Monday, July 30, 2018

Farmer's Market and Family Fun


Tis the season for fresh produce, kettle corn vendors, fried pastries and local musicians to congregate in the center of our towns and parks.  It's Farmer's Market time and it is undoubtedly my favorite part of summer.  Learning the first full week of August is National Farmer's Market Week, makes these events all the endearing.

I've been attending Farmer's Markets for years from the Midwest all the way to the West Coast.  I've seen them large and I've seen them small.  I've known them to offer just fresh produce and I've wandered through isles intermixed with handmade crafts and food vendors.  No matter their size, location or offering, they are such a wonderful opportunity to buy fresh, local, family goods.

Here in Southwestern Montana, we get a late start on the Market season.  July 21st was our open this year and I couldn't wait to head in.



Our Market runs each Saturday from 8am till noon and into the month of October.  I arrived around 9 and the streets of our downtown were already bustling.


Vendors shared seedlings for getting your own garden growing, produce (obviously), local honey, homemade bread and even butchered meat represented by many local ranchers.  Inter-mixed were food vendors enticing passer-by-ers with fresh, sweet smelling donuts, pot stickers, noodles and more.  My favorite, outside of the produce, are probably the musicians: a young violinist raising awareness and money for orphanages in Africa, children regaling shoppers with song and (my weakness) Dixieland hits pumping through loud speakers....


The highlight of my trip on opening day (other than the band) was the opportunity to meet this family from The Burnt Bean Ranch:

Selling freshly butchered meat, starter plants and produce, they truly represented a family affair.  Dad even had his own special recipe for the locally popular Choke Cherries, infusing lemonade with their sweet goodness for a truly delicious and refreshing concoction.  Kids assisted while mom and dad exchanged bags of goods for cash in hand. If you are at the Yellowstone County Farmer's Market, stop in and say "HI", tell them the blogger lady sent ya and be sure to toss back some of that great lemonade (and buy their other fresh goodies!)

Do you have a local Farmer's Market?  Are you heading somewhere that does?  I HIGHLY recommend checking out one of these fun, fresh, fairs if you haven't before.  Here are some tips I have found helpful over the years:

Set a Budget and Bring Cash
Seems obvious but it is really easy to over-extend.  Prices at farmer's markets are usually pretty fair and you can often get a better deal on produce at these local stands than at the grocery store.  But a dollar here and a dollar there spends fast so set a firm budget and stick to it.  Also, vendors will be happiest when you pay in cash, it makes their job easier.

Food Stamps (EBT) or WIC recipients... 
Is your family tight in the cash arena?  Are you on Food Stamps or WIC?  Many local markets are now set up to honor food stamps and a lot of WIC offices will hand out Farmer's Market coupons redeemable on fresh produce and food producing plants.  Be sure to ask.

The Early Bird gets the... errr... worm....
Showing up at opening time often means less crowds and more options.  Vendors will sometimes sell out of prime product as the morning/day dwindles on.  Add to that the barrage of crowds which will begin to filter in the more time passes.  As mentioned earlier, I arrived an hour after opening and the streets were already bustling!  Don't let time deter you, though.  Whenever you can pop in, your senses (and pocket book) will be rewarded!

Kids and Strollers always Welcome
Actually, I find myself looking with envy at strollers as they roll by... I remember the days well because all of my market finds were much easier to push in stroller under-baskets and shade tops than carried flung over my shoulder like they are now minus little kiddos!  And don't shy away from bringing the kids (unless you are scraping for that peace and quiet time!)  Farmer's Markets are a GREAT opportunity to get kids involved in the family's grocery purchases and excited about eating healthy...
  • Have them help pick fresh vegetables to enjoy with dinner
  • Be adventurous and willing to try new produce the kids might get a wild eye to choose!
  • Let them hand the money to the vendor
  • Encourage them to smell produce, especially herbs, and talk about what they are used for
  • Prepare to walk slower and encourage questions and exploration
  • Allow children to ask vendors about their products; how they grow, animals they raise, or items they make.  Just be sure they aren't interfering with active sales.
Vendors do more than just sell their goods!
Some vendors will offer taste samples, especially of sauces or homemade goods.  Take them up on it, encourage kids to try and give feedback, even if you aren't planning to purchase.  The family I mentioned above began pulling leaves off different Basil plants for me to try as we discussed the uses of the varieties they offered.  Which is another great thing to know about your vendors: they are often experts of varying degrees in the products they are selling.  If you don't know what to use a particular vegetable, fruit or herb for/in, ask!  You may find an absolute treasure trove of knowledge on the other side of the produce table!

