Monday, December 5, 2011

Right of Passage

Life is busy but it is always important to pause and take a moment to mark special achievements. For my daughter, it was the move from Sparks to Brownies.   

The new Brownies had to memorize their Brownie Promise and then one by one be lead to the reflective pond to state their promise for the audience. I could really feel her sense of accomplishment as she spoke loudly and clearly. I had heard her practicing it secretly in her bedroom for a few days before and she nailed it. 

The Brownies and Sparks were asked to bring in a treat to share after the ceremony. The leaders in Brownies are all named after an Owl. When I had saw this super cute Owl Smore Cookie on the Life with Depews blog and knew that was what we had to make. It couldn't have been easier. With a microwave and a few helpers it took all of 10 minutes (including clean-up) to make a batch of 24. While it would have been nice to wrap them all beautifully as you will see in the blog, it wasn't practical for our event. I don't think anyone minded. They were a huge hit!

It was a proud night for us all!


Monday, October 31, 2011

Spook-tacularly Simple Halloween Treats

This year we decided to throw a little Halloween party for our friends and make some spooky goodies to get us into the spirit of Halloween.



I went back to the tried and true 5 minute cake pop idea from Little House Blog. Using donut holes (timbits for Canadians), orange candy melts, and black icing I turned my cake pops into Jack-o-Lanterns. Super easy and very effective.



Next, because I have a little girl who doesn't like anything 'cake-y', I had to try these Frankenstein marshmallows that I saw on The Pastry Affair blog. While mine weren't quite as perfectly done as the ones at the Pastry Affair, they were a HUGE hit.



I picked up a spider web tiered tray at Marshalls and put the goodies out on the table. Let me just say, with Smurfs, Superheros and Rockstars around, they didn't last very long at all. I think that indicates that they were a success.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Reading to Boys

I love a good book and a passion for reading is something that my husband and I really hope we can instil in our kids. So far, I think we have been successful.

We go to the library weekly to choose new stories and our bookshelves are bursting at the seams. In fact, when my youngest started pre-school and was having some separation anxiety, it turned out that a story with one of the teachers was all he needed to settle him into the school routine.

I am a believer that it doesn't matter what they're reading as long as they're reading (yup - that includes my 6 year old reading a People magazine at the cottage this summer). That being said, I still can't believe how often I am disappointed with the books we end up bringing home.

In books targeted at girls, it is more the message that disappoints and that is a whole other blog. But for boys it is often the writing itself that leaves me shaking my head. I don't know why so many books (publishers) feel the need to dumb it down. That is why I was so excited when we stumbled upon these books.



The first is "The Circus Ship" by Chris Van Dusen. It is lyrical and the illustrations are amazing. It is loosely based on a real-life ship wreck in which some circus animals were left to fend for themselves after the ship ran aground. The favourite page for my family has to be the two page 'hiding' spread in which the townsfolk help camouflage the animals to save them from their greedy circus owner. Between searching the pictures for each animal or counting to make sure we hadn't missed any, this story is one that my family keeps coming back to.


The second book that caught my eye this year is actually a series. They are the Dino-sport books by Lisa Wheeler and illustrated by Barry Gott. My son is in a dinosaur phase and of course he loves sports too. These books couldn’t be any better. Again, the rhyme in the books is lyrical, the dinosaurs are divided into teams of meat eaters and plant eaters. Each dinosaur name is colour coded in the book depending if they are on the ‘meat’ or ‘grass’ team. Without the kids realising it, they are learning about herbivores and carnivores, categorizing and sorting, and even the rules and methods of scoring for a variety of sports. The illustrations do not disappoint. My son loves to search out the dinosaurs from the stanza on the page we have just read. We can’t get enough of these books at house right now.

Reading is such an important part of learning and it should be fun. These are a few suggestions from my house to yours. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do. Happy reading!

