Monday, July 21, 2014

Happy National Junk Food Day! I'm enjoying some Milk Duds with my coffee in honor of this oddball holiday. What is your favorite junk food?







































STOP! ANSWERS BELOW!


Monday, July 14, 2014

Popovers

Here is another new recipe we tried...Popovers! The boys loved them at dinner instead of a roll, at breakfast, and as a quick snack. We made some plain and others had cinnamon/sugar sprinkled on top. Surprisingly, the plain ones were the biggest hit with the boys while I liked the cinnamon/sugar ones best.

POPOVERS
Total Time: 50-60 minutes 
Makes: 8

You will need:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup Greek vanilla yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup milk 
  • Vegetable oil
  • Cinnamon/sugar, optional (I used about 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon)
  • Muffin/Cupcake pan, popover pan, or small ramekins 
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Lightly beat eggs. Combine all ingredients and mix well until smooth, but be careful not to over mix. Cover. Set aside for 30 minutes.
3. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon oil into each muffin pan/ramekin and swirl around to coat. Place pan in oven for 2-3 minutes to heat oil. You don't want it to smoke or burn though.
4. Optional: Sprinkle cinnamon/sugar mix on top of batter.
5. Fill pans about halfway and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown and puffy.


DM TIPS:
  • These are pretty easy to adjust to your tastes. You could add vanilla extract, or herbs or Parmesan cheese to the batter for a more savory popover.
  • I have better results if the milk and eggs are at room temperature. I also used a large muffin pan, which seemed to work well.
  • If you don't have yogurt, you can adjust the recipe (3 eggs, 1 1/3 cup flour, 1 1/3 cup milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt). Mix together. Oil and preheat pan for 2-3 minutes. Fill pan halfway. Bake at 450 degrees F for 15 minutes. Reduce temp to 350 degrees F and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until puffy and golden brown.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Traveling With Kids

*Since it's vacation time again, I thought I would bring back an old post and update it!*

It's vacation season! Before we had kids, it seemed like we could pack in an hour, throw some stuff in a backpack or small carry-on and go. Then we got a dog, and it was still pretty easy. Throw some dog food in a bag with her leash and bowls, drop her off and go. Now we have two kids and the dog. Packing is not quick or easy at this point.  When the kids were little, packing was worse with the bottles, sippy cups, diapers, swim diapers, extra clothes, etc. As they get older, it became less baby stuff, but more toys and books to keep them entertained. We still need a water bottle and snacks. I always throw in a few extra shirts because I know there is no way my kids are going through the day without spilling something on themselves or each other. I also like to throw in small first aide kit because you never know when they might get hurt or get sick and you might not be close to a drug/grocery store.

CAR TRIP
Most of the time we drive to our vacation. It can be anywhere from 2 hours to 15 hours away. We make plans to stop along the way to make it more bearable for everyone (mostly the kids because they can't sit still that long), and normally stop every two to three hours for bathroom breaks and to run around. It can still be rough.

However, I did learn what to pack to keep the kids entertained on a long car trip (see below). I also learned that as they get older, the car trip is also part of the vacation. This year, we tried to stop at fun restaurants, rest areas, or even weird attractions along the way (check out Road Side America or Road Trippers for ideas). There are even fossil parks across the country (see list by state and other fossil parks) and the National Park Foundation offers a free Junior Ranger program where kids learn, answer a questions in a booklet and earn a badge.

     CAR PACKING LIST:
This is only a very small part 
of the mess. The rest fell out 
and is on the pavement. It 
happened every time we got 
out of the car.
  • TOYS. Toys are a must. We had a box of toys that sat between the kids on the seat so they could grab the ones they wanted. 
  • Coloring books, paper, and WASHABLE crayons/markers. Why washable crayons? Because you never know when the kids are going to get super bored and draw on each other or their car seats.
  • Stickers. These might be better for older kids. When he was younger, Higgins tried to stick them to his car seat in one of his tantrums.
  • Books. I packed a couple of their favorites and also packed a few new ones. If you have a Half-Priced Books (or other used book store) near you, it's a great way to buy a lot of books for pretty cheap.
  • Games. If you have older kids, there are a lot of travel sized games out there. You could also play I Spy or a license plate Scavenger Hunt (see who can find the most states). I also have lots of Word Finds and Scavenger Hunts on the blog, including Car Bingo and a Car Ride Scavenger Hunt.
  • iPad. Load up on some free apps or add on a few new games before leaving to help keep them entertained.
  • DVD player and their favorite movies. We borrowed one from the in-laws and it turned out to be a lifesaver. These have gone down in price a lot over the past couple of years. You can find a decent one for around $100.
  • Music. Ok, this one was mostly for me because I love listening to music. However, the kids also like it, so I have a Kids Playlist just for them.
  • Paper towels and wet wipes or diaper wipes. After all, snacks can make for sticky messy kids.
  • Snacks. We brought a small cooler and packed cheese sticks, peanut butter/jelly sandwiches, and cut up fruit. We also had pretzels, bags of plain popcorn, and trail mix. *This year, the Car Trip Snack Box got upgraded to a Rubbermaid container and a small cooler.
  • Drinks. These were also in the cooler. We packed soda for us and water for the kids. It was a lot cheaper than stopping at a drive-thru every time someone got thirsty.


