Mother’s Day: Sweeter than Honey Tea

“I like playing hide and seek with my mom, she makes good noodles. She looks pretty when she goes to meetings at school.” Little J
“I like reading books with my mom. She makes really good beans. I like going to mountains with mom. She looks pretty in her runninng shoes. And she runs, runs, runs.” Little K

The teachers organize a precious Mother’s Day Tea at the boys’ school. It is the event of the year for Co-op moms, or aunts, grandmothers, there was even a dad there this year.

The kids work all week preparing food, decorating the classroom and creating little gifts to give. Little J and K planted a flower in a little painted pot, made a great card with a drawing of mom on the front and wrote the cutest things inside, like, “my mom makes really good beans.”

This year there was a garden tea party theme. We were served peach herbal tea by the kids. We had garden pizza, made with pizza dough topped with veggie dip and raw veggies. There were blueberry muffins and cantaloupe slices. The dessert was a strawberry rhubarb tort. Everything was delicious.


How to Fly with Kids

We made the trek to Key West, via 2-2 hour flights with 1 small 2 hour layover in between.

There’s a huge phobia concerning surviving a flight with kids, and for good reason. Running through an airport with luggage, having to take off shoes and put them back on, potentially long waits, and in the airplane, confined space, where you can’t move around much, can’t be too loud, and where there are people who might be really disturbed to be sat next to young children.

1. Timing: There is a challenge that goes along with any time you choose to travel. We woke the kids very early to fly out by 6am. Little K was able to catch a nap on the second flight. Little J was very tired by bed time, but they caught up on sleep by day 2.

We’ll leave in the evening on the way home, getting back to our house by 1am. We’ll put the kids in the pjs for the flight home. They will sleep for most of it and we’ll have to huff their sleepy little bodies throught the airport along with our roll on suitcases. This is when NOT checking bags comes in really handy.

2. Dress Code: Wear slip on shoes for easy take off and put on at security. Wear layers just in case the flight is too cold or too warm.

3. Hydrate. The pressure changes and stress of travel can take a toll on your body and phychy. Drinking lots of water can at least elliviate the headache hangover that sometimes accompanies a plane ride.

4. Patience: Realize that during the flight, the chances that the kids will disturb someone are pretty good, and take those “Negative Nelly’s” right off your radar. There’s only so much you can do to keep your kids calm and quiet. Smile and apologize when necessary. If there’s more than one adult, do a switch off when someone runs out of patience.

5. Pack a bag of fun stuff…not too full because you don’t want to be lugging an enourmous bag around the airport, cutting off the circulation in your shoulder while also rushing a toddler to the bathroom. I’ve taken a box of bandaids with us a couple of times and it kept the kids busy for while.

water airplane by Little J

This is what we packed: The boys each brought their comfort toy…for Little K is was his blanket and for Little J, his burpies…1 small backpack and in it, lots of paper back children’s literature because they are thin and light, a couple of little dry erase books that help the boys practice learning their letters, 2 small white pads of paper, a small bag of drawing supplies (crayons and pip squeek markers), Kids’ Cliff Energy bars, applesauce containers in a zip lock bag (that had to be checked in with security,) 2 small bags of playdough with old credit cards for cutting, an alphabet game called Pairs in Pears and a dvd player and educational shows (Sid the Science Kid and Might Machines) that we save for desperate measures.

6. Encourage some Independence: Little J loved to be in charge of his own ticket and small roll on luggage.

7. Pack Light: We tried not to check any bags, packed really light and each had 1 carry on roller bag that fit neatly into the overhead, and 1 backpack that fit nicely under the seat in front of us on the airplane. We didn’t bring a stroller or car seat. We show up to the airport with enough time to make it through security and to our make it to our terminal, while allowing the kids to set the pace.

8. Everyone should try to use the bathroom before and after the flight, washing hands often.

9. Enjoy the take off and landing as its own form of entertainment, look out the window and talk about how you are above the clouds. For us, looking out the window has inpires great conversations about wheather, the earth and about heaven and God.

10. When you get to wherever you’re going, carve out some time to decompress from travel. We sit on the hammocks on the back porch of my folks little vacation home and feel the sun and wind on our face while the boys pretend to fish in the canal with ropes and buckets.


Our Key West Wish List

We’ve been as busy as a hill of ants the last couple of days, stockpiling our summer stuff into as few suitcases as possible, in preparation for our yearly vacation to Key West, Florida.

We make a lot of lists for packing.
Even the boys.

