Thursday, November 29, 2012

Weekly Kid's Co-Op: Ice Play-Babies Thru Pre-K

I have a confession. I love seeing all the great Christmas and Holiday Arts, Crafts, Baking, etc. everyone is doing, but still have not put up any Christmas/Holiday decor at our house and only just today did a Christmas craft with Wild Thing whose excitement over the Christmas tree up at the community center when he has play group finally got me in gear.

Don't misunderstand, it is not that I do not enjoy the holidays and getting into the spirit, but I am one of those people who finds it hard to get going with it before December. So, while lots of great Holiday activities/Christmas crafts jumped out from the activities linked-up with the Co-Op last week, in the end I decided to highlight the great Colored Ice Play from Octavia and Vicky -- mainly because Ice Play is such a hit at our house with both Caterpillar (for several months now) and Wild Thing.

What is so great about this post on Colored Ice Play is not only the variety of activities they do with the colored ice, but also the way she engages her daughter with these activities -- having her make predictions. She provides many fun, natural learning experiences. She inspired me to share the ways that we play with colored ice and to do more ice play soon, which is perfect in Southern California in the Winter, since we do not get snow!

The first time we played with ice, it was these heart-shaped ice cubes (I got the ice shaped tray for 99 cents at Ikea) made with beet juice. I set up a very open-ended play opportunity with the ice cubes and some clothespins (so he could see how the melting cubes stained/colored the clothespins). He expanded the play experience significantly - eating the ice (only way I have ever gotten him to eat beets), blowing on the melted ice and then asking for a paint brush so that he could paint with it. The painting must have been his favorite thing because he asked to make more colored ice (this time we used food coloring and I let him help make the ice) so that he could paint his cars. (The food colored water from the ice cubes does not stay on the cars, so it is a fun activity with no permanent effect).

I pleasantly discovered that Caterpillar loved ice play too - the cold, slippery ice that literally disappears before his eyes makes ice great sensory play for babies. Sensory ice play in the high chair has come in handy while Mommy makes dinner. :) 

Certainly looks like a smile of approval to me!

Still Got Turkey? My Favorite Turkey Leftover Creation - Chili!

Chili may not be an obvious choice for turkey leftovers, but it is a yummy choice. I drew my inspiration from White Chicken Chili (rather than your traditional dark chili that includes tomatoes). I have made White Chicken Chili before using shredded chicken and chicken sausage. It is always a hit.

The recipe I used for my leftover turkey drew inspiration from this recipe by Ree at the Pioneer Woman Cooks, but I improvised a bit and did not strictly adhere to the recipe. Here is my ingredient list and step-by-step.
FYI-There is no egg in the chili, it is for the corn muffins
Basic ingredients: butter or oil, onion, garlic, turkey, chicken stock, green chiles (fresh or canned), bell pepper (optional), cornmeal or corn muffin mix, cilantro and spices - I like chili, cumin, red pepper flakes, red pepper (cayenne), black pepper and salt. (White beans are a great addition, I just did not have any on hand). 
Heat a large, deep pan and add a pat of butter.
Add 1 small diced onion and diced green bell pepper.

Once the pepper and onion had simmer a bit, add 3 chopped garlic cloves and let all of that simmer for awhile before adding some chicken stock (just enough to cover the vegetables) and 2 diced green chiles (you could also use canned green chiles and adjust the amount based on how spicy you like it - my version is spicy). 

After all of that cooks for awhile over medium high heat, add the rest of the chicken stock from one box and the shredded turkey and chopped cilantro (1/2 of one bunch of cilantro was all I had the patience to chop). Next, add your spices (I never measure spices, but add little by little and taste as I go). If you want your chili less spicy, skip the red pepper flakes and go easy on the cayenne. Remember, too, that the chili will be much spicier when it is done than when you start. (Mine ended up too spicy for the boys, which is fine because I liked it so much I really did not want to share!)

