Thursday, August 16, 2012

TWO sensory bins! "Invisible Fish" and shaving cream!

Pin It We've had a busy week! This week our water beads came in the mail (thank you Amazon!) and we dared step foot in the Dollar Tree. (I love that place, and now they have all the "Back to School" and teacher goodies out.)

So we had a long-term and short-term sensory bin.

The former is the water beads.
This is a spin my admirable mom friend put on water beads. Her children named it "invisible fish" and they were spot on.

The trick is to get water and water beads to be about the same hue. The "big things" you see are large, blue glass rocks. The bin is full of blue water beads, and I used food coloring to turn the water equally as blue.

Note to self and you: My friend did this with clear water beads and clear water. Good idea. My millions of beads didn't come with packets of clear, so I dyed the water and, in the end, my child blue. So either use clear beads or don't do this when you need to go anywhere nice or while your child is dressed.

Rockin' the fine motor skills!
V. doesn't have a great "surprised" face, but she was thrilled to find that it was more than a tub of blue water!

I mentioned revamping our tools bucket. That's it on the floor there, and it holds a rolling pin, a set of dry measuring cups, a set of measuring spoons, a set of those slotted bath cups you get a million of at your shower, a big spoon, various gauged strainers and funnels, bowls, "cheater" chop sticks, tweezers, a mini spatula, a liquid measuring cup, some Duplo and Clippo blocks (for textures and to hold fine items, like water beads), cookie cutters, and a toddler knife from her cutlery set. Most of these things I got at the Dollar Tree.

And we do call them tools, same as when we are cooking or gardening. She knows when to use tools or toys, and it makes it easy that I can tell her not to put her toys in the water beads. She would be very sad if she turned HER baby blue. (I would, too.)

Now, on to the next bin.

Dollar Tree has shaving cream. OH heckyes. They had regular ol' Barbisol and then a massive can of BRUTE. I bought the Barbisol because BRUTE said "Fresh BRUTE Scent!" on the side, and I didn't want my kid smelling like BRUTE, whatever that smells like. It is the Dollar Tree...

I put some pool and tub toys in the bottom. Because at the end of this, it was all going to the pool or tub anyway.

That's most of the can. And I'm not going to lie, it was more fun than you think it would be.

The first few grabs, she wasn't sure what to do.

And this is why we did this outside...

Have I mentioned how much I love having a pool? I love having a pool.

But just for more fun later, I took the bin inside and hid it in the tub.

Even more fun! (And it lasted all that time!)

She slowly added water and stirred it, telling me she was cooking. "I Ook!"

And then it all went down the drain.

So very worth $1.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Kefir Bread

Pin It I made a Dublin coddle for supper, and what goes better with coddle than Irish soda bread?
It was slightly more attractive before we tore it to bits and devoured it.

Not much, but I had no buttermilk and, of course, a napping toddler.
I did, however, have some raw milk kefir I had let culture a bit too long to drink, and before I tested it out, I poured it in with all my other kefir. (The raw milk made those kefir grains multiply like rabbits.) Now I have a ton of slightly-too-sour kefir. I figured, why not. It is close enough to buttermilk, right?

It was brilliant.

2 c. bread flour
2tsp baking powder
1tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 c. Kefir (or buttermilk, if you want to make real Irish Soda Bread)

This bread could not have been easier. I have botched many loaves, but this one actually came out as intended AND with the toddler fully involved in every step. Really truly.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Add the egg and kefir. Blend with your fingertips until a shaggy, wet dough forms.

Flour a work surface and turn out the dough. Gently knead the mass a few times until it forms a ball. Do not overwork! I kneaded mine maybe 4 times. Maybe.

You can either put this on a pan or in a cast-iron pot/dutch oven. I did the latter. Either way, spread a little bit of olive oil around, then sprinkle with flour. Place the ball on/in the vessel and pop it in the oven. If you put it in a pot it will take about 40 minutes to bake, less if you put it on a pan. When it is golden brown and sounds hollow when thumped, it is done!

I love it. This bread is dense and it is best torn, not cut. You could divide the loaf and make rolls. This is fantastic for soaking up juices, broths, stew, and even better the day after with some jam and tea.

What I wouldn't do for some clotted cream right about now.

Monday, August 13, 2012

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

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Recently, V. started tearing the pages in her coloring book apart. (We've worked long and hard to ensure this didn't transfer to real books.) Today, as I prepared lunch, I heard a shredding noise and realized it sounded slightly different. It was nothing tragic by any means, but it was a new magazine I hadn't had the opportunity to yet read. (And by new I mean "I just realized it somehow ended up in the house, and may get to read it before she is 5.)

So, I set up a tearing center. I took one brown bag and made a "nest" and a second, which I cut the top off of and filled with various papers from the recycle bin (including the top of the brown bag). Then I sat down and tore up a little bit of paper and waited for her to join me. She did and after a while I left her to make what is a wonderful bag of strips and scraps for paper mache. Everybody wins.

