Tuesday, October 29, 2013

North Shore Park or Flora Wylie

The weather has been amazing, breezy, cool, and sunny. On Sunday evening we took advantage of the beauty that surrounds us and went  to North Shore Park. We picked up some dinner and had a picnic by the Bay.

This stretch of  St. Petersburg is gorgeous and is home to a series of outdoor spaces. North of North Shore there is stretch of park that runs along side of the bay. There is a long sidewalk for walkers, runners and bikers. The center portion is frequented by pick up soccer games and Spring Easter egg hunts this is called Eva Rouse Park. Connecting Eva Rouse and North Shore is a beautiful arboretum. The Gizella Kopsick Aboretum has a gorgeous array of native plant life showcasing over 200 different types of palm trees. It's a lovely area with great richness. The spot that we chose has a chunk of beach. Many locals come to swim and sun instead of fighting traffic to the Gulfside.
We of course ate and went to the playground. The playground is positioned right at the bend of the shoreline right behind the North Shore Aquatic Center which is the only pool in the Southern Pinellas that is open all year round. We enjoyed a summer day of kid water fun there a few months back. This park is recommended for kids 5-12 but both girls were fine. We learned that Vivian does not have any fear. So she will just attempt to walk right off the jungle gym if no one is with her. At one point, she walk right onto the slide, fell and slid all the way down with a look of panic and joy simultaneously.
At this park you have to keep an eye on your little ones because it sits near the corner that runs along the shoreline. The beach area and the park area are on different levels of the ground so there is a ledge that has a drop of about 3 feet. On the other side there is a parking lot and with all the activity in the area this too is quite busy. It has a sandy foundation which is not my mommy favorite because it gets everywhere and comes into your home as a stowaway in kid sneakers.
The thing that can not be beat is the scenery. It is spectacular.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Gaurkee O' Lanterns

Over the past month we have participated in various Autumn celebrations all of which have pumpkins at the center. Instead of buying huge pumpkins every where this year we bought small pumpkins along the way and purchased our big pumpkins at the grocer which was a rather massive savings. 

In my eternal craftiness I wanted to be sure that both girls had something that was age appropriate to do with their respective tiny pumpkins. I spray painted two of them for no reason except I had the paint and I wanted to do something a little different. My mom had gotten both girls Halloween coloring books with stickers. So for Vivian who is almost 15 months, I pulled her stickers out and let her stick them on the pumpkin. The stickiness of the stickers was a new experience for her, and her dexterity wasn't quite ready to unstick them from her fingers at first but she did great. Above all she really enjoyed turning her pumpkin to see all her Sesame Street favorites.

For Lydia I let her squirt her ever favorite glitter glue all over them. She sparkled them all over with various glitter colors. About midway through, dad got smart and out a plate underneath the pumpkin. I purchase a pack of glitter glues that were Crayola and I don't think they were as nice. These ran a little too much in my opinion. I am perpetually annoyed with myself when I don't by Crayola. The couple of bucks I save aren't every worth it, I think at least. However, Lydia didn't notice and she loved it.

The next creative pumpkin endeavor was painting them. This was Vivian's first time painting and I have to say, that she was very good at it. She dipped her brush in the paint and wiped it on the pumpkin. Occasionally, she painted her face and the inside of her mouth but she figured out on her own that it wasn't too tasty.

Lydia for the first time was a little frustrated that mixing all the paint colors didn't mean a rainbow on her brush. She didn't like her brown that manifested from her casual dips in the colors. I got her more paint and a couple of other brushes and it helped a little, but I think it may be time for her to have a brush for every color. We will see if that works a little better for her.
Meanwhile, Eliot was cutting the tops off the big pumpkins. Just when the creative portion was finished he was ready for a little extra help from the girls. Lydia was a little apprehensive at first. She's not one for surprises, so sticking her whole hand, well really whole arm into a large orange vegetable, was not a great idea according to her. Once she saw Vivian, who is totally the kid that will do such things, not lose a limb she was extremely helpful in this process. More importantly she really enjoyed it.
When Lydia was about this age we purchased a potato head pumpkin person. I still think it was one of the greatest ideas. We craved same holes onto another pumpkin and let Vivian work on this one. She loved pulling the pieces off and putting it back in.
Meanwhile, Lydia drew the face of her own pumpkin. I gave her a marker and she just drew whatever she wanted. It was a great one! Once it was craved out and we put a candle on the inside, she was thrilled with her creation. She was very pleased with her big girl self.

