Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Movie

In the winter of 1914, Europe was deeply embroiled in World War I and soldiers hunkered in trenches along the front line. Enemy lines were separated by a narrow stretch of land referred to as "No Man's Land". Fighting had been vicious and brutal but on Christmas Eve the sounds of men celebrating the holiday with music and the familiar spirit of Christ united the men. The enemies fraternized and "No Man's Land" became a place for building friendship, worship and even an occasional football game.
This true and moving story is portrayed beautifully in the French movie "Joyeux Noel" made in 2005. My husband and I fell in love with the movie last Christmas season. We watched it again last night. I highly recommend it. It is a story of the true spirit of Christ and Christmas.

Add it to your Netflix list or look for it at your local video rental store, but definitely watch it this season. It is moving and beautiful. Be sure to the watch the director's interview in "Special Features" to find out more about this amazing event in our history.

You can read about this story in the picture book "Silent Night, Holy Night" illustrated by Robert T. Barrett and featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Sandra Boynton

If you're a mom of toddlers/preschoolers/children and you're not already familiar with Sandra Boynton's adorable books, you are definitely missing out (and maybe not on our planet). My kids and I *LOVE* Sandra. Her illustrations are darling and her writing is poetic, ironic and funny.

My kids and I and even my husband especially enjoy her music. Her lyrics are hilarious and endearing and the music is great. The songs are performed by professional entertainers such as Kevin Bacon, Meryl Streep, Allison Kraus and Hootie and the Blowfish. We love to get up and boogie to "Philadelphia Chickens" and rock out to "Dog Train". You can find these and her latest book/CD at any local book store. And don't forget to check out Sandra Boynton's website.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Book Review: Room for a Little One


Our family loves books. I am not sure if a love for reading is one of those nature or nurture characteristics; it is probably a little of both. My dad loves to read. I never saw him without a book in his hand, books in his car, books at the breakfast table. Whether I inherited that quality, or just learned it by example, I am the same way. I read at least a book a week, and rarely go anywhere without a book shoved in my bag or car - just in case. I am afraid I have passed it along to my son, and my daughter might be doomed for the same destiny, it is too early to tell.

At nursery, my two-year-old son spends his time with the books. At home, he sits for hours reading his books, or being read to. He lugs them all over the house with him, and will ask just about anyone to read to him. When I took him to the children's museum in our town, I lost him for a second, only to look over and one of the workers was sitting with him, reading a book he had found. I was not at all surprised.

So those are my qualifications for writing book reviews: I love books. My kids love books. We rarely buy our children any other kind of present besides books. I am not an expert in children's literature, just a lover of words.

Book Review #1: Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Jason Cockcroft

We bought this book for my son's first Christmas. What a terrific find! We read it all year. The illustrations are beautiful and the story is so simple. It begins: "Kind ox lay in his stable."

Kind ox encounters several kinds of animals: a dog, a cat, a mouse. They are all invited into the stable, a place of love and devoid of fear. Each time, kind ox tells them: "Come inside, there is always room for a little one here." Finally, tired donkey comes. He carries Mary, and is led by Joseph. They are invited into the stable. And Mary has her baby with the animals all around. It ends, "That cold winter's night, beneath the star's light, a little one came for the world."

The poetic verses are beautiful and capture the spirit of Christ, and the spirit of Christmas. And, my son loves animals, making this book even more enticing.

I usually cry when I read this book. I usually finish with a resolve to be a little more welcoming, a little more loving. And I always love feeling the spirit of that stable, where Jesus was born. Like the birth of the Savior, this story is simple. It is beautiful, and it is poignant. Whether you are two, or thirty-two, you will love Room for a Little One.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hope You Aren't Sick of Give-a-ways




I am doing a holiday give-a-way! To enter, go to www.babyblvd.blogspot.com/
GOOD LUCK!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Winner Is . . .

The winner of the Twilight "Sparkle" T-shirt is . . . (drum roll please)

Kara!
Please contact me at cindibraby@msn.com asap and we'll send your new T-shirt. Congratulations!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

FREE PICS

I found this website through a friends blog and just ordered one 11X 14, three
8 X 10's, and like thirty 5 X 7's. And it cost $14.00!! (shipping is free I think, it didn't charge me for it).

You can get 15 free 5 X 7's when you enter, at checkout, the code 7789io

5 X 7's normally are like .35 cents and 8 X 10's are .90 cents.
Check it OUT!

http://www.coryadams.lifepics.com

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Another Twilight T-shirt Give-Away

We had so much fun last week with the Twilight T-shirt give-away that we decided to do it again. This T-shirt is pink and says "I want a man that SPARKLES!" on the front and says "Twilight" on the back.

The rules are the same as last time. Just leave a comment and the winner will be chosen randomly. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, November 19th so check back to see if you got lucky and don't forget to go to Everything Twilight to check out the other hot styles.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Holiday Boutique

HI! I just thought I would announce a boutique I am having in South Jordan, UT if anyone is interested. THANKS!

If you would like a postcard invitation with a number on it that could win you $10.00 worth of free spending money at the boutique, email your address to babyblvd@live.com and we will send you one.
There will be three winners out of all the postcards. Winning Numbers will be displayed at the Boutique! Hope to see you there :)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Congratulations!

The winner of the Twilight T-shirt is:

Jonathan-holly-taylin


Congratulations. Please contact me at cindibraby@msn.com with your information and we'll send your new T-shirt right away.


And guess what! This was so much fun that we're going to do it again later this week. Check back and enter to win in our second Twilight T-shirt Give-Away.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Reading the TV

As much as we try not to, nearly every mother has had that crazy day where we turn on the TV to "babysit" our kids. Sometimes we just need that half an hour to finish making dinner or pay the bills.

My friend was telling me the other night about a study that shows that children who watch television with the closed captioning improved their vocabulary and reading fluency. Obviously, our children still shouldn't watch excessive amounts of television, but next time you turn the TV on don't feel guilty--just turn on the closed captioning as well.

For additional ideas on using the television to promote reading with your children, read Read to Me: Raising kids who love to Read by Bernice E. Cullinan.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Online Geography Games


We love Geography at our house. There is a huge world map hanging on the wall next to my seven year old son's bed and he requested a globe for his third birthday. My other children have also enjoyed learning about our world and we spend many hours reading the many atlases in our home. My husband even takes his very own atlas into the bathroom with him.

So, we were excited to find the fun and educational geography games on the National Geographic Kids Website. The GeoBee Challenge has a daily ten question geography quiz that includes questions used in the Geography Bee. There are other fun games as well.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Twilight T-shirt Give-Away



We're having our very first give-a-way on Utah Mom's Life blog and it's an exciting one. Just in time for "Twilight" the movie, win your very own Twilight T-shirt. Jen from Everything Twilight
sells these awesome shirts and has donated one to be given away here. Check out Everything Twilight to see her other T-shirts designs.