I have set up a sensory bin for this afternoon, but V. is not quite awake from nap (I hear her, though, so soon!) and I'm still operating with my sole camera being that of my (old) phone. 

Here's a sneak peek at next week's bin:

I know what that looks like, but I assure you it is not. Not that I'm going to say what they are exactly. You will need to come back for that! I made them using coffee, grounds, flour, salt, and water. There are some things I won't put into a sensory bin.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


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Remember the HUGE success that was homemade gak?

Well, after that, I went out and bought up a whole bunch of white glue when it went on sale.

I adored all those Nickelodeon slime, gak, moonsand products as a kid. (And, oh yes, I rocked the moon shoes.)

Floam was no acception and it is, for all intensive purposes, gak with foam balls. I was in need of making something fast to keep the Toddler busy for a while. Perfect.

So here is what you will need:

2tsp (ish) of Borax
1 small container of white glue (6oz? I should buy this stuff in a bigger container.)
foam balls... I stole about 1/4c from the beanbag chair and nobody is none the wiser.

First, pour the glue in a jar, bowl, or baggie. If you want to add color, put some food coloring in now. I was really pleased that the finished Floam didn't leak color (even though I did strip my daughter, just incase), so don't be afraid of adding a good deal of it! 

Next, pour in the foam balls. I didn't do this at this point, but we kneaded them in later and it was fine.

Add 1/4c water to the glue. (I'm not sure why this is necessary, or if it even is, really.)
Then, dissolve the Borax in 1/2c. water.
Slowly add the Borax to the glue. The Borax is what stops the glue from being runny and sticky, so the more you add, the stiffer the Floam will become. Keep adding it until you are happy with the consistency, being sure to mix them well. (Glue Pockets will spring up on you! Don't get yourself all gluey.)

Like before, it weirded her out at first. She wanted nothing to do with this.

Then she decided it was awesome, and played with it for 45 minutes!

Just like the gak, the floam is great for practicing toddler knife skills (we have those Gerber sets - she loves using the knife on this!), cutting with cookie cutters, pressing into molds, and bouncing! It may be tough to knead back together at first, but we store ours in a baggie (any air-tight container will do) and it always "self-heals" into a huge blob within minutes, so don't worry about chopping it into a million pieces.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Wear Sunscreen.

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Remember that song? (Oooh, don't you feel old now? I do.)

Well, before the Olympics and Chik-Fil-A took over my Facebook newsfeed, the "hot topic" of moms was sun protection.

Nobody likes a sun burn, but infinitely worse is a sun-burned baby.

Everybody likes a hot topic, though, and parabens are vying for attention. Or at least they were until the chickens invaded. (Sorry I'm a bit late on the hot topic. I usually am.)

I support team USA and won't tell you whether or not eating chicken is immoral, but here is my two cents on sun protection:

Use common sense, people.

First be sun smart. You can protect yourself from the sun in many ways before you even touch a bottle of sunscreen.

  • Eat healthy, protective foods. Foods rich with antioxidants and vitamins C & E help protect your skin from UV rays and may be able to undo some of the damage already done. Spinach salad with strawberries and walnuts on top, anyone? (Or melons, tomatoes, broccoli, almonds, sunflower seeds, kale, blueberries... and you get bonus points if you find them at a local farmstand!)
  •  Wear protective clothing. Sure, it is hot out and you may want to run through the streets naked for a moment's relief, but not all those sun-guard clothes are as hot as they look. The darker the color of clothing, the better protected you will be. Or get yourself some UPF clothing, like these shirts for kiddos. RIT even came out with a UV wash, so you can add UPF to your favorite summer duds.
  • Wear a hat. The. Best. Hats. Ever. are made by iPlay. They are floppy and grow with your child, tie on if you like, come in all sorts of fashionable colors and designs, and are usually less than $15. V. still fits in her 6-18m hat (with room to grow) and we bought a Toddler (2-4 years) hat because I couldn't resist the purple so we'd have a back-up. She wears them year-round and will likely fit in both next summer, too.
  • Seek shade! My child would run around regardless if she were in the scorching sun or under a canopy of leaves and be none the wiser. In the summer, I seek out playgrounds with sun shades, visit parks with plenty of trees, or go to our zoo, which was wise and kind enough to keep trees shading the pathways. Find local spots that give you fresh air without the rays. Or, bring a canopy along (as small as one for the stroller, or as big as one for the beach) and make your own shade. 
Now you want to put on sunscreen... What to do?

People often don't put enough sun screen on, and that is when you get burned. (Sunblock and sunscreen will prevent UV rays from doing as much damage as they would without, but won't prevent a tan.)  Oh, and don't put sunscreen on your child if they are under 6 months old. Please.

