Tag Archives: Family

Guess What We Did Yesterday…

More importantly, guess what my husband did yesterday! Check it out:

That’s my husband Mike front and center (in the blue shirt) at the New York Stock Exchange, ringing the closing bell to celebrate Foot Locker Inc’s 100th year of trading. No big deal.

(OMGSOFREAKINGAWESOME!!!!!!!!!)

While he was doing that, the kids and I engaged in our own shenanigans. We window shopped at the Lego Store, ate from a Halal cart, rode subway trains galore, hunted for dinosaurs and whales at the American Museum of Natural History, and hit up Toys R Us & the Disney Store in Times Square.

Oh hi there, polar bear! The Hall of Ocean Life at AMNH might just be my children’s new favorite place on the face of the earth.

Once Mike was done, we caught up with him to eat dinner at Junior’s and then headed over to the High Line, a 1.5 mile long elevated park built on an old freight rail line. How I’ve never heard of the High Line before, I’ll never know, but one thing I do know is we’ll be back there every time we go into the city. If you’re ever in NYC, be sure to check it out and take a beautiful little urban hike.

Sunset view from the High Line.

We had such a fun time and managed to keep our day trip mostly frugal: total travel, food and purchase costs were under $150 (half of which was our dinner splurge rolleyes). As a family we don’t go away on “big” vacations  (although we do try to visit Cape Cod for a few days in the off-season), but that allows us to fit smaller “staycation” outings like this one into our budget. Also, we’re lucky to live in an area with so much to offer, such as trips to NYC, the beach, camping, etc. There’s something really cool and fun about taking the time to discover what your own backyard has to offer.

Do you “staycation”? If so, what are some of your favorite local things to do for fun in lieu of going away on vacation? Share with us in the comments section below!

Nerdy 30.

Yesterday I turned 30.

(Yes, I was born on Valentine’s Day.)

Oh, hello there.

I’m just about the lamest 30 year old ever, and I warned my husband that if I got any kind of party action he’d likely get punched in the stomach. I took comfort in knowing it would be a relaxing, comfortable day. We spent the day running errands with the kids and hitting up the library. There’s nothing like treating myself to a few good borrowed books on my big day.

Embracing my inner nerd with a few good X-Men comics.

Then I hunkered down cozily on the trusty papasan and finally finished my current book.

OMG. Total book crush.

My wonderful husband made an early dinner for the kids, engaged in birthday song shenanigans and made me a lovely salmon and asparagus dinner. To truly appreciate the dinner, you need to be filled in on a little secret. My husband totally, completely, 110% abhors fish and on a normal day will not touch it with a ten foot pole. But by golly, he cooks up the most delicious salmon I’ve ever eaten. Since it’s quite the rare beast around these parts, I take it whenever I can get it.

Sorry, no picture of dinner. I was too busy om nom nomming it up. Instead, here's a snapshot of my favorite wine which accompanied my favorite dinner.

To finish off my low-key day, I hunkered down with some chocolate cake and Breaking Dawn for a guilty pleasure ending to my happy birthday. No shame.

Chocolate mousse cake from Angela Mia in Norwalk. Holy wow, their cakes are good.

I'm totally Team Edward. Woot.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you. Happy birthday to me.

In the Kitchen: Self-Serving Snack Box Tutorial and Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids

1 fruit + 2 veggies + 1 "other" = snack box success!

This is a snapshot of a typical day at our house:

(While I’m doing a load of laundry) “Mommy, I’m hungry!”
(While I’m scrubbing the toilet) “Mommy, I’m hungry!”
(While I’m exercising) “Mommy, I’m hungry!”
(While I’m in the bathroom, shower, or otherwise momentarily indisposed) “Mommy I’m sooo hungry!”
(While I’m washing dishes… right after breakfast/lunch/dinner) “Mommy, I’m sooo hungry I’m going to starve and die if you don’t feed me unreasonably colossal amounts of food right noooooooooooow!”

