Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hoppin' Leap Day

To celebrate Leap Day, we enjoyed a little frog fun. 

We read lots of frog books, especially Froggy books (he's our favorite frog, besides Kermit).

I have collected lots of frog manipulatives and such over the years, so I pulled out some and added a few new frogs to the mix.

Here were the favorites today.

Mr. Two loved playing with my bucket of colored frogs.  I love how he grouped them in a rainbow-like formation.  Mr. Three likes to put these frogs on his little fingers like finger puppets to play with them, too.

I found the idea to make a pond with green foam lily pads somewhere on Pinterest (sorry, no link).  I filled a blue bucket with water, lily pads, plastic frogs and glass colored marbles, then gave the kids scoops and funnels to play in the pond with. 

They loved this and asked to get it out again.  Maybe this weekend, since it needs to be outside.

I also made this little "fishing" game for the boys to play with.  I've had the fly swatter and the little pipe cleaner flies for a long time, to be used in other games.  I had a light bulb moment when I realized that they would make a fun little game together, especially after realizing the flies were magnetic.

I had a frog fly swatter that I laced a piece of red ribbon through to make a long tongue.  I sandwiched two magnets between the ribbon end.   

Then I let them try and catch the flies.

The flies are made with 6 inch black pipe cleaners and a black pony bead.  Here's the basic construction. 

Put the bead in the middle of the pipe cleaner and loop one end through the bead to form a wing. 

Repeat on the other side to make the second wing. 

Fold the ends of the pipe cleaner over onto to eliminate the sharp ends and twist.  Now you have a little magnetic fly to catch.

We had so much fun with the frogs today, I think we'll keep them out and I'll be adding some new games and activities this week and next.

I hope you had a "hoppy" Leap Day!

Monday, February 27, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons

We are lucky to have a friend who has a lemon tree bursting with lemons. She sent out word for anyone who was interested to please come and pick as many as they wanted.  Their tree was so overloaded, that branches literally broke off with the weight of the fruit.  I have never seen so many lemons on one tree in my life!  I took my boys over to their house, and we picked a whole lot of lemons.  They loved putting them in bags and picking (very carefully because of the thorns) some.  After we brought our bounty home, we had lots of fun juicing and zesting lemons.  My garbage can and kitchen have never smelled cleaner!  So lemony fresh.

In thinking about what I'm going to do with all of this lovely lemon juice and zest (I'm freezing most of it), here are a few of my very favorite lemon recipes to share.  If you're lucky enough to have a lot of lemons on hand, try out one or two of them.  You won't be disappointed.

I found this lemon ricotta pancake recipe in our newspaper several years ago and they are so good, especially if you like nice and thick pancakes.  The blueberry topping adds lots of fresh flavor as well.  My boys don't especially like these (they think they are too lemony), but Mike and I do!

Lemon Lovers Ricotta Pancakes

1 cup flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon canola oil, divided use

Heat oven to 200 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt

In a medium bowl, whisk together ricotta egg, egg whites, lemon juice, lemon zest and 1 tablespoon oil.  Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold this mixture into the dry ingredients to make a thick batter.

Brush a non-stick skillet with 1/2 teaspoon oil, then heat over medium-low.  With a 1/4 cup measure, drop the batter onto the skillet, spreading it slightly.  Multiple pancakes can be cooked at once.

Cook pancakes until browned and beginning to set, about  2 minutes.  Flip and cook until browned on the second side and cooked at the center, about 2 minutes longer.

 Transfer the cooked pancakes to a baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm.  Brush the skillet with the remaining oil and repeat with remaining batter.

Makes 5 servings.

Here's the quick blueberry sauce that is perfect with these pancakes:

1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons corn starch
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine lemon juice and cornstarch and set aside.  In meduim saucepan combine blueberries, sugar, water and salt.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and stir in lemon juice-cornstarch mixture.  Simmer, stirring until the sauce thickens slightly about 2 minutes.  Makes 10 servings.