PS – I have no affiliation with any publishers, authors, etc. I just love to share when I find a good book!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Rainbow Party - No Reason at All

My daughter is a mid-December baby. Parties are difficult to schedule at this time of year and all the fun seems to be packed into 2 short weeks with a long year in between. This, along with missing her friends from school, led her to ask me 2 years ago if she could have a party in the summer and thus a tradition began.
Let me clarify though. There are no presents, it isn't her birthday after all. These also aren't the rent a bouncy castle, bring in a princess, invite 25 kids type of parties. These are the do it yourself, get creative, spend just a little money for a fun afternoon type of parties that focus on crafts, treats, and some old-school games. I do hand out loot bags although these mainly consist of items the kids have made at the party and perhaps some pinata filler to top it off.

We always start with a theme. The first party was a butterflies, this year it was rainbows. The invitation was printed off at home, cut out using decorative scissors and glued onto construction paper. It was hand delivered to each guest's home. My 6 year old felt so grown up running up to each mailbox on her own.

Decorations were very old school. A trip to the dollar store for balloons, bristol board and construction paper did the trick. To add a bit of colour and tie in the Rainbow theme for the party, the kids made paper chains following the colours of the rainbow. A grouping of balloons in rainbow hues finished it off. Tablecloths were brightly coloured Mexican serapes and the kids themselves added a great deal of rainbow colour to the party in their brightly coloured clothes. 



As I mentioned earlier, the activities were very old school. We played 'Pin the Cloud on the Rainbow' using a board my daughter painted on bristol board and some clouds cut out of construction paper. I had a local teenager come to help and she worked the toenail station which was a HUGE hit. I had pre-cut each girls name using my Silhouette machine and bought dollar store frames to be used as the craft. Each girl completely coloured a coffee filter in any patern she wanted using washable markers. When it was finished we spritzed it with water so the colours would bleed together. We left it to dry (this took all of 2 minutes because it was SOOOOO hot) and then put it in the frame behind their name. The results were beautiful and the girls were delighted. 

Now I am not a big fan of pinatas. They are expensive, get shredded to pieces and are usually filled with junk that gets thrown out the moment the guests arrive home. But, after hearing my kids beg (wow, do kids LOVE pinatas) I agreed on one condition, we make our own. I found some instructions on the web and altered them slightly to fit our materials. We used an old paper bag, coloured construction paper, staples and tape. We purchased hair accessories and re-packaged them in rainbow colours and of course added a few bags of rainbow skittles and sour rainbow sticks. It was an inexpensive and easy project to do with the kids but more importantly, it was fun.




Food for the party was minimal and simple. The timing was mid-afternoon so I wasn't serving a meal. To keep it simple I used my trusty Ikea kids dishes in the rainbow of colours and each girl chose a colour so it was easy to keep track of whose cup was whose. We had a rainbow fruit tray, colourful veggie chips, Kool-aid in 4 rainbow shades (something my daughter has ALWAYS wanted but never had) and of course a Rainbow Sherbet ice-cream bar with rainbow toppings of gummy bears, m&m's, mini-marshmallows and sprinkles. My kids even placed all the candies for the ice-cream bar in the bowls by colour so they looked like a rainbow too. Yum!  

The party was a HUGE succes! It is funny though because I don't actually feel like the party itself was the most fun. For me, the best part of the party was really the 2-3 week lead-up. The planning and prepping for this party filled many, many summer hours and got both my kids focussed on one collective project. I got so much joy watching them come up with ideas for decorations, games, etc. Their creativity blossomed and they felt fulfilled seeing their vision come to fruition. I would definitely encourage a party for no reason at all. We'll have to see what we come up with for next year!

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Personal Teacher Gift

Every year at this time I try to think of what to give my children's teaches to say 'thank you" for all their hard work. Now in grade 1, my daughter now spends more time each day with her teacher than she does with me, a hard realisation for both of us. We are fortunate, both my kids have amazing teachers and I want them to know how much we apprceiate them.

I really wanted to involve my children in this gift to make it more personal. So, I decided to try my hand at creating a unique and useful gift for my kids' teachers based on a blog posting I had seen about a month ago.