It’s enough to drive a crazy person even crazier.

I’ve approached the situation from numerous angles. Here is what I’ve tried:

  • “No” = Fail
  • “No” + trying to reason with a 3 and 4 year old that they just ate and shouldn’t be hungry = Fail
  • “At least wait until I’m off the toilet/done paying bills/have washed the bleach off my hands” = Fail
  • Allowing my children liberal access to the fridge = Fail (you’d think this would work, but they just whined that they couldn’t find anything to eat and hounded me to find them a snack)

I was ready to throw in the towel and set up a permanent residence in my kitchen, since it was becoming apparent that I wasn’t allowed to leave it lest my kids become hungry and need another snack. But in a wonderful twist of fate, I came across a photo that someone posted on Facebook of a Tupperware full of snacks. The caption indicated that they fill the Tupperware each day with a variety of healthy snacks and leave it in an accessible place in the fridge for their child to graze on throughout the day. THIS! This was the answer to my conundrum. I wish I could find the original source and give credit where credit is due, but I can’t seem to hunt it down. So to the genius who passed along this life saving idea: Thank you, you are golden.

So how do you set up a snack box for your children? First, find a non-breakable container that will hold a few assorted snacks. I used plastic food storage containers from Ikea, but you could use Tupperware, a small shoe box, brown paper bags, lunch boxes or sacks, or even those plastic takeout containers.

Next, pick snacks. I take advantage of my children’s grazing habits to fulfill the fruit and vegetable guidelines, knowing that they’re more likely to nibble on a veggie if it’s at their leisure rather than when it’s a requirement on their dinner plate. I use a “1 fruit/2 veggies/1 other” formula to decide what goes into our snack boxes. Here’s a list of possible options for creating your own snack box:

Fruit:
1/2 banana
apple or pear slices
segmented orange
grapes
berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc)
stonefruit (ie peach, plum, nectarine, etc)
2-3 prunes
applesauce
kiwi slices
dried fruit (apricots, apples, mangoes, banana chips, etc)

Vegetables:
baby carrots or carrot sticks
broccoli spears
cauliflower florets
frozen peas or green beans
kale chips
tomato slices or cherry tomatoes
celery with nut butter or cream cheese
cucumber slices

Other:
popcorn
graham crackers
1/2 muffin
goldfish or other small crackers
yogurt
granola or granola bar
veggie straws or pretzels
nuts and raisins or dried cranberries (trail mix)
roasted chickpeas
hard boiled egg
cheese cubes, slices or string cheese
rice cakes
sunflower or pumpkin seeds

*For children who are apprehensive about eating plain raw veggies, you can include something tasty for dipping:
hummus or other bean dip
guacamole
ranch dressing
cottage cheese
cream cheese or sour cream mixed with herbs
peanut butter dip
marinara sauce
salsa
yogurt
ketchup

The containers in the photo above are silicone baking cups that I picked up at Bed Bath and Beyond. They’re the perfect size for holding little people portions of food. No worries if you don’t have those, you can use little sandwich baggies or any other small food container you might have. I’ve also recently stumbled upon bento lunch boxes that would be perfect for snack boxes and eliminate the need for using individual snack containers.

You’ll want to find a spot in the fridge that is easily accessible for the kids so they can grab and go without hounding you as you’re honing your inner Grammy Award winning superstar shaving your legs in the shower. Or, you know, pooping.

Lastly, sit down with your children and tell them that if they’re hungry in between “designated feeding times” (yes I run my home like a zoo, mwuahahaha) they can help themselves to whatever is in their snack box without having to ask. Explain that they can eat that food whenever they want, but when it’s gone it’s gone. So if they eat it all by 10 in the morning they’re going to have to starve in silence until lunch, regularly scheduled snacktime and/or dinner, because they’ve been pre-warned of the consequences of overindulging. I guarantee you the first couple of times they might excitedly gobble up all those snacks faster than you can blink, and then come to you 5 minutes later with tears of hunger streaming down their cheeks, begging for more food. Don’t cave in to their wily demands. Slowly but surely they’ll learn the concept of self-regulating and only eating as much as they need to at a given moment.

