January 25, 2013

Indoor Winter Activities: Masking Tape Games

So, it is ridiculously cold outside right now. Like single-digits-to-teens cold, plus a windchill. And it's snowing. Which is kind of a slap in the face for my daughter, because it's actually too cold to go out and play in the snow. She can just watch longingly from the window as it falls to the ground. And it's been like this all week. So I have a couple of stir-crazy kids who need a little physical activity.

A while back I remember seeing something on Pinterest about "masking tape games." I'm not even sure if I looked at the actual link, or if I just saw a picture on the pin and that was enough to plant the seed in my brain, but when I was a Target earlier in the week I picked up a fresh roll of masking tape and then got to work on some games.

As you can see, I wasn't going for perfection here. Kids usually don't care so much about how straight your lines are or how neatly you tear the tape...they just want to get jumping. So here we go!

Portia showing you the roll of masking tape

The Long Jump

Okay, so, not the best photo ever, but you get the idea. We set up the long jump in the family room. I put down a big piece of tape to mark our starting line-- toes to the line, please! And then had the kids jump as far as they could and I marked their landing spot and recorded name and jump number on the tape so they could see their progress. These were all standing jumps. We then tried ones with a little running start (which the four year old got, not so much with the one year old!). We had so much fun with this. And they thought it was hilarious when I did it (I may have thrown in a few pratfalls for extra laughs).

Hopscotch and Bean Bag Toss

The hopscotch board was a little more labor intensive to bring to fruition, but totally worth the few minutes it took! We hopped all over the place on this one. We actually played hopscotch using some little beanbags we have (I got a set from Lakeshore Learning for the kids for Xmas). And we used the board for a bean bag toss game as well (i.e. Try and toss your beanbag on the 5 square.). Next we'll try some basic math with my four year old (i.e. Toss your two bean bags on two squares that add up to the number five.). My one year old just likes to run across the board as fast as he can. And he really loves for me to hold him and then hop on the numbers...it makes him laugh hysterically!

Balance Beam

Yes, this is a photo of a piece of tape on my rug. I know. But this simple, single piece of tape has been so much fun! We walk the beam, or the tightrope, depending on what imagined world we're playing in...sometimes we practice delicate turns and jumps on the line, sometimes we try not to fall off into the ocean, sometimes we try to dive off into the tiny bucket of water down below. Whatever we can dream up. And, again, it's a big hit when Mommy dramatically falls off into the water and then tries to swim for land (the couch)!

The Box

This might be my favorite of all the masking tape games so far. And I think it's my daughter's favorite too. When I started taping off this rectangle, she asked me what it was. And when I was done, I told her that it's whatever she imagines it to be. I jumped on it and said, "It's an island and I'm stranded at sea." Then she jumped on and said, "It's a surfboard and I'm in the waves." It really can be ANYTHING! Let their imaginations run wild!

Portia surfing the waves
And paddling for shore
It may not seem like much, but a roll of masking tape and a little time has proven to a whole lotta fun for these two kids...and for me! We've put these together over the last few days, and this morning the kids and I spent almost an hour playing around on them together. It's so fun and it burns some energy and uses imagination. That's a win, win, win in my book.

So go get yourself some masking tape and find a little space on the floor and get to taping...and then get to jumping!

Until next time, keep using that imagination!


January 14, 2013

Kids Library: A Few Books We're Enjoying Right Now

As I've mentioned before, we are a family of readers. And, though my son was a little slower to start, now, all four of us can regularly be found with our noses in books...and I love it!

Right now I am finishing up a book club book (about 80 pages to go, and the book club meeting is tomorrow night...here's hoping I make it!), Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (a decent read, so far).


And I finally read Fifty Shades of Grey last month (more on that, and my final four reviews of my niece's top ten book list, all to come in a later post!). And I've got a whole stack of new books from Christmas sitting on my nightstand just waiting to be devoured!


My husband is halfway through The Snowman by Jo Nesbo (detective/mystery). I got him the book for Christmas...his second read by this author. He really liked the first one he read (The Leopard) and says this one is an equally good read.


Both my husband and my dad are big detective/mystery genre readers, so I'll do a separate post with some of their favorites. But we're here to talk kids' books today!

First, for my 4 year old daughter...here are a few books we've been enjoying recently...