Here is our wish list for Key West this year:

1. Fishing with Papa
2. Go to Toy Store
3. Eat dinner at the restaurant with little hens and chicks running under our feet.
4. Visit Pirate Nick
5. Swim at the Island Beach, (the sand bars)

6. Get Ice Cream
7. Swim nuddies in the canal

8. Higgs Beach
9. Get Icecream

If you’re planning an adventure with your kids this summer, like a vacation away, try making a family list of things to do. It was fun for us and will be even better to have these activities as goals during the week we’ll be in Key West.


St Patty’s Day Food

Green smoothies for a PreK celebration of St. Patrick’s Day:

1 banana
1 1/2 cups of vanilla yogurt
1 1/2 cups Naked 100% Juice Smoothie Green Machine
1 cup frozen mango chunks
handful of spinach leaves

Throw it all in the blender and blend until the green leaves are liquified.
Pour it into little cups for your little leprechauns to make green mustaches.

This is the first time I have made corned beef. I am cuban and canadian, married to and Irishman.
Corned Beef in the Crock Pot:

12 ounces Guinness
4 pounds corned beef
1 apple
half head cabbage
1 bag of fingerling potatoes
ground clove
dijon mustard
cider vinegar
brown sugar

Put it all in the crock pot on low for 8 hours… it works…especially when served with a buttered side of the cheddar and bacon soda bread.

Cheddar and Bacon Soda Bread:

1 package of cooked bacon
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 cup grated cheddar
4 green onions or scallions, chopped, green part only
1 cup milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt

Set oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Stir together the flour, baking soda, kosher salt, granulated sugar, cheddar, chopped bacon and green onions until well blended. Pour in the buttermilk and mix until the dough comes together. Form the dough into a round loaf and place on the baking sheet. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the loaf is lightly browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.


Blowing Out Eggs

Blowing out eggs for Easter has been a tradition in our family growing up.

Little J and K come from school with homework:

“It’s that time of year to prepare for the famous Nursery School egg trees. This tradition began at least 30 years ago. Each child will need 6-8 white eggs which have been blown out and thoroughly rinsed.”

To blow out the contents of the egg, puncture a small hole in each end of the egg. Make the hole at one end slightly larger. You can use the sink sprayer to remove the insides of the egg. A small drill bit might do the job, but traditionalists prefer a needle and blowing the contents out with a good healthy huff and puff. I’ve seen it done with a nasal aspirator. It helps if you insert a skewer or cake tester into one end to break up the yolk prior to blowing out the contents. After contents have been removed, rinse and blow out excess water to clean out the inside.

Talk about Messes…trying blowing out the insides of 24 eggs.
We started out with 24 anyway.
We used the needle and huff and puff approach, experimenting a little with the nasal aspirator.
6 broke, imploded, caved in, by the time we were done.
We have 18 blown and cleaned out eggs to bring to school for our little egg trees.

And enough eggs to mix with milk and cheese to make lots of mini chicken sausage, sweet potato and spinach quiches to put in the freezer for an easy dinner another night.


My Valentine: Part 2

We melt crayon hearts and now have them mounted on small squares of spin art and ready for a Valentine exchange at Little J’s preschool.

We punch 4 holes in each corner of the paper, tie the crayon on by criss crossing yarn and write “heART,” and Little J’s name on each Valentine.

They are colorful, useful and we look forward to handing them out to all our friends.

Along with the box of Valentines, Little J will be delivering a full plate of heart shaped soft pretzels.

Half are salted with sesame seeds and half are sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. We get the idea from our friend P, who told us we could buy a Auntie Annie’s soft pretzel kit at BJ’s wholesale store. She uses them with her boys to make fun shapes and letters when cabin fever sets in. Also, a constant inspiration to our creative impulses, Artful Parent made some heart shaped soft pretzels last year. I thought it would be a perfect treat for the classroom on Valentine’s day and a healthy contrast to the traditional cake, cookies and candies that are typically handing out on such occasions.

This is a great recipe for soft pretzels from the best baker I know, if you don’t have a BJ’s around, or would rather make pretzels from scratch:

1 cup warm water
1 package of active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 egg
3 – 3 1/2 cups flour
1 egg yolk
1 Tablespoon of water
course salt, sesame seeds, cinnamon, sugar

In large bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water. Stir to dissolve. Add sugar, butter, salt, whole egg and 2 cups of flour. Blend at low speed until moistened. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed. By hand, stir in 1 to 1 1/2 cups flour to form stiff dough. Knead dough on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic. Place dough in greased bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2- 24 hours. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Divide dough into 20 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 20 inch rope. Shape into pretzel, (or heart, or letters or other fun shapes.) Place pretzels on cookie sheets. In small bowl, combine egg yolk and water. Brush pretzels with egg mixture. Sprinkle with salt and, or sesame seeds. or cinnamon and sugar. Let rise in warm place until doubled in size. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. If making cinnamon sugar pretzels, leave pretzels bare, bake, then brush with melted butter and dust with cinnamon sugar.