Simply leave a comment on this post. The winner will be chosen randomly from the comments. The contest will be open for one week and the winner will be announced on this blog next Monday, November 10th.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Baby Blvd. Give Away

I've mentioned Baby Blvd. and the really cool handmade gifts and accessories before, but this is exciting news . . . Jen has recently added some new items to her inventory. You've got to check them out. And she is having a great big "Give Away Contest". Check out Baby Blvd. and enter for your chance to win.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chicken Noodle Soup

I've been sick with a yucky head cold this week and I've been craving homemade chicken noodle soup. I finally realized that I was the mom and it was up to me to make the soup for my coughing, sneezing, wheezing family.

I had to make a stop at Costco anyway today during a long and stressful list of errands, so I decided to pick up one of the seasoned rotisserie chickens. Because if you didn't already know, those chickens from Costco make a great and easy chicken noodle soup.

Here's what I do:

1. Fill a big pot 3/4 full with water and chicken bouillon cubes (or chicken stock). Heat to a boil.
2. Pour those awesome drippings from the bottom of the chicken container into the pot.
3. Cut off all the meat from the chicken; cut into small pieces and set aside. Attempt to save the skin from the begging children.
4. Once the meat is removed from the bones, throw the rest (bones, skin, fat, etc.) into the pot and allow to simmer.
5. Chop one onion and three to four carrots and add to the pot.
6. When the carrots are the desired consistency (I like them soft) use a slotted spoon to extract the bones, skin, etc. from the pot and throw away.
7. Add the chicken meat and simmer.
8. Add a teaspoon or so of my favorite Cajun spices or season salt or whatever seasonings you like to desired taste.
9. Add a package of egg noodles and follow the directions on the bag (I usually boil them for 7 minutes) just before you are ready to serve the soup so the noodles don't get too soggy.

We occasionally add sliced fresh mushrooms or additional vegetables.

It's oh, so good. And it makes me feel so good--even after a stressful day of running a long list of errands all over town with my five, three and one year old, and a head cold. Now I'm looking forward to changing into those new, soft jammies I also bought at Costco today. Thank goodness for bedtime. Sigh.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What to Expect . . .


In the very early years of our marriage, I was two weeks late and POSITIVE that I was pregnant. I was so excited, I rushed right out and bought "What to Expect When You're Expecting" even before I took the pregnancy test. For some reason that book said "you're pregnant!" to me. It was the old copy that had a picture of a pregnant woman wearing a very "motherly" dress, sitting demurely in a rocking chair. I so looked forward to the nine lovely months where I could relax, read dozens of books, have someone wait on my every need and sit patiently in a rocking chair. I'm not sure why I had such ridiculous ideas of pregnancy--my mom did have seven kids. That pregnancy test, like the other dozen or so tests I took in the next five years, was negative, so the book got shelved.

When I finally did get pregnant, I excitedly pulled the book from the shelf and began to read. It spent the next nine months on my night stand. Pregnancy was nothing as I had originally suspected. For one thing, I was working 50-60 hours a week in a high-stress job that I loved. There was little time to actually sit around reading. I'd fall into bed each night completely exhausted.

I also started to hate the "What to Expect..." book. Each chapter, divided by month, started with a list of generally horrible things to expect. A typical list would sounds a lot like this*:

Heart burn
Swelling of the Feet and Legs
Hemorrhoids
Leg Cramps
Weight Gain
Back Pain
Exhaustion
Sciatic Nerve Sensations
Constipation
Nausea
Increased/Decreased Appetite
Food Cravings
Memory Loss
Clumsiness
Acne
Increased Saliva Production
Mood Swings
Hair Growth (in the wrong areas)
Pelvic Pain
Insomnia
Stretch Marks
Irritability

*Not a real list from the book or anyone else with authority--just my list.

Yikes! Who wants to expect that? I no longer read pregnancy books. If something weird or unexpected happens, I might pull the book out as a resource to see if it is actually normal and expected. But other than that, I take the pregnancy day by day. And on the last day I can expect to hold a beautiful new baby that will steal my heart away. That's what I'm expecting...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Vacation

The kids were out of school for "Fall Break" Thursday and Friday, so my husband decided to take the days off work as well (BIG THANK YOU!). Thursday we drove to Salt Lake City and had a great day with the kids hanging out at the Museum of Church History and Art and then taking the tours at the Church Humanitarian Center and Welfare Square.

Then, Friday we all woke up with the aches, pains, sore throats and runny noses of a full-blown fall cold. I told my husband that he should have taken the day from work as a "sick day" since that is what it was--a lay around the house, feeling miserable, looking longingly out the window at the perfect fall weather, watching movies, drinking orange juice, wiping noses, coughing, waste of a vacation day.

Our family room has a pile of blankets six feet high that the kids dragged into the room. The loft is covered with every Matchbox car in the house (I think we have too many). And I wonder: why is it that when the kids are sick they still have the energy to make gigantic messes and I can barely get out of bed? It really isn't fair.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tight Pants

Even my "fat" pants aren't fitting well. I'm currently in the lay-on-the-bed-to-button and then unable-to-breath-all-day stage. It's very sad. I'm not far enough along to justify wearing maternity clothes yet, though my comfort may demand the stretchy waist bands sooner this time.

It makes me remember (sort of fondly) my first pregnancy--where I gained very little weight in the first six months and my midwife began to worry. She shouldn't have concerned herself too much. I packed on over fifty pounds in the last three months. At one late appointment, after I had gained ten pounds in just a week, she asked "WHAT are you eating?"

"Just pasta," I replied. At this point my husband began to laugh hysterically.

"Pasta? She eats Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and a lot of it." It was true. I loved the stuff and ate nearly an entire box nearly every day. Now that I actually have kids, mac and cheese lacks that same appeal. My husband still teases me when we do have mac and cheese (not every day), "Are we having pasta for lunch?"

When my mother stepped off the plane in Boston and saw my bloated, huge expecting self, I think she nearly fainted. She told me later that she was so grateful that I went into labor and delivered the (9 lbs. 6 oz.) baby the next day, because she didn't think she could stand to look at me any longer.

Thankfully, I lost the weight quickly that time (I was much younger) and haven't gained as much during the next three pregnancies. Still, the insane weight gain and a ten pound baby haunt me. I just wish my pants still fit.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pizza/Pajama Party

Tomorrow, my seven-year-old son gets to have a "Pizza/Pajama Party" at school. The class earned the party with their good behavior (so far) and got to vote on what kind of party they wanted. Apparently, the pizza party tied with the pajama party, so luckily they get to have both. But I'm just wondering--what kind of person/kid votes for a pajama party OVER a pizza party? Yes, I really love pajamas, but instead of food? Come on!

Oh, and I hope we actually remember to have him wear pajamas tomorrow morning. Last year, I got a phone call from a sad boy and I had to make the run back to school with a pair of pajamas. Too bad they weren't the ones he wanted. This event is filed away with the many others I've already racked up as a non-super mom--including the time I forgot to have him wear his Halloween costume to school and the time I forgot to have him take Valentines to his preschool class. How come we never forget these mom-mistakes?

Caffeine



After an interesting conversation yesterday as we tried to determine whether or not we should serve caffeinated soft drinks at a Relief Society "Girls' Night Out" (we won't), caffeine has been on my mind (not literally).

