Summertime Fun

Today I want to share the beginnings of a simple but great memory…

This past week my husband and I built a small fire in the backyard and roasted S’mores over a campfire for the first time with our three and a half-year old son. He did wonderful and had lots of fun.

Since this was his first time, we purchased an extendable roasting stick for him so he would not need to stand so close to the fire.

After eating a few yummy and gooey S’mores we spent the dusk hours chasing fireflies around the yard and catching them; another “first” for my son.

This is just the beginning of an amazing summer of discovery and I’m looking forward to enjoying many more special moments like these with him as he continues to grow!

Share with us….what’s your fondest summer memory? Click reply at the bottom or on the speech bubble at the top of this post to comment.

Four Happy Little Things

Cleaning is not the most exciting thing in life but it is a necessary evil. Having a husband, a three-year old and two dogs in the house doesn’t make the task any easier! It can be hard sometimes to get motivated to clean. If you find yourself in this predicament, the best advice I can give you is to invite a friend over to hang out later on in the afternoon. You will truly be surprised how fast you can actually clean!

Once I get myself in cleaning mode and start at it, I get more and more happy with each room that is completed. Afterwards I can sit back and admire all the clutter-free and sanitized goodness for a few moments then enjoy a magazine or browse Pinterest a while before starting all over again it seems!

Here are a few of my favorite household products that make daily chores a breeze:

Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Soap- This soothing soap features an awesome lemon verbena scent that makes washing up just a little more pleasant. Just the right amount of foam and a leaves a clean feeling. The subway art style label on the bottle is neat to look at also.

Swiffer Dusters & Furniture Spray-
The disposable dusting wand is small and gets into all types of crevices. The extendable arm allows easy reach to ceiling fan blades and the  fibers on the head lock in dust particles so that the dust you sweep off high shelves doesn’t end up in your face! It has a great fresh scent thanks to Febreze.

 

 

Shark Steam Mop-  I love this product! Plug it up and the water heats up within 30-seconds. Using steam sanitizes without having to use chemical cleaners. For tough stains you can spray your favorite cleaner on first though. (My only dislike for this product is that the cleaning cloths say no bleach for washing. They can get pretty grungy looking and it would be nice to keep them sparkling white.)

 

Scentsy- There is no better feeling than walking in the door to a great smelling house. Even if the laundry basket is overflowing and the dogs have chewed up some mystery object you can at least close your eyes and think about a clean house! Presently I am completely hooked on Mochadoodle, Jellybean and White Tea & Cactus. I have Scentsy pots, one on each level of the house, set on timers to turn on an hour before I get home from work. “Think clean. Think clean. Ahhhh!”

I hope these provide a little inspiration for you. Now get out there and go clean something! Remember, you can always click the comment button to share your favorite cleaning product too. We’d love to hear about it.

Apple-Raisin Bars

Apple-Raisin Bars fresh out of the oven

Apple-Raisin Bars fresh out of the oven

Looking for a tasty dessert, I decided to try this recipe for Apple-Raisin bars.  They were fabulous for dessert and go perfectly with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The versatile dish also makes a great breakfast served with yogurt and coffee. Yum!

Apple-Raisin Bar

Apple-Raisin Bar

Apple-Raisin Bars Recipe

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 Golden Delicious apple, diced into 1/4″ cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Liberally coat a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
  2. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, blend together sugar, eggs, butter and vanilla for 3 minutes or until smooth.  Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture; mix for 2 minutes or until just incorporated. Stir in diced apples, raisins and (optional) nuts, and spread into prepared pan.
  4. Bake at 350 F degrees for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting into bars and serving.

Source: Adapted from Family Circle Magazine

Farm Fresh Blueberry Pancakes

Can I say that I LOVE going to the market! Saturday I started my morning off bright and early at the Martinsville Uptown Farmers’ Market. I bought some great produce, fresh seafood and enjoyed some live music too.

Going to market is a great lesson in math and social skills for my three-year old son also. He helped by handing the money to each vendor, accepting the change and saying thank you to them.

This morning I put my market finds to use by making blueberry pancakes with fresh blueberries and eggs from the market.  I found a great recipe at SmittenKitchen.com and learned a great new tip too. Did you know that basting melted butter on the pan with a brush is the way to get the perfect golden brown pancakes without using too much or too little oil?

We enjoyed our pancakes with a side of turkey bacon out on the deck listening to the birds sing. It was a great way start off Sunday morning.

I’d love to get to know my readers better…what made YOU happy today? 

One-Minute Peanut Butter Cake

This weekend my friend Katie and I made a fabulous dessert that I found here. I had been working with this recipe for One-Minute Peanut Butter Cake for days trying to perfect it; the third time was the charm.

While this single serving recipe is very simple to make, I found that it was extremely rich and almost too much for one person to eat.  This time we opted to split the recipe into two small crocks.

Because the cake is cooked in the microwave it fluffs up to the same size as if we had put all the batter in one cup but the end result is lighter, not so intensely rich and comes with less guilt.

We garnished the cake with a dusting of powdered sugar, sugar-free chocolate syrup, sugar-free whipped cream and fresh sliced strawberries.

Our husbands were so impressed with the individual desserts but mum’s the word on how easy it was to prepare! Katie and I took our time in the kitchen enjoying girl talk while we “slaved away” on this super simple one-minute dish.

Sunday Brunch

It’s a chilly and rainy January morning, perfect for lounging around the house with a hot cup of coffee in front of the toasty fire. To make the morning even more perfect, a delicious and hearty broccoli and cheddar frittata for brunch. Find the full recipe here. 

What a delicious way to enjoy a lazy day!