PLANE TRIP
We have flown a few times. I learned a few more lessons, as flying with kids was a whole new experience.

     PLANE PACKING LIST:

  • Pack a backpack for each kid. They get to have their own carry-on just like Mom and Dad. Plus, it keeps everyone's toys and snacks separate to reduce fighting.                  

      • Include a change of clothes (at least socks and underwear). 
      • $20-$25 (in different denominations).
      • $3 or so in quarters (vending, emergency phone calls...).

      • Coloring book/crayons/markers. There are a few sets that contain spots for the crayons/markers so they don't roll off the tray. Crayola has a few different kinds called Mini Coloring Pages
      • Book(s) to read.
      • Some toys (no swords or guns on flights).
      • Current family picture, in case they get separated from you.
      • Snacks. Trust me on this; if you get stuck sitting on the runway or in the airport, you are going to want to have some snacks. You can usually bring in pre-packaged snacks. I brought granola bars, snack size bags of M&M's and pretzels, fruit snacks, fruit leathers, nuts, suckers, and some hard candy.
      • Water bottle (will have to buy at the airport after pass through security, or bring a reusable one and fill at a water fountain after security). 
      • A card with peoples phone numbers. See my post on Picture Phone Cards For Kids.
      • Games, iPadNookKindle.
    • Gum. Our family tends to have ear pain during take off and landing. Chewing gum helps a lot. If you have little kids (like Higgins) who insist on swallowing the gum instead of chewing it, pack some jelly beans! I gave Higgins one jelly bean at a time; he could chew, swallow, and help his ears at the same time.
    • EarPlanes Ear Plugs. These are ear plugs made for flying and they come in adult and child sizes. *Update*I tried these while flying to my sister's wedding with a bad cold. These helped so much!

    For more vacation tips, check out my Vacation Time! post.

    You may also like:
    Snack Box
    Picture Phone Cards For Kids

    Monday, July 7, 2014

    Car Trip Snack Box


    We recently went on a long car trip to see my sister. In total, it was about 14-15 hours including getting gas and bathroom/walking around breaks. I knew from past experience that it seems that the kids are always "hungry" in the car. I packed a special snack box in a Rubbermaid container and also a small cooler. This time I ended up packing granola bars, suckers, small bags of M&M's and Reese's Pieces, applesauce, fruit snacks, pretzels, mixed nuts, Scooby Snack graham snacks, Jiff peanut butter cups, and along with some napkins and plastic forks and knives. The cooler had celery sticks, apples, carrots, and pepper slices. Each of them had a reusable water bottle at their seats as well.

    Everyone went through it faster than I thought and we had to restock on the way home, but it seemed to have worked and kept everyone happy.

    What snacks do you like to pack for a long car trip?

    Thursday, July 3, 2014

    Easy 4th of July Breakfast and Lunch


    I had some really cute paper plates I found in Target's dollar bins that I wanted to use for the 4th of July. The boys were in the mood for pancakes, so we made star shaped pancakes with a side of strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. To make the pancakes, I heated the skillet, placed a star cookie cutter down, and spooned in the pancake batter. I let it sit for a second and then pulled the cookie cutter up.

    For lunch, we had peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwiches. I hulled the strawberries, filled with whipped cream, and placed a blueberry in the middle. They were gobbled up!

    Monday, June 30, 2014

    Easy Kids Party Popper

    ...or as Higgins calls it, the Party Gun. He also thought we should put toppings like sprinkles in it and shoot at ice cream. (He could be onto something!) We made this for the 4th of July with red, blue, and white confetti. However, these would be great at all different kinds of parties and could be a cute kid craft at a birthday party. The color of the tape, balloon, and confetti can all be customized to the party!

    You will need:
    • Plastic bottle (1 per)
    • Construction paper
    • Masking or Painters tape
    • Balloon (1 per)

    Directions:
    1. Remove label and cap from the bottle. Cut the top of the bottle off. You want some of the straight part of the bottle, about 1-2 inches.
    2. Wrap the tape around the cut edge of the bottle to protect from sharp edges.
    3. Attach a balloon to the bottle top. You want some give to the balloon, but not too much. Adjust the balloon if needed.
    4. Cut confetti from the construction paper. Place inside bottle and shake a little to get it to go into the balloon if needed.
    5. Hold the popper at the base, making sure to hold the balloon in place.
    6. Pull the balloon back and let go to make the confetti fly!

