Wednesday, April 30, 2014

{Wordless Wednesday} Saying Thank You...

...to someone who has included me/invited me to be part of something special.


Thank You! 
No Kid Hungry for inviting me to share my strength

Stacy of Kids Stuff World for including me in your efforts to end hunger
(and for inspiring me).  
#MomsFightHunger 

Zina and Lasso the Moon for building +
sharing Kid Blogger/Mommy Communities with me.

Shawn for inviting me to be an Abundant Mama.

Amy for inviting me to Dream


Who will YOU thank? 


To see the gratitude prompts for all 12 Days, click here

You might also like: 
The Gratitude Shift
Moms Fight Hunger Blog Hop
#Compassion2014





Monday, April 28, 2014

12 Days of Gratitude (in April)

Gratitude: It's Not Just for Thanksgiving



Over the  next two weeks, I hope to share (almost) daily posts focused on gratitude. My guiding word for 2014 is Compassion. Gratitude keeps me grounded and focused. When I remind myself of all I have to be grateful for, instead of getting caught in the "I Wants," I can more successfully extend compassion to others; I can live a compassionate life. Here are the prompts I'm focusing on over the next two weeks to encourage myself to live mindfully, graciously and compassionately. 
I will extended gratitude to...

  • ...Someone who included me 
  • (someone who invited me to be a part of something special).

  • ...Someone who has shown me kindness, 
  • without really knowing me.

  • ...Someone who always supports my work/dreams.

  • ...Someone who always supports my children.

  • ...Someone who has taught me something important 
  • (or perhaps someone I am still learning from).

  • ...Someone who helped me in a time of need.

  • ...Someone I don’t personally know that has made a difference in my life.

  • ...Someone who supports positive change in the world.

  • ...Someone who inspires me.

  • ...Someone who has truly changed my life.

  • And last, but certainly not least, I plan to extend some gratitude to myself and encourage you to as well. 

  • We can be our harshest critics, the strictest judge, but sometimes we need to stop and pat ourselves on the back. I hope you'll join me in embracing gratitude. Wrap yourself up with gratitude and then pull others into the fold as you extend gratitude to them. 

  • Please share your daily note of gratitude on my Facebook page or on Twitter, hashtags: #gratitude #Compassion2014.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

{Weekly Kid's Co-Op} Birds, Nests and Spring!

Spring Inspired Play! 


I love seeing, sharing and enjoying outdoor and nature play with my kids, especially when Spring arrives. The hills around our house are green. The lavender in our yard is in full bloom, and even weeding the yard as a family is fun! Today's picks from the Weekly Kid's Co-Op were inspired by Spring as was today's Picture Book of the Day.

Bonus Share: Ideas so you can Move, Eat, Draw and Learn with this book.

Kid's Co-Op Post Picks


Click on the description of each activity to go to their site.


Bonus Share: Our Nest Learning Activities

I've enjoyed combining Caterpillar's Tot School (he's 2.5) with PreK Learning Experiences for Wild Thing (whose 4). I use a loose Letter of the Week approach (often stretching out beyond a week), primarily to structure our activities. With the Letter N, we loved exploring Nests. He's a glimpse at what we did:


We collected sticks and twigs outside to add to these craft store nests my mom sent us. Wild Thing also practiced writing the word nest, and we looked at various books about birds so that we could see different types of nests and discovered. Through reading and researching, we also discovered that alligators and turtles also create nests. 


After letting our nests dry, we filled them with plastic eggs and finger puppet birds. Then we made some impromptu chocolate nests using a relatively healthy Cocoa Rice cereal (Mom's Best Cereal is the brand) and some marshmallows we had leftover from some fun marshmallow-toothpick building.

To give our nests an even healthier twist, we filled them with nuts to represent eggs rather than filling them with candy. 

The nuts also tied in with our Letter N focus. We tasted different types of nuts, and Wild Thing practiced writing and reading the word nuts. We compared three words: nuts, nest, and nets noticing how slight changes (one letter or letter order) create completely different words. Check out more of our Letter of the Week sensory experiences here.

I'm also sharing this at Booknificent Thursday!


Thanks for stopping by to check out what's happening with The Weekly Kid's Co-Op. 
Now it's time to link-up and play!


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Meal Planning Made Easy - This Week's Meals Inspired by Spring!

