I love cooking with my kids. However, what I love even more is that my 10-year-old daughter can make some of favorite desserts all by herself now. How cool is that! I was telling her that I was looking for a St. Patrick’s Day themed dessert to make and feature on the blog and she came up with a cute idea to add some Leprechaun charm to one of our favorite desserts – Chocolate Nutella Cheesecake Mousse. One of our good friends made this recipe that we found on Pinterest and we have made it at least 10 times since.
It’s easy and no baking is involved so it’s perfect for cooking with the kids. It’s also incredibly tasty! You can find the recipe here at MyBakingAddiction.com.
But back to St. Patrick’s Day! To make this dessert more Holiday-ish, we added some Leprechaun flair by drawing shamrocks and Leprechaun faces on marshmallows with edible markers. We also dyed a marshmallow black to look like a pot created an indent in the top and added yellow M&M candies to make it look like a pot of gold.
All you need are regular size marshmallows, mini marshmallows, edible markers, black food coloring, and yellow M&M candies.
To make the Leprechauns, we made two versions – one where we just drew the face and hat on a regular size marshmallow. In the second version, we stuck a mini marshmallow on top of the regular sized one to make a hat. We then colored it black with the markers.
To make the pot of gold marshmallow, add black food coloring to a cup of water. Submerge the marshamllow in the water for a few minutes. The longer the time in the water, the darker the “pot.” We used black food coloring paste to get the marshmallow so dark. Regular liquid food coloring didn’t cover as well. After you’ve achieved the color black you want, dry the marshmallow for a few minutes on a paper towel. When dry, use your fingers to create an indent in the top of the marshmallow. Insert several yellow M&M candies in the indent to make it look like a pot of gold.
We also added green food coloring to our whip cream to add a colorful dollop to our dessert.
There you have it. A delicious dessert recipe to make with the kids and some crafty decorations to make it the perfect ending to a St. Patrick’s Day party or dinner celebration.
If the weather turns nicer in the next few weeks, here’s a fun Spring Break Staycation idea to have some family fun – Host an Outdoor Movie Night. Last summer our neighborhood organized it’s first outdoor movie night. It was a blast! More importantly, it was easy to pull off. Here’s how it all came about.
One day I was talking to my neighbor and mentioned how fun it would be to host an outdoor movie night for the kids. He mentioned that he had a projector from work that we could use. Score!
From there, the idea took off with different families bringing different things to the party to make it all happen. So, sharing what I learned from our event, here are 5 tips for you to plan a spectacular outdoor movie night for your neighbors, friends or family. (This would also be an awesome kids birthday party idea.)
1. Stay close to home. When choosing a location for your movie event, keep a few things in mind – electricity, light control, bathroom access, and rain. We have an open field near our houses where I was thinking of hosting movie night because we would have a lot of room. However, we would have had to run so many extension cords that the idea was not feasible. So, pick a spot where you have easy access to electricity like your backyard, patio, or even garage. Make sure there aren’t any really bright street lights nearby to ruin your viewing. If you stay close to home the kids can easily run home to use the restroom. If it rains, you’ll want a back-up plan like someone’s garage to move the fun under cover and quickly.
2. It’s all in the equipment. To project the movie you’re going to need a movie player (DVD player or computer); screen, white bed sheet, or side of a house; a projector; and a sound system. For the screen, we just hung a white sheet over the garage door to even out the surfaces. Remarkably, the picture looked amazing. Here’s a link with easy instructions on how to set up the equipment. You can rent equipment but ask around and see if your friends or neighbors have what you need. Keep it inexpensive! Finally, if you have a giant TV, just move it outside for viewing under the stars.
3. Snacks make the party. You can have so much fun with snacks for an outdoor movie party. A gourmet popcorn bar with different flavors or seasonings would be fun. Movie theater-style candy like Junior Mints, Milk Duds, Raisinettes, and Dots will get everyone in the mood. Here’s a post I wrote on Snacks to Spice Up Family Game Night that would work perfect for an outdoor movie night as well.
4. Pick the right movie. Consider the ages of the kids that will be coming and choose a movie accordingly. It could be a classic, a family-friendly movie or a great comedy. Keep in mind that really young kids might not attend because movie night will start after their bedtime. Stick with PG or PG-13 movies to make sure no one is offended or uncomfortable. We watched Despicable Me, one of my favorites. Ask the kids in your neighborhood for suggestions or check out this list of 20 Best Movies for Families from Parenting.com.
5. Delegate. Even if you are hosting or organizing the event, put your neighbors and friends to work. Put one in charge of making the flyer that goes in everyone’s mailbox. Ask everyone to bring extra chairs, drinks, or snacks. Ask houses with an even number address to bring a dessert while odd number houses bring an appetizer.
Today, March 2nd, would have been Dr. Seuss’ birthday and it’s got me in a Seussical mood. Can you believe that 107 years ago, Theodore Geisel changed the world by teaching children to read, and enjoy it, when he introduced “The Cat in the Hat.” Since he is a HERO of mine, I want to do something fun and silly with the kids tomorrow since we have read and LOVED so many of his books. To keep his memory alive and have fun with the kids, here are 6 ideas I came up with for a Dr. Seuss Celebration.
1. Read and Explore. Dr. Seuss wrote more than 40 books, so pick your favorites or pick one you haven’t read yet and spend some time in the wacky world he created. My favorites are The Lorax, Green Eggs and Ham, Fox in Sox, and One Fish, Two Fish. If you don’t have any of your own Dr. Seuss books, no problem, just grab some at the library!
2. Download an App. Are your kids too into technology to read a book made of …gasp, paper? Check out Oceanhouse Media’s interactive Dr. Seuss ebooks, apps and games. While I love books and encourage my kids to read all the time, Dr. Seuss stories just beg to be animated and enhanced which is why I love these interactive stories. I download a few to my Smartpphone and I’ve got entertainment for the kids anytime we are waiting in a restaurant or doctor’s office. Oceanhouse Media is having their annual Dr. Seuss Sale starting today. Download some of their ebooks and games onto your smartphone or ebook reader. Sale runs from March 1st – March 7th, 2013. We bought The Lorax ebook during their sale last year and my daughter reads it all the time on my Nook. I think this year we’ll grab Dr. Seuss ABC’s. Even though my kids are older, they love seeing how they animate and bring the Seuss drawings to life.
3. Plan a Seussical Breakfast. I love cooking with my kids and it’s very easy to entice them into the kitchen to make some Seussical snacks and treats. It’s silly creativity in the kitchen! The Kitchen Fun with my 3 Sons created an adorable and easy Dr. Seuss Cat in the Hat Fruit Pops. This Dr. Seuss breakfast from the Make Myself at Home blog looks delish! If you are having more of a brunch, try your hand at creating The Lorax Babybel Cheese dish. Finally, how can you go wrong with Green Eggs and Ham?
4. Take a Trip to Seussville. This fun website is dedicated to all things Seuss. You and your kids can play games, meet the wacky characters and learn more about the author.
5. Plan a Silly Photo Shoot. There are so many incredibly cute photo booth and photo prop ideas available to take some adorably cute pictures of your kids … (or Mom and Dad. I think my husband would look smashing with a Lorax mustache). Here’s some inspiration for a Dr. Seuss photo booth backdrop and props. You can buy these adorable Dr. Seuss Photo Props as well. You can make these Lorax Mustache Straws for some silly photos as well.
6. Get Crafty like a Fox. There are so many cute Dr. Seuss inspired crafts out there that it was hard to choose just a few. But the Danielle’s Place blog has some cute Lorax crafts that are super easy for kids to make. I love Apples and ABC’s Truffula Trees art. Finally, this Fox in Sox paper bag hand puppet from Vanessa’s Blog would be perfect to make and then read the book out loud with your kids. – See more at: http://www.ptpamedia.com/blog/index.php/2013/03/01/4-fun-ideas-for-a-dr-seuss-celebration/#sthash.3DlOYLZG.dpuf
Which is your favorite Dr. Seuss character or book?
Want some more inspiration? Read my post on Fun Ways to Celebrate Dr. Seuss’ Birthday. Are you on Pinterest? Follow my Dr. Seuss Board on Pinterest to find a lot more craft and recipe ideas to help celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday. I’m amassing quite the collection.
- See more at: http://www.ptpamedia.com/blog/index.php/2013/03/01/4-fun-ideas-for-a-dr-seuss-celebration/#sthash.xcvQNCd8.dpuf
It’s Oscar weekend and that has me thinking about movies. Our family LOVES watching movies together! Since we have Family Movie Night so often though, I started looking for ideas to make it a little more special and shake up the routine. So, I came up with some fun ideas that don’t take a lot of time, energy, or money because when Friday night rolls around, my husband and I are usually exhausted. Most of these ideas use items you already have in your house, which makes it easy for Mom and Dad. I’ve got your back!
Here’s how to be the most fun Mom on the block with these simple tips on making Movie Night the most anticipated night of the week.
1. Shake up the seating arrangements!
Make the movie watching experience even more fun by shaking up the way you watch it. If you have a large room, set up chairs movie theater style in front of the TV so it seems like you are at the theater. Make sure you turn the lights off for full effect. We have a pull-out sofa bed in our family room, so the kids love when we pull out the couch and watch the movie in our pajamas. Set up a tent in front of the TV so all of you or just the kids can watch the movie through the tent flaps.
2. Snack it up!
Make popcorn and give everyone their own bowl and gourmet popcorn toppings like white cheddar or Cajun flavors. You can buy these shaker toppings at the grocery store. Check out these recipes for some fun movie or game night snack food. If you have more of a sweet tooth, try an ice cream sundae bar. Before the movie starts set out the ice cream and various toppings and let the kids create. For pete’s sake, don’t forget the sprinkles! If you really want to go all out, make Homemade Pizza while you watch the movie. Here’s my family’s killer pizza recipe. Finally, at the grocery store you can buy the movie theater size candy boxes. Go ahead and splurge and let the kids have their own box of Mike & Ike’s or Junior Mints.
3. Build on a theme.
If you know what movie you are going to watch ahead of time, you can have fun with the theme of the movie. If you are watching Indiana Jones – hide some rubber snakes around the family room to surprise the kids. If you are watching Madagascar, have your kids grab their zebra, hippo, giraffe, lion or penguin stuffed animals to help watch. If you are watching Cars, set up a Hot Wheels track so the kids can race while they watch. If you are watching Monsters, Inc. grab your favorite Ugly Doll or have your kids draw what they think their monster-in-the-closet looks like. Get the idea?
4. Share the fun.
Just because you are staying home to watch a movie, don’t feel like it has to be family-only event. Invite the neighbors over to watch. The adults can watch the movie, chat or play cards while the kids watch. Have your kids make some pretend tickets and hand them out to their friends in the neighborhood, so they can turn them in when they come over. Your kids will love ripping the ticket stubs when the guests arrive. You don’t need to clean the house and cook for days for this. Just invite someone over, have everyone bring snacks, and make sure there’s a place to sit. It’s all about having fun. What’s a few dust bunnies or laundry piles amongst friends?
5. The best movies star you.
If you have any home movies or Grandma and Grandpa do, what better movie to watch than one where you are the star. Kids love seeing themselves on film. My kids love watching our wedding video and seeing family they know. (I have to warn you though, when my son was young and watched the video for the first time, he got really mad that we had a big party and didn’t invite him.) Get out those vacation videos and reminisce. We found a treasure in Grandma’s attic once – movies of Grandpa when he was stationed in Iceland.
Do you do anything special to make Movie Night more fun? What are some of your family’s favorite movies?
One of our family’s resolutions this year was to get more physically fit … together. But, now that the cold is finally here we’re stuck indoors a lot of the time. Are you in the same boat? How is your family planning on staying active? With gym class at school practically eliminated and kids spending way too much time in front of computers or TV, it’s definitely hard to make sure my kids get a good 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Put some freezing temperatures on top of that and it becomes even more of a challenge. But we all need physical activity, Mom and Dad included, to stay healthy and it was definitely one of our family’s New Years Resolutions.
According to Michelle Obama and the U.S. Government Sponsored Let’s Move campaign:
Physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. In combination with healthy eating, it can help prevent a range of chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and stroke, which are the three leading causes of death. Physical activity helps control weight, builds lean muscle, reduces fat, promotes strong bone, muscle and joint development, and decreases the risk of obesity. Children need 60 minutes of play with moderate to vigorous activity every day to grow up to a healthy weight.
Knowing that it’s hard to carve out time in the day to exercise individually, we are going to get more active as a family by having fun doing it together as family time. It’s a great way to spend quality time together, be active, and improve our moods.
If you want your family to be more fit in 2013, here are 5 ideas we came up with that the whole family can do together to stay active and healthy.
1. Get Outside and Play. Even thought it’s cold outside, the fresh air and Vitamin D from sunshine will do you and your kids a whole lot of good. Building a snowman, sledding and walking up the hill afterwards, and snowball fights definitely help burn calories and give you some exercise. Check out these Fun Family Activities to Do in the Snow for some inspiration. Even if you have a new baby or young toddler in the house, you can get outside and have fun. The National Wildlife Federation put together a great Outdoor Winter Discovery Guide that has fun ideas and great tips for getting outside safely with baby.
2. Take up a winter sport together. There are so many winter sports that your family could try together this year. If needed, take some lessons and learn to snowshoe, ski, ice skate, or cross-country ski, as a way to get outside and work up a sweat.
3. Take advantage of the Gym. Are you members of your local YMCA or Park District? Have a family gym membership? Instead of going and working out by yourself, take the whole family and get active together. Grab a basketball and shoot around one afternoon or take advantage of family swim night and have fun in the pool. I know our YMCA has a play area that lets the kids climb walls, play Dance Dance Revolution, play ping pong and run around on the climbers. Adults are welcome to play, too! Our YMCA even has a nursery if you want to drop baby off and go play with your older kids. They also offer a Family Zumba class, if you want something more structured. Ask them what’s available for your whole family. I bet you’ll be surprised at the options.
4. Walk the Dog. To me, the best part of having a dog is that it forces you to get outside and exercise. Even though it may be cold and dark, have the whole family bundle up and walk the dog for 20 – 30 minutes after dinner to walk off those calories. Give the kids flashlights and let them play flashlight tag. Stare at the moon and the stars which look stunning in winter. I know my husband and I relish this time to talk to each other uninterrupted.
5. Use your Garage. Plan some fun active games the whole family can do and use your garage as the “arena”. Grab some brooms and a sponge to play make-shift hockey. Kick the soccer ball around. Throw the football through a hoop for points. Have a jump rope, hopscotch, and hula hoop competition. Set up an obstacle course for your kids to race around in their tricycles. Sure, it might be cold in the garage but it’s dry and not windy. Here’s how to host your own Family Winter Olympics.
Now that the Holiday Season and all of its festivities are over, we’ve got weeks of long, dark winter nights to look forward to. Sometimes I get depressed thinking about the cold weather forcing us to mostly stay indoors, especially on our weekly Family Nights. However, that’s when I’m forced to get creative and come up with some fun ideas to have lots of indoor fun.
Here are 6 of my favorite Winter Family Night Activities that will make you look like the most fun Mom on the block. Click on the links for more tips and advice on how to pull off some major fun at home the next few weekends.
1. Indoor Snowball Fight – Too cold outside for a real snowball fight? Create “snowball” ammunition out of white tissue paper, cotton balls wrapped with saran wrap, or large marshmallows. Give each “team” an equal amount. Then fight it out in the basement or other kid-friendly area of the house. Build some forts out of boxes or blankets while you are at it to protect yourself. Of course, if it’s not too cold out you can do this outside with real snowballs. A reader over at SavvyMom.ca shared her idea to keep the snowball fights safe. They make chalk drawings of each other on their fence and throw the snowballs at the drawings. No one accidentally gets hurt then. Genius!
2. Spa Night – A little pampering makes everyone smile – even Dad! Candles, aromatherapy and soothing music. I can’t think of a better way to relax after a rough week at work (and school).
3. Homemade Pizza Party – Don’t just order pizza in on Family Night, throw a pizza party! Click for our family favorite pizza recipe. It’s not that hard to make and you’ll really enjoy the time talking together in the kitchen.
4. Family Slumber Party – Why do the kids get to have all the fun? Shadow puppets, truth or dare games, toaster oven s’mores and sleeping bags in front of the TV sounds like a fun night to me.
5. Game Night Tournament- Grab those new games you got as Holiday Gifts or raid your closet for forgotten board games and then let the competition begin.
6. Have a Thumb War – A craft and game you can do together that’s super fun for both parents and kids? Making thumb wrestlers and then having a thumb war of parents against kids or girls against boys is sure to have everyone giggling.
Most importantly, these creative ideas are easy, use items you already have around the house, and don’t take a lot of planning for busy parents. So, have fun on Family Night this winter!
What are some easy but fun things you like to do with the kids when you are forced to stay in on Family Night?
For those of you in the Chicagoland area, you are going to want to grab your kids and head over to Navy Pier this for the 2012 Chicago Toy & Game Fair. I have taken my kids twice now and it’s a blast. This year is the Fair’s 10th Anniversary and I’m really looking forward to their best show yet.
There are more than 250 inventors and brands showing off their next big toy or game, as well as some old favorites. You can play giant versions of some of your favorite games, like Banagrams. It’s also a great way to try out new games for free and I love supporting the small game and toy inventors before they become big! My daughter enjoyed learning how to play Kubit2Me at the last fair we attended.