Bring your own bag and/or wagon
This isn't "required" but it is helpful.  Vendors usually have plastic sacks (our market requires it) but even multiples of these can become cumbersome.  Last year I lamented over getting rid of our old wagon some years ago when the kids outgrew it.  Watching other Market-goers haul out pumpkins on deal, I knew I was woefully under-prepared to carry the orange orbs by hand all the way to my car!!  But even in the summer season, you can become quickly over-laden with your finds. 
I like to bring large Market bags I purchased when in Seattle at Pike's Place Market.  They are canvas, sturdy and large.  I also saw a variety of contraptions at the market as smart buyers found ways to lug their goods out on various forms of collapsible wheels!  If you don't have a kiddo riding shotgun stroller style, than I highly recommend it.  If not, no worries, Market day can still be fun and profitable!!

Dress for success
Mind the weather report and dress accordingly.  Don't forget a hat on sunny days and some sunscreen.  It isn't just kids that get uncomfortable when not dressed for the weather, so can us grown-ups!  You will enjoy your experience much more.


Talk
Get to know the vendors of some of your frequently visited booths.  They may give you scoops on deals and upcoming offerings.  You might even be able to build a rapport so as to obtain goods from them in the off-season.  Especially where items like eggs and fresh meat are concerned.  Talk to other market goers as well.  If your market is a large one it can take half the day to locate the vendor with those great looking berries you see everyone with.  So just ask, "Where did you get those?" and follow the directions.

Peruse first when possible  
As I mentioned, some markets are HUGE.  Portland's Saturday market when I use to attend years ago and Seattle's Pike's Place, could easily take the entire day to soak up!  If your market is a bit smaller scale than, the first time you go, walk the grounds to see who is offering what and for how much.  You will find most prices comparable but some may be better than others.  You can also get an idea of what you want to expend your budget on so you don't spend it all at once and miss out on something you really needed or wanted!


 As for our market, the season is still early and produce is just beginning to come in.  I spent under $10 on my fresh produce and near that range on some more herb seedlings to filter in amongst my garden.  I'm looking forward to the next visit and seeing what else has come ready to pick!

I pray you find and have wonderful market adventures!

Do you have a farmer's market you enjoy visiting?  Leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you!

Blessings,







By the way.....


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Plans are in the works for some GREAT bonus material to be included starting soon!  Not to mention the articles on Faith, Home, and Homeschooling you won't even find on the blog!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter"?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!).  Entering your email will do 2 awesome things:

#1 - You are automatically signed up for my newsletter (expect to see your issues around the last Thursday of each month).  Yay!
#2 - It enters you into a drawing for a GREAT prize bundle I will be giving away at the end of the summer (details to come)

Don't worry, if you are already subscribed leave a comment below, say "hi", or whatever else you might like to say.  Be sure to mention you are an existing newsletter subscriber and I will pop your name in my drawing jar!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Summertime: Stay Home Summer Camp part 2


So what did you think of the Stay Home Summer Camp idea from last Monday?  I have to be honest, I don't think we ever called it "Stay Home Summer Camp" when my kids were growing up.  It was usually "Adventure Days" done on a theme!  I still followed the basic outline of planning and scheduling I shared on Monday, but the name was usually something like, "Summer of Crafting", or "Summer of Science" and so on!

As I look at the calendar, I realize we are in the LAST FULL WEEK OF JULY!!!  But that doesn't short-change the idea of rounding up boredom and redirecting it into a themed week or day to round out the summer on a great note. I thought I would share a few of our favorites below, in case you were thirsty for some more detailed inspiration!  (By the way: this totally qualifies as anti-boredom month busters!!)


Creativity Camp aka "Summer of Creativity"
Each week we planned a different kind of craft.  Some activities:
  • Finger-painting outside (perfect for hosing off when done!)
  • Shirt painting
  • Recycled Creations
  • Egg Carton Creations
  • Pop-up Card Making
  • Paper Plate Crafts
  • Collage 

Pinterest, books from the library, and a simple Internet search will turn out a multitude of great ideas... you will have more inspiration than you need with this topic!!


Exploration Camp aka "Summer of Exploration"
We were typically an active family in the summer, as discussed in the kick-off article to this series, "Stay-cationing All Summer Long". I've always assessed the summer for it's fullest adventure potential!  We would hike and camp and beach and park and... you name it!  But one summer, we had a field guide and a mission!  Our Summer of Exploration was inspired by this book...

... which combined an explorers spirit with a crafty mindset.  The book was our "field guide" of sorts and a few of the adventures it took us on:

  • a reflective scavenger hunt
  • creating a mini-museum
  • collecting bottle caps
  • looking for the extraordinary in the ordinary
...and so much more.  The kids were even learning to "catalog" their finds.  To be honest, it was a lot like school, without actually feeling like it was school!!!  We never did fit the whole book into one summer but we certainly had a lot of fun!


