Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Adventures and Road Trips - Part 1

In a hilarious take on family vacations, two ducks convince a reluctant New Hampshire moose to join them on their migratory car trip to Florida for the winter. A poor sport on the journey, Moose finds the warm, fun-filled sunshine state to be more exciting than he could possibly have imagined. When it's time to return home, a crying Moose is loathe to leave (to the disgust of his duck buddies) but then finds he can create a bit of Florida up north. The delight in this book is in Horowitz's goofy characters. The pencil and charcoal cartoons, digitally colored in bright hues, show an endearing protagonist that youngsters will embrace. Easy enough to read independently, and funny enough for adults to enjoy sharing with children, this book about a road-tripping trio will be welcome in most collections.—Marge Loch-Wouters, La Crosse Public Library, WI 

We checked this book out from the library and it is a very funny story.  Moose experiences things that I think kids of all ages can relate to.  My boys laughed out loud at many parts.  Highly recommended, especially for anyone that may need a bit of humor to take along on the next road trip.

My craft is from a super creative idea I saw here.  I loved it and had to do it immediately.  So follow the directions for the chalkboard from the link provided.  I would spray the cookie sheets with a few coats of just black paint and then apply at least two coats of chalkboard paint.  

I love to have a case/bag for everything and my kids are the same way.  Or maybe I think they are because I'm always making a bag for something.  Anyway, I thought to go with the traveling chalkboard, I would make a bag to carry all the accessories.  Just a warning, I am awful at pictures and tutorials.  So stay with me, it's my goal to improve.  Oh, and I'm a little bit lousy at sewing.  But I am convinced that the more I do it, the better I'll get.  Hasn't been working...

Here's a list of materials:
Thread          Pins
Scissors        Sewing Machine
Rotary Blade (not necessary, but nice)

1. 18" x 36" felt, color of choice
2. 18" x 29" felt, match #1
3. 2 1/2" x 18" strip felt of coordinating color to #1
4. 2" x 4" strip of felt, match #3
5. 2" x 9" strip of felt, match #3
6. 5" x 7" strip of fabric, any print 
Yeah, I had no idea how to word any of that....


1. Fold over one long end of the 18" x 36" piece of felt about 6".  Pin and sew, only the sides.  Then sew across the middle, from the open end to the folded end, creating 2 pockets.  Hope I'm making sense...
2. Take #3 and overlap opening of two pockets.  This will become the flap for them.  Pin and sew.  I put velcro on the inside of the flap so that it would stay closed.
3. Oops, I didn't get a shot of Step 3.  Take a look at Step 7.  Sew #4 and #5 in place for clipboard and pencils.
4. Take #1 and #2 and match up, wrong sides together.  Pin all sides and sew around al the edges.  Still with me?
5. Take #6 and fold up about 5 1/2", right sides together.  Iron and then sew along unfinished sides.  Turn right side out.
6. Finish edges on flap.
7. I am realizing how horrible I am at this!  Lindsey is way better at sewing and tutorials.  Eek.  Anyway,  take little pocket and attach velcro to back and place where you would like it to go.  I'm making it detachable because it will hold the chalk and I think it would be easier for the kids to take it out of the case to use.
8. Fold sides over and tie up with a pretty or gender neutral ribbon.  Do they make gender neutral ribbon?  
9. The finished product.  And now you're ready for some quiet and busy kids on that road trip. ;)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Adventures and Road Trips.

Image from here.

