Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fruitful Christmas Fun

Who says that Christmas food can't be fun for those with multiple, severe food allergies?!  Certainly not me!

I found these ideas on and couldn't wait to share them:

This really has my imagination going!  I can't wait to see what kinds of trees I can make this Christmas.  How about you?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pumpkin-Shaped Dduk

Nothing is more fun than serving up an allergy-free pumpkin patch for your little ones to enjoy.  I made this little patch of Pumpkin-Shaped Dduk and "planted" it in a bento box. 
It was a very fun fall treat!

Pumpkin-Shaped Dduk

1/2 C rice flour
1/8 C sugar
1/8 t salt
1 T mango juice
3/4 t black cherry unsweetened Kool-Aid *
1t lime Jello
5 T hot water
  1. Place first three ingredients in a small bowl and stir.
  2. Remove 2 T of dry mix and set aside.
  3. Add mango juice and stir again. 
  4. Add Kool-Aid 1/4 t at a time, mixing until the desired orange-toned color is achieved.
  5. Once you have achieved the desired color, add hot water, 1 T at a time, until the mix forms a dry ball.
  6. Knead the dough and set aside.
  7. Now, add lime Jello to the dry mix that we set aside earlier.
  8. Stir hot water, 1 t at a time, into the lime Jello mixture until the mix begins to clump.
  9. Knead the dough and set aside.
  10. Allow the dough to rest at room temp for at least 5 minutes.  This lets the rice flour "bloom".
  11. When ready to shape pumpkins, turn orange dough onto a silpat.
  12. Taking a small amount of dough, form a ball by rolling the dough in your hands.  You may need a little water on your fingertips to keep the dough from sticking. But, be careful not to use too much or the dough will get too soft. 
  13. Gently push down on the top and bottom center of your ball to form a small indention for your "stem".
  14. Using a chopstick, make indentions around the sides of the pumpkin to form the ridges on a pumpkin's skin.
  15. As shapes are formed, place them in a glass "bento" box such as from Pyrex, LockNLock, or GlassLock.
  16. Once the pumpkins are made, it is time to make the stems, leaves, stems and green "baby" pumpkins.
  17. The baby pumpkins are made in the same way as the larger pumpkins, only using smaller portions of dough.
  18. To form the stems, make a thin "snake" and cut off a tiny piece.  Place the piece at the center of your "pumpkins".
  19. For the vines,  make long "snakes".  Twist the "snakes" around your finger or a chopstick to make coils and lay the "vines" on their pumpkins.
  20. For leaves, you should use your fingers to flatten a very small piece of dough.  Pinch one end of the dough to make a tear-drop or leaf shape.  Use your chopstick to make indentions for the leaf's veins.
  21. Once you have arranged your pumpkin patch in your bento box, cover the box with a piece of wet paper towel.
  22. Place the bento in the microwave and cook 30 seconds at a time until done.  The dough should not be hard but it should resist when gently touched.
  23. When ready, remove the dduk from the microwave using hot pads.
  24. Allow rice cakes to cool then cover tightly with plastice wrap.

NOTE: Rice cakes do not keep well. You should eat them the same day.

* Black Cherry unsweetened Kool-Aid is the only mix without a corn product.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thank you may not be enough

Today, in the US, we recognize the sacrifices of our veterans.  As many of us take a break from school and work, please take a moment to remember those who give, and who have given, so much for us.

Sesame Street made a video to support military families as they make their adjustments home.  While this video will surely support those families, I also think that it shows us depth of the sacrifices made on our behalf.  Take a moment and watch this wonderful Sesame Street video, "Meet Elmo and Louie".
Then, say a prayer for those who serve in our military and the families that support them at home.

We may never fully understand all that they have done and the impact that it has on their individual lives.  But, as we stop our lives in their honor, let us reach out to those who serve and give them more than a thank you.  Give a hug to the vets visiting nearby monuments.  Take dinner to the elderly veteran who has no one to visit.  Listen to the stories of the homeless person who served and is still suffering. Babysit the kids of the family down the street whose wife is returning from service and whose husband has been holding things together.  Send dessert to the table of the military family eating across the room from you.  Whatever you do today, take time today to show love to those families who give so much for you.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Is your bear prepared?

Today was "Bring Your Bear to School Day" for my little one.  As we discussed which bear could safely go to school, come home and be washed, my angel informed me that her bear was not yet ready to go to school.  You see, this little bear has food allergies and never been to school before.  Our bear has never been away from its mommy and may not remember all that it should to stay safe.  This fact was of great concern for my angel and she knew that it was her job to prepare her little bear to face the world.

After arriving home, my angel went straight to work teaching her little bear what it needs to know before going to school.  Here is what she recommended:
  • Do not take foods from others.
  • Wash your hands before you eat and after you touch something dangerous or play on the playground.
  • Tell your teacher if you need help or feel strange.
  • Always ask if something is safe before you touch it.
  • Never, ever take off your medical emergency bracelet.
I thought that this advice was pretty sound and just enough for one little bear to manage.

Allergic angels are so responsible, even at a young age.   Throughout any given day, children with allergies must think about things that most of us never give a second thought.  Every action, new sensation and interesting object must be scrutinized before they are free to play like a kid.  But, with our help, these angels learn to do this with ease and grace.

I am proud of my angel.  She is raising a responsible little bear who will be ready to face the challenges ahead.  Our little bear is ready for school and can now focus on what really matters.... growing up!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Summer Fun: An Ark and a Flood

Many people have expressed their desire intentionally study the Bible with their children this summer, so, I want to help you plan a time that engages the mind, spirit and body.

Often, it is assumed that studying the Bible must be solemn and boring.  But, time spent with God should actually be thought provoking and fun. For adults, that may mean reading and discussing with a group of peers.  But, for kids, Bible "study" takes on a different appearance.

This 7-day study of Noah's ark includes a short daily reading with questions and some water-play  to solidify the ideas.  Try it and let me know what you learn along the way!