Adventure Camp aka "Summer of Adventure"
Each week I scheduled a specific hike or nature walk.  I encouraged the kids to journal the adventures by giving them each a composition book and inviting them to draw, write, and/or tape their finds within.  Adventure days were accompanied by backpacks filled with special snacks, water bottle, drawing tools and their journal as well as binoculars, whistles and trail guides (where applicable).  Mine had the addition of a pictorial fold-out field guide to the wildlife and tracks of our area.  We always wore sun hats and hiking shoes as well. These outings were reserved for the not-too-hot days so we could be sure to avoid heat stroke!

We walked at the pace of the slowest trailblazer and took time to pause and observe the flora and fauna... and tracks and bugs and birds... you get the idea!  Don't feel like you have to be versed in any of the things you come across, all you need is a curious mindset.  If your kids ask you about a particular find you aren't sure about, it is OK to say, "I don't know" and snap a picture to take home and cross reference later.

With our Summer of Adventure we would occasionally collect tidbits of leaves, feathers, flowers and so on.  Some weeks we would take our finds and create a nature collage on a piece of thin cardboard.  One time they even made a rock collage!  Hot glue guns are a necessity for these!!

Art Club  
Not to be confused with "crafting"!  One year I found a great How-to-Draw DVD at the book store.  However, we never had time to fit it in during the school year.  So, one summer was kicked off with an end-of-school year gift: sketch books, charcoals, and good drawing pencil kits. After explaining my idea to start each week by watching a video lesson and then looking to practice the new technique throughout the rest of the week, the kids were hooked and the Summer of Art began!.  I did this one with older kiddos but it could easily be accomplished on a more elementary scale with youngers by making minor adjustments to meet their skill levels.


Book Club
This one is probably the easiest of all if you have a good sized public library nearby.  We always loved our library's reading program.  Each week the kids could hear a story teller and do a craft along a theme the library had chosen for the summer.  They would fill out reading charts which were then turned in for prizes.

One summer, before we were blessed with such wonderful programs, we created our own Summer Reading Program and Book Club.  It was great for summer literacy and getting the kids excited about the books they were reading.  Some fun literacy activities:
  • Draw pictures as I read chapter books out loud
  • Create puppets of story characters and put on a puppet show
  • Make post-cards of far away places we were reading about
  • Cook recipes shared in some stories
  • Write letters to family members telling them about books and characters we liked
  • Create masks of animals from our books
  • Watch movies which had been created from the stories (after the book was completed)
  • Build structures we had learned about out of clay or Popsicle sticks
  • Participate in some activities our favorite characters had enjoyed (like picnics, carnivals, and such)

I could go on-and-on with literacy projects (they were probably my favorites!).  The Internet is full of fabulous ideas that don't feel like "schoolwork" to kiddos.

.......
We never got to ALL the ideas which jumbled around in my mind.  And just in case the examples above haven't hit the mark, I thought I would throw out a few others which have gotten stuck in my head:

Camp Game-on  
Get unplugged and dust off the indoor/outdoor games everyone has forgotten about in this digital age!  Play a board game, a card game, a lawn game, an old-fashioned kick-the-can kind of game... or make one up!  Don't wait for family night, do it right-smack-dab in the middle of a Wednesday or first thing in the morning on a Friday.  Maybe even make it a rainy-day "camp" if you live somewhere that enjoys summer rain!

Build-it Camp
We had this amazing book on our shelf as my kids grew up:

It is chocked-full of ideas for building any kid of structure you can think of with mostly every-day items you have lying around the house!  It would have been pretty exciting to spend a summer (or even a week of the summer) sparking the engineering side of my kiddos minds with some building activities!


.......
What sort of summer activities do you have with your family?  I would love to hear!  If you haven't had any yet, don't fear, it isn't too late to start!

I pray you have a most blessed rest of the summer!  Next time, let's talk Farmer's Markets!

Blessings,








 


By the way.....

*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Plans are in the works for some GREAT bonus material to be included starting soon!  Not to mention the articles on Faith, Home, and Homeschooling you won't even find on the blog!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter"?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!).  Entering your email will do 2 awesome things:

#1 - You are automatically signed up for my newsletter (expect to see your issues around the last Thursday of each month).  Yay!
#2 - It enters you into a drawing for a GREAT prize bundle I will be giving away at the end of the summer (details to come)

Don't worry, if you are already subscribed leave a comment below, say "hi", or whatever else you might like to say.  Be sure to mention you are an existing newsletter subscriber and I will pop your name in my drawing jar!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Summertime: Stay Home Summer Camp


Longer days of tons of play.  Air condition and swimming pools all sizes.  Lemonade and lazy days.  Sunshine, adventure time, this summer thing goes on-and-on.

At first this montage is such a welcome reprieve.  Everyone is excited for a break from homework, a break from the mundane routine of the constancy of school-year-life.  But then it happens.... mid-summer!  

