Sunday, December 20, 2009

Holiday Gifts even the smallest of kids can make.

photo credit: family fun

Each year I try and find gifts that come from the heart. Those that I know myself, my husband and family members will treasure for years, they are those that are made by my kids.

Here are a few idea's that perhaps you can use to share with your family members too! I promise they will cherish them more than anything you can buy!

1. Framed Museum pieces

a. first look for your children's most colorful artwork that they have done either at home or school and take it to Kinko's and have it reduced and color copied to either 4" x 6", 5" x 7" or 8" x 10".

photo credit: pottery barn

b. look at your local craft stores for matted frames or another great place to look is pottery barn.

c. open the frame, take your child's artwork center it and glue it to the back cardboard, place the glass on top and secure. This makes a wonderful gift for years to come!

photo credit: Martha Stewart Living

2. Button Wreaths

Being the avid scrapbooker that I am I have tons of stock in buttons and my daughter used to spend hours playing with the buttons and one year she came up with a button wreath.

These directions come from our friends at Martha Stewart:
Tools and Materials
Needle-nose pliers or wire cutters
16-gauge copper wire, or 22-gauge green floral wire, cut to 9-inch lengths
72 buttons for each wreath
Satin ribbon, 1/8 inch wide and 6 inches long
Seam binding for decorative bow

Button Wreath Ornament How-To
a. Using pliers, make a small loop at one end of the wire.

b. Thread buttons onto the wire until you have enough to form the size of the wreath you want. Our wreaths are 2 1/2 inches in diameter.

c. Using pliers, bend the plain end of the wire around the looped end. This will form the wreath.

d. Use the satin ribbon to make a loop for hanging the wreath; tie the ribbon in a knot about 3 inches above the wreath.

e. Tie a bow of seam binding to decorate the wreath.

16-gauge copper wire
22-gauge silver-plate wire
Available at local craft and hardware-supply stores

22-gauge green floral wire
Available at local floral-supply stores

photo credit: the container store

3. The gifts for the tummy!

My kids always love "playing" around in the kitchen and a few years we came up with this delicious recipe they made up which makes up nice batches to share with loved ones.

4 bags of white chocolate
3 cups crispy rice cereal squares
3 cups crispy golden graham cereal
2 cups of craisins
2 cups thin pretzel sticks
2 cups cashews

a. place the white chocolate and heat it in a double boiler.
b. place all of the rest of the ingredients in a bowl
c. when the white chocolate has all melted mix it with the ingredients in the bowl
d. spread out on a cookie sheet with parchment and put in refrigerator.
e. break apart and put in a cool storage bag or sealed container.

No matter what you make this holiday season, I hope it is a happy and healthy one shared with your loved ones; even the smallest of children whose gifts can be the best and most cherished for years to come!
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thanks and Giving...

photo credit: St. Jude's Thanks and Giving Campaign

Each year as I look at my two beautiful daughters grow and watch them blossom into fine young ladies, I reflect about just how lucky we are to have both of them happy and healthy.

My girls were both born prematurely at 34 weeks due to pre-eclampia/toxemia which I somehow managed to get twice.

Many of you know Sarah is now a senior in college and ready to graduate and jump into the world. My other daughter Hadley was not as fortunate; when she was six days old she suffered a bilateral grade 2 intracranial hemorrhage which left her with a seizure disorder and cerebral palsy. Her life is much different than Sarah’s however; we have learned and grown through understanding Hadley’s disability. I thank god everyday for Hadley and all that we have learned from her. I suppose around the holidays we tend to get a bit sentimental and think about all of our blessings and try and help those less fortunate then ourselves.

It is because of this that we have chosen to step up to the plate so to speak and help St Jude Children’s Hospital. I know many of you have heard of St Jude’s but this is a short paragraph or two from the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital about their background…

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, founded by the late entertainer Danny Thomas, is one of the world's premier centers for the research and treatment of pediatric cancer and other catastrophic childhood diseases. Children from all 50 states and around the world have come through the doors of St. Jude for treatment, and thousands more have benefited from the research conducted at St. Jude—research that is shared freely with the global medical community.

Working together, St. Jude physicians and scientists have pioneered treatments that have helped push the overall survival rates for childhood cancers from less than 20 percent in 1962 to 80 percent today. The survival rate for the most common form of childhood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, has risen from just 4 percent in 1962to 94 percent today.

That was the vision of Danny Thomas when he founded St. Jude, thanks to an answered prayer to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes. "Show me my way in life," Danny prayed as he sought direction in his life, "and I will build you a shrine."

