It's a fast day today, so what else is there to talk about besides food? Nothing, that's what.
And so in that spirit, the kids and I sat down and made a list of meal and snack ideas that are summer-appropriate. Because really, the goal this summer, besides for all the packing and whatnot, is to avoid turning on the oven as much as possible. And when we do turn it on, it's because we are baking a truckload of zucchini muffins to freeze, freeze, freeze.
At first I was going to make two lists, one for snacks and one for meals, but then I decided that when it's this hot (its actually not that hot here at all just yet, but for list purposes we're pretending that we already moved
to Florida), all these food ideas are interchangeable. I mean, who said watermelon and string cheese is not a meal? Exactly.
After some explaining on my part (sorry, ice cream in a cone is the same as having ice cream in a cup), we came up with this list of Top Twenty Summer Snacks and Meals:
- English muffin pizza
- Hard boiled eggs and almonds
- String cheese and frozen grapes
- Hummus and cut up vegetables
- Cereal and chocolate almond milk
- Lafa bread pizza with veggies on top
- Sliced turkey wrapped around pretzels
- Salmon or tuna patties with a dipping sauce
- Sliced apples and almond or peanut butter
- Yogurt parfaits with fruit and nuts or granola
- Big batches of freezable banana or pumpkin bread
- Chicken salad sandwiches with pickles, onions and mayo
- Diced watermelon, mangoes and honeydew and toothpicks
- Diced turkey and avocado pieces on whole wheat crackers
- Big freezer batches of healthy pancakes and waffles: heat and eat
- English muffin sandwiches with slice of melted cheese and a scrambled egg
- Tacos - sloppy joes in a taco with diced tomatoes, cucumbers and some cole slaw
- Fro-yo popsicles - pour your favorite yogurt into cups, add a popsicle stick to and freeze
- Homemade trailmix (cashews, almonds, raisins, cranberries and a few mini chocolate chips)
Can you think of any other ideas?
What happens when its 95 degrees outside and there's not enough ice cream in the freezer for four kids?
You make milkshakes.
These were delicious - and I can say that because I sucked up the last of all the kids' cups.
And no, these are not even a little bit Whole30 approved, but it was good. Very good. And I made a choice to eat it and I'm okay with that. I mean, I did down six cups of water after I had it, so the water probably flushed all that sugar out of me, right?
Here's what I did:
Put some ice cream in the blender.
Add some almond (soy, real, whatever) milk.
Press the milkshake button and yum.
Add straws and it's almost as much fun as actually going to Carvel. Except for me, it was more fun because I didn't have to put four kids in the van, wait for the air to cool it off and then drive to Carvel. Yahoo!
And on a totally unrelated note, did you see my kitchen floor in the milkshake picture?
It's sparkly and clean and beautiful and it's all because of this:
My new floor steamer. I think it's a Shark brand.
I am so in love with it, I want to buy it a shiny present. Or take it for ice cream.
If you're not so good with a mop and a bucket (like me) and have broken many (many) Swiffers, this little guy will be your new best friend. It requires no soap or chemicals, you just add water and plug it in.
And the sponge-mop-kind-of-thing that cleans the floor? It's reusable. Just use it, toss it in the wash and use it again. I really find that concept to be so wonderful - I was always running out of the Swiffer type stick-on pads and then I couldn't mop. And then I'd forget to get more and then I couldn't mop some more. Wash, rinse, repeat, and you know how that song goes. It always ends with a dirty floor.
But no more, my friends!
Go. Get yourself one. It's one of the best $100 I have spent in a very very long time.
We really like making ices when the weather turns warm - and I really do not like buying ices in the store. All that red dye #4 and all. Blech. And besides, these could not have been easier to make - if you have a blender. Without one, I don't know what to tell you. A food processor maybe? A Magic Bullet?
I peeled, de-seeded and cut up one grapefruit and washed and cut the tops off of a pound of strawberries. Into the blender went all the little fruit and out come something resembling a smoothie.
I poured the fruit smoothie into my trusty ice pop maker, popped the whole thing into the freezer and then forgot about it. For like a week.
So a week later, on a hot afternoon, we broke out the ices. I enjoyed them immensely, as did two of my kids. The other kids would have enjoyed them more had the ices been a little sweeter, so experimenting with different sweetness levels before freezing might be a helpful idea. Josh wouldn't touch them with a ten foot pole because of the grapefruit. Although, I'm willing to guess that these days, he might start singing a different tune - he's now on day 3 of his first Whole30 and fruit treats are starting to look pretty good these days.
We shall see what happens...
Have you ever painted with a q-tip? No? You really should. Look what you can make.
Completed canvases, hanging on our porch.
