Things to Do - Grateful List (August 2011)


1. Listening to Coconut Records' Nighttiming
2. Reading Life by Keith Richards
3. Reading Melissa Coleman's memoir This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone
4. Streaming Winter's Bone through Netflix
5. Watching Bridesmaids at the Cinema Drafthouse for date night (so so funny!)
6. Streaming Exit Through the Gift Shop (a documentary about Banksy and street art) through Netflix
7. Wyatt Cyrnac's live stand up at the Cinema Drafthouse
8. F's love of Wildkratts TV show on PBS

9. Harissa Ravioli from the cookbook Super Natural Every Day: Well-loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen
10. Veggies from my mom's garden
11. Raspberries straight from the vine at Great Country Farms

12. Blueberry picking in South Haven, MI and T saying "I like this" over and over again
13. Kids' Corner Playground in South Haven, MI
14. Swimming at Warren Dunes State Park with the girls
15. Visiting Nicols Arb as a family of five
16. Playing tag and chasing seagulls on the lawns at Mission Point Resort (Mackinac Island, MI)
17. Bike riding on Mackinac Island and F riding behind Dan on the tag along
18. An afternoon next to the baby pool at my aunt and uncle's cottage in South Haven, MI
19. Grayline's Hop on Hop Off DC bus tour and riding on top of the double decker bus (the "bus roller coaster" as the kids called it)
20. Visiting the brand new Martin Luther King memorial
21. Visiting the FDR memorial for the first time

22. T trying to jump while following the Elephant Trails path at the zoo

23. The kids adopting my old Barbies and Cabbage Patch Kids (thanks mom for saving them!)
24. Visiting and crashing with friends in Cleveland on our drive to Chicago
25. P telling F "you can think what you think and i'll think what i think, okay?"
26. F giving T a rest stop "nature" tour ("this is a mushroom, don't eat it, okay?" "this is a tree? it's big, do you like trees?")
27. P always saying "you have to be kidding me!"
28. R and C visiting us from CO
29. A day all to myself!! (thank you to my in-laws for taking the kids for two nights!)
30. Decluttering (6 bags to goodwill, 2 bags to garbage and I'm still not done)
31. Celebrating Dan's birthday during hurricane Irene - a homemade cake, homemade birthday "shawls", and Star Wars - Episode VI, Return of the Jedi [VHS]
32. A week of perfect weather before school starts (sunny 80 degree days)
33. T and his light saber protecting our house from "bad guys"
34. An entire day of playgrounds and sunshine
35. F's excitement about kindergarten starting soon

F's list - making my bed, my family, losing my 1st lost tooth, going on vacation, Cybil Lily, the playground [in South Haven], my aunt and uncle [her great aunt and uncle], seeing where you and daddy met, a bicycle built for two, drawing pictures, hanging out with friends, when E [her good friend] and I cooperate, R visiting with her mom and brother, raising our hands on the bus [during the double-decker bus tour]

P's list - dollies, my friends, my cousins, art projects, my family, F loosing her tooth, Sabrina [her doll], the toys in grandma's attic, everything in our whole house, vacation, riding behind you on a bicycle, R visiting, princesses, my friend E

T's list - baba [bottles, which he's not allowed to have anymore], "key in pocket" [putting room keys in an out of daddy's pocket], dada, ride bikes, money [???], light saber, "get bad guys!"

Dan's homemade birthday cake (the girls decided to add the strawberries) during Hurricane Irene


Three New Books About Stuff to Do With Kids


My kids already spend a lot of time outside, so I hesitated over whether or not to purchase Fifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids. But now I'm so glad I own it. The author lists 365 different things to do outside, divided by month, most of which are simple, easy ideas. For example, in September the activities range from working on homework outside to playing four sticks ("grab four sticks to see how many different shapes or letters you can make"). And while some of the suggestions are no-brainers for us ("visit a local nature center") the author also lists many activities I never thought of, such as planting aster to attract butterflies and tracking seasonal changes by spending one day a week at the same place and detailing the changes in a special notebook. The book is great to grab during one of those "ugh, what to do?" parenting moments that hit at unexpected times. A great solution to hearing "I'm bored" (ugh, I hate those dreaded words).

(For more books on children and nature, check out my past post here).

I'm a big fan of the blog Soulemama (which, currently, is making me obsess over how much fun we would have raising chickens). I own Amanda Soule's first book, The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connectionsand have referenced it frequently over the past few years (this book inspired me to start making monthly grateful lists). Amanda's newest book - The Rhythm of Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder through the Seasonshas less activities and crafts then her first book (if you're choosing between them, I'd recommend the first one) but I find the chapters, divided by season, an inspiring way of looking at the world around us. And I enjoyed the seasonal project suggestions, esp. making nature stamps and "a string of leaves." Definitely worth checking out.