    Friday, June 27, 2014

    4th of July Ideas

    I can't believe it's almost July! Next week is the 4th of July and I have some ideas to help celebrate:
    Craft/Activities:

    Food:

    Thursday, June 26, 2014

    Balloon Time Fun, PiƱata Style

    This is a fun alternative to having a pinata. The treats are inside the balloons! Because I don't trust the kids with pointy darts yet, we had a stomp/sit popping event. However, you could also try it using throwing darts or a thumb tack on the end of a dowel rod.
    You will need:
    • Balloons
    • Prizes/Candy
    • Tape or Stapler 
    • Foam board, cardboard box, plywood

    Directions:
    1. Cut board or box to the size you want.
    2. Insert candy into some of the balloons. I found it easiest to hold open and then slide the candy in. Blow up balloons. I used candy for the filler since the boys were going to sit on the balloons. However, if you were going to use darts or the thumb tack to pop the balloons, small toys or gift cards could also work!
    3. Attach balloons to the board/wood. I used a staple around the edges and Duct Tape for the balloons the stapler wouldn't reach. Because it's so close to the 4th of July, I arranged the balloons in a flag pattern.
    4. Pop the balloons and find the treats!



    Monday, June 23, 2014

    Apple Sandwiches

    Ever run out of sandwich bread? (...Um, me either.) Get tired of the same old sandwiches? Give apple sandwiches a try! They take a little bit more time to make, but the kids loved these and have repeatedly asked me to make them again.
    You will need:
    • apples (best if similar shape from top to bottom so you can get more evenly sized slices)
    • peanut butter
    • fillings (mini chocolate chips, raisins, nuts)
    • apple corer


    Directions:
    1. Wash and dry the apple. Core.
    2. Slice into thick slices. You want the slices to be about the same size since this will be the top and bottom of the sandwich.
    3. Spread peanut butter on an apple slice.
    4. Sprinkle on toppings.
    5. Spread a thin layer of peanut butter on the other slice. (I found it helps the sandwich stick together.)
    6. Place the apple slices together, with the peanut butter sides facing the middle.
    7. Enjoy!

    Wednesday, June 18, 2014

    Summer Scavenger Hunt

    We've had some great days so far this summer. The boys and I like scavenger hunts and they love being outside, so I made a scavenger hunt for when we go to the park or go on walks. These are great to help keeping them busy either on walks, in the park, or even on a car ride!


    Monday, June 16, 2014

    Help! An Alligator Is On My Fridge!

    Higgins made this at school and I love it. I normally hang their art work and papers on the fridge, but this one makes me smile every time I see it.

    You will need:


    Directions:

    1. Paint clothespin green and let dry.
    2. Cut pipe cleaners into pieces for legs (about 3.5-4 inches).
    3. String a pipe cleaner through the back spring to make the back legs and attach with a drop of glue.
    4. Place second pipe cleaner in the second groove to make the front legs. Attach with glue.
    5. Glue beads onto clothespin with smooth side facing front. You want it to be a little before the front legs.
    6. Once glue has set, draw on pupils with marker.
    7. If desired, add on some glitter glue spots.
    8. Attach magnets (either with stick on magnets or with a thin line of hot glue).

    Make it an alligator themed day by making the alligator magnets for a craft and alligator cupcakes and cookie pops for a snack!










    Wednesday, June 11, 2014

    Father's Day Gift and Activity Ideas

    Sunday is Father's Day! If you need any last minute gift or food ideas, I have some below (plus some freebies)!

    CRAFT/GIFTS:

    FOOD: (These are just a few of the recipes on the blog. There are a lot more!)

    ACTIVITIES:

    FREEBIES:

    • Ikea: Dad eats a free brunch! (Check with your local stores to make sure they are participating.)
    • Zoo Admission. Many zoos are offering free admission for Dad's on Father's Day. 
    • Firehouse Subs: Free medium sandwich with a combo (sub/drink/chip) purchase. (per their Facebook status)
    • Outback: Not free, but cheaper with the 15% off printable coupon.
    • Buca Di Beppo: Free cannoli with coupon. Coupon says no purchase required, but also states "Dine In Only".
    • Harbor Freight: 6 free gifts for dad with coupons (click on link), valid 6/14-6/15.
    • First Watch: Free bottle of maple syrup.
    • BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse: Free Pint Glass for Dads 6/14-6/15.
    • Spaghetti Warehouse: Dad's eat free with coupon (click on link) for lasagne or original spaghetti entree.
    • Chik-fil-a: I hear a lot of different freebies going on depending on the location, but can't find anything on the main site. Some locations have a free cookie for Dad, others are having a party, or even a Dad eats for free promotion. Check with your local stores.