Good News! ChocolateCakeMoments has free tickets for you and your family to attend the show. See details below and enter by midnight Friday, November 9th to win.
According to Mary Couzin, founder and CEO of the Chicago Toy & Game Group which hosts the Fair, “For our 10th anniversary we’re pulling out all of the stops with more toys, giant-sized games, awesome tournaments and contests, specialty programming and much, much more. It’s like a giant interactive and bottomless toy box!” Open to the public both Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 17th and 18th, the Fair at Navy Pier offers two full days of fun for everyone in your family.
If you have a child who is a Star Wars fanatic you have to take him or her to the Star Wars Lunch on Saturday Nov. 17th from 12 – 1 p.m., where you can get your kids’ picture taken with some pretty impressive Star Wars characters. (The costumes are amazing.) You need to buy separate tickets to the Star Wars Lunch and you can purchase them at www.ChiTagFair.com. Tickets are $30 for kids 12 and under and $36 for adults. Tickets will sell out! But even if it is, don’t panic. The characters usually walk around the Fair for photo opportunities during the show. It’s just way more crowded. You can see my daughter liked the storm troopers.
The Fair also offers some pretty cool contests and game tournaments. You’ll have some fun playing games, find some cool new ideas for Family Game Night and even grab some unique Holiday gifts to get that shopping done early.
Here’s an extra idea! On Saturday, plan a memorable Family Fun Day by hitting the Chicago Toy & Game Fair in the afternoon and then enjoy the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Parade. That will get the family in the Holiday spirit and create some memories!
So, how do you get your Free Family Pass to the Chicago Toy & Game Fair? Follow the instructions on the contest widget below. Hurry, contest ends on Friday, November 9th at midnight CST. Here’s How to Enter:
Last night my daughter and I had a super fun date night. I had the suerte (luck) to be offered two free tickets to see the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez last night in Chicago. I was excited to find another opportunity to expose my daughter to other cultures but selfishly I was thrilled because I used to live in Mexico City and remember going to see the Ballet Folklorico several times while I lived there in my teens. I really wanted to share this colorful, musical, cultural, and mostly fun experience with my daughter, but it was also a walk down memory lane for me.
We dressed up and headed downtown to see the Ballet but what we found instead was a Fiesta. In the lobby there was a mariachi band getting everyone in the mood. A local Mexican restaurant was selling chips and salsa, guacamole, ceviche and pan dulce. The pan dulce alone brought back memories of my childhood in Mexico City. My daughter celebrated with two of them. The theater also added margaritas to their normal bar fare to add to the fiesta. However, this was a family-friendly event. There were plenty of kids at the show and I think it’s an incredible experience to show your kids some of the fun aspects of another culture.
Once the show started, the fun really began. The colorful costumes and loud beat of the dancers feet were amazing. Each dance segment depicted a different aspect of Mexican regional culture or history. However, the music and the mariachi bands are what make the show truly spectacular. The quartet with the harp was AMAZING! I rushed out to buy the CD at intermission, I liked the music so much. (The CD is nowhere near as fun as seeing the performers live but still worth it. I can’t wait to play the CD during my annual Dia de los Muertos party.) I don’t know if they used local talent for the mariachi band or this is a traveling group but if anyone knows who the mariachi players were, please let me know. I’d love to give them props for their performance.
The Ballet Folklorico de Mexico is celebrating it’s 60th anniversary. According to the playbill information, Amalia Hernandez founded the Ballet as a quest to rescue the fading dancing traditions of Mexico. There are 9 dance sequences during the 2-hour Ballet which depict the costumes and music of different Indian tribes and regions of Mexico. My daughter (who is 10) told me her favorite part of the Ballet was the mariachi music, especially the guy who played the harp incredibly fast, and the pom poms on the costumes during the Tixtla Platform dance.
The Ballet Folklorico de Mexico is very family friendly. Here’s my reasons why you should take your family to see it:
1. It’s clean entertainment which is so rare to find these days. There are no raunchy dances or suggestive dances. There is kissing in some of the dances but it is suggested. The dancers turn their back to the audience so kids won’t see anything bad.
2. This is not your typical classical Ballet. It’s a celebration of folk dances so everyone in the family will enjoy it. Boys will like the Puppet heads during the Tlacotalpan Festivity dance, the Mexican Hat Dance, and the Charreada Rope Dance. There are men dancing in every segment.
3. The audience is lively! This isn’t a stuffy Ballet performance where you have to be quiet. The audience, many of whom are Mexican, were having a blast shouting out to their favorite mariachi songs and yelling Viva Mexico! or Viva Jalisco! in several spots. During the encore the dancers came into the aisles and danced with audience members. They pulled a lady from my row and she was thrilled!
4. It’s not a late night out. The Ballet is only two hours long with one intermission so younger kids won’t get squirmy and can be home in bed at a decent hour.
5. The Ballet provides a great opportunity to expose your family to another country’s culture. From the Mayan dance with their festive costumes to the incredibly colorful dresses and fun in the Charreada Dance to the famous “Mexican Hat Dance” from the State of Jalisco, you’ll be able to educate your kids on the different Indian tribe and Spanish influence that has shaped the Mexican culture. Again, mariachi music is so fun. More kids need to learn to enjoy it. According to the Ballet’s website, they have done more than 480 performances for children’s groups.
Any cautions? The show is loud and the huge puppet heads during one of the dances might scare a child younger than five years old. Other than that, it’s funtastico for all!
Tickets are still on sale for today’s performance at 3 p.m. at the Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University. The Ballet Folklorico de Mexico then moves on to Ames, Iowa and San Antonio, TX. Check Ticketmaster to see if it’s coming to a town near you. Disfrute la Fiesta!
Note: While I was given promotional tickets to see the show, all of the enthusiasm and opinions expressed in this review are mine.
We made this Scary Halloween Cheesecake two years ago for my son’s Cub Scout Cake Bake and I’m still proud of how it turned out. I love the scary looking rats eating the cake. The cake was pretty easy and my kids and I had a blast making the rats. (Some of them looked downright goofy and not scary so we had to play around with the faces a little.)
Our inspiration was a recipe from Redbook Magazine for Creepy Critter Cheesecake and Chocolate Rats. Like I said, it was very easy to make although we couldn’t find some of the ingredients, so we fudged a little.
For the Cake, I couldn’t find Famous Chocolate Wafers in the store so we used Oreo Thin Crisps. We could have also used Annie’s Chocolate Bunny Grahams, but the Oreos were darker. My son was 10 when we made the cake and I was really impressed that he was able to make the whole thing with just a little guidance from me and the Mixer. We followed the instructions for the cake exactly so you can grab them from the link.
Here’s how we deviated from the original recipe to make the rats:
For the rats, we couldn’t find black decorating sugar! It’s Halloween season and we could find every other kind of Halloween cookie and cake decoration except black sugar. ‘Sup with that? After 3 stores I was disgusted so we used chocolate jimmies to give the rats a “furry” texture. We also couldn’t find black rope licorice. What happened to rope licorice? Why don’t they make it anymore? Red or black. We had to use black Twizzlers and just cut strips for the tail. Finally, we couldn’t find “Yellow and brown candy-coated chocolate-covered sunflower seed. Personally, I don’t think these really exist. So we used a red cinnamon heart for the nose and we make the yellow eyes from candy corn. I just cut a small sliver of the yellow part of the candy corn, twirled the candy between my fingers to make it sort and then shaped it into the eyes we wanted.
Almond Ears for the mice:
Rats on Cheese:
Rat Wearing a Party Hat(my daughter wanted hers to look more festive):
Woo Hoo! We won for Most Original Cake in our class at the Cub Scouts’ Annual Cake Bake.
I love the Summer Olympics and the Opening ceremonies are always a hoot. I love watching the entertainment and saying “What?” or when they show the celebrities, “I didn’t know he was Canadian!” While I do have to say that I like taping the Opening Ceremonies so I can fast forward through the boring parts, there is a sense of excitement to seeing it live (or at least watching it with everyone else on tape delay in our time zone). So, if you watch the Opening Ceremonies with your kids tomorrow night, here are three ideas to enhance your TV viewing pleasure.
FYI - The Opening Ceremonies are on NBC starting at 7:30 p.m. EST on Friday, July 27th.
Gold Medal Snacks!
Make some fun treats with the kids to munch on while watching the Opening Ceremony or any of the Games in the next few weeks. My kids and I made these Olympic Rings Cookie Treats this week that were so easy and yet so tasty. Grab the recipe, grab the kids and have some fun in the kitchen.
Let Your Own Game Begin!
Another fun way to have fun while watching is to download the Opening Ceremony Bingo Game. Tinyme.com created this super cute free printable game that you can download to play with your kids. Check out all of their FREE Olympic Games printables to really get the kids excited about the Games.
Capture the Memories!
Do you remember watching the Olympics as a kid? Which athlete do you remember most? Mary Lou Retton? Greg Louganis? Carl Lewis? I have fond memories of watching the Olympic Games with my family so I loved when I saw that Mique over at Thirtyhandmadedays.com had created a London Summer Olympics Memory Sheet for her kids to fill out while they experience the Olympic Games.
She also offers a kid-friendly version of an Opening Ceremony Bingo Game.
Is your family excited about the upcoming Summer Olympic Games? My kids are thrilled and looking forward to watching their favorite Olympic Sports on TV – basketball, gymnastics, diving, and beach volleyball. My daughter is into horseback riding this year so the equestrian events are sure to be a hit, as well.
So, knowing that we are going to be watching the Olympic Games for a few weeks and then hosting our own backyard Olympic Games, I needed a fun, Olympic-themed treat that I could make with my kids.
Olympic Ring Cookie Treats
We brainstormed some ideas for Olympic treats and my kids unanimously chose dipped and decorated chocolate sandwich cookies to look like the Olympic Rings. Our fun in the kitchen was a classic example in experimenting because our first batch was pathetic. (Tasty, but pathetic.) My idea was to put a stick in the Oreos, dip them in white chocolate, and then display them in a stand as five rings.
Here’s what I learned. The minute you put the stick into the Oreos they crack apart. I even went a bought double stuffed oreos which would be thicker and provide a larger space for the stick. No dice! Then I bought the new WhoNu Double Stuffed Chocolate cookies, which my family likes much better than Oreos anyway, and they worked … if you put the stick in AFTER you dip them. However, if you don’t care about the stick part, you can use any chocolate sandwich cookie at any thickness that you like.
To make these treats you’ll need -
1 box WhoNu, Oreo or other Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
1 pkg. Almond Bark (we tried white chocolate but almond bark worked so much better – it’s whiter and thinner so it didn’t break the cookie while dipping.)
Food coloring - red, green, yellow, black and blue (You could buy frosting tubes in these colors but you really don’t need all that much so there is a lot of sugary waste.)
Melt the almond bark according to instructions. Once melted dip the cookie to cover completely. I just used a fork to pull the cookie out of the almond bark and transfer the cookie to a wax paper covered surface. Once the cookie is dry, cut any spillage off so the cookie looks like a clean circle.
Take the left over almond bark and divide into 5 little bowls. Add the food coloring to make your 5 colors for the rings. I am a terrible icer. Decorating with icing is definitely not something to put on my resume. If you are an expert icer, then drawing the rings will be super easy for you. You can use your icing bags and tips or I just put the icing in a small ziploc bag, cut the end off and used that to pipe my icing and draw a ring.
Optional: I used sticks to make my Olympic Ring Cookies stand-up. To make the stand I used a styrofoam floral block and covered it with aluminum foil. However, you can easily display them on a plate and skip the sticks.
Let dry and enjoy. What do you think? As I said, we messed up on making the icing look perfect but the kids all agreed that they tasted amazing. A perfect treat for my little champions. (They are all gone already and the kids are bummed, so we are off to make more.)
Want to throw your own Summer Olympics Party or just get the kids off the couch and active with your own backyard Olympic Games? Here’s how easy it is. You can also see a ton of great party ideas on my Olympics Inspired Party board on Pinterest. Let the games begin!
We invited some friends over for a casual Cinco de Mayo party last weekend and we had a blast catching up with our friends and letting the kids have fun. We kept the food simple, so we could have more time to enjoy our Queso Fundido and Margaritas. (Which we greatly enjoyed, by the way.) We put the kids to work making their own dessert, Ice Cream Banditos, which was a huge hit! I mean “un exito bien grande!” So, I wanted to share how to make this fun treat.
These ice cream banditos are easy, tasty, and they kept the kids occupied. They’re perfect for a Cinco de Mayo party, Mexican Fiesta or just summer day dessert. All you need is ice cream, tootsie rolls, M&Ms, marshmallows and edible markers. It was a blast to make.
Jumbo size marshmallows
Regular size marshmallows
Edible food markers – I bought mine online from Foodoodler
Tootsie rolls – we used the size up from midges to make a larger mustache
Vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt
Optional Waffle bowls – if you want to keep the calories down, just use a small bowl for the ice cream
Step One: Make Your Sombrero
1. Cut a jumbo size marshmallow into three circles to serve as the bottom of the hat.
2. Cut a regular size marshmallow in half width-wise for the top of the hat. You can use the whole marshmallow but then it gets kind of tall and you need two “sticky” ends to keep your hat together.
3. Stick the two “sticky” or cut ends of a jumbo marshmallow circle and a half of the regular marshmallow to make your hat shape.
4. Now, use the edible markers to decorate your hat. The more colorful the better.
Step Two: Make Your Mustache
1. Microwave a tootsie roll on high for 15 seconds.
2. Now that it is soft, bend it into your mustache shape.
3. Let it cool and reharden for a minute.
Step Three: Make Your Bandito
1. Put a large scoop of vanilla ice cream in your waffle bowl.
2. Add M&Ms for the eyes.
3. Apply your mustache
4. Put a hat on it.
The girls gave their banditos more of a handlebar mustache but they still look super cute. If you make one, please upload a photo on our Facebook Fan page. I’d love to see your creations!
It’s Star Wars Day so laugh it up, fuzzballs! All of the little (and big) geeks in our house are excited. I remember going to see Star Wars in the movie theater with my Dad when I was 10 years old. I was blown away with the action. My husband and I were excited to share the first Star Wars movie with our son when he was old enough and to marvel at the movie again. I have to say that the Empire Strikes Back is still my favorite of all the Star Wars movies.
I found out about this “holiday” a little late so I didn’t have a lot of time to come up with cute ideas. We just had a small Star Wars breakfast celebration. Using our Star Wars pancake molds from Williams Sonoma, we whipped up some storm-trooping pancakes. However, I wanted to be prepared for next year so I went through all of my Star Wars related posts and found some amazing Star Wars themed crafts and foods being promoted today. Here are some of my favorite finds.
We have a kids birthday tradition where I set up some of their favorite toys to give them a Happy Birthday shout out when they come down for breakfast. The kids love it. My son is a Star Wars fanatic so a lot of birthdays involve Star Wars guys. This would be fun to do for Star Wars Day, as well.
Sweetsugarbelle.com made some amazing Star Wars cookies that you need to see. She cleverly modified her Holiday cookie cutters to make the shapes. She’s also got a link party going so other bloggers are uploading their Star Wars food creations and you have to see some of these to believe them.
These Tie Fighter Treats from Recipe Shoebox would be perfect this afternoon for a celebratory snack.
If you want to combine Cinco de Mayo AND Star Wars Day, check out the YodaMole that Jill at KitchenFunwithMyThreeSons.com made. Head on over to her site to see how easy it was to make. Soooooooo funny!
Finally, Babble.com put together a nice round-up of Star Wars crafts to do with the kids. This list is handy if your kids have the day off of school today, like mine do. I like the Star Wars terrariums best.
Do you remember the first time you saw Star Wars? How old were you and who were you with?
Don’t forget to sign up to win an autographed copy of The Mom 100 Cookbook by Katie Workman. This book is chock full of recipes and tips that appeal to the pickiest little eaters. You’ll have your kids eating more fish and veggies in no time. Contest ends May 12th so sign up today.
In general, we haven’t played too many tricks on the kids on April Fool’s Day but I’m getting inspired to do something really fun this year. Grandpa used to be the big trickster in the family. He played some fun pranks on his kids and grand kids throughout the whole year. He would put rocks, grass and vegetables in he hidden Easter Eggs. (Boy, the kids faces are priceless when they open their eggs.) He would wrap a can of corn for a kid’s Christmas gift. He woke his kids up on Saturday morning to hurry and get ready for school.
While these pranks were annoying to the prank victim, each of the kids and grandkids talk about these pranks fondly at every family get together. It was a badge of honor to have a special trick played on you by Grandpa. He passed away before my kids were born but they love listening to the “Grandpa prank stories” from their cousins. So in his memory, I put together some ideas for kid-friendly April Fool’s Day pranks.
Take all of your child’s stuffed animals off of the bed while they are sleeping and have them line up outside the bathroom door like they are waiting for their turn to go “potty”.
You can put clear hair gel in ear piece of a telephone. Have your husband call the house to talk to your child and when they put the phone to their ear it will get all goopy.
Unplug their video game consoles. After a few frustrating minutes and yelling “Mom, why won’t my game work?” maybe they’ll check to see if the plug is unplugged. It’s a classic because no one ever checks the power cord to see if it’s unplugged.
Jenn at the Clean & Scentsible blog had some fun ideas like switching the cereal bags in the cereal boxes so they pour an unexpected cereal for breakfast. I like her idea of freezing a bowl of cereal overnight. In the morning add a little more milk to cover the icy mass and see their confused expressions. Click through and check out her other ideas.