Try incorporating healthy snack boxes into your daily routine if your little ones are perpetually hungry food hounds like mine. I promise you’ll start hearing less of the “H” word in no time.

On a side note, this whole snack box idea has gone over so well with the kids that I might start making one for myself. As a stay at home mom the fridge has become a regular haunt, as well as my own best friend/worst enemy. Having pre-portioned healthy snacks at my fingertips might just help keep my boredom/mindless snacking habits in check.

What healthy snacks would you fill your snack box with? Share with us in the comments section below!

Why We Homeschool

Emma, taking over daily story time duties.

I first learned about homeschooling when my son was just about to turn 3.

“When does he start school?” was a common conversation starter at that time. It never really occurred to me that 3 year olds went to school. I actually attended nursery school when I was in my pre-kindergarten years, but that was just playing and finger painting and napping and reading and engaging in copious amounts of Ring Around the Rosie. It was more like one big play day everyday, more like something we were already doing.

We already do that stuff at home, I would think to myself, as “oh, I don’t know, maybe next year” would come out of my mouth as a default answer before quickly changing the subject.

After the first half dozen school inquiries came (fast and furiously, mind you) I got a little neurotic and started googling our local preschools, nursery schools, classes, programs… times… prices… payment plans. The idea of preschool lost me at payment plans.

I then switched my googling strategy to finding alternative ways to educate my children, preferably fo’ free. What I found were nine bazillion articles on homeschooling.

Pshaw, I thought, I will NOT be having friendless, socially defunct children who are stuck at home all day. And anywho, I’m not qualified to be a teacher.

Despite my serious skepticism, I looked into homeschooling a bit more. Actually, I spent about a thousand hours researching endless reports, articles, personal accounts, basically anything I could find regarding at-home education. After considering both sides of the fence, in the end I decided that educating my children at home is something that I can do. It is something that anyone can do, if they have the time, the patience, and the determination. The fact that I don’t have a formal degree in education might mean that I’m not qualified to teach rooms full of children, but my own two are an entirely different ballgame. I brought them into the world without a degree, I taught them how to eat, speak, walk, listen, respect and love without a degree. I mean seriously, what’s a little fact learning along the way?

One might worry that my children aren’t learning the important art of socialization by not being in a classroom full of other kids a few hours a week. Rest your fears, my kids are perfectly fine. We go out in the world, we attend story times, field trips, play dates, parties, family functions, local children’s activities, we go to playgrounds and museums and libraries where there is frequently an abundance of little people. My children have a regular group of friends that we’ve met through our local homeschool group. I don’t hide us under a rock or succumb to other reclusive tendencies, and my homeschooled children, as well as thousands of others, are perfectly socialized.

My son Chris is about to be 5 years old. Next September he qualifies for public kindergarten enrollment. It would be easy to send him off and “lighten my load” Monday through Friday. If he asks to go to school, I won’t say no. But this home-learning journey of ours is going well and I’m not quite sure that I want to send him off. I’m learning alongside my children, and I’m not talking about ABC’s and 123’s. I’m learning about how to embrace my children’s ever-changing personal interests with enthusiasm, how to flourish and fail alike with perseverance and dignity, how there is always more to learn about any single topic, how to ask for help, and how to grow a child.

Homeschooling is a personal choice for us, and it may not be a good fit for everyone. There are many reasons to homeschool (or not to, for that matter). When people ask us why we homeschool, my answer is this:

“It works for our family.”

Did you like this article? You can get all the latest posts at Gingerly Homemaking in your email inbox by clicking the link below and entering your email address. Your address will only be used for mailing you new posts via Feedburner, and each one will include a link so you can unsubscribe at any time.
Subscribe to Ginger(ly) Homemaking by Email

Make It a Kid-Friendly New Year’s Eve Celebration!