Noah's Ark: 
Genesis 6:9 - 9:17

  1. READ:  Begin by selecting a version of the Bible that is easy for you and your child to understand.  Or, you may "look up" the passages on  We like the (New International Version (NIV) but there are other modern versions which are easy to understand.  Read the designated passages aloud to your children, helping the to understand any words which may be difficult. 
  2. RESPOND: Answer the questions that go with each passage.  It may be helpful to go back and read the passage in small sections as you look for answers.  Take your time and allow everyone to think before answering.
  3. RECREATE:  There is an activity (most of them involving water play) which goes with each days study.  You may like to do your reading and study for the day then follow it up with the activity.  Or, some may prefer to study one day and read the next.  My Bible study group is doing the daily studies at home and following up with a day of water play to solidify the story.  I set up stations around the yard for each day's water play.  I then walked the kids through each station and we re-told the story of Noah's Ark using each station as a reminder.

Day 1 - Genesis 6:9-22
Why was God angry at the people?  
How did He punish them? 
What have you done lately that God would not like?
Why did God choose Noah?
How has God shown His love for you? 

LISTENING:  Noah heard God speaking to him.  Using two cups and a string, can you set up a system to hear your friends talking to you from far away? Place a small hole in the bottom of each cup.  Cut a piece of string about 4 feet long.  Thread one end of the string through the hole in the bottom of one cup.  Pull the string up and tie a knot in the end of the string to prevent it from passing back through the hole.  Using the other cup, do the same at the other end of the string.  Once the strings are securely attached to the cups, you hold one cup and have a friend hold the other.  Pull the string tight between you.  While your friend speaks into one cup, you listen in the other.  Switch; you talk and they listen.  What do you hear?  Notice, if your string isn't tight and you don't pay attention, you can't hear what your friend is saying.  When we listen to God, we must listen carefully and maintain a good relationship if we are to hear as well as Noah.

Day 2 - 
Genesis 7:1-11
Can you remember...  how big was Noah's boat?
Who was on the boat with Noah?
How did God feel about the people's behavior?  
Sometimes, we can give God a sad heart.
Have you ever done anything that made God sad?  What was it?
Have you ever made anyone else feel sad?  How? 
What did you do after you hurt them?

THE ARK:  Using a piece of aluminum foil, make a boat.  You may fold it, bend it, twist it and use it however you would like to "build" your own ark.  Once you have finished, float your boat in a tub of water.  Try placing some small plastic animals in your boat.  How many will it hold before it sinks?  How many animals did Noah's ark hold?  How big do you think Noah's ark was?

Can you remember how long it rained?
How high was the water?
How long before the waters receded?  (For how long did the water flood the earth?)
What happened to the people that weren't in the boat and who were not doing as God taught them?
Do you love God?  Do you know that God loves you?
Name one time that you did as God taught you.

THE RAIN:  Set up a sprinkler for the children to run through.  Let them run and play in the "rain".  After playing for a while, see if they can spot the beginnings of a "flood".  How long would your sprinkler have to "rain" for it to cover your feet?  Your knees?  A table?  A tree?

How did Noah know that the water had gone down and there was land?
The dove is a bird of peace.  How do you think God felt about His people now?
When someone hurts us, how can we feel peace in our heart?
How can we help others feel peace in their heart when we have hurt them or done wrong?

THE FLOOD:  Blow up a small wading pool and lay it on a soft surface such as grass.  Place enough water in the pool to just cover the bottom - about 1/2 inch.  Cut one of the flower shaped swimming noodles into 2.5 inch slices so that they look like flowers.  Put the flowers and some fish-shaped water toys in the pool for a flood of fun.  To make things even more interesting, you may throw in some magnetic toy fish and see how many the children can catch with their toy fishing rod.  Do you think that Noah ate fish while on the ark?

What did God want the animals to do on the earth?
Why do we sin and do hurtful things?
What does God promise us even though He knows that we will make mistakes and break His heart? 
Why do you think God made us a promise saying, “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though[a] every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures"?
Food for thought:  What does it mean "As long as the earth endures..."?

THE LAND:  Prepare a bucket of water, a bag of sand, a bag of dirt and a bag of rock along with plastic saucers from the bottom of planters.  What do you think the land looked like when Noah saw it?  Allow the children to build their island in the saucers.  Supply them with some small, safe succulent plants and plastic animals so that they may make their island more authentic.  They may even want to put an ark on their island.  Let them pretend and imagine what it was like for Noah.

Day 6 - Genesis 9:1-7
What 3 things did God tell us about the animals?
What responsibility has God given us?
How can we use that responsibility today?
What does God mean, "I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too"?

THE ANIMALS:  Set up an area for water coloring.  Provide plain paper, paper printed with animals being cared for, or pictures of various animals in their habitat.  If you can find water color books that already have the colors on the paper, you can provide these pages along with brushes and clean water.  This method of water painting works well with children as young as one.  If you can not find the pre-printed pages with water color dots, provide some some printouts and plain paper along with a packet of water colors, a cup of clean water, and plenty of brushes.  Ask the kids to paint a picture of how we should treat animals.

What is a covenant?
What covenant did God make after the flood?
With whom did God make this covenant?
What was the sign of this covenant?

THE RAINBOW:  Make Cantaloupe Rainbows or Rainbow Jigglers for a cool snack.  If you prefer an easy to serve - easy to eat - version, you may layer the jello in a clear plastic cup instead of inside a cantaloupe.  While everyone is eating, talk about promises that have been made and promises that have been broken.  Talk about the consequences of breaking a promise and the way that we can repair the damage when we fail to keep our word. When you finish your snack, try to make your own rainbow using one of the "Make a Rainbow" methods  from

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer Fun: Wire Sculptures

For some of us, there is a budding artist in our homes who covers our windows, walls, and refrigerators with memories to last a lifetime.  For others, you may have to beg, bribe and otherwise force your angel to make anything that resembles an artistic creation.  And, for many of us, we are the hold up.  We are insecure about the results of our artistic endeavors and don't want any proof of our lack thereof.

