Archive for Fun for Kids

The Avocado Smoothie Your Kids Will Love

Avocado Smoothie

Last year, juicing was all the rage in my house. This year, we have moved in a similar but slightly different direction…smoothies!  Thanks to my friend Jen and her facebook posts about the delicious smoothies that she made with her family, we have started to make smoothies too.  Now don’t get me wrong, I still love juicing but making smoothies requires less cleaning in the end. The one thing about juicing that I hate is having to take apart and clean the juicer when we are done.

Making smoothies allows us to use most of the same ingredients, but creates a frozen concoction that my kids can’t resist.  We initially started with your typical type of smoothies. You know, bananas, yogurt, ice and orange juice.  This is delicious but not quite healthy enough if you ask me.  The cool thing about smoothies is that some frozen fruit can really hide the taste of all the healthy stuff.

There are 2 things that I always put into each smoothie.  These are wheat germ and flaxseed meal.  If you are not familiar with these two things I highly recommend that you check out these links and learn about all the awesome health benefits of wheat germ and flaxseed.   Just a word of warning though with regards to flaxseed.  It can have a mild laxative effect so you may not want to add too much at once. We add about a 1/4 of wheat germ and 2 tbsp. of flaxseed to each blender full of smoothies.

Health benefits of wheat germ

Health benefits of flaxseed meal

Now let’s move on to the recipe for what I have to call the tastiest avocado smoothie ever.  I love avocados and both of my kids did when they were toddlers, but now as preschoolers they have become much pickier eaters.  This is where the whole smoothie thing comes in.  This is a great way to sneak in the healthy stuff without getting any complaints or whining from the kids.

The ingredients are: (makes 4 smoothies)

2 bananas

1/2 ripe avocado

 6 oz. container greek yogurt (any fruit flavor you like)

1/4 c. wheat germ

2 tbsp. flaxseed meal

1.5 cups frozen mango

5-10 ice cubes depending on how thick you like it

1.5-2 c. orange juice

Blend all of these together until rich and creamy.  We swap out the type of fruit daily depending on what we have on hand.  I buy my frozen fruit at Trader Joe’s.  I think they have the best selection and the prices on frozen fruit can not be beat.

Once you try this you will be hooked and proud to give yourself and your family such a delicious snack. We make these smoothies almost everyday after school and I feel good knowing that they are getting lots of vitamins, protein from the greek yogurt, omega 3’s from the avocado and much more. Please let me know how it turns out if you try it.  Happy blending!

What’s your favorite ingredient to add to smoothies?  I would love to hear from you!

If you love avocados as much as I do, check out this recipe for Avocado Egg Salad!  This recipe was create by an awesome blogger who focuses on nutrition and fitness.  I can’t wait to try this!

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“I Spy” Quilt for Kids

An “I Spy” quilt for baby Madison.

My sister is going to be having a baby in a couple more weeks and I wanted to make my new little niece something special.  Typically I would crochet something, but had trouble getting motivated to start a crochet project .  Then I stumbled upon this idea.  An “I Spy” quilt.  I am sure that most of you remember playing this game as a kid. You know, one person says “I spy something green” and then everyone else tries to guess what it is.  This quilt is based on that idea.  Each of the squares on the quilt is different. This makes a great gift for kids as they can enjoy snuggling with their quilt as well as playing the I spy game.  Kids quilts are a great first project for a beginner quilter. They are generally smaller and less intricate, so they can be more manageable.  Oh and I doubt you will ever hear a kid remark on an unstraight line or a missed stitch.  🙂

Here is what I did to make this quilt.  First, I bought 48 different children’s fabrics.  This is much easier than it sounds.  Ebay sells quilt squares for reasonable prices. For this type of project this was a huge time saver.  Next stitch the square together in any pattern you choose. I like the 12 different blocks of 4 squares each, but truly the possibilities are endless.  Next cut out your border and attach it.  Finally you will choose your batting (the fluffy stuff inside the quilt) and your backing. Then you are ready to “quilt” it.  I am not going to go into all the details because there are some amazing tutorials already on the web.  Here are a few.

