Saturday, May 24, 2014

These Are A Few Of Their Favorite Things (Part 1: Toys)

Hello and happy Memorial Day weekend! I hope you are looking forward to a little extra family time as much as I am. And, before I get too wrapped up in this post, I'd like to take a moment to honor all of the men and women, past and present, who have served this great nation. I am truly humbled and grateful to you and the sacrifices you and your families have made.

Now, on to business!

Kids can be pretty fickle about toys, at least mine can. I'll buy something based on 100's of great reviews and they'll play with it for a few minutes only to be left behind for an oldie but a goodie. Or then there's the flip-side where they pick out something at the store that they "want more than anything else in the entire world" to see it discarded after a day. That feels great...

So I've decided to compile a list of play-things that my girls have consistently come back to in order to help spark ideas for your own kids. But please be forewarned, just because my kids like these definitely does not mean yours will. Unless your kids come over here to play because I swear, there is something about someone else's toys that make them so much more desirable.

The links provided are only for ease of researching these toys and are not endorsements.
I don't work for any of these companies nor do I make any money by recommending them.
 1. Crayola Washable Watercolor Paints and Markers. Both girls LOVE to paint and [K] has really blossomed into quite the little artist. She is constantly coloring pictures, writing and illustrating little book, drawing blue prints to some building and recently, when a toy went missing (one of the ponies from #2 below), she made and hung LOST posters around the house.

2. Hasbro My Little Pony Friendship is Magic. [K] has been a MLP fanatic for quite some time now and unfortunately for me, they keep releasing these mini ponies that come in bags so you can't see which one you'll be getting. Well after getting our first 50 or more, I've learned how to manipulate the pony in the bag and tell with complete accuracy which one it is because I'll be darned if we get a duplicate pony. I guess it takes the surprise element out of it but when we've spent this much money on ponies I'm not paying for one we already own.

3. Gymnic Rody Horse. This was [E]'s Christmas gift from Grandpa and it's really interesting to see how she plays with him. It's made of extremely durable vinyl and you inflate him with air so you can bounce on him. While [E] will use him the way he's intended some of time, she prefers to dress him up by putting rubber bands on his ears or putting the handles of plastic bags over his ears. She also likes to have him sit on a dining chair next to her when she's eating and pretend to feed him. It's quite cute actually. [K] tends to be the one to use him as intended and bounces all over the place on him.

4. Huffy Disney Cinderella Scooter. This was [K]'s Christmas gift from Grandpa. She hasn't actually used it outside yet but she scoots around the house on it quite well. We live in a *very* hilly community so unless we pack the scooter (or a bike for that matter) in the car, there aren't a ton of opportunities for a young, timid rider to practice outside. Anyway, both girls really enjoy playing with it inside. [E] can't quite propel herself just yet so she steers and we push.

5. Battat Play Circle Marketplace Shopping Cart. One time when we were at Target (in the toy section, of course) [E] found this little cart and proceeded to push it around the store the entire time we were there. Naturally we had to buy it for her. I'm so glad we did too because she uses it everyday. The cardboard play food boxes that came with it were stepped on and squished pretty early on but she enjoys using the little plastic bottles as ointment and puts "boo boo juice" on us while playing doctor. (More on that in a minute.)

6. Hasbro Play-Doh Sweet Shoppe Candy Jar Set. I haven't met a kid yet that doesn't like Play-doh. We actually use parts of this set combined with parts from the Sesame Street Cookie Monster Letter Lunch set and the rolling pins from the Melissa & Doug Shape, Model & Mold Play Clay set to make quite a few masterpieces. We also purchased a Play-Doh 24-Pack of Colors but I only take out two at a time and when they become too hard we pitch those and get two more. The kids don't really care about having lots colors at a time because they just end up mixing them all together until it turns gray anyway. This way they have fresh, soft Play-Doh in bright colors for longer.

7. Doctor Sets. Quite some time ago I bought [K] a fabric veterinarian kit from Ikea that contains bandages, a thermometer and syringe, a recovery collar, and a foot cast. (Sorry, it's no longer available so I can't link to it.) She played with it for a bit but it wasn't until [E] came along that it really got any play time. I've since ditched the bag and collar that came with it and added other items instead. For instance, the stethoscope and plastic magnifying glass shown, and a soft facial brush and this has served [E] with tons of imaginative play. She bandages dining chairs and a particular rolling snail toy that is constantly hurting his tail. I just recently added the stethoscope and now she runs around the house checking everyone's heartbeat and breathing multiple times a day. Since she has expressed such interest in it I've decided I'm going to spend a bit more money than the dollar already invested and get her an actual working stethoscope and build both her and [K] better doctor kits. You know I'll post about that when I've completed them. ;)