The 2Clever Blog had a funny idea of putting a For Sale sign in the yard while the kids are at school. They’ll be stunned when they come home.
Here’s a funny prank for Dad from Parenting.com. Take a screen shot of the desktop on Dad’s computer and leave it up. It might take him a few minutes to figure out why his computer is “frozen”.
To really make sure your kids know they’ve been fooled, print out these free Gotcha Tags to drive the point home.
Here’s a little tip on pranking your kids, if they are a little touchy. My daughter loves a good joke until she thinks her brother is laughing at her. To make sure that no one feels slighted, prank all of your kids the same way or catch each one out in a trick when they are alone. No one likes to be laughed at and sibling rivalry could make your family fun backfire.
I’m a huge fan of Dr. Seuss. The silliness, the illustrations, the word play. It makes me smile. More importantly, my family has spent countless hours having fun together reading his books. I remember how proud my son was when he could read the whole Fox in Sox book by himself without stumbling over the tongue twisters.
Since I’m such a fan, I’ve been busy amassing quite a collection of Dr. Seuss craft and recipe ideas over on my All Things Dr. Seuss Board on Pinterest. I wanted to share some of my favorite ideas to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday. If you’re on Pinterest, check out all of the ideas on my board and please share your favorites with me.
The most obvious way to celebreate Dr. Seuss’ birthday is to read his books with the kids. I think we’ll read The Lorax and Green Eggs and Ham tonight. Or inspire your children by reading these Dr. Seuss quotes and empowering them with the messages of self-esteem and adventure.
This is the most amazing graphic 30 Dr. Seuss Quotes to Live By from Mamiverse.com. One of my favorites is “Oh, the things you can find if you don’t stay behind.”
How fun are these super cute and creative ideas by other Mom bloggers?
Now you can take Dr. Seuss with you for “Oh, the places you’ll go.” Oceanhouse Media is having a sale on their Dr. Seuss interactive ebooks for your iPad, iPhone or Android phone. You can also download their Lorax Garden and Dr. Seuss Band games for free.My kids (and I) love these games because the Dr. Seuss illustrations just beg to be animated. Hurry, promotion ends March 8, 2012.
Want a fun and easy craft idea to do with boys? Especially one you can use at a birthday party? Of course you do! I’ll tell you it was hard for me to find a craft idea that my son would not only do with me but actually like. My daughter and I craft all the time – she’s an incredible artist and she’s always game for my wild crafting idea. My son likes to cook with me but we just couldn’t bond over crafts – UNTIL NOW. For his birthday party last year I came up with a craft for a bunch of 11-year-old boys. While my husband and son laughed at me – “Why would you plan to do a craft at a boys’ party?” – it was the HIT of the party. So, what is this miracle craft idea? (OK, I know I’m over-hyping it.)
Cartoon network used to show these little short TV shows of thumb wrestlers that my kids thought were hilarious. You can see them on the Thumb Wrestling Federation site. We recreated the experience at the party by having the boys create their own thumb wrestling characters and then staging wrestling matches.
Here’s what you need:
$1 stretchy gloves from Target, Dollar Store, etc. in various colors. Since it is Spring, now is the perfect time to stock up on them while they’re on sale.
Different colors of felt – any scraps you have laying around work perfectly
To make them, cut the thumbs and fingers off the glove. These are your “wrestler bodies.” Next, glue on the googly eyes. Then have the kids cut out pieces of felt and glue them on to create costumes for their thumb wrestler. Give everything a good 5 minutes to dry before letting the wrestling matches begin.
“1-2-3-4! I declare a thumb war!” The thumb wrestling makes for very funny video. The best part of this craft is that it eats up a lot of time at a birthday party. First you make your thumb wrestler then the kids can spend a long time wresting. We even made a referee thumb guy to keep the peace.
Have you made thumb wrestlers before? I’d love to feature your or your kids’ creations. Shoot me an email with the photo attached or a link to see the photo at sue(at)chocolatecakeclub.com.
Going to watch the Oscars this weekend? Why not make it a party or add more fun to the evening? It’s easy to invite your family, friends or neighbors over for some star-studded fun. You can go all out with themed food, decorations, and activities or as little as watching the nominated animated movies of the year with some kid-friendly snacks. Whatever you choose, have fun!
Sit and Score
Don’t want to have a party but don’t want to sit like lumps on the couch either? Try some Oscar themed games! A lovely site called How About Orange has an Oscar Bingo card that you can download to play. You can also keep score with an Oscar Ballot Form from Moviefone.
Get Up, Get Ready
If you have little kids they probably aren’t that excited since they haven’t seen most of the movies and might have to go to bed early. But you can still celebrate a little earlier in the evening by watching Kung Fu Panda 2 or Puss in Boots, which is my personal fave. Both are nominated for Best Animated Movie. Puss in Boots is coming out on DVD this Friday!
Puttin’ on the Ritz
Don’t let the stars on the Red Carpet have all the fun! Your kids will love getting all glammed up to watch the telecast. Put some make-up on your little girls and they’ll be thrilled. Have your son be the photographer. Give him an inexpensive instant camera or flip camera and he can film the “stars” during your party.
The beautiful Twig and Thistle site has some free downloads to make invitations, popcorn bags, and candy bags for your family and guests. My daughter made the popcorn bags at the top of this post for last year’s Oscar Party with a red pencil and white paper bags. The kids would love having fun making any of these simple and inexpensive party pieces with you.
Then, check out these Oscar Statuette Cookies. Bakerella has come up with an incredibly clever Oscar themed cookie.
If you are in the mood for a casual party, Celebrations.com has a variety of party themes to throw the perfect Oscar Party. You’ll find games, menus, and decorating ideas. Personally, I like their vintage Oscar party theme.
MakeitBetter.net also had some fun food ideas inspired by this year’s best movie nominees.
I hope these fun ideas have inspired you to spice up the way you watch the Oscars with your family Sunday night. Roll the fun …
Who are you voting for, for best picture? I’m voting for Hugo to win. The book is fantastic but the movie is pure visual movie magic!
Valentine’s Day has been hijacked! Moms, remember when Valentine’s Day was a ROMANTIC holiday? You know, before you had kids? You’d get flowers, you’d dress up to look super hot (in my case maybe semi-hot), and enjoy a candlelit dinner. Now that we have kids, Valentine’s Day has become a Family Holiday. It’s more about which character to choose for the tiny little Valentine’s for everyone in the kids’ class, throwing love notes in my daughter’s school lunch box, watching the cats eat the flowers, and begging my son to leave some chocolate for the rest of us.
But, you know what? That’s fine with me. After all, our kids are the result of our hot romance and proof of our love. So instead of getting a babysitter and going out to dinner, we like to celebrate Valentine’s Day as a family and we have fun doing little things for each other all week that say “I Love You.” I hope these ideas inspire you to do the same today and throughout the rest of the year. Why should all the fun be just on Valentine’s Day, right?
1. Have a heart. You can have so much fun with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. I surprised my daughter by cutting out heart into her peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwich for her school lunch. I cut a small heart shape into one slice of the bread so you could see the red jelly. You can also make French Toast and cut the bread into heart shapes and throw some cut strawberries on top for color. Or, spread a thick layer of whipped cream out on a cookie sheet, freeze it and then cut heart shapes out while frozen. Drop that creamy heart in a mug of hot chocolate for some fun! Here are some other things you can do with a heart-shaped cookie cutter.
2. Turn dinner upside down. Let the kids eat dessert first on Valentine’s Day. Anything that breaks routine is big fun for kids.
3. The Power of a Flower. My daughter gets 1 rose from her Dad, which puts the biggest smile on her face. Read my post about the Power of a Flower for your little girl.
4. A Night Out, at Home. Can’t find a babysitter for Valentine’s Day this year? No problem. Read about how you can still have a special night at home with the kids by cooking together dinner and having the kids serve you as waiters with a romantic, candle lit feast. Read how to make it happen.
The kids and I were experimenting in the kitchen again and came up with an easy Valentine’s Day dessert idea. Believe it or not, the inspiration for this dessert came from my son’s science project. We needed to puree Strawberries for an experiment he is doing to see how fast mold grows. Yum! We had leftover Strawberry puree that looked and smelled too good to throw out so we ad libbed, using what we already had in the house, and came up with a fun Valentine’s Day dessert.
1/2 pint of strawberries
Pre-made pound cake (your choice)
1/2 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
Heart cookie cutters
1. Put strawberries in food processor and puree until smooth. No chunks, please.
2. Cover the bottom of a dessert plate with the strawberry puree.
3. Cut a 1/2 inch slice of pound cake and use the cookie cutter to cut out heart shapes. I used a large and small cookie cutter to put both on the plate. You may need to cut the pound cake lengthwise to have enough surface area for your cookie cutter depending on the size of the cutter.
4. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave, according to the directions on the package. Once melted, frost the top of the pound cake with the chocolate.
5. Add sprinkles, sprinkles, and more sprinkles, then serve. You can also add whipped cream or sprinkle powdered sugar over the top to make it look even more finished.
Last week I was excited to get in to see Gale Gand, host of Food Network’s “Sweet Dreams” and author of several dessert cookbooks, at our local library. Her presentation was fun and she demonstrated how to make Chocolate Mousse. With samples. Yummy! It looked easy enough that my daughter and I decided to make it for Daddy and to jazz it up with some Valentine’s Day accents. (Don’t get your hopes up too high with the “jazz it up” part.)
There are only 4 ingredients in the recipe (nice!) and you get to use the electric stand mixer a lot, which my daughter thinks is the coolest part of cooking. This is a great recipe to teach your kids how to separate egg whites or egg yolks. I generally crack the egg and pass the yolk back and forth between the two shells to separate out the egg whites. Gale showed us her preferred method which was to drop the egg into your hand with your fingers slightly separated and let the egg whites drip down into a bowl between your fingers. It worked great, just wash your hands when you’re done. (As if you weren’t going to figure that part out, but I felt the need to throw in a safety tip.) (more…)
My daughter and I got a little creative this past weekend making Valentine’s Day brownies. Chocolate is a huge hit in my house, as you can imagine, so ooey-gooey brownies were on the top of our baking list.
Brownie Mix – We used King Arthur’s Gluten Free Brownie Mix for the first time and I have to say they were so tasty! I highly recommend it.
Frosting – Chocolate and Vanilla
Pink food coloring paste
Large and small heart cookie cutters
Candies – Heart-shaped York Peppermint Patty, Valentine’s Day M&M’s
Sprinkles, sprinkles and more sprinkles
1. We baked the brownies in a large baking dish (9 x 12) since I wanted them to be flatter so we could make a sandwich. I cut down the baking time by about 5 minutes since these brownies were thinner than indicated on the package. Let them cool.
2. Use the large Heart cookie cutter to cut your brownie shapes. Cut some small hearts out of the remaining brownie pan left-overs or cut a small heart out of the center of one of your larger heart brownies.
3. Add pink food coloring to the vanilla frosting. We wanted hot pink so we added quite a bit of pink food coloring paste to get the intensity we wanted.
4. Now decorate. You can frost the brownies and decorate with sprinkles, make shapes with candies, or put two brownies together to make a sandwich or whoopie pie effect. My daughter created the white bear and white heart out of gum paste. While she had fun making shapes with the gum paste, no one really liked it enough to eat it.
My favorite was the mouse. Which do you like best?
No matter how you decide to decorate your brownies, they’ll all taste great.
Groundhog’s Day is next week and I was racking my brain for something fun to do to celebrate with the kids. Since all of the fun occurs in the morning – Punxatawney Phil gets up pretty early to see his shadow – I thought a breakfast treat would be ideal. So, I came up with these Groundhog’s Day Pancakes and I think they came out pretty cute, if I do say so myself. You can make them and surprise the kids when they come down for breakfast or have fun cooking together.
Here’s how to make the the Groundhog and his Shadow.
You can use any Pancake recipe you like. Here’s a good, basic pancake recipe from MarkBittman.com. However, I used a Whole Wheat Pancake Mix for this project. Whole wheat flour made the pancakes a little more brown in color which was perfect for a Groundhog. I made a double batch of pancake mix, split it in half into two separate bowls, and added black food coloring to half of the mix for the shadow pancakes.
I used my Pancake Dispenser Pen to pour out the batter into a circle head shape and then added little ears. (I have to say, of all the weird kitchen gadgets I’ve bought, I use my Pancake Dispenser Pen a lot.) If you don’t have a pancake pen, it’s no problem, just use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to pour the mix onto the griddle making one big circle and then adding to little circles to the top for the ears. I made the “brown” Groundhog pancakes first and kept them warm in the oven. Then, I made the black batch of pancakes and tried to make them about the same size as the brown pancakes.
For the face, I used sliced bananas for the cheeks, strawberries for the ears and tongue, a blueberry for the nose and finally two chocolate chips for the eyes. To assemble, put the shadow pancake down on the plate first, the brown pancake on top and then decorate the face.
My daughter and I played around with two other design versions to see which we liked best. What do you think?
Shadow or no shadow, your kids will love this fun breakfast idea to help celebrate Groundhog’s Day next week.
Here’s even more ideas on how to celebrate Groundhog’s Day with the Kids. If you are on Pinterest, you can follow my Groundhog’s Day Fun Board or any of the other boards I’ve created to have more fun with your family. Need an invitation to join Pinterest? Shoot me an email at sue (at) chocolatecakeclub.com and I’ll invite you.
This year, instead of focusing on SELF improvement, I wanted to work with my husband and kids to create resolutions to improve our family life. (I’m not saying that I don’t need self-improvement! That’s a given and would take a much longer post.) Last year was a hard one for our family and we really wanted to work on a plan to strengthen the family bond by spending more quality time together, improving our relationships, celebrating our successes, and most importantly, having more fun.
We focused on 4 key areas that we wanted to improve, so it wouldn’t be so daunting to stick to them. The first thing we did was sit down as a family and ask each other where we wanted to improve or focus our energies. We talked a lot about eating healthier, being more social, giving back more to our community, saving more money, adding more variety to our family time together, and being more physically active. We are still working on our final details, but here’s the gist my family’s resolutions for 2012.
Eat in more often.
We are going to work together as a team to cook more at home. It’s healthier, cheaper, and gives us an opportunity to spend time together in the kitchen talking. Now that our kids are a little older and interested in cooking they can help more. Here are some tips on Getting Your Family to the Dinner Table for Fun.
Volunteer as a family.
We are in the process of looking for ways that we can give back more but working together as a family. We do a lot of volunteering at school, the Y, and for our son’s scout troop. We also write a lot of checks to various organizations and raised a lot of money for JDRF to find a cure for my daughter’s diabetes this year. However, we want to give our children a chance to actually see how we can make an impact by helping others in need. We want to give more of our time. My goal is to find an organization or activity that we can do once a month together to help out those less fortunate. Any ideas?
Whether it’s a big party or just inviting a neighbor family over to watch a movie, we want to engage more with our friends and family. So every month, we’re putting something on the calendar where we are connecting more with others by inviting them into our home to share our fun. I’m tired of waiting to be invited someone or not inviting friends over because it means I would have to clean the house. I find that letting that stop us from spending time with friends is sad. I rediscovered an old post I wrote on 5 Fun, Easy Ways to Entertain Friends Even When You Hate to Entertain and thought I would share it again. (Psst, we are available if you want some company! We don’t smell and we rarely make a mess on the carpet.)
To create your family’s New Years Resolutions, make sure you discuss it all together, focus in on the areas you want to improve most or where you want to see some lifestyle changes. Then use these tips to help make your resolutions stick, that I shared in a post over at Patch.com.
What are some of your family’s resolutions for the new year?
Looking for some new ideas for Family Night this weekend? But it’s already Thursday, you’ve been busy all week and haven’t planned anything? No problen. I’ve got your back with some inspiration. I know you are a busy Mom so here are 5 easy, inexpensive and yet incredibly fun activities to do at home with things you probably already have around the house. Amaze the kids with your creativity this weekend! Click on the links for more tips and advice on how to pull off some major fun at home this weekend.
1. Indoor Snowball Fight – Too cold outside for a real snowball fight? Create “snowball” ammunition out of white tissue paper, cotton balls wrapped with saran wrap, or large marshmallows. Give each “team” an equal amount. Then fight it out in the basement or other kid-friendly area of the house. Build some forts out of boxes or blankets while you are at it to protect yourself. Of course, if it’s not too cold out you can do this outside with real snowballs. A reader over at SavvyMom.ca shared her idea to keep the snowball fights safe. They make chalk drawings of each other on their fence and throw the snowballs at the drawings. No one accidentally gets hurt then. Genius!
2. Spa Night – A little pampering makes everyone smile – even Dad!
Amy at Living Locurto had some fun with her kids by giving them “Elf Seeds” and creating magic. Check it out, it’s a very fun idea. She also has a free download with ideas for posing your Elf.
I’ve been having a blast creating funny situations for our Elf Jack. I found that I’ve been doing so many “scenes” with our elf that when I actually do hide him. The kids can’t even find him. They have become lazy with their elf sighting skills. Oh well. Here are some of the latest Elf sightings in our house.
Jack picked a snowball fight with one of our other Elf decorations. Each side has his own Marshmallow Reindeer team mascot.
I made homemade snow globes with the kids one night and Jack decided to make his own that night while we were sleeping.