Here is the trick for getting a nice thick chili (and this trick I took from the Pioneer Woman!) - corn meal! I actually used 2 Tablespoons of corn muffin mix, adding 1 TBS at a time and stirring a way until it incorporated really well into the chili. This thickened it up quite nicely. Chili also involves a fair amount of simmer time, so once all of that is in, turn the heat down and let it simmer. 
Chili with only corn muffin on top.

I made corn muffins to go with the chili (ideally, there would have been some of my yummy cornbread stuffing left to toss in with it). The boys ate the muffins and the chili toppings - plain greek yogurt (instead of sour cream) and cheese. I, happily, ate the chili - one bowl with toppings and one without! 

Chili with cheese, muffin and yogurt.
What is your favorite thing to eat for leftovers? This recipe made me glad we still had some leftovers as it was the perfect meal, especially on a cold, rainy night. 

You might also like:
Fun Snacks for Kids
Truck Food & Play Ideas
Eating the Alphabet-30+ Kid Friendly Recipes

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

{Ten for Giving Tuesday} Things That REALLY Go!! Giving That Goes the Distance...

This Tuesday should be all about Buses and Boats...that was the plan, post #4 in my Things That Go! Series. However, this Tuesday is not just a typical Tuesday. It is Giving Tuesday, and the first Giving Tuesday ever. If you follow my blog at all, you will not be surprised  to discover that I am taking a break from my transportation Ten for Tuesday series to focus on this important day -- a day for us all to pause from the spending/shopping frenzy that started with Black Friday, continued through Small Business Saturday and peaked with Cyber Monday and take a moment to focus on a different type of giving -- giving that really goes the distance.

Today, I support No Kid Hungry, an organization committed to ending child hunger in the U.S., where 1 in 5 children still struggle with hunger (that is 16 million), an organization that can turn $1 into 10 meals for a child in need. 

I would be hard pressed to find any $1 gift I could buy that could have such significance. I invite all of you to join me in participating in Giving Tuesday. No Kid Hungry is my giving choice (and is hoping to raise $5k today!! Help make it happen!!) -- Last week I shared a fun poem about my decision to participate in Giving Tuesday. Today, I am sharing ten posts from the blogosphere about parenting, kids and giving.  

1. Food Hunt and Gathering - a post about Teaching Generosity from JDaniel4's Mom shared at Kids Activities Blog by the Quirky Mommas. Plus, Giving Benefits the Giver from JDaniel4's Mom reminds us that giving is also good for the giver.

2. True Aim Education has a Gift of Giving Family Challenge for November with lots of posts linked up that relate to helping children learn to give.  

3. Random Acts of Kindness Jars from Kindergarten and Preschool for Parents and Teachers.

4. KC Edventures shares ways to Get Kids Involved in Giving this Holiday Season.

5. Connecting Family and Seoul has 10 Ways to Teach Toddlers about Kindness.

6. More Than Enough - An Archived post from this blog from back in my After-School Program days that shares a touching (and true) story about how one little boy decided to give $1 and it made all the difference!  

7. 52 Brand New explains why volunteering at a food pantry is a perfect volunteer experience for kids. 

8. Pragmatic Mom shares 10 Books that Help Children Understand Hunger at Let's Lasso the Moon.

9. The Educators' Spin On It has a great Parenting with Purpose Series, which often features posts on giving back, such as Mari from Inspired by Family Magazine writing about the Joy of Giving and my guest post on Teaching Children about Hunger and Giving.

10. No Time for Flash Cards has joined up with other bloggers to create #Blog4Cause focused on Simple Ways to Give Back. I love their tag line - In a Season of Getting, Teach Your Children About Giving. This post also includes a link up so bloggers can share all they are doing to give back (through money and time!)  

For more ideas and inspiration, check out my Be the Change Pinboard, which focused on Hunger Action in September, Breast Cancer Awareness in October and on Gratitude this month as well as my A Season of Giving Pinboard and cruise the September archives on the blog for much more on engaging kids and getting involved to end hunger - including a round-up/blog hop featuring lots of great ideas/posts from Hunger Action Month and a Ten for Tuesday post with simple ways to help out. I hope you have been inspired.