Mariah Bruehl's book Playful Learning: Develop Your Child's Sense of Joy and Wonderhas been all over the blogosphere lately. It seems that most big bloggers received free copies (what about me Mariah? What about me? Small bloggers need love too!), but don't worry, I'm not bitter (okay, so maybe a little bitter). Luckily, it's a book worth buying. I think Playful Learning would work well as a how-to manual for homeschooling moms, but it is also helpful for moms like me searching for new things to try with our public-schooled kids. The chapters are broken down by subject (writing, reading, math, science, art, the environment, and "feelings"), with simple ideas for activities. Bruehl frequently recommends children's books to read then suggests complementary activities based on the suggested books. For example, I love the idea "drawing a map of your heart" after reading Sara Fanelli's My Map Book. I also love the idea of an alphabet scavenger hunt. Regarding the chapter on reading, I've noticed that F's kindergarten teacher utilizes many of the same methods, which, for me, means that Bruehl knows what she's doing. I highly suggest picking up a copy (if this was a bigger blog, I'd auction off a free copy, but no such luck, sorry everyone).


Places to Go - Double Decker Bus Tour! (Washington DC and Arlington, VA)


It feels dorkily exhilarating to spend a day as a tourist in your own town. I'm now convinced that if you have small children there is no better way to do so than Gray Lines' Double Decker hop on hop off bus tour. At the beginning of last summer my friend's daughter, E, saw 101 Dalmatians II and begged to ride on the top of a double-decker bus. When I discovered that Goldstar sells tickets for 50% off Tuesday - Thursday, we decided it would be the perfect end of the summer adventure before kindergarten began. If you miss out on the Goldstar deal, full price 24 hour tickets cost $35 for adults and $18 for kids 4-12 (under 4 are free). Two day passes cost $40 for adults and $20 for kids.


We started the tour in Pentagon City and wow was it fun to cruise the highway on top of a gigantic bus, the kids said it felt like we were on a bus-plane and it really did. The Arlington buses weren't very crowded (as you can tell from the picture above) so it sort of felt like a private tour. Once we entered the city, we had beautiful views of all the monuments and buildings. The bus speaker system broadcasts interesting facts about the structures and places, most of which I had never heard before.


We took the blue line bus to the Lincoln Memorial (three bus routes make up the tour - yellow, blue, and red and, ideally, you'll want to ride them all) where the kids enjoyed running in the grass for awhile and trying to climb all the old trees.


After running around the lawns, we walked to the top of the Lincoln Memorial, where the kids all decided to dance by the side wall. As they were out of the way of the main attraction, I didn't really see a problem with this, but lots of tourists kept looking at us like "what is going on here?" Oh well, as I see it Lincoln needs some people to dance by his side once in awhile, it has to get lonely up there.


After visiting our nation's 16th president, we decided to walk over to the FDR memorial, which was sort of a haul with the kids. On the upside, we ran across the brand spanking new Martin Luther King memorial without even realizing where we were (I find the geography of the National Mall a little confusing in practice). The MLK memorial has been the subject of a lot of controversy here in DC (why use white stone? was he accurately quoted? does he look too angry? etc.) but I found the whole thing so beautiful and tasteful and just lovely, especially the mountain-like entrance. Both my friend J and I almost started crying as we tried to explain to the kids who this man was and why we honor him. Plus, explaining the concept of racism to kids who have grown up in multicultural classrooms with friends of all colors and nationalities is always tricky. It's something they (luckily) haven't encountered yet (and for that I always feel fortunate).


The MLK memorial sits on the Tidal Basin, so we snacked by the water and fed goldfish crackers to the ducks. I always forget how beautiful and peaceful it feels to relax by the Tidal Basin. I wish we went here more often (but the parking, oh the parking).


From the tidal basin we walked over to the FDR memorial. I'd never been there before but my friend, J, insists that it is the most beautiful place in the city and she might be right. It's huge with beautiful waterfalls everywhere (none of my pics of the waterfalls turned out very well, so I highly suggest checking them out yourself). The statue of the men in the breadline almost made me cry (it was an emotional day for some reason). Plus the kids loved climbing on the large rocks placed throughout the monument. By this point the children were exhausted so we hopped back on our tour and prepared for a mellow bus-riding afternoon.