Summer-break, so highly anticipated by the time May rolls around, begins to drag.  The new summer toys and shoes and clothes are showing their wear.  The new adventures planned and summer schedule laid out are adopting their own form of mundane monotony and, before long, everyone is secretly craving the old "new" routine of the school year to come!

But Summer-break is not over yet.  If you are homeschoolers like us, running on the ebb and flow of public school friends so you don't hear, "But neighbor friend Johnny is on summer break, why can't I be on summer break so I can play with him."  And, if you are like me, taking summer to breathe and lesson plan out your next school year... then you aren't ready quite yet to crack those new school books.  Or, perhaps, you are a public schooling family counting down the days till school opens... either way, what do you do with these 'dog days of summer'?

REVIVE!

It isn't too late for a new plan.  Let's call it, Stay Home Summer Camp, and we are going to give our camp a name.  You can call it Camp (family name) or you can plan a Crafting Camp or Adventure Camp or Family Fun Camp... the sky is the limit. 


Why "camp"?  Well, what is camp?  Day camp or overnight camp... either way, it is a gathering of people (usually kiddos), coming together to DO stuff set out and supervised by adults.  Often, but not always, on a theme.  There can be crafts, culinary adventures, nature walks, sporting activities (including swimming), and so on.  Now, don't over-think this, but here is my proposal:

Prepare
Pick a montage of many different things or a single theme you feel capable of planning and directing your kids in (and possibly their friends who will find out and think it is awesome and want to participate too!)  Think; things your kids enjoy, or have begged you to try, or you think they would like to learn to do in a hands-on sort of way. This doesn't have to be highly complicated.  It can be as simple as "Soccer day; we will set up a goal between two trees in the back yard and practice.....".  You don't need an hourly plan or detailed summary.  Just a bulls-eye to shoot your darts at! 

Once you have narrowed down one or a few ideas, make a brain-dump list of all the things you could do in that theme/montage.  Remember: you are on summer-break too.  This isn't meant to be a HUGE amount of "work" for you, rather, it is intended to be directed fun... honest, that IS a thing!!

As you are brain-dumping, think about frequency.  Do you want to have your club daily, every-other-day, once-a-week.... be realistic.  Also, set the time of day and length you expect to spend in "camp" adventures.  If your kiddos are anything like mine were, you could easily be their playmate/play director from morning till night and they would love you all the more for it!!  However, "camp" is meant to get their creative juices flowing.  Whatever time you set out to spend with them each day in "camp" pursuits, it is OK to say, "I will be done at 2:00 but you can keep on doing...." whatever it is they are doing.  Unless, of course, the activity is one which requires parental supervision like baking and certain crafts.  Still, it is OK to set an "end" to the activity with the promise that on such-and-such day "we will do some more"!

Pump it up
As with the whole "adventure" theme I've been writing on this summer... GET EXCITED!!  You can do this one of two ways. 
  1. You can create "mystery" for your kids by alluding to the fact something cool is going to happen on 'Monday'.  Then, on 'Monday', reveal your Camp.
  2. You can just tell them (with excitement of course), "How would you guys like to do a Stay-Home-Summer-Camp" and share with them the essence of the thing, telling them what days and times you will be holding "camp", count it down, and generally BE EXCITED with them!  

You can also involve them in some of the planning.  As my kiddos were growing up, most summers were host to various Stay Home Summer Camps.  I would usually call a family meeting (minus dad because he would be at work- but you could add dad if you think he would enjoy participating!) and survey them on what they would like to do.  I would usually mention some base-line ideas I had and any theme I was considering.  Then I would collect their ideas on activities.  Some years I would leave the bulk of the planning and themes up to them, acting as scribe and coordinator to help coral their creative flow and get realistic plans set. 


One year we weren't able to finish our science curriculum by the time we wanted to wrap up for a summer break so, after a "class" meeting we decided to have a "Summer of Science" (blogged here!)  No book work (one stipulation which got them fully on board!), just exploration and experiments.  Neighborhood kids saw what we were doing and often joined in!  We all had a blast.

Play it out  
It's go-time.  I can't stress it enough: DON'T STRESS, don't over-plan, just relax and enjoy!!!  Keep it simple, don't expect perfection, keep a child's heart within yourself about the whole thing and have fun with them.  Stay Home Summer Camping adventures can include field trips, library trips, story times, pool days, beach days and so on.  You can even pack journals and invite your kids to draw pictures, jot observations, and even create a scrapbook complete with taped-on tickets, feathers, pictures and so on.

Don't spoil it with schoolish stuff though (unless that is what they ask for!!).  When I say, Invite them, I do mean just that.  Don't force them, rather, let them know they have a choice.  But, also, let them know that the days and times you have set are the only days and times you will be doing these activities together.  So, essentially: 'you snooze - you loose'.