Quilting Basics (getting started)- piecing, cutting, sewing machines

I Spy Quilt Patterns

Machine Quilting Basics

Tips and Tricks

Best Quilting Books

If you read through these links you will find all of the information necessary to make your first I Spy quilt.  It is such a great feeling to complete a project like this because not only is it challenging, but fun too.  Beware though, quilting is a little addicting.  This quilt kept me up until all hours of the night because I was so excited to work on it and get it done.  Happy quilting.

Have you ever made a quilt before?  Are you a beginning quilter, seasoned quilter or just thinking about making a quilt?  If you have never made a quilt, what has stopped you from making a quilt in the past?  I would love to hear from you!

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Zoodles: A great app for kids

A kid safe mode for every device!

It is not often that I find something tech related that I want to write about.  I am one of those people who would definitely rather have my hands in the garden than on a tablet or keyboard. The truth is I know very little about electronics and am constantly googling “how to…”  when it comes to all things tech related.

Now with all this being said, having kids has changed my thoughts on technology related items a bit.  While I am totally afraid of all  of the trouble my kids could get into on the internet, I have also found that there are certain programs that can be great learning tools.  One of the programs I have recently discovered is Zoodles and it is pretty awesome.

The program is call Zoodles and here is how it works.  It is both a computer program and an app.  Once you have installed the app, you log into the “parent dashboard” and create the settings for your child. You can create different setting for each of your children. This is great because my oldest is 4 and the things she likes to do and learn are really different from what my 21 month old wants to play and learn.    Through the parent dashboard, you add apps that you already have on your phone or ipad.  This program organizes all into different categories like games, books, art, etc. and displays them in an easy to navigate way under your child’s picture.  This way when my daughter wants to play she just opens the app, selects her picture and then all the apps I chose for her are right there.  It is also cool that it has a child lock feature so that while she is using this app she can not do anything else on my phone.  Only a parent can unlock it. This is great because a couple of weeks ago my little one apparently used my phone to call my dad at work and leave a 30 minute message on his answering machine.  😦

So you might still be thinking that this app is cool, but not amazing.  Let me tell you what I think makes this app amazing.  At the end of each week, Zoodles sends me an email that outlines all of the time that my child spent using that app.  They tell you all about their week on Zoodles. Included is any pictures they draw using the art app, what the child’s favorite subject was that week (including information about cognitive and creative developmental).  They give the whole report that breaks everything down and is really easy to breeze through.  My favorite part though is that they share your child’s pictures with you which you can then save and share with whoever you want.  One more awesome feature is that you can send your child video messages. I sometimes do this from work when I have a free moment and my kids go crazy over it.  What a fun thing for a parents that travels.  You can also record your own voice reading Zoodles storybooks that can be saved and your child can read them over and over.  Now maybe you are beginning to see what I love so much about this program.

If you want to learn more about Zoodles check out the website.  Zoodles can be used from a phone, a tablet or your computer.  As I said when I started this post, I am not a huge fan of technology but this is surely and exception.  This program provides something fun for my kids to do, while learning and giving me a little quite mommy time.    It is also great for keeping your kids busy while they are riding in the shopping cart.  It seems to distract them enough that my daughter does not beg me to buy her everything she sees. Priceless!  Oh and this program is FREE!

Have your kids ever used this program?  Do you know of any other programs like this?  I would love to hear from you!

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A Dresser Fit for a Princess!

For the last couple of month my 3 (almost 4) year old has been begging me to paint her room pink.  I normally might do such a thing, but we are considering moving and so not only would that be a waste of time, I have to believe that other people may not want to sleep in a pink room.  So we decided to compromise.  We got her these dressers and agreed that we would paint one of them pink. She was so excited about this!  The process was really simple and due to a perfect day for painting (cool and low humidity) the whole project was completed in one day.