Jack wrote our kids a note last year and of course everyone knows that Elves write backwards, so the kids had to hold their notes up to the mirror to read it. (You knew that, right?)
Late Elf Nights
We have a pull out couch in our family room that we like to use for Family Movie Night. We pull out the couch and everyone watches the movie in their PJ’s. Well, the kids loved it when they came down one night to find Jack had pulled out the couch and had stayed up all night watching Holiday movies. He even made himself an espresso to stay up. The cat must have kept him company.
I’ve been working on my Parents Sanity-Saving Guide to Elf on the Shelf for the last few weeks but sadly I didn’t get it done in time for the Holiday Season. Life keeps getting in my way. I’m make sure you know when it’s done so you can download it for next year.
What do you do for fun with your Elf on the Shelf? Send me a photo and I’ll put it up on the blog. I’d love to highlight your creativity! Send photos to sue (at) chocolatecakeclub.com Thanks!
My kids love to cook and I really enjoy spending time with them in the kitchen creating and talking. So, I was excited when Karin Wilcox, owner of Young Chefs Academy in Glenview, IL invited me out to see her kids cooking school. Bright, cheerful and spacious, this Young Chefs Academy location just made you want to hang out and explore the tools and recipes. To get your kids interested in cooking, you can sign up for weekly classes or host a fun birthday party. They offer Adult/Child workshops, which would be a fun idea for a “date night” with your child.
I was impressed with the amount of classes that they offer and how they appeal to all age ranges. The Young Chefs Academy encourages kids as young as 4-years-old to take age appropriate classes but they have Teen classes for kids up to 8th grade, as well. But there is a ton of variety in the class themes and recipes. The recipes aren’t all sugary treats either, which I like, so you can get your kids excited about cooking everyday meals. I’m all for encouraging kids to make dinner for Mom and Dad! My daughter has Type 1 diabetes and I’m always looking for kids cooking classes or recipes that aren’t so sugar and carb heavy. If you aren’t sure if your child will love a cooking class, you can register for a “Drop In” class where you just go once to try it all out.
Every week a new theme is introduced and the class creates fun recipes that correspond with the theme. For example, during “Let’s Take a Field Trip to the Fire Station” KinderCook kids learn how to make fire station stew and “code one” bread. I love the variety! The recipes focus on the seasons and upcoming Holidays too. For Eektober!, Junior Chefs get to make Jack-O-Lantern Quesadillas, Sinister Salsa, and Halloween Candy Pie. Yum! You can take one class or sign up for the whole season.
You can also host cooking themed birthday parties at Young Chefs Academy. From a birthday bear picnic to a Calzone party to an old-fashioned tea party, your kids can choose one of several birthday party themes that will entertain and teach the kids some special recipes. Most parties are 90 minutes long and the kids get to eat their creations as well as go home with some new recipes.
Young Chefs Academy also has some Holiday cooking camps coming up in December when the kids are out of school. Check the website for information on what is available.
If your child loves to cook or you want to give them a fun experience that also teaches a life skill, give them the gift of cooking classes at the Young Chefs Academy. Perfect for a unique Holiday gift!
We’ve got a guest post today from writer Megan Gates, who shares her ideas for spending time this Fall in the kitchen with your kids. Take it away, Megan!
As the weather turns cooler and daylight grows shorter, many parents find themselves searching for activities to entertain their children. One activity that is sure to entertain, while also accomplishing a daily task, is cooking. Most children love to help in the kitchen and will be more than pleased to grab their stools and choose positions at the counter.
When cooking with children, health and safety are of utmost importance. Children should always be reminded to wash their hands before and after preparing food. And parents should choose recipes that do not require children to be near the stove or oven. Children typically like to work with recipes that require a lot of ingredients. This can also be a good way to initiate hesitant parents who are not accustomed to having their children involved with the cooking.
Recipes for fall cookies or warm, hearty soups require numerous ingredients that parents can have chopped and measured out ahead of time. Children simply need to pour the pre-measured ingredients into a bowl or pot and mix everything together. Parents should then move the pot of soup to the stove or the cookies to the oven. However, for the parent who is ready to allow her children to be even more hands on, the children can drop the cookie dough onto the cookie sheet or even cut out autumn shapes from pressed dough.
Another good fall meal that allows a child to be a bit more involved in its creation is stromboli. Parents can prepare the dough ahead of time and then allow children to fill the stromboli to their liking, most likely with a parent-approved assortment of deli meats, cheeses and vegetables. The parent then simply needs to wrap the dough and place the stromboli in the oven. This same idea can be carried over into the creation of personal pizzas. Providing an assortment of vegetable toppings and allowing each child in the family to create his own pizza may also help to develop some more varied and healthy eating habits.
As previously mentioned, parents should always keep health and safety in mind when inviting children to help with cooking; however, other than that, creativity is encouraged. Once a parent is used to cooking with their children, she can most likely adapt numerous recipes, allowing for more fun, maybe even educational, family experiences during those chilly, autumn months.
Want to spend more quality time in the kitchen cooking with your kids or grand kids? Not sure which kids cookbook to get for inspiration? Let me help you with my review of a few of the more popular kids cookbooks on the market.
I went to the library recently looking for a kids cookbook and decided to take a bunch home and compare them. I love to cook with my kids and I’m always trying to get them more interested in learning new recipes. We mostly bake fun treats together but I really want to encourage them to think about cooking meals. So, when I read the books I brought home, I was looking for recipes that would inspire the kids to get in the kitchen, to make something other than cupcakes and cookies. (Not that there is anything wrong with cupcakes and cookies. I’m a HUGE fan!)
This is not an exhaustive study of all of the kids cookbooks on the market. I just grabbed the ones I could get from the library. Our favorite cookbook is at the end, so read the whole post!
Note: I provided links to buy these cookbooks to make it easy for you to find. I randomly chose the vendor and I am not compensated in any way if you do purchase the books.
This cookbook is a reproduction of the original 1957 cookbook that you might have seen as a child. I loved looking through the book at the retro illustrations and the kinds of recipes popular back in the 50′s. They had a very cool section on Campfire Cooking and since my son is learning to cook with his Boy Scout troop, we devoured this section.
Part of the charm of the book is the advice they give kids in addition to the recipes. My favorite pieces of advice were:
“Take Pride in the Table. For happy family meals, set the table just as carefully and attractively as you would for company.”
“Good manners are not something to put on for company, but should be a part of all of us.”
I also really liked their advice to “Make Dinner a Fun Time. Start a game of Table Topics.” I’m preaching that to families almost 50 years later!
The recipes aren’t too difficult. Several recipes encourage you to make fun shapes out of food, which is a very popular trend today. I like the Three Men in a Boat recipe using Chipped Dried Beef, although I would probably make it with something other than Chipped Dried Beef. Shudder!
Bottomline, I enjoyed reading the book for nostalgia’s sake but neither my kids nor I were really inspired to try any of the recipes. However, if you have fond memories of this cookbook growing up, grab a new copy and share your favorite recipes with your kids. I would say it’s for kids ages 7 and up.
Williams-Sonoma’s The Kids Cookbook
The best part of any William Sonoma cookbook is the photography and their kids cookbook is no exception. Not only is the food photography crisp and enticing, I liked that the photos showed kids doing the work. There’s some great information up front on how to measure, clean vegetables, zest a lemon, cut an onion and other kitchen basics. My kids really liked some of the recipes and the full page photograph of each completed dish helped to entice them. You knew what you were making and what it was supposed to look like.
There are plenty of entree, breakfast, side dish and dessert recipes so even your picky eaters should find something they want to try, although there aren’t that many recipes in the book compared to some other kids cookbooks. Many of the recipes are healthy and I really liked that the book encourages children to make many of their store-bought, processed favorites, like Macaroni and Cheese, from scratch. It’s a nice way to get you and your kids talking about processed food and comparing the difference between processed and homemade foods. Although processed food is convenient, it’s great to show your kids how a little extra work adds a whole lot of better flavor and it’s healthier. The book lists the kitchen equipment needed to make each dish so you can round it up and have everything ready before you start. Very helpful.
This kids cookbook is one to have on the shelf as a good, safe reference cookbook. I think it’s geared for kids aged 9 and up.
Paula Deen’s My First Cookbook
This is a cute cookbook from the Queen of Southern Cooking. There are definitely recipes in here for Southern comfort food. This book appears to be written for younger kids who have adult supervision, although older kids won’t find it too cutesy and could certainly handle the recipes. The instructions all talk about the help a child needs from an adult but older kids can skip those parts. While the illustrations are super cute and appealing, I personally like to see a photo of what I’m cooking to get inspired.
There are quite a few recipes in here – way more than in some of the other books which is nice for a lot of variety. Apples with homemade peanut butter, frozen chocolate bananas, and other snacks are a great idea too. When the kids come home from school starving and Mom is busy working, this is a good option for them to find and make a healthy snack. Chicken Pot Pie, Green Eggs with Ham, and even Donut recipes were some that my kids liked. There’s even a section called “Happy Birthday to Me” with recipes for a birthday cake and special birthday cookies.
I loved the section on cooking FOR Mom & Dad with instructions on how to serve us breakfast in bed. Cute! If you want a book with a lot of variety and a lot of recipes or if you want a cookbook for younger kids, I would recommend this cookbook. For kids ages 3 – 7 with adult supervision, 7 and up by themselves.
By far, the cookbook that my kids and I loved the most, was the Spatulatta Cookbook by Isabella and Olivia Geraole, the two girls behind the James Beard award-winning Spatulatta.com site. If your kids seriously enjoy cooking, this is the book to buy.
This kids cookbook gives you basic cooking information, as well as instructions on food safety and setting the table properly. The cookbook divides recipes into seasons, which is a different touch, to highlight ingredients available at different times of year or seasonal comfort foods.
I really liked the ethnic diversity to the recipes in this book. These are not your run of the mill kids recipes that you see in every cookbook like spaghetti, quesadillas, and ham roll-ups. Boring! The recipes in the Spatulatta Cookbook dare kids to cook and taste something different like Orange-Carrot Soup, Green Beans with Garlic, Pomegranate and Pink Grapefruit Salad, Tofu Salad, and Crunchy Chicken Yakitori. My favorite recipe was Ghosts in the Graveyard Meatloaf, but I’m a sucker for spooky Halloween stuff.
Every recipe shows the two girls making the food so kids will be inspired that they can do it, too. Some of the recipes are good for younger kids but this book is written as if your child is going to do everything. Cooking for Mom, I love it. I would say kids need to be 8 or 9 years old at least to tackle some of the recipes alone. Check out the Spatulatta site to see if they have a video of the recipe. Sometimes it’s easier for kids to follow a recipe once they have seen the girls make it on the video.
One of our other favorite kids cookbooks is Bean Appetit. I reviewed that kids cookbook in a separate post, so check it out.
As a final note, I wish kids cookbooks would include a lot more nutritional information for their recipes. My daughter has Type 1 diabetes, so we HAVE to know the carbs of the foods she eats so that we can give her enough insulin. With a lot of cookbooks, we have no idea how many carbs are in the dishes and we end up having to guess. In the future, I would love to see kids cookbooks concentrate more on nutritional information so that parents can help kids to read food labels, understand how to read the nutritional information to make smart choices for what they eat, and for kids which special dietary concerns, it’s so helpful to parents to have that information spelled out.
What is your favorite kids cookbook? What is your favorite recipe to cook together? Share it with me and I’ll feature it on the site.
I was at the library this week and picked up a copy of the kids cookbook Bean Appetit by Shannon Payette Seip, Kelly Parthen and Carisa Dixon. I love cooking with my kids and so I’m always looking for fun new recipes to try with them. The authors, who founded Bean Sprouts a cooking school for kids, bill the cookbook as “Hip and Healthy Ways to have fun with food” and I think they did a great job delivering on that promise. I’m all about Family Fun so I love all of the creative ways the authors incorporated recipes, fun facts, conversation questions for the dinner table, and just silly activities to do with food.
As a book, this cookbook is fun so it’s easy to read. It’s the kind of book I want to write with whimsical illustrations, interesting little fun tips and ideas beyond the recipes, and most importantly, filled with ideas I can actually use. Moms will enjoy reading it and coming up with fun ideas for their toddlers but the book is very approachable, so your 7 – 12 year old kids might like reading it themselves.
I loved that the recipes were healthy. Most use a lot of fruits, veggies and whole grains as ingredients. While my kids eat a lot of those anyway, it’s nice to see fun recipes that incorporate healthier ingredients. The ingredients are also pretty easy to find so you don’t need to go to 3 grocery stores to find that one essential herb or grain, etc. As a busy Mom, I appreciate that.
I also like that the recipes are different. I just read through 7 kids cookbooks to review them for the blog and most of them have the same recipes over and over because I guess they feel kids have limited tastes. With Bean Appetit, I like how they take a traditional kids’ cookbook recipe like pancakes but throw a little creativity at it and turn it into a fun recipe like Stick Stacks which is mini pancakes on a stick with fruit to make a pancake kabob.
For many recipes, the authors recommend using their Flour Blend which includes whole wheat flour, unbleached flour, wheat germ, and flax meal in place of regular flour, and their Chickpea Puree instead of butter which really boosts the healthy factor of a lot of their recipes. I don’t know if I would take the time to make the chickpea butter but I am definitely mixing up the flour blend.
My only negative on the recipes is that I wish there were more of them in the book. The book does such a nice job of adding extra interest items like fun facts, games, table conversation starters, etc. but I really do wish there were more creative kids recipes.
The recipes that I am dying to make with my kids include the Campfire Crunch snack, Pear Penguins, and Cherry Pie Pops. Get a copy of the book from your library and see how fun these recipes are.
I would recommend this kids cookbook to any budding little chef and Moms who want to inject a little more fun and silliness into their family’s day.
Note: I was not compensated for this review in any way. I just picked up the book at my library and I liked it so much I’m going to buy a copy for myself.
If your child is headed off to kindergarten, middle school or high school this year, they may be nervous about what to expect. These are big transitions! I know for me it happened so long ago (sigh!) that it’s easy to forget the anxiety and secret fears of going to a brand new school or starting a new phase in your school career.
Whether your child is excited and eager to go to the new school (for a few of you lucky parents) or anxious and unsure (for most of us), read my post at Patch.com “Tips to Ease Kids’ Fears When Starting A New School” with tips to smooth the transitions and start the year off right.
Do you have a child starting kindergarten, middle school or high school this year? Are they nervous or excited?
My whole family was lucky enough to be invited to the press event and get free tickets for “Cirque Shanghai Extreme” at the Navy Pier Skyline Stage in Chicago last week. The show was “extremely” awesome. I knew we would enjoy the show but I was surprised at how much everyone in the family really enjoyed it. Even my sometimes jaded 11-year-old son thought it was totally cool. Read below for details to win 4 Free Tickets to Cirque Shanghai Extreme from OntheGoChicago.com or get a discount code for tickets.
The show is thrilling. From the opening act when the performers “zip line” onto the stage followed by Chinese dragon dancers coming down the aisles, your kids will be mesmerized by the sounds, colors, and cool feats of the performers. The acts feature juggling, acrobatics, dance, contortionists, and MOTORCYCLES.
My daughter’s favorite act was the Barrel Contortion Act. Three girl performers are dressed like candy and they squirm and contort their way into and out of these three tiny barrels with ease.
My son on the other hand was all about the Motorcycle cage at the end of the show. It’s AMAZING how they can get 4 motorcycles racing around the inside of a metal cage on stage.
The show is only 75 minutes long so don’t be afraid to take toddlers to the show. The little ones we saw in the audience didn’t move or fidget once through the show. You can take in the rest of Navy Pier’s attractions before or after the show, depending on your kids’ bedtime.
A note of caution – the Skyline Stage at Navy Pier is an open air theater. Even though it is hot out, if the wind picks up off the lake, your kids might get cold. My daughter was freezing by the end of the show and we didn’t have a jacket with us.
If you have a wide age range of kids in your family or guests in from out of town, this is the show for you. Toddlers, teens, and adults alike will be amazed.
My friend Cindy over at OntheGoChicago.com has 4 free tickets to Cirque Shanghai Extreme but you need to enter today!
Ticket Info: Tickets for kids ages 3 – 12 years old are only $15 and you can Cirque Shanghai has offered our readers a special discount offer! Use code KIDS for $25 Adult Gold Circle tickets for Wed-Fri performances for July and August. Tickets now on sale through ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000
Place: Navy Pier Open-Air Skyline Stage, 600 E. Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL
If you are looking for something fun to do with the kids while they are off this summer, I highly recommend getting them over to 2BU Studios to have fun making their own music CD or video. I met the owner of 2BU Studios, Cathy Wolfson, this year and I just love her business. There is so much fun to be had at her place.
Built as an entertainment playground, the studio offers your kids the chance to be a rock star. With a full recording studio and green screen video room, the kids will have a blast singing their favorite songs and walking home with a music CD and/or video.
Cathy invited my kids and I out to the studio to try it and we had a blast. The kids were a little shy or nervous about “performing” at first but they got into it. The studio has some great video “producers” who encourage the kids to break out of their shell. If you had a large group of kids this wouldn’t be an issue but with just the three of us, it took a moment for the kids to get into acting goofy with Mom.
2BU Studios also offers kids the opportunity to make their own comic book, if they just don’t want to perform.