I’ve always loved ringing in the new year low-key style in my jammies on the couch with my main man, Dick Clark. Don’t get me wrong, I can totally get down with the sparkly excitement of a New Year’s Eve party. But this old soul is more “old” than “soul” these days as the clock hits midnight.

If you’re like me, ditching the babysitter and staying cozy at home with the kids this New Year’s Eve, here are 22 low cost tips to keep the celebration alive and fun!

1. Decorate. Make it feel more like a party by hanging paper streamers and balloons. Head to your local party supply store and stock up on fun decorations for the big night, or make your own.

2. Create your own balloon drop. Tape a paper tablecloth loosely to the ceiling, and fill it with inflated balloons. At midnight, pull it down for an exciting celebration.

3. Make homemade “confetti poppers”. Have the kids create “confetti” with colored paper and a hole punch. Fill deflated balloons with the confetti using a funnel, inflate and tie closed. At midnight, pop the balloons!

4. Make party hats. Nothing screams “I’m celebrating New Year’s Eve!” like wearing a goofy party hat. Have the kids decorate their own with glitter, rhinestones and other fun embellishments.

5. Make “gingerbread” party hats! Use upside down ice cream cones as the base for this fun edible craft. Little kids can cover their own cones with frosting, and then decorate them with candy for a tasty version of the New Year’s Eve tradition.

6. Do New Year themed crafts. You can find tons of fun NYE crafts, educational activities and free printables at the following links: familyfun.go.com, enchantedlearning.com, apples4theteacher.com and activityvillage.co.uk.

7. Have a sleepover in the living room. Many kids want to stay up until midnight to watch the ball drop, but just in case they don’t make it you can set up sleeping bags or an inflatable mattress so they can cuddle up and sleep when the time comes. Just remember, if they’re ready for bed before 12, kiss them goodnight and remind them that when they wake up in the morning it will be the new year!

8. Have a family game night. Play board games, Charades, Pictionary, card games, or family friendly group-oriented video games such as the Wii.

9. Watch a movie. Go see a pre-party matinee or hold an all night movie marathon (don’t forget the popcorn) in your living room.

10. Read books. Head to your local library and check out titles like Happy New Year Everywhere by Arlene Erlbach, Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution by Pat Miller, Cecil’s New Year’s Eve Tail by Marie Fritz Perry, or Shante Keys and the New Year’s Peas by Gail Piernas-Davenport. Don’t forget to keep your eyes open for great non-fiction readers also!

11. Cook a family meal together. Include each and every small pair of hands in the process, and then sit down together to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

12. Opt for apps. Making finger foods and appetizers instead of a main course meal keeps the “party” vibe going. Tiny portions for tiny people = instant hit.

13. Bake a cake/cupcakes. Celebrate the “birthday” of the new year with a yummy treat.

14. Cheers with “mocktails”. Give the little ones sparkling juice (such as apple, grape or lemonade), ginger ale or even an alcohol-free version of our favorite celebratory concoctions & include them in the midnight toast!

15. Make a list of family resolutions or a family bucket list for the upcoming year. Think of all the things you might want to do or accomplish as a family and record them all. Post your checklist in a place where everyone can see them for motivation!

16. Reflect on your favorite moments. Sit down as a family and share the most memorable events of the past year. You’ll be surprised at what little kids remember or what memories they may cherish the most.

17. Make a family time capsule. Take a shoebox or similar sized container and fill it with your favorite photos of the year, pictures drawn by the kids, and letters written by every family member. Next year, open the box and enjoy all of the cool treasures, and create a new time capsule to open next New Year’s Eve.

18. Celebrate your way around the world. People all over the world celebrate the new year in different ways. Sit down with your kids and learn about the unique New Year’s traditions from different countries. Who knows, maybe you’ll decide to incorporate a few of them into your own family holiday traditions!