There is really not too much to explain here, but I will give you a quick outline of what I did.  The dressers were practically new so they did not require cleaning.  I sanded every surface of the dresser with fine grit sandpaper and a  power sander.  This is a critical step because the dressers had a shiny top coat.  If you just tried to paint it, the paint would not adhere well and would peel off.  You do not need to completely remove the top coat, but you do need to rough it up a bit so the paint can stick.  After you sand it, take a wet rag and wipe the whole dresser and allow it to dry completely. Next you are ready to paint.  I used a high quality paint which was little pricey but since I did not need too much of it ( a quart of each color) it was not too bad.  The paint cost $50 total.  I recommend getting a good quality paint for these types of projects because you want good coverage that will last and you will find this in the better paints.  I also used a semi-gloss so it would be easier to clean and a bit more durable than a flat, satin or eggshell.  I used a foam roller to give a super smooth finish.

One of the things you want to remember when doing projects like this is that one thick coat is not the same as many thin coats.  One thick coat will easily chip.  If you do several thin coats of paint and allow each coat to dry thoroughly, not only will you get much better coverage but you will get a finish that is more durable.  I always try to allow several hours between coats and my patience on this always pay off with a nicer looking finish product.   Ok so without further ado…here is my dresser redo project!

This was the other one in the pair. I forgot to take a picture of the other one before I started to sand.

Before the redo!

Sanded the outside of the dresser

Sanded each of the drawer fronts

A little bit of paint and a bit of hard work and you get…

A dresser fit for a princess!

Voila!

I have to admit that I did not think I was going to like it, but actually I love it.  I am planning on painting the other one in the set for my other daughter once I have some free time.  Oh and my daughter went nuts when she saw this.  She could not have been more excited to have a pretty pink dresser.  It was certainly worth the effort. Just another example of how you can make something awesome with a little creativity and time. Thank for reading!

Have you ever tried to redo and piece of furniture?  I would love to hear all about your experiences rehabing furniture.  

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Simple and Beautiful Gift for a Teacher

We made this for my daughter’s preschool teacher.  So simple and pretty. The best part was that Avery could easily cut out the sign and glue it together by herself.  She was so proud that she “made” her teacher’s present.  The sign is glued to two wooden skewers. It reads “Thank you for helping me grow this year! Love, Avery”.

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Make Your Own Microwave Popcorn in a Paper Bag!!!!!

I love popcorn, but often steer clear of it because it can be so loaded with fat, calories and artificial ingredients.  When I was in college, I had one of those handy air poppers, but it went missing during one of many many moves after college.  I have been tempted many times to buy another one, but always resist thinking there must be an easier (and cheaper way). Now I know I could pop it on the stove top, but that involves oil which again takes away from the healthiness.

I am so excited to share this one with everyone. After a bit of experimenting, I have figured out that you can make popcorn in a paper lunch bag in your microwave.  I mean seriously this is so cool and so much cheaper and healthier than regular microwave popcorn.

Ok so here is what you do:

1. Get a plain old brown paper lunch bag

1/8 c. Jolly Time Popcorn

2. Put about 1/8 c. of popcorn kernels in it

3. Fold the end of the bag several times to keep it closed

4. Microwave on high for about 2 minutes.  Cooking times will vary depending on your microwave. I used the popcorn setting on my microwave in snack size and it is perfect.  Just stay close by and stop it as soon as the popping slows considerably or stops.

5.  Voila!   Add your favorite topping or eat it plain.

My youngest daughter and I are eating this right now and all I put on it was a couple of sprays of olive oil cooking spray and some sea salt.  My daughter is chowing this as we speak.  The best part is that unlike using the air popper there is nothing to clean up after.  It is also fun because you can make individual bags for each family member allowing each person to put on their own toppings and have their own little bag of popcorn.  I promise  that once you try this you will never buy microwave popcorn again.  If for some crazy reason you are still not convinced that this is awesome check out this link which discusses the health benefits of popcorn.  Thanks for reading and happy popping!