Art is not meant to be perfect.  It is not something without flaws but rather whose flaws make it unique. Art is something to share; something to be appreciated, no matter how simple the result.  It is an expression; a way of showing on the outside what we feel on the inside.  Most of us express ourselves through words.  Some of us do it more skillfully than others but we all do it so that our ideas may be heard.  The same is true through art.  Some of us may be better at expressing ourselves with visual arts but that should not stop all of us from recording our inspirations.  We are not all perfect and imperfections are what make us, and our art, interesting.

This week, we visited the local museum and considered some artists who expressed themselves on canvas like Monet and others who expressed themselves through sculpture like Calder.  We looked at pottery, canvas, bronze and wire artworks, considering what things the artists used to convey their message.

Today, help your angel find his or her inner artist... and you find yours, too!

Pipe cleaners of varying sizes
small rocks, not sharp

  1. Introduce your angel to images of wire art.  Search Google for wire sculptures, mobiles, jewelry, kinetic art etc. to find examples.  Try works by Elizabeth Berrien, Alexander Calder, or Arthur Ganson.
  2. Give your angels a pipe cleaner and try coiling or bending pipe cleaners to form different shapes.  You can find suggestions on pages 3, 10, 11, and 14 of the paper titled "Alexander Calder-Inspired Wire Sculpture".
  3. Give your angel the remaining materials and ask them to create their own wire sculpture.
  4. Join your angel and do your best (no matter how beautiful) to create a wire expression of your own.

When your angel finishes, help them find a place to prominently display their work.  Show their work off to friends and family who visit.  Take a picture of their art and save it to show them later.  The pride that you show in their work is what is important to them.  Help them learn to love this method of expression, not for the result that it creates but for the benefit of the process itself.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Learning Station: The Activities

Benjamin Franklin said:
Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.

This summer, we are taking Ben's advice and doing both!  We are writing in multiple languages, drawing what we see,  going places to tell about, and discovering all that is life!

In my last post, I told you about our Summer Learning Station.  This station is the center of our summer fun and schedule.  We post the work that we've done, pictures of fun that's been had and maintain our schedule for the day.

In an effort to make plenty of activities available to my angels, I have placed a variety of worksheets and other activities in manila folders to keep little hands busy when the "I'm bored" alarm starts to sound.  So far, it has worked!  In fact, first thing in the morning, my angel is at the board working on something from a folder while mommy sneaks in an extra few minutes of sleep.  Yeah!

Here's how is works:

  1. Select topics that interest your child and which you would like them to work on this summer.  Be sure to mix up the topics, make them fun, and not to be overly academic.  We are working on the following topics: Language, Bible, Math, Craft, Music, Reading, Mystery
  2. Inside of each folder, place one activity that your child can complete independently.
  3. Hang the folders somewhere convenient.  The child should be able to reach them his/herself and sit nearby to work on the activity.  We used a clothesline with clothespins.
  4. Be sure that the child has easy access to the supplies needed to complete the activity.
  5. Let the child know what to do with the completed work.  We colored one side of our clothespins green to indicate an incomplete activity and the other side red to indicate a completed one. When the work in a folder is finished, it is placed back into the folder and hung on our clothesline with the red side of the clip facing out.
  6. Periodically, I go through the folders and check the completed work. That work is then replaced by another activity of the same topic and re-hung on the line with the green side of the clip facing out.  I try not to rush and replace the completed work to quickly.  I want to encourage my angels to try some of the topics that may not be their favorites.

Our Folder Topics
(and a few ideas)

"Those who know nothing of foreign languages, knows nothing of their own."
Jahann von Goethe

I placed a quote on the outside of the folders to inspire my angels.  Even those who can not read are curious to ask what it says.  For the really little ones, try drawing an inspiring picture on the outside of the envelope. Or better yet, have them draw one!

In the "Language" folder, I place activities such as:
  • handwriting practice sheets 
  • foreign language activities 
  • meaningful writing tasks like addressing postcards or writing letters
  • Alphabet games
  • Starting and Ending sound puzzles

"Art is both creation and recreation."
Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living, 1937

I have a very crafty angel and this is the folder that I use to push those creative limits.  I use this folder to inspire the great creator within all of us, and my angel, too!

In the "Craft" folder, I place activities such as:
  • cutting or folding practice
  • color by number or watercolor sheets
  • create-a-craft items (These are a random of collection of items that I place in the folder.  Angels are instructed to use all of the items to complete a task like make a card for Grandpa or build a house for your favorite stuffed animal.)
  • tracing activities

"Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and all else shall be added unto you."
Matthew 6:33

Math is not just the ability to recognize and manipulate numbers.  It is the ability to use logic and problem solving to complete a task.  Activities in this folder will work on both recognizing and manipulating numbers as well as logic and problem solving skills.

In the "Math" folder, I place activities such as:

"God gives us each a song."
American Indian Proverb

The benefits of learning music have been proven repeatedly through the years, yet, we still stifle the music that lies deep within each of us.  Help your children discover a love for sound and express themselves in song (whether it be a perfect one or not).

In the "Music" folder, I place activities such as:

  • Match the note values:  match the note on the left with another note of equal value on the right
  • Identify the instruments
  • Musical App time:  "MyClassicalApp", "Jellybean Tunes", "Seuss Band"
  • Turn on children's music and dance with scarves, instruments etc.
  • Make an instrument:  Place the items needed and picture or word instructions on how to make it themselves.  Better yet, take the time to make instruments with your children for this activity.  (see "Homemade Instruments" on; "9 Easy to Make Musical Instruments" by
  • Name that tune: Using one line of written music, name that tune.

"Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life."
Mortimer J. Adler

Reading unlocks the door to worlds unseen. Reading allows us to see inside the imagination of others.  Whether you love fiction, nonfiction or don't really love reading at all, help your children develop a love a reading that will empower their future.  Read with them this summer so that they will seek to read throughout the school year.

In the "Reading" folder, I place activities such as:

  • Complete comprehension activities for a book or book chapter read.
  • Place a book in the envelope and ask your angel to read it to you aloud.
  • Crossword puzzle.
  • Word or Letter search
  • Sight Word activities
  • Punctuation activities
  • Sentence Structure activities

"I've read the last page of the Bible.  It's going to turn out all right."
Billy Graham

A solid love of the Lord comes through a deeper understanding of who He is.  This folder is designed to help our little ones develop a relationship with the Lord and a desire to study the Lord's Word more.

In the "Bible" folder, I place activities such as:

  • Bible storybooks
  • Drawing activities to depict a story studied
  • Ask little ones to identify behaviors that are pleasing to the Lord
  • Activities to help recognize activities that are helpful to others

"Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man's desire to understand."
Neil Armstrong

This is a place for me to put activities that are just plain fun and interesting.

In the "Mystery" folder, I place activities such as:

  • Puzzles
  • 3D drawing pad with glasses
  • Treasure map leading your pirate to hidden booty (small treasures frozen in an large ice block with warm water and basters to help them remove the bounty)
  • Cooking activity
  • Movie
  • A chart to help identify them identify rocks from the yard

I hope that these activity ideas motivate you to try something new this summer, even if you do not make an activity board as we did.  The key to our desire for learning is a true understanding of how much we do not know.  And, in the words of Percy Bysshe Shelley, "The more we study the more we discover our ignorance."  

This summer study hard and discover your ignorance!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer Fun: Maps, Mail and Meaningful Writing

The hub of our summer activities is an area that I call the Summer Learning Station.  It has our daily schedule, packets of individual activities (more on that later), and a giant wall map.  The map is part of an ongoing project for the summer - our Postcard Project.

For over 20 years, I have kept the postcards that people sent me from around the world.  It started when I was a teenager and just couldn't bring myself to throw them away.  Then, I became a teacher and laminated the cards for use in my classroom.  Now, I am a mom and I have "owned" these cards to my angel.  It is a cherished collection now which is happily taken down, admired, and regularly added to.

However, this summer, I decided to step things up a notch.  We hung a large world map at the center of our Summer Learning Station and placed stars on the map to indicate the origin of each postcard.  Then, I sent out a message (more like a plea) for postcards from friends.  We asked anyone who was willing to send us a postcard this summer. And, for those who are interested, we will send one back.

People are excited and postcards are trickling in.  We mark old postcards with stars and place tacks on the map to indicate new ones.  Each card gets a response and then hangs on a clothesline above the map.  This project has become more fun than I imagined. We've toured the post office, written letters, addressed mail, mapped locations, counted responses and created lots of memorable, meaningful summer fun.

What kinds of meaningful writing activities are you doing this summer?  How are you incorporating a little geography into your days?  Share you summer fun ideas and help keep us all motivated as the fun heats up!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Summer Fun: Let's Plan

There are three parts to a successful summer plan:

  1. Wish List
  2. The Schedule
  3. Flexibility
Summer is here!  I am always amazed at how fast a school year passes. With projects, homework and after school fun, it should be now real surprise. But, at the end of each school year, I always find myself saying, "I can't believe the year is already over."  This year, I want to push aside the summer boredom and seek out some budget-friendly fun.  To get things started, we set a flexible schedule and designed an upcycled memo board to keep track of the fun.

1:  Wish List
Last week, I asked my angels what we want to do this summer.  I heard things like, "paint pottery,"  "have a water day," and "I don't know".  I wrote their answers down.  But, whatever their response when the question was first asked, the responses after that moment are the ones that you don't want to miss. Each time we passed something interesting or did something fun, I was told, "I want to do that this summer," and on to my list it went. Pay attention because when we ask kids a question, something amazing happens... they start thinking.   Throughout the summer, they will have ideas, and those ideas will go on the "Wish List".
Along with their ideas, I have a few ideas of my own.  I want to work on the vision of my angel's lazy eye, go to a museum, and pick up shells on a beach.  Write these down, too.  With all of these ideas, I have a nice list of things that the kids and I want to do this summer. Post this list somewhere so that as the days pass and you are wondering what to plan next, you can refer to these goals and wishes for ideas.  

2:  The Schedule
Some people like a schedule with times for each daily activity, but I have found those to lead to disappointment in our house.  Often, fun opportunities arise and they throw off a concrete schedule.  Or, perhaps, today we need to flip our schedule so that we do our chores last and our fun first.  This is what summer is about!

This year, I am taking a new approach.  Our schedule looks more like a daily list of to-do's.  We have identified 5 things that we want or need to accomplish each day.  Yes, I had a lot to say in this part of the process!  We need to do some studying and some chores. But we also want to have some adventures.  What ever your daily to-do's are, write them down.  Keep your list to 5 or less.  We don't want to feel discouraged when things aren't finished and we certainly need some time for summer laziness!

3:  Flexibility
Summers are a time to recuperate from a busy school year.  They are a time to be lazy,  to sit in the sun, to discover new things... a time to be a kid!  But, if our schedules are too full or we don't leave room for adjustment, the summer is none of those things.

Leave room in your schedule for change.  Be flexible and, while we don't want to the summer to be a meaningless time full of TV and video games, don't forget to leave time for a slow start or pajama day.  These are the times that the kids will cherish and you will remember.  Be flexible; be a little lazy and enjoy the change of pace that summer allows.

4:  The Product
Once my schedule and wish list were made, I needed to post them someplace that everyone could see it. 

 I found a wall near our "Summer Fun Station" (more on that in another post) and used a ribbon to hang an old frame with the glass still in tact. If you don't have an old picture frame to upcycle, you could use a piece of metal with two holes drilled in the top, a rectangle cut from white tub backing, a large tile with ribbon glued to the back or a couple of $1 white boards.  I originally hung my summer fun board with a removable hanger... BUT... after it came tumbling down (at 2am!), it has now been rehung with a nail.  Note to self:  buy some spackle before September!