8. Dress Up. I used to have a small, plastic shoebox size box in our basement playroom filled with bracelets and dollar store beads for the girls. They've always enjoyed wearing multiples of them when we're down there playing but that area didn't really lend itself well to dress up play. Ever since I put a bigger Rubbermaid tub in their bedroom and filled it with all sorts of odds and ends of things to dress up in, we've had some seriously awesome fashion shows around these parts. The funny thing about [E] is that she loves wearing multiples of things. It started with hair rubber bands that she would wear like anklets and slowly she worked her way up to 5 or 6 pairs of [K]'s underwear and lately it's tutus. I'm not sure what started her obsession with them but there are days when she'll be wearing four or five of them at a time along with two pairs of glasses. It's pretty hilarious and awesome. I remember fondly the days of my childhood dressing up in my aunts old dance costumes thinking I was the most beautiful princess in the world and I love that my girls are getting the chance to do this too. I just wish I still had those dance costumes.

9. Minecraft. While this isn't a toy per say it is definitely something that can hold [K]'s attention for long periods of time. If you're unfamiliar with it, it's a video game where you can use different materials to build whole worlds for your character to live in. I don't play it so I'm sure I'm definitely over-simplifying it but I'm so impressed with how [K] has been able to pick up this game just by watching [A] play it and now she's like a little expert. I know there are some people out there who shun technology for kids but I've found that if a particular game or TV show has some kind of educational value and that I'm still engaging the kids while their watching or playing that it can be quite beneficial. Case in point, [K] will watch an episode of My Little Pony Friendship is Magic and then spend the next hour or more (with the TV off) creating whole new scenarios for her mini ponies based off of that episode. Or the fact that when [K] has hardly older than [E] is now that she had memorized every state based on shape and knew all of the capitals just by playing a game on my parents phones.

10. Melissa & Doug Craft & Create Face Painting. I can't remember why it was that one day [K] decided she wanted a face painting set for Christmas but I'm so glad I came across this one from Melissa & Doug because we've all enjoyed many, many sessions of face painting fun. The paint washes off easily but stays on well throughout the day. I've had the joy on several occasions of forgetting that my face has amazing kid drawings all over it and then go to the grocery store like that. I tend to get a lot of smiles from that. We actually just bought another one of these because I want a backup for when the paints run out.

So there you have it, 10 toy ideas to help spark the imagination for your own children or those that you buy for. I've compiled a list of books as well so I'll share those in another post. I really had to taper that one down because we LOVE books in this house and that post could easily get out of hand.

Oh, and before I'm late with it, here were our Muffin Tin Tuesday lunches for this week.
This was [K]'s. Cherry yogurt, shredded cheese, grape tomatoes.
Dried cranberries, Sour Patch Kids, applesauce.

Here was [E]'s. Mini dill pickle, Goldfish, sour gummy worms.
Whole raw almonds, shredded cheese, dried cranberries.

Take care and have a great weekend! I can't wait to eat some barbecue food!!!
~ [J]

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Happy Mother's Day!

Hello and Happy Belated Mother's Day! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend with the special mother's and children in your lives.

We had a barbecue at my aunt's house and almost all of the moms from that side of the family were there to celebrate with us. We were only missing sis-in-law A and her daughter, and cousin D and her daughter.
Aunt G, Nana with [E], Great Grammie, me with [K]

Aside from paying for some orchids my mom picked out for herself, I made cards for my mom, grandma, and for myself from our daughters.

I found the printable online at Positively Splendid and then just took the girls out around town to find pretty places to take their pictures.

I got the chalkboard from Michael's and used chalk markers to write the messages. They worked great however the problem is that after a message or drawing has been on the board for too long you can still see it even after erasing it with a wet towel.

It was fun asking [K] why she loved each of the Momma's however I think it will be even more fun next year when [E] can make a contribution as well.

I really like how the pictures turned out however I will admit there was some serious bribing going on to get them to both look at the same time.

Last but not least, we had another Muffin Tin Tuesday and here's what [K] had:
Top row: three slices of turkey rolled, broccoli and carrots, cherry tomatoes
Bot row: mandarin oranges, long grain white rice, chocolate pudding
Unfortunately this lunch didn't go over as well as I had hoped. [K] loves white rice from Panda Express and usually when I make rice on the stove top. I bought these to-go microwave rice cups because they are faster and apparently she didn't like them. Also, she only ate half of the turkey so I guess you win some, you lose some. I'll have to come up with some new ideas for next week. I'm already starting to think about what I'll do for her when she's in school full time next year. I can't believe my baby will be eating lunch away from home. *Sigh* time really does go by too fast.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Muffin Tin Tuesday!

Hello and welcome to our next installment of Muffin Tin Tuesday!