I managed to kick my college-inspired Diet Coke (with a teaspoon of "imitation" vanilla added) habit several years ago when we moved to New Hampshire. My boss knew enough about Mormons to know that we didn't drink alcohol, coffee and Coke. It was too difficult to try to explain, so I just stopped drinking Diet Coke at work, even though the only non-caffeine beverage offered in the lunch room was Sprite and I hate Sprite. I drank water instead.

Since moving back to Utah, I've been either pregnant and/or nursing, so I haven't resumed the Diet Coke habit (and they even make my favorite Vanilla Diet Cokes now).

But there is something that I cannot give up--chocolate. Can't do it. Try not to eat too much (Ha!) but I believe strongly that there are not many desserts that the addition of chocolate chips can not improve (bacon and chocolate chips--love them both). And you know what? They sell chocolate on BYU campus. They put it in all the great BYU Creamery ice creams. That must mean something, right?

Out of curiosity, I looked up some information. Here are some interesting numbers (just for fun).

One bar of Hershey's Milk Chocolate -- 10 mg. of caffeine
One bar of Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate -- 31 mg. of caffeine
One can of Cola -- 34 mg. of caffeine
One cup of coffee -- 80-135 mg. of caffeine

So, if I stick to milk chocolate, I would have to eat three bars of chocolate to equal the amount of caffeine in a can of soda. I'm pretty sure I could do it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Bacon

My husband and I stayed in bed late this morning. We could hear the kids playing (making a mess) in their bedrooms. While the boys set up their train tracks, my five-year-old daughter was "pretending" to read a book and we heard her say, "Then we killed him and ate him up."

"What in the world is she reading?" I asked my husband. He climbed out of our warm, snugly bed to find out.

Charlotte's Web.

She was reading Charlotte's Web and had killed and eaten Wilbur, the pig. Yes, we enjoy ham and pork chops and especially bacon (there are not many foods that the addition of bacon can't improve) but really this was disturbing. We've read the book. We've watched the movie (lots of times). How could she eat Wilbur? He's cute and sweet and does back flips.

It reminded me of a story that my parents tell from my childhood. My brother and I were still very young and as a family we raised a little pig named Homer. He was pink and cute and we loved him. There's really only one reason for raising a pig and when Homer got big enough he met his fate.

My parents decided to break the news to us one night at dinner. Very gently, the informed my brother and I that pigs were meant to be eaten and that night we were eating our pig. To their surprise and horror, we weren't sad. In fact, we were delighted and spent the rest of the meal singing to each other, "We're eating Homer!" We thoroughly enjoyed our meal, but I don't think my parents were able to eat a bite.

I suppose, children just know--pigs are for eating. Oh, and consider adding bacon to your potato salad next summer. It's always a hit around here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Bad Day Cookies

My husband had a bad day at work yesterday. Since he works from home, I can immediately tell by the stomping that things are not going well. I gave him a hug and listened to him complain, but there wasn't anything I could do to solve the problem at work. So, I baked cookies--really good chocolate chip cookies. When the first batch came out of the oven, I took two gooey cookies and a glass of cold milk upstairs to his office. It took a lot more than two cookies, but eventually he felt better.

We took some more to my son's teacher when we met with her for Parent Teacher Conferences yesterday afternoon. A bribe can never really hurt, right.

Today while I was visiting with the other moms while we waited for our kindergartners, I told them about the cookies (mostly to explain the chocolate stains all over my one-year-old daughter's shirt). My friend related her own story:

Yesterday she helped in her daughter's class. When she was getting ready to leave, her daughter asked if her to stay for lunch. My friend explained that she had to go pick up her kindergartner. Then, her daughter suggested that they meet at the Book Fair later. After picking up her son, my friend met her daughter in the library.

"Are you OK?" she asked her daughter who immediately burst into tears and begged to go home from school early. My friend insisted that her daughter stay at school but suggested that they make cookies when she got home. So, that afternoon they baked their famous, delicious and favorite frosted sugar cookies. The day was saved.

Well, when I discovered that she had a good recipe for sugar cookies, I was delighted. I've been searching for a good one for years and have been thus far disappointed. Would she mind sharing her recipe?

This afternoon, the door bell woke me up from my nap (yes, I got one today!) and there on the front porch was my friend and her daughter with a tin full of cookies AND the recipe! I would have given her some of our chocolate chip cookies but, um, we already ate them all. Anyway, the cookies were as delicious as she said but I can't share her recipe because she swore me to secrecy.

However, I will share our favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and hopefully they can help you out of a bad day.

Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 cups butter
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Preheat over to 350 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, cream together butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda and salt. Add to egg mixture and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Roll cookies into balls and place them on a cookie sheet.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until light brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Store cookies in an air-tight container to keep soft and fresh.

Movie Recommendation


My husband and I watched an absolutely wonderful independent film this weekend. "Arranged" was beautiful and inspiring. It is a story of the friendship that develops between two teachers--an Orthodox Jew and a Muslim. We highly recommend it.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Commercials

I don't generally watch television. We don't have access to cable or even the basic networks at our house. We watch the news, the political debacle, and the weather online.

Last weekend we went to my husband's parents' house. They love TV. They have a really big one and it takes center stage in the main room of the house. It can be seen from the kitchen. It's almost always on. Over the weekend, we watched General Conference but we watched it most of the rest of the time as well.

Besides the fact that even with several hundred channels to choose from, there really wasn't much to watch, I was most intrigued by the commercials. I haven't missed them. Over the years, there have been some really obnoxious commercials and I've had to wonder at the advertising companies that come up with, approve and make them. Are they really effective? I certainly remember them but often the commercials turn me off and I refuse to ever shop/patronize the item/store/restaurant being advertised.

Do you recall the dancing guy in the yellow suit who advertised for John Parras Furniture several years ago? Even though they now have a respectable former-anchorman, whenever I see/hear the name "John Parras Furniture", I immediately think of that crazy, annoying yellow-suit guy. I'm sure the place has beautiful furniture and great deals, but I'm not going there.

Or the freaky-looking plastic king guy? I don't eat at Burger King.

Super Dell? Enough said.

Now it's Arby's. What is with the "married to a goat" commercial? Does it make you want to eat their sandwiches (which actually looked pretty tasty)? Are they attempting to make some weird political statement about marriage? Whatever they are trying to say, it certainly doesn't say "come buy and eat this sandwich" to me.

What commercials bug you? I'd love to hear.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Voting

I've long been an advocate of making sure you go out and do your civic duty to vote. The political process is intriguing and my husband and I have enjoyed participating (in a limited, not-too active, definitely not carrying signs way). We lived in New Hampshire for the first primary in 2000 (we voted for Bush even though NH picked McCain). My husband was a state delegate this year. We watch the debates. We talk about it--constantly with anyone who will listen or pretend to listen. We stay up all night watching the results on election night. And we definitely vote.

This election year started out great. Our favorite candidate in the Republican Primary was coming on strong and he looked good. We were excited and knew that he would be great for America (Romney, if you didn't already know). And then the news media (FoxNews) chose to promote McCain and the Huckabee mess in the South forced our candidate out of the race and left us with the unpleasant choice of McCain who hardly represents my values and political ideals. I was sad and angry with my party.