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The Wedding of Brown Bear and White Bear by Marie Henry and Martine Beck is a 50-cent find at the library book sale...sort of random, but a lovely little love story with pretty artwork. I like how it captures the nerves that come with liking someone new. Library Mouse- A Friend's Tale by Daniel Kirk was a Christmas gift from Grandma, who knows we are library rats ourselves! It's a cute story of friendship and a love of books. And The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen was a last-minute library selection that my daughter grabbed on the way out...and, lo-and-behold, we love it! A fun, rhyming, sing-songy romp with a great "hide-n-seek" animal page.

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Two other recent library finds...We've enjoyed other Ladybug Girl books (by David Soman and Jacky Davis) in the past...my daughter even dressed as Ladybug Girl for Halloween when she was two. We like Lady Bug Girl and Bumblebee Boy's story of compromise, inclusion and imaginative play...plus there's her cute dog, Bingo! And, finally, Tallulah's Tutu by Marilyn Singer is a new, regular bedtime story selection...my daughter likes this story centered around dancing--she started her first dance class this fall--and it's ballet terminology make for good practice at home, and I love Alexandra Boiger's beautiful illustrations.

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We don't just go for books here, we like magazine's too! A Ladybug magazine subscription was a birthday gift from Grandma and is a hit...primarily because my daughter LOVES getting mail (Who doesn't! Remember when mail didn't just consist of bills and junk!). They're short magazines with a selection of stories, poetry, i-spys and whatnot. It usually takes us two bedtime storytimes to get through an issue once, then we reread whenever the mood strikes us. I like that it introduces my daughter to magazines and poetry. And I just love how her face lights up when it arrives in the mail!

Now, on to my 1 1/2 year old son..here are a few books we've been enjoying recently...

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Things that interest my boy: trucks, animals, saying "boo!", trucks and animals. Okay, maybe it's a bit more expansive than that, but trucks are pretty high on the list. Trucks Go by Steve Light is awesome! My son calls it the "Whee-Ooo" book, for the sound the firetruck in it makes. We read this book every night since Santa brought it (and Mommy just ordered Trains Go for Valentine's Day!). Silly Sausage by Beth Pountney is another fave. It has a soft, touch-and-feel ear on the front and Grandma got him his own Silly Sausage stuffed dog to go with it. My son says, "No-no" to that silly dog on every page when Silly Sausage tries to eat things he's not supposed to eat. So cute! Trucks by Byron Barton is a library book...a random Mommy selection that has been a hit...every page shows a different kind of truck--what's not to like about that! And Who's There On Halloween by Pamela Conn Beall and Susan Hagan Nipp is another Grandma gift that has been a part of our regular bedtime routine since October! Boo!

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Touch and Feel Kittens came from my son's Opa...my son's favorite part is the scratchy touch-and-feel basket and this book finally got him to say "Meow." Puppy Love is another touch-and-feel hit...again with that scratchy basket! But her also loves the sweet, sleeping Bella dog...he calls this book the "Night-night" book because of her. Animal Time by Tom Arma is a library loan that combines two things toddlers love: animals and babies! And Good Night Country Store by Adam Gamble is a household fave. I may have mentioned before because this was a favorite of my daughter's a while back and I just introduced it to my son. What I love about this book is all the different things you can point out each time you read it because every page is chock-full of fun stuff so it becomes more of a conversation between you and your child than just simply reading a book.

Now you know what our noses are buried in right now...so, go find a good book and a comfy chair and get your readin' on!

Until next time, happy page-turning!

January 7, 2013

This Week in Food: Oh-So-Yummy Sesame Chicken

I just made this recipe last week and we all liked it so much that I had to share it with all of you...it's Sesame Chicken. Nothing totally new and different, nothing you haven't had before, but uber good and relatively easy. I found the recipe, via pinterest, on the How Sweet It Is blog (www.howsweeteats.com). And because I wasn't planning on sharing the recipe at the time I made it, I didn't take any pictures, so I had to borrow one from How Sweet It Is too, so all the credit goes to Jessica--Kudos on a yummy recipe! So, here it is...





Sesame Chicken
2 lbs. chicken breast, chopped into bite-size pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 tbsp flour

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp white vinegar (I used white wine vinegar because I was out of regular white)
1/2 c. chicken stock

2-3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Rice
Veggies

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together chicken stock, brown sugar, 1 tbsp sesame oil, garlic, soy sauce and vinegar and set it aside. Heat oven-proof skillet over med-hi heat. Toss chicken with salt, pepper and flour. Add olive oil and 1 tbsp sesame oil to skillet. Once hot, add chicken. Cook until golden, then flip and cook until golden. Pour chicken stock mixture over the chicken, toss to coat and move skillet to oven. Bake 20 minutes. Carefully remove skillet from oven and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve over rice with a vegetable. Delish!