    Monday, June 9, 2014

    Camping Firestarters

    Hubby and the boys like to go camping when the weather is nice, whereas I am completely happy sitting in front of the firepit in the backyard. With either option, making a fire is involved. I am getting better at making fires, but I still use a firestarter. I bought some Firestarters that work great, but I still wanted to be able to make our own and reuse some of the things we had laying around. I had tried making our own fire-starters with dryer lint and wax, which worked ok but not great. A friend recently told me about making fire-starters from pinecones (Thanks, Beth!). We have a lot of pinecones that fall in our yard throughout the year, so this was the perfect idea to try!
    You can make it two different ways: with a wick and wickless. To make a wickless pinecone firestarter, you will dip the pine cone in wax but leave the top of the pinecone out and wax-free (when pinecones are dry, they will burn). The other idea is to place a candle wick down the center of the pinecone and then dip the entire pinecone in wax.


    You will need:
    • Pinecones
    • Waxbees wax, or old candles
    • Wicks, optional
    • Wax paper, tongs
    • Scents, optional
    • Crayon pieces, optional, to add color

    Directions:

    1. Collect pinecones. If the pinecones aren't dry yet or aren't open yet, let them dry on a sheet in the oven at 150 degrees F for about 1 hour. Keep a close eye on the pinecones since they can catch fire easily!
    2. If using wicks, tie onto pinecones. You may have to play with it a little bit and find the best way to attach the wick. I tried a couple of different ways: I tied on and brought up the middle and wrapped around at the top, next I tied a knot at the end of the wick and stuck it under a tight cluster of the cone leaves. 
    3. Melt wax. Follow the directions on the packaging (old soup or coffee cans are great to create a double broiler). If using old candles, you can sometimes even just place the glass jar in a saucepan. Fill saucepan with water, but make sure it only comes halfway up the can/jar. Add wax to the double broiler (in my case a soup can). Melt on low heat on the stove top. Add scent or color to melted wax (optional).
    4. Once it is melted, dip the pinecones into the melted wax. Make sure to coat both sides. Remove with tongs. Allow excess to drip off.
    5. Place on wax paper to set. Usually 1.5-2 hours.


    DM Tips:
    • According to some things I read, you can sprinkle salt onto the wax before it dries. Supposedly, Epsom salt makes it burn white, Table salt makes it burn yellow and Salt Substitiute makes it burn violet. For more ideas on making a colored flame, check out chemistry.about.com and sciencecompany.com. I sprinkled some on mine, so I'll let you know if it works!
    • If you want a pinecone with a wax base, you can oil the inside of a muffin tin or use waxed cupcake wrappers. Wrap a piece of twine or place a wick down into the pinecone. Pour a little wax into muffin tin, place in pinecone, and pour additional wax in until you have 1/2 to 3/4 inch of wax.
    • You could also tie a thin wire or a longer wick around the pinecone to dip into the wax instead of using tongs.
    • You can make a bunch of these and wrap in a basket for a housewarming gift.

    Wednesday, June 4, 2014

    Turkey Pepperoni Pizza Burgers

    It's another food post! I had been in such a rut when it came to making new foods and dinner had gotten so boring, that I started trying new things again. Some of them were not well received by the food critics here at the Daily Messes household, but others were a big hit. The Pepperoni Pizza Burgers turned out to be a huge success!

    You will need:
    • 1 lb ground turkey
    • 3 tablespoons marinara sauce
    • 1-2 Green Bell Peppers, cut in half and seeds removed
    • 1/4 teaspoons Italian seasoning
    • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
    • Mozzarella cheese, slices or shredded (slices are a little easier to use on the grill)
    • 12-16 slices of pepperoni (I usually use 3-4 per burger)
    • Hamburger buns



    Directions:

    1. Combine turkey, Italian seasoning, black pepper, garlic powder, and marinara sauce in a bowl. Mix together until well combined. Form 4 patties (they will be wet and a little smooshy).
    2. Heat the grill.
    3. Place burgers and pepper slices (outside of pepper face down) on grill. Grill burgers about 4 minutes each side. Grill peppers until outside has become slightly blackened in spots.
    4. Turn off the grill.
    5. Place cheese on top of burgers, add pepperoni slices. Close lid and let cheese melt for 1-2 minutes.
    6. Bring peppers inside and cut into slices (usually I use 3 slices per burger).
    7. Bring in burgers and place peppers on top.
    8. Place on a bun and enjoy!

    Monday, June 2, 2014

    Father's Day Idea

    Home Depot is having another free Kids Workshop on Saturday (June 7th) to make a Riding Lawn Mower (click on link for details). It could be a cute gift to give to Dad on Father's Day!

