4th of July Sensory Bucket

I LOVE the 4th of July. It's my absolute favorite holiday. I love the fireworks, the weather (when it doesn't rain), everything about it. This week I decided we'd focus on letter F for flag, fireworks and fourth of July so I made her a red, white and blue sensory bucket.

Here's what's in it:
red, white and blue pom pons
red and blue pegs from our geo board
2 red yarn pom pons
red, white and 2 colors of blue counting hands
F is for fishermen flashcard
letter F from 2 alphabet puzzles
clear aquarium stones
red, white and blue lids
red, white and blue bird clothespins
a few other random things

Whatcha Eatin' Wednesday?

Last week we worked on letter W so I made her a letter W lunch. She thought this was pretty neat and held that cut out W in her hand for a looooong time.

Almond butter sandwich on organic wheat bread, carrots and blueberries.

Later in the week I decided to make her another fun lunch and these funny little men were born. Sweet P calls most men she sees in books, "Funny man!" so she really enjoyed these.

Hummus, mushroom and lettuce (from our garden...what's left of it anyway) pitas with peas. Pea eyes, carrot nose and kiwi mouth.

Easy Yogurt Popsicles

I've been looking for popsicle molds for Sweet P for ohhhhh about a year now. I've read review after review on BPA free popsicle molds on Amazon and could never bring myself to buy them. Until today. I saw a set of BPA free mini popsicle molds at Wal-Mart for $1.88. I snatched them up promising Sweet P we'd make them when we got home and have them after naptime. And I kept my promise. And my dear sweet daughter ate not 1, but 2 of those popsicles after her nap.

These are a healthy treat with only 2-3 ingredients. If you don't like plain yogurt, you may have to do some doctoring. My girl loves it so that's what we used. Here's the simple simple recipe.

The Recipe: Easy Yogurt Popsicles

What you need:
Greek or regular plain yogurt
fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries, pineapples, etc. (whatever you've got)

Alternate spoonfuls of yogurt and fruit into the popsicle mold. Use the stick to stir the ingredients until blended. Replace the stick and freeze for at least 2 hours. Voila! Popsicles!
I didn't taste them, but the sheer joy on her face said it all!

Update: You can also puree strawberries and bananas in a mini food processor and mix those with yogurt. We've also pureed bananas with almond butter and yogurt. YUM!

Paper Bag Whale

Baby Beluga by Raffi is an old favorite of mine. When Auntie K was little she had the tape (yep, tape) and we listened to it...A LOT. My mom wanted Sweet P to experience Raffi and Baby Beluga and bought her the Baby Beluga CD a few months ago. Then, for her birthday she got a stuffed blue whale and a book with the Baby Beluga lyrics from my grandpa (Paw-Paw). Needless to say as soon as we finished this project, she picked up the whale and exclaimed, "BABY BELUGA!" Love that kid.

I found this idea here.

The Craft: Paper Bag Whale

What you need:
1 small paper bag (or a big one I suppose!)
old newspaper or plastic bags (we have a never ending bag of them in the basement AND we use our own bags...where do those plastic bags come from!?)
rubber band
blue pipe cleaner
markers, Do a Dot markers, paint, etc.

Have your kiddos color the sides of the bag. If they are old enough to draw eyes and a smile have them do that, too (I had to help Sweet P with that).
Fill the bottom half of the bag with plastic bags or newspaper. Cut the blue pipe cleaner in half and bend both pieces.
Poke the ends of the pieces in the top of the bag to create a spout. Tie off the bag with a rubber band. Remember to leave room to create a tail.
You're done! There's your whale! Baby Beluga eats dinner with us and swims around the living room. Here's the rest of our W week.

Tot School: Letter W

Tot School
Sweet P is almost 26 months old.

We've been working on letter W this week, which is fun since our last name starts with W. Here are a few of the activities we did and books we read.

Dot Letter W: We used Confessions of a Homeschoolers Do a Dot page for letter W. We later recycled this piece of paper for our rice W.

We also used COH's W trace page and watermelon magnet page (I don't have pictures of these activities).

Watermelon Size Sort: (also from COH) She's really good at this, but she was also really not into it when we did it. We'll try it again another day and see what she thinks.

Rice W: I got the idea for rice craft projects from my friend Christy and tried it out with the letter W. Like I said we recycled our dot page so we didn't have to use a new sheet of paper and she LOVED this project. Can't wait to do more rice projects with her!

Letter W collage: We did this for letter B during her birthday and it was a hit so we tried it again (the Farmer helped cut out pictures from magazines!) and she really likes to stick the pictures down and say the words. She had her scissors and was helping cut magazines as well! We found a lot of fun W words like wagon, waterfall, watermelon, wire, wheelbarrow and Owen Wilson (guess who cut him out?)!

