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Pumpkin Milk or Latte: Add a Healthy Treat to Your Morning Routine

photo(9)Fall is one of my favorite seasons for many reasons including the changing colors, the festive flavors and the pumpkin patches.  I admittedly am one of those people who looks forward to Starbucks release of the pumpkin latte.  I practically jump for joy when I see the plethora of pumpkin flavored offerings at Trader Joe’s.  You could call me a pumpkin-holic.

I’m proud to say that I am passing on my love of pumpkins to my boys.  They too enjoy visiting pumpkin patches as well as all things pumpkin. We’ve made pumpkin flavored soup, scones, pancakes and muffins.  My latest creation however is my favorite yet – pumpkin milk.  Both kid and adult friendly, pumpkin milk can be enjoyed on its own or even added to coffee.  Say hello to a homemade pumpkin latte, which is much more budget friendly than the nearly $5 and 400 calorie Starbucks latte that despite the name doesn’t include any “pumpkin.” (Sad News for Pumpkin Spice Latte Fans)

Would you know that pumpkins boast many health benefits as according to WebMd they’re loaded with vitamin A (beta carotene), low in calories as well as fiber.  Apparently, “Known for its immune-boosting powers, beta-carotene is essential for eye health and has also been linked to preventing coronary heart disease.” (Superfood-Pumpkin, Caitlin Covington) Pumpkin is loaded with vitamin k as well which is said to be able to reduce the risks of some types of cancer.

So, this mama is happy to add the pumpkin milk warmed for my boys in the morning.  They start off the day downing full fat milk enhanced with the benefits of pumpkin.  Want to try it?

Well, here’s myphoto(7) recipe:

  • 1.5 cups of whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons of canned pumpkin
  • 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice (or combination of such spices – cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamon)
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar (or other sweetener)

gather your ingredients.  Set all ingredients in a saucepan on the stovetop.  Turn heat to low and whisk until at desired temperature. photo(8)

Enjoy plain or add to coffee.

For other fun fall ideas, check out my posts about pumpkin patches, fall art, setting the table and cheap and easy Halloween decorations.  And check back for some crafty ideas as the boys and I are brewing up some Halloween fun

Backyard Fun: Make a Balance Beam

photo(5)If my backyard could talk, it would shout “Oh boy oh boy!”  You may ask “why?”  Basically because it is all set up for boys to have adventures.  With trees for climbing, bushes for hiding and lawn for running, the backyard is fully equipped.   But even I wanted to add some more features to this playful paradise.

So, some days the boys and I will build impromptu teepees, fairy villages and volcanoes.  But the other day, my husband had an idea.  He built something totally fabulous for the boys.  With three pieces of wood and a few nails, our backyard now boasts a balance beam!  This new feature is simply fabulous in every way.  It’s good for about ten minutes of active play, but heck, the boys have so much fun stepping on it, off of it and trying to balance.  Who knew three pieces of wood would prove to be so useful!

What are your favorite ways for sprucing up the backyard for kid play?  I’d love to hear!

Foolproof tips for a Fabulously Fun Bday Bash

With two boys, my oldest being 4, I have now figured out the recipe for a fabulously fun birthday bash.  It seems there are a few ingredients that are key for the wee ones.

First, there’s the theme.  For the toddler years, my husband and I picked the themes based on the boys’ interests (trains, brown bear, race cars).  Now, in the preschool years, Bobby is able to pick his theme.  This year it was superheros.  So, everything from the food to the activities tied back into the theme.  Thank you to Tattered and Ink for permission to use her fabulous superhero themed labels!2013092895102817

Second,  age appropriate activities.  For my son’s, third birthday which was pirate themed the kids went on a treasure hunt and dug up ole pirate Davy Jones in the sandbox.  For the fourth birthday, I (well truth be told, my husband) turned the backyard into a superhero training area.  With balance beams, buildings (i.e. wrapped boxes decorated like buildings) to climb on around the yard, and target practice (water guns and balloons with villains taped on them), there were things for the active kiddos to do.