2BU Studios is offering some 3-hour Mini Summer Camps that sound awesome for kids 6 years old and up. Kids can sign up to make their own Zombie Movie, Record Their Own Podcast, Star in Their Own Comic Book, and even make their own song or TV commercial parody. The 3-hour camp only costs $40! That’s a lot of fun for the price.
Here’s the coolest part. 2BU Studios offers programs for kids with special needs, so literally every family can come and have a good time.
2BU Studios is definitely a unique place to host your kids’ birthday party or take a Scouting or Adventure Guide group. But I thought a visit to the multimedia studio could also be a great way to have some family fun and create memories.
Here were some ideas I had for family projects.
Instead of writing your Holiday newsletter this year, make a family video asking each family member to share their highlights of the past year. Upload it to YouTube and share it with family and friends.
Make a video for Dad’s birthday with the kids singing and dancing. A very funny gift!
If you have a big family event coming up – anniversary, family reunion, wedding, milestone birthday, etc. – why not video friends and family sharing some of their memories or favorite stories. Have everyone meet at the studio and have a blast.
Make a video of your family history. Talk about where you came from and show pictures of your ancestors. It would make a fun family gift for everyone.
Grandma and Grandpa could come in and create a video of them reading their grandkids favorite stories. The studio will help you put some fun graphics in the background using the green screen. It’s a great way to keep in touch with grandkids who live out of town.
Before the Holidays, have the family sing some Christmas Carols together and then play the video or CD during your family celebration for laughs or send it out to people as a “virtual” Christmas caroling party.
You can check out the 2BU Studios website here, for more information and to book your session. http://2bustudios.com/default.aspx
Whether you are hosting a race car theme birthday party or just racing your Matchbox cars on the driveway, here are some fun treats to make for the kids to get their engines revving. We got the inspiration for these treats from MakeandTakes.com, and their race car party post. We just built upon her theme. It was so easy to make these race car treats that you can either make them ahead of time for the kids or have them make their own. (My kids wanted to make their own.)
I need your help! Someone yesterday asked me for a list of fun activities the whole family can do together even when you have big age gaps between your children. I need suggestions from experienced Moms. What can you do together that everyone will enjoy when you have let’s say a 12, 10 and then 5 year old child?
I will definitely share the ideas and the list with everyone on the blog. Any tips on how to keep the older kids from being bored or the younger child from feeling left out? Can you leave me a comment with your suggestions?
This summer get all silly with it and make breakfast food for dinner. It doesn’t matter how old your kids are, they still love messing with the “norm.” Idea #6 in our 51 Ideas for Summer Family Fun Activities is cooking pancakes for dinner with the kids.
Pancakes. They’re not just for breakfast anymore. It’s a fun way to shake your family’s day but, don’t just make your regular old pancake recipe. Do something fun -shapes, colors, extras. I remember my Dad used to make Mickey Mouse pancakes for my brother and I. We loved it and it was a tradition that is a fond memory still today.
Shapes: For fun shaped pancakes, buy pancake molds at kitchen supply stores or old cookie cutters that can lay flat on a griddle. Fill them with batter and amaze your kids. You can buy a Pancake Pen or use an old, clean condiment squirt bottle to “draw” pancake shapes on the griddle. You don’t need any special tools to make Mickey Mouse or bear shaped pancakes. Just make a larger circle and then two smaller circle pancakes and put them together on the plate to make your faces.
My son loves Star Wars so when we saw the new Star Wars pancake molds at Williams Sonoma, we ran out to get them. We added green food color to some of the batter to make the Yoda pancake shapes. (We liked these molds because they actually laid flat. We have bought molds before that weren’t completely flat and the batter leaks out to the side. Not cool.) How did we do?
Colors: Add food coloring to your pancake batter to make colored pancakes. Use a variety of colors and overlap them on the plate to make a rainbow. iammommy.com has a recipe for some awesome Rainbow Pancakes. Depending on the shapes you are using, choose a matching food color to enhance the design. If you are going to add some whipped cream to your pancakes (this is incredibly delicious with pumpkin pancakes), you can also color the whip cream.
Extras: For the Piece de Resistance, add some fun “extras” to your pancakes like Hershey kisses for eyes, red hots for buttons, cherries, bananas, baked apples, and M&Ms. Go wild. Use a piece of bacon or sausage link for the mouth.
What’s great about cooking pancakes is that it’s a perfect meal for kids to help out. They can put the ingredients in the bowl, stir, and decorate with the special ingredients at the end. To help make your time in the kitchen together even more fun, get your kids their own cooking apron. My son loves to cook and we were frustrated that most of the kid-sized aprons were all girlie, so we went and found some boyish kids aprons that we know you’ll love too.
I have challenged myself to be the coolest Mom on the block and have the Most Fun Summer Ever so I have been putting together a list of fun activities that I know my husband and kids will love. It’s been a long Winter and Spring. Family projects, illnesses, cancelled vacations, commitments, responsibilities, etc. have all added up over the past six months and now I want my family to just have some FUN! No one likes to party alone so I want to share all of my ideas with you to inspire you to have fun with your family this summer, too. (Maybe you’ll even invite us over to have fun with you!)
As a family, we are going to try to do all of these ideas so we can share the photos and any advice. I’m hoping we can get to them all but even if we don’t, I’ll be adding tips and advice for each of these ideas throughout June and July so put us on your summer reading list, follow us on Facebook, or sign up for Chocolate Cake Moments email newletter so you don’t miss a thing. However, this list is not exhaustive. PLEASE share your summer family fun plans with us because I would love to keep adding to this list. If you have any photos of your family having summertime fun, I’d love to feature them. Send on over to sue (at) chocolatecakeclub.com.
It was important to me that the ideas be simple, creative & most importantly memorable. I don’t want to have to work too hard to have fun and I’m sure you don’t either. These ideas are designed for families with kids of all ages. So here goes!
Were you frustrated last summer that the time seemed to slip by and you didn’t get to do all of the things you wanted to with the kids? Been disappointed that you didn’t get to the Zoo, or get tickets to a popular kids concert, or get the bikes out enough to justify the space they take up in the garage? Well, last summer our family started a Family Summer Fun Plan and it made planning and scheduling our family fun a whole lot easier. We were tired of “missing” some of the fun things we wanted to do every summer because we didn’t act fast enough, so we decided to take charge and make it a family project. Here’s how you can do it too:
Pick a night and when you sit down for dinner, go around the table and ask everyone in the family what they would like to do for fun that summer. Have someone write down all of the ideas. Then vote on the Top 10 ideas that your family is going to do together. (If this gets too heated or causes hurt feelings amongst younger siblings, put all of the ideas into a hat and pull the first 10. While someone might still be miffed that their idea didn’t make it, at least it’s fair!)
Now, grab the family calendar and plan which days you’ll schedule each activity. If any work needs to be done ahead of time like buying tickets, making reservations, or inviting friends over, assign the responsibilities to family members so everyone is working together to have fun. You’ll get more buy-in from the kids, Mom won’t be the only one planning everything, and you won’t miss any important activities. If your kids are still too young, Mom and Dad will just have to divide and conquer.
Your kids and grandkids grow up so fast. Don’t miss these precious summer days and nights to have fun together. (That was my mushy Moment.) To make it easier, download the Family Fun Calendar above to create your family’s fun plan.
Here’s our family’s Summer Hit List so far, around the Chicagoland area:
Train ride downtown, eat at French Market
Concert at Ravinia, our outdoor concert venue
Long bike ride along Lake Michigan – RJ Grunts for dinner
Splash time at North Ave. Beach
BBQ party with friends
Hang out with neighbors at local pool
Drive-in tailgate party with friends
Trips to Austin, TX and Iowa to visit the Grandparents and cousins
Here is a cute printable you can download for free to help you create your summer fun plan from SomewhatSimple.com.
At a loss for ideas this Memorial Day weekend to have fun with your family? Tired of the same old picnics? Why not create your own Family Holiday? We all love holidays right? Special foods, special activities, time spent with people we love (or at least like.) Maybe you don’t get to take off of work for your own invented Holiday, but any reason to celebrate ranks high on the family fun meter.
I was inspired when I came across a fun posting on Creating Your Own Family Holiday over at RookieMoms.com. Think about it. Creating your own Holiday! How fun is that!?! And, what a great opportunity to use your imagination and creativity.
Here’s our take on the idea – Why not let each person in the family come up with an idea and you can vote on it. Or, put the ideas in a hat each January 1st and draw one idea to be celebrated that year. If you love celebrations and silliness, why not let each person in the family get their own Holiday? If all of your family birthdays seem to come at the same time of year, this is a perfect opportunity to spread out your family celebrations. Here are some of my ideas for a family Holiday:
1. Family Movie Festival. In the fall on a yucky Saturday or Sunday, pick a day for a family movie festival. Everyone in the family get to pick their favorite movie to watch. Lounge the day away in your pajamas and watch these classic movies with plenty of snacks. End the day by watching some of your favorite home movies or ask Grandma and Grandpa to come over with movies of you when you were a kid. The kids will love it! You can even create silly categories, vote and award the movie with your own version of the Oscars.
2. Curl Up With a Good Book Day. I love to read and there is nothing greater than finding a good book that you can’t put down. However, I always feel guilty when I sit down and just read during the middle of the day. I always feel like I should be doing something else. So, I would love a day where everyone gets a book, finds a comfy nook, and spends the day reading. We love to encourage our kids to read so this would help them discover the joy of reading. At the end of the day we can each talk about what we read.
3. Chocolate Festival. Have chocolate at every meal. Figure out how to add chocolate to every dish you eat that day. Search for recipes online for inspiration.
4. Our Family Gives Back Day. Spend the day helping out various charities. Call some of your local charities and ask if there is something you can do as a family to help out.
5. Family Adventure Day. Grab a map with a 2 hour driving radius from where you live. Have one of the kids close their eyes and stick a pin into the map. You now have a destination for your adventure. Look up the town on Google and see what interesting things or restaurants there might be in that town and head out to discover a new place.
What ideas do you have for creating your own Family Holiday? They can be funny. We like funny.
Summer is almost here and the heat is coming. It’s time to go play outside but with little ones you’ve got to be careful and beat the heat. So, I’m super excited to introduce a new guest blogger today, FunMama, who will share her great ideas for playing outside with toddlers while keeping your cool.
Hot weather is just around the corner! My kids would live outdoors, if I let them, so I need to get creative to find ways to keep us cool.
Here are my favorite ways to keep toddlers comfortable on the most sweltering of days!
1. Sponge toss. Instead of tossing water balloons, use sponges. They never pop and give splash of water with every throw. The fun last so much longer.
2. Fill a large container up with water and small toys. Freeze it. Remove the huge ice pop and play with it until it melts
3. Make your own ice cream in a bag! Grab the recipe.
4. Put your children in charge of watering your garden. Of course, they will probably end up watering the ground and themselves more than anything!
5. Paint brush + bucket of water + the side of your house = Hours of wet, creative fun
It’s so hard to believe but the end of the school year is just weeks away. My kids had some really good teachers this year so I started looking for some easy but creative gift ideas that we could make together to show our appreciation. Here were my favorite ideas:
For me, cooking with your kids is the ultimate “Chocolate Cake Moment.” Making cooking a SHARED activity you not only teach your kids a life skill, it brings the family closer together. Your talking, sharing ideas, learning, experiencing something together and most importantly connecting … without any headphones, TVs, computers, or other distractions.
So, it’s great to see Guy Fieri, of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and Guy’s Big Bite on Food Network, championing cooking with your kids. His foundation and new Food Network show “Cooking with Kids” are designed to mentor kids of all ages and educate families on the importance of getting kids into the kitchen from the very beginning. Hear, Hear! Check out the show site for tips on cooking with kids and kid-friendly recipes.
Looking for something fun to do with your kids this weekend? Grab the camera, head outdoors and try a photo scavenger hunt. (With digital cameras, this is so easy and fun. You can also delete all of the pictures when you are done. No wasted film!) You can go to a specific place to do your hunt or look at your own neighborhood through a new lens. (Get it? A new lens? Oh, forget it.)
You can play individually, in teams or as a group depending on how many cameras you can get your hands on. Then choose a theme. Some examples:
Alphabet – take a photo of something representing every letter in the alphabet.
Numbers – Try to find groups of things representing the numbers 1 -10. 1 ball, 2 flowers, 3 weeds in Daddy’s lawn, 4 cars that your son never picked up, etc. (You get the picture.)
Colors – Take a photo of as many colored objects as you can. Or take pictures of things that are red. See who can find the most.
A common object - For example, dogs, flowers, toys in the yard, red cars, etc. Pick something where you’ll find quite a few examples. See who can find the most.
Letters – Have the kids look for different letters and see if they can spell out words when you get home and print them out.
This is fun to play in your neighborhood because your kids will come back with photos of things you’ve never noticed. (Really, that’s what’s in the back of the Jones’ yard?)
We went to the Farmers Market last weekend (because they are open again in the Midwest!) and my daughter went on a hunt to take a picture of every dog at the market. She had a blast meeting the dogs and asking people if she could take their picture. We had a great time looking at the photos when we got home. She printed them out and created her own book, which was pretty cool and kept her busy for hours. Here’s what she saw:
Any other photo hunt ideas out there? Let us know and we’ll add them to the list.
It’s finally warm enough in the Midwest that the Farmer’s Markets are now open. Yeah! I love Farmers Market Season. Browsing the Farmers Market stalls on a lazy Saturday morning is one of my absolute favorite summer traditions. I bring the family, the dog, and my iced Coffee Toffee and enjoy myself. We’re together, outside in the sunshine, discovering new foods, promoting local farmers, and exercising by walking the neighborhood. (That’s almost an overload of family goodness, but we deal.)
But don’t think of it as a grocery run! At our Farmers Market there’s live music, food samples, dogs, dogs, and more dogs. The kids love the entertainment value. With a little creativity, a trip to the Farmers Market can be an adventure for your kids.
Here’s how to make it more fun:
1. Shop. Give the kids a bag and let them buy their favorite foods. Our Playful Chef Farmers Market Bag is PERFECT for this! The set includes a bag to carry your purchases, a scrubber and cotton towel for cleaning your produce, and a booklet with information on which fruits and vegetables are best in each season, where they are grown and how best to prepare them.
2. Learn. Give your kids a small notebook or “Adventure Guide Book.” Have your kids visit each stall and identify a food they like best. Have them write notes in their book on who they met, which foods they tasted and liked or didn’t like, and where the farm is located.
3. Hunt. Create a scavenger hunt for the kids. Have them find an item for every letter of the alphabet or find as many colors as they can. Find something from another state. Find 5 raw foods and 5 cooked.
Now, go home and enjoy the fresh taste of summer!
Do you take your kids to the Farmer’s Market? What do they enjoy the most?
I know Easter is over. And I hope you had a fabulous Holiday with your family. My kids and I have one last Easter treat idea to share. You can change the theme, easily. Check out this Easter Kit Kat Cake that I made with my daughter, having fun in the kitchen together.
The cake looked great but we wanted to give ours an Easter flair. Here’s our version, using Peeps:
Chocolate Cake Mix
6 Kit Kat bars (4 pieces each)
Bag of Shredded Coconut
Green food coloring
Peeps, robins egg, or jelly bean Easter candy
First we baked a Chocolate Cake using 2 round cake pans. We used our knife to even off the top of one cake so that the top layer would sit a little nicer on the bottom layer. We generously frosted the bottom layer of the cake, then added the top layer and frosted it. We finished up by frosting the sides. (more…)
I hope everyone had a fantastic Easter or Passover last week with their families. After finding so many creative ideas for Easter cupcakes last week on other blogs, my daughter and I were inspired to bake up some fun treats. Here’s our take on some cupcake ideas:
Carrot Patch Chocolate Cupcakes
I saw this idea on the Frog Prince Paperie blog and just had to try it. Not only because it looked tasty but had huge visual appeal. You can get the whole tutorial for how to make the cupcakes on their site but here are our photos of my daughter making the “carrots” and our end product. It was VERY easy to make and kids can help out all along the way – baking and decorating. It just has several steps – make cupcakes; let cool; make “carrots”; let cool; frost cupcakes, and insert carrot tops – so you need a little time.
Dipping marshmallows in orange candy coating, then dipping top in orange sugar sprinkles, and finally sticking them into styrofoam block to dry. (more…)
First, join Earth Day 2011′s Picnic in the Park initiative. As they say on their site, “celebrate the planet we live on with good food and great people. Choose a favorite outdoor location, round up some friends and take the planet out to lunch!” Check out their website to find picnics already planned to join in or grab some great picnic recipes from famous Chefs like Mario Batali. (The Goat Curd and Fruit Tart looks especially yummy!) Here are my tips on how to plan the perfect family picnic.
Heart Shaped Earth Day Crayons
Recycle your old crayons and turn them into heart shaped earth crayons. They look cool and you can start drawing again. The directions for how to make them come from Martha Stewart here but the TSJ Photography blog had the inspiration to make them look like the earth.
Earth Day Cupcakes
These earth day cupcakes by Stephanie Lynn over at the Under the Table and Dreaming blog are so cool. Definitely bake them with the kids and bring them to your Picnic in the Park. I like that they are gluten free.
We hope you enjoyed all of our Earth Day ideas! Go have fun celebrating.
There are so many great posts out there about how your family can do some simple things to Go Green for Earth Day … and every day frankly. I like this one from Savvy Sassy Moms. However, I wanted to write a post about how you can have FUN Going Green.