W stamping: I found these (after seeing them at my friend Christy's house) at Wal-Mart for $3.97!
A much better price than the Melissa & Doug stamps I considered. I freehanded the whale (isn't it a beaut?) because I wasn't in the mood to print anything that day and gave it to her and set her to stamping. The W only lasted a few minutes until she decided she reeeally wanted the smiley face. She had a good time with this.

And last but not least our W is for Whale project: I found this idea here while searching for W craft ideas on the web. She was really not interested in coloring the whale and was bored after one side. We finished coloring him and she LOVED stuffing in the plastic bags. Find out more about how to make the Whale in tomorrow's post.

Books from this week:
I Went Walking by Sue Williams
I Went Walking [Book]

Sweet P and the Farmer when they went walking!

Waking Up Wendell by April Stevens
Waking Up Wendell [Book]

My "w" Sound Box by Jane Belk Moncure (this is a different version than the one we got from the library, but the concept is the same.)
My "W" Sound Box (New Sound Box Books) (Hardcover) ~ J... Cover Art

What Do We Do with the Baby? by Rick Walton (Gammie brought her this book and it's a good way to help prepare her for the baby.)
What Do We Do With the Baby?

Potato Stamping!

Last week was a bit rainy and there were a couple of days when we were cooped up after naptime. I've been wanting to try potato stamping with Sweet P for awhile (and I had some potatoes that were starting to look around the room if ya know what I mean) so we gave it a shot last week. Cutting the stamps was a little difficult, but I think my C, 4 and cat look pretty good! (We were focusing on the letter C and #4 last week.)

The hardest part for Sweet P was NOT eating the potatoes! She loves potatoes and could not understand why I wouldn't let her eat them. That's why there are black walnuts in the pictures...I needed a snack distraction!

The cat was, of course, her absolute favorite. I also got out two block stamps (1 spot at Target) she'd gotten as gifts for her birthday. We had a great time with this and I hung the butcher paper on our basement door. She loves to point to it and say "Made that!"

The Craft: Potato Stamping

What you need:
1 to 2 potatoes (or more if you're feeling adventurous!)
sharp knife (mamas only!)
butcher paper
stamp pad or paint

Cut the potatoes in half and dry them off a bit. Cut out the shape you'd like using the knife (remember to cut it backwards if you are doing letters or numbers...I learned this the hard way). Once you've got it how you want it, stamp away!

You could also take these outside and stamp with water on the concrete!

Sweet P kept herself busy with her scissors while I cut out the stamps. Probably should have done that while she napped, but she had a blast with those scissors!

Book Recommendations

I haven't done a book recommendation in awhile, so here we go.

I am a certifiable bookworm. Now I know some people might classify themselves as a bookworm, but I am the type who can.not.put.the.book.down. I'm serious. I can't tell you how many times I've been reading a book and tell myself "just 5 more minutes." And 20 minutes later, "just 5 more minutes." And another 20 minutes...you get the picture. I've been known to stay up until 3 am (yes 3 AM!!!!!) to finish a book I couldn't possibly put down. I KNOW it'll still be there in the morning, but it's so dang hard for me. Because I LOVE a good book. So there ya have it. Bookworm. I admit it. That said, I've read well over 25 books this year. I can't remember them all (and truthfully some aren't worth remembering), but here are my most recent favorites.

Told from the perspective of Enzo, the dog. SUCH a good book. Grab some tissues.

The Alchemist: Paulo Coelho
Super quick read, about following your dreams.

Goose Girl: Shannon Hale
So so so good. Adapted from the Grimm's fairy tale.

A bit Hunger Games-ish, but not nearly as good. Also includes the Scorch Trials. The 3rd book isn't out yet so don't start it if you are impatient.

About a boy who lost his dad in 9/11. Really good, being made into a movie.

Really good, but reeeeeealllllly sad. Get some tissues for this one.

The Duke & I: Juila Quinn
8 books: The entire Bridgerton series (ok, I've only read 3 of them, but more are coming!) is a pretty good read. The books feature 1 of 8 siblings from London in the early 1800's trying to find love, get married, etc. It's a bit risque at times, but reminds me of Pride and Prejudice. The Duke & I is the first book in the series (and my favorite so far). I've also read The Viscount Who Loved Me and An Offer from a Gentleman.

Lineage of Grace Series: Francine Rivers
I've only read 3 of these (but have the other 2 in my possession) and they are fabulous reads. I think I've talked about 1 or 2 before in another book recommendation post. They follow the stories in the Bible very closely (because I always go back to read the Bible version after I finish to check the accuracy!) and are VERY quick reads. Most of them are around 120 pages.

Ok, that's it for now. There are several so-so books and others not worth mentioning. That's my other problem. Once I get too far in, I can't give a book up. The Farmer always says, "You don't HAVE to finish it." Mmmm, yes. Yes, I do. It just takes longer and I don't waste sleep on it. The books I mentioned above...I've definitely lost sleep reading. So get to reading!