    Monday, May 26, 2014

    Soft Twist Pretzels

    I love soft pretzels, so we decided to try to make our own at home. It was really easy and super yummy. I had to fight to even get one before they were all gone! The recipe is really easy and most of the prep time is in letting the dough rise. I think next time I make these, I might also make a batch of beer cheese.

    Time: About 2 hours        Cook Time: 12-14 minutes       Makes: 12


    You will need:
    • 1 ½ cups  warm water
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 4 ½ cups flour
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 package active dry yeast
    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    • Baking needs:
      • 10 cups water
      • 2/3 cup baking soda
      • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
      • Kosher salt
      • 2 cookie sheets
      • Parchment paper
      • Plastic wrap
      • Non-stick spray or vegetable oil
      • Silicone mat
      • Cooling rack
      • Slotted spoon or spatula


    Directions:

    1.   In a stand mixer, combine sugar, salt, and water (the 1 ½ cups warm water).  Evenly sprinkle the yeast on top. Let sit for about 5 minutes, or until it starts to foam.
    2.   Using the hook attachment, mix in flour and butter to yeast water. Combine on low until mixed together.
    3.   Mix on medium speed until dough becomes smooth and it pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes.
    4.   Grease the sides of a large bowl with vegetable oil and place dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size. (Tip: If the house is cold/cool, turn on oven LIGHT and let rise in oven. The light usually produces enough heat to help the dough rise.)
    5.   Preheat oven to 450 degrees F with the racks in the middle positions.
    6.   Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and lightly grease. (I found the non-stick spray was the easiest way to grease the paper.)
    7.   Mix together the 10 cups of water and the baking soda in a large pot. Heat to a boil.
    8.   Divide dough into 12 equal pieces.
    9.   On the silicone mat, evenly roll out dough pieces to become a 20 inch rope.
    10. Fold in half and twist the two sides together. Pinch the ends together.
    11. Fold in half and tuck the pinched end into the top hole.
    12. Place the dough twists into the boiling water, 1 or 2 at a time, for 30 seconds.
    13. Remove dough with a slotted spatula or spoon to help the water drain. Place on cookie sheet. Leave 3 inches in between pretzels.
    14. Brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle with the Kosher salt if wanted.
    15. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Make sure to rotate pans (between racks and direction facing in oven) halfway through baking.
    16. Allow to cool on cooling rack.

    Saturday, May 24, 2014

    Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie


    Makes about 5 Cups

    You will need:
    • 3 cups vanilla Greek yogurt (I used Chobani.)
    • 3 cups milk
    • 3 ripe bananas, frozen (freeze overnight)
    • 7 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
    • 1/4 - 1/3 cup chocolate syrup (I used 1/4 cup and had a slight chocolate flavor. 1/3 cup would give a stronger chocolate flavor.)
    • Blender, Ziploc bag

    Directions:
    1. Unwrap the bananas and place in a Ziploc bag. Freeze overnight.
    2. Add all ingredients to blender and combine. I used the blend setting. DM TIP: If you have a smaller blender, you may want to break the recipe in half so you won't overfill the blender and make a big mess (not like I did that or anything....).
    3. Serve and enjoy!

    DM TIP: If you have leftover drink, place in popsicle molds and freeze overnight for a healthier popsicle! You can also freeze for a few hours to make a soft served ice cream. (Note: If you leave it in overnight, it will be too hard to scoop. It comes out in flakes, not in a nice scoop.)

    Friday, May 23, 2014

    Summer Freebies For Kids

    School is out already for Higgins and Bernardo only has a couple of weeks to go. It hit me this morning: "What am I going to do with two boys who are now used to having something to do everyday?!"
    Does this sound familiar to anyone else?

    I am trying to come up with fun things for my kids this summer. I don't have an unlimited budget, so if I can keep them occupied for free or for cheap, that would be awesome! 

    Below are some of the things I found, but if you know of any others Please Post In The Comments!!!! Please...you may help save my sanity :)