Will you be giving today? What will be your charity of choice? How do you help your children to understand the joy and value of giving? I would love to know. Share in the comments. Share in Facebook. Tweet at me using #GivingTuesday #GoodLongRoad -- Let me know how good it feels to give! If you give, share and spread the word that you are giving, it will encourage others to give too!

P.S. No worries - boats and buses will be here next week, and I have lots of great activities/play ideas/books/art and more for your transportation-loving little one. 

P.S.S Check out the fun Every Can Counts video Moms Fighting Hunger put together for Hunger Action Month! 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Teaching Gratitude #5: Grateful for 21 Days of Gratitude

The wonderful 21 Days of Gratitude Challenge from Inspired by Family Magazine has, technically, come and gone with over 1,000 people from around the world taking part in some way or another. I have gained so much from this practice, through focusing on Appreciation rather than I Wants...

...Midway through the challenge, I shared 11 things I was grateful for (in response to the prompts that Mari from Inspired by Family Magazine laid out at the beginning of the challenge). I also shared some of my favorite posts from other bloggers during the challenge. 

Now, I want to come full circle by sharing my responses to her last 13 prompts:

12. An experience you had - This one is really difficult, since I am grateful for so many experiences that I have had, but since I have to pick one, I will select the experience of having lived and studied abroad in Egypt (13 years ago). Though there are many reasons that I am grateful for this experience (which could fill a post or two), I will focus here on just one -- I met my husband there, a fellow American also studying abroad. Very timely, since it was the weekend after Thanksgiving 13 years ago that we shared our first kiss. :) 

13. Something in your room - My books. 

14. Something in your kitchen - My cast iron skillet and cast iron dutch oven, which belonged to my grandmother (and probably to at least her mother and, perhaps, grandmother before that). 

15. Something in your home - My piano, which some wonderful family friends generously gave to me about 4 years ago. 

16. A gift you received - I recently received a wonderful package from my brother, who currently lives in Thailand. He sent a beautiful hand-made silk bag for me that he got in Luang Prabang, Laos, which he knows is one of my favorite places on Earth. That gift is one I will certainly treasure.
You love this bag, right? (And my model...)
17. A defeat that made you stronger - Three distinct losses/defeats came to mind, but I will go with the simplest here (and the first significant defeat that I remember in my life): When I was 12, my passion for basketball began. When I was 13, I played my official first game, and we lost 57-4. That tough loss gave me more motivation than a win would have.

18. The one thing you can't part with - Family would be the obvious answer and really the only answer as there is no material item that I could not live without. 

19. An animal - The beautiful and graceful birds that are in abundance in our tiny, rural town.

20. A trait the person you are closest to possesses - Commitment. 

21. Creation, nature - The answer is the prompt - I am grateful for nature.

22. A book that has been meaningful in your life - I am selecting two because they are related and connected (same author). Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh, which was given to me by one of my closest friends and which forever changed the way that I viewed the world, and assessed my place/role in it, and True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart also by Thich Nhat Hanh, which my brother gave to me years before I became a mother, but which is a book that certainly relates more to being a wife and mother than any other book I have read. (Here is a piece I wrote from the book).

23. The one thing that you love most about you - Ugh. Probably, it would be the trait in my children that I love the most that is a trait of mine that I often see reflected back at me through them, which is thoughtfulness and generosity. 

24. Your mom and dad - I am so grateful for my parents for so many reasons, but what I appreciate the most is their unconditional love for me and their unwavering commitment to encouraging me to become my own person and follow my own passion and dreams, even if that journey/path was not always easy for them. (As in the case of say their 21 year-old daughter moving to Egypt and traveling around the Middle East by herself for much of the time she lived there). Now that I have my own children, I truly appreciate how difficult that was. THANKS MOM AND DAD!! 

