hot!” or “Too cold!” If they get it right, they keep the coin.
  • Play the hot/cold game to find hidden coins in this area. When they’re going away from the coins, say “You’re getting colder!” and when they get close to a coin, say “You’re getting hotter!”
  • Give plastic gold coins to those who participate.
  • Attendant: Goldilocks or the Bear Family (with all three bears)
Three Little Pigs
  • Let the child be the wolf and try to knock down three different piles of items: straw, sticks, and bricks. Set up the straw in a tee-pee shape, the sticks in stacked bundles, and the bricks like dominoes so they’re easy to knock down. Use a baseball or other weighted item.
  • Give each child a straw and ask them to blow a small bouncy ball (or other item) to the end of a long table. Have a line down the middle of the table length-wise and set up races, one child on each side. Bumpers on the edges and in the middle would definitely make this more child-friendly.
  • Give plastic gold coins to those who participate.
  • Attendant: the Wolf or a Pig
(Click HERE for image source)
Little Mermaid
  • Decorate this station with netting and a Hawaiian or sea theme.
  • If you don’t use the wishing well from Snow White's Cottage, set up the fishing game here.
  • Set up a small kiddie pool and fill it with ducks, some of which have a number or shape marked on the bottom. Let the children choose a duck to see if they earned a coin. If you can, find floating objects that relate to the fairy tale such as fish, mermaids, or crabs.
  • Hold a ‘Sea-legged’ (three-legged) race to get their land-legs functioning again
  • Hang a sturdy net and have the children climb it; or use an existing playground installation
  • Give plastic gold coins to those who participate.
  • Attendant: Mermaid
The Frog Prince
  • Set up a photo station using this fairy tale as the theme. Use a wooden cut-out of a prince / princess and a frog and set them up for parents to take photos. If this is too difficult to find, use cardboard cutouts of fairy tale characters or other Halloween standards like mummies or Frankenstein. 
  • You could also have a large plastic frog the girls can kiss, since most of them will likely be in princess attire. 
  • Attendant: Prince (designated photographer, optional)
(Click HERE for image source)
Cinderella’s Slipper Store
  • This station is costume central. Kids can add to their costume with face painting or accessories (spread out trunks full of dress-up items), get their photo taken for the costume contest / party scrapbook, and vote for their favorite costume.
  • Hang each child’s picture up on the wall with a number on it using string and clothes pins. Set up a table below the display with crayons, scraps of paper, and a large cauldron where people can put their votes.
  • Consider having a few wacky mirrors here for the kids to look at themselves in.
Rumplestiltzkin’s Bargain Basement
  • This is the food station, where children use the coins they have collected to purchase drinks, food, and other trinkets/items.
  • Decorate with straw or hay bales, spinners (you could use modified wagon wheels or even upside-down bikes if none are available) and baskets of gold coins. When the children pay, have them throw their coins over the counter into the baskets.
  • Use apple juice/cider if you want it to look like butter-beer, cranberry juice if you want it to look like blood, and homemade root beer if you want it to look like a potion. Or go with something simple and have boxed juices.
  • Red’s baked goods display, with baskets of cookies and treats, including miniature caramel apples.
  • Attendant: Rumpelstiltskin, the Miller’s Daughter, or Red Riding Hood
Pumpkin Patch
  • This is the arts and crafts area. Set up some tables and chairs and let the creativity flow.
  • Decorate pumpkins using paints, pins, etc. Try some of these nifty ideas I found on Pinterest or come up with a few of your own:
Pumpkin in lace tights
Bat Pumpkin
Dracula teeth pumpkin
Paper pumpkins
  • Print out a stack of fun internet coloring sheets, set them on a kid-sized table along with a bunch of crayons in fun containers and Voila! You have a coloring station. If you decide to use a candy bag as your invitation (see below) set up a table where the children can decorate their bag. You can find inexpensive canvas or paper bags anywhere. Or use a brown paper lunch sack and THIS craft idea from Family Fun.
Tips and Tricks
  • Use 10x10 or larger canvas pop-up coverings for each cottage/station. They’re easy to manage, don’t take up much room, and allow the activity to spill out the sides a bit. 
  • Line your entry or Hansel and Gretel trail with glowing jars made by emptying out a glow stick into a mason jar and shaking it. You can usually find glow-sticks at the dollar store. 
  • Send separate invitations to the parents and the kids. Ask the parents to help with the stations; let them choose from the attendant costume list. 
  • If you’re holding a costume contest, be sure to include the categories and rules with your invitation; deliver them early, especially if you want your guests to come in fairy tale costumes. 
  • You can use lots of things besides a standard letter as the invitation. To make your invite memorable, try printing the party info on a candy bag they can bring and decorate, a photo card with the image of a spooky forest or your family in costume, or make a small candy house with the info printed on the base. If you sent your invitation early, you may want to send out a reminder a week before; include a couple of gold coins in this for the guests to spend as soon as they arrive.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The "C" Date

