Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Teaching Kids: Mixing colors

Today the beautiful light coming through the dining room windows inspired me to do something bright and cheerful with the kids. We learned about mixing colors- what happens when you combine blue and yellow- and the shades of the rainbow. Zion, who chronically forgets her colors, (she is a two year old, after all) even got the hang of it! They had a great time mixing food dye to make primary colors- red, yellow and blue; then we combined them to create the rainbow effect. It was so pretty the glasses are still hanging out on my windowsill!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Three Holiday Decorations to Make at Home!

Things have been REALLY busy around here (hence the two week break from posting). I have been up to my neck in Happy Goats Soap Co orders and loving every minute of it. Oh yeah also feeding, clothing and playing with my three kids, plus hiding Lorky the Christmas Elf which is like a career all its own. In the midst of all of that, I realized I couldn't do everything I wanted to and that something had to give. SO... my kids have been introduced to Ellio's pizza, their new obsession. Its a decision I may come to regret as I discover that they reject all other foods in favor of the boxed frozen pizza slices. Insider tip- if you're going to feed your kids frozen food be sure to thaw a bag of those microwave steamed vegetables. In my opinion, they have redeemed many-a-meal around here. If its green its good, right?

Even though we're busy, we've still been decking the halls. If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen #deckthehalls2014 posts. Here's how some of those ideas happened!

 Paper Mache Stars

to do:
1. Cut out star shapes from cardboard. (I used diaper boxes...naturally.)
2. Mix one part glue to two parts water in a large bowl.
3. Rip strips from news paper, and dip the strips into the glue. 
4. Place newspaper dipped in glue all over the starts and let them dry for at least a few hours. 
5. I poked holes in the stars to string and hang them.

Salt Dough Ornaments

I already posted my recipe for these here. So easy and fun!
I painted over them with glitter glue after baking to add some shine.

Dried Fruit Ornaments

Do you have a food dehydrator? I do, (awesome yard sale find!) but if not, you can still make these very pretty dried fruit ornaments! Just slice and put them in the oven on a greased baking sheet at 200 degrees for about 8 hours or until they are thoroughly dried. I used apples, pears, lemons, oranges, and grapefruit. I also sprinkled them with cinnamon but it does make them a bit darker. They smelled amazing.

Other Ideas:

Here's what we do- bundle up and go out into the back yard. Look for any evergreens you can get your hands on. We have VERY slim pickings on my property even though we live back in the woods.  I'd have to trek back pretty far to find anything which didn't happen this year. There are some holly trees and bushes, but that's about it! So we use what we have and trim and hang greenery.

We also string fresh cranberries. You will probably need two bags from the grocery store to make a garland long enough for your whole tree.

Hang ornaments made of cinnamon sticks, cinnamon dough ornaments, and the salt dough ornaments on your tree. My kids love the traditions we are beginning, and the familiar smells every holiday. It's one thing I set the time aside for and make sure it happens, no matter how busy.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Favorite Christmas Gifts for Young Kids- 2014

Presents can be so hit or miss, so I wanted to make this list of some of the things my kids have received and actually loved and played with on a regular basis. I'm not necessarily recommending the exact item, but more of an idea. Some gifts I'm absolutely sure the kids are going to love, but then they rarely play with them which is so disappointing (especially if they are on the expensive side). Whether you are buying for your own child or for someone else's, the following are both parent and kid approved ideas that have been successful with my two, three and four year olds.

Melissa & Doug Fold & Go Dollhouse
I like that this is both very pretty and also easily moved from one spot to another.
It isn't too big but there's plenty of space inside.
Also comes with accessories so there aren't tons of extras to buy.

This is one of the kids most played with toys. 
They like reading through the booklet it comes with and matching up the bugs.

Art Supplies: pipe cleaners, construction paper, glue sticks, glitter glue, washable markers, crayons, kids scissors, STICKERS.

Kid sized garden tools. Especially large shovels, rakes, and buckets for digging.

This is a play food dish set from Target. All three kids like this.
We have a really nice wooden play kitchen but these dishes can also be played with in our full size sink and in the bathtub! The pitcher is good for learning how to pour.

A baby stroller and baby carriers.

Play Doh!!!

Very cool gift for a kid who likes to build. 
These sets are extremely well made and worth the money, in my opinion.

Books-at the top of our list are "The Little Blue Truck," "Where the Wild Things Are," 
"Brown Bear Brown Bear," and "The Very Hungry Caterpillar."