Third, have fun with decorations!  A birthday party is an excuse to get creative and to engage the kids.   There are tons of ideas online for things to do and easy ways to decorate.  The best part is adapting these ideas to your own tastes.  For example, for the superhero theme, tons of blogs show the idea of making a skyline.  With numerous ways to do it, I decided to do it with supplies I had on hand. Plain brown packaging paper saved the day. The food table had the backdrop of a sky that my boys and I had painted (on the brown paper), signs of words (pop, bang, wham) that were also painted by the boys and Superman suspended by fishing line soared through the sky.  And, then the buildings were wrapped boxes that would have just gone to be recycled.  photo(3)

A themed centerpiece works as well.  For the pirate party, there was an ocean of jello upon which pirate ships made of rice krispy treats boasting paper sails set sail.  The superhero party had sheets of kryptonite made from rock candy surrounded by villains.  (Thank you to Sugarhero for the base recipe).

Fourth, a simple menu. To make things easier on game day, a simple menu cuts down on prep.  For a light lunch, sandwiches, fruit, a couple of salads and a kid friendly snack work well.  In photo(4)addition, kid sized snack holders are a hit! Whether it’s a bowl of crackers with tiny dixie cup cups for scooping or paper cones filled with treats, kids love have fun carrying around their own booty.

Fifth, a fantabulous dessert. Being a self proclaimed sugar addictIMG_2388, this is one thing that I love to make.  Figuring out how to make a cakes look like a race track, baby bear or batman symbol has been quite the experience.  Luckily there are tons of ideas on-line. and, it makes me wonder how our mothers’ did this without the internet.  For the batman cake, I ventured into the realm of fondant.  Yes, I was a bit apprehensive at first wondering how it would turn out.  But at the same time I was completely stoked to have the chance to make something that looked absolutely professional.  And, it worked!  Here’s the recipe I used.

Lastly, flexibility is key.  Accept the fact that not everything will go as planned.  I could give you story after story of things that didn’t go as planned like a balloon drop that didn’t drop.  At the end of the day, these things don’t matter as all that matters is your birthday star has a wonderful day surrounded by those who adore him or her.

A New Approach to Pottytraining – Camping

camp

For those of you who’ve known me for awhile, you’d think that I’d be the last person to go camping or look forward to doing so.  It’s one more example of how kids have changed me. (in a good way).  It took awhile for me to muster the courage to camp with the two boys, but all in all it was absolutely worth it and now I’m (and they’re) hooked.

We combined a camping trip with potty-training which was a gamble.  Turns out it worked out well.  My nearly four year old has been reluctant to potty train.  For months we’ve been trying, with “potty treats” displayed on the mantle as motivation including a glass vase full of lollipops.  Having tried nearly every trick in the book, it was time for a new approach (and less sugar).  Something drastic.  It was time to pull out the big guns.

Before the trip, my husband and I explained that big boys had to wear underwear camping.  Bobby seemed up to the challenge.  With tons of extra clothes for him and the potty (and a few back-up pull-ups) we were ready to go.  Bobby did extremely well the first day (none). Then the second day was not as successful, which really didn’t matter.  The point was the trip represented a change.  From then on, Bobby was in big boy pants.  So, all in all it seems to have worked.

We’re still working on that number two though, and I’m hoping it will come with time.  I’d love to hear what worked for you.

For those tough days…

Here’s one parenting resource that is extremely helpful.  Check out Hand In Hand Parenting.  I had the pleasure of attending one of their seminars on dealing with emotionally charged kids.  The tools they talked about using as a form of discipline were extremely loving and seem to work (most of the time).  For example, check out their strategy to curb aggression with the “vigorous snuggle”

making memories & mini muffins

This afternoon, I picked up my boys early from school just so we could spend some special time.   After naps, we made some zucchini mini muffins.  From start to finish, it was such a joyous activity.   Making the batter was just plain fun.  For starters, I will always remember – Bobby’s gleeful dumping of everything into the bowl.   And, his radiating smile of accomplishment.  Especially with the flour, which when it spilled all over the counter provided a nice opportunity for controlling me to let go.  After all, who cares if the flour spills?