Following the directions from Sun Scholars on Come Together Kids my kids and I made personalized book bags for their teachers. I bought 2 plain white tote bags and transformed them using permanent markers, my kids' artwork and some embroidery thread. It was easy to create the notebook look for the bag using a ruler and sharpies. My kids wrote their teacher's name and drew a picture of them with pencil and I then went over their drawings with embroidery thread.

Personal Teacher Gift - Hand-drawn/Embroidered Tote Bags

I think they turned out great! The embroidery took a while and I had to beg my daughter not to draw eyelashes, earrings, etc. because I'm a bit rusty in the embroidery department and let's face it, there are only so many hours in day. We baked some cookies and the kids drew personal cards to enclose in their bags. They are so excited to take them to school tomorrow. I hope their teachers can really feel the love that has gone into making this gift!

 

How I Made Them:

I bought 2 plain white tote bags and transformed them using permanent markers. The plain bags were bought in a 3 pack at Michaels but I've seen them at Walmart too!

* If you aren't an embroiderer, no problem! Go over the drawing in permanent marker or have the kids draw them in marker from the get-go (only problem with this method, no room for error).*

Tools Needed:

  • Plain Tote Bags
  • Blue Sharpie
  • Red Sharpie
  • Black Sharpie
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Embroidery Floss & Needle or multi-coloured Sharpies if you choose not to embroider.

  1. I took a ruler and drew blue lines horizontally every 1/2 inch or so, leaving a 2 inch space before my first line.
  2. Then I took a red marker and drew a vertical line about 2 inches from the left of the bag.
  3. I then took a black marker and drew the three circles that represent the holes in the paper.
  4. I had my kids draw a picture of their teacher and the teacher's name on the tote bag using a pencil.
  5. I went over my kids' artwork with embroidery thread.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

SchoolBox - Making Education Possible

I was just driving home this afternoon when I heard an ad from a national mattress company talking about Cycle for SchoolBox. A man named Ilan Levy is riding 8000 km across Canada to raise money and awareness for SchoolBox, an organization building schools and providing school supplies to children across Central America. Cycle 4 SchoolBOX aims to raise over $100,000 in order to purchase 8000+ educational packages and build 8 classrooms across Nicaragua. How is it that I had never heard about this charity before???


Photo from Schoolbox.ca
In my previous life before marriage and kids, I lived and taught in Mexico for two years. I taught at a private school where it seemed that children had everything. Needless to say I was a bit surprised upon arrival as this did not match my perception of a third-world country. I soon learned that these children were in the minority and I witnessed first hand the extreme contrast between the have and have-nots. I couldn't get over the difference in resources available to children in the same country and was always amazed at the number of school aged children I would see playing outside during school hours. While living there, my fellow teachers and I did some charity work in smaller villages where money was literally non-existant but the reality is that we may have brought some happiness for a day or two but I doubt there were any long-term effects.

I think my experience in Mexico is why this charity is striking such a chord with me. It is so easy to make a difference. By giving a child access to Education the impact can be limitless. I believe this is a perfect match for my company, one that creates products that I hope inspire kids to dream, be creative, colour and write. I am going to set up a campaign for COLOURS TO GO to raise money for SchoolBox.ca. I'll keep you posted as I work out the details. In the meantime, take a look at their site and see what a difference even a small donation can make!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Giving a mom a boost!

Today I did something that made me feel great. As a business woman and mom I know how hard it is to start a business and find the funds needed to grow it to a profitable size. Living in Canada I am luckier than most and I know that. The resources available to us here are so much greater than other parts of the world.
In my past life (i.e. before kids and marriage) I worked in Mexico for two years. I saw first hand the extreme difference between the haves and have-nots. So, today on Mother's Day I made a loan via Kiva.com to a mother in Mexico who is trying to grow her business and support her family. I wanted to donate in Mexico because it holds a special spot in my heart and when I saw Susana and realised that we shared a name and that she was the same age as me, I knew it was the right fit. 