Whatcha Eatin' Wednesday?

I've seen a few cute fish scenes here and there in the blog world and really wanted to make one for Sweet P, especially since we'd just received a cute fish cookie cutter in the mail from Gammie! Here's what I came up with and she loved it! She gobbled it up quick!

Almond butter fish-shaped sammies on whole wheat, blueberries and snow peas.
And for fun: a picture of the added challenge of taking a decent picture - A tiny hand that really wanted those blueberries!

Almond Butter Granola

We LOVE granola around here. I try to make a huge batch and then store it in an air tight container so we can munch on it for awhile. It's a big hit, especially since we don't eat cereal (don't even ask). And Sweet P LOVES "gwanowa". I have a tried and true recipe that I use (you can find it here), but I wanted to switch it up a bit so here we go:

The Recipe: Almond Butter Granola

What you need:
6 cups oats
1 cup honey
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tsp vanilla
4 tbsp almond butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup shaved almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Pour oats and spices into a bowl and stir. Add honey, olive oil, vanilla and almond butter to a separate bowl. Stir until well blended. Pour honey mixture onto oats and gather with your hands to coat the oats. Spread onto a cookie sheet (you'll need 2) and bake for 10 minutes. Take out and toss, then return to oven for another 5 minutes (repeat). Add almonds after the 3rd time out of the oven. Place sheets bake in the oven for 5 more minutes. Allow to cool completely. Add raisins and store in an air tight container.

YUM! This is so good with yogurt, soy milk or on ice cream! You can also add fresh fruit on top.

Sweet P had a blast helping with this and kept saying "Taste it" while she was stirring the oats and spices. Silly girl!

Muffin Tin Monday: Happy Belated Flag Day!

Muffin Tin Monday at Muffintinmom.com

We haven't had a muffin tin meal in awhile so I decided we'd try one out on Father's Day. I bought some patriotic muffin liners/muffin picks at 1am one night (it's a long story) and used those for a patriotic theme. I know it's a close enough to July 4th to start celebrating, but I thought I'd say Happy Flag Day anyway (Flag Day is my wedding anniversary). And on with the muffin tin:

Clockwise from top left: snow peas, string cheese, peach, star-shaped banana pancakes, grapes and mushrooms.

She ate everything except a few snow peas and the mushrooms. I'm pretty sure she moved all the mushrooms into one muffin cup so I thought she ate some, after looking at this picture I realized there were a heckuva lot of mushrooms in that little muffin cup when she was done. Silly girl.

Check out what other moms are feeding their kiddos at Muffin Tin Monday.

Fabulous Finds

I'm a sucker for a bargain. The stuff I found at a garage sale while Auntie K was here was such a good deal that I have to share it with you. It was at a local church and some of the stuff was a STEAL! We got all of this:
For a grand total of...drum roll, please...$7! Can you believe that? And there are 3 items not pictured! Here's what we got:

4 children's puzzles (that Sweet P LOVES) (.25 x 4)
4 Christmas books (that I'll save for her Advent calendar) (.25 x 4)
2 VHS movies (Veggie Tales and sing along songs) (.25 x 2)
5 pieces of fabric (about 3 yards total) (.50)
1 placemat (it was in the fabric section paired with the burlap...I'll use it for fabric)
burlap (.25 for the placemat and burlap)
A large bag of yarn $1.00
A large bag of embroidery floss $1.00
Not pictured:
Scrabble Jr. $1.00
2 books that we sent to Gammie (.50 x 2)

Such great finds! I'm especially excited about the fabric scraps and can't wait to make something with them!

What great things have you found lately?!

Simple Art Display

Auntie Rosita gave Sweet P these adorable and colorful bird clothes pins for her birthday. While Auntie K was here, we decided to use them to create an art display in Sweet P's area of the basement. I used a scrap of twine, the clothes pins and some packing tape (because push pins don't push into cinder block we have in our basement...in case you were wondering). And viola! Instant art display. It's pretty darn cute and Sweet P likes it, too!

What you need:
clothes pins
push pins or packing tape

Clip the clothes pins to the twine by sticking it as far into the clothes pin as possible. This will keep the clothes pins from sliding around. Position the twine on the wall where you want it (it helps to have someone, like Auntie K, hold the other side for you!). Tape or push pin the left clothes pin to the wall. Leave room for swag and repeat on the opposite side. Easy peasy.