With Memorial Day and the arrival of summer vacation, we thought we would start the ABC’s of Summer off with a little bit of adventure.  And what’s more adventurous than a road trip with kids?  So our theme this week will be Adventures and Road TripsWe have a fun list of books and crafts/activities to go along with each one.  So enjoy!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Favorite Children's Books - Part 4

The Princess and the Pea by Janet Stevens
A lion prince travels abroad with his mother to find a real princess.  But none of the foreign princesses satisfy the queen.  And so mother and son return home.  During a thunderstorm, a tiger comes to the castle, claiming that she is a real princess.  The doubtful queen puts her through a test -- with charming results in this freely adapted old tale.  Check out Janet Stevens’ website for more of her books.
Monica’s Activity
This is my favorite book from childhood.  I loved the story and the illustrations in this adaptation.  I received it as a gift when I was in preschool and I still have the same copy.  It is a valued item in my house.
Since I have all boys, I couldn’t really do anything too girly.  They’re not as excited about the story as me.  Imagine that.  So I decided it would be fun to build a castle out of cardboard boxes.  While we built the castle we ate popcorn and watched Tangled, my favorite princess movie.  The boys even like it.  
I took 8 boxes, 4 large and 4 medium and cut them down one side, so the writing would be on the inside.  I then taped the 4 large ones into boxes and cut an opening for a door and, on the opposite wall, a window.  These would be our towers.  I took the 4 medium boxes and taped them to the towers, creating a courtyard.  Before doing this, I cut out a drawbridge on the box that would be used for the entrance/front of the castle.  

Voila!  Instant fun.  Well, it actually took me about 1.5 hours, but close enough to instant fun.  It was fun building anyway.  I'll add a banner, some curtains and stone walls later.  They're boys though, and would probably prefer no frills.  When the last wall went up, the boys immediately started looking for weapons to defend their kingdom.  
Lindsey’s Activity
I wanted to make my girls a princess and the pea doll play set.  I had an idea of what I wanted to do in my head and it's exactly what was being done everywhere else.  Examples that I saw can be found here and here.  This was a fun craft to do.  My girls helped and I even let my 3 year try the sewing machine.  Luckily she got bored and I was able to speed things along.  Here's how I did it.
1.  I found 10 different scraps of fabric.  Some of my fabric choices were old pajamas and an old shirt.
2.  Then I cut the scraps into 7" by 10" rectangles.  2 of each fabric.
3.  After putting right sides together I sewed them together leaving a small opening (about 1.5"-2").  I didn't worry about pinning them together, the less steps the better.
oops!  I skipped #4
5.  I turned the fabric inside out.
6.  Take a chopstick, pencil, or other utensil to make sure the edges and corners are sharp.
7.  Then I used some stuffing from a pillow I made a while back (I never finished it).
8.  I finished them off by putting a top stitch around the edges. (no picture)
I found my doll pattern here.
And here is what we ended up with...


Monica mentioned she has the same copy from when she was in preschool.  That's true and I wanted to fight her for it.  One day at my parent's house we were going through all our old books from when we were children  I kept waiting for this book to come up.  I saw it and snatched it immediately (you see, I love it more than Monica, therefore I deserve it more).  But unfortunately, Monica claims she likes it just as much as me, and it was her book, so she got it.  I was really sad.  But, like the good sister that she is, she found a brand new copy and bought it for me.  Aren't sisters the best?

Remember yesterday when I went to the farmer's market?  Well I bought fresh peas and potatoes.  When I was a little girl my mom used to make this dish, she called it cream potatoes and peas.  Or something like that (my memory is not as good as my sister's).  Since we read The Princess and the Pea (and my family LOVES to eat) I thought I'd share the recipe.
This is a little out of order but I hope it will make sense.
1. Melt 4 Tablespoons of butter over medium to medium-high heat.
2.  Add 4 Tablespoons of flour to the butter and whisk until it starts to bubble (bottom right photo that is pictured above).
3.  Let it bubble for about a minute.
4.  Add 2 cups of milk, stirring while adding.
5.  Now here's the tough part, stir constantly until the sauce thickens.  I'm not joking but this could take 10 minutes.  Don't let it come to a boil and watch the temp.  You don't want it to burn in the bottom of the pan. 
6.  Now here is where I am out of order.  Before you made the sauce you should have peeled the potatoes, rinsed the peas, and added them to a pot of water to boil until just tender.  (If you're using frozen or canned peas add the last minute or so of boiling).
7.  Drain and add sauce.
8.  Season with salt to taste (trust me, you'll need it)
I love this recipe because it's basic and you get to taste the flavor of the potatoes and the peas.  Yum!!!