Nonna's Lemon Ricotta Biscuits (they more like muffins) are an absolute family favorite.  We love making them for a fancy breakfast, or even a lighter dessert.  These babies are in our regular rotation, especially when lemons are in season.

We also love these Glazed Lemon Bars from Our Best Bites.  In fact, my mom made some last night, and I'm glad they are at her house right now because they may have become my really unhealthy breakfast had they been in my kitchen...

Now, my boys have begged for lemonade, so I'm on the hunt for a good recipe for homemade lemonade.  Any tips out there?  I'd love to hear them in the comments!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Love is... The Birthday Edition

I wrote this post soon after my birthday last year, but couldn't access the pictures I wanted, so I put it on hold.  I haven't done a "Love is..." post for a bit, so I'm sharing now.

While I don't relish adding another year to my age, there are several things that I do love about my birthday.

As I get older, the gifts themselves mean less and less and the thought behind them and the people who celebrate with me mean the most.

I had lunch with one of my sisters at Joe's Farm Grill.  We had a carb-fest with an order of loaded baked potato fries and sweet potato fries.  Don't worry, we also ordered the BBQ chicken salad just to add in something "healthy".  Mr. Three came along but didn't really eat a thing.  He did enjoy roaming around our table with his "cell phone" (aka my little purse calculator).

I had fun talking to lots of family members on the phone throughout the day, wishing me a happy birthday.

I enjoyed a quiet dinner date with my handsome husband that evening.  My birthday fell on a Tuesday this year, so there was no wait at California Pizza Kitchen.  We ended up finishing earlier than we expected, even with two courses and a good conversation.  With the night being relatively young, I decided to take the kiddos out with us for frozen yogurt.  I wanted to include my boys in the celebration.

They loved the unexpected treat.  Their excitement at the shop was another little gift to unwrap that day.  However, bedtime was another story.

Note to self:  Giving children sugary frozen yogurt at bedtime is not the brightest idea if you want them to go peacefully to sleep upon getting home.  Enough said.

I received some lovely gifts from family (thank you! :)), and had a really great Italian dinner with my extended family on Sunday.  The maple doughnuts were a fantastic ending note (thanks Seth!). 

I love opening presents and all of the well wishes from loved ones, but  I wanted to save my best gift for last on this post.

I look forward to my husband's creative ways of saying Happy Birthday each year, and this year did not disappoint.  As I went about my day, I started noticing little pink paper hearts tucked throughout the house with short and sweet messages on them.  I called him in the middle of the day to say thank you.  He asked me how many I found, and I responded, oh, about 5.  He paused, then said something that gave me the sense that there were more.  So the hunt was on. 

It was interesting how I didn't realize that there were sweet little hearts all over the house, in obvious and not-so-obvious places.  I just didn't think to really look beyond the obvious few I had found in my bathroom.  There were 33 hearts in all (oops, I just gave away my age!).  I had the best time finding these tiny heartfelt notes, smiling and soaking in the compliments.  It changed my whole outlook on my day.  Oh how I love this man!

Then, I started thinking, isn't this just how real love is?  If you only see the obvious signs of love, you are missing out.  It was amazing to me how quickly I started finding all of the other hidden notes when I was in the frame of mind to look and seek them out.  Some of them were literally right in front of my nose, and I had somehow missed them earlier in my day.  I am guilty of taking my relationship for granted at times.  I just know my husband is there, and feel a general sense of happiness and wholeness when we are together.  That is a wonderful thing. Oh, but when I take that little bit of time to focus on specific reasons why I love him, or the ways I see our love developing and deepening, I feel such joy and gratitude!  This is a blessing.

Love can't be bought.  Love often is simple things done with purpose.  Love is thinking of someone else and finding ways to make them happy.  Most importantly, we can each gain greater love by seeking out all of those small manifestations around us that show that love is still there and is, in fact, growing.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lots of Love

I've been busy crafting and cooking in the kitchen, getting ready for Valentines day.  Here's some snippets of our Heart Day plans.