I picked four 8x10 canvases for my kids a while back and I wanted to give them a chance to experiment with color on their very own canvases. The problem: the 8x10 canvases are small when faced with a kid and a paintbrush. They would have covered their canvases in a matter of minutes, most likely with all the colors running together to create a lovely brown. So instead, we used q-tips.
And it was awesome. And not just because the kids painted for an hour but because the results are beautiful.
The free-form child.
The meticulous child.
We used some Duck brand tape to "write" their initials on the canvases. Then they painted away, covering the tape with paint as well. Once the paint was dry (we gave it a good 24 hours), I removed the tape and presto, each child's initial popped out of the beautifully painted canvas.
Before the big tape reveal.
The "A" revealing itself!
In retrospect, I feel like I might have had them paint the canvas a solid color first, let that dry and then taped off their initial, allowing them to paint the entire canvas again. That way each initial would have had some color in it as well, but you know, next time we can do that. These are awesome as is.
We love love love pick-your-own farms. And so we recently took our second trip to Kelder Farms
in as many months. Kelder Farms is in Kerhonkson, NY, which really, for my kids, just getting to say Kerhonkson
over and over was enough of a reason to go back.
And we had an even better time the second time around, which actually, I found kind of surprising because you know how you go somewhere and have a blast and then you go again and you're like, hmmm, I really thought this place was more fun. So yeah, this place is.
First of all, and as a double stroller toting parent, I think this is the biggest plus over every other farm we have ever been to - you can drive your car down to the picking fields. And not only
can you drive down there, but you can then drive from field to field, from strawberries to cucumbers to beets. Awesome. You know what, it's so awesome, that if you are using your stroller for anyone over the age of even walking a little bit, you can leave your stroller at home. I know. Crazy. But that empty trunk will leave more space for all the fruits and vegetables you pick.
Second of all, when you're done picking, there's still a TON to do. Mini golf, a bounce house, a petting zoo, a cow milking station, huge wooden vehicles to climb, a hay ride and of course, because you are with kids, a covered area with picnic tables to have lunch. And, because it seems that these guys know their customers, kosher ice cream. My kids could have moved in.
Here's a look at what we did.
We picked corn and potatoes - two vegetables we had never picked before.
Below, the sign that greeted us as we drove down to the picking fields. Just crazy.
It's true - involving kids in preparing food really does help them eat it.
They picked the green beans and blueberries and actually ate them.
These are definitely not backyard climby toys.
The perfect way to tire them all out so they sleep on the way home.
The cutest mini-golf course ever.
But we played less than one hole before it started raining,
which is kind of why we went back a second time.
The rain. The big big rain.
So much fun and absolutely on our to-do list next summer.
So yes, these don't actually catch the sun on a rainy day but they do make for a good rainy day activity.
And they really could not be any easier.
In the past, we have made suncatchers with parchment paper and mod podge glue and while very fun, also very messy.
These are neat and clean and perfect for my mom - who was here when we made them.
Start by unrolling some clear contact paper (on sale now with the school supplies, although I'm not really sure what kind of function this serves in school). Before you take the paper-backing off of the contact paper, use a sharpie and draw a picture on the non-sticky clear side.
We drew a sun, a rainbow and a cupcake. My seven year old was too cool to make one of these.
Next, gather some sheets of tissue paper and cut them up into small pieces.
Then carefully peel off the contact paper backing to reveal the sticky side.
Lay the contact paper, sticky side up, on your table.
The kids can then stick one piece of tissue paper at a time over the drawing that you made. This takes a while, which is kind of the point on a rainy day.
Keep sticking tissue paper pieces over the drawing. Don't worry if the pieces go out of the lines, this won't matter once the project in completed.
Once the kids are done with the tissue paper part of the project, cut more pieces of contact paper, take off the paper backing and use the sticky pieces to sandwich the tissue paper between both pieces of contact paper.
Using a sharp scissor, cut out the tissue paper sandwich following the original shapes that you drew.
Now you can either punch a hole through the suncatcher and hang in a window or just tape them onto the window, which is way easier.
Now just wait for the sun to come out.
It was really humid outside today - too humid to run around, too humid to play ball and too humid use chalk. It was even too humid to drive to the hardware store and pick up a hose that actually has a nozzle attached so we could use the sprinkler.
So instead, we did some quiet digging in the shade.
There is a spot under the deck that is full of small rocks, almost like the pebbles one might find at the bottom of a really nice fish tank - you know, like in your dentist's office. I have been looking at these rocks for weeks, trying to figure out what we could do with them. And then I realized, we could use them to make aquariums. Not real aquariums - we don't do pets, but make-believe aquariums, which in my opinion, is the best kind.
We drink a lot of seltzer in this house and so we have many many empty seltzer bottles hanging around. We began our aquarium journey by ripping the labels off the outside of some seltzer bottles. Unfortunately, we were left with the sticky residue that attracted a lot of tiny pieces of grass and dirt, but mostly everyone* was okay with it.