For the other pumpkin Lydia wanted us to make Priscilla, the cat. So I did my best but I still think hers was better. The girls colored $1 masks which were fun throughout the night especially as they chased each other and smacked each other on the head. When all the carving and coloring was completed we took the pumpkins to our stoop and lit them, so we could be proud of our work as they glowed in the crisp of the night. We ate candy and laughed and it was a great Halloween night.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Cooking Lessons

I love to cook. I wish I did more of it all the time to the point that I often think that if I had all the money in the world I would go to cooking school and become a real chef. It's in these big dream rants that Eliot reminds me that real chefs work every weekend and evening always and spend little to no time with their families which at the end of the day is my real love and passion. Not to mention that I really do love teaching and working with youth, so I am not exactly hiding from my calling either. I digress. I like to cook. And when possible I like to encourage Lydia to help me cook. I had been wanting to try a  couple of appetizers for awhile and so I put together an appetizer meal. Admittedly it is one of my favorites types of dinners.

We have a plethora of string cheese. Not kidding. We have so much string cheese I am not sure our family can consume it all before the expiration dates. I wanted to used some up, so I went on the beloved pinterest  and I saw a very easy recipe with pepperonis and string cheese inside of a crescent roll. I have been dieting again this I purchased the reduced fat rolls. Pepperonis are actually not as bad as one may think, a serving size is 16 pieces of pepperonis.

Lydia help me. I pulled on the crescent rolls and we talk about them being triangles. Then she placed the pepperonis, circles, on the triangles and she counted them out. 3 pepperonis for each. Then the string cheese cut in half, and you would roll them up. Lydia did all of it. She is a great roller  too!
Then, we made Buffalo Chicken and Bleu Cheese bites. These were so easy! I had pita chips which we placed on the cookie sheet. Lydia counted them and lined them up. Then I tossed some shredded chicken in buffalo and placed them on each chip. Lydia then topped them with bleu cheese crumbles and onions. Each one got 2 of each. She was very meticulous. This one I think did a lot for her small motor skills for sure.
Last item on the menu for the night was guacamole. I cut the avocado in half, scooped out the insides into a bowl and gave Lydia the masher. She mashed. I added in the Rick Bayless green chile guacamole mix that Eliot and I are in love with and then Lydia mixed it all up.
At the end I warmed up some marinara to dip the pepperoni and cheese rolls in and I dipped the guacamole with Special K crackers because I was attempting to lower calories. The serving size with these crackers is 24 of them. The best bite was definitely the Buffalo Chicken Bleu Cheese on little pita crackers. I think I will make those for our pre-trick or treating block party for sure.

The best part was having Lydia help. She had a ball, she learned things and was a really good cook. There were no major messes. She was very focused and excited to help make dinner. She did a great job. Though it is worth noting that she didn't eat any of things we made because she is super picky but one step at time.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Once Upon a Time Shower

One of my best friends in the world is pregnant with her second little one. I got the privilege of throwing her a little sprinkle shower and I had a ball doing it. Her mom had suggested a children's book theme which was perfect! My husband and I are naturally book junkies and we give everyone children's books for almost every holiday. Plus we got boxes of books passed down to the girls from various members of our family, so we had a ton of supplies.
First objective was to create a menu. I tried to pick items that I knew that the mama was really enjoying throughout her pregnancy. The number one item was chicken salad, but  also shared some pasta salad, cheese and crackers, fruit, meatballs, goldfish and cupcakes. Then I sat down in front of the bookcases in the girls rooms and pulled out the best book associated with the food. Some of these were just lucky finds, others I got a little help from the internet.