Then, CJ playing with the muffin tin liners – happily sorting them from spot to spot.   It was just one of those moments that I’ll remember forever, like reading stories and singing them songs as they enter dreamland.  Motherhood is surely god’s greatest blessing.  And, this mama is so eternally grateful.

For those of you who want to try the zucchini banana mini muffins, here’s the recipe.

Preheat oven to 350.  Line muffin tin.  Mix butter and sugar until creamy.  Add vanilla, salt, baking soda,  Add zucchini and bananas.  Add eggs and cinnamon.  Then add flour.  Mix until blended.   Check after 15 minutes.  Done when the toothpick comes out clean.  Enjoy the muffins but more importantly savor the memory.

adapted from King Arthur Flour‘s Heavenly Healthy Banana Bread available at kingarthurflour.com

Oakland Zoo – Five Reasons to Go

Take a trip to the Oakland Zoo!  In addition to wildlife, the Zoo has a darling little amusement park. With both it’s easy to give them a fabulous experience.

  1. The animals.  From elephants to bats, there are tons of creatures for kids to get see.
  2. Playgrounds & Amusement Park – My boys enjoyed the playgrounds inside the zoo best.  With a spider web for budding superheroes, tunnels, and even lily pads, it is a great place for young explorers.  In addition, the amusement park boasting vintage rides is especially kid friendly.
  3. ZooKids Program – Want to go on a weekend? Try their ZooKids program geared for children age 4-5. ZooKids classes are held on Saturdays from 9:30am – 12:00pm and are offered twice per month. The program includes a mini zoo tour, craft, games, animal close-ups, and a snack. For details check here:  http://www.oaklandzoo.org/ZooKids_Program.php
  4. For PreK kids, then let them try one of the camps.  Summer ZooCamp, Thanksgiving Break ZooCamp, Winter ZooCamp, and Spring Break ZooCamp.  Children get to tour the Zoo each day, sing silly songs, make crafts, see animals upclose, meet zookeepers, and do hands-on science activities.
  5. Live in the Oakland area, well, then Oakland’s Zoo travels!  Bring it to your home for a special event or party.  For areas, check out – http://www.oaklandzoo.org/ZooMobile.php

making memories & mini muffins

This afternoon, I picked up my boys early from school just so we could spend some special time.   After naps, we made some zucchini mini muffins.  From start to finish, it was such a joyous activity.   Making the batter was just plain fun.  For starters, I will always remember – Bobby’s gleeful dumping of everything into the bowl.   And, his radiating smile of accomplishment.  Especially with the flour, which when it spilled all over the counter provided a nice opportunity for controlling me to let go.  After all, who cares if the flour spills?

Then, CJ playing with the muffin tin liners – happily sorting them from spot to spot.   It was just one of those moments that I’ll remember forever, like reading stories and singing them songs as they enter dreamland.  Motherhood is surely god’s greatest blessing.  And, this mama is so eternally grateful.

For those of you who want to try the zucchini banana mini muffins, here’s the recipe.

Preheat oven to 350.  Line muffin tin.  Mix butter and sugar until creamy.  Add vanilla, salt, baking soda,  Add zucchini and bananas.  Add eggs and cinnamon.  Then add flour.  Mix until blended.   Check after 15 minutes.  Done when the toothpick comes out clean.  Enjoy the muffins but more importantly savor the memory.

adapted from King Arthur Flour‘s Heavenly Healthy Banana Bread available at kingarthurflour.com

Bobby’s Banana Crunch Bliss

ice cream!My Bobby is quite a little chef. He’s always adding things to traditional recipes, like chamomile tea to banana bread. If you’ve been following my blog, then Bobby’s creativity isn’t new to you as I detailed the chamomile tea incident in my Mommy Manifesto post.