And, thanks Mari for inspiring this focus on gratitude. I plan to carry gratitude with me into December as I have discovered that by focusing on gratitude and appreciation, I stay grounded and less swayed/influenced by all of the spend-spend-spend, gimme-gimme-gimme that seems to be everywhere at this time of year. 

I invite you to join me in keeping gratitude in your mind as we move toward December and to focus on presence (with your family and loved ones) rather than presents. By December 1st, I plan on sharing some exact ways we will be focusing on presence as a family this year and will invite you to join us for 12 Days of Christmas: An Adventure in Giving Presence. 

parents as teachers
Our experiences with gratitude:

Creating A Daily Practice
Family Dinner {Unplugged}
Moms Connect About Gratitude

Friday, November 23, 2012

Weekly Kid's Co-Op: Wild Thing Picks (#2)

Since I love art and play activities that use recycled materials (as any regular reader knows), my initial instinct was to feature the many cool art activities and holiday items from the co-op last week that were made from recycled materials. However, Housing A Forest already did that. (Yeah!) So, I encourage you to check out her post too. 

(If you love creating art and play experiences from recycled materials, check out my Recycled Play/Art post featuring many of my favorite activities from the blog using recycled materials, any of the posts in my Simple Baby Play Series, and any of the three posts in my Things That Go! Series, all of which highlight lots of ways to use recycled items to create cars, trucks, trains, etc.)

In terms of features from the co-op last week, I decided to (again) let Wild Thing (my 3 year-old) pick. He must have been hungry because 2 of his 4 favorite ones were fun snacks. Here are his picks (and his commentary).

(The Rice Krispie Train is ours that he wanted me to add.)

I just realized that the last time Wild Thing picked, he also selected a monster-related item. We have never done a monster craft (nor has he seen any of the Monsters, Inc. movies), but it seems that it might be time to get some monster books, check out one of the movies and create some monsters! 

What have you been up to? Please link-up and play!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Black Friday Confession

Yes, I have a Black Friday Confession
and my confession is not that I have a Black Friday obsession
Nor do I wait for Small Business Saturday to splurge
or Cyber Monday to grab all the amazing internet deals that emerge

My Black Friday Confession is that on Friday I stay home
In fact I cannot remember the last time that on that Friday I did roam
out to the stores to find some amazing deals
I found that family time at home had much more appeal

This year I plan to keep this tradition that is now so special to me
staying at home with my precious family
I do plan, however to add a new spin
and to do so with a big grin, grin, grin

You see after Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are through
a new dawn rises this year for me and for you
to give in a new way and celebrate the spirit of the season
through Giving Tuesday, and this is my reason

When Wild Thing got his birthday money this year
his instinct was to give and to share
not to buy a new toy or candy or train gear
He wanted to give his money to his favorite coffee cashier

I believe he has learned, already at three
that giving feels better than receiving you see
He enjoys her big grin and thank you sincere
When he leaves a tip jar at our coffee shop so dear

So, I join Wild Thing and, hopefully, all of you
in making sure that we support Giving Tuesday too
Feel free to battle the crowds so fierce on Friday for deals
support local businesses on Saturday or click click click on Monday for steals

Please also consider finding a charity or two
something that has special meaning just for you
and give what you can, perhaps in honor of others
I truly believe in the giving power of us as mothers.
Thanks for letting me indulge in a silly poem to invite you to consider budgeting your spending this week so that you can include participating this year in Giving Tuesday. 

Please also understand that I know many people really enjoy finding deals and participating in the shopping fun on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. For Cyber Monday, consider shopping Etsy and other online sources that allow you to support small businesses and individual artists and artisans. I do hope, if you do prefer to shop this weekend, that you choose to support local businesses, including local thrift stores that often do so much for our communities. Also consider supporting other great mom/kids activities bloggers this weekend through the Learning Through Play eBook Bundle that gives you several eBooks all for $9.99 when purchased this weekend. 