I can tell you honestly, with the exception of some of my teens (when they were teens), not a single one of my kids ever passed up an opportunity for Stay Home Summer Camp.  They all looked forward to the adventures and activities each "camp" day would hold!

Overwhelmed?  Don't be.  I have designed a FREE worksheet to help get the creative juices flowing as you jot your ideas. 

http://faithandhome.com/images//printable/StayHomeSummerCamp.pdf

http://faithandhome.com/images//printable/StayHomeSummerCamp.pdf
You can click on the images above or go to the link in text to print your copy.  Also, I hope to share some more detailed ideas of Stay Home Summer Camps in coming articles.  If you have ANY questions, please don't hesitate to let me know!

Do you have summer activities or themes you plan with your family each year?  I would love to hear about it!  For now, I pray all your summer memories this year are genuine and lasting!

Blessings,







By the way.....

*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Plans are in the works for some GREAT bonus material to be included starting soon!  Not to mention the articles on Faith, Home, and Homeschooling you won't even find on the blog!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter"?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!).  Entering your email will do 2 awesome things:

#1 - You are automatically signed up for my newsletter (expect to see your issues around the last Thursday of each month).  Yay!
#2 - It enters you into a drawing for a GREAT prize bundle I will be giving away at the end of the summer (details to come)

Don't worry, if you are already subscribed I'm concocting a way you can get in on this deal too! 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Summertime: Recipes for a Good Time!


I've shared a couple of posts in the Summertime series so far and in each I have mentioned the fun food we always enjoyed during our summer adventures.  Today I thought I would share some of those quick, easy, cooler-kitchen-in-the-hot-weather recipes!

Lemonade the Healthier Way
We should have bought a cow when my kids were growing up, they drank soooooo much milk.  But, when summertime sauntered in, stock in Kool-aid would have been more like it.  I was troubled, though, by the lack of nutritional value in the nostalgic little packets mixed with an insane amount of sugar.... it was really flavored, colored, sugar water!  Then, one day I stumbled upon this insane fact:  Making homemade lemonade is crazy easy!!  Are you ready for this?

1 cup lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1/2 gallon water

Bada-bing, bada-boom, and Bob's your uncle!  I buy lemon juice and organic sugar in bulk at Costco and, I will admit, Kool-aid and regular white sugar is much cheaper... however... when the pennies stretch and allow, this concoction allows me to say "yes" to my kids guzzling back a few icy glasses full with less stress.  As a matter of fact, it is loaded with vitamin C!!


Lemonade with a Twist 
Take the above recipe and throw in a few cups of your favorite frozen fruit.  We love raspberries and when you add blueberries as well, it has an almost Kool-aid-ish taste, only it's healthy!  We had company this past week and my youngest daughter loaded our 2 gallon mason jar drink dispenser and threw a mixture of raspberries and blueberries into the insertable diffuser and our guests couldn't get enough of the sweet drink!!

FREEZE!! 
Use the above lemonade with or without the fruit and pour into cleaned out plastic pudding, jello or yogurt cups.  Cover with plastic wrap and poke a Popsicle stick through the center of the wrap (the wrap will keep the stick upright).  Place in freezer overnight.  To remove the Popsicle, place the cup in warm water or under a warm running faucet for a few seconds and the Popsicle should slide right out.  When we first did these I didn't know about the plastic wrap trick, we simply laid our Popsicle sticks in the cups so that once the Popsicle was removed the stick was at a slant and this worked fine as well.


PB&J Trail Mix 
I invented this fun snack on a sheer spark of pre-beach-visit kitchen adventure while trying to dream up a healthy and interesting treat!

Popcorn (plain or lightly buttered/salted)
Plain peanuts (no shell)
Raisins or Cran-raisins (or other favorite dried fruit)

I usually made my popcorn in a popper and, taking approximately 8 cups, I would add a couple handfuls each (equal parts) peanuts and dried fruit and toss.  I would store in a bag or container and the kids always looked forward to snacking while resting between daring dives and splash-abouts!

(for bigger families/crowds, Costco has great deals on all of these ingredients)

Peanut Butter Balls
These keep best in the fridge and don't travel as well as other snacks.  However, they are a great summer snack for the back yard and require 0 kitchen heating to make!

1/2 cup powdered milk
1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup finely crushed graham crackers

Mix well and then form bite-size balls.  Place on wax paper covered baking sheet and refrigerate just until chilled (1-2 hours).  Kids love helping with this recipe.  I modified it from an edible play-dough recipe which calls for 1/2 cup oats instead of graham crackers!  Once set, keep PB balls stored in airtight container in refrigerator. 