I took a million pictures of monuments, buildings, light, shadows, etc. but these two pretty much capture the day. DC looks so peaceful and lovely from above (I wish this sense of peace existed everywhere in our city). My friend's toddler even fell asleep in her arms. And we drove through parts of the district I'd never even seen before - wow, the National Cathedral really is as breathtaking as everyone says.


As much as we loved seeing the sights, for the kids the highlight of the day was probably the "bus roller-coaster." Once we crossed into north DC the trees branches hung pretty low. So low that we all ducked for cover. A little scary for adults. But for kids "the most fun ever." They shouted, the laughed, they screamed, they made my day.

Seriously, a perfect adventure. And we didn't even need strollers. I now consider the double-decker bus a MUST DO DC ACTIVITY. I can think of few better ways to enjoy a nice fall day.


Things to Make - Halloween Stained Glass with Tissue Paper and Liquid Starch


When I read about using tissue paper and liquid starch to make stained glass on the Artful Parent I decided it would be the perfect method for crafting Halloween decorations. I bought black, orange, and yellow tissue paper at AC Moore, poured some liquid starch into an clean old yogurt cup, gave P a paint brush and let her create. P decided she wanted to make a pumpkin, so we worked together on creating the circle. I thought it would be cute to use the black tissue paper to make the face but P stated that jack-o-lantern faces looked "too scary." So she decided to let it dry and color on her pumpkin with markers.

When T woke up and F returned from kindergarten they really wanted to make their own creations. I was pretty impressed that this project was so toddler-friendly, T spent over a half hour making a collage with not that much parental involvement. F made a pumpkin and a collage. She also liked coloring with markers on the still-wet tissue paper and watching the color swirl. All in all a pretty easy way to fill an afternoon. And now we're prepared for Halloween.

Here's the scoop: You'll need: liquid starch, tissue paper, wax paper, and paint brushes.

1. Buy liquid starch at the grocery store. Pour a small amount into a container.

2. Cut tissue paper into small pieces.

3. Using a brush, "paint" a small amount of liquid starch onto the wax paper (you may want to put newspaper underneath the paper, it gets messy fast).

4. Arrange tissue paper on the wet wax paper then paint over the tissue paper with more liquid starch.

5. Let dry.

6. Hang in windows. Lovely!!



*LOVE these DIY popsicle-stick magnets for the fridge.

*Leaf printing on fabric from the Artful Parent.

*This pinterest collection has TONS of great project ideas. Check it out. Also, I have a fall craft project Pinterest collection - click here to view it.

*A face sticker pad!! I need to purchase some of these. This looks like a great activity for a wide variety of ages.


Things to Do - Get Bad Guys


T feels that I've portrayed him too softly on this blog. He wants the world to see him as a vicious, "bad guy getting" jedi knight. Now you know.

Sorry about all the short posts lately, I'm in the process of compiling a huge list of things to do with kids this fall, which I'm hoping to blog next week, so keep checking back.

Happy Monday everyone!!



Things to Do - Sisters


I used to work with a woman who dabbled in astrology. After P was born, she promised me that the stars divined a good sibling relationship between the girls.*

I know it's cheesy but when I look at P and F, who are so different in SO many ways, I just hope that they'll stay close. That they'll always have each other's backs. But you never know. You never know.


*In case you're wondering (of if you're into this sort of thing), P is a double scorpio (which makes her REALLY mysterious and tricky to figure out) and F is a libra with rising scorpio.


*The Grinker family. A fascinating story of piecing together one's ancestry and "the experience of diaspora.”

*Kidfriendly DC has the scoop on various fall festivals. Click here to check it out.

*A rocking bed?? I love it.

*Alex Kanevsky.



Places to Go - Raspberry Picking at Great Country Farms (Bluemont, VA)


As I mentioned on Monday, a few weeks ago we took friends from out of town to Great Country Farms for the day. We rode the tractor to the fields, which was probably the highlight of the trip for T ('actor ride!! 'nother 'actor ride!!"). Once we arrived, I found the LONG walk to the top of the hill somewhat discouraging (after all you can buy berries in the store), but the girls ran the whole way. As for the taste of raspberries off the vine, seriously delicious. We finished eating all that we picked before the tractor arrived back at the farm.



Things to Make - Strawberry & Cream Muffins


Lately the kids have been more interested in cooking than in craft projects, so the other day we made strawberry & cream muffins, which turned out quite yummy. At least we thought so.

The recipe is from the book 1 Mix 100 Muffins (1 = 100!), which has a LOT of great ideas and combinations.