    • Reading Programs & Storytimes
      • Barnes and Nobles has a free program that runs 5/20-9/2. If your child reads 8 books, fills out and turns in a log (click link or also in stores), he/she will get to pick a free book. 
      • Library. Many local libraries offer summer reading programs with prizes available for reading a certain number of hours or number of books.
      • Many bookstores (both local and national chains) and libraries offer storytimes. Sometimes they may even have an online storytime! (I know Barnes and Nobles does.)
      • Pottery Barn Kids also has a read 8 (from their list of books) and get a book free offer. They also have a weekly storytime. Runs 5/15-7/17.
      • Half Priced Books. Kids keep a log of how long they read. Once they reach 300 minutes, they can turn in their log and receive $5 Book Worm Bucks (I think it is $5 per month). Runs 6/1-7/31. Book Worm Bucks expire 8/27.
      • Showcase Cinemas. Read and write a book report (see link for form) and kids can see a free movie on Wednesdays! Runs 7/9-8/13. According to their website, an accompanying parent and siblings under 6 will also get in free.
    • Fossil Collecting
      • You may have noticed that we (aka the boys) love going "fossil hunting". To find a fossil park near you, try looking at National Park System: Fossil Parks and Other Fossil Parks. However, I noticed that there weren't any listed in my area and I know of two within an hour drive. If you can't find one listed, try searching for "fossil park" or "fossil collection area" in Google/Yahoo/etc.
    • Building Workshops
      • Both Lowes and Home Depot offer free kids workshops during a weekend each month. Click the links to see when they are being offered.
    • Bowling
      • Kids Bowl Free has a great program where registered kids can receive free bowling in the summer! 
    • Factory/Bakery Tours
      • Many places offer free (or really cheap) tours of their facilities. We have been to an ice cream shop and a chocolate factory already!
    • Farmer's Markets
      • Of course buying things aren't free, but it is free to go and see new things. My kids were amazed the first time we went to the Farmer's Market and a local farm to see where food really comes from. (Shockingly, it wasn't in plastic packages.) It's always fun to see what they have. There can also be fun vendors, like the portable wood fired pizza oven we saw last year. Click here to find one near you. 
    • Cook/Bake
      • My kids do like to "help" in the kitchen sometimes. One of the things I still remember the most from when I was a kid, was making rice cereal treats and chocolate chip cookies with my mom. I love when I can do it with my boys too!
    • Playgrounds/Parks
      • Almost every day (even in the winter), the boys ask if we can go to the park. I get tired of seeing the same thing, so we explore and find new parks.
      • Sometimes local parks offer free events during the summer too, especially around holidays like Memorial Day or 4th of July.
      • Many also offer free movies or concerts during the summer.
    • Movies
      • Some local communities offer free Movie In The Park type of events during the summer. I find a lot of info by talking to other moms at the playgrounds/school, looking in the local paper at the weekend events, and by following the local communities on Facebook/Twitter.
      • Regal Movie Theaters offer $1 movies on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10:00 am. I know our locally owned theater also offers a free kids movie every Wednesday, so if you have a small local theater, check with them too.
      • See if there is a Drive-In movie theater near you. Some of them have kids under 12 free. Although, it won't be completely free, it can be a ton of fun and there are not a lot of them left. 
      • Showcase Cinemas. Read and write a book report (see link for form) and kids can see a free movie on Wednesdays! Runs 7/9-8/13.
    • Picnic
      • If you pack a picnic from home and bring it to a park, it can make for a great (and free) adventure!
    • Museums/Zoos/Aquariums
      • Our local children's museum offers free admission on certain Fridays during the summer. Check out your local art/history/science/children's museums to see if they have free days. 
      • Sometimes other places like the zoo will offer kids get in free days (with an adult ticket).
    • Crafts
      • My boys love craft time and we have spent a lot of time during summers past making new things. I have a lot of the ideas on this blog, and a lot of them are made from things you probably already have in your house!
      • Michael's offers $2 crafts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. (Runs 6/16-8/1.)
    • Camping
      • I am not a big camper, although Hubby and the boys love it. However, I will camp in the living room! We even made s'mores over a candle one time. Have everyone tell a scary story, or even have a progressive story (these can be hilarious, especially with little kids).
    • Bass Pro Shop
      • Sometimes they offer fun activities and workshops for free
    • Garage Sale/Flea Market
      • This one isn't free, but can be pretty cheap. A couple of dollars and some negotiation can obtain a few new books or toys that can keep the kids busy for the day or a few days (hopefully). We've even found new video games for just a few dollars. As an added bonus, you can offer them extra chores to earn extra spending money. I think I have a mountain of socks that may need sorting and folding... :) 
    • Eat Out
      • Ok, this is not free. However, there are certain days when kids eat free at some restaurants. If you want to have a treat, but also have it be cost effective, this would be the way to go!
    • Junior Ranger Program
      • This is a free program at the national parks. You pick up an activity book and fill in the questions. Once the booklet is completed, you turn it in and the kids get to be sworn in as Junior Rangers and get a badge or patch! (Click here for more info.) If there aren't any national parks near you, they also offer an online option to earn the WebRanger badge.

    Tuesday, May 20, 2014

    End Of The Year Teacher Gifts

    I cannot believe it is time for End Of The Year Teacher Gifts already! While some weeks flew by, others dragged by so slowly it seemed like summer would never come. It's hard to believe another school year is almost over and how old my boys are getting.

    I was trying to come up with some new ideas for teacher gifts for this year. (For more ideas check out this post: Teacher Gift Ideas.)