**WARNING**  It is not safe to give children honey when they are under the age of 1.  If you have children around under the age of 1 I do not recommend this recipe in the event they could accidentally ingest the honey.

Cream Cheese Tortilla Rolls
The first time I had these was at a baby shower and they were served to adults!!  The adult recipe calls for chopped green onions but I am omitting that to make this more kid-friendly:

1 package cream cheese, softened
16 oz. container sour cream
1-2 cups grated cheddar or mexi-mix cheese
1 package flour tortillas (any size)

Mix the cheeses and sour cream well.  Using a rubber spatula, spread a thick layer on one tortilla.  Roll tortilla and cut into thirds (for smaller tortillas) or fourths (for larger tortillas) and serve!  Older kids might like these dipped in some salsa!


As my Summertime series progresses I may think of a few more recipes worth sharing.  These are the ones I have alluded to so far.  Our summers were host to not only my 4 kiddos, but often their friends from around the neighborhood.  It seemed more cost-effective to find easy, stretchable recipes for feeding the 'crowd' and having fun.  I would love to hear some of your great summertime recipes as well!

I pray your summer is blessed with  good times right-where-you-are, good food with what your pantry holds, and great memories to last a lifetime!

Blessings,







By the way.....

*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Plans are in the works for some GREAT bonus material to be included starting soon!  Not to mention the articles on Faith, Home, and Homeschooling you won't even find on the blog!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter"?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!).  Entering your email will do 2 awesome things:

#1 - You are automatically signed up for my newsletter (expect to see your issues around the last Thursday of each month).  Yay!
#2 - It enters you into a drawing for a GREAT prize bundle I will be giving away at the end of the summer (details to come)

Don't worry, if you are already subscribed I'm concocting a way you can get in on this deal too! 




Monday, July 9, 2018

Summertime: Backyard Beach/Pool Party

What is the big kick-off for your summer?  Do you have any special routines or traditions?  As my kiddos were growing up summer always burst into action with birthdays.  Three to be exact.  We rarely had individual parties, except for the milestones, and at one point we would have a mid-month group party geared more towards summer kick-off than birthday (though cake was always on the menu).

These non-birthday-birthday parties varied in themes, usually involved ice-cream and cake food fights (mandatory outside) and it wasn't uncommon to find water-guns or water-balloons introduced at some point in the day's festivities.


As summer waxed on I loved finding ways to get creative with water-time activities, especially on those scorching days.  We lived by a large freshwater lake so, home pool days needed something of an appeal to make the hard sell over beach-side wanderings.  Whether the backyard adventures involved just us or the whole neighborhood, I always tried to make the activities fun and memorable.

The Pool Part of a Pool Party
Some years we had a kiddie pool and, with how hard my ADHD daughter wore on 'toys', it was usually a different pool each year... from your run-of-the-mill pre-molded plastic one to the typical roll-up collapsible sided vinyl kind.  One year we were even blessed with a blow-up "Lagoon" complete with built-in slide and water features (thank you grandma and grandpa!!).  Whatever size and shape our watering hole was, there were staples which went with pool/beach party adventure days:
  • buckets and water toys exclusive to 'pool' time
  • beach towels specifically for pooling around!
  • pan of water to rinse feet prior to pool entry to keep water clean (it held out for a while anyway!)
  • special pool time snacks
  • ice cold lemonade
  • floaties (which work great even in only 15" of water!)
It isn't to say that some days were probably your average 'kids in the pool' with nothing spectacular outside of the expected squeals and splashing... but having special pool-side traditions made it feel like more than a 15" deep excursion into the back yard... no, it felt more like a resort get-away and no one ever wanted to leave the water's edge when the day wore down!


Non-pool Water Fun
Whether you can't get/don't want a kiddie pool there are water-fun alternatives... we have tried many:
  • The slip-n-slide, home-made or store bought is loaded with potential fun!  For homemade; remember the sprinkler and try some baby oil on the plastic to get everyone sliding better.
  • Water guns or water cannons and a bucket of water or hose to keep them filled (the Dollar Store has some great suck-and-soak 'guns'[like water cannons] my kids still love to play with... and most of them are adults now!!)
  • Water balloons, you can fill and place in a Rubbermaid container or laundry basket and surprise the kids with!  A quick Internet search can provide a plethora of game ideas for these slippery buggers!
  • A good ole-fashioned sprinkler can provide hours of fun (while watering the lawn!!!) and just like the water balloons, a host of sprinkler games are out there for the discovering!
  • Never under-estimate the power of a bucket or Rubbermaid bin filled with water!!!  When we were staying with my mother-in-law prior to heading into missions work, my kids used an old toy bucket and clean plastic containers out of the recycle bin to have water fights and build habitats for their plastic animal toys!!