The Tractor Goes Chug, Chug, Chug…

If you’ve ever met my son, you’ll learn first thing that he loves lawnmowers, tractors, Farmer Jason and anything John Deere. This year in preparation for his third birthday he requested a tractor party.

I would love to have had a fun farm themed outdoor party with petting zoo and hay ride, only Hunter was born in January. To recreate a farm theme indoors we constructed a John Deere tractor out of two cardboard boxes and various recycled plastic and cardboard components from around the house. It was very fun to build!

My inspiration for this project came from The Party Wall. Although I did not have the time to recreate their very realistic wheels, our tractor did have a working steering wheel, buttons to push in the cab and a gas cap on the hood that screws off for quick fill-ups. Rather than spray paint, we opted to use Duct Tape. Not only was there no drying time, but the tape made the cardboard even more sturdy so it could handle rowdy toddlers. A small chair in the cab allowed the kids to sit inside and take turns steering.

In addition to five rolls of Island Lime Duct Tape and lots of hot glue, here’s how we did made the rest:

Wheels- Cardboard circles covered in black Duct Tape
Exhaust- Wrapping paper tube covered in silver Duct Tape
Grill & Dashboard- Cardboard packing material from new ceiling lights spray painted black
Headlights- Empty Duct Tape rolls covered in silver Duct Tape (one had fallen off in this picture)
Gas Cap- Top of detergent container
Steering Wheel- Four pieces of foam board stacked and covered in black Duct Tape, my father used an elaborate system of nuts, bolts and some scrap plastic to make the steering wheel functional so it could be turned.
Buttons- Caps to WD-40 and detergent bottles
Tail Lights- Actual tail lights for a trailer that were lying around the garage

No farm is complete without  animals so we loaded up Hunter’s red wagon with all of his stuffed animals so that our four little farmers could take turns loading and unloading the animals. It was a great party and Hunter had an amazing time. I’ll show more photos from the party and decorations in future posts.

Let’s Talk: What is the most elaborate prop you’ve ever constructed for a party?

Organizing Art Chaos

Soon after my son began attending toddler classes at nursery school I saw that his “paperwork” was beginning to outgrow mine on our desk at home. Each picture and craft project was so special that it was difficult to simply toss.

One day when the stack of cherished handprints and colorings grew too big I began filing the art away in plastic sleeves inside large 1.5″ to 2″ binders. After a year was completed, I instantly saw how this had become a time capsule of the year.

 

Since then we have gone through another binder for the two-year old room and I just started a new binder when Hunter moved up to the threes room. It has become a routine now in our home. Highlighted art gets displayed on the fridge each week, selected pieces are shipped off to share with grandparents and everything else goes in the binder for safekeeping.

He enjoys getting to look through the binders with me during cuddle time and telling me what is in each picture. I enjoy seeing his skills grow and develop as we flip through the pages together.

 

Tell us, what is your technique for organizing the clutter of school papers?

A Hoppin’ Good Time

One of the larger projects that I have been working on this fall has been the redecorating of  our second floor bathroom. The small guest bath is adjacent to my son’s bedroom and since he is now potty trained (big YAY!) we decided to make it kid friendly for him to enjoy.

I had a blank white slate to begin with: white walls, white counter and white shelves. In other words, rather blah.

I first removed the plain frameless mirror and outdated fixtures then prepped the room for painting.

My inspiration piece for the room was the Peeking Frogs shower curtain from Wal-Mart with frogs which features playful frogs and dots of color all over.  I chose the yellow from the curtain as the main color for the room and painted the walls with two coats of “Golden Butter” by Valspar, available at Lowe’s.

Along with the curtain I purchased the matching trash can, soap dispenser and toothbrush holder. (My son absolutely loves washing his hands now as the frog’s head bobs when you pump soap.) Rather than overdoing the theme with too many frogs, I opted out of the matching rug and found one instead that plays off the dots theme. This turquoise rug was a clearance rack find at only $3!

I pulled the tones of turquoise and orange out of the shower curtain with towels and found cute blue and green Kusiner Boxes at Ikea that fit the existing cubby holes perfectly.

Also, while at Ikea I found a round mirror to play off the dots theme (and the nearby round air duct), a toilet paper holder and hand towel holder.

One component of the project that has yet to be completed is framed subway art over the toilet. I was inspired by this and this and will create my own version in orange and turquoise to display in a vertical Ribba frame from Ikea. Hope to post photos of that soon!

In the meantime there is one area of the bathroom that lacks pizzazz. The corner to the left of the sink is still a little blah. I have a frog snow globe sitting there with a turquoise dish and rolled wash cloths. (Both the snow globe and dish were repurposed from elsewhere in the house.) I feel that I need something with some height in that corner…. suggestions?

Catching Up

After a VERY long break full of holidays, vacations and birthdays, I am back on the blogosphere. In the coming weeks I plan to catch my readers up on the many projects I’ve been working on offline.

Paints

Shaving Cream Paints

 

Today I want to share a very simple yet fun idea to try with kids. To make bath time more fun try bath paints!

Take an inexpensive can of foam shaving cream and spray it into small containers. A muffin pan or ice-cube tray is ideal but for this time I just used small bowls from the kitchen and a cake pan to contain the items.

Add a few drops of food color to each section and stir. Give the kids a few paint brushes (fingers work too) and let them paint away on the bath tub, the tile surrounds and themselves.

My two-year-old had a blast with this activity and the clean-up afterwards is so simple, just hose everything down with the spray head when done.

Painting

Painting in the Tub

Now my son begs to take baths, which is a win-win for everyone!

Note: In a pinch, foaming gel shaving cream can be used but it’s just not as cost-effective.

Have fun and if you decide to try this idea with your kids, be sure to tell us about it.