I served the sesame chicken over jasmine rice with a side of steamed green beans. Brown rice would have been healthier, but jasmine is just so good (and I had some on hand). And though we had the green beans on the side, they could easily be mixed in with the chicken and served over the rice. You could also serve this with broccoli or whatever other veggie works for you. If you want to mix your veggies in with the chicken, I recommend increasing the sauce by at least 50%. Just be careful increasing the sauce, because you want more sauce but you also still want it to thicken-up in the oven. Play with it. I'll probably increase the sauce next time I make it just because we like a little more sauce on our rice...and it was good!

Also note, please be very careful removing the hot skillet from the oven and working around it once you've got it out...I burned myself shifting the pan on the stovetop trying to get more green beans for my son...and MAN, did that hurt! So be safe...

And, until next time, happy cooking!


January 4, 2013

Random Fun: Laundry Basket Rides

This is a totally random post, but my kids love laundry basket rides so much these days that I just had to share...


Here's all you need: a sturdy, smooth-bottomed, plastic laundry basket and something to tie to it that is strong enough to act as your tow rope. I've had a fabric-lined, wooden laundry basket for a long time that is not kid-appropriate and they were always trying to climb in it. So I went out and bought this guy for around 5 bucks, on sale. Our "tow rope" is the fabric sash from a pirate costume which I just looped through the basket and tied at the other end. They climb in one at a time or together for rides just about every day. (My son climbs in it and chants, "Ride! Ride!" until you come pull him around.) And they love it!

They also load it up with toys and take them for rides. My daughter even uses the tow rope to attach it to other things, like her doll stroller or our ride-on Pooh train to create trains, or, in this case, she attached it to Rody and a beach chair and made Santa's sleigh.


You'd be amazed by the fun that little ones can have using their imagination with a simple laundry basket.

Plus, you can actually use it for laundry too!

January 1, 2013

Snowflakes for Sandy Hook...A Winter Break Project With A Heart

Happy New Year Everyone!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and are ready for an amazing 2013!

I took a self-imposed "chaos and sanity management" hiatus from blogging this holiday (more on that later), but am back and ready to roll for 2013. I have many goals and resolutions for 2013, which I'll talk more about in another post, one of which is to write, write, write and blog, blog, blog. So I hope to be visiting here with you often in the weeks and months to come! But before we get into all of that, I'd like to start the year off with a project that is close to my heart...Snowflakes for Sandy Hook.


I first read about this project last week on the Simple Kids blog, and promptly set to it! Here was the idea: The students and faculty of Sandy Hook Elementary will be relocated to another school building when they return from the holidays. No one wants them to walk into a school with empty, stark walls-- no decoration anywhere, so in preparation for their arrival, the Connecticut PTSA has organized Snowflakes for Sandy Hook. The plan is to gather paper snowflakes from donors and use them to turn this school into a magical, winter wonderland, and hopefully give the survivors of this tragedy a peaceful, new beginning.


Now, since I read this post and we made and sent our snowflakes, the folks at the Connecticut PTSA have said that support for this project has been overwhelming and they truly have a blizzard of paper snowflakes to work with. However, that doesn't mean that you can't have some family fun making paper snowflakes to make someplace else a beautiful, winter wonderland...maybe your own house, your kids' bedrooms, or a local retirement community or children's hospital or rehabilitation center or some other charitable organization...maybe even your local library or coffee house. Any place you can think of where people's days might be brightened and beautified by your amazing, one-of-a-kind snow flakes.


Regardless of where your snowflakes land, take some time over this winter break to bond as a family, be creative, and make your own blizzard on your kitchen table. I know my nieces, sister-in-law, mother, husband and I had fun making ours. And if you need a little instruction or some inspiration, just hop on Pinterest and search "paper snowflakes" and you'll find all kinds of great ideas. (We learned how to make those pretty, round snowflakes there...super easy!)

So go get a stack of paper, some scissors, and a mug of hot chocolate, gather the kids around the table, and settle in for a little relaxing snowflake making...it has the meditative effects of knitting or cross-stitch, without the need for special skills or much in the way of equipment. And the end result is just so gosh darn pretty.

Until next time, go get your creative on!

(And have a happy and healthy new year!)