What's your favorite version of The Princess and the Pea?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Favorite Children's Books - Part 3

Our book for today is Jamberry  by Bruce Degan.  This book is my husband's all time favorite childrens' book.  It is also one of my 3 year old's favorite books.  Sad thing is, we don't even own it. But that is what makes going to  the library special.  She loves going to there to get the book.  If you haven't read it It is a fun book of rhymes about berries.  Does it get any better than berries?  I think not!  My girls LOVE berries.  Needless to say, this day was a lot of fun for us. 
We started our morning eating "Nun's Puffs."  I stumbled across this recipe in my Better Homes and Garden recipe book.  This is my husband's favorite breakfast!!!
1/2 cup butter
1 cup milk (we have skim milk and it works just fine)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
Honey (optional)
1.  Preheat oven to 375.  Generously grease twelve 2 1/2-inch muffin cups, including the edge and around the top of each cup; set aside.  In a medium saucepan melt butter; add milk.  Bring to boiling.  Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously.  Cook and stir until mixture forms a ball that does not separate.  Remove from heat; cool for 5 minutes.
2.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute with a wooden spoon after each addition or until smooth.  Divide dough evenly among prepared muffin cups, filling cups about two-thirds full; sprinkle with sugar.
3.  Bake about 30 minutes or until golden brown and puffy.  Remove from pan.  Serve immediately.  If desired, serve with honey.
I don't know if it is our oven or what, but my Nun's Puffs never cook for the full 30 minutes.  They are usually done in 20 minutes or less.  This morning we ate our Nun's puffs (come on, say it out loud, you know you want to) with honey (highly recommended) and raspberries.  They were the perfect combination.

Next we headed to the local farmers market.   I was hoping to find lots of berries here but todays farmers market had a ton of veggies (that's okay because I found something for tomorrow's book, I'll give you a hint...peas).  No berries.  But thank goodness we bought a ton of strawberries from Costco the other day.  I have a recipe for strawberries that will change your lives forever.  It's that good.  Thanks to Our Best Bites.
 Strawberry Sauce
1 pint strawberries, washed, hulled, and roughly chopped
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract or vanilla
1.  Combine berries, sugar, and vanilla in medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Cook for five minutes, stirring constantly and breaking strawberries up with a wooden spoon.
2.  After five minutes, remove from heat and allow to cool before blending.  When cool enough, transfer the mixture to blender and pulse until desired consistency is reached.  Refrigerate unused sauce for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.
Sometimes I buy strawberries that ripen too quickly and turn to mush before we can eat them.  If they are all mushy and nasty looking, do not fret because these are the perfect strawberries for this sauce.  Just make sure there is no mold.
Tonight we served our strawberry sauce over vanilla ice cream.  It was awesome!  In the past we have spooned it over pancakes or waffles.  One tip the book suggests is add a few spoonfuls to a glass of  fresh-squeezed lemonade for strawberry lemonade. YuM!!!
We had a berrylicious day!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Favorite Children's Books - Part 2

One of my favorite books from childhood was Hattie Be Quiet, Hattie Be Good by Dick Gackenbach.  It’s about a mischievous little rabbit named Hattie that’s just trying to help out.  But no matter what she does it isn’t the right thing.  She tries to help her mom around the house and cheer up a sick friend, but to no avail.  Luckily, Hattie has her happy ending.  She finds it in a giant bowl of ice cream.  That could be anyone’s dream ending, right?  
I thought that with the approach of Summer and longer days, it would be nice to have an effective way for our little ones to help around the house.  But with more success than poor Hattie.  
So I have a nice, little chore board to help with all those daily jobs.  I got the idea for the chore board from a cousin.  I cut a board down to 8.5” by 38”, painted it, applied the vinyl lettering and hooks once dry.  I made the chore cards using free clipart I found online and then laminated them using adhesive drawer liner.  
I love to be organized and having all things in order.  I live for checking items off of long lists, whether they’re packing lists, grocery lists or lists of things that need to be done.  My kids have inherited this from me.  So this is the perfect chore board for them.  They get to see what needs to be done and what has been accomplished for the day.  Switching the card from “To Do” to “Done” is almost as fun as earning that hard-earned cash.  I never said my kids were normal.