There you have it, my kid and parent approved gift list for 2014!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Linen Closet to Home Office in 2 Hours

Ever since starting Happy Goats Soap Company, things have gotten a little, um... ridiculous... in our closet area. (See the before picture, below.) At first I just wanted to clean the closet a little bit. Get rid of some things and organize my soap supplies, which I keep right there in that closet. Before you're too hard on me, you have to remember that the five of us live in 900 square feet. As I was pondering these things and sulking a little bit this morning, I soon realized what I really wanted. A home office. Not going to happen, I know. But what about...a home office IN my closet? Let's start the stopwatch at 9 AM. They said I couldn't make it work. I had doubters. But when all was said and done- we did it!- thanks in part to a healthy dose of screen time for the little ones. A closet office, with a working light! My soap supplies in one place and a spot to sit and work. Mission accomplished. All before my watch said 11 AM. If you are short on space and in need of a tiny office and you have a closet you could shuffle some things around in, why not give it a shot?!

the before and after

Friday, November 14, 2014

Keeping Kids Busy: Let them do "Work"

So Isaiah needs to be busy pretty much every minute of the day.  He's the kind of kid that doesn't just think of constructive (or quiet) things to do on his own. This means that in order to rbing out the very best in him, I am required to have an arsenal of ideas that can redirect quickly and get him outside, even in cooler weather.

This morning as I chopped and cleaned vegetables for soup, I realized I didn't need to walk the scraps out to the compost bin myself! I pulled the seeds out of the squash and put them in a bowl. I put the rest of my leftovers on a little tray that the kids use when they play outside and placed it by the front door. Isaiah and Zion used shovels to "plant" the seeds in my winter garden. Now I realize we aren't going to be harvesting squash from this planting but it was great for learning how to plant. Then they had to transport all kinds of plant scraps to the compost, so I talked to them about compost (like I normally do) and they learned something new. Since they're so little, these habits we're forming are ingraining in their little minds the practices that will hopefully carry through to adulthood. We plant. We compost. This is what we do to take care of the planet! If you want to get really home schooly you can do a little lesson on Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. They were in charge of taking care of the plants and the animals and that was important to God.

I've found that the more "important" a task seems to Isaiah and Zion, the more interested they are. If I make an everyday chore fun then they really get into it! I might have to go back later and clean up their mess but it keeps them busy and keeps their minds working. Oh, and they're not in front of a screen. That's refreshing :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ten Minute Fresh Cranberry Sauce

If you have ten minutes, a bag of cranberries, and a half a glass of orange juice, then you've totally got this. I have to admit I love the canned jellied cranberry sauce we eat on Thanksgiving, but this is way better and just as cheap. You can either refrigerate, freeze, or hot water bath can your jars. My recipe makes one pint or two half pint jars of cranberry sauce.

Smooth Cranberry Sauce

One 12 ounce bag of fresh cranberries (rinsed well)
One cup of sugar
1/2 cup of orange juice
1/2 cup of water
the zest of an orange is optional, I didn't but it would add something.

1. On medium high heat, bring all of the ingredients to a boil in a medium pan.
2. Let it boil for about ten minutes, stirring well to prevent scorching. I had to turn my heat down a little bit when I noticed the pan was a little too hot and the sauce was sticking to the bottom. You really want to boil this well so that the cranberries pop and release their juice.
3. Once the mixture is thickened nicely (you can thank all of the pectin in those cranberries), remove from heat and strain with a metal sieve or food mill to remove stems, skins, etc etc.
4. Pour into one pint sized jar or two half pint jars. Be sure to use wide mouth if you want the look of the typical "jellied"cranberry sauce you can 'plop' into a dish and slice for your guests this Thanksgiving :) To get it to come out of the container nicely just run some hot water around the outside of the jar and loosen along the inside rim with a small spatula. It should be served chilled.

If you are having problems with the sauce thickening, you need to boil it longer. I promise this works. And don't use a sugar substitute, because the pectin in the cranberries reacts with the sugar to thicken the mixture once you boil it. It doesn't work the same with splenda/honey/agave nectar you healthy people. The sauce thickens up a lot once you allow it to cool and chill it. I love this recipe on biscuits or with turkey or on a sandwich. Mixed in with vanilla yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon for breakfast. Also just by itself on a spoon. :D

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