Danny's prayer was answered, and he soon became one of America's most beloved entertainers. Even after he achieved fame and fortune, Danny always remembered his pledge to St. Jude.

Today, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital stands as the embodiment of that pledge and has served as a symbol of hope for children stricken with catastrophic diseases since opening in 1962.”

Here are a few quick facts:

* It is amazing that all patients accepted for treatment at St. Jude are treated without regard to the family's ability to pay. This is what is so critical about this hospital; it services so many children from all across the country whose families cannot pay, or they do not have health insurance for one reason or another.

* St. Jude covers the cost of everything—food, travel and lodging for patients and a family member.

* In 2009, Parents magazine named St. Jude the No. 1 pediatric cancer care hospital in the country, based on the magazine's survey of more than 75 children's hospitals nationwide.

I am asking you to look at your own healthy children and give thanks that they are healthy by helping those who aren’t. Please take a moment to give $5.00 today instead of your daily latte, it will not only good for the hospital but it will be good for your heart!
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What's in your first aid kit?

Several years ago my husband and I were at an event for Children’s Hospital and as a token of thanks each patron received a first aid kit. Over the years we have used that kit many times, and have restocked several items.

Being that we are going into the winter months and what I call “hibernation” from a lot of playing at the playground. I usually take this time to go through my medicine cabinets and make sure the medications are all in date, over the counter medicines especially; we don’t go through Tylenol quite like we used to. But I also pull out the first aid kit and look at everything inside of it too, since it does get its fair share of use during the spring, summer and fall.

Everybody should have a first aid kit of one kind or another. You don’t need to go out and buy a prepackaged one. You can make one yourself. Just gather an old lunch box or spare big makeup bag. (We seem to have a lot of them around our house)

What you put in your families first aid kit can be as extensive as you like. I have put together a sample list of items which would be helpful.

• disposable gloves (at least 2 pairs)
• disposable instant cold packs
• adhesive bandages, several sizes
• adhesive tape
• elastic bandage(s)
• sterile gauze pads
• alcohol wipes or other antiseptic wipes
• hand sanitizer

• acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen
• 1% hydrocortisone cream
• antibiotic ointment
• calamine lotion
• epinephrine auto-injector if a family member is at risk for anaphylaxis
• ipecac
• burn ointment

• small scissors
• tweezers
• needle
• safety pins
• thermometer
• bulb syringe

• first aid manual
• emergency phone numbers and contact information (which I also post on the inside of a kitchen cabinet)
• important medical information for all family members, including health problems and medications
• health card or health insurance information

I hope this helps you make up your own families first aid kit. Let me know if you add anything extra to yours!
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Sunday, November 8, 2009

“a tree of thanks…”

Fall is a beautiful time to take a walk with your children. Playgrounds are often in some type of “park like” setting. After having a few hours of running and jumping it is sometimes fun to take a short stroll and look at the beautiful colored leaves. My girls loved picking up the most colorful and bringing them home to make some type of arrangement or an “indoor” tree, usually on our wall.

Over time, I thought I became a bit more creative and we preserved our “leaves” by pressing them between book pages, and then taking a piece of clear sticky sheets and sealing them so to speak and adhering them to the wall with a 3-m product that was easy to remove when the time came.

One day one of my friends came over and commented on our “annual tree” at how beautiful the leaves were and what a great seasonal display it was. She then shared an idea, “why not use the leaves, and write something on them about the year, what was the best memory of that year? Or perhaps there was a milestone and a date.” This was a great idea, now the beautiful leaves had a “purpose."

My oldest daughter loved the book “the giving tree” by Shel Silverstein. She loved the story of the tree who gave so much to his “friend” the boy. And she dubbed this “our giving tree.”

Now every year we add to our “giving tree” and look back as we assemble it at all the wonderful things we have to be “thankful” for…
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Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Pumpkin, a Pumpkin, so many things to do with a Pumpkin

Our friends at Martha Stewart always have some wonderful ideas for pumpkins that you can do with your kids, so we thought we would take a few minutes and share a few with you.

image from our friends at Martha Stewart

Take two miniature pumpkins to become a hoot of an owl! Secure the two pumpkins together with a toothpick or kabob skewer. To give your little owl eyes to see take 2 toothpicks and attach pumpkin seeds thru, add a few more and fan them out; repeat several times so it makes a complete circle and top the end with a pearberry. To give your little guy feathers on top of his head take a chrysanthemum bloom and toothpick or hot glue it to the top. And to complete your little friend, hollow out his beak area and insert an almond. Isn’t he cute?