Savoring Spring - Fresh and Simple Recipes



By focusing on seasonal eating and smart meal planning, I'm able to make the most of a tight family budget and to enjoy the freshness of each season. I love cooking and recently decided to start sharing weekly meal plans (some encouragement from some of my lovely Facebook followers helped). If you want to focus on eating at home more and eating seasonally, you've come to the right place. You'll also want to follow my Seasonal Eats Pinboard and my new Meal Planning Pinboard, where you'll find all of the recipes shared here. In my meal plan posts, I typically just share breakfast and dinner ideas as these are our main "family around the table" meals. During the day, we're grazers. At the end of each meal planning post, I list our typical/favorite grazing items. Occasionally, I'll share a Mommy lunch I might have planned to use up key ingredients. 

Monday

Breakfast - Our Fave French Toast is Back! I often like to start our week off with the boys' favorite French Toast. It sets the tone for a good week, even on a sluggish Monday Morning.

Mommy's Lunch - Since we dyed eggs (using natural dyes made from veggie scraps), I'll be using up our boiled eggs and having a delicious Mayo-Less Open-Faced Egg Salad Sandwich. I despise mayonnaise, but discovered a delicious way to make egg salad using sour cream or plain yogurt. I also add edamame and avocado, which makes the egg salad even healthier and gives it a nice creaminess mixed with a crunch. I'm looking forward to it!  


Dinner - Grilled Chicken and Corn Salad from Mom.Me (Short cut: If grilling corn and taking the corn off the cob seems like too much work, use frozen corn instead). 

Bonus Tip: Grill extra chicken and set aside for tomorrow night's meal. I often use our indoor grill during the week and love that we have it for quick cooking. If you don't have one, you can always roast chicken in the oven instead or buy a rotisserie chicken to make this meal even easier.  

The Real Deal: I have a 2 and 4 year-old boy. They don't really eat salads yet. Instead I'll give them a plate with key items from the salad all separated: chicken, corn, carrots, avocado and some ranch for dipping. 

Tuesday 

Breakfast - Pancake Mini Muffins from The Pioneer Woman Cooks (these can be made the morning of or the day before or even Sunday to have on hand all week). Short cut: Make bacon to go with the pancakes and cook extra to have on hand for dinner. 

Bonus Tip: Save the bacon drippings or go ahead and sautee Swiss Chard in them before you clean the pan. It's another quick cook-ahead technique. 

Dinner - Grilled Chicken and Bacon Wraps from Tastes Better From Scratch (These will be quick and easy since the chicken and bacon I'll have already cooked). If I'm really on top of it, I'll roast up some potatoes to go with it -- perhaps some lovely purple potatoes.


The Real Deal: Again, the boys will probably have a compartmentalized version, and if the roasted potatoes won't happen, we'll just have carrots and chips.

Wednesday

Breakfast - Toast w/apples, cinnamon and honey. 


Dinner - Swiss Chard Frittata from Kalyn's Kitchen (I cook mine in a regular large square Pyrex pan or pie dish.) If you have any salad fixings leftover from Monday or Tuesday, it would be perfect to use them tonight to make a simple side salad to go with the frittata. 

Potential Swap Out: Carrots can be a nice addition instead of mushrooms. 

The Real Deal: I often make a veggie frittata early in the week so that I know I have a healthy food option on hand to throw in the microwave on a hectic day.

Thursday 

Breakfast - Leftover Frittata or Simple Breakfast Tacos (using tortillas that you'll probably have from Tuesday's wrap night). Just scramble eggs and put them in the tortillas. You can add veggies, salsa, potatoes (if you have some leftover) or bacon/sausage. 

Dinner - Little Bites! It can be fun to mix it up and do a dinner comprised of various little bites, appetizers or sides. This Asparagus Wrapped with Prosciutto from iConveyAwareness is divine. I love the idea of also serving Edamame and Pea Dip/Spread from Inspired Taste with Baguette or Pita. Consider also serving cheese slices and fruit, and why not some fun Garbanzo Bean Poppers too! 


Friday

Breakfast -  Bagels at our favorite local coffee shop (it's our Friday tradition). 

Mommy's Lunch - With asparagus, I'm eager to try this Goat Cheese Asparagus Grilled Cheese from Confections of a Foodie Bride.  

Dinner - Cauliflower is in season right now. Jamie Oliver's 30 minute Cauliflower Mac N Cheese is a perfect way to take advantage of this seasonal vegetable and make the kiddos happy.

Short Cut: When I make it, I oven skip the bacon/pancetta (to cut the cost) and use pre-made bread crumbs. Also, you can replace the creme fraiche with sour cream or plain yogurt.

Saturday

Breakfast - With berries in season where we live, I'll take any excuse to eat them, so these Healthy Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits from Saavy Saving Couple seem like a perfect way to start our Saturday. 