When you don't have a backyard...
For the apartment or non-yard dweller, do you have a patio or porch?  Small scale water fun can be had on these.  Also, bathtub and kitchens can host water-table type play.  Many cities are setting up free public wading pools and sprinkler parks, you can check out some of these as well.  You can also talk to a friend or family member about a weekly water play-date using their yard (if they have one) to host... offer to bring the treats and supplies!

When the "Party" is Over...
Keep the hose handy, don't be afraid of mud and simply enforce a firm rule that anyone covered in anything other than water must not only try to dry off before coming inside but must also be properly rinsed of non-water objects (ie grass, mud and such). 
*Don't forget the sunscreen and beach hats as well.  It may be a back yard but those UVs will still get ya!!

I would love to hear your ideas for Backyard Beach/Pool "Parties".  Hopefully you caught last week's article on Adventuring a.k.a. Staycationing All Summer Long (link in text).  It kicked off a basic overview of this concept of "Stay-cationing" for an entire summer.  Today's DIVE into pools is part of that series!

I hope your summer has some fun wet and wild moments.  Make memories right where you are, share the excitement and I believe your kids will learn to love these little moments as much as any big ones you could whisk them away on!

Blessings,








By the way.....

*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Plans are in the works for some GREAT bonus material to be included starting soon!  Not to mention the articles on Faith, Home, and Homeschooling you won't even find on the blog!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter"?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!).  Entering your email will do 2 awesome things:

#1 - You are automatically signed up for my newsletter (expect to see your issues around the last Thursday of each month).  Yay!
#2 - It enters you into a drawing for a GREAT prize bundle I will be giving away at the end of the summer (details to come)

Don't worry, if you are already subscribed I'm concocting a way you can get in on this deal too! 







Monday, July 2, 2018

Adventuring a.k.a. Stay-cationing All Summer Long



July is actually here!!!  Wow, it is as if someone flung open the door of summer and said, if there was any doubt before, "It is THAT time!!"  In this past week's newsletter* I reflected on our family's stay-cationing practises during my children's formative years.  Staying home for vacation was an integral part of their upbringing, mostly out of necessity and partly out of a mother's adventurous spirit needing some sort of break in the mundane.  Stay-cationing wasn't even a term back then but we had nailed the concept.

During those years, we ran our own fledgling business.  We were committed to me being a stay-at-home mom and were therefore willing to make the sacrifices it would require with 4 children to feed and clothe and school.  It meant living paycheck to paycheck and holding our breath for miracles in emergencies. Yet, in the midst of it all, I was determined my kids would never feel strapped, resentful, or deprived.  No.  I was adamant they learn to value the simple things; know how to entertain themselves with nothing but a box and some markers, appreciate the variations of leafing trees, and grow in a sense of adventure for the sheer simplicity of the great outdoors without bells and whistles (well, except for those we used to scare away bears on hikes!)

Summer was no exception.

As a matter of fact, summer was the perfect time to exercise our adventurous spirit right.where.we.were with little to no money.  In reflection, I thought of a list which might help the budding adventurists out there.  I would love to hear if you have more to add to it!! For now, this is what came to mind:

How to adventure right.where.you.are
 .... aka "An introductory guide to stay-cationing all summer long"!


#1 - Put on an adventurous spirit 
I will admit, not everyone is born with a desire to adventure.  Me: my family says I am part Gypsy... it's in my blood.  I go stir crazy without some adventure!  Colossians 3:1-17 has a GREAT synopsis on putting on and while Paul is talking about Spiritual issues, the concept can be applied here too.  CHOOSE to adventure, put on a curious and idealistic spirit.  Pursue to see God at work, even in the little things.  Marvel at the world around you, whether it is the concrete of the city and the power of God in the minds of men to build on such a scale.... or the work of an ant and it's remarkable God-ordained attributes to toil as it does.


#2 - Start small if adventuring intimidates you   
Start with planning adventure just one day a week.  I hear a lot of homeschoolers call these "field trips"... I called them "adventures".  More on that in a minute.  Don't feel like this Summer stay-cation stuff has to fill every corner of every day.  You aren't the activities director in charge of packing full an itinerary for a week-long resort stay!  Pick a day each week that fits your family's schedule and make that "Adventure Day".  Also, don't feel like you need to plan something HUGE... it can be as simple as a nature walk or a movie in the park or a bike ride.