19. Celebrate at noon. Instead of doing a midnight countdown, counting down the minutes to 12 pm is more conducive to the earlier bedtime demands of young children.

20. Watch the Times Square NYE celebration… early. If you’re lucky enough to live on the West Coast, tune in to the Times Square celebration and have the kids in bed at a decent hour!

21. Watch the London NYE celebration… early. If you’re an East Coaster like us and can’t keep the kids up until good ole Dick Clark announces the new year, google “live London New Years Eve broadcast” and tune in to their version of New Year’s festivities 5 hours before ours start.

22. Reset the clocks. Part of the excitement of being little on New Year’s Eve is getting to stay up WAY past bedtime. If you’re not down with the subsequent grumpies that the following morning will bring, set the clocks ahead a few hours to celebrate early, and then get those sleepyheads in bed at a decent hour.

Whatever you decide to do, have fun and enjoy the night! I wish you a happy New Year and I’ll see you all in 2012!

I’m curious, will you be staying home or heading out to a party to celebrate the new year? Let us know in the comments section below!

Did you like this article? You can get all the latest posts at Gingerly Homemaking in your email inbox by clicking the link below and entering your email address. Your address will only be used for mailing you new posts via Feedburner, and each one will include a link so you can unsubscribe at any time.


The Complete Homemade Holidays DIY Gift Guide Roundup

Here’s a recap of my Homemade Holidays DIY Gift Guides, all in one post for your crafting convenience! Click on a link to be redirected to its tutorial.

For Her:

Click here for the Homemade Holidays DIY Gift Guide: For Her

1. Friendship Bracelets

2. Dip Dyed Shirt:

10. Cabochon Post Earrings
      

For Him:

Click here for the Homemade Holidays DIY Gift Guide: For Him

1. DIY Monogram Mugs

2. Etch-a-Sketch iPad Cozy

3. Suitcase Table

4. Pegboard Tool Organizer

5. Homemade Zen Garden

6. 8-Bit Mario Blanket

7. DIY Comic Book Coasters

8. Upcycled Golf Club Cozy

A club head cover made from a sweater will dress up a golf game and keep an old sweater out of the landfill.

9. Etched Mustache Glasses

10.  Vintage Book E-Reader Cover

         
For Kids:

Click here for the Homemade Holidays DIY Gift Guide: For Kids (Part 1)

Click here for the Homemade Holidays DIY Gift Guide: For Kids (Part 2)

1. Homemade Playdough

2. Recycled Crayons

3. DIY A-Frame Tent

4. Felt Play Mats

5. A Box of Rocks

6. Invention Kit Bags

7. I-Spy Bottle

8. Dollhouse Out of Drawers

11.  Cozy Car Caddy

12. Toy Soap

13. Car Mat Backpack

14. Doll Suitcase

15. On the Go Felt Storyboards

16. No Sew Tutu

17. Children’s Tool Belt

18. Homemade Watercolor Paint Set

19. Homemade Finger Paints

20. Hopscotch Mat

                

For Pets:

Click here for the Homemade Holidays DIY Gift Guide: For Pets

1. Recycled Cardboard Kitty Pad

2. Pup’kin Biscuits

Pup’kin Biscuits

3. Easy No-Sew Fleece Dog Bed

4.  Cardboard Cat Playhouse

5. Suitcase Pet Beds

6. 9 Fabulous Handmade or DIY Pet Beds

7. Bird Seed Ornaments

8. Catnip Fish Toys

9. Organic Homemade Pet Treats

2010_11_29_mchin01.jpg

10. Fish Tank Christmas Tree

Sweet and Savory Food Gifts:

Click here for the Homemade Holidays DIY Gift Guide: Sweet and Savory Food Gifts

1. Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies

2. Peppermint Bark

3. Homemade Magic Shell.

magicshellsm

4. Beef Jerky

Picture of Beef Jerky Recipe

5. Homemade Cheddar Cheese Crackers

6. Homemade Granola

2009_08_06-Granola01.jpg

7. Eggless Cookie Dough Bites

cookie dough bites

8. Homemade Butterfingers

9. Hot and Spicy Pecans

10. Wine

And are a few more links to tasty gift worthy treats:


What homemade gifts have you made/are you making this Christmas? Share with us in the comments section below!