Anyway, this has been so successful.  At the end of each day they look at their boards and see what they’ve done and try to calculate how much they’ve earned.  
Everyday chores (making bed, picking up toys) = $.25 each
Saturday chores (helping scoop poop, weeding) = $1
Being kind to brothers = $1
Doing things without being asked = $.50 - $1
Miscellaneous jobs = $$ (to be decided)
The money is fake money, but can be used in a number of different ways.
Get rid of one chore = $5
Computer time (1/2 hour) = $1
TV time = $1
Dad and Me time (dinner, ice cream, movie, bowling) = $30
Mom and Me time = $30
Trip to Sonic to get a drink = $5
Your Choice of Dessert at a Restaurant (we never get dessert) = $20 
Trip to Dollar Store for Two Items of Choice = $10
Blood Family Store (stocked by Target’s $ Spot) = Items marked individually
At the end of each week, we tally up the chores completed and then drop the earned money into their own jar.  Each has their name on their jar. 
See, look at what great helpers they are! 
My kids usually save their money up for a long time and then go on a spending binge.  It’s fun to watch them not only learn responsibility at home, but responsible spending.  They watch those dollars closely and spend them deliberately.

Tonight we read the story and then made big ice cream sundaes that Hattie would be proud of.
What do you do in your home to encourage responsibility around the house?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Favorite Children's Books - Part 1

One story that has always stuck with me is The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  -I want to take a quick break here.  Notice the corners of the book?  That's not some special 40th edition style, that is my 2 year old's handiwork.  See what I mean when I say she can't resist cardboard?  Anyways, there is so much to learn from this book.  It teaches us about nutrition, counting, nature, the cycle of a caterpillar, and so much more.

To start off our Hungry Caterpillar day we read the book and then took a walk in nature.  We were hoping to find a caterpillar or even a butterfly, but intead we met some other friends.  I asked my girls to look around and see what they could find.  It's amazing what you can find when you slow down. 

 We spotted a turtle.   

Then we spotted this tiny frog.  After she was done holding him she gently tossed him in the pond.  Within a second or two a fish jumped up and ate him.

Then, later at home we found a spider.  It was so much fun seeing what we could find in nature.  What will The Very Hungry Caterpillar inspire you to find?

One art idea is painting.  I love the art work in Eric Carle's books.  There are several techniques you could use to imitate his art work.  One, pictured below, is finger painting.  My girls love to finger paint.  A good idea, which I wish I would have thought of earlier, is to bring the paint with you to the park.  You could bring a large piece of cardboard or a project board and then let the kids paint the board.  If your kids are good with brushes then you could let them paint their picture.  With the paint still wet, apply plastic wrap.  You'll want the plastic wrap to be wrinkly.  Then when the paint has dried remove the plastic wrap, it leaves a cool crinkled effect to the paint.
I have started making a quiet book for my girls.  I have a very talented cousin, who has written her own childrens book (we'll introduce that later), and has also created a quiet book for her little boy.  Her quiet book is where I've drawn most of my inspiration.  I wanted to make a page based on The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  I've started the construction of it but I haven't finished it yet.  Here's my page so far (left).  I still need to make the food and find a way to put the food in the caterpillar's mouth (suggestions appreciated).  To get an idea of what the book will look like I've added a picture to the right.  It is the underwater scene I've completed.  They match the sea animals to its coordinating button.  If you would like to know how to make the book just leave a comment below and I will put together a template.

The ABC's of Summer...

Image from here.