  • Put sunscreen on any exposed skin at least 15 minutes before heading outside, to give it time to set in. (My floors are spectacularly clean, given that I've let my unpottytrained toddler run around the house naked for those 15 minutes.)
  • Choose a sunscreen that says "broad spectrum" or specifies that it protects against UVA AND UVB rays.
  • And make sure it is at least SPF 30.
  • If you will be going in the water, playing in puddles, anything with water, choose something that is water resistant. Most are up to 40 minutes, some up to 80. Know how long, because after that, you aren't protected. 
  • Reapply sunscreen every few hours and after toweling off or getting out of water. It can't protect you if it isn't there.

Now, back to the parabens and the UV Rays.

For those that didn't click on the above link, the debate is that parabens are theorized to mock estrogen. Although there is no strong evidence for this, there isn't any against it, either, and we can't tell the effect these things will have in 20, 30, 50 years. 

So avoid it if you can. 

But, like us, you are probably realizing that unless you have money to burn, you aren't going to be slathering your toddler in California Baby every 30 minutes and still hope to have a college savings fund. If a 3 oz. tube of that liquid gold lasts you a day at the beach, you probably aren't putting on enough anyway.

There's also the issue of sacrificing UV protection for organic. On one board, it was posited as "Do you want skin cancer or uterine cancer?" 
(I don't think it is that extreme, people.)

I'm not going to tell you what to do, as only you know what is best for your child. (Heck. I don't know what is best, either.) I will tell you what we do.

First, we put lotion on V. in the morning, and when I remember at night. (Check for parabens in your lotion, too.) The drier your skin, the more of anything it will absorb, so if you don't want it absorbing chemicals, hydrate it inside and out. (Drink water, people!)

On days we won't be in the water, if we are going to be in the sun for only a few minutes over the course of a few hours, or if it is getting later in the day, we use the organic stuff. It is mostly zinc, and Badger makes some really awesome sunblock with lemongrass that keeps the bugs away. (California Baby makes a "summer blend" with the same lemongrass-y scent, but it costs twice as much. I'm frugal and I want my child to not worry about student debt, like her mother does.)

If we are going into the pool, water, going to need it frequently, I use good ol' Coppertone. Bonus, they make a foam. Better than the spray, and it completely distracts my kid from the "Do anything to prevent the sunblock!" game.  We still put organic stuff on her face and the backs of her hands because she rubs her eyes. Either way it is going to sting, but at least the organic stuff isn't chemical-laden. I've had several suspicious moles removed from my body, and so I'd rather take a slight risk and expose my child to parabens occasionally if it means sparing her the much more certain scare of skin cancer.

Summer is winding down (is it? Does it feel like it has been summer forever to anyone else?) but this is good knowledge year-round.

Find what works for you, be smart about it, and when all else fails, use Baby Ease. (I've done it in a pinch. At 30%, it has more zinc than most sunblocks, is all-natural, and is great for all that ails you... it is my Windex.)

Legal (don't hate on me) stuff, I guess - I wasn't paid by any of these companies, sadly, to review/promote/destroy/consume their products. I don't have a medical degree, chemistry degree, nor can I see into the future. These are simply my ramblings about the common sense I used in hopes to inform or inspire, do if you don't like it, don't read it. Also, I don't promote Windex as a cure-all. In fact, I don't recommend using Windex at all. Use vinegar - it works just as well, and without all the chemicals. It may not be important to you, but you may not have a toddler who sticks their mouth on every blessed surface in your house, windows included. Windows especially. After all, we need to smash our face against the windows to give Daddy kisses when he walks through the back gate. And have an amazing day!

Summer Photo Dump

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Hello! Here we are!

The last post was over a month ago, and a crazy month it has been.

We've made cookies. (I will post this recipe once I find my camera charger and have access to the photos - it is too good not to share. And way too easy, too.)

We have read a ton of books.

There was a day when someone discovered the kitchen stool, the K-cup holder, and the light switches, all in under 5 minutes.
(Those were used K-cups awaiting composting and recycling, so someone also discovered how difficult it is to sweep up coffee grinds. But she did it.)

We spent a week in Nags Head, NC, arguably the most beautiful place on this blue-green marble we call home.

Glow sticks in the sand makes for some serious fun.

We found shells and used them for a sensory activity with our Play-Doh.

NC has some amazing produce.

We've been working on our signing. (Lemon)

And our counting.

We painted with our feet.

 There has been a fair amount of time spent in the pool...

... and in the garden.
We fed animals at the zoo,

and had a blast at the Museum of Science in Boston! (Or is it in Cambridge?)

That is how our summer has panned out thus far. 

I'm hoping that with the return of autumn and normalcy, I'll be putting more of our educational adventures on-line. But for now, we're enjoying the sunshine.