image from our friends at Martha Stewart

Every little girl loves creating jewelry. Why not make a pumpkin necklace? Take your seeds from inside your scooped out pumpkin and put them in a bowl of water. The seeds will separate and float to the top when they do take them and put them on a towel or pan to dry out for a few hours (at least 6). Then take a needle and thread it with silk beaded cord and pierce each seed and create a pattern, you can also add candy corn to make it a bit more colorful!

image from our friends at Martha Stewart

A pumpkin birdhouse has to be one of my favorite ideas! Take a small pumpkin, cut it in half, scoop it out leaving about ½” thick wall all of the way around. In the rim take a knife and slit a ½” rim around to make a “rim” for pumpkin seeds to sit on (really wedged in) To make cute perches, poke a hole with a twig branch and insert. Add some berries. To hang take 2 pieces of twine, knot the ends, secure (where the knot is) on the bottom of the pumpkin. And then fill with birdseed, I know the birds will love visiting here! And in my case, so will the pesty squirrels!

Do you have any cute ideas of pumpkins? Share them! Hope you have a wonderfully sweet and fun Halloween!
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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ghoulish delights for your little monsters

Halloween is a fun time for kids big and small, so I thought I would do a little research and put together a few ideas for you and your little monsters to have the best “spooktacular” holiday.

photo credit: Southern Living, Loved it since i'm all about playing and the outdoors!

I hosted several Halloween parties when my kids were small and I always loved getting everything ready for these parties, and to start the party with a spooky or fun feeling I think the invitations should start your party off with the right feeling. Paper and Cake has created a cute collection that is perfect for a night of Trick-or-Treating with friends, a Pumpkin Carving Party all you need to do is print and cut. How easy is that?

This Collection Includes:
* Invitations
* Front Door Welcome Sign
* Cupcake Picks (can also be used as stickers)
* Mini Treat Bags
* Mini Candy Bar labels
* Snack Cones
* Menus
* Placemats
* Finger Puppets with Play Background
* jpeg artwork for you to use on canvas trick-or-treat bags
* full sheet patterned paper (can also be used as napkin rings or candle wrappers)
* cup wrappers

Food is an important and can be fun, especially for Halloween. I think these recipes will work great for your party.

photo credit: Mrs. Prindables

Magic Wands
• 48 pretzel rods
• 1/2 pound sweetened bakers dark or white chocolate
• Edible colored sprinkles

1. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or sauce pan. When melted, pour in a glass bowl.

2. Dip and coat each pretzel stick with melted chocolate; about half the length of each stick.

3. Roll chocolate coated pretzel sticks in colored sprinkles. Let "magic wands" stand and set before serving.

Mummy Dogs
• 1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
• 2 1/2 slices American cheese, quartered (2.5 oz)
• 10 large hot dogs
• Cooking spray
• Mustard or ketchup, if desired

1. Heat oven to 375°F. Unroll dough; separate at perforations, creating 4 rectangles. Press perforations to seal.

2. Slice cheese slices into quarters (1/2 slice cheese, cut in half).

3. Wrap 4 pieces of dough around each hot dog and 1/4 slice of cheese to look like "bandages," stretching dough slightly to completely cover hot dog.

4. About 1/2 inch from one end of each hot dog, separate "bandages" so hot dog shows through for "face."

5. On ungreased large cookie sheet, place wrapped hot dogs (cheese side down); spray dough lightly with cooking spray.

6. Bake 13 to 17 minutes or until dough is light golden brown and hot dogs are hot. With mustard, draw features on "face."

photo credit: Woman's Day

Spider Web Pizza
• 1 pkg (10 oz) prebaked mini 8-in pizza crusts (we used Boboli)
• 1/3 cup pizza sauce
• 2 (1 oz each) mozzarella string cheese
• 3 large pitted black olives

1. Heat oven to 450°F. Place crusts on a baking sheet; top with sauce. Pull cheese into thin strips; place on pizzas in the shape of a web.

2. Bake pizza for 8 to 10 minutes until cheese melts. Cool 3 minutes.

3. Cut off one end of 2 olives for spider heads. Halve remaining olives lengthwise. Use one half for body; cut remaining pieces into strips for legs. Assemble spider on each pizza.

photo credit: William Sonoma

Halloween Sugar Cookies
It’s easy to transform basic sugar cookie dough into delightful Halloween treats. Using cutters shaped like ghosts and black cats, you can create spooky sweets that will cast a magic spell over holiday gatherings.

• 2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature
• ¾ cup sugar
• 3 egg yolks
• 1 piece of vanilla bean 2” long
• 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp salt
• Colored sugars and decorating pens

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and, using a small, sharp knife, scrape the seeds into the butter mixture. Mix well.