The loans are small, they start at $25 but they make a huge difference when combined with loans from others. It feels great to know that I am going to be part of something that will allow another entrepreneur to succeed.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Green Eggs & Ham

To continue with our March Break Cooking Bonanza we decided to keep our Green Eggs & Ham dinner for St. Patrick's Day. Being about 1/16th Irish, this seemed a fitting time to try our hand at this culinary delight. I had ordered the Green Eggs & Ham Cookbook online but alas it still hasn't arrived so we had to wing it. 

For the kids I added green food colouring to the eggs before I scrambled them. I also mixed a little green food colouring into the butter before I spread it on their toast. And, last but not least, a little green food colouring on the ham. It all looked pretty scary to me but the kids LOVED it. With all that food colouring, this isn't an 'everyday' meal but it was a fun treat and activity with the kids.


Green Eggs & Ham (with Green toast and cucumber), a HIT! 

For the adults we went a little more gourmet. Instead of slapping food colouring on all our meals, I did a take on Huevos Rancheros. A tortilla topped with ham, fried eggs and a good dollop of salsa verde. Served with some avacado and spinich salad, it was Green Eggs & Ham but a little less scary looking (and as the kids pointed out, not as fun).

So, this ends our March Break Cooking Bonanza. It really was fun to do and the kids ate even better than they normally do because it was something they had worked on too. Lots of great memories!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March Break Madness - Pizza for dessert?

If you remember, one of my plans for March Break was to have a March Break Cooking Bonanza. The kids and I were going to try out new recipes and have a little fun in the kitchen.

Well, we started the week with Pizza Pizza day. I'm not talking take-out here, I'm talking homemade pizza for dinner with a dessert pizza to follow. We had our friends over to share in the fun.


The boys spreading the cookie dough for the crust of the dessert pizza.

To make life a little simpler (and to give us time to play at the park), I bought a roll of pre-made cookie dough. The kids spread it out (between stealing bites of cookie dough) on a round tray. They seemed skeptical but when it came out of the oven, they were converts. 


The decorating of the dessert pizza was a HIT!

We melted the red chocolate disks used for candy making and spread it on the cookie for icing. Then the kids had free reign to decorate their quarter of the pizza with candies we'd bought from a bulk store. I have to admit, I was AMAZED at how many candies those kids could fit on each slice but hey, that's what being a kid is about.

Next it was time to make the real pizza. We divided the dough into 4 rounds and the kids were able to dress their own. A little sauce here, a lot of cheese there, a little pineapple on top and voila, we had 4 gourmet pizzas. 


Voila, a Pizza Pizza Extravaganza!

It really is true, if you include your kids in the process of making a meal, they do eat better. There was nary a crumb left on the plates and lots of smiles and laughter all around. It was a great day!

Next on the menu....Green Eggs & Ham. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

March Break

March Break is upon us again. While my kids are excited beyond belief at the prospect of 1 week off from school, I must admit that I go into it with a little trepidation each year.

My family is not one to travel at this time of year as it is always a busy time at work for my husband. That means it is me and the kids with 5 days of unscheduled time. While I love to just hang out with my kids, the truth is, five days is pretty long if you don't go into it with a plan. We always try to have a few playdates but many of our friends head south for the week (and who can blame them after this winter).

This year I'm planning ahead. Hopefully the weather will work with me and we can get a lot of skating, sledding and snowman building in. The outdoor time and fresh-air always put everyone in a good mood. BUT my big plan is to have a March Break Cooking Bonanza at our house. 

The plan is for the kids and I to find fun recipes to try out everyday and work together to make new and creative dinners. My son (a Dr. Seuss devotee) has already put forth "Green Eggs & Ham" as one meal. I'll let you know how that goes. I think I'll probably invest in this cookbook as it looks to have lots of fun ideas that the kdis will enjoy. 


So, wish me luck on our cooking escapades. I'll keep you posted on our culinary delights.

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