Over the past few months, I had nearly talked myself into supporting McCain, not because I agreed with him on much of anything but at least I trusted him a little more than the other guy. When McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate I was temporarily excited. She, at least, has a little more of the character and ideas that I have been looking for in a candidate. But she's running for vice president--who has never had much influence on anything.

We watched some of the debate last night. I got sick--physically ill. I had to turn it off. Both candidates had ridiculous and/or scary plans. In the face of serious economic crisis (brought on by the GREED of everyone from average Joe who bought a home he couldn't afford with a shady mortgage loan pushed on him by shady real estate agents and dishonest mortgage brokers from banks willing to take big risks to try to make a buck because they were run by CEOs who had huge golden parachutes because Congress was more interested in campaign contributions from banks than decent oversights...) I am wishing that America had been willing to look past a man's religion that they didn't understand and vote for a man who had the knowledge, wisdom and integrity to handle the economic situation.

I'm not sure if I can vote for either of the presidential candidates. I'm not sure if I could look myself in the mirror in the morning. A write-in! It might be the only thing my conscience can handle.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Creating

I usually forget about General Relief Society Meeting. In fact, most years I remember when I get the Conference Report Ensign and I get to the end and find the wonderful talks from the General Relief Society Presidency. But, this year, I remembered and I planned to go.

Saturday evening, my son and I were working on his book report and my husband asked me if I planned to shower before I went to the meeting. "Of course," I replied. "When?" He asked and informed me that it was ten minutes to six and that the meeting began at six. So, I jumped in the shower and hurried to get ready. I arrived at the chapel late so I missed Sister Beck's talk (I'll have to read it in the Ensign). But I enjoyed the other talks and the beautiful music.

Presiden Uchtdorf's talk (the transcipt is not on lds.org yet but probably will be soon) was especially good and I thought his message of creating was interesting and thought provoking.

Generally, I'm a fairly creative person. But while I am pregnant my ability to create much of anything seems to completely disappear. It's as if all my creative energy is used up to make the baby and there is nothing left over.

For example, even though I currently have an insatiable appetite, I am content to attempt to fill it with tomatoes and cottage cheese, bagels, Ritz crackers, ice cream and candy. My family reminds me that these are not meals, but the idea of thawing meat, sauteeing vegetables, etc is just too much for me. Usually, I enjoy looking through cookbooks and recipe websites and trying new meals. Right now, my family is lucky if they get sandwiches. (During my third trimester, I will desire cookies all the time, so I will bake--but that's months away.)

Oh well, when they complain I'll just remind them that I am very busy creating the new baby. Hopefully, they'll understand and look forward to the cookies.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Soccer Mom

We are not an athletic family. We prefer books over balls. Since I grew up in a family that enjoyed playing various sports, I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but it did.

When our oldest son turned four years old, we asked him if he wanted to play soccer. "No," he said. He'd rather read a book or look at things with his microscope. For the next two years as soccer sign-ups came around, we asked him again and he said "no" each time. So, we were surprised this year when he told us that he would like to play soccer. Delighted that he was willing to expand his interests, we signed him up.

He is seven years old and one of the oldest on his team. We love his team. It is full of friends from our neighborhood. We love his coach. He is enthusiastic, fun and seems to enjoy the kids as much as soccer. And our son really enjoys soccer too (he's not aggressive but tries hard and has scored a goal).

For the first four games of the season, we brought our camping chairs and set them up on the hill over looking the soccer field. We were joined by the other parents (our neighborhood friends) and by the doting grandparents. We cheered and encouraged our kids. We took pictures. And even though no one was "officially" keeping score, our team won each time.

And then, our team played against a team that seemed much bigger (could they really all be seven and under?). They were good and aggressive and they scored goal after goal. Our team's five-year-old soccer playing wonder scored our only goal of the game. I was nervous--especially when my son was put in as goalie. He did a good job and stopped a lot of potential goals, but it was a nail biter.

After the game, the parents assured each other that we wouldn't have to face another team like that. We'd do better next game. The kids were oblivious. They just like to play soccer.

Last night was game six. Our team took the field against another team of big kids. Number 11 from the opposing team took charge of the ball, dribbled it down the field and kicked it right in the goal. Again and again. Our kids tried. They tried hard. But they couldn't get the soccer ball past half field. The other team had great defense too. At the quarter, the teams substituted the players. Number 9 from the opposing team took charge of the ball. He kicked it over the heads of all the other players and right into the goal. Again and again. We lost count. I was stressed out the entire game and could suddenly understand why my high school friend's mom had to take Valium before watching his football games.

Was there some performance enhancing drugs used on this team? Were they in cahoots with the Chinese doctoring birth certificates? We (the parents) were starting to wonder. We (the moms) yelled so loud that my mother-in-law moved away from us.

Thankfully, a couple of our kids--the five-year-old wonder and another one each scored a goal, so it wasn't a complete blow out. The kids could care less. They had a good time and they got treats after the game. The parents comforted ourselves and each other with the familiar lines, "It's most important that they had fun"; "they'll do better next time"; "they're learning about the game and how to play".

But I don't think I can handle too much more of this. He's only seven. It will only get worse as he gets older and the competition gets more fierce (they actually start keeping score). Can we just go back to reading books?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Signs

Do you ever have one of those days where you wish you could just stick a sign to yourself or your kids so that you went out in public, people would just be able to read the sign and hopefully understand?

Today was one of those days. Fortunately, the only people I had to see today, besides my family, were the other kindergarten moms. Here are the signs I would have attached:

To my three-year-old son: "My daddy dressed me today."

To my kindergarten daughter: "I insisted that all shades of pink go together."

To my one-year-old daughter: "I had a bath last night but I rubbed bananas in my hair this morning."

And to myself: "Ten minutes of extra sleep were worth not taking a shower today. Sorry."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Catalog

My favorite catalog arrived in the mail on Saturday (no, not Pottery Barn or Anthropologie). It was the Fisher Price catalog. My children got excited and started to argue about who got to look at it first until I reminded them that it was MY name on the cover.

I smile whenever I see the catalog's cover with a picture of adorable Little People. Can I admit that I love those little things? Last year, I finally bought the Little People Nativity set. I convinced myself (and my husband) that if my kids had their own nativity set, my daughter would stop carting off the Baby Jesus from my more expensive and fragile nativity set. It was really for me, though, and everyone knew it. Did you know that they have Pilgrim Little People and Native American Little People and a table full of tiny, plastic Thanksgiving food? So cute. I am currently trying to convince my husband that my children need them (I know, I'm delusional).

I also love Fisher Price's GeoTrax. My oldest son got the basic GeoTrax train set for Christmas when he was two. He loved it and requested more trains and tracks for his birthday and when he mastered the potty and for the next Christmas. We obliged because those plastic tracks and little plastic trains are sturdy, easy to assemble and so much fun.