This year for Giving Tuesday, I will be supporting No Kid Hungry through my continued commitment to support their effort to end child hunger in the U.S., where in 1 in 5 (16 million) children struggle with hunger. For Hunger Action Month in September, I shared 10 easy ways families/kids could get engaged to fight hunger

A simple way to start is to take the pledge at No Kid Hungry. I also invite you to follow Moms Fighting Hunger on Facebook to stay involved. Please, support whatever non-profits, causes and charities are dear to your heart this holiday season - Giving Tuesday is a great time to start. Also, spread the word through using #GivingTuesday on Twitter, Instagram, FB, etc.

You might also like:
Moms Fighting Hunger Blog Hop
Fall Giving Bucket List
Nature Art

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

{Ten for Tuesday} Things That Go Series: Week #3 - Cars!

If you have been following the series, you know that we have done trains and trucks so far (in order of how much Wild Thing preference). Cars are definitely a close 3rd for him. You will also know that we share 10 ways to learn/play/read/create/eat, etc. with our favored mode of transportation for that week. Please enjoy this cars activities round up! 

1. Reading + Learning with Cars - The Pleasantest Thing says that Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry is a hit at her house and shared a fun activity that she did with the book (her activity uses real food, but you could also do it with pretend food and/or playdough). In Lieu of Preschool recommends I Can Draw: Cars and Trucks by Terry Longhurst, though I think Wild Thing is not quite ready for this one, My Little Bookcase highlighted Who's Driving on her site (a Leo Timmers book that looks fantastic) and Teach Preschool recommends My Car by Byron Burton and shows how she had students make cars after reading the book

2. Winter Sensory Play with Cars - Shaving Cream offers great snowy/winter play with cars like In Lieu of Preschool did with her kids.

3. Pretend Play with Cars: Big + Little Car Wash Activities - A favorite quiet time/chill out activity for Wild Thing is our hot wheels/matchbox cars car wash, which is also great for fine motor skills. We also have lots of fun, though, washing the big cars outside too! 

4. Pretend Play with Cars #2: Small World Car Play - I have many small world play set-ups/activities to share: Connecting Family and Seoul shared about how her son learns, creates and observes through roadway play, Go Kid Yourself shares the car mat she uses with her son, and Inspiration Laboratories shows how much fun a Lego/MegaBlock race track can be. Wild Thing loves doing this with his Mega Blocks. Teach Preschool also has a printable car track for small world play (and coloring fun).

5. Painting Cars + Painting with Cars - Wild Thing recently initiated a car painting activity when playing with some colored ice cubes. His cars were nearby and he asked for a paintbrush and started painting them. I love child-led activities like this. (The coloring comes right off the cars too).
Image on left from NurtureStore painting activity and on bottom right from Craft to Art.
NurtureStore shared some great roller painting using cars (+trucks). The tires make interesting patterns, and Loving My Nest also did some painting with cars with her kids. A fun creative take on this is painting with cars on a slide from Craft to Art.  

6. Recycled Car Crafts - As you know, almost all of our crafts utilize recycled materials so I had to share this toilet paper roll car from Craft to Art, as well as our recycled material car world inspired by Radiator Springs from the Cars movie. We are still adding to it!

Toilet paper rolls and coffee filters for the Cozy Cone and cut up toilet paper rolls into rings for tires at the tire store.
7. Draw and Drive with Cars - I absolutely LOVE this creative activity from Putti's World and Little Moments to Embrace - both attached markers to cars to create fun drawings and patterns with their little ones. So amazingly clever! I will have to try this with Wild Thing. 

8. Car-Inspired Food - We used wheel-shaped pasta and cheese to make cars for dinner last night, and Red Ted Art made some adorable traffic light and car cookies. We will have to try this Create-A-Car snack activity from JDaniel4's mom, which uses bananas for the wheels - brilliant! 