1. Kill the Vampires. Play a game and have the kids go room to room looking for any appliances that are plugged in and running but aren’t being used. That includes unplugging your cell phone when it is fully charged. In my office for example, we had a scanner, three printers, and three computers plugged in. These appliances were still sucking electricity even though they were in sleep mode. Turn them off! Kill the vampires.
2. This Friday Night have a Family No Electricity Night. Light a fire in the fireplace, add some candles, and then play board games by candlelight. The kids will think it is so cool. It’s a great way to spend some quality time together talking and playing games without all of the distractions. In today’s uber, fast-paced world, unplugging seems like a great way to relax and bond while also conserving energy.
3. Bike Ride to Dinner. Plan on going out for dinner this weekend? Why not pick a restaurant that can be part of family bike ride. Save gas and burn off that dessert. Bonus!
4. Walk to your local Farmers Market. If you live in the Midwest, it seems like Farmers Market Season will never come. However, for many other parts of the country take the kids to the Farmers Market and support your local farmers. The benefits? Organic food, no chemical fertilizers to harm the environment or you, less gas used for distribution, and very little packaging to clutter up our landfills. Here are some ideas on Games and Activities to do with the kids at the Farmers Market.
5. Spend an evening at your Local Library. Libraries are the original reuse and recycle centers! Save the trees (truffula or others) – don’t buy new books when you can get them from the library. Everyone in my family loves to read so we enjoy going to the library and spending some time alone and together discovering favorite books or new authors. We can sit on the comfy chairs in the library and read to the kids. Read The Lorax. This way the lights are all off at our house, too.
If you turn your Go Green efforts into FAMILY FUN, they’ll probably get done more often and become a habit for your family. After you have done all of these activities, have your kids write and send a letter to The Lorax and let him know that your family cares and is doing its part. Here are some additional tips on what families can do to protect the environment.
“Unless someone like you CARES a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Any other ideas on how your family can have fun AND protect the environment?
We’re celebrating Earth Day this week so we’ll be sharing ideas on how to get the kids involved in respecting and preserving our planet, as well as simple things we can do as families to protect our environment.
Here are some ideas on how to talk and act upon the meaning of Earth Day.
Is it a recipe or is it a craft? It’s both! I just loved the idea for showing off your cupcakes in such a unique way. It’s THE perfect centerpiece for Easter or for an upcoming baby shower.
While I was checking out the recipes on her site, I found this recipe for Angry Bird Cake Pops. Now you can literally feed your obsession. I LOVE it! My kids were so psyched to see this! As she says in the post, it’s a little complicated to make so I’m just going to look at the picture and drool.
If you have a kid-friendly recipe or craft idea for Easter that you’d like us to share, please send it in! We’d love to feature your creativity and if you have a blog site, we’re happy to give a link back. If you can, take a second and vote for us in the Leading Moms in Business contest. It only takes a click!
While blog hopping this week, I ran across some super fun recipes and ideas that would be perfect to cook with the kids this weekend. Have a little fun creating “moments” in the kitchen talking, cooking, and then eating with your kids.
Celebrate Spring and turn a boring bowl of spaghetti into a Pasta Nest with Birds. I love this idea as a fun take on traditional spaghetti and meatballs from Craftymoods.com. She uses candy eyeballs in her recipe but if you didn’t have any, I would suggest using black olives or even raisins for the eyes.
Do you play April Fool’s Day pranks on anyone in your family? We don’t usually but I wanted to check in with you to see what you thought. Do your kids think it’s fun or do the pranks upset them?
Grandpa used to do some fun pranks for his kids and the grandkids but on all of the other Holidays – not necessarily April Fool’s Day. He would put rocks in some of the hidden Easter Eggs. He put grass or vegetables in the Easter Eggs. (Boy, the kids faces are priceless with that one.) He would wrap a can of corn for a kid’s Christmas gift. He put shaving cream on the phone receiver and handed someone the phone and said it was for them. Yuck! He woke his kids up on Saturday morning to hurry and get ready for school. While these pranks are annoying at the time, each of the kids and grandkids talk about these pranks fondly. Grandpa passed away before my kids were born but they love listening to the “Grandpa prank stories”.
So, are the pranks themselves fun or is it the person doing the pranks that makes it good fun? What do you think? I’d love to hear about some pranks in your family.
Now that Spring Break is over, are you feeling a little down in the dumps? Looking for a reason to organize a little family fun? Here’s a unique party idea that will be a big hit with adults and kids alike. Host a Post Spring Break Party. Invite family and friends over to see pictures and learn about everyone’s Spring Break travel fun. Or, if guests didn’t travel for Spring Break, this is the perfect opportunity to host a “Wish I Went on Spring Break” theme party. This party theme is a great way to entertain the kids and let the adults have some fun sharing or pretending, as well.
Get all of my ideas for food, decorations, games, and even goodie bag gifts in the Post Spring Break Family Party Plan I wrote for my friends at MemorableEntertaining.com. This is a free site, but you do need to register to access the party plans. While you are there, check out all of the kids’ party ideas I have contributed to this wonderful site with recipes, decorating and ideas to make your entertaining memorable. My friend Debra, the site founder, is THE Hostess with the Mostest!
Want to do something fun with the kids this weekend but out of ideas? Here are 5 easy, inexpensive and yet incredibly fun activities to do at home with things you already have around the house. Wow the kids with your creativity this weekend!
1. Spa Night – A little pampering makes everyone smile – even Dad!
2. Movie Night – Add a little creativity to make movie night at home extra special
3. Host a Family Game Night – Raid the closet, play some games, and let the competition begin. Invite a neighbor family over to make it more fun.
4. Camp in the Great Indoors – It’s cold outside so bring the camping fun indoors. It will get the family in camping shape for summer.
5. Go on a Date … With Your Child – Spend some one-on-one time with your child. It will make their day to get you or Dad all to themselves!
Whatever you do this weekend, have a blast and make some memories!
Gardening for me is a great way to relax, de-clutter my busy mind, and reconnect with nature. I get a good workout, enjoy plenty of sunshine, create a pretty yard, and grow plenty of basil for my summer bruchetta. But mostly I do garden because we entertain a lot in the summer – neighborhood fire pit parties or BBQs – and we want the house to look smashing.
When my kids expressed an interest in gardening – or rather, when I discovered my daughter attempting to transfer a pretty yellow flower (aka dandelion) into my bed of begonias – I decided to create a designated “Kids Only” garden where they could cultivate their budding green thumbs safely away from my begonias and rose bushes. They get to pick what they want to plant, which makes it exciting for them. (Although when we went to the local nursery to get flowers, my son only seemed to want to buy the container of preying mantises. Hmm!) (more…)
It’s not too late! Still haven’t thought of something fun to do tomorrow with the kids to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Well, the luck of the Irish be with you. Here are some last-minute, but worth-the-wait, ideas.
St. Patrick’s Day has become quite the new “in” Holiday with families it seems. Everywhere you look on the blogs there are some cool new ideas for crafts, food, or fun activities. We do a few things in our house to celebrate, even though we aren’t Irish, so I wanted to share those ideas as well as a few not so easy, but super-cute ideas I’ve found during my late night Internet research safaris. Just because.
Are you flying with the family for Spring Break this year? No matter what age your kids are, traveling through airports can be daunting and frustrating. Read my post over at Parent Tested, Parent Approved for some ideas on how to survive the airport and actually have fun, too.
If you are driving instead of flying, you might be interested in these posts:
Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! Can you believe that 107 years ago, Theodore Geisel changed the world by teaching children to read, and enjoy it, when he introduced “The Cat in the Hat.” We want to honor his memory and thank him for entertaining and educating us and our children. He has stimulated our imaginations and engaged us with fun, humor and a whole lot of goofiness. To keep his memory alive, here are 6 ways to help celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday with some family fun activities. (more…)
Looking for something a little different and very fun to do this weekend with the family? Why not host an Oscar Party? Whether you invite another family over to help celebrate or keep the fun to yourselves, read my Family Friendly Oscar Party Ideas over at Parent Tested Parent Approved (PTPA)’s blog.
So, which movie would get your vote for Best Animated Movie this year? Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon, or The Illusionist? I’m sticking with dragons.
Would you rather skip the Oscars and just watch a movie? Then check out my video on how to make movie night more fun.
Got your Spring Break Family Vacation all planned? If so, what are you doing to build excitement BEFORE you go? My favorite part of a family vacation is building up the excitement about our trip with the kids. I know, as parents we’re busy before a big trip. We get so wrapped up in planning, packing, and last minute preparations that we forget that the fun can start now. Remember, enthusiasm is contagious. If you aren’t excited about an adventure, you can’t expect a child to be, so set aside a little time to make your vacation even more special this year.
Here are some easy ideas on how to have fun with the family before you even leave the house on your adventure.
1. Get the kids excited about the destination by reading books about where you are going or what you’ll see. Take the kids to the library and see what’s available. On our family trip to Boston, we knew we would see Paul Revere’s house so we wanted the kids to know about Paul before we got there, so we read John, Paul, George and Ben.
2. Watch a movie about your destination. Going skiing? Watch a Warren Miller ski film or Snowball Express with Dean Jones. Going to the beach? Watch an old Beach Blanket Bingo movie or Surf’s Up. Going to Washington DC? Watch Night at the Museum 2.
3. Visit the website of your resort or destination city. A lot of ski resorts have a kids section to their site with games and activities for kids. If you have teens, let them do some online research for the best places to eat and visit to get them more involved.
4. As a family, create a list of places or things you absoultely MUST do on the trip, WANT to do, and extra ideas if there’s time. That way you won’t miss anything.
5. Going someplace exotic? Cook a special meal that’s typical of where you are traveling.
Looking for something special to do with the kids to celebrate Valentine’s Day today? How about going to see a Classic Love Story movie tonight? On a school night!?! I know! That’s why they will think it is so cool, a break from the norm. Of course, it’s a Classic Love Story with a twist … that doesn’t have a sad ending … and is quite funny.
We went to see Gnomeo & Juliet Friday night to kick off our Valentine’s Day weekend and it was a very cute movie. The kids loved it! Here’s why I recommend taking the family to see it:
1. It’s rated G. So many kids movies are PG these days which usually offers a cringe-moment, so it’s nice to get a movie that is truly suitable for little kids.(Toy Story 3 was rated G but even it had some intense moments and sexual innuendo).
2. A movie about Garden Gnomes is totally creative. Who doesn’t love Garden Gnomes? Then, to have these Garden Gnomes be star-crossed lovers? Now, you’ve got a cute story. The whole Garden theme and poking fun at “Garden Art” is very clever. The animation is super-cute and it’s a nice break from the “DreamWorks” and “Disney” look.
3. Shakespeare allusions. Pay attention adults! See if you can find all of the fun and sly allusions to Shakespeare in the play. Like the Stratford-on-Avon tour bus or the Rosencrantz and Gildenstern moving van.
4. Rocking Music. Elton John produced the movie so it features all Elton John songs. Nothing wrong with that! You can sing along in your head because you know the words.
5. Gnome in a Thong. While my kids loved Featherstone the Garden Flamingo as the best character, I loved the Gnome who would prance by every now and then in a “Borat”-style Euro-thong bathing suit. Fun!
My kids were totally bummed when we explained that Romeo & Juliet die in the original story. They couldn’t understand why anyone would like a story like that. Come to think of it, why would they? Go see the “Feel-Good” version and have fun with your kids at the movies.
Don’t underestimate the power of surprising your children with a little token of love for Valentine’s Day (actually, any day would do). Last year, my husband created a heart out of flower petals on the counter so my daughter saw it when she came down for breakfast before school. She was beyond elated.
My son was thrilled when he came down and saw his Star Wars guys guarding a special birthday Chocolate Donut for him, but you could do the same for Valentine’s Day. (That boy loves his donuts!)
It doesn’t take much to help them walk on air and best of all, you get to walk up there with them.
There are so many wonderful craft ideas out there on various parenting sites and Mom blogs to help celebrate Valentine’s Day with your kids. It’s hard to choose which to tackle but I put together a list of the ones I thought were really unique, easy, and fun to do with the kids.
I just discovered this new site, SillyEaglebooks.com that had some of the most unique Valentine’s Day crafts. The bloggess, Vanessa, loves children’s books just as much as I do and she uses these books as inspiration for kids crafts and activities. Check out her whole site for ideas, but these were my favorites:
Valentine’s Day Countdown
I love countdown calendars! Special occasions are always more fun when there is a lot of anticipation built up before hand. So this very easy Valentine’s Day Garland from Jessica at HowAboutOrange.com appealed to me greatly. Have your kids add a heart every day before Valentine’s Day and depending on how many days ahead you start, this could be fun garland for a Valentine’s Day party or turn it into a mobile.
Valentine’s Day T-Shirt
Jean over at the ArtfulParent blog made the most beautiful Valentine’s Day inspired Tees for her kids. Her site is gorgeous to look at so check out all of the wonderful craft ideas.
Valentine’s for Boys
Most of these Valentine’s Day ideas are kind of girlie so I loved these totally boyish Robot Valentine’s. Who says Robots can’t feel love?
There are some amazing recipes out there for Valentine’s Day treats for the kids. I went looking for the ones that would intrigue my kids (and me) the most. Make them ahead of time to surprise the kids when they come home from school on Valentine’s Day or you can prepare any of these recipes WITH the kids for even more fun on Valentine’s Day.
Sprinklebakes.com is a very cool baking site and I just love these flaming Chocolate Cupcakes. While she is pushing them as romantic, I would push them as worthy of amazing the kids. I would definitely keep the liquor and the flame out of the kids’ hands, but having them gaze upon a cupcake that is on fire would heat up Mom’s coolness factor. (Note: Although you need to add liquor to make the flame, the heat burns away the alcohol so kids can still eat it. Or, light some on fire but keep some liquor free cupcakes on the side to serve the kids after the “show.”)
This Box of Chocolates Cake from AmazingMoms.com is pretty cool as well.
Here in Chicago we are going to celebrate Groundhog Day with 12 -20 inches of snow. Yippee! (Note to self: Get gas for the snowblower today!) I don’t foresee any Groundhogs popping out in the blizzard to look for a shadow. However, since we might be trapped indoors, I went on the hunt for some Groundhog day fun for the kids.
Finally, you can buy these Groundhog cookie cutters. Use your favorite cut-out cookie recipe and ice them in brown. Yum!
Groundhog Day Shadow Fun
Since the day is all about seeing a shadow, why not play shadow puppets? Set up a white sheet a few feet away from a wall. Place a lamp behind the sheet near the wall. Have your kids take turns going behind the sheet and casting shadow puppets. Here’s a post I found on making a Shadow Puppet Theater that looks super fun.
Here are some Groundhog Day Activities to do with the kids from the official Punxatawney Phil website. I’m all over the Groundhog ornaments to print out and hang from a chandelier or indoor tree but the Word Searches and coloring pages are cute, too.
If your kids are a little older, watch the Groundhog Day movie. My kids think it is hilarious. “Don’t drive angry!”
What do you do to celebrate Groundhog Day with your kids?
Beside being National Chocolate Cake Day it’s also Family Literacy Day. Double bonus! So, I guess we should celebrate by eating chocolate cake while we read our favorite bedtime story … as long as there are no crumbs on the bed.
So what is Family Literacy Day? It’s a day to celebrate reading together. Today families are encouraged to read together, play together, and plan to continue to learn as a family all year long. Wow! We should do that every day.
Reading with the kids is my idea of a perfect Family Fun activity. For a list of my family’s favorite Toddler Bedtime Stories, check out my literacy day post over at the Parent Tested Parent Approved Blog.
Here’s an idea for some family fun. Does your family like to play games? Do you know other “gaming” families? Why not start a Game Night Club? I have been trying to start a Gourmet Club with some friends in my area where we would get together every other month to cook, gnosh, and have fun over fabulous food. It would be a great excuse to actually start making those recipes I pull out of my food “porn” magazines. But it got me thinking about a Game Night Club as well. It would save you money since you wouldn’t be going out, you can include the kids so no sitter needed, and you can use the games you already have in your closet. Well, put like that, what are you waiting for?
Here’s how it would work:
Find 2 or 3 other families to join and pick a consistent date to get together like the third Sunday of every month or the first Saturday of every quarter so that it is easier for people to keep their calendars clear. Consistency makes it easier to plan and creates anticipation.
Choose a host for the first Game Night. You can rotate houses going forward so you only have to clean your house every now and then. The host family provides drinks and a snack. Other families bring a snack to share, as well. Set up a kids game table and an adult game table, if you want, especially if you have big age gaps in the attendees where you need more age-appropriate games. You can also have several tables set up around the house with different games and adults and kids alike can travel from table to table as the games are completed. Try to make sure that no one is sitting out at any time. That leads to boredom which leads to unruliness which leads to a ruined evening. (You know I’m talking about the adults here, right?)
Get some prizes for the winners or inexpensive little trinkets for everyone to get in a festive mood. Candy bars, ribbons or medals, and small drink umbrellas seem to make everyone feel like a winner.
Finally, the host family gets to pick the games. Not everyone will like every game but that is part of the experience – trying new games or playing a game you never would have chosen yourself. When you host, it’s your choice. However, the guests do get some veto power. Anyone can ask to stop a game, but at least one or two others have to agree that the game is lame and then you can move on. Over time you’ll start to recognize the types of games that work well for the personalities and preferences of the group.