2012 Valentines, Part 1

We love the idea of reconstituting crayons. Since last Christmas, this has been made our business. Microwaving crayons, using a crayon machine, and melting them in the oven. We are given bags of broken, used up crayons when friends catch wind. We have a lot of materials to say the least, so when I see this idea on Pinterest 3 months ago, I pin it as a start to our Valentine making plan.

The Pinterest junkie that I am, I also find an easy way to remove crayon wrappers from Time to Play. Jeez, you can find any answer on Pinterest, I swear. It’s awesome. So the kids fill the process table with water…it’s already filled with broken crayons. They soak for a few days, the instructions say 10 minutes, I know, but I forgot they were steeping. A friend and I sit at her kitchen counter and peel away while the kids play one evening. There are still some crayons that are impossible to peal, even after soaking for awhile. Thanks Friend H, for helping a sister out.

The kids have been showing a lot of interest in helping in the kitchen, especially when it comes to using my knives. We are at the store and find some colorful paring knives that appeal to the kids. We get out the cutting boards…I very carefully supervise and advise, while they try their little hands at cutting crayons. We cut up lots of crayons, keeping fingers as far away as possible from the sharp side of the knife.

Then, we divide them by color on a little white platter. We choose our colors carefully to go into a silicon heart molds.

Put crayons in silicon mold in the oven at 230 degrees F for about 15 minutes. Let them cool completely. Pop them out of the mold, and you have the most beautiful, simple, heart shapes crayons you’ve ever seen.


Last Year’s Valentine

I draw a heart for Little J and ask him if he can draw a heart.
He does draw his first heart as one of his first tries at representational drawing.
He does this on a huge piece of paper that wraps a low table set up for scribbling and Valentines.

He writes little pretend letters inside the heart using a pencil and flashlight.
On the huge piece of paper, we set up a drawing robot that Big K and the boys build using the idea from Teacher Tom’s blog.

We print photos of the heart with the robot scribbles and use them when making Little J’s very first classmate Valentines.

We cut out hearts using brown paper bags from the grocery store.
We write a loving message and Little J’s name in silver Sharpie.
We modge podge paper bag hearts with crayon wrapper pieces.

This project takes about a month to complete given all the little parts.
It is set up at a table during this month so we can work on whenever the mood strikes.


Freezer Paper Tool T’s and Tie Dye

I made some freezer paper t-shirts for the boys for Christmas.
Little J’s has a hand saw and the words, “zee zaw,” because that’s what he calls a hand saw.
Little K’s has a hammer and the words, “knock, knock,” because that what he calls a hammer.
They found their tool T shirts on one of the shelves in their newly set up tool workshop on Christmas morning.

A friend had some leftover tie dye from a kit and thought of us…awww…thank Danielle.
So on a Sunday morning, the kids and I clean out the kitchen sink and use it to dye their tool T’s.
The boys choose the tie dye pattern they want and I wrap them in string and soak them in our homemade soda ash.
We bake 1 cup of baking soda at 400 for 1 hour, then seal in an airtight container until we were ready to use it, mixing it with 1 gallon of warm tap water.

The boys take turns with the primary colored squirt bottles of dye and go to town on their t shirts.

We unwrap the t’s the next day to expose the tie dye patters.
J: It’s all beautiful colors!


Spin Art Garland

We use up all of our paint and paper for spin art. Our spin art machine is back in business now, after we cut up some new card stock squares (we use card stock that comes wrapped in some new bed sheets) and fill the little squirt bottles with tempera.

I add a little bit of water to counter the thickness of the tempera paint, adding a new element to the activity. The paint spreads faster when it spins, blends together differently and is easier to squirt out of the bottles. We have so many pretty sunburst pieces, and our plan has been to hang them as a garland.

We have a simple way to display art work in the living room. Nails, string, clothes pins…It started out as a way to hang holiday cards, but stayed up all year instead. We recently take down the holiday cards and will donate the lot to St Jude Recycled Cards Program. St Jude takes donations of all occasion greeting cards, all except Hallmark, American Greeting and Disney. Cards are reused and sold in packets of 10 for $10.

We have a bright new garland to light up our living space.