    This year I am doing gift cards to Target with a few little things thrown in. I am packing a reusable cup, a bottle of bubbles, a note, and a gift card in a butterfly net. Hubby didn't understand my seemingly hodge-podge collection of gifts, but here is my reasoning. I know Bernardo's teacher is big on reusable cups and recycling, so I included the reusable cup. I also know that some of the teachers have their own kids that will be home with them all summer, so I included the butterfly net and bubbles to help keep the kids busy (at least for a few hours to give them a break after teaching all year). The bubbles and net could always be used in class next year (Higgins almost always spills his bottle, so they probably need a ton of new bubbles).
    I wrapped each net in cellophane to help protect the mesh from ripping. I then tied it closed with a ribbon and a little tag (Thanks For A School Year Net Full Of Fun, Thanks For Helping Me Net A Great School Year, Thanks For Helping Me Catch A Great School Year).



    What are your favorite gifts to give teachers? If you are a teacher, what is your favorite or least favorite thing to receive?

    Friday, May 16, 2014

    Grilled Turkey Burgers

    We've been experimenting with burgers lately, and I tried making a turkey burger. In the past, the turkey burgers have turned out plain and sometimes dry. However, I think I finally came across a recipe that everyone liked!

    GRILLED TURKEY BURGERS
    Makes: 4 burgers

    You will need:

    • 1 lb ground turkey
    • 1/4 cup diced onions
    • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (use 1/8 teaspoon if you don't like a lot of garlic taste)
    • 1/4 cup Italian Seasoned bread crumbs
    • 1 egg
    • 1 cup finely shredded cheese ( like Co Jack or Cheddar)

    Directions:

    1. Microwave diced onions in a bowl for 30-45 seconds to soften.
    2. Turn on and heat grill.
    3. Mix all ingredients together and form into patties.
    4. Grill for about 5 minutes per each side.

    Monday, May 12, 2014

    Homemade Pizza Dough

    I've been trying new baking recipes in an attempt to make healthier, less processed foods for the kiddos. My latest attempt was with pizza dough. It was actually pretty easy and the kids gobbled it up! It helped that the kids got to top their own pizzas, which is why Bernardo's (on the left) only has sauce and pepperoni.

    This made two 10-12" thin crust pizzas. Total time of 1.5-2.5 hours, depending on how the dough rises.

    You will need:

    • 3 - 3 1/2 cups flour
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • 2 teaspoons sugar
    • 1 package yeast
    • 1 1/4 cup warm water
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil, plus a little extra
    • Misc.: plastic wrap, pizza pan or flat cookie sheet, mixer, bowl, rolling pin

    Directions:
    1. Add yeast to warm water. Stir and let sit for 4-5 minutes or until dissolved.
    2. In the mixer (I used my standing Kitchenaid), combine salt, sugar, oil, and 3 cups of flour.
    3. Add the yeast/water mixture. Mix for 7-10 minutes on low speed. If the dough is sticky/too wet, slowly add additional flower. The dough should be smooth.
    4. Lightly coat a bowl with oil or butter. Place the dough in the bowl, cover and let rise 1-2 hours (or until doubled). 
    5. Punch down the dough.
    6. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F for 30 minutes.
    7. Divide the dough into two balls and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 10 minutes.
    8. Prepare two baking sheets: grease and dust with flour or corn meal.
    9. Prepare the toppings.
    10. Roll out dough on silicone mat or floured surface.
    11. Pinch up the edges to form a rim around the dough (optional). Lightly brush with oil and let sit for about 10 minutes. This helps the dough not get soggy from the toppings.
    12. Make dents into the dough with fingertips. You want to dent, but not rip the dough. This helps prevent the dough form bubbling up during baking.
    13. Top and bake for 10-15 minutes. Don't go too heavy on the sauce!

    DM Tip: We made a thin crust pizza, which turned out nicely. If you want a thicker crust, you may want to pre-bake the crust for maybe 5 minutes before topping.

    Wednesday, May 7, 2014

    Mother's Day Ideas

    Mother's Day is Sunday, May 11th! I some ideas if you need any :)


    CRAFTS/GIFTS:


    FOOD:


    FUN: (To Print: It sometimes prints better when you click on the puzzle, choose Open In New Tab, then print. You can also click on the puzzle, click Copy Image and paste in Word and then print.)

    FREEBIES*:
    • Dunkin Donuts: Free donut on Mother's Day with beverage purchase
    • Starbucks: Buy 1 get 1 free Oprah chai tea latte 
    • Ikea: Mom eats a free brunch 
    • Groupon: Free chore wheel that has "Not Mom" listed on every chore :)
    • Shutterfly: Free card with code CARD4U
    • Shoney's: Free slice of strawberry pie for mom (with purchase of entree/buffet)
    • Redbox: (Not so free) $0.50 off second rental when rent a Mom-friendly movie
    • Boston Market: Buy a individual meal and get a free one for Mom (at participating restaurants)
    • Zoo: Some zoo's are offering free admission for moms
    • *Always check with your local store to make sure they are participating before you go!