Most importantly, have a good time.
Stay tuned, on Friday, we are going to announce a Family Game Night Giveaway. It will be the perfect prize to get your Family Game Night Club started.
To make your Family Game Night extra special, you need to add some great food. Really, that rule applies to anything but there are some special considerations for choosing the best Game Night food offerings. Are you eating dinner while playing or just looking for some snacks? Are you going to take breaks during game play to eat or gnosh while playing? If you are eating while playing, make sure your food offerings are easy to eat with your hands and are non-greasy. The last thing you want is to get grease stains all over the cards or have your favorite game smell like buffalo sauce for the next 12 years. If you are going to take a break between games to eat, then anything goes.
Here are some suggestions for spicing up your Game Night with the perfect food pairings.
Keep it Simple
If Family Game Night is on Friday after a long work week and you are just looking to unwind, keep it low maintenance by ordering in pizza, making chocolate chip cookie bars, or setting up an ice cream sundae bar. (Read my post on how to set up an awe-inspiring ice cream sundae bar.) Indulge in your favorite munchies like popcorn, Chex Mix, or movie theater style candy boxes. Grab some of those gourmet popcorn toppings to literally spice up your snacks.
If I am out and about on Game Night day I like to stop by my favorite Mexican restaurant and get some guacamole and chips and salsa to go. Nothing says Fiesta! like chips and salsa.
If you are inviting friends over, keep it simple by having everyone bring either a dessert or snack to share.
A Little Extra Effort
If you are feeling more inspired, try out some of those appetizer recipes you keep marking in food magazines and then never making. Game Night is the perfect excuse. Here are some recipes I’m dying to try:
Do you have a killer appetizer recipe that you always make when you are invited to a party where you need to bring a dish? It’s easy, everyone raves about it and asks for the recipe but you only get to make it once a year because NO ONE EVER INVITES YOU ANYWHERE! (Hint, hint people!) Well, Game Night is the perfect excuse to make it just for yourself. Here’s my “Go To” appetizer recipe that people always rave about.
Don’t Forget the Drinks
For the adults, have some beer in the fridge, make a pitcher of margaritas, or try out that new drink recipe you’ve been oogling. (See Rachel Ray’s site for some great drink recipes.) Don’t leave the kids out, though. Make non-alcoholic versions of the new drink recipes for the kids. Or, let them have a special drink they don’t normally get. My kids rarely get juice boxes or soda so Game Night is special to them because they can have these high-calorie drinks. Or, make homemade milk shakes. Always a kid pleaser.
Have a “Go To” appetizer recipe that you make all the time because it’s easy, travels well, but most importantly is super tasty? I wanted to share mine because I think it would be perfect for any upcoming Super Bowl, Oscar, or “Winter Blah” Family Game Night Parties.
Goat Cheese and Spinach Pesto Spread
2 cloves garlic
1 1/4 cups fresh basil
1 cup fresh spinach
1/4 cup fresh parsley
3 Tbsp. pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
freshly ground pepper
8 ounces fresh goat cheese, room temperature
1 3-oz. package cream cheese, room temperature
1 jar (7 oz.) sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained, chopped
Crackers or french bread
To make the pesto: Place garlic in food processor fitted with metal blade and process to mince. Add basil, spinach, parsley and pine nuts and puree. Pour oil slowly into processor through feed tube with machine running. Process until combined. Add Parmesan cheese and combine. Add pepper to taste.
Mix goat cheese and cream cheese in bowl of electric mixer or with a hand mixer until smooth. Spread cheese mixture on bottom of 10-inch quiche pan or glass pie pan. Spread pesto on top. Sprinkle with chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Refrigerate, covered for 3 hours or until set. Serve with crackers (I prefer Rosemary crackers) or crostini. Note: To make this recipe even easier, you can buy store bought pesto. But the flavor of this pesto as well as the deep green color provided by the spinach makes it worth the extra effort.
Is your Family Game Night feeling a little stale? The kids aren’t that excited about it anymore? Or, do you have a hard time convincing the family to even have a Game Night? Here are 5 ideas to inject a little more fun and creativity into your family’s special evening. (By the way, to help spice up your Family Game Night, we’re offering a 20% discount on all family games at www.ChocolateCakeClub.com. Sale ends January 31, 2011. Grab some today and be ready to play next weekend!) (more…)
Looking for something fun to do this weekend with the family? How about hosting a good, old-fashioned Family Game Night? You can take turns with each member of your family picking their favorite game. Or invite friends and neighbors over for a casual, inexpensive, and very fun evening.
Whether you plan a big game event or just spontaneously pull some games out of the closet, Game Night is an easy way to have fun together. Depending on the games you play, the night could be challenging, educational, silly, relaxing, competitive and most importantly fun. It’s the perfect excuse to try out those games you got as gifts over the Holidays.
In a new series of posts, I’ll share some ideas on how to make family game night even more fun with a little planning and creativity. I’ll review some new games we’re selling or that we discovered at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair. I’ll be sure to share my family’s top picks for games in this series, as well.
Finally to kick off your Family Game Night, we’re offering a 20% discount on all family games at www.ChocolateCakeClub.com between now and January 31, 2011.Grab some today and be ready to play next weekend!
Pick the Right Game.
To pick the right game for Family Game Night, you need to take a few things into consideration like the competitive level, playing time, age range of the players, and mood.
How competitive are your friends and family? Does the adrenaline kick in when the competition is fierce? Do you have little ones (or big ones) who get mad when they lose? Do you like games where everyone wins? Deciding on how competitive the players are will help you pick the right game. There are some games where there still is a winner or loser, but it’s based purely on chance. A game like Dog Dice where the winner is chosen based on the roll of the dice may be one where the youngest players will win often enough to avoid tears or meltdowns.
Also, for safety reasons, if you have a hyper-competitive group you might want to steer clear of more physical games. I remember a not-too-distant Holiday where a teen cousin got thrown to the floor playing the card game Spoons. While she was part of instigating the “scrum” to grab the spoon, it still shouldn’t have happened. (Although it is a good family story and fun to bring up again and again.)
How much time do you have to play games? If you have little ones, do you only have an hour before bedtime? Do you want to play several games in one evening or really sink your teeth into one good strategy game? If you have guests over, you might want to set up several games on different tables and everyone can get up and switch periodically. If that is the case, don’t pick a game that feels more like a marathon that never ends. Pick one that ends in 20 – 30 minutes. Take a break, grab a snack, and move onto the next challenge. Read the game box to see the estimated game playing time. I still like to play Trivial Pursuit (because I’m good at it) but that can go on for hours and people get sick of me pulling random trivia out of my … head.
Check out Beat the Parents or Cash Cab for a faster moving trivia-based game.
Age Range of the Players
If you have a mixed age range of players, you either need to find a very simple game that is fun for all or pick a game that can be modified for the littlest one at the table. For example, we recently had some friends over for dinner and I wanted to try a new game I bought at the Chicago Toy & Game Fair. It’s called 5 Second Rule. We had an 8-year-old, 10-year-old and 4 crazy adults playing. Although the game suggests ages 10-years-old and up, we were able to modify the game so the youngest could play and win, too. In the game you have 5 seconds to blurt out 3 possible answers to a question. The adults had to name 3, the 10 year old only had to name 2 and the youngest only had to name one answer to win that hand. This worked perfectly to keep it “fair.”
Some games that we really like that are suitable for 3 or 4-year-olds, but won’t bore the heck out of the rest of the family are:
Finally, gauge the mood of the players. Is everyone tired? Sit on the couch and play a kid-friendly version of Scene It. All you need to do is yell at the TV. Are you in the mood to be active? Get everyone moving by bowling or playing Wipe Out on the Wii. Does everyone need a good laugh after a long week? Some of our favorite silly games are Flapdoodle and Snorta. (I hate recommending Snorta because the Out-of-the-Box Game people were so rude to me when I was starting my company, but we do really love to play the game. It’s also a fabulous drinking game, but you didn’t hear that from me.) Do you want your game to be educational, like Spanish Bingo or even Scrambled States of America? Our kids love Mexican Train Dominoes for the silly train sound effects but we secretly like it because it helped my daughter learn to count.
Check back for more posts on Family Game Night. What is your absolutely favorite family game?
Well, this is a fine kettle of fish. I was just cruising through my normal day, trying to stay sane, when I find a link to an article that says the Zodiac has changed and I am now a child of the house of Ophiuchus, the serpent holder. What the …?
Apparently the old Zodiac timetable is out of whack and there is a new one that not only messes up the dates of the 12 Zodiac signs but adds a creepy 13th sign, the Ophiuchus, which I can’t even pronounce.
If you were born between Nov. 29 and Dec. 17, you’re now Ophiuchus, the serpent holder. Here’s the way the rest of the calendar breaks down now.
Capricorn: Jan. 20 – Feb. 16
Aquarius: Feb. 16 – March 11
Pisces: March 11- April 18
Aries: April 18- May 13
Taurus: May 13- June 21
Gemini: June 21- July 20
Cancer: July 20- Aug. 10
Leo: Aug. 10- Sept. 16
Virgo: Sept. 16- Oct. 30
Libra: Oct. 30- Nov. 23
Scorpio: Nov. 23- Nov. 29
Ophiuchus: Nov. 29- Dec. 17
Sagittarius: Dec. 17- Jan. 20
Ophiuchus is a large modern constellation commonly represented as a man grasping the snake represented by the constellation Serpens. (That’s not too phallic.) According to the Christian Science Monitor article, this is all bunk and we should go back to our regularly programmed lives.
So, how does this little fake drama affect my daily life? I guess only time will tell. It does make me feel icky saying Ophiuchus. I wonder if I am still compatible with my husband? My children? Who will have to go? Just kidding.
Next Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and my kids have both Monday and Tuesday off. What to do? What to do? I know they will be bored by 10 a.m. on Monday so, I’ve come up with a list of 10 things we could do together or they could do by themselves while I work for a few hours. I would share my list with you as inspiration. I hope it helps! Have fun.
1. Make Valentine’s Day Cards. Everyone loves a handmade Valentine’s Day Card, especially Grandma and Grandpa. Give them kids some construction paper, lace, glitter, stickers and whatever else inspires them to create a masterpiece of love. If you still need ideas, check out these from Family Fun Magazine, Kaboose, or Amazing Moms.
2. Movie Marathon. Let the kids stay in their pajamas and pick a theme for a movie marathon. Let each member of the family pick a movie and then make popcorn, bake cookies, or set up an ice cream sundae bar for some extra special movie treats.
4. Make a Holiday Scrapbook. Take all of those Christmas or Hanukkah pictures you just took and have each child decorate a page to be put in a scrapbook. Everyone will love looking at it next Holiday season.
5. Stage a Wii Olympics Tournament. Boxing, Tennis, Golf, Guitar Hero or Raving Rabbids. Pick your competitive pleasure and play away.
7. Bake Cookies. Let each child choose their favorite cookie recipe and have fun in the kitchen baking together. My kids love Peanut Butter Blossoms. This isn’t a cookie but these Hot Chocolate Mug Cakes are easy and fun to make on a cold day. Again, not cookies but these Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Hearts from MakeandTakes.com seemed easy and yummy.
8. Host a Tea Party. Get out your pretty hats, scarves, jewelry, tea set, pretty napkins, and invite your child’s friends or stuffed animal friends to join you for a spot of tea. Have your kids decorate the table and serve cookies and “tea” aka root beer for the kids. By the way, here’s how to choose the perfect kids tea set.
9. Have an Indoor Snowball Fight. Create “snowball” ammunition out of white tissue paper or cotton balls wrapped with saran wrap. Give each team an equal amount. Let ‘em fight it out in the basement or other kid-friendly area of the house. Of course, you can do this outside with real snowballs but if the kids are too cold or the snow isn’t “snowball friendly”, then this is a fun way to bring an outdoor activity inside.
10. Puzzles, Games, or Art Kits. This is the perfect day to “rediscover” some games, puzzles, or art or model kits that have been sitting in the closet ignored. Clear a space for the kids at a table and bring out these forgotten items which will seem like new gifts to the kids.
If the kids are still bored, tell them that they are old enough to learn to clean the bathroom. I’m sure you will see a renewed interest in the other ideas.
Have any cool ideas for how to amuse the kids on days when they are home from school? Please share!
Looking for a place to go with the family that offers clean, family entertainment that actually makes you laugh? Go see the Harlem Globetrotters!
My family was lucky enough to get free tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters when they came to Chicago a few weeks ago, courtesy of PTPA Media. (Thanks, PTPA.) My husband and I were looking forward to it since we loved the Globetrotters when we were kids. Hey, they were big stuff back then. They had their own Variety Show, they were on TV all the time, and they were on Scooby Doo, for Pete’s Sake. (That is one of my dreams – to be on an episode of Scooby Doo. That, and to be Grand Marshall of the Rose Bowl Parade.) But I digress!
To read my review of the Harlem Globetrotters and why I think you should take your family, head on over to the Parent Tested Parent Approved Blog.Spoiler Alert – I got a hug from Curly Neal! Woo Hoo!
If you buy tickets online from the Globetrotters website, USE THE CODE “PTPA” TO RECEIVE A DISCOUNT ON TICKETS!
I love snowmen. To me, they are the ultimate celebration of snow. As a kid, and now as parents, when the first wet snow of the season arrives, the first thing we do to celebrate is build a snowman. There is a certain satisfaction to creating something out of nature. It’s an homage to the season. A statue to stand guard during the harsh winter. To wave at you from the window when you are stuck inside. Ok, maybe that’s going too far but it’s also a great way to have fun and be creative as a family.
I love the Calvin & Hobbes strips where Calvin built snowmen getting decapitated or run over by cars. Sure it’s gruesome but I love the creativity. Your snowman doesn’t have to be a snowman with a scarf and sticks for arms. Think creative. Make a snow pirate, snow bear, or I think our best snowman as a family was actually a snow dog that looked like a snow mouse.
To build the perfect snowman, you need a plan. Is it a snow man or a snow mouse or even a snow fort? How big do you want it to be? How are you going to accessorize this new friend? Discuss the details while you are inside and warm. Then head out into the cold for the construction phase.
An adult might need to start the snow ball going but there are plenty of ways for the kids to help, no matter what their age. Here are some great instuctions on how to build a snowman. Our kids new favorite thing is to take a spray bottle, add water and a few drops of food coloring and go outside and “color” the snow.
Here’s some more snowman fun:
Read Stranger in the Woods. This is one of my kids favorite books! Beautiful nature photography, cute story, and it teaches kids to help animals. What more could you want from a winter bedtime story?
Best yet, give another family the gift of having fun together by making them a snowman kit. Marie at Makeandtakes.com came up with a great Snowman Kit to give as a gift. Your family will have fun making the kit and the other family will have fun creating. A snowy win-win!
Send me a photo of your favorite snowman creation at sue (at) chocolatecakeclub.com. I’d love to post it here on the blog.
My kids were positively gloom and doom this morning when they had to go back to school. (Why does school start so early? Why do I even have to go to school? Ninjas don’t need to learn math. Why don’t you ever buy me any decent pants?) Insert your kids’ favorite whining here.
Now I like a good wine, I mean whine, when it’s me doing the whining. I certainly don’t want to condone the kids’ whiny behavior, but I was thinking of doing something special for the kids this evening to “celebrate” or “ease the pain” of going back to school after the Holiday Break. My plan? Chocolate Fondue! What better way to create a Chocolate Cake Moment than with hot, gooey chocolate?
You can certainly surprise the kids with this treat after school today or maybe on Friday after school to celebrate them getting back into the swing of homework.
Kirchner’s Chocolate Fondue
1 lb. of your favorite milk chocolate bar (we like Ghirardellis)
4 oz. dark chocolate bar
3/4 cup heavy cream (you can use half and half for less calories)
1 Tbsp. vanilla
Break the chocolate bars into pieces and place in your fondue, hot pot, or double boiler. Keep on a low setting. (If you don’t have any of those, just use a regular pot on very low setting and make sure you keep stirring.) Add cream and stir constantly until chocolate is melted and smooth. (If you are melting this on a stove top, watch the heat. Don’t walk away or the chocolate will boil and be ruined.) Stir in the vanilla right before serving. Then dip away!
Dipping Suggestions(In order of our kids preference):
Salted pretzel sticks
Cubed pound cake
Angel food cake
Hazelnut or almond biscotti (more for the adults)
Have fun!What do you do to ease the pain of going back to school for your kids?
I love to entertain! Whether it is a small dinner party, a casual pizza party with the neighbors, a family celebration, or cool kids party, I love to plan, host and most importantly have some party fun. But I’m a busy Mom so although I want my party preparations to be memorable, I want them easy as well. I want to spend more time having fun at the party than planning it!
So, I was thrilled when my friend Debra Delaney-Kavalos announced that her fabulous site MemorableEntertaining.com was now free to all. I have had a subscription for her home entertaining site for over a year now and it is my Go-To source for ideas on recipes, party themes, or simple, but Wow! decorations. She has some wonderful recipe contributions from local and national chefs. I was excited when she asked me to submit some Kids’ Parties last year because it challenged me to come up with some unique ideas.
Head on over to MemorableEntertaining.com and register to become a user. It’s now a free resource site, but you do need to register. Then check out my Kids’ Sledding Party here.