#3 - Build the mind-set and excitement  
I don't know about you and your family, but for us, part of the excitement of a traveling vacation is knowing it is coming, making plans, talking about it and having special things that only go with vacation (like carry-on bags or magazines or travel snacks)  So here is the subset:
  • Name it.  As mentioned, I call ours "adventures". I would build everyone's excitement and anticipation by saying things like, "We are going to have an adventure on Friday." or, in reflection, "Wasn't that a great adventure?!", or, "I wonder what we will see/learn on our adventure today." And if someone asked where we were going, my reply: "On an adventure!" You get the idea.  You may opt to call yours something else.  I like "adventure" because it gives a sense of mystery and excitement!
  • Have special go-alongs.  On beach days, we had a beach bag... only used for that excursion.  We also had an insulated snack bag that only accompanied our "adventures". We had special snacks like trying fun trail mix recipes, granola bars or gummy snacks (dentist horror stories on these made them a once-in-a-while special treat).  I would also get special 'travel' beverages like juice boxes which were only used for our 'adventures'.  Toys, magazines, coloring books and other such paraphernalia set aside just for local travel and outings give that same sense of "something fun and special is happening today", like major traveling would elicit.
  • GET EXCITED!! Your kids will take their lead from you.  If you talk about upcoming 'adventures' or wake them up with a "SURPRISE, we are having an adventure today", they will get excited and, back to #1, if you are having a hard time getting into it, 'putting on' the excitement for them will build it in yourself.
#4 - Planning helps but is not required 
Maybe you are queen of spontaneity... go for it!  For me, when my kids were growing up, I wanted to be spontaneous but packing a diaper bag and local travel paraphernalia required some forward thinking on my part.  We couldn't afford to buy meals out so packing potential meals and snacks had to be factored in as well. 

To plan, check local periodicals and websites for summertime family-friendly events.  Look into your local library's summer schedule... most have incentivized reading programs for kids 0-18 and other great craft and learning activities.  Museums and zoos often have free and discount days, and local pools will sometimes do events providing discounted or free entry.   Check for community fairs, farmer's markets, and parks and recreation activities.  Many cities are starting to offer free movies in local parks now... talk about a fun outdoorsy experience!!  Speaking of movies, some cinemas will do children discount days during the summer allowing your whole family to see a flick if you have a couple extra dollars to roll around.

I started a routine at the onset of every summer where I collected local periodicals and visited websites to see listings of events happening throughout the summer.  Most events also listed if there was a fee, which I would assess on the affordability scale.  Any that did not express these details, I called to verify cost.  Naturally, I leaned towards the FREE and low cost events in my scouting. 

Next, I printed out calendars for the summer months and proceeded to enter in the various events and their details on the appropriate dates.  Some events had directions I needed or detailed schedules... I tore those out of their periodicals or printed online resource info and tucked them in my planner.  These compiled 'events calendars' gave me a birds-eye-view of all the activities which pertained to us.  I posted my spiffy calendar in a central location so everyone could see, although, admittedly, I was usually the only one that looked!

Finally, each week I would assess our regular schedule, the weather, and any other variables and then make our plans accordingly using the events calendars. We had weekly adventures everyone anticipated throughout the summer like "Picnic in the Park" which occurred every Wednesday at lunchtime.  The kids always looked forward to the picnic blanket, special packed lunch, and live music with room for kids to run around and dance.  Library reading programs and accompanying craft activities were a weekly plus as well.  We filled in empty days alternately with swimming, hiking, stay-home chilling, crafts and the special events like Powwows, parades and community fairs, etc.

---

This has not been an exhaustive list, rather, hopefully, something to get you thinking in a direction.  When I look back on my kids' growing up, I think I miss summer the most.  We didn't pack in EVERY single day with high-octane "to-dos", but we kept a buzz going about the place so that they rarely said, "I'm bored" and they always had something fun and relateable to talk about.  We took their friends when we could and left plenty of margins so the kids could choose activities to-go or to-stay.  Screen time was rationed so they had plenty of incentive to not be couch potatoes!


I hope this helps!!  If you have ideas or questions, please be sure to leave a comment or email me.  More coming in this "Summertime" series including: backyard beach/pool parties without a big fancy beach or pool, summer crafting, fun at farmer's markets and more!  If you have any suggestions for summer themes you'd like to see me expound on, please let me know.  All participants in our "Summertime" 'conversation' get entered for a super mystery summer drawing!

Remember... you don't need a ton of money or piles of vacation days to make summertime memorable for you and your family.  You just need to put on a little bit of adventure and away you can go!

For more summer vacation ideas, check out this article, "Setting Summer in Motion: How to have a GREAT summer break!"

Blessings,







By the way.....

*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Plans are in the works for some GREAT bonus material to be included starting soon!  Not to mention the articles on Faith, Home, and Homeschooling you won't even find on the blog!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter"?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!).  Entering your email will do 2 awesome things:

#1 - You are automatically signed up for my newsletter (expect to see your issues around the last Thursday of each month).  Yay!
#2 - It enters you into a drawing for a GREAT prize bundle I will be giving away at the end of the summer (details to come)

Don't worry, if you are already subscribed I'm concocting a way you can get in on this deal too!