Rainy Day Activities: Colorful Caterpillar

The past few days have been rainy as all get out around here. On Thursday morning we were up SUPER early (which if you know Sweet P at all, any time before 7:45 classifies as super early) so we had time to kill before heading to Trader Joe's and Costco for groceries. The Farmer left at 7:15am and 2 seconds it later the sky opened up and dropped marble sized hail on the ground. It was crazy!
Anyway, with that time we made a colorful caterpillar. We used recycled goods and some fun pipe cleaners she got for her birthday. As usual, I did most of the work. She picked out the colors of the legs and was cutting paper with these scissors (also a birthday gift). Colorful Caterpillar is well loved, he even came grocery shopping with us!

The Craft: Colorful Caterpillar

What you need:
1 paper towel roll (empty of course)
scraps of tissue paper
pipe cleaners
glue stick
small piece of cardboard

Sweet P tore strips of tissue paper and I glued them with the glue stick to the paper towel roll. Then, we twisted pipe cleaners around the body to form legs.

Our caterpillar has 12 legs, you do not have to use that many! Cut a small circle the size of the end of the paper towel roll out of the small piece of cardboard. Draw a face with your Sharpie. Fit the circle into the end of the roll. Amazingly my cut out fit perfectly so I didn't need to tape/glue it on.
My favorite part is that he can stand up on his own!

Viola! Colorful Caterpillar! This project would go great with The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Caterpillar Kisses!

Father's Day Activity

I have to admit I'm not good at thinking up gifts. It's a very hard thing for me. I made something similar to this (with Auntie Rostia's help) for Gammie for her birthday so I thought I'd make something for the Farmer with Sweet P's help for Father's Day. I'm hoping he'll take it and hang it in his office at work. This was pretty simple. I had everything on hand, which was my requirement for this craft! The hardest part was getting Sweet P to let me trace her hand (she was NOT into it).

The Craft: Handprint Father's Day Canvas

What you need:
Small canvas
Cute scrapbook paper
Brown paper bag (or another sheet of scrapbook paper)
Small paintbrush
Modge Podge

Trace your child's hand on the scrapbook paper, then cut it out. If your child it old enough, he/she can do this part. Measure your canvas and cut out a piece of the paper bag (or paper) large enough to cover the canvas. Modge Podge the paper to the canvas. I left my paper bag paper a bit crinkled because I liked the look of it. Allow it to dry, then Modge Podge the handprint to the canvas. If you don't want to paint the name, place the handprint in the middle of the canvas and you're finished! If you do, then place it in the top with space at the bottom for the name. Wait for it all to dry before painting the name.

The name was the most difficult part. I wiped it off twice before I got it where I liked it (and you can't even see it because I blurred her name out. Oh well, you get the idea). If you don't want to paint, you could use scrapbook lettering or if you have a Cricut, use that!!!

Allow paint to dry. Sand the edges for a distressed look and you're done!

There you have it, an easy Father's Day gift for daddy!

Homemade "Goldfish" Crackers

I don't buy goldfish crackers for Sweet P, but when I saw these I had to give them a whirl. These don't taste exactly like goldfish crackers, but they'll do! I found the recipe at Smitten Kitchen and knew I had to make them for Sweet P. She's been sick for the past 2 days so she didn't love them as much as I think she will, so we may have to try again when she's feeling more up to snuff.

These crackers are super easy and super yummy (and you save money by not buying Goldfish)!

The Recipe: Homemade "Goldfish Crackers"

What you need:
4 tbsp organic butter
2/3 cup organic whole wheat flour
1.5 cup organic sharp cheddar cheese
1/8 tsp onion powder
small cookie cutter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ingredients in a food processor until it forms a ball of dough (about 1 minute). Roll out the dough on a floured surface and get to cutting! Transfer to ungreased cookie sheet. Bake about 15 minutes or until edges start to brown. 

I didn't have a fish cookie cutter so I used a bunny and a star. Also, I think I overdid it on the onion powder so I'll be using less of that next time. Also, the original recipe called for salt, but I rarely add salt to recipes so I left it out. The recipe makes approximately 50 small crackers. We had a tiny cookie cutter and these are still probably double the size of a goldfish cracker.

Try em! You'll like em!

Simple Summer Activities: Water Painting

This just might be the simplest activity I've ever done with Sweet P. It was fun and required very little preparation! The only problem was the heat. We played for 10 minutes before she turned to me and said, "Go inside?" You said it sister. And in we went. But it was fun while it lasted and we'll definitely do a few 100 more times this summer!

Simple Summer Activity: Water Painting

What you need:
1 bucket of water
Various paint brushes
Sidewalk (or a random cinder block)

Fill up a bucket of water and let your kiddos go to town on your driveway or sidewalk. It's such a huge canvas! No clean up involved! Except of course emptying the extra water into your flower bed!

You can also draw with chalk and paint over it with water to watch it change colors!
If you look closely you can see the tiny snow pea that the pea bandit snatched off a pea plant before we played. She eats them like candy right off the plant! They are growing around the fence behind her.