There is nothing more fun than a tea party! Dressing up, pouring “tea”, serving cookies, and inviting your favorite friends – real or imaginary – is one of childhood’s greatest pleasures. At least, I think so! Even as an adult one of my favorite things to do is have tea with my BFFs.
If you know a little girl who would love to host her own tea party, then she needs a tea set. There are so many options and sometimes it’s hard to choose the right tea set for a child.
Tea sets come in a variety of materials, sizes and shapes. Porcelain, ceramic, tin, and plastic are the most common. While the first two are breakable, they are also more “dainty” or feminine in design which appeals to a lot of little girls. They are also more like “grown-up” tea sets and little girls definitely want their pretend play to be as realistic as possible. Here are some considerations to hopefully make it easier for you to choose the perfect set.
Toy vs. Heirloom
Here’s my take on this debate. I think buying a beautiful tea set that your daughter or granddaughter can keep as an heirloom to remind them of you is wonderful. However, if the child is young, don’t give it to them until they are older. Or, have Mom or Grandma keep the tea set and host special tea parties for the child when they are younger and then give them the set when they are older. It will be so much more special if they remember using it with you once they get it as their very own.
Giving a young girl a beautiful, expensive tea set that she can’t touch or play with is cruel. She either won’t be allowed to touch it, which then in their eyes they are denied something fun or they will play with it anyway and feel terrible if it does break. Make a tea set gift fun for them! It is the experience of having tea with you or their friends, that they will remember.
The Age Appropriate Myth
First, of all, how old is your tea party cutie? In general, the younger the child, the more durable the tea set should be. Younger kids may not be as dexterous and need a larger tea cup. Even though they have little fingers, it might be harder for them to grab tiny cups.
Most toys give an age appropriate guideline on the box. Keep in mind this is a guide. The manufacturer is afraid you are going to break it and accuse them of not warning you, so they err on the cautious side. You are going to have to gauge whether your daughter or granddaughter can handle a breakable tea set. My son is almost 11 years old but I cringe any time he goes near glass. After all, he is officially the sworn enemy to all snow globes. If he even looks at one, it breaks. My daughter on the other hand has had a ceramic and a porcelain tea set since she was 3 years old and hasn’t chipped or broken a cup yet. She treats her tea set like gold and is dexterous enough to handle it carefully.
So look at the age guidelines on the tea sets, which are usually set for a worst case scenario and make a judgment call on whether she can handle a more fragile set. What’s the worst case scenario? She breaks a cup and you need to buy a new one. I’d rather see my kids playing and enjoying their tea set than worrying about breaking it. If you find a tea set you love and are worried it might get broken, buy 2 sets. That way you always have a back-up and no one has to worry.
Size Does Matter
Tea sets come in different sizes. There are mini tea sets which really are more collectible items or doll-size so your dolls can pretend to have tea. Your child will not be able to drink out of these. We sell this Mini Crown Tea Set which is perfect for a doll tea party. If you are buying the tea set online, it should say the size in the product description. If not, don’t hesitate to email or call, to get a better sense of the size of the tea set.
Who’s invited to the party? Believe it or not, it’s hard to find kids’ porcelain tea sets that have 4 cups. Most only have 2. We only carry one porcelain set that has 4 cups. Our plastic and tin tea sets do include 4 cups so you might want to look at tea sets in other materials, if you need more than 2 cups.
You can always buy mismatched porcelain tea cups at estate sales, flea markets, or second hand stores to add more cups to your set. I know I needed to invite ALL of my stuffed animals to the tea party or they would get upset.
Here’s the million dollar question. Is your child going to drink out of the tea set? When your child is younger, they have no problem pretending. They don’t need liquid in the cup to have a good time. When your child hits 5 years old or older, they might want to be a little more “grown-up” and serve the tea at their party, drinking water, ginger ale, root beer, or juice out of the tea cups. It’s as much fun to pour as it is to drink. If that is the case, you need to make sure that the tea set is food safe, FDA-approved, and water resistant. If the set is plastic, make sure it meets all BPA, phthalate, and lead safety standards. Basically, it needs to be non-toxic. While a tin tea set may be non-toxic, once you add liquid to it some tea sets start to leak or rust.
If she wants to drink out of the tea set, look for a cup size that is at least 2” in diameter. You won’t get a lot of liquid in these cups, about 2 ounces, but it’s enough. The porcelain tea sets we sell at Chocolate Cake Club, like our Daisy Tea Set, fit this bill.
I hope these considerations have helped you to choose the perfect kids tea set for your little girl’s first or next tea party. We’ll be adding a post on How to Host the Perfect Tea Party next week so come back for tips on how to make your kids’ tea parties even more fun and unique.
I was thrilled to be invited to WGN-TV today to share my ideas for a Kid-Friendly New Year’s Eve Party. Watch the video and let me know what you think. What do you normally do for New Year’s Eve? If you stay home with the kids, how do you celebrate?
Looking to ring in 2010 with some fun for your family? Personally, I prefer to go to bed early and sleep in on New Year’s Day to recover from the Holiday season. My kids however, like the idea of celebrating the arrival of the new year. So, we will party. Since I’m usually running on empty, I’ve put together some fun but easy ideas for staying home and celebrating in your family room with the kids.
Keep it low-key.
You don’t need to go crazy cleaning the house, buying party favors, and cooking to have a fun New Year’s celebration. Keep the party ideas simple. Even if you just end up watching the countdown shows on TV with the kids, they’ll appreciate it.
Make it a party.
Definitely invite neighbors, family and friends with kids about the same age over to help celebrate. This keeps everyone off of the road, you can all watch the kids together, and it saves on babysitter money. To keep it casual and easy, have everyone bring a dish to share. Start the party later so you don’t need to cook dinner, just have snacks and desserts. Invite the kids to come over in their pajamas so it’s casual, and parents won’t have to change their kids’ clothes if they fall asleep before going home.
Time is all relative.
Even if you have small children, you can still ring in the new year together. Here’s a trick. If you have small children who might not make it to midnight, change the clocks in the house so that “midnight” hits around 9 or 10 p.m. The kids will feel like they got to stay up and celebrate and you will still be able to put them to bed at a decent time.
Pop in the Fun
Kids love to make noise and New Year’s Eve is all about loud noise. Grab some inexpensive noise makers at your local Dollar Store or buy a roll of large bubble wrap. Give each kid a piece and let them “Pop it Up” at midnight while the adults pop open the champagne. Skip any confetti or streamers unless you want to spend the next day cleaning. Remember, we said keep it simple.
It’s easier to plan a party if you have a theme. Here are 3 easy themes and activities to keep the family occupied and laughing while you wait for midnight.
Get out those new board games you got for Christmas or Hanukkah, find your old favorites in the closet or fire up the Wii for a little family competition. Definitely grab prizes like big boxes of movie theater candy, large chocolate bars, or my favorite, win coupons to get out of household chores. Click here for more ideas on planning a Family Game Night. Our favorite games:
Why not have fun cooking together and sharing some laughs in the kitchen by making homemade pizza? If you have a killer pizza recipe and a pizza stone, you are good to go. If not, here’s ours or we sell a Kids Pizza Party Kit to help with a recipe and the necessary utensils. To make the evening more unique, have everyone wear their pajamas all night. Invite another family over and make it a kids/adult slumber party. Or set up a tent in the living room and the kids can watch the ball drop from inside the tent in their sleeping bags. Don’t like pizza? Check out all of our kids cooking kits.
Fancy Schmancy New Years Eve Party
Half the fun of New Year’s Eve is getting dressed up. Who loves dress up more than kids? It’s also fun to dance so why not combine these two into a Fancy Schmancy New Year’s Eve Party? Kids love watching their parents get dressed up for New Year’s Eve Parties, so let them share in the spotlight this year by dressing up in their fancy duds or their kooky dress-up clothes.
You don’t have to go to a club to hear the latest bands and dance on New Years. Pick a theme and host a kid’s prom at home. Turn the New Year’s countdowns on the TV and let the kids dance along to the featured bands. Or set up an area in the house as a dance floor and spin the tunes. Create a playlist of the top dance hits of 2010 and groove those holiday feeding-frenzy calories away or grab some of our favorite kids music to get them hopping. Get your video camera out because the video of your kids dressed up and dancing will be worth it!
Whatever you decide to do, have a safe and wonderful New Year’s Eve with your family. We look forward to sharing more simple, creative and memorable Family Fun ideas with you in 2011, so we can all have more Chocolate Cake Moments.
On Thankgiving, did you ever have to sit at the Kids’ Table? I distinctly remember being banished to the dark, dank basement to eat with the other messy kids on major Holidays. I didn’t like it. So, I was thrilled when I saw TipJunkie.com’s post on Kids’s Table Decorating Ideas. Some of these ideas are so cute and creative!!!!! If our kids table had looked like this, I would still be sitting there as an adult.
So, get crafting and your kids are sure to be thankful that they aren’t eating in the dark, boring basement.
You know Holiday Traditions don’t always have to be about family. One of my favorite traditions is a Mom’s Night Out. For a few years now, three of us girl friends have been getting together in December to have Holiday Tea. So civilized! Chicago has some amazing places for tea – the Drake Hotel, the Peninsula Hotel, the Russian Tea Room. We meet, drink, eat and exchange some gifts. I dig the champagne, exotic teas, and the cute little sweet tray. I look forward to it every year. (While the food is better at the Peninsula, I like the Drake best for it’s traditional decor.)
Here are some other ideas for outings with your bestest Mom friends. Take some time for yourself during the Holiday Season to unwind and recharge. After all, if Mommy ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
1. Shopping Spree – Kill two birds with one stone and organize an outing to get your Holiday shopping done. Head on over to that new Mall you’ve been dying to visit. Or take the train and go to the big stores downtown. It’s always more fun when you have someone helping you shop for those impossible people on your list.
2. Cookie Swaps – Do you and your friends like to bake? Get a cookie swap going this year. CreativeMama.com has all the tips on How to Host a Cookie Swap. Stand around the kitchen with some cookie dough martinis and bake up a storm. Put on some music and dance while you’re at it. (Make sure your husband takes the kids to the movies. You don’t want them to die of shame while you boogie and sing.)
3. Holiday Wine Tasting – Do you have a local winery or gourmet wine shop in your area? Call and see if they will give you a tour or a mini wine tasting class. You can tell your hubby that you are going to find the perfect wine for Holiday dinner but we all know you are going for the fun. They may even have little snacks. Bonus!
4. Nutcracker Ballet – I love the Nutcracker Ballet. We are lucky in Chicago to have the Joffrey Ballet perform the Nutcracker every year. I’ve seen numerous versions and noboby does it better than Joffrey. I fortunately have a husband who doesn’t mind going to the ballet with me. However, many of my friends don’t. So, this is the perfect excuse to get together with the girls and get your sugar plum fairy fix.
5. Cooking Class – Another option for a fun evening out with the gals is a cooking class. If you don’t already have a favorite place for cooking classes, ask your friends what they recommend or look online. Some Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table stores have Holiday themed cooking classes. You can even have a private chef come to your house and teach the class in a more comfortable setting. Learn how to make killer Holiday desserts or New Years Eve party appetizers.
Looking for some fun ideas to do with the family around Thanksgiving? Here are a few of my favorites as well as some great ideas from other Mom bloggers.
Get Active! Our town hosts a Turkey Trot 1 Mile and 5K race every Thanksgiving morning. While we usually travel out of town to visit family on Thanksgiving so we have never been in town to participate, several of our neighbors run as a family every year. It’s a great way to burn the calories before you pack in the carbs!
Bake Up Memories. We have a family tradition on Thanksgiving Day. After we gorge ourselves and the boys go watch football or take a nap on the couch, the women folk go back in the kitchen and make our favorite Holiday cookies. Each person brings their favorite recipe and we bake, bake, bake. (It keeps us awake and standing so we’re burning the Turkey dinner calories, right?)
When we started this tradition it was fun to see what Grandma’s favorite cookie recipe was when she was a kid. Now that she is gone, we still make those cookies to remember her by. The other benefits of this tradition are that everyone goes home with a plate of assorted cookies. Freeze them and pull them out for your Holiday parties. If that’s not a stress-bustin’ tip, I don’t know what is.
If you live in the Chicagoland area, make a mess with your kids this Thursday! And, save $15, for being a ChocolateCakeMoments.com reader.
If you haven’t been to the new Make a Messterpiece kids creative studio yet, head on over to their fun location in the Glen, this Thursday, November 18th. Just tell the lovely people at the counter that ChocolateCakeMoments.com told you to say “Customer Appreciation” to get free admission for your child ($10) and 1 free activity ($5). Parents are always free.
Your kids will have fun partaking in any one of the creative activities like Creative Kitchen, Bubbleology, Splattacular Tables or Drum Roll. You can enjoy these activities with your kids or leave them in the hands of the expert staff while you get some downtime in their Club M Lounge. Club M features home-like furniture, free Wi-Fi, books, magazines,and resource boards. You can purchase refreshments and watch your kids make a mess with glee on a closed circuit TV.
Check out their website for the address and hours of operation. What are you waiting for? Head on over and make a mess.
When Does the Holiday Season Officially Start for Your Family?
When does the Christmas season officially start in your house? The day after Thanksgiving? The 1st of December? Christmas Eve? When do you get your Christmas tree? In our house, the Elf makes his first appearance the day after Thanksgiving. We traditionally switch gears to Christmas mode that Friday after Thanksgiving. It has been a tradition in our house to get out the decorations and go get our live tree that weekend, so it made sense for us to see the Elf at the same time. (Also, the kids drive us nuts asking where the Elf is way before Thanksgiving. While their constant queries can be annoying, I love that they are so excited about a tradition! We start as early as we can.) You can tell the kids that the Elf doesn’t show up until the decorations go up because he can only visit a decorated house. Whatever rationale works for you, go for it.
Key Dates Can Help You Remember
It’s easy to remember when to start this tradition if you tie the Elf’s first appearance to another key date in December. Start on December 1st when all of the advent calendars kick in. Or, a friend of mine starts her Elf on the Shelf fun on December 6th, which is St. Nicholas Day. Someone else told me they start December 13th because it is 12 days before Christmas.
What is Your Level of Enthusiasm?
I’ve had some friends say that they just can’t remember to hide the Elf or come up with a new hiding place every day for a month. It adds stress to an already stressful time of year. If that is the way you feel, start 5 or 10 nights before Christmas so the tradition doesn’t become overwhelming for you. (If you need ideas on where or how to hide the Elf, I’m starting a new series on creative Elf hiding places. Check back for some inspiration.)
Bottomline, there is no right or wrong answer on when to start the Elf on the Shelf tradition. Have Ziggy or Petunia or Mr. Twinkle Toes come out when you are ready for some Holiday family fun. If the kids are excited about the tradition then give them a date to look forward to. Anticipation makes it more fun!
When do you start your family’s Elf on the Shelf tradition?
This multiple award winning toddler balance bike is built to help promote motor skill development, yet look cool while doing it. Designed in South Africa, the ingenious YBIKE makes learning to ride a bike effortless for children as young as 2 years. Available in a variety of colors.
Little Red School House Play Tent
This Little Red School House Tent by Pacific Play Tents is spacious enough for all the neighborhood friends to come over and learn a little fun! Great for hours of imaginative play either inside or outside, this high quality play tent is the perfect gift of fun. Play school with this school house, and be the coolest teacher on the block.
this is the perfect toy! Green Toys has crafted this Eco-Friendly Kids Tea Set out of 100% recycled milk jugs! The tea set consists of 17 pieces, including a teapot, sugar bowl, 4 saucers, 4 teaspoons, a creamer and 4 teacups. We love the soft colors and durable (nearly unbreakable) structure of the set.
This Butterfly Toddler Nap Mat is perfect for taking to daycare, on overnight trips to Grandma’s house, or even keep in the car for impromptu naps. Each nap mat is extremely soft and comfortable, the head can be used as a pillow, and it includes an attached blanket. The toddler nap mat easily rolls up and comes with shoulder straps that are adjustable on the back for a comfortable fit. Personalize it with your child’s name! Also available in turtle or pink hippo designs.
A Light in the Night Glow Friend and Book Set We have discovered this adorable Kids Night Light set called Light in the Night Glow Friend Book Set. If your child is scared, just squeeze the Glow Friend’s tummy and he’ll light up to prove there is nothing scary in the room. Included with this Glow Friend is a fun, illustrated book for families to read before bed calming to calm the nerves of any little one.
It is so much fun to pretend to be a grown-up, complete with purse and cell phone by International Playthings. This adorable soft purse includes chunky lipstick, soft mirror, set of keys, wallet, debit card, and portable phone. Let’s go shopping!
Brown Owl Toddler Backpack
Help your kids assert their independence by letting them carry their most valued possessions THEMSELVES with our best selling Toddler Quilted Backpacks. These machine washable backpacks are great for taking toys to restaurants or blankies to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Backpacks are available in over 20 different designs, you’re sure to find one that’s perfect for your little one. Don’t forget to personalize the backpack with your child’s name.
Huggable Plush Elf on the Shelf Santa’s helper is now available for hugs and snuggles! This Elf on the Shelf 19″ Plush Elf is so soft and adorable. Kids can curl up with a blanket and their Elf for a night of holiday movies, bring him along for Christmas caroling, or just prop him up for all to enjoy. This lovable elf is the perfect holiday gift that gets everyone in the holiday spirit. If you don’t have an Elf on the Shelf Book & Elf set yet, grab it now to start a wonderful family holiday tradition.