My second son asked Santa for the Grand Central Station last Christmas and wants more trains this year. He plays with it frequently. I especially like it now because he can put the train tracks together by himself. We've amassed three crates full of tracks, trains and additional paraphernalia, but it's worth it.

While looking through the catalog, I did have to laugh at the new Baby Zen collection (obviously created for the couple expecting their FIRST baby). No matter how cute/calm/Zen-like that high chair looks when you first put it together, it will still end up with Cheerios in the cracks of the plush cover and be splattered with sweet potatoes (if you actually put a live baby in it).

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Baby Hair Bows


Hair bows and flowers are so cute in little girls' hair. Check out Jen's new blog Baby BLVD. She is selling adorable bows, ribbons and flowers are great prices. You'll love them!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin


Finally, there's someone to get excited about. John McCain announced this morning that his running mate for the 2008 election would be Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska. She's 44 years old and the mother of five children.

She gave birth to the youngest last April. He has downs syndrome. Talking about her son, she said to a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, "When we first heard, it was kind of confusing . . . very, very challenging." But she added in a note, imagining what God would say to her family, "Children are the most precious and promising ingredient in this mixed-up world you live in down there on Earth. Trig is no different, except he has one extra chromosome."

Voting for McCain this November just got A LOT less unpleasant. I might even smile in the voting booth.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Zucchini Cake

I already posted several other zucchini recipes but I found this recipe for zucchini cake the other day and it is just so good. My sister and mom asked for the recipe so I decided to post it here too. And since I still have tons of zucchini, I'm going to make it again today. It's great frosted with cream cheese frosting. I actually frost it with my Great Aunt's Caramel Frosting--but sorry that recipe is a secret. It also makes great zucchini bread if baked in 2 loaf pans.

I actually found it on www.allrecipes.com.

3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts (I, of course, leave these out.)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease one 13x9 inch baking pan.

2. Combine eggs, oil, sugar, zucchini, and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Stir in the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon and mix until just combined. Stir in the chopped nuts. Pour batter into prepared pan.

3. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back to School

Obviously, I completely flaked out on giving any more fun summer ideas in August. Things around here got so busy and even though I didn't run out of ideas (there are just so many fun things to do in Utah), I didn't get the chance to sit down and blog. Sorry. Maybe next summer. :)

And now, we're back in school. My oldest son started back to school yesterday and my kindergartener will start next Monday. I know that several school districts in Utah actually do year-round school, but how do the rest of you feel about starting school so early in August? I have to admit that I'm feeling a little sad that summer is over already.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Week 8: Heritage

I'm sorry I skipped last week, but it was just a crazy week and I just didn't fit it in.

This week in Utah we are celebrating the pioneers and their entry into the Salt Lake valley in 1847 so it will be the perfect time to visit some of the museums in the area and learn more about the pioneers and the history of Utah.

Field Trips:

This is the Place Heritage Park is located close to Salt Lake City, just at the foot of Emigration Canyon (across the street from Hogle Zoo). Visitors can tour the period homes and building and experience pioneer life. It is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and admission costs $8 for adults and $6 for children (3-11).

Museum of Church History and Art is in downtown and has exhibits about the history of the Latter-day Saint pioneers. It is open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on weekends. Admission is free.

Admission to the Pioneer Memorial Museum is free. It is run by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers and offers the world's largest collection of pioneer artifacts. The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers also has smaller museums in other communities around the state of Utah.

Learn more about the history of Utah at the Utah Museum of Natural History. It is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. The adult rate is $6 and child (3-12) rate is $3.50.

Don't forget to enjoy your community celebrations on July 24th. The Days of 47 Parade in Salt Lake City is always fun. My hometown (Vernal) celebrates with a Scout Breakfast and a parade. Check with your community to find out what local celebrations are planned.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Zucchini

I picked the first zucchini from my garden today. In celebration of zucchini-season, I'm posting some of our favorite zucchini recipes. These are so good that you'll enjoy using up all the zucchini growing in your garden. If you don't have a garden, you probably have a neighbor with plenty of zucchini to share. In fact, if you are my neighbor and would like some zucchini, come on over. I've got too much already!




Fried Zucchini

Batter:

1 cup flour
1 cup milk (enough to make the batter the correct consistency)
1 egg
1-2 tbs. grated parmesan cheese
spices (I like them a bit spicy so I use Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning, which if you don't already have you've just got to get! It is so good on almost everything!)

Peel and slice the zucchini into thin (1/8") rounds. Mix the batter so that it is thick and will stick to the zucchini slices. Drop into hot oil (not too hot, you want the zucchini in the middle to cook through) and turn to brown both sides.

Enjoy with your favorite dipping sauce. I like Ranch Dressing.


Chicken and Zucchini Pasta (inspired by a dish served at the Pizza Factory)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut up)
1 zucchini (peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks)
1 can of atichoke hearts (cut up)
1 package for mushrooms (washed and sliced)
1 medium onion (cut into chunks)
Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing

1 package of linguini pasta (cook as directed on the box and drain)

Cook the chicken in 2 tablespoons of dressing until cooked through and browned. In another pan, sautee the zucchini, artichoke hearts, mushrooms and onion in 1 tablespoon dressing. Stir chicken, vegetables and pasta together. You may want to add a little more dressing.


Pete's Chili

1 1/2 pounds of ground meat (my brother-in-law uses turkey, I use beef)
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced peppers (preferably yellow, orange or red)
1 cup diced zucchini
1 26 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 16 oz. can kidney beans
1 16 oz. can pinto beans
1 can of tomato sauce

1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon cumin
dash of red pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Brown meat (add a little olive oil if using turkey/drain fat if using beef) with chili powder. Put vegetables in a separate pan for several minutes. Then mix tomatoes, beans, honey, cumin and red pepper. Heat to bubbling and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add cayenne pepper.


I also add zucchini to pasta salad and green salad. We eat it on sandwiches with a sliced tomato and mayo. My sister makes delicious zucchini bars. I'll try to get her to share her recipe. Enjoy your bountiful harvest.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Week 6: The Great Outdoors

One of the best things about living in Utah is the close proximity of great outdoor adventures. I love driving up one of the canyons to escape the heat in the valley (especially when I'm pregnant). It's going to be hot this week, so head up a canyon and enjoy the beauty. (As I write this, it is 61 degrees at Snowbird--compared to 89 degrees in Salt Lake.)

I don't ski, but I do enjoy the local ski resorts--in the summer. Many of the places we know for the great snow in the winter, offer a lot of fun activities in the summer.

Take the chair lift up and hike down or play a game of Frisbee golf at Solitude. Watch for moose, they are frequent visitors at this resort.

Enjoy an easy walk on the board walk around Silver Lake in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Or more experienced hikers can continue the 2 mile hike to Hidden Lake. Spend some quality time fishing or watching for moose, deer, ducks and beavers around the lake.

Snowbird has plenty of summer activities to enjoy. Ride the tram to the top and back or hike down the mountain. The views are incredible. Snowbird is definitely becoming a summer hot (cool) spot by offering an alpine slide, zip line, and other fun activities.

Ride the Alpine Slide or zip line at Park City.