A delicious and healthy snack. Popcorn with olive oil and sea salt.

What are your favorite popcorn toppings?  How do you usually make your popcorn?  Do you ever use any unusual popcorn toppings?  

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Homemade Pizza Dough Without Yeast

Over the past couple of years, I gotten into making my own breads, rolls and pizza dough.  I used to think it was just too hard and that there were too many variables that could go wrong, but boy was I mistaken. It turns out that making your own bread is really quite simple once you get the hang of it.  Making your own pizza dough is even easier.  I used to buy dough at the grocery store for about $2 which seems like a good deal because it is.  I mean seriously, even if you buy the dough you are still going to save a ton compared to if your ordered pizza from a pizza restaurant.  About a year ago though I started experimenting with making my own pizza dough and it is so easy.  Now I must confess that having a KitchenAid stand mixer certainly makes thing easier, but it could be done by hand.  The best part about making dough is that you can make it ahead of time and then freeze it for another day.  Just take it out of the freezer and thaw in the fridge for about 24 hours.

When I first started making pizza dough, I use rapid rise yeast which works just fine.  Then I discovered that Fleishman’s makes a yeast especially for making pizza dough and it is fantastic.  So that is how I normally make it, providing I have the yeast on hand.  Well a couple of months ago, my daughter really wanted pizza for dinner. The problem was that we were out of yeast, both bread yeast and pizza yeast. What’s a mom to do.  I guess I could have gone to the store, but the thought of dragging my two kids to the store just for some yeast seemed insane to me and I was not going to do it. So the result was I decided to try to make the dough without yeast.  I mean how hard could it be?  I should be able to get a similar result from baking powder right?  The answer is yes!  The truth is I kind of like this crust better because it gets crispier than the ones made with yeast.

Here is what you need:

2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. canola or olive oil
3/4 to 1 c. water

Here is what you do:

Mix the dry ingredients together in as bowl. I like to do all of this with my mixer, but by hand works great too.  Then add the oil to the water and pour the water and oil mixture into the dry mixture.  The mixture should be soft, but not too sticky.  If it seems stiff add a bit more water.  Then kneed the dough on a floured surface for 3-5 minutes.  If using a mixer, using the bread hook, allow the dough to kneed on slow to medium speed for about 3 minutes.  Then turn out the dough on a floured surface and roll to desire thickness.  Add sauce and desired toppings and cook  in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.  Keep an eye on it because the cooking time will vary depending on the size of the pizza.

Tips and tricks:

I often add ground flaxseed to my pizza dough.  Mix it in with the dry ingredients.  I add about 2-3 tbsp. for this recipe.  This really helps to add some nutritional value.  Also, feel free to subsititue some of the AP flour for whole wheat flour. I would not recommend using all whole wheat flour because it makes a very dense and heavy crust.  You could also add a couple of tbsp of wheat germ to your dough to help kick up the nutritional value a bit.  We often add a tbsp or 2 of honey to create a delicious honey wheat pizza dough.  Delicious!

You could use baking soda instead of baking powder, but you would only want to use 2 tsp of baking soda and no salt.

One of the things that I like most about making our own dough is that not only can you create any thickness crust you want, but you can also let each of the kids make their own pizza.  This would be great for a kids party or sleepover.  This way you can accomodate even the pickiest of eaters.

Hey,  did you know that a pizza stone works best when preheated?  I did not know this until recently.  A preheated stone makes for a much crispier crust.  I put the stone in the oven when I turn it on and take it out right before I am ready to put the dough on it.  Makes a huge difference.

Have you ever made your own pizza dough? Have you tried making it without yeast?  What are your favorite pizza toppings?  Thanks for reading!

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