2. In a sifter, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Sift the flour mixture directly onto the butter mixture. Reduce the speed to low and beat until well mixed.

3. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball, and then flatten the balls into disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (The dough can be prepared up to 3 days ahead.) Let it soften slightly at room temperature before continuing.

4. Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter 2 large baking sheets.

5. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out a dough disk 1/4 inch thick. Using cookie cutters, cut out desired shapes. Transfer the cutouts to the prepared baking sheets. Gather up and reroll the scraps and cut out more cookies. Repeat with the remaining dough disks.

6. Bake until the cookies are golden on the edges, about 8 minutes. Transfer the cookies to wire racks and let cool completely. Decorate the cookies as desired with colored sugars and decorating pens. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Makes 24 to 30 cookies, depending on cutter size.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Series, Holiday Baking, by Jeanne Thiel Kelley (Time-Life Books, 1995).

Of course it wouldn’t be a Halloween party without costumes. These are a few of my favorites for the little one and even for your furry monsters!

Check out this adorable “western cowgirl.” The set comes with a red tutu, red bandana, white hat with star, and stick horse. It is available in size 12m, 18m, 24m, 2t, and 3t.

Mytouchofaloha has a Cupcake Cutie Costume that they created much like the Pottery Barn Kids Costume! Made of soft felt this one piece costume will make your little one the most delicious thing this Halloween! Comes with its own strawberry cream topper! Now available in a 12m - 5T.

These little bloomers were just so darn cute I had to include them, they come from Sugarlocks.

Petiecat makes some beautiful costumes and this little kitty is no exception! The costume is a 5 pc stretch velvet set. Top and pants, arm warmers trimmed with maribu, satin bow on headband and a pull on hand tied tutu over skirt. Available in all sizes 12 month up to size 10. They can also make this in long sleeves.

For your little treaters to collect all of their goodies in style you can have wonderful handmade bags made like these by Tedecco and plain jane and company created this cheery pumpkin Halloween trick or treat bags are darling for your child's Halloween!

Bags are sewn from a cheery mix of orange fabrics and are accented with green "leaves." They are quilted to a soft cotton batting. Patterned black bias and handle top the bag while a cheery blanket-stitched face complete the charm.

Bag dimensions are a perfect size for children. The bag body is approximately 6" tall and 9" wide. This chubby pumpkin would hold all the candy you'd like your child to have!

Let your little ones trick or treat in style this year with a fun appliqu├ęd canvas bag created by plainjaneandcompany! The great thing about these bags is that they are reusable and personalized!

And to cherish your Halloween memories you can get this adorable frame and put in your favorite photo of your little ghoul. This frame was handmade. It holds a 5x5 photo. It has a Fall/Halloween/Thanksgiving theme with the brown hand painted paint and the red, orange and gold ribbon. Holes were drilled around the frame and the ribbon was looped through to create this look.

If you have a little furry critter let them join in the fun and check out these adorable little costumes which can be found at Center Pet Pharmacy. Just give them a call 888-260-0801. And our friends at Center Pet Pharmacy are hosting a costume contest where the winner will win $150.00, so send your photo over today to

Hope it’s a spooktacular holiday for you all!
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Saturday, September 26, 2009

go out and PLAY!

Worldwide Day of Play is an annual event designed to encourage kids and parents to turn off the television and play, especially outdoors. The yearly event officially began on all US Nickelodeon channels: Nickelodeon, Noggin, The N, and Nicktoons Network on October 2, 2004. Some foreign versions of Nick also participated. In addition, would also have special features for children to learn how to stay active and healthy. There are events going on all over the country in conjunction with schools and organizations, stop by Nickelodeon and see what’s going on in your neck of the woods, turn off the TV, grab you kids and go outside and PLAY!!

Last year on September 27, 2008, the following message was shown on Nick:
"Today is Nickelodeon's Worldwide Day of Play- an entire day devoted to play! And to celebrate, Nickelodeon has gone off the air from 12pm to 3pm to encourage you to get outside and play. There will be more Nick at 3pm, but until then, this message will keep repeating. So don't just sit there. Go play!"

In addition to the wonderful time you and your family will share. Your community could be selected for a grant of $10,000 by NFL PLAY 60, who is a partner to Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play, and KaBoom for hosting a Play Day program. Check out the site for details!

Let us know what kind of wonderful things you did with your family in honor of this great day of play!
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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Let the Children Play (Some More)

Every once in a while I come across an article that “hits home.” Today in this day and age where I believe play is an important part of all children’s lives I feel this is well worth the reprint.