With an overhead pen, I wrote our daily to-do's along the left side of the board.  I was sure to leave a large space to the right side of my list so that I could add each day's specific details.  

Each morning or evening, I will use a dry erase marker to write the details for the day's schedule.  I will include a time for activities that are time-specific but otherwise, I will write down just what is needed.  Kids like to know what is coming each day and this will allow them to have a say in when we do chores as well as when we have some scheduled fun.  As we complete a daily task, we will mark it off with the dry erase pen.

Under the daily schedule, I wrote our "Wish List".  Be sure to let kids remove their "wishes" once they've done them. Kids love accomplishment as much as we do and this will allow them to watch their list shrink as the summer moves on.

I am eager to hear how you make and post your Summer Fun plans. Come back next week as I detail a few of our on-going summer projects to encourage independent learning throughout the summer.  See you then!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Summer Fun Series

Summer is rolling in faster than the tide.  Are you ready?

We are busy preparing for all the fun that comes with the summer heat!  We are looking forward to some learning, adventures and just plain silliness in the months to come.  Each week, I will post activities to help fill those hot summer days and savor the star-filled nights until the school bell rings again!  Keep an eye out for free fun, creative interludes and abundant learning for all.

Share your ideas as we keep cool and play safe this summer!

A few of the  not-to-miss "Summer Fun" posts:

Goals and Schedules
Summer Learning Station:  The Map
Summer Learning Station:  The Activities
Free Bowling
Playground Fitness
Storytime Crafts

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Boat That Wouldn't Sink

My angel still likes Sesame Street and, honestly speaking, do we really ever outgrow it?  On one of the Sesame Street episodes, Murray has the children build a boat from aluminum foil.  A tub is filled water and boat is floated on top.  The children then place large washers in the boat, one washer at a time, to see how many washers the boat will hold before it sinks.  The experiment sounded like so much fun that we decided to try it at home.

We pulled off a 10 inch piece of aluminum foil and filled a tub with water.  Everyone built their boat but... we didn't have any washers.  So, we emptied our piggy banks and decided that quarters would work.  And, so it did.  Until... the boat that wouldn't sink!

We placed all of our quarters in the boat.  We added our dollar coins, then our pennies... this boat WOULD NOT SINK!  Finally, we added every coin that we had and this boat still would not go down. 

So... we took out the coins and sent our Barbie for a ride!

Fun experiment.  We decided that the flat bottoms and the high sides helped our best boats float.  Have you tried this experiment?  How did it work for you?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Gift

"This is the day that the Lord has made.  
I will rejoice and be glad in it!"   
Psalm 118:24

Why is it when our children are young, we only wish for a "break"?  A little time kid-free, uninterrupted sleep, a moment in the bathroom - by ourselves.... 

BUT - when our children are older, all we want is a day with the family all together.  We wish our children would spend the day at home; they would want to do something, even something simple, with mom.  We long for our kids to be at our side doing anything but arguing.

As Mother's Day approached this year, I realized what a funny holiday this is indeed.  A day when mom should have what she wants regardless....  But, can we really have it all?  Can we hide away on this day when the kids are young then expect them to run home and celebrate the holiday when they are older?

I don't have an answer to that question but I do know that our sacrifices now are our blessings later.  If we put down our phones and listen to our kids today, then our kids will talk to us tomorrow.  If we sit on the floor and play the games that they love now, then they will join us for the games that we love later.  And, it only seems to reason that if we stay home with our kids while they are young then they will come home to us when they are older.

I am not delusional and I know that life is not as simple as a formula.  But, I do know that our kids pick up on the small things.  They can feel our desires and, when they are young, they thrive on time with us.  So, on a special day like today, do we run to the spa or have daddy take the kids away for the day?  Or, do we celebrate this moment with our children and our spouses?  Do we sacrifice our secret desires today so that we may enjoy the blessings of our children in years to come?  For me, the answer is simple:  

Our angels are blessings, today and tomorrow.  
Rejoice.  Be glad.  The Lord has blessed you.  
Enjoy this blessing now and forever more.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Children's Day, May 5th

While the Mexico and parts of the US celebrate Cinco de Mayo on May 5th, South Korea is having a celebration of its is Children's Day!  This holiday is a bigger deal than Christmas and Easter for the kids of South Korea.  In fact, for many children, this day probably rivels their birthday for the "Best Day Ever" award.

Children's Day has been observed for almost 100 years, although not always in May and excepting a number of years when it was known as "Boys' Day".  Not until the addition of the children's welfare law of 1961 was Children's Day observed as a national holiday on May 5th.  This holiday is day when parents are encouraged to celebrate their children.  They are given the day off from work as a reminder that children require and deserve our love, care, and respect.  On this day throughout Korea, parks are filled with families, children's workers are honored, and free activites abound for all.  Children are given gifts, fed their favorite foods and games are played.  It is truly a fun day for all!

However, as a westerner looking in, I have always wondered why there is a need for such a holiday.  After all, in the US, we have Christmas and Easter which are almost entirely devoted to the fun of children.  For a while, I thought that Children's Day was Korea's version of these Christian holidays, minus the elf and bunny of course!  But, now, I truly believe that this holiday is much more.  Yes, it is important for all of us to remember that our children deserved to be treated with dignity and kindness, but I actually believe that this holiday holds a greater importance which may not even be noticed by Koreans.  In a culture where at least one parent works long days and probably even countless nights, this is a day that reminds children that they are what matter most in our lives.  When work demands our attention or chores keep us from laughing enough, Koreans stop ..... just for a day..... and remember what matters most - children.  Children are what matter and the precious time that we give them.  Those few minutes that we stop what matter most to us to give our children what matters most to them; we give them our time.