Ready or not, it is here.  Sun, sweat, sticky fingers, sand, sunscreen, and the screeching anthem, "Mom!  I'm booooored!" That's one of the most dreaded phrases in my house.  Mostly because it means, "Entertain me, Mom.  I've forgotten how to do it myself since the final bell rang."  At my house when boredom sets in, anarchy steps up.  With three rambunctious boys, I cannot afford to let this happen.  And I'm sure most of you face a similar problem; we'll call it "Summer's Complaint."  Nice, right?  I didn't make up the term, but I'll take credit.  Kidding.   

Anyway, Lindsey and I decided that we needed to find a way to combat this sneaky, little intruder and bar it from our homes for good.  So we came up with the...

ABC's of Summer
Activities, Books and Crafts
Each week we will present a new theme and introduce children's books that go with it.  They may be beloved classics, obscure oldies, new releases, or just a favorite.  Whatever the book, we promise you will love it; we have incredible taste.  Along with each theme and book, we will have ideas for fun activities and crafts to do with your kids.  And because we never do anything without a snack or two (trust me, we make up reasons to make nachos), we'll even have delicious recipes.  Tutorials will be offered and fun will be had!  We will make sure to include things for all ages, genders and abilities.    
So want to join us?  Sure you do.  We're fun and love adventure.  Even better when our kids can join in.  So sit back, let us do the work, and have a fabulous Summer break!  Check back each day for great ideas and don't be afraid to leave a comment or share your ideas.

Ready for adventure?
We're starting off with our favorite children's books.  Lindsey, take it away...

Monday, May 16, 2011


Hi!  We are Monica and Lindsey, sisters and best friends.  Welcome to our book blog for all things kids.  We love to read and love to share that with our kids.  We thought it would be fun to put together a blog that combined our kids, reading, crafts, activities, and a whole lot of fun.  Join us for some of the best times you will have with your little ones.  Literally.

Let us introduce ourselves!

I'm Monica.  I am never good at these intro things.  I can't figure out what anyone would ever want to know about me.  So bear with me...  I have been married for 8 years to a great, fun-loving guy.  We have three of the handsomest boys around.  I'm lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mom.

One of my favorite things is reading.  I have to read at least once a day or I feel like something's missing.  This love has trickled down to my sons.  My oldest (6) will lay in bed for hours after lights out with a trusty flashlight and a good book in hand.  My middle son (4) enjoys perusing every picture book in the house and can't go to sleep without a story.  The baby (21 mos) has a few favorites and brings them to me throughout the day, wanting a snuggle and a story.  Reading opens up a whole new world and we love the adventures that pour out!

I'm Lindsey.  While Monica says she's not good at these intro things you'll soon learn that I am awful when it comes to closing things.  I never know how to end a thought or make a smooth transition into the next thought.  When I was a little girl I wrote a letter to Santa.  It was a typical letter but then, towards the end, it said "and now for the candy canes."  I can't tell you how many times in my life I have "and now for the candy cane" moments.  You are sure to see them on this blog or our other blog.  So, if ever you are reading and you hear me refer to candy canes, it just means I had no idea how to finish my thought.  I think we all have these moments at some point in our lives (I just have them a little more often).

I am a mother of two daughters ages 3 (almost 4) and 2.5.  They are 18 months apart (just like me and my sister).  I love to watch them grow and play together like we did when we were little.  My husband is a middle school teacher and is just about to finish his first year of teaching.  We have been married for 5 years.  My whole family loves to read.  I'm so glad that my girls love many of my favorite childhood stories.  We love to go to the library or Barnes and Noble and just look and look at books.  Every night, my 3 year old picks a different book to go to sleep with.  She'll just look at the pictures and retell the story to herself.  Her favorite right now is The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales.  My 2 year old loves anything princess, especially Cinderella.  We have a set of small cardboard princess books.  I don't know if she enjoys reading or eating them more.  There's something about cardboard that she can't resist.  It seriously looks like we have a dog or a rat.  I love my small family and our little quirks.  Reading just adds to our adventure.