We had a few activities which involved children's book themes too. One of my all time favorite children's books is The Giving Tree. I have read this countless times at camp to campers. This was perfect for the party. I painted canvas blue and then painted a tree trunk. I cut out leaves from various colored green scrapbook paper and asked the party goers to leave little comments on the leaves for the baby. The instructions that I read suggested using double-sided tape after placing the leaves on the tree I have learned that the tape isn't strong enough and that Elmer's glue is a better choice. It turned out really lovely.

For other activities I also printed out a children's book quiz  with the answers from here and the winners got prizes. We wrote silly sayings on diapers to amuse the parents as they change those stinkers too. Simple.
Around the house I decorated with books. I printed out The Keep Calm sign below from Google images (and I felt pretty hip about) and I printed out covers of Golden Book series and created a book banner. I simply whole punched two wholes on each page and strung a ribbon through them. That I hung across our sliding glass doors. I placed books around the house in tables and even in the bathroom. 
I set up a couple of tables. We know that they are having a baby boy so I added those touches here and there with the blue table cloths and the baby boy picks on the cupcakes. Each table had a center piece that included a book and stuffed animal that is associated with the character of the book. We were also going to decorate book plates for the baby books that each person was asked to bring in lue of a card. The invite had ABC's on it which was perfectly fitting for the theme.


For the party gift I had two. I made bookmarks with a little baby boy charm and a sticker on the back that said Once A Upon Time Baby Shower with the date and name. And I made these little baggies of gummy worms which was a great suggestion from the grandma to be. I had these avery circle labels and I made them online through their program. It is super easy to use and it was easy to place on clear baggies with gummies.
Overall it was a great shower and it was super fun to put together. It was a fun and easy theme for me to run with. My one girlfriend made a bookshelf diaper cake which was adorable. Books are such a big part of our life with our girls. We read to them everyday multiple times a day and pretty much Vivian has a book in her hand most of the day. It was so fun to use this theme and the very best part is that in a couple of months we will have a new little baby boy hanging out.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Permission to Make a Mess with Cheap Preschool Halloween Crafts

Last week we went on a family walk and passed a house in our neighborhood is that is vacant, falling apart and on sale. The nosy neighbors that we are we  peeked in the windows and did not see much however on our way off the property I saw a pile of rocks, so I grabbed a couple with these projects in mind.

First I let Lydia paint the rocks. I set her up only orange paint for the big rocks and then let her paint a couple of the smaller ones any way she liked. We had to let the rocks dry before phase 2 began. The transition activity I picked up at Michael's for a dollar. They are little watercolor pages which have the paints on the bottom that are activated by the water and brush. These are by Creatology and were Halloween themed.
After the rocks were dry I had Lydia glue faces on the rocks.  She loves to use real Elmers glue. She feels like she's a big girl. One rock was a pumpkin, the other a cat. I used scraps of paper to make the parts of the face, I also had googly eyes which Lydia really enjoyed. She attached them all on her own. On the smaller rocks I used a regular sectioned plate and placed random items in it like sequence, buttons, pieces of ribbon, scraps of crafty things I had or had been given. So she could decide to make faces however she wanted.
I love the way her projects turned out this time. They are certainly fun and creative. I was thinking about my approach with her during these times and for almost all of this activity I was making dinner, so I would set her up and let her just do it. I have no fear of her making a mess, because well that is part of it. She spilled water, so we moved her to the other side of the table. She got paint on herself, so before dinner we washed it off. She wanted the stick buttons on random places of the rockfaces and I certainly didn't stop her. She got glue on the floor, we wiped it up.

I truly believe that part of the process and purpose is to let them have a creative outlet and be guided by their own whims. This is not to say that all of these endeavors always go perfectly, but I try to pick times that I am willing to be a gamer about it, meaning I am in a state of mind that is patient and open-minded and prepared to redirect the preschooler. Some may wonder where was Vivi? Well she was napping. Gluing is not quite the right toddler task, so timing does have  a lot to do with a successful kid craft experience.
Another Halloween craft which was very simple and a lot less prep I gave Lydia a wooden Bat mask to color with markers, also a dollar at Michaels and she wanted to color it pink and purple. I let her use the glitter glue squeezers and she decorated it with glee and for a long time. Once again, I just gave her the tools and the directions and waited to see what the result was.