In any event, the recent weather has been another excuse to challenge Bobby’s creativity. It’s been hot out here in Sonoma. The 90 degree days mean something other than breaking out the kiddie pool. They also mean it’s time to break out the ice cream maker. Last year, I experimented with basic vanilla and chocolate creams. This year, I’m doing something different.

That difference is that Bobby is now in charge of picking the flavors. Our first batch of the season was banana cream ice cream. For our second batch, Bobby wanted to add ice cream cones and other goodies to the mix. So, we made a new flavor which we call banana crunch bliss. Basically it was the banana base plus a bunch of delicious toppings – sugar cones, marshmallows and chocolate shavings. Sound good? You can make it too!

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 super ripe room temp bananas
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • mixings ( 1/2 cup marshmallows, 3 mashed sugar cones, 1/4 c chocolate shavings)

Mix the eggs with a fork for a bit. Slowly add the sugar. Mix until blended. Add the cream and milk. Chill the mixture for a few hours. Then, freeze per the instructions of your ice cream maker. Mash the bananas. Do this right before you add them to the mix otherwise they’ll brown. After the ice cream firms, add the bananas, then the toppings. If too soft, then freeze.

If you’re like my boys, then this batch won’t last long in your freezer. So, get ready to get creative with the next one!

this recipe is adapted from the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cookbook.

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Take A Trip To Fairyland

Discoverying Mushrooms

Take a break from reality and checkout Fairyland. Catch a puppet show, find a rabbit hole and climb up the Jolly Roger.

Before Disneyland, there was Fairyland. Hidden in the middle of busy Oakland, this hidden gem is perfect for young kids. It offers a fun fantasy filled experience for tots and adults alike.

Founded in 1950 by Arthur Navlet, Fairyland has given generations of tots a fun place to develop their imaginations. From Pinocchio to Alice in Wonderland, Fairyland allows kids to interact with their favorite stories.

Moderately priced at $8 for adults and kids over 1 (under 1 are free), Fairyland is an affordable outing. Make sure to grab a key to the fairytale story boxes – $3 a key. Bobby loved holding and using the key to unlock the story boxes.

photo(2)Bobby and CJ recently experienced Fairyland. He loved running around the grounds, exploring miniature houses and riding the little train around the park.  They also loved sliding down the rabbit hole into a painted tunnel. At the end of the tunnel, they enjoyed the painted maze themed after the Queen of Hearts.  Then,we popped by to meet Peter Rabbit.

The music tunnel is pretty fabulous as well.  Both boys basically ran in circles, discovering instruments along the way.  The best part was getting to stand in the middle watching them run around.  Ahh, life as only one can experience in fairyland.

Fairyland has more than fairy themed play structures. It has puppet shows and guest appearances from characters like the Cat in the Hat. There are children’s theater performances from June to October.  We may catch the show about the dragons.  While the theater performances are less frequent, the puppet shoes run daily.  Who knew that a puppet show would mesmerize a two busy bustling boys? I sure didn’t.  They loved watching and listening to the story of the Elves & the Shoemaker.

Of course with so much active play, the kids might need some fuel. Fairyland does have a simple and moderately priced snack bar.  With PB&J, chicken burgers and turkey sandwiches on the menu, you’ll find something. I’d have to recommend the sandwiches over the burgers though. The chicken burger I ordered was breaded and fried, resembling a hockey puck. If you want to play it safe, you can bring your own lunch as Fairyland has a grassy picnic area.

After lunch, you can let your tots expel excess energy by running around the playgrounds.  Then pop back in the car and enjoy a quick drive back to the Valley or stay in the Oakland area and enjoy a myriad of things to do.  Berkeley Bowl is worth a stop.  With endless rows of fresh produce, it’s a great educational not to mention culinary experience for wee ones.  For other ideas check my article on Tilden Park .

similar article published at http://www.sonomanews.com/News-2011/Spotlight-Oaklands-Fairyland/