Today, I will stop .....  I will give my angel time.  I will take a moment to listen, to follow, and to cherish what matters most - my time.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Clean & Green: R3 Day

Today is Earth Day!  It is the day when we remember to care for our Earth.  It is a day to do something that beautifies or preserves the land that God gave us.  It is a day to practice the 3R's!

Reduce:   Use less.  Turn off the lights.  Unplug for a day.  Avoid plastic bags.  Consume your leftovers. Use less gas.  Use less water.  Just use less.

Reuse:  Wash out the plastic bags and use them again.  Place coffee grinds and crushed egg shells around a plant as fertilizer.  Use old jars to store leftovers or craft supplies.  Use rinse water for watering plants and kiddie pool water for watering lawn.

Recycle:  Turn your trash into something new. Cut and tape cereal boxes for shipping.  Make art with your old Christmas cards.  Take your paper, plastic, electronics, construction, glass, automotive, construction, garden, and household waste to the appropriate recycling centers.  

Recharge your batteries.
Repurpose a plastic bottle into a plant watering vessel.
Refrain from using disposable towels.
Upcycle old clothes into reusable shopping bags.
Repair broken electronics.

These websites had great R3 ideas:

For more of our Clean & Green series, see these links:
Monday, April 18th: The Earth Plan
Wednesday, April 18th:  Twirly Fairy Craft
Thursday, April 19th:  Wall Garden  Salmoncakes

Friday, April 20, 2012

Clean & Green: Floor Cleaner

This is my go-to cleaner for my floors.  It works great on tile or laminate but I wouldn't try it on wood.  It is also great for wiping down cabinets.  It removes the grime and leaves behind a fresh smell.

Floor Cleaner

1/4 C vinegar
2 Gallons water
8 drops essential lemon oil
8 drops essential tangerine oil

Wipe the floors down with a rag or mop.  I like to go behind and dry my floors, too.  Change the water when dirty to ensure an equally good clean throughout the process.

For more of the Clean & Green series, go to:

Monday, April 18th: The Earth Plan
Wednesday, April 18th:  Twirly Fairy Craft
Thursday, April 19th:  Wall Garden  Salmoncakes

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Clean & Green: Salmoncakes

Well, the wall garden didn't quite make it up yesterday.  The materials are purchased but I just can't seem to get it hung and filled.... I guess it will just have to be a little summer project for later!

Instead of the wall garden, I am sharing my favorite allergy-friendly recycled dinner recipe - Salmoncakes!  If your family is like mine, they don't want to eat the same leftovers every day.  So, I have become an expert in making one dish and using the leftovers to make a second, third, and sometimes fourth dish for later in the week.

Whenever I cook Molasses Grilled Salmon, I am always sure to cook enough for leftovers.  I freeze the leftover pieces and make them into other dishes.  Today's dish is perfect for those leftover salmon fillet.     I make Salmoncakes from the leftover salmon and freeze them for quick meals on busy days.   I love to pack them for lunches but they are really perfect for any meal... even breakfast!


1 salmon fillet, cooked
1 C medium grained rice, cooked
1/2 C rice flour
4 green onions, chopped
1 T dill
3/4 t garlic powder
1/2 t salt (or to taste)
1/4 C water
1 C Rice Chex, crushed
rice oil
  1. Break the salmon fillet up and place it in a bowl.
  2. Add the dry ingredients and mix well.
  3. Add 2 T water and mix again.
  4. Continue adding water 1 T at a time until the mix is just wet enough to stick together.
  5. Place the Rice Chex in a pie plate.
  6. Heat a nonstick skillet on low; add 2 T oil.
  7. Form the salmon dough into patties.
  8. Gently place the patty on top of the rice chex and flip over. 
  9. When the sides are generously coated,  reform the patty.
  10. Place the patty directly in the hot skillet.
  11. Quickly make the remainder of the patties and place in the skillet.
  12. Cook the patties until they are lightly brown and gently flip.  You may need to increase the cooking heat at this point.
  13. Cook the other side until browned and remove to a paper towel lined plate.
  14. Cool slightly and serve.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Clean & Green: Twirly Fairy Craft

My angel came up with this easy idea for making twirly fairies from styrofoam S-shaped peanuts.  These were fun to make but the greatest excitement when we released them and they twirled to the ground!

Twirly Fairy Craft

S-shaped styrofoam peanuts
used paper or children's art
Scotch tape

  1. Color the beans.
  2. Cut out the wings into the shape pictured below:
  3. Color the wings.
  4. Tape the wings to the top side of one "S" curve.

More posts in our Clean & Green series:

Monday, April 18th: The Earth Plan
Wednesday, April 18th:  Twirly Fairy Craft

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Clean & Green: All-Purpose Mild Abrasive Cleasner

I am always taking on new DIY projects in the house in an attempt to save us a little money. For those of us with allergic angels, we spend a lot of time and money to keep our houses clean.  One area where I spend a lot of money is in the kitchen, especially washing dishes.  We make dirty a lot of dishes and pots cooking our from scratch, whole foods.  Recently, after a long day of cooking, I ran out of dishwashing detergent and decided that I would try make my own.  the bloggers online make it sound so easy and effective that I never doubted the challenge.  So, armed with my Borax, Washing Soda, and my computer, I began.

I first tried a recipe by a blogger that swore by her recipe.  I loaded the dishes, mixed the recipe and hit "WASH".  One quick trip to the grocery, the dishes were done.  But... were they?   Not quite!  Cloudy and covered with baked-on food remnants, these dishes had to go another round ... with the a PowerBall from the blue box!

I wasn't going to give up, though.  I had mixed way too many ingredients to just throw them out.  So, I researched, and I tested until I actually came up with a product that washed my dishes as well as the stuff in the green bottle.  But... that was still not as good as the powerball in the blue box.  So, what do I do with all of this mix?