Did you like this article? You can get all the latest posts at Gingerly Homemaking in your email inbox by clicking the link below and entering your email address. Your address will only be used for mailing you new posts via Feedburner, and each one will include a link so you can unsubscribe at any time.  Subscribe to Ginger(ly) Homemaking by Email

Homemade Holidays DIY Gift Guide: For Pets

Don’t forget about those furry, scaly and feathered family members this holiday season! Here’s a roundup of some awesome pet-friendly homemade Christmas present ideas and tutorials :

1. Recycled Cardboard Kitty Pad: Save the shipping boxes from all of your online Christmas orders to make a (free!) homemade scratch pad.

Recycled Cardboard Kitty Pad via designsponge.com

2. Pup’kin Biscuits: If there’s one thing I know about Rachael Ray, it’s that she loves her pups. If she deems this tasty treat recipe worthy of her own furry bestie, you know it’s got to be good for yours too.

Pup’kin Biscuits

Pup'kin Biscuits via rachaelraymag.com

3. Easy No-Sew Fleece Dog Bed: This tutorial couldn’t be easier, and by gosh, that puppy couldn’t be cuter.

Fleece Puppy Bed tutorial via craftster.org

4.  Cardboard Cat Playhouse: I almost want to adopt a cat now just so I can make it this cool cat playhouse.

Cardboard Cat Playhouse via marthastewart.com

5. Suitcase Pet Beds: I almost want to BE a cat now just so I can snuggle up in one of these suitcase pet beds.

Suitcase Pet Bed via thezenofmaking.com

6. 9 Fabulous Handmade or DIY Pet Beds: Here are 9 more cool DIY pet bed ideas for you courtesy of re-nest.com. I think if I were a dog or cat, I’d be inclined to lounge around in one of these all day. I’d be the laziest, most comfortable pet ever.

9 Fabulous Handmade or DIY Pet Beds via re-nest.com

7. Bird Seed Ornaments: They’re not quite for pets, but I remember making these when I was in preschool to hang outside for the wild birds and squirrels. You can find additional homemade bird treats HERE.

Bird Seed Ornaments via saltwater-kids.com

8. Catnip Fish Toys: So easy. So addicting. Your cat will love you forever if you make it a few of these.

Catnip Fish Toy tutorial via marthastewart.com

9. Organic Homemade Pet Treats: There’s a recipe for dogs and one for cats, check them out for some edible pet gifts that are sure to keep your furry friends happy and healthy this holiday.

2010_11_29_mchin01.jpg

10. Fish Tank Christmas Tree: Leave it to Martha to cover all the bases with this adorable homemade gift for your fish!

Fish Tank Christmas Tree via marthastewart.com

What homemade gifts are you making for the pets in your life this holiday season? Let us know in the comments section below!

Click here for the Homemade Holidays DIY Gift Guide: For Her

Click here for the Homemade Holidays DIY Gift Guide: For Him

Click here for the Homemade Holidays DIY Gift Guide: For Kids (Part 1)

Click here for the Homemade Holidays DIY Gift Guide: For Kids (Part 2)

Stay tuned to this blog for the upcoming DIY edibles gift guide!

Did you like this article? You can get all the latest posts at Gingerly Homemaking in your email inbox by clicking the link below and entering your email address. Your address will only be used for mailing you new posts via Feedburner, and each one will include a link so you can unsubscribe at any time.  Subscribe to Ginger(ly) Homemaking by Email