    If you know of any other freebies, please feel free to share in Comments!

    Monday, May 5, 2014

    Easy Mother's Day Card

    I cannot believe Sunday is Mother's Day already. I wanted the boys to come up with something easy they could do for the Grandmas. I made a Mother's Day coloring page to make an easy card but Higgins wanted to paint it, so it turned into a fingerprint flower card.  I have it pictured below so you can print and use it too! Every mom loves a card :)


    Friday, May 2, 2014

    Plant Me A Head


    This is a cute spring time craft and you can use pretty much anything laying around your house to make it!

    You will need:


    • Washed and dried metal can (DM TIP: I liked the pull off lid cans better than the cans you have to open with a can opener. I found there are less sharp edges with a pull off lid.)
    • Googly eyes
    • Decorations to create a face: foam, felt, buttons, pipe cleaners, mini clothespins, pom pom balls, etc.
    • Hot glue gun, super glue. You could also try glue dots, but the glue dots may fall off over time.
    • Potting soil
    • Flower, plant
    • Optional: Small clear plastic cup to line the inside of the metal can.

    Directions:

    1. Cut out shapes for the eyes, nose, mouth.
    2. Glue onto can.
    3. Carefully fill the can with potting soil and plant your flower.


    DM ALTERNATIVE: To make a longer lasting craft, you could use silk/fake flowers instead of a live plant. Place a piece of Styrofoam block in the bottom of the can and arrange your flowers. You could even decorate the can with construction paper, since you won't have to worry about it getting wet from watering the plant!


    OTHER IDEAS:
    • Plant chives, basil, etc. to have a cute windowsill herb garden.
    • Plant pretty flowers and make a cute face on the can for a Mother's Day gift. You could even make a necklace out of a pipe cleaner and beans and glue around the bottom of the can (like in the right side picture above).
    • Make a goofy face and plant grass seeds or a small ornamental grass plant for a Father's Day gift.
    • Make a Monster face for Halloween and use colorful mums for hair.
    • Make this at Earth Day and try to use as many recycled items as possible!

    Friday, April 25, 2014

    Cauliflower Crust Pizza

    Hubby and I were looking for lower carb recipes to try. One of his coworkers had recently brought in a cauliflower crust pizza. After doing a little searching and playing with a few recipes, here is my version. It is a little time consuming, but it is a great lower carb option to a flour based pizza.

    You will need:
    • 1-2 large cauliflowers, or 4 cups shredded cauliflower
    • 1 egg
    • 1/4 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
    • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
    • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/8 teaspoon onion power
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • Toppings: Pizza sauce, shredded Mozzarella cheese, ham, pineapple, pepperoni, veggies, etc.
    • Parchment paper
    • Food processor or a grater (food processor is easier)
    Directions:
    1.   Cut the florets off of the heads of cauliflower (you want mostly the florets and not a lot of stem). Wash and dry.
    2.   Shred the cauliflower. You want it to be small crumbles, not a puree.
    3.   Place the shredded cauliflower in a microwave safe bowl and cover with a clean towel. Microwave for 4 minutes. Let sit for a few minutes to cool.
    4.   Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. DM Tip: I tried with just spraying the tray and with my silicon mat. The parchment paper works best.
    5.   Place cauliflower in a clean dish towel and wring out. You want to get as much water out as possible. DM Tip: I found it best to do some of the cauliflower at a time instead of over filling the
    towel. I also had hubby wring it out when I was done since I knew he could squeeze some more out.
    6.   Dump the wrung out cauliflower into a bowl. Add in seasonings, egg, Parmesan and Mozzarella cheeses. Mix together. I found it easier to use my hands to make sure it was mixed together well. (Hubby likes a lightly seasoned crust, but if you like a stronger flavor try doubling the amount of seasonings.)
    7.   Place the dough onto the parchment paper and form into a rectangular or circular crust, about 1/3" thick. You want it to be tightly formed together, without holes or gaps. 
    8.   Bake the crust for about 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown all over and firm.
    9.   Top with sauce and toppings. I would recommend going with a thick sauce or use lightly if using a watery sauce. My first attempt with a watery sauce made the middle of the crust a little soggy.
    10. Bake another 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and melted.
    11. Remove from oven and enjoy! I had a ham and pineapple and Hubby had a 1/2 veggie and 1/2 pepperoni pizza.

    DM Tip: Because these are so time consuming, you could probably make an extra pizza for later at the same time. Wrap it plastic wrap or aluminium foil, seal in a freezer bag and save for later. Thaw and bake as directed above.