9. Make a Cardboard Car (of course) - We made a quick and simple cardboard car for Wild Thing when we had our pretend library/coffee shop outing at home (literally, put him in the box with a steering wheel toy), but Loving My Nest has a cardboard car kids can wear! And, of course, Here Come the Girls also has a great police car cardboard box, since she had the amazing cardboard box train that we featured two weeks ago I was not surprised. 

Loving My Nest cardboard car on left. Here Comes the Girls cardboard car top right. 
10. Just Play! - I always end every Ten for Tuesday Transportation round up with this because open-ended, imaginative play can never be beat. I know Wild Thing and Caterpillar love to drive, swoop, and race their cars and love discovering new ways to play. Another great play activity that I love, inspired by Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth, is the idea of creating a sand tunnel and of car play in the sandbox from JDaniel4's mom, a good reminder that the sandbox is not just for trucks.

(#11) PARTY!! I am cheating this week by adding one more thing after #10 because Red Ted Art created a cars themed party for her little ones that I just had to share.

And Red Ted Art has this cute car wrapping paper, perfect for Christmas. In Lieu of Preschool also shared some cool wrapping paper and a few cars painting activities that you should also check out.

Finally, If you love this transportation series, you will also want to see the Montessori-Inspired Transportation Unit over at Living Montessori Now, and remember that I have a Things That Go! Pinboard that has many of these activities and many more activities for kids obsessed with all things transportation. Now, it is your turn -- how do your kids like to play with cars? (P.S. Next time - buses!)

Things That Go Series: 
Ten for Tuesday: Trucks!
Ten for Tuesday: Trains!

Monday, November 19, 2012

{November Virtual Book Club} Coulda Woulda Shoulda!!

Every month since I joined up with the Virtual Book Club for Kids, I have posted pretty much right on time with the linky/blog hop.

Today, though, I will not be sharing the ways that we move, draw, eat and learn with a Tomie dePaola book. Instead, I am sharing what we coulda, woulda and probably shoulda done and why we have not (yet).
We coulda read The Popcorn Book and eaten popcorn (special pop it in the microwave right off of the cob popcorn that we got from our farmshare), moved up and down pretending to be popcorn, made a popcorn craft and learned that some corn on the cob will pop and some will not. That is what we coulda done.
Magic corn on the cob popcorn from Abundant Harvest Organics, their photo.
Or maybe we woulda read The Art Lesson and done a big mural painting that encouraged gross motor skills (moving), another art project inspired by the book, made some edible art using frosting and sugar cookies and learned about different types of art. That is what we woulda done.
Or...we shoulda read The Quilt Story and moved like the caterpillar on one of the quilts that Ga-Ma made us, painted/colored a paper full of quilt squares, prepared a meal that told a story, and learned that quilts are part of our heritage (I have a quilt that belonged to my great-grandmother as well as several quilts my mother has made, all with special stories of their own). That is what we shoulda done.

Wild Thing did take photos of some of our special quilts Ga-ma made.

But, instead we have not read any of these three books (I have no idea if my activities would actually connect to the bookst) even though all three are on hold for us at the bookmobile that comes to our town. My first attempt at getting a Tomie DePaola book at the library resulted in a quick grab of one book (without looking at it) as the library was closing only to get it home and realize it was not the right level for Wild Thing and Caterpillar. 

Then, I put some books on hold and went to the bookmobile to pick them up only to find that it did not come that day (happens from time to time). So, a couple of days later, I went into town to the nearest library hoping they might have some of the books only to discover that the library opened at noon that day, and I have not been able to go back since. 

So, here we are with some coulda shoulda woulda activities for the three books on hold for us whenever we get to the bookmobile again -- maybe this Wednesday?? We will also be delivering one of gratitude postcards to the staff when we go. (Have you thought about making a thank you note/card for your librarian?) 

Hopefully, I will be sharing some activities soon! For now, I am at least sharing the link up/blog hop so you can benefit from what so many other great bloggers are doing.