It turns out that my not-as-good-as-the-powerball dishwashing detergent, is a better-than-the-stuff-in-the-can mild abrasive cleaner!  While giving my tile floors a much needed hands and knees cleaning, I poured a little on a hard to clean spot and ... VIOLA! GONE!  Wow... doesn't get better than this...  26 ounces of all-natural- ingredient mild abrasive cleaner for > $.15 per ounce (a $.04/oz savings over the green can cleaner).  And, my kitchen has never smelled brighter!

All-Purpose Mild Abrasive Cleanser

1 1/2 C Borax
1 C Washing Soda
1/2 C Baking Soda
1/4 C coarse Kosher salt
2 T Dawn Dishwashing Liquid
1 C Lemi Shine (optional)
15 drops essential lemon oil (optional)
15 drops essential tangerine oil (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl non-reactive bowl.  To prevent clumping, allow ingredients to remain in the bowl for a few days, store with a silica packet, and/or place a sealed mesh bag of uncooked rice in the mix.  Store in a  repurposed glass jar.  Poke holes in the lid for easier sprinkling.  You may need to give the jar a shake before using to loosen up the mix.
For those with allergies, this recipe does have corn in it, but so do most cleaning products on the market.  In fact, there are additional ingredients in the Lemi-Shine if you sue it.  Be sure to rinse well with clean water to eliminate any residue.

General Purpose Cleanser - Sprinkle on tough to clean spots, scrub and rinse.  As you gently rub the cleanser, the abrasive texture will diminish (the salt dissovlves).  Add a little more cleanser or sprinkle area with kosher salt for a stronger scrubbing power.

Dishwashing Detergent - Place one T in each  of the dispensers in your dishwasher then run as usual.  For hard water, add an additional tablespoon of Lemi-Shine to the washer door.

More posts in our Clean & Green series:

Monday, April 18th: The Earth Plan
Wednesday, April 18th:  Twirly Fairy Craft

Monday, April 16, 2012

Clean & Green: The Earth Plan

Earth Day is Sunday, April 22nd and we will be clean and green all week.   I hope that you will follow along and share all of your great green ideas.

Monday, April 18th: The Earth Plan
Wednesday, April 18th:  Twirly Fairy Craft
Thursday, April 19th:  Wall Garden  Salmoncakes
Friday, April 20th:  DIY Tile Floor Cleaner
Saturday, April 21st:  Upcycled Rags
Sunday, April 22nd:  R3 Day!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chimichurri Sauce

Grilling season seems to have come early this year.  We have already cranked up the grill more times than I can count.  Of course, for the die hard, I guess grilling season never really ends!

This sauce is a Latin American favorite.  It goes great with grilled flank or tritip steak.  But, I personally like it married with a seared or grilled halibut.  Try it and let me know how you like to eat your Chimichurri Sauce.

Chimichurri Sauce
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 bunch fresh parsley
5 cloves garlic
2T red onion or green onion (optional)
1 T honey
juice of 1 lemon or lime
1/4 t salt
rice oil
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth like a pesto sauce.
  2. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning to your taste.

Monday, April 9, 2012

New Life, Better Health: Playground Fitness

Thera-Band Exercise Bands
Most of the time, my blog focuses on the food and events that we face as parents of allergic children.  However, the plight of a "normal" child isn't always so different from ours.  And, the challenges for parents of those children often parallel the challenges that we face, allergic or otherwise.  The health of our families, our children, and ourselves is one such area.  As parents and children, we all strive to eat foods that are healthy for us and, although what is healthy for you may not be the same thing that is healthy for me, we all share the same goal to eat healthy.  Fitness is another such area.  Experts agree on the benefits of exercise for both children and adults alike.  But, while we may readily take our kids to the park or send them out to play, as parents, we often sell ourselves short in the area of fitness.  Today's post is for those of you who, like I, struggle to find the time and the willpower to make fitness a priority.

In our house, we make pretty sound food choices.  Fresh fruits, garden veggies, and almost nothing manufactured.  There are always the occasional cookies and the coffees with milk or sugar but on the whole, we eat healthy.  However, it is time for a confession.  While my family lives to sweat, I do not!  I am quite happy to be the mom that stands near the kids, watching them safely play while never joining in to kick the ball or run the race, myself.  THIS HAS TO CHANGE!

Many months ago, around Jan 1st, I believe...  I vowed to do better.  I vowed to take my angel with me on walks and to participate more at the playground.  It never happened.  Oh, I tried.  But between sickness and laziness, well, it just never happened.  But, Easter is a time of new life; a time for our past sins to be forgiven and the dead to live again.  So, this Easter, I began my quest to live again; I began my quest for better health.   My body is my temple and I want it to honor God.  (1 Cor. 6:19-20)  Rise up with me and let's make a change together.  Let's lay our sins of laziness at the cross and take up the habits which lead to a better life.  Let's make our hearts healthy and happy.

Exercise seems like the best place to start so today I begin my quest for a better body, a holier temple , and a healthier me with a walk in the park and an exercise to strengthen those "posture" muscles.  I am excited because these exercises can be done at the playground while I watch my little ones play.  Today's post by Jon Ham of Fitness on the RunBody Weight Back Exercises: Don't Get Bullied off the Playground is perfect.  It has easily varied levels of difficulty and I don't need any fancy equipment.  Since I don't have the equipment used in the video, I am going to try my elastic exercise bands or a rope thrown over the branch of a shaded tree along the walking path.

Cheer me on!  Rise up and join me!  Let's build a healthy body for ourselves and our kids!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Oh-So-Delicious Rice Salad

A dear friend sent me a recipe for Rice Salad.  I had honestly never heard of such a thing but we both thought that this sounded like something that my angel could eat.  Sadly, the recipe that I received was not safe, but the inspiration was something that led me to create this recipe.