INGREDIENTS (for 12 muffins):
*1 cup chopped strawberries (fresh or frozen)
*2 cups all purpose flour
*1 tbsp baking powder
*1/8 tsp salt
*1/2 cup sugar
*2 eggs
*1 cup light cream
*6 tbsp melted butter
*1 tsp vanilla extract
*1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Line 12 count muffin pan with liners.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in sugar and chopped strawberries.
3. Beat the eggs, then add in the light cream, butter, and vanilla extract. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in beaten ingredients. Stir until combined, don't overmix.
4. Spoon into muffin pan. Bake approximately 20 minutes, until well risen and golden brown.
5. While muffins cool, whip heavy cream until stiff. Once muffins are cold, top each one with a dollop of cream. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.



Places to Go - Great Country Farms (Bluemont, VA)


A few days after we returned from vacation, three of our favorite people flew from Denver to visit us. P quickly referred to R as her "new best friend" and the two of them became inseparable for the rest of R's visit. At first F felt left out, but she cheered up after deciding to take on the role of baby caregiver. And all was good. C and I stayed up late into the night, drinking wine and talking about everything we could think of.


As I've mentioned before (click here to see my past post), we're big fans of Great Country Farms (which is sort of a like a playground, amusement park, petting zoo, and farm combined), so we decided to bring our old friends to our newish hangout. Luckily, the weather agreed with us - sunny and about 80 degrees, it doesn't get better than that. The girls had a wonderful time jumping on the huge pillow and T "drove" huge cars for long periods of time (I don't even think he noticed that the "cars" contained slides). And of course, we picked some fruit (I'll have pics up on Wednesday), cause it is a FARM after all.


I love the bunny hut. I could probably spend all day just watching them dig holes and chill out. But then the kids remembered the bouncy pillow and away we went . . .


So just when I thought that princess dress outings were a thing of the past P decided to surprise me with this ensemble. Oh well, farms need princesses too. I guess.


Places to Go (Vacation) - Mackinac Island, Part III - Fort Mackinac- The Fourth


For the last day of our island vacation, we FINALLY agreed to take a "taxi" into town (after the kids begged and begged). Unfortunately, the taxi dropped us off at the bottom of Fort Mackinac and the hike to the top was a little bit challenging for little feet. Oh well, something has to toughen them up.

Fort Mackinac was the third, and probably final, vacation fort of the summer (click here to preview the other forts we've visited). As far as forts go, Fort Mackinac really has it all - every building houses some sort of exhibit (the girls LOVED running from building to building and comparing notes on what they discovered). Plus, a well-done kids' room kept the girls entertained for a good half hour or so. Unfortunately, T wasn't feeling it, perhaps he doesn't like military history? Whatever the reason his fuss level was at an all time high. So we rode the ferry back to the mainland and started the LONG drive to Pittsburgh, ready to begin school (kindergarten, wow, kindergarten) and say goodbye to summer. Ugh, don't you just hate those two words together (goodbye and summer)? Always so sad to say.

Regarding the last picture, Mackinac Island has a lot of garter snakes. A lot. Luckily the island's "soldiers" know how to deal with such things.


*FreeRange kids has an interesting post on the Prince Pasta commercial and how parenting has changed in the last twenty or so years.

*A beautiful set of beach photos.

*Yes. I love days like this.


Things to Read - Six Interesting Articles From Around the Web (Teens Online, Criminal Lemonade, Generation Limbo, Time for Beauty, Outdoor Education, and the Chesapeake Bay)

1. (Teens Online)- 10 Things You Don't Know About Teens and Social Networking - lots of interesting quotes from real teens on how social networking effects their lives.

“My friendships are really affected by social networking. You have to constantly validate your friends online. And everyone’s like ‘Where were you?’ ‘What have you been doing?’ ‘Why haven’t you commented on my picture yet?’ So you have to be online all the time, just to keep track, so you don’t upset anyone.” --Jasmine, 13 years old

“Social networking affects all the things you do in real life now. Like, if you go to a party, one of the most important aspects of going to the party is to document yourself for online posts. You have to prove you were looking good, you were having fun, and that you were actually there! It’s not about the party anymore but about the pictures of the party.” --Caroline, 14 years old

. . . . Interesting.

2. (Criminal Lemonade)
- The Battle Against Lemonade Stands - Apparently governments are cracking down on this time-honored tradition.

3. (Making Time for Beauty ) This short, wonderfully stated article from Anne Lamott stresses the need for "time spent quietly in beauty."

"I ask [my students], is there a eucalyptus grove at the end of their street, or a new exhibit at the art museum? An upcoming minus tide at the beach where the agates and tidepools are, or a great poet coming to the library soon? A pond where you can see so many turtles? A journal to fill?