Each kid filled his or her seltzer bottle about 1/3 full with the rocks. Then we added water, some blue food coloring and closed the bottles tightly with their caps. Then we shook the bottles until the water was blue (and somewhat dirty from the rocks, but after a few minutes the dirt started to settle to the bottom of the bottle so all was well.)
Then each kid who can draw fish, drew fish on a few scraps of foam sheets leftover from something else. After everyone had their turn to cut out their fish (we're working with one scissor here this summer, and I should mention it's a safety scissor), we dropped (or stuffed, depending on their size) the fish into the bottles of blue water.
Sadly, as foam floats, so did the fish and they all wound up floating to the top. On the bright side, having never had pet fish, my kids did not know that this is what dead fish do.
We did learn, however, that shaking the bottle vigorously forces the fish to sink somewhat, mimicking swimming. Phew!
The kids had a ball playing with their aquariums - shaking them to trigger earthquakes and tornadoes and having their Rescue Heroes (or Barbies, depending on who you are) save the fish and of course, the day.
*The two year old, not so much. She's prim and proper, unlike the rest of my children. She likes to use a fork for pizza. And sometimes for a cookie too.
Sometimes the easiest ideas turn out to be the most fun. Even when they look like they're going to tank while you're making it.
We made chalk paint. Start by gathering some supplies.
In six easy steps, here's the how-to:
1. Put some chalk in sandwich bags, one bag per color.
2. Pound the life out of the chalk with a hammer. But do it gently or else the bags will develop tiny holes that you will not be aware of until you lift the bag up to pour the chalk powder into cups.
3. Pour the chalk powder into cups.
4. Add water. We experimented with boiling water to see if the powder would dissolve easier, but it didn't seem to work, so just for the record, cold water is fine.
6. Paint - on your driveway, the sidewalk in front of the house, on the side of your house. Wherever. Cause guess what? There's no clean-up! The wonderful rain will do it for you!*
BEFORE it dried.
AFTER it dried.
So why did we think this would tank? When we first started painting on the blacktop driveway, we couldn't see the colors. We worried. We thought maybe we should just use it on some white paper. But then the chalk paint started to dry and the colors became so vibrant and so pretty that random neighbors started commenting on it. In a good way.
*Do you remember those Sweet Pickles books from years ago? That's a direct quote from Pig, the ever cheerful town resident.
My kids love love love going out to eat. They don't care if it's a quick ice cream run or a full blown dinner*, they're just so happy to go out.
So imagine their excitement when my parents came to visit a couple of weeks back and we all went out to dinner. Now imagine their euphoria when they discovered that this particular food establishment had an entire wall devoted to coloring. Yup, instead of providing paper place mats and crayons, this place handed out markers so kids could write on the wall.
I really thought that my kids' eyes were going to fall out of their heads. And poor little guys, they were so torn between standing at the wall with their markers and sitting down and eating their hotdogs. They kept looking at the wall, glancing back at the table and looking back at the wall. My two year old wouldn't even come back to the table at all.
So while the food was not the greatest at this particular place, I am quite sure we will be going back at some point, if only to write on the wall and make everyone happy.
It just made the kids so happy. So happy.
*Let's be honest, they have no idea what a full blown fancy dinner is. They think going out for hamburgers and french fries is fancy and I am not telling them otherwise.
Did I pin this? Did I not? I have no idea.
All I know is that I saw these somewhere and they were the perfect answer to a blackout snack.
There was quite a big storm, with thunder and lightning this past Saturday night and at around 3am, the power went out. With all the flashlights stored in an overhead cabinet in the kitchen. So now we know better and have strategically scattered the flashlights around the house.
Anyway, the power did not come back on until 12 hours later. I had already force-fed all the melting ice cream to the children - all seven of them. Oh yeah, we don't do our blackouts quietly. We do them with friends of ours who also have a bunch of little kids. All together, we were four adults to seven kids under the age of seven. And so while the ice cream seemed like a good idea at the time - I really hate to waste food - it was a little, shall we say, too much sugar.
Yeah, yeah, fruit has sugar too, but you work with what you have.
So we made apple and grape cars.
First slice the unpeeled apples into rounds and then cut each circle in half, forming, you guessed it, half circles.
Then wash a bunch of graped and cut them in half, forming the wheels of the car. Thread two toothpicks through the bottom end of the car and attach a grape to the ends, using four grape halves.
Now that I typing this out, it all sounds a little complicated. It's really not though. Take a look at the picture above and you will see just how easy this little snack really is. We served it with crackers and peanut butter on a picnic blanket on the living room floor and all the kids came running.
Just be sure to hover around the gaggle of kids and collect the toothpicks before they become weapons. I'm just saying.