I have been asked numerous times for this recipe but have never given it out until now.  This salad is as perfect for Sunday brunch as it is for a family picnic.  This year, I am whipping up a batch for our family Easter Egg hunt.  I just love that I can make the dish on Saturday and take it out of the fridge, ready to serve, after church on Sunday.  The flavors of this salad really blend and bloom with time.  So, use leftover rice, vegetables that you love and make this ahead.  It really is best that way!

For those with food sensitivities, the recipe below does contain peppers and squash, both of which can cause problems for my angel.  Although, I prefer the dish with the ingredients used below, I also know that this is not always possible.  Here is how I adapt this: I parboil the squash since my angel reacts to raw squash but small amounts of cooked squash are tolerated.  I also replace the peppers with safe ingredients like finely diced cucumber, par-boiled chopped asparagus, or finely diced cooked beets (these are fun because they turn the rice into a fun pink color).

I hope that you find this recipe enjoyable and are able to find your own blend of vegetables that make your family say, "Can I have some more of that Oh-So-Delicious Rice Salad, please?

Oh-So-Delicious Rice Salad
1 C long grain rice
2 C chicken broth
1/3 red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 yellow squash, finely diced
2 T chives, chopped
2 t dry dill
Dill Vinaigrette Dressing
  1. Place 1 C rice and 2 C chicken broth in a pot and bring to a boil on medium heat.
  2. Reduce the heat to a slow simmer and cook until the water is fully absorbed, about 20 minutes.
  3. Turn off the heat and let rest 10 minutes.  Careful not to open the lid during cooking or resting.  The heat and steam are what make the rice fully bloom.
  4. Using a fork, fluff the rice and place in a mixing bowl.
  5. Allow to cool to room temp.
  6. Add the bell pepper, squash, chives and dill to the rice, then gently toss. 
  7. Add 1/4 C Dill vinaigrette Dressing and toss.
  8. Allow salad to chill for at least 2 hours, although 6 -8 hours is better. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Dill Vinaigrette Dressing

I came up with this idea for a dressing because I wanted to make a rice salad.  I always hear about these and a dear friend even sent me a recipe in hopes that it was safe for my angel.  It was not safe, but it did inspire me to create a recipe of my own.  This dressing is delicious on salad, salmon and all sorts of foods... but, it is especially delicious on my Oh-So-Delicious Rice Salad.

Dill Vinaigrette Dressing
2 t dried dill
2T rice oil
2 T rice vinegar
2 T honey
1/8 t salt
  1. Place all ingredients in a mason jar or dressing shaker.
  2. Close the lid tightly and shake until combined.
  3. Taste and adjust ingredients to your taste.  My angel likes it more sweet, my hubby likes it more salty, and I am a fan of extra dill!
  4. For best results, let rest 30 minutes for dill to hydrate and flavors to blend.
  5. Keep chilled in refrigerator but serve at room temp.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Easter Potluck Picnic and Egg-Free Hunt

Every Easter, we fill plastic eggs with spare change and small goodies like bouncy balls, plastic animals, rings, stickers, and essentially whatever we can find on sale throughout the month.  We ask friends and family to bring 12 candy-free filled plastic eggs for a children's egg hunt, a dish to share and have an Easter Potluck Picnic and Egg-Free Hunt. 

We begin the day with Sunday service then head home to meet friends and family for a fun day of food and egg hunting for all.  I have asked everyone ahead of time to bring either a side dish, salad, or dessert and we supply the paper products, drinks, and main dish.  It is always fun to see what everyone brings as their family's favorite Easter dish.

Our Easter Potluck Picnic Menu
Apricot Glazed Cornish Hens
Oh-So-Delicious Rice Salad
Lettuce Salad with Dill Vinaigrette Dressing
Fresh Fruit Tray
Fruity Jello Jigglers from Easter-shaped jello molds

After lunch, we gather the children and entertain them with a craft while the men in the group hide the Easter eggs.  Why do the men hide?  Tradition.  Then, the boundaries of the hunt are established, rules for respecting the tiny tots are explained, and a whistle is blown.   If there are toddlers in the bunch, we usually let them go out for a little while first and we make clear that the eggs in plain sight are for them.  Once the hunt starts, the parents sit back and giggle as the kids search high and low for the plastic eggs.  For those who are concerned with fairness, we sometimes let the kids gather as many eggs as they can then give each child a goodie bag instead of filling the eggs.  While I think that it is good for the kids to learn that they may not always have the most, it is certainly nice when we do not have to fill all of those eggs!

But, the fun does not end here... the adults hunt, too.  Oh, and this is the best hunt of the day!  Sometimes, we let the men hide for the women and the women for the men (and the kids help hide for both).  Other times, we allow one person from each family to hide and one to hunt... the family must decide who.  And, what adult is motivated to hunt for rubber dinosaurs?!  Certainly not this one!  So, we make it interesting.  Each adult plastic egg is worth an small amount of change (written on the egg or on a paper inside).  But, one egg... THE GOLDEN EGG... is worth a large amount.  Each family is asked to contribute $5 or $10 dollars per adult who will hunt.  The adult who finds THE GOLDEN EGG gets all of the money in the mystery pot.  (Basically, this is the amount of money left over after deducting the value of the small change used in the other eggs.)  If you decide to do this, please realize that often times, some eggs are never found.  That means, there will be money hidden out there is you decide to place the money in the egg.  For this reason, we like to write the amount inside of the egg.

One last element of the egg hunt that I have not mentioned.... the Resurretion Eggs.  I felt a burden that, during the most important of the Christian holidays, we are obsessed with money, eggs, and food.  So, I decided to add Resurrection Eggs to the hunt.  Resurrection Eggs are eggs that contain an item which symbolizes something related to the Easter story.  You may buy these online or make your own.  Either way, as the children find these eggs among the other eggs in the hunt, they hold them until story time.  Then, when I ask for certain eggs, the will open them.  The items in each egg will guide me through the story.  I found this activity to be a highlight for the kids and a great activity to restore a deeper meaning to the traditional egg hunt.

I hope that your Easter is full of family, fun, and the blessings of Christ!