If so, what manic or compulsive hours will they give up in trade for the equivalent time to write, or meander? Time is not free—that’s why it’s so precious and worth fighting for. "

(link via A Day That is Dessert).

4. (Generation Limbo).
Should we keep encouraging student loans when there are no jobs to be found? The New York Times has an interesting article on recent college grads. According to the article, many many twenty-somethings are "resigned to waiting for the economic tides to turn." "Plenty of people work in bookstores and work in low-end administrative jobs, even though they have a Harvard degree. . . . They are thinking more in terms of creating their own kinds of life that interests them, rather than following a conventional idea of success and job security." According to one interviewee, "You have to make opportunities happen for yourself, and I think a lot of my classmates weren’t thinking in that way. . . It’s the equivalent of setting up your own lemonade stand.” This quote makes me feel oddly inspired. How about you?

5. (Outdoor education). Want Your Kids to Get Into Harvard? - Tell 'Em to Go Outside! How important is being outdoors for learning science? For most educators, not very important. According to one school administrator, "we’ve become so sophisticated in the teaching of science, that our students don’t have to go outside anymore.” Scary. And sad.

6. (CAFOs). The poor Chesapeake Bay, Dave Bard's article through the PEW Environmental Group explains the pollution problems caused by chicken CAFOs ("Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations").


Places to Go (Vacation) - Mackinac Island, Part II - Bikes- The Fourth Stop on Our Roadtrip of Michigan


Our second day on the island we rented bikes. And as soon as we rode past the town, I realized why I remembered this place so fondly - breathtaking vistas around every corner. Seriously, every corner. We rented a bicycle built for two for the girls to take turns riding and a bicycle with a trailer for T. After about three minutes on the tandem, P decided it wasn't for her, so F became our sole child bike-rider. Watching F ride behind Dan sort of melted my heart, she just seemed so BIG all of a sudden. We stopped a lot - to climb rocks, throw pebbles in the water, wet our feet, and, sometimes, just to sit and look. As cheesy as it sounds, without cars everything really does seem more peaceful.

One of our best family days ever. And F even decided that she likes vacation again.



*The free downloadable DesignSponge newspaper is pretty fun (and full of good eye candy), I just bought the book too and I can't say enough good things.

*Looking for a kid-friendly show to see this fall? KidFriendly DC has a wonderful list of the season's best entertainment options. Personally, I'm pretty excited about Big Apple Circus, we took the kids last year and the show even mesmerized T. KidFriendly DC also has a great list of places to go apple picking in the DC area.

*A new, free issue of Lonny is out, which always makes me want to spend thousands (millions?) of dollars redecorating our house.

*Best words of wisdom ever. Ever.


Places to Go (Vacation) - Mackinac Island, Part I - The Ferry & Mission Point Resort - The Fourth Stop on Our Roadtrip of Michigan


After Ann Arbor, we planned on driving to Michigan's Upper Peninsula to visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Munising. It is so beautiful and isolated up there. But F started breaking down in Ann Arbor - stating over and over again she was sick of vacation and ready to go home. And we have done a lot of traveling this summer. So we changed the plan and decided to spend a few days on Mackinac Island then head back to Arlington.

As a kid, I visited Mackinac Island with my grandpa and parents and I remember it as one of our best family vacations ever. As for why I remember it so fondly, the details are hazy, though the bicycle built for two was definitely pretty amazing from my nine year old viewpoint. Anyways, I've always wanted to take our kids to the island and when Dan found out he had a week off between jobs this summer, I jumped at the chance to visit.

We stayed on the island at Mission Point Resort, primarily because of its kid-friendliness (kids eat free, which is a huge plus when you have three of them). Regarding the decor, Mission Point needs a makeover, the whole place screams 1980s (SCREAMS!). But the food was, well, not bad (and sometimes, quite good). And the family suite was the perfect room for our family - two separate bedrooms, one with a king and one with two singles (T slept between the girls on the floor, on a "T bed" made out of pillows). Best of all, Mission Point has a HUGE lawn - with seagulls and a gazebo and views of Lake Michigan. Perfect for running races. Sort of depressing to hear "but why are you tired Mommy?" after you've been running for a good thirty minutes. So be it. We had a wonderful night.


Lately we've been reading these books a lot. The girls always fixate on Christina's World by Andrew Wyeth, as they love to make up stories about what happened to the girl in the painting. So when I took this picture, I couldn't help but wonder if P was trying to act out the artwork.

The resort has a few unused "great rooms" scattered throughout the property. Their decor consists mostly of plastic house plants and decayed old books, but I thought these chairs looked lovely in the noon light.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...