Rarely a week goes by when we don't make pizza at home -- it's a major favorite. This week, for lunch or dinner (we'll see how it goes), I'm looking forward to making a Spring Veggie Pizza with whatever spring veggies we still have on hand or whatever looks good at the store or Farmer's Market. 



The Real Deal: Sometime I also make a small cheese only or pepperoni pizza for the boys.

Sunday

Breakfast - We'll see! (Sometimes we go out for brunch on Sunday morning. Sometimes Daddy gets inspired to cook. Sometimes we hit up our favorite coffee shop as we head out on a Sunday adventure). 

Dinner - Daddy's on the Grill and we'll probably have some leftover Mac N Cheese to serve with whatever meat we grill up.

Tip: When we know we're going to grill, I look for clearance items in the meat section that need to sell because they need to be cooked soon. I've gotten some amazing deals on farm-raised 90% lean burgers, steaks and lamb by shopping this way.

Grazing Goodies

Typically day-time grazing items we eat include: carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, apples, raisins, peanut butter sandwiches, bananas, nuts, English muffins with cream cheese, and other seasonal fruits. 

Two other items that are catching my eye to make this week are: Healthy No-Bake Chocolate Cookies from Healthy Mama and Carrot Walnut Muffins (Sugar-Free and Gluten-Free) from iConvey Awareness.

You might also like:
Eating Well on a Budget
How and Why We Eat Local Food
Transforming Leftovers

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Celebrating Earth Day with the Weekly Kid's Co-Op

Recycled Play, Books about Nature and More!


\We love recycling and repurposing items we already have at home, and try to treat everyday like Earth Day and to always make sure we play outside, at least a little. These Earth Day, Nature and Recycled Play and Create posts from last week's Kid's Co-Op jumped out at me. Hope you get inspired to reduce, reuse and recycle -- and to get out and enjoy nature this Spring (or Fall if your down under)! 

Recycled Crafts and Activities
Click on each activity to go directly to that site








Earth Day/Nature Books, Media and Learning Activities








Bringing Together Earth Day and Easter





Monday, April 14, 2014

{National Library Week} This Week's Meal Plan - Inspired by Books!


We love our local library (which is technically a bookmobile) and have so much fun exploring books, especially getting creative with snacks and meals inspired by our favorite books. So, in honor of National Library Week (April 14-20), I've created an entire meal plan inspired by many of our favorite books! Hope you get inspired too! 

Monday

For breakfast, I'm keeping it simple with cereal. For lunch (or snack time), we'll be tasting the rainbow courtesy of Freight Train by Donald Crews.

Apple, Carrot, Banana, Avocado, Yogurt, Raisins and Plums.

A Meatless Monday Dinner Inspired by Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. - Green Rotini Pasta, Breadsticks and Alphabet Pasta or Green Rotini Pasta, Cheese and Raisins. 


Tuesday

For breakfast, it's French Toast inspired by The Cow in Patrick O'Shanahan's Kitchen by Diana Prichard. My boys love this book that connects food to its origin/source. As we make french toast together, they love to look at the book and retell the story. Often, our farm animal finger puppets become a part of the fun too! I often find our chicken finger puppet sitting inside the egg carton. (I've never managed to get any photos because we're all wrapped up too much in the process). Click to find out how we make our favorite French Toast

The Very Hungry Caterpillar has been a source of many creative snack dishes and lunches. Check out some fun caterpillar-inspired food options and activities from NurtureStore.  

Why not make a yummy Edamame and Pea Dip/Spread from Inspired Taste to munch on before or with dinner? It pairs perfectly with Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

Wednesday

Wild Thing (my 4 year-old) is really into learning Spanish right now, Huevos Estrellas (Starry Eggs) inspired by the book My Abuelita by Tony Johnston are always fun.

I love runny eggs and hot sauce,
but for the boys will go with scrambled eggs on top of fried potatoes instead.
A lunchtime favorite that my baseball-loving boys devour are these fun baseball cream cheese English muffins. We usually have other round (ball) fruits too like apples or grapes. Pair this with your child's favorite baseball book - one of ours is Hit the Ball, Duck! by Jez Alborough

We love making pizza. Pair your pizza night with I'm Fast by Kate and Jim McMullen, since one of the trucks in the book is carrying all of the ingredients involved with making pizza! Here's some of our favorite pizzas and other pizza posts from bloggers we love.

Thursday


For Breakfast, try Conveying Awareness with Jessica David's Apple Wedges with a Secret (honey is one of the secrets). We love books about honey, and the boys love eating too. The Honeybee Man by Lela Nargi and Krysten Booker is a great read and of course, any Winnie-the-Pooh book will do! 