Take a nice stroll with the kids around Cascade Springs--just off the Alpine Loop. Stop at Sundance and ride the ski lift. Hike or bike down.

A quick drive up Millcreek Canyon opens a lot of outdoor options such as hiking, biking, fishing or just have a picnic at one of the many picnic tables. My kids like to splash in the water when the river is low.

Later in the summer, the wildflowers will bloom and places like Albion Basin and Millcreek Canyon will be decorated in the colorful splendor of wildflowers. Several areas even off guided wildflower tours. Don't miss it.

Please post a comment with some of your favorite local "outdoor" spots to hike, fish and camp. We'd love to hear from you.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Week 6

I apologize for not getting the weekly activities posted to the blog yet. They're coming! Maybe tomorrow.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Week 5: Trains

With two young sons we have a thing for trains in this house. Over the years we've collected quite a few pieces to the Fisher Price GeoTrax. We love to pull them all out and set up a train track all over the family room.

Our theme this week is trains and we plan to learn a lot more about them. Utah has some great "train history" and several fun train sites to visit.

BOOKS:





Big Book Of Trains by DK Publishing



The Goodnight Train by June Sobel and Laura Huliska-Beith




All Aboard Trains (Reading Railroad Books) by Deborah Harding



Thomas and the Freight Train (A Chunky Book(R)) by W. Rev Awdry and Owain Bell


FIELD TRIPS:

The last spike was driven in the train tracks linking the east and west on May 10, 1869. Golden Spike National Historic Site was built to commemorate this historic moment. Located in Promontory, Utah, it is a long drive but is worth the trip. The visitor center is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. During the summer there are even locomotive demonstrations. The website also offers a virtual tour.

Take a train ride on the steam engine Heber Valley Railroad as it follows the Provo River in the gorgeous Provo Canyon. Check out their website for schedule information and to purchase tickets.

Ride on TRAX. It's a great way to get into the city to visit a museum, park or other event. It will save on gas and it's fun. Link to UTA's website for schedules and fares.

The Museums at Union Station in Ogden, Utah features a model train exhibit and many other fun activities including a classic cars museum. All museum are open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The admission price is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors (62+) and $3 for children (2-12).

Save the gas and take FrontRunner to Ogden.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Week 4:Art

We're home from our "vacation" and trying to climb out from under the massive pile of dirty laundry. I'm also operating with an allergy haze. I went out to weed my garden this morning and now I can't stop sneezing.


I choose to have our theme on art this week for the benefit of my five year old daughter. Right now, she wants to be either an art teacher or "the person who holds the stop sign so the kids can cross the street" when she grows up. She loves using various mediums to create art.

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." -- Pablo Picasso


BOOKS:


The Art Book for Children, Book Two (Art Book for Children) by Editors of Phaidon Press (Hardcover - Oct 1, 2007)


Learn about a wide variety of art with this book. It includes large, color reproductions of famous art work through the centuries.



The Art Lesson (Paperstar Book) by Tomie dePaola


A sweet autobiographical picture book by beloved children's author Tomie dePaola, tells the story of Tommy who wants to be an artist and those who encourage him.


Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters (Bright Ideas for Learning) by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Kim Solga



This book is full of art activities that teach the styles of the great artists such as Van Gogh and Rembrandt.



Let's Meet Famous Artists by Harriet Kinghorn (Author), et al.


Learn even more about the great artists with this book.



Museum ABC by The (NY) Metropolitan Museum of Art


This is a basic "A is for Apple" ABC book. However, it uses incredible full page artwork for the matching illustrations. This is a great way to introduce the alphabet and great art to youngsters.



Look for these books too:


Visiting the Art Museum (Unicorn) by Laurene Krasny Brown and Marc Brown

You Can't Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum (Picture Puffins) by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Glasser

Vincent's Colors by Vincent van Gogh and The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Collins Big Book of Art: From Cave Art to Pop Art by David G. Wilkins

I Spy: An Alphabet in Art (I Spy Series) by Lucy Micklethwait


ACTIVITIES:


Pull out all your art supplies (the ones you're willing to share anyway) and do some fun projects with your kids. We have an art table in our loft that is reserved for all the art projects my kids create. I also have a protective cover for my dining room table when we want to do larger projects. Mine is soft felt on one side and plastic vinyl on the other. I had it cut to size at JoAnn's.


Dot Drawing: (pointillism)
* Draw a picture very lightly in pencil.
* Fill in the drawing using any of the various methods:
1. colored dots using colored pencils or fine-tipped markers
2. dip either end of a pencil in paint to make the dots
3. colored dot stickers
4. make various colored dots with a hole punch and card stock. Glue the holes to the picture
5. use glue and seed beads or fine pebbles to fill in the design



Crayon Rubbings:
Place a sheet of paper over an object, then rub the side of a crayon on the paper. The texture of the item will come through. Vary the color of crayon for added interest.



Crayon Melt:
This was one of my favorite activities as a kid but it definitely requires adult supervision. Turn the flat electric griddle on low. Place a paper on top and let your child draw with old crayons. The wax melts to the paper and creates an interesting effect.



Paint with various objects:
1. dip string in paint and drag it around the paper
2. roll marbles covered in paint over paper
3. drop thinned paint on paper and blow it with straws
4. paint with an old toothbrush



Paint inexpensive pots to use as gifts.



Sand Painting:
Color sand by mixing it with powdered tempera paint in different containers. Leave some sand uncolored. Use glue and sand to "paint" a design on a piece of cardboard. Shake off the excess sand.


There are hundreds of great art projects for kids.



ONLINE ACTIVITIES and RESOURCES:


Art Kids Rule has a plethora of creative ideas and activities, as does KinderArt.


The National Gallery of Art has a fun "Art Zone" for kids.


Learn about Degas, VanGogh and Cezanne on the Metropolitan Museum of Art website for kids.


Find art prints or cards on the Global Children's Art Gallery website.


FIELD TRIPS:


The Springville Art Museum is the oldest art museum in Utah and houses over 2000 works, the majority are Utah works. The Museum is open Tuesday – Saturday 10am to 5pm, Wednesdays 10am to 9pm, and Sundays 3pm to 6pm. Closed Mondays and Holidays, except the first Monday monthly from 6pm to 8pm for Community & Family Night. Admission is Free.


See various art exhibits at the Utah Museum of Fine Art on the University of Utah campus. Don't miss the coming exhibit of "Monet to Picasso" coming this summer (opening June 23rd). It is open Tuesday – Friday 10 am – 5 pm; Wednesday 10 am – 8 pm; Saturday and Sunday 11 am – 5 pm. The museum is closed Mondays and Holidays. The adult rate is $5, children over 5 are $3 and children under 5 are free.


The Brigham Young Museum of Art is open on Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and on Saturday from noon to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free although special exhibits may require an admission fee. The current exhibit is titled: American Dreams: Selected Works from the Museum's Permanent Collection of American Art.


The Kimball Art Center is located in Park City. Currently it is featuring the art of Robert Glenn Ketchum and Aaron Fritz. Participate in a "Gallery Stroll" on Friday evenings. It features 23 art galleries in Park City. Admission is $7.



The Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art is affiliated with Utah State University and is located in Logan. It is open on Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission is free. This museum has several exhibits including Klompen.



The Museum of Church History and Art of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints features many exhibits. Currently, there is an exhibit of art created by women. The museum is open on Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free.



The Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Art is located in the center of Liberty Park in Salt Lake City. It is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and noon to 5:00 p.m. on Monday through Thursday. Admission is free.



There are many other art galleries, museums and centers in Utah.
Eccles Community Art Center
Mary Elizabeth Dee Shaw Gallery
Union Station Gallery
Kaysville LeConte Stewart Gallery of Art
Bountiful-Davis Art Center
Finch Lane Gallery/Art Barn
Salt Lake Art Center
Fairview Museum of History and Art
Braithwaite Fine Arts Gallery
St. George Art Museum

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Week 3: The Farm

We're spending the week at my parents' farm. We'll be feeding the horses and cows (hopefully we won't be chasing/herding cows); weeding the garden; catching tadpoles in the pond; watching my dad cut and bale the hay (and being grateful we're still not strong enough to help haul it); and a variety of other farming activities.


BOOKS:

Some of my favorite books are about farms or take place of a farm. My little kids love to look at books about farm animals and make the sounds.

Night Is Coming (Picture Puffins) by W. Nikola-Lisa

This book is a sweet lullaby with "farm" pictures that are as cozy as your grandma's quilt.

A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck

This is my husband's favorite "coming-of-age" story. It's a novel for the older kids or for you.

The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle

Eric Carle's books are fun and colorful. My toddlers love this board book. They make the sounds for each of the animals and enjoy rubbing their fingers over the texture of the "spider web".

Charlotte's Web by E. B. White and Garth Williams

This is the ultimate "farm" book. There's nothing better than cuddling up with your kids and reading aloud. This is definitely one of my favorite books to read to my kids. Either of the movie adaptations are fun and enjoyable as well.

Duck on a Bike by David Shannon

I've written previously about how much I enjoy this book. It is fun to read out loud to the kids. It's clever and funny and the illustrations are great.

PROJECTS/ACTIVITIES:

Plant a garden. It's not too late in the season to put the seeds in the ground. In fact, considering that it was still frosting last week in parts of the state, you might be smarter to start planting a garden this week. You can avoid running around in the middle of the night covering your plants (brr! It was really cold last week).

It doesn't take a lot of space to grow a garden. Check out Square Foot Gardening: A New Way to Garden in Less Space with Less Work by Mel Bartholomew for ideas on growing gardens in a small area.

Stop by a local green house with the kids to pick up plants for your garden.

Talk with your kids about where food comes from. This can actually be a pretty funny conversation. One night at dinner, our family was talking about food and the animals that provide it. We were talking about pigs and cows. My daughter was three years old at the time and she asked what we get from horses. I answered "rides". Then she said, "rabbits give us carrots."

FIELD TRIPS:

Wheeler Historic Farm is conveniently located in Salt Lake County. It's open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Saturday and offers a variety of farm activities. Admission is free but there are small fees for some of the activities such as taking a ride the tractor-pulled hay wagon or milking a cow.

Visit Farm Country at Thanksgiving Point. The kids will love the petting zoo, the pony rides or rides on the hay wagon. It's open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm daily. The admission rates are $3.50 per person young or old (children under 2 are free). The admission includes one ride ticket.

Pet the farm animals for $2 or ride the ponies for $3 at Gardner's Village. It's open from 11 am to 6 pm daily.

On Saturday stop by the Farmer's Market at Historic Pioneer Park. It's open from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm. Enjoy the fresh produce and eat better.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Vinyl Lettering

Vinyl lettering is hot! With Vinyl Lettering Decor you can customize your lettering. Check it out and put your own favorite sayings on your wall.

Double-Delight Peanut Butter Cookies


Pillsbury awarded Carolyn Gurtz $1 million dollars for this recipe. We love cookies in this house and we decided, if these are worth $1 million dollars we better try them. Personally, I believe a dessert worth $1 million dollars ought to have some chocolate in it, but these were pretty good. They have a creamy peanut butter center that makes this cookie different from most.
Mine look a bit different from the recipe for several reasons: first, I'm not a professional. Second, I didn't have "Pillsbury Create n Bake" refrigerated peanut butter cookies that the recipe requests. I made the cookie dough from my favorite peanut butter cookie recipe, which is good enough by itself. Third, I didn't have peanuts and I didn't want to take a trip to the store, so I left them off. Fourth, I never leave my cookies in the oven as long as the recipes say to. They don't get as brown but they're softer and more gooey--the way we like them.
There are only three cookies in the picture because that was all that were left by the time I got a chance to grab the camera. The neighborhood kids found out we were baking cookies and the cookies disappeared quickly. In fact, I heard the front door open and came downstairs to find the three-year-old from next door helping himself to another cookie. They're that good! Now, if I can just figure out how to add some chocolate.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Week 2: Dinosaurs

My family is headed to Vernal this week so naturally our theme will be about dinosaurs. We'll be going to the Field House Museum in Vernal (it's too bad the Dinosaur Quarry is closed right now) but there are plenty of dinosaur-themed activities in other parts of Utah as well.

BOOKS:

Kids love dinosaurs and so dinosaurs are the stars of plenty of books for children. From board books with great pictures to more elaborate encyclopedias, you should have no trouble finding books about dinosaurs (we have dozens).


Dinosaur Roar (Picture Puffins) by Paul Stickland and Henrietta Stickland


This board book has been a favorite in our home for years. It doesn't teach so much about dinosaurs as opposites but the colorful dinosaur drawings are cute and the kids love them.



How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague


Jane Yolen has written an entire series based on these dinosaurs. The books are humorous and clever.



The Usborne Internet-Linked Atlas of Dinosaurs (Usborne Internet Linked) by Susanna Davidson


Informational guides such as the one published by Usborne are packed with pictures and information about dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.


You'll find plenty of books about dinosaurs at your local library. Here are a few more to look for:


The Big Book of Dinosaurs (Big Books) by Angela Wilkes

National Geographic Dinosaurs by Paul Barrett, Raul Martin, and Kevin Padian
Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff (A classic -- it takes me right back to my childhood.)

Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House, No. 1) by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca

First Dinosaur Encyclopedia by DK Publishing


ONLINE ACTIVITIES:

Find information about each dinosaur species and print out pictures to color on the Enchanted Learning website. Take a fun quiz about dinosaurs to test your knowledge when you're done.

If you were a dinosaur, which one would you be? Find out at the Natural History Museum website.

Dinosaurs have some really big names. Have you ever wondered how they get them? Now you can know.

Test your memory with a dinosaur matching game.

Watch clips from When Dinosaurs Roamed America on the Discovery Channel website.

Do you know how dinosaurs became fossils? Watch a video on the American Museum of Natural History Museum.

Print and make a flip book about a Tyrannosaurus Rex on the Field Museum website.