September 2, 2009 By: Stuart Brown New York Times Online

Here on the balmy central coast of California and all across the country, kids are heading back to school. The classes are larger, the No Child Left Behind mandates remain in place and, despite advice from the nation’s secretary of health and human services and others, recess and physical education (not to mention art and music instruction) have in many schools been cut back or eliminated. While most of our backpack-laden kids are eager to catch up with friends they haven’t seen over the summer, the general feeling is that “playtime is over.”

Even if summer does not bring children a complete release from their over-organized, cell-phone-computer-TV-and-video-game-saturated lives, it does offer most a bit of free “goof-off” time – the sort that leads to physical activity and elective, self-organized play, often in short supply during the school year. Still, it’s not enough. Goof-off time shouldn’t be limited to summer vacation: it’s important all year.

For most American children in the not-so-distant past, “going out to play” was the norm. Today, according to a University of Michigan study, children spend 50 percent less time outside than they did just 20 years ago — and the 6.5 hours a day they spend with electronic media means that sitting in front of a screen has replaced going out.

Through the lens of play research, we can see that there is a direct line between play deficiencies and some frightening public health and social trends: tragic statistics for obesity, 4.5 million children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, an increase in childhood depression and classroom behavioral problems involving violence, and an inability to interact well with peers.

Just an hour a day of vigorous play — running, chasing, games like tag or dodge ball, and even dealing with or avoiding being excluded from these activities — can provide intense skill learning. Physical activity is known to lessen the symptoms of mild attention deficit disorder, and is associated with much lower incidences of childhood obesity. Active kids are also more facile intellectually and perform better academically in the long term.

Physically engaging play is actually more fun than the virtual sort, and the enlivenment one gets from it can transcend the allure of sedentary life in a two-dimensional, electronic world. But breaking away from the draw of a well-crafted, image-laden on-screen story line requires broad cultural reinforcement. It helps to be aware of how important play is to one’s development. To make that happen, we need a change in public consciousness about play — to show that it is not trivial or elective — as well as focused community and parental support.

Evidence from around the scientific compass — neuroscience, psychology, exercise physiology, sociology and developmental biology — has revealed the importance of play. Deprive a social mammal like a rat or monkey of its normal rough-and-tumble play and it enters adulthood emotionally fragile, unable to tell friend from foe, poor at handling stress and lacking the skills to mate properly.

My studies of young homicidal males and felony drunken drivers revealed that most had lacked normal, developmentally appropriate rough and tumble play as children and pre-adolescents, while a control population had experienced typical playground give and take during their elementary and middle school years.

The differences in playfulness when adulthood arrives (I have followed more than 6,000 detailed play histories) validates the importance of lifelong play. Play-deprived adults are often rigid, humorless, inflexible and closed to trying out new options. Playfulness enhances the capacity to innovate, adapt and master changing circumstances. It is not just an escape. It can help us integrate and reconcile difficult or contradictory circumstances. And, often, it can show us a way out of our problems. There are numerous examples of difficult, deadlocked negotiations that were broken open by a joke or humorous incident. Many people have had the experience of coming back from vacation brimming with new ideas for work. The benefits of play come not from “rest” for the brain, as if play is just a time-out from life. Play is an active process that reshapes our rigid views of the world.

True play may seem pointless — it is done for its own sake, because it’s fun — but ultimately it is also useful. From an evolutionary perspective, the smarter the animal, the more they play. For humans, play reinvigorates us not because it is down time, but because it gets us in touch with our core selves and the joy of life.

Even if I didn’t know all I do about the concrete benefits of play, I would feel sad about the kids (and their parents) who have given up on play for another nine months. Knowing what I do, I can see that their autumnal devaluation of play is a tragic loss for them and for our society.

Stuart Brown, is founder and president of the National Institute for Play, author of “Play, How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.”
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Monday, August 31, 2009

Playground Picnic

In the last days of summer why not get out and take your kids to the playground with a wonderful picnic lunch. Some of my favorite memories of visiting the playground is the “down time” we had relaxing and eating our lunch on the “big blanket.” In keeping with the “playful” feeling I tried to bring food that would appeal to my kids sense of fun too. I tried to think rather unconventionally not the traditional “sandwich and chips” of an everyday meal.

I thought I’d give you a few ideas, maybe you haven’t tried, which my kids loved for packing fun into their playground picnics or you can use these ideas for lunchboxes and keeping them happy and full at school:

1. Dip it.

Kids love to dip things, so pack little containers of hummus or spinach dip and pita bread. The Mediterranean-inspired dips are packed with protein and a good source of