A few decorating projects are finished.  I made some heart garlands inspired by ideas from the web,

one simple

and one a little more complicated.  I had a few more decorating projects that didn't get completed.  Maybe for next year...

I've been in the kitchen baking sugar cookies.  Normally, I use my favorite sour cream sugar cookie recipe, but I wanted to try something new.  Paradise Bakery sugar cookies sounded like just the thing, so I tried them out. 

They are yummy, but I would definitely use a different frosting.  It was a little weak to me.  I prefer cream cheese frosting myself.

We also had our favorite Cody pancakes for breakfast (pink of course for Valentine's Day). 

Don't you love Mr. Three's hair?

I found these Valentine web games for the boys to play while I cooked dinner.

On the menu:

Fettuccine Alfredo (with some red food coloring)
roasted asparagus (which the boys will probably not touch, but we'll give it a try)
bread sticks
raspberry jello
sugar cookies
hot chocolate

We set the table and lit candles to have a fancy dinner together.  We emphasized using extra fancy manners as well.  (One can only hope...)  They seemed to really like that, although we still had whining about eating asparagus and at least one child eating with their hands instead of the forks and spoons...

Excerpt from the table (can you relate?):

Mom:  "You can use your spoon to eat your jello."
Mr. Two:  "Oh, that would be good!" (Grabs the jello with his hands and plops it onto the spoon.)
Mom: (to Dad, under breath) "I give up."
Mr. Three:  (pats jello with hand and pokes it with fingers)

Ah, memories!

Here are the little gifts that I (and Mike) have been working on to give the little Mr.'s.

For Mr. One and Mr. Two

Boyville peg dolls (we had to add Batman to the mix).  My handsome husband did all the detail work.  He is a creative wonder!  It was a really fun project to work on together.

For Mr. Three

This basic apron (I added a pocket because every boy needs a pocket) for my newest little kitchen helper.

The Valentines here and here for all three, because they are super kids.

I also had so much fun thinking up little love notes and hiding them for my husband to find these past 14 days.  I think he enjoyed finding and reading them, too.

We had a day full of love and hope all of you did as well!  Happy Heart Day!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Penguin Puzzlers and Cookie Baking

I forgot about these matching cards that I used in my classroom until Mr. Two pulled them out of my January box yesterday morning.  I originally had my kindergarteners play concentration with them, but today, I had Mr. Two match up the number card with the corresponding number of penguins card. 

He loved doing this, and I was pleasantly surprised that, not only did he count correctly all the way to 15, but could identify the numbers 6 through 15.

A few tips for making your own card games.

Chart stickers are perfect for making math games, as they are inexpensive and you can fit lots onto a card.

When you are placing stickers on a card for your child to count, try and line the items up in rows, rather than randomly, so that it will be easier for them to count and keep track of which items have already been counted.

Laminate your cards so that you will get many uses out of them.

Want to add some fun penguin stories to this activity?  Go here for my list of favorite penguin books.

I also spent some time yesterday afternoon with Mr. Three (who decided not to take a nap) baking cookies. 


He loved dumping in the ingredients and helping mix them all together.

The best part? 


Eating one, of course!  It's exciting to have this little guy want to help in the kitchen.  What a sweet day!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

We Love Mail

For FHE this Monday, we talked about love and how we show love to our family.  We asked the boys to tell us the ways that we can show love, and here is our list:

say I love you
respect them (by obeying your parents, doing good things)
say you're sorry when you do something wrong
take care of them
give hugs and kisses
draw pictures or write notes
give gifts
teach them how to do something new
pray for them

Oh how this list makes my heart happy!

Then, we decorated little mailboxes from the Target Dollar Spot, so that we could send one another little love notes and surprises throughout February.

Mr. One got up extra early the next morning to make little love notes to put in everyone's mailbox:  little hand drawn and colored hearts in favorite colors. 

He was so excited to announce that the mailbox flags were up, so we needed to check the mail.

Here's hoping we can all spread a little more love around our home!