MOVIES:

My knowledge of dinosaur movies is limited to Jurassic Park and The Land Before Time. If you're looking for some with more "accurate" information on dinosaurs check these out:



National Geographic - Dinosaurs Unearthed (Dino Autopsy / Dino Death Trap) ~ National Geographic (DVD - 2008)


Dinosaur Secrets Revealed (A&E DVD Archives) ~ Dinosaur Secrets Revealed (DVD - 2005)



The Complete Walking with... Collection ~ Stockard Channing, Larry Agenbroad, Frank Fish, and Larry Witmer (DVD - 2006)


FIELD TRIPS:


The Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point is centrally located in the valley. Watch movies about dinosaurs or ancient sea creatures on the Mammoth screen or check out the great exhibits. It is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Prices vary so check out their helpful website.


BYU Earth Science Museum is located just west of Lavell Edwards Football Stadium. Learn about paleontology and even touch real fossils. It is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday and is FREE. Whoo Hoo!


Utah Museum of Natural History is located in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah. It boasts a large collection of dinosaur fossils and many other interesting exhibits. It is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. Admission rates for adults and youth over 13 - $6 (unless you happen to be a student or UofU alumni. You can get discounted or free admission rates). Children from 3 - 12 years old - $3.50. Check out the website for more information.



Utah Field House of Natural History State Park and Museum is located in Vernal, Utah. It is open from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily. Adults - $6 and children over 5 - $3. There are lots of exhibits and activities inside but my children especially enjoy the dinosaur gardens outside which has full-size replicas of many of our favorite dinosaurs.


Check out the Dinosaur Museum in Blanding Utah. It has many informative displays including an exhibit of dinosaur eggs. It is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Adults - $2 and children - $1.


Utah loves dinosaurs and you find more at Ogden Eccles Dinosaur Park in Ogden, Utah. It is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. Adults - $6, Children 2 - 12 - $4. (There are additional fees to participate in some activities.) This place is an adventure. Plan to stay awhile.



By the way, these ideas are just meant to enhance your summer. I believe strongly in the value of "free play" and hope my children will spend most of their time playing outside with each other and their neighborhood friends. But, when I hear "I'm bored . . .", I'll be ready.

Friday, June 6, 2008

"Safely Gathered In" Blog

Being prepared is something that we're all concerned about. The "Safely Gathered In" blog is another great resource to help us all get the food storage and other essentials that we need to be prepared. The writers are especially conscious of those living on a tight budget. They include recipes that can be made with dry storage ingredients and weekly assignments to keep us on track.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Week 1: Birds

The theme for our first week of summer is "Birds". My kids and I are excited about this week because we love birds and have been looking for an excuse to study more about them.

BOOKS:

We'll start out the week by doing a search of our own book shelves for books about birds. Here are a few classic stories that we found on ours:

Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen


I highly recommend reading this book. The language is pure poetry. Each word falls easily from the tongue, wrapping the listener in a warm blanket to protect them from the cold night. The illustrations are secondary and only enhance the image in the reader's mind created by the words.
The story portrays a real-life situation, that shows the relationship between the father and child. Together they experience the thrill of nature, specifically the great horned owl. This story also teaches the rewards of patience, anticipation and hope.


Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey

Another classic, "Make Way for Ducklings" tells the delightful story of a family of ducks in Boston, Massachusetts. It's a sweet story that shows the thoughtful and considerate actions of the community to help the family reunite in the "perfect" place to raise ducklings. Surely, you've read this book before, but it's one to enjoy and savor often. If you haven't read it yet, you're in for a wonderful treat.

Next, we'll take a trip to our local library to see what other books on birds we can find. This is a great opportunity to teach younger children how to search the library database for books on a certain subject. Please let us know what great bird books you find.

Some books to look for:

Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song by Les Beletsky and Jon L. Dunn

The Audubon Backyard Birdwatcher: Birdfeeders and Bird Gardens by Robert Burton and Stephen Kress

Birds, Nests & Eggs (Take-Along Guides) by Mel Boring

There Is a Bird On Your Head! (Elephant and Piggie) by Mo Willems



ONLINE LEARNING AND ACTIVITIES:

Yahoo Kids has a section on birds that answers qestions about birds such as "how does a bird fly?" and "why do birds sing?". It also includes lists of birds with pictures and information.

Watch a video of a hummingbird on the San Diego Zoo website.


Get to know more about a penguin or soar with a Golden Eagle on the Animal Planet website.


Find a wealth of information, games and activities, including print-out coloring sheets on the National Aviary website.


Learn to identify birds by their songs and find cool facts about birds on the BBC website.


MOVIES:

Planet Earth: the Complete BBC Series features several sections on birds. Be especially sure to check out Disk 3: Jungles: Chapter 1 which shows tropical birds of paradise engaged in dances to attract a mate.

March of the Penguins is a beautiful documentary that follows the struggles and life of the emperor penguin in Antartica.


The Life of Birds is a multi-disc series produced by BBC that focuses on bird behavior.


PROJECTS:

Build a bird house together. If you don't have a lot of tools on hand, kits can often be purchased at hobby stores.

Consider building a nesting box to attract a barn owl. Did you know that a family of barn owls can consume over 3000 rodents a season? Check out sites like http://www.barnowlbox.com/ to learn more.


Hang a bird feeder in your yard. A hummingbird feeder can attract beautiful birds to see and enjoy.


Keep a list of birds that you see. Birds are everywhere and watching for them can be very enjoyable and rewarding. Just the other day my children enjoyed watching a common European Starling search for food in a dumpster while we waited in the drive-thru line.


Consider purchasing a book to help in identifying the birds that you see. Our family has two. "Birds of North America" published by DK has beautiful full-page pictures of the birds in North America and detailed information about each bird. It also weighs ten pounds and is difficult to take with us when we go bird watching. We have a second bird guide that is smaller and easy to pack. A good pair of binoculars are nice but not necessary for the casual bird watcher.


Keep your eyes open and you will be amazed at how many different species you can see. On a fishing trip last week to Strawberry Reservoir, the fish weren't biting but we did enjoy seeing many American White Pelicans, four Great Blue Heron, Western Grebes, a Golden Eagle, two Red Tailed Hawks, California Gulls and a pair of nesting Canadian Geese.


Utah Wildlife Resources has a great website to help in the identification of birds. It lists the species found in Utah and includes maps to show the area where each species lives.


FIELD TRIPS:

The Tracy Aviary is located in Liberty Park in Salt Lake City, Utah. Tracy Aviary is open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm every day and features bird shows at 11 am and 1 pm. The rates are: adults - $5, children 4-12 - $3, and children under 4 - free.

Feed the ducks and geese. Most ponds at parks have ducks and geese. Children love to feed them. Bring the old bread and enjoy.



The Hogle Zoo hosts a bird show each day. It features many different species including tropical birds and birds of prey. Enjoy the other animals while you're there. The zoo is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm each day. The rates are: adults - $8, children 3-12 - $6, and children under 3 - free.

The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is in Northern Utah. The auto route is open during day light hours each day and the James V. Hansen Wildlife Education Center offers interactive exhibits from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm week days and from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on Saturdays.