Yesterday was mine and Kevin's "C" date. Kevin was in charge and he did a great job! Once again, we couldn't get a babysitter, but it worked out just fine. We put on a DVD full of White Collar episodes while we Cooked a Cheesy Chip Creation, (aka 7 layer chip dip) and some Cinnamon Carrot Cup Cakes with Cream Cheese frosting!

Kevin also had plans to make dessert Crepes but we were way to stuffed to make more food. Anyway, it was a fun, tasty, and relaxing night, and it was a BLAST to create something yummy and new with my handsome hubby! What "C" ideas did you come up with? We're always happy to hear new ideas :)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Workout with your Kids: The Warm Up

As a mother, I know it is hard to find the time and energy to workout. I also know that when you do, it often leads to feelings of guilt for ignoring your kids long enough to get in some fat burning. The solution? Combine play time with workout time! Over the next few weeks I will be showing you some of the things I do with my girls in order to accomplish this feat, but I will start you off today with our simple warm up.

All you really need to get your heart pumping and your blood flowing is a ten minute cardio routine. Here is what we do: First, I blast ten minutes worth of our favorite dance tunes on the iPod. Second, I release my children in the living room with instructions to dance their hearts out and to keep moving until the music stops. Third, I copy everything they do... as vigourously as they do it! Fourth, I pull out my hidden chearleading talents when the kids start to poop out and encourage them to keep going by doing my own crazy dance moves.

OK. I understand that this might seem like a strange idea, but I get WAY more of a workout mimicking my girls for ten minutes then I do running on a treadmill or elliptical for the same amount of time. Plus its fun for everyone! You get to play a super fun game with your kids while simultaneously burning some serious calories and prepping your body for the workout to come. Give it a try. You'll be surprised at how fun it can be :)

Here is a little clip of my girls dancing. When I dance with them I try to copy everything they do, including the wild arm swings and running back and forth across the room. I would have done a video with me in it, but alas, I was holding the camera :)

And just for fun, here is a video of Brooklyn dancing before Lily figured out what was going on. The girl has an endless supply of energy!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fall is in the Air!!!

(Subway art can be found HERE at Blooming Homestead)

Today's high was a crisp 57 degrees in Chicago. I wore a hoodie all day long, including on my 2 mile run outside! And because Fall is my FAVORITE time of year, I couldn't resist  putting up some of my autumn inspired decor.

In fact, I even went the extra mile and whipped up a little wall art just for the heck of it. The frames were from the Dollar Store (years ago) and have been used for all my random holiday pages. I just switched out the old for the new. The leaves were from last fall. I simply removed them from the pages of A Mid Summer Night's Dream and glued them to some paper. The rest was just cutting, ripping, pasting and layering different pieces of scrapbook paper to each other. I finished them off with a little button and some raffia and I think they turned out pretty cute.

Another fun thing I got to do yesterday was this fabric heart craft. I decided to join my husband at our church building last night while he was helping some young men practice their skit, and was invited by my friends Jacquie and Missy to participate in the craft they were doing with a group of young women. I know my painting skills leave something to be desired, but it was still fun, easy, and has an easy to reuse concept. All we did was paint an 8"x  8" board, nail horseshoe nails into it in the shape of a heart, paint the word "love" in the middle, and then tie a 1"x 5" strip of fabric to each nail.

Anyway, I just thought I would share these super cheap and easy ideas in case any of you want to bring a little Fall into your homes :) Happy crafting!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Whole Wheat and Oat Dinner Rolls (Yummo!)

My husband makes pretty good rolls, (or anything bread related for that matter) but the other night we just wanted to try something different. I did a search for dinner roll recipes online and discovered THIS recipe at cooks.com. It was really easy and the rolls tasted FANTASTIC! So if you're looking for a good dinner roll recipe, you have to give this one a try!

Whole Wheat and Oat Dinner Rolls


1 3/4 - 2 3/4 Cup plain flour
1/3 Cup oats
1/4 Cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 Cup milk
3 Tb butter
1 egg
3/4 Cup whole wheat flour


1 egg white
1 Tb water
1 Tb oats


Grease 9 inch square pan. In large bowl, combine 1 cup flour and next 4 ingredients. Blend well.

In small saucepan, heat milk and butter to very warm (120-130 degrees). Add warm liquid and egg to flour mixture. Blend on low until moistened; beat 2 minutes on medium speed. Stir in whole wheat flour and additional 1/2 - 1 1/4 cups plain flour until dough pulls away from sides of bowl.

On floured surface, knead in 1/4 to 1/2 cup plain flour until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in greased bowl and cover. Let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down several times (my husband's favorite part) and divide into 16 pieces; shape into balls. Place in prepared pan and let rise again, about 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine egg white and water and brush tops of rolls, then sprinkle on oats. Bake 20-30 minutes until golden brown and remove from pan immediately. Then enjoy the soft, tasty goodness!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Outdoor Adventures: Plein Air Painting by Erin Uda

Today we’re moving an old favorite to the outdoors.  We’re taking our paints and canvases to the backyard for some plein air painting.

Many famous artists were inspired by outdoor scenes.  They would sit outside and capture the nature in front of them on canvas.  This week, take your child outside and let him be inspired by the beauty of nature.  Teach him to see basic art concepts such as PERSPECTIVE, BALANCE, COLOR, LIGHT, SHADING and SHAPE.  Before you go, look at the following paintings and talk about what you see using the concepts above.
  1. Leonardo DaVinci: Mona Lisa - Renaissance (Hint: Look at the shapes. Do you see the triangle made by her body?)
  2. Rembrandt van Rijn: The Night Watch - Baroque (Hint: Look at the balance, perspective, and use of light.)
  3. Caravaggio: The Calling of Saint Mathew - Baroque (Hint: Look at the use of light.)
  4. Pierre-Auguste Renoir: The Two Sisters, On the Terrace - Impressionist (Hint: Look at the colors and shapes. Do you see the triangle?)
  5. Claude Monet: Water Lilies - Impressionist (Hint: Look at the colors and balance. Do you see the clouds reflecting on the water?)
  6. Vincent van Gogh: The Starry Night - Post Impressionist (Hint: Look at the movement he created using shapes, colors, and brush strokes.)
  7. Claude Monet: Impression, Sunrise - Impressionist (Hint: Look at the colors and balance.)
  8. Claude Monet: Poppies Blooming - Impressionist (Hint: Look at the colors and balance.)
  9. Claude Monet: The Port Coton Pyramids - Impressionist (Hint: Look at the colors and balance.)
  10. Claude Monet: Weeping Willow - Impressionist (Hint: Look at the colors and balance.)
  11. Georges Seurat: Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte - Post Impressionist (Hint: Look at the shadows and perspective; talk about the use of stippling/pointillism)
  12. Michelangelo Buonarroti: Sistine Chapel, the Creation of Adam - Renaissance (Hint: Look at the balance, light and shadows.)

Take your child to a nearby park, garden, neighbor’s yard, or other beautiful area; walk around and talk about what you see.  Be patient while you wait for inspiration to hit.  Once your little one has found the scene he wants to paint, set up shop and talk about what he wants to include in his picture.

Start with a light pencil outline of your subject.  Help your child recognize the basic shapes in front of him; if necessary, sketch this part together.  Remember to talk about perspective.  Is he painting things that are only close to him?  Or are there items in the background?  Help your child understand that we see things that are farther away, or in the background, as smaller than those things that are close to us.
(Click HERE for image source)
Once you have an outline, ask your child what colors he sees.  Are they the same primary colors that are in his paint box, or are they different?  If they’re different, talk about what colors you’ll need to combine to make your paint look the same.  Show your child how different parts of the scene are darker and lighter than others.  Teach him how to see the light and dark in his subject, and show him how to paint the colors appropriately by either adding in a bit of black or white, or using other colors that add the desired effect.

Let your child create while you work on your own painting.  When you’re finished, compare your creations to see how each of you interpreted your surroundings.  See what’s the same and different about them.  Be sure to give lots of praise.

And remember to have something to bring your wet paintings home in; shallow plastic storage buckets work well and can double as storage for supplies, just use a cooling rack from your kitchen to separate the supplies from the artwork.

If you would rather paint while your child is confined to a high chair or other controllable area, try going on a photo tour outside.  Take pictures of all the things your child notices while you’re exploring.  If she’s small, take pictures of the things she stops to look at or touch.  If she’s older, let her experiment with the camera.  Be sure to use the concept of composition and balance in your photos; try zooming in or capturing your subject in a way you hadn’t thought of before, maybe from a toddler’s point of view.  When you’re finished with your walk, print out your photos (or just bring them up on your computer) and use them as inspiration for painting inside. 

Remember to talk about what you’re doing and ask conversational questions of your child.  Use this time to learn a little more about her unique viewpoint of the world.

Craft Idea: Many professional photographers use homemade ‘framers’ to help them find the perfect shot.  To make your own, grab some note cards.  In the center of each one, cut out a small geometric shape to make a frame.  Try a circle, a triangle, and a rectangle to see how they change your view of the same item.  Use them all on the spot you want to paint to help you decide what to focus on.  You can also close one eye to see how the scene will look in two dimensions.  

Once your child has painted her fill of the outdoors, consider taking her to a local art museum.  Many young artists take their sketchbooks to the museum and copy the work of famous painters and artists.  Sit on a bench and repeat the activity above, using pencils or crayons instead of paints.

If your child isn’t into drawing, try using modeling clay or play-dough to make a statue, or experiment with other projects that help your child re-examine the world around him and interpret what he sees.

Recommended Reading:
  • Madeline, Ludwig Bemelmans
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson
  • Drawing in Color, Kathryn Temple
  • The Shape Game, Anthony Browne
  • Inside the Museum, Joy Richardson
  • We’re Painting, Carol Snyder

Friday, September 9, 2011

ABC Dating

As our family has expanded, Kevin and I have found it more and more difficult to date each other. After all, our lives are much different from when we first started dating. For starters, we're usually too tired to get dressed-up and leave the house, and we generally don't want to stay up late because we know the girls will wake up at 6:00 AM no matter how much sleep WE got. Aside from that, babysitters get more expensive the more kids you have, and arranging swaps with other couples is difficult because other families with kids are also busy and tired.

That's where ABC Dating comes in. After many discussions of cost, time, etc. we decided to give this idea a try. Basically, each date night you take a letter of the alphabet and base all your activities off it. The dates are supposed to be creative and inexpensive and you and your partner should take turns every other date night with being in charge. Oh! and you're supposed to try to surprise your partner with the activities you choose.

Last date night Kevin was in charge and he started us out with the letter A. As usual, we couldn't get a babysitter but it was OK. When Kevin got home from work, we packed up the girls, drove to a beautiful park, and Ate Apples and Apricots while we drew Artistic pictures of things that started with A. (In the meantime, the girls were playing on the playground equipment which ALMOST made it feel like we were Alone!) I drew the Delicate Arch, an Airplane, and an AWESOME flower Arrangement. Kevin stuck with being an original Artist and drew a picture of himself throwing the kids around, one of the playground slide, and one of the park landscape. (I think he kind of cheated.)

Anyway, when we got home we put the girls to bed and then watched a movie that started with the letter A. I didn't get pictures of anything because our camera died right when we got in the car, but I promise it was a fun and beautiful time!

On the docket for tonight: Breakfast for dinner, shopping at the "Going Out of Business" sale at Borders Bookstore, and then home for Back rubs and a few rounds of Boggle!

So, if you're struggling with what to do on date night too, give this a try! And once you do, PLEASE share your ideas with us in the comment section. We need all the help we can get :)

(Update: For more dating ABC ideas, check out the "Dating ABC's" Tab at the top of this page! Or click on one of the following links: C date, D date, E date, F date, G date, H date, I date, J date, K date, L date, M date, N date, O date, P date, Q date, R date, S date, T date, U date, V date, W date, X date, Y date, Z date.)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Triple Berry Crisp (from Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes)

I've realized by this point in my life, that no matter how I feel about my weight, I will always eat a dessert when it is offered to me (and sometimes even when it's not!) I just love the gooey sugary goodness that drips from every luxurious bite of sweetness. In fact, I love it so much that I can even ignore the sound of my arteries clogging long enough to eat a whole plate of goodies by MYSELF!

That being said, I've also reached a point in my life where I realize my metabolism isn't going to play nice anymore. When I wake up in the morning 2 pounds heavier than when I went to bed... those pounds are going to STAY. Let's just say, it ain't water weight!

Which brings us to today's recipe that I found on Skinnytaste.com. Yes, it IS a dessert, I DID make it, and I DID consume most of it by myself. But to make things a little better for my aging body, I also made sure it was fat free-er than most desserts I drown myself in :) and that has to count for something... right? Anyway, here it is:

(Gina's pictures are far more beautiful than mine... but I'm guessing my crisp tasted just as good!)

Triple Berry Crisp
Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes

Servings: 8 • Serving Size: 1/8th • Old Points: 4 pts • Points+: 6
Calories: 210.5 • Fat: 6.9 g • Protein: 2.9 g • Carb: 40 g • Fiber: 5.1 g • Sugar: 23.3 g
Sodium: 11.5 mg


For the filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries
  • 1 1/2 cups raspberries (I just used 2 bags of frozen mixed berries)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp lemon zest (I didn't have fresh lemons, so I used a splash of lemon juice instead)
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup sugar or agave nectar (I randomly had agave nectar... it was really good!)
For the topping:
  • 1 cup Quaker quick oats
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, not packed
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (half stick) butter, melted


Heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, agave nectar or sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon and lemon zest in large bowl. Sprinkle with cornstarch. Toss until fruit is coated. Place fruit in an ungreased pie dish.

Mix remaining ingredients. Sprinkle over fruit. Bake about 40 minutes or until topping is golden brown and fruit is tender. Remove and let cool or serve warm.

Once you are ready to eat, bust out a spoon and some vanilla ice cream and then ENJOY! Mmmmmmmmmm... drool... I sure did!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Outdoor Adventures: The Farmer's Market by Erin Uda

(Click HERE for image source)
 This week we’re taking another field trip.
We’re headed to your local farmers market.

On your way there, discuss with your child the different food groups along with either the food pyramid, found HERE, or the new ‘my plate’ option, found HERE.  I suggest printing them out so your child can view them while you travel.  You can also begin to talk with your child about food; options include where it comes from, how it grows, which foods are healthy to eat, the difference between fruits and vegetables, how long they take to grow, which foods are available at different times during the year, and how our food gets to our plate.

When you get to the market, take your time looking around at the variety of foods available.  Talk about the colors, and how it’s important to ‘eat the rainbow.’  Let your child explore on her level; encourage touching and tasting as much as possible.  Continue talking about food, using the questions above.

While you walk, play a couple of games.  Use flashcards, found HERE, to find the components of different meals while you wander; helping your child relate the items in front of her to the food she eats.  Put the cards together in different combinations to show her how you use different foods to make a full meal.  Or use a checklist and ‘discover’ as many items as you can.  You can use the list above that can be found HERE, or make your own using foods your family uses on a regular basis.

(Click HERE for this recipe.)
If you can, bring home some fresh produce from the market.  You can use these items to create a meal at home.  Take the opportunity to host a mini-cooking class for your child or family.  Use a well-loved recipe, or try the resources below for some fresh ideas.

You could also visit a working farm.  I love sites like THIS one, which has a list of pick-your-own farms all over the country.  This particular site is a bit cluttered, but it’s easy enough to scroll down and click on your state.  It’s definitely worth the trouble for the information they provide, which also includes some farmers markets and fruit stands.

**For older children, you could add any of the following activities:

Most of the people selling at a farmers market grow their produce organically.  Discuss the impact and effect of pesticides on our food, both on our general health and on the appearance of the food.  It may be interesting to research this together using the internet.

Eating local has been a big trend lately, for many reasons.  Programs like Jaime Oliver and his Food Revolution are educating us on how to get healthy food from natural sources.  Click HERE to learn more about Jaime’s initiative.

Involve your child in adding more fruits and vegetables to the family menu; work together to find new, healthy recipes that focus on these items.

Recommended Books

  • The very hungry caterpillar, Eric Carle
  • Alphabet soup: A feast of letters, Scott Gustafson
  • How to make an apple pie and see the world, Marjorie Priceman
  • Eating the alphabet: fruits & vegetables from A to Z, Lois Ehlert
  • Audrey’s vegetable garden, David A. Moran
  • Kids in the garden: growing plants for food and fun, Elizabeth McCorquodale
  • Farmers Market, Paul Brett Johnson

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fitness Tip #4: Ignore or Invite

One of the biggest excuses I hear from moms for NOT working out is that they feel like working out with kids in tow is an impossible task. In fact, I use to be one of those moms until I realized that my kids are ALWAYS in tow, and thus, I would ALWAYS be overweight and unhealthy unless I could find a way to workout when they are with me. 

As I mentioned before, getting a double stroller has really helped in that department. However, I realize that running is not for everyone, so a fancy new stroller might not work for you. You might be the kind of person that HAS to workout in a gym. If that is the case, then you probably have childcare covered and timing is more of your problem. But if you frequently have to workout by putting on a DVD and following along... things can get tricky!

 (Please excuse my awesome workout hair and clothes... and face... YIKES!)

For instance, I try to get up before my kids every Sunday morning to fit in a little Yoga via DVD, but occasionally the girls decide to rise with the birds and manage to find me in the middle of a pose. This ALWAYS leads to them giggling, crawling, and jumping all over me! It use to drive me CRAZY and I felt like I was getting nothing out of my workout. But then I realized if I could just IGNORE my frustrations (not necessarily my children) and focus on the moves, I could get MORE out of exercising than normal!

I mean, have you ever tried stretching or doing crunches with an 18 month old on your back or belly? Or lunges and squats with a baby in your arms? It takes a lot of extra muscle to work through that! 

Don't get me wrong, I still TRY to workout when my girls are sleeping, but if that just can't happen I don't let it stop me from exercising that day. I simply put in my video and try to ignore the excess weight and bouncing that's happening all over my body. The good news is that your kids eventually get bored of you not reacting to them, so the pestering usually stops after ten minutes. And better yet, allowing your kids to be with you when you workout TOTALLY counts as extra playtime with mommy!

If you have older kids, your problem might be more along the lines of constant questioning, tattling, or requests. I've struggled with those things with Brooklyn and eventually had to tell her that there is a bubble around mommy when I'm working out and that I can't hear her and she can't come in it until I'm done. (Unless I am standing very still with my legs apart like a bridge... because she can't resist going under the bridge!) 

Brooklyn is now doing a really good job respecting my space and has recently started to join in on the fun. She can make it through my entire Ten Minute Ab video, is AWESOME at yoga, and just started doing the cardio portions of my 30 Day Shred video with me. And you know what? I actually LIKE working out with my little buddy!

 (Working out to the 30 Day Shred)

So what I'm trying to say is, if you can't beat 'em, JOIN 'em! You can use your kids as weights, or for balance, or as motivating workout partners. Just don't let their presence stop you from doing what's best for your body and your sanity! Now is the time to learn how to ignore your frustrations, or invite your kiddos to join in on the fun!