Yesterday I made this one for [K]
Top row: turkey slices cut using the top of a spice jar, goldfish, mandarin orange
Bot row: strawberries, ice cream (with sprinkles), broccoli

and this one for [E].
Top row: goldfish, black olives, broccoli
Bot row: strawberries, shredded cheese, fruit snacks

I tried making [K] a Lunchables type of tin with Ritz Crackers, the turkey slices, and mozzarella cheese circles but she didn't like the crackers or the cheese so that kind of put the kabosh on my plans. Oh well. I ate them and they were tasty :)

I hope you all are having a great week!
~ [J]

Monday, May 5, 2014

Recipe: Maraschino Cherry Cake

Just after Easter I blogged about an amazing coconut cake I made. Well, while I was making that one, [K] was crafting a recipe all her own.

(Don't mind the check marks. She was adding those as we made the cake.)

I thought she did a really great job coming up with the list of ingredients all on her own and I won't lie, I thought it sounded like a really delicious cake. So I searched the internet for a cake recipe that would most closely follow her original recipe and this is the one we came up with, Maraschino Cherry Cake. The only major difference between this one and the cake we made is that [K] requested chocolate frosting and then decided she didn't like it and had me cut her pieces out before I frosted the cake which is why half of the cake below is missing. (I cut out hers and [E]s before frosting it so no, she didn't get half the cake to herself.)

Maraschino Cherry Cake
(Serves 10; 404 calories per slice - ouch but yummy anyway)

  • 10 oz jar of maraschino cherries, drained but reserve the juice
  • White cake mix (or a homemade white cake)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 8 oz. tub of Cool Whip Light, defrosted
  • *Optional* 3.4 oz pkg. Chocolate Flavor Instant Pudding Mix
  • *Optional* 1/4 cup milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prep 2 round cake pans. (I learned from my Mom after making the Coconut Cake that a great way to get your cakes out of the pan cleanly is to trace the bottom of the pans on sheets of parchment paper, cut them out, spray the inside bottom of your pan with non-stick spray, press the parchment paper down on the bottom, then spray the parchment paper. When the cakes have cooled about 10 minutes, use a knife to go around the edges and invert your cake onto the cooling rack. The cake will slide right out of the pan and the paper will peel off easily. It works great!)
  2. Cut the cherries into small pieces. I think I cut each cherry into about 8 pieces.
  3. Put the cake mix in a mixer bowl. Add enough water to the cherry juice to bring the liquid to 1 cup.  Pour that into the cake mix. Add the cherry pieces, vanilla, and eggs to the bowl and mix until well combined.  Pour into the prepared cake pans.
  4. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean when you test the center.
  5. Cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then remove to cooling racks. (See my note in step 1.)
  6. After completely cool, frost with your choice of frosting or Cool Whip. To make Chocolate Cool Whip, add the package of dry Chocolate Instant Pudding Mix and 1/4 cup milk to the Cool Whip and stir until combined.
When finished, show it to your daughter and laugh at the fake surprised expression on her face :)

She actually helped me make most of this cake although her main form of "helping" was testing the maraschino cherries to make sure they were tasty enough for her cake. I love that she is interested in creating recipes and enjoys making things. I hope this is something she and I can continue to do for many years to come.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Muffin Tin Tuesdays!

Tuesdays are fun days for [K] at school. Not only do they have music class (which she loves), but they also go to the library (which she also loves). I decided that since it's such a fun day at school, I would make it a fun day at home too by making her Muffin Tin lunches those days. Hence the name, Muffin Tin Tuesdays!

I've talked about Muffin Tin lunches back in April of last year (and coincidentally it was on a Tuesday). The idea is to serve several different finger foods in a muffin pan. It's kind of like tapas for kids.

Since I've been doing this for a few weeks now but haven't posted about it, I'll leave you with several different Muffin Tin Lunches to give you some ideas if you want to make them for your own kids (or yourself, I'm not judging.) By the way, if you come up with some other foods that you think would be good in a Muffin Tin Lunch, please let me know. I'm always open to new suggestions.

Top row: Chocolate graham crackers, goldfish, grapes, dried cranberries
Middle row: chocolate pudding, dried cranberries, carrot sticks, ranch dressing
Bottom row: grapes, chocolate graham crackers, shredded cheese, goldfish

Here is [K] enjoying her Muffin Tin lunch.

Top row: chocolate graham crackers, almonds and dried cranberries, chocolate graham crackers
Bottom row: shredded cheese, shredded cheese, carrot sticks

Here's [E] enjoying her Muffin Tin lunch.

Top row: broccoli, pirouette cookie, blackberries, cherry tomatoes
Middle row: cherry tomatoes, mandarin oranges, cereal, pirouette cookie
Bottom row: cereal, blackberries, broccoli, mandarin oranges

Top row: bunny fruit snacks, pirouette cookie, corn
shredded cheese, frozen peas, goldfish crackers

(This was a 24 cup mini muffin tin)
Top row: half a pirouette cookie, goldfish, half a pirouette cookie
Middle row top: carrot stick, blueberries, blackberries
Middle row bottom: carrot stick, raspberries, cherry tomatoes
Bottom row: half a pirouette cookie, broccoli, half a pirouette cookie