Why not have some Lorax Lunch Fun? This Lorax Cheese Sandwich from JDaniel4's Mom is super cute!



Make it a Winnie the Pooh day with this Pooh-inspired dinner idea from Daisy at Home as part of the Family Dinner Book Club hosted by Growing Book by Book.

I love, too, the opportunity that Pooh, his honeybees and The Lorax provide for discussing the importance of honoring and caring for nature and exploring the way all living beings interact in the world. 

Friday

Too Many Toys by David Shannon inspired us to create "Blocks for Breakfast" (They had to be Legos, of course).
  

Plus, there's lots of colorful lunch and/or snack time fun to be had with Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle. 

Growing up, we'd often have popcorn for dinner once a week. Usually, we also grazed on cheese and fruit alongside the popcorn. My father always made it on the stove top, and I absolutely loved it. Why not read The Popcorn Book by Tomie DePaola and then curl up as a family with a big bowl of popcorn and a movie? 

For the Weekend


The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt become a fast favorite at our house the first time we brought it home from the library. I love Daisy At Home's colorful pasta to go along with this colorful book. 

Daisy At Home also has a great dinner idea inspired by Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Plus, you can't go wrong with cookies! Consider baking (or no-baking) cookies this weekend -- you can also pair your cookies with The Duckling Gets A Cookie by Mo Willems, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Numeroff or even Boy, Bird and Dog by David McPhail (like we did) or Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Leonni.
We made cookies inspired by pages in the book.

Other fun books to pair with cooking/meal time include Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A-Z by Lois Ehlert, If You Give A Moose A Muffin and If You Give A Pig A Pancake by Laura Numeroff, Pancakes, Pancakes! by Eric Carle, Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss, and The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine.

Do you create snacks or meals that connect with your children's favorite books? If so, please share! I'd love to see your creative creations. Leave a link in the comments for me to pin and share on Facebook.

Sharing at: After-School Linky, Good Tips Tuesday, Mom's Library, and the Weekly Kid's Co-Op. 

You might also like:
Meal Planning on a Budget
Book-Related Activities for Kids
Cooking Matters: Kids in the Kitchen



Thursday, April 10, 2014

Celebrating National Sibling Day with Sibling Play!

20 Simple Sibling Play Ideas for Young Children



After my popular monthly Baby Play Series came to an end (because my "baby" was no longer a baby), I decided to replace it with a monthly Sibling Play Series. Even though I didn't stick to my monthly goal very well, successful sibling play is very important to our household. So, I'm excited to highlight sibling play ideas and activities from my blog as well as some great posts from of my other favorite bloggers: 


Babies and Older Siblings:


Tummy Time featuring Baby and Big Brother from Mama Smiles 

Baby School and Bubbles featuring Mama Smiles (as well as some tips on Toddler Hitting from Taming the Goblin) 

Reflections - Mirror/Window Play from Mama Smiles

Talk Time - Infant Babble with an Older Sibling from Still Playing School



Sensory Play for Siblings:


Earth Day Sensory Bin - One of our favorite Nature Sensory Bins with extended play activities. 


Water and Nature Play - A wonderful way for siblings to play when the weather is warm. 

Green "Grass" Sensory Bin with educational learning extension activities. 

Jell-O - A sensory exploration inspired by the Letter J


Collaborative and Side-by-Side Art Projects for Toddlers and Preschoolers:


"Quilting" - Fabric scraps, cardboard and glue are all you need for this fun art activity. 

Sticky Paper Art - This activity is great for babies, as well as toddlers and preschoolers. 

Large Paper Painting - Tape some paper to a large piece of cardboard, put it on the ground outside and let the fun begin! 


More Fun Sibling Play Ideas:


Siblings in the Kitchen - My boys love to bake together and to help me out in the kitchen. If yours do too, consider having them work together and host a Bake Sale for No Kid Hungry! They'll have fun and will be able to help other children struggling with hunger. 

Music Time - My boys love playing music together and dancing together. 

Rainbow-Inspired Play - I love rainbow play with my boys because it also serves as a collaborative learning experience as they explore colors. 


On the Value of Sibling Play:


My boys also love: doing yoga together and outdoor play (most often in the "mud kitchen," at the train table, in the sandbox, riding their scooters, or playing tag). 

What activities do your children love doing together? How do you encourage positive sibling relationships? I'd love for you to share. If you've got a post focused on sibling play or playdates, leave the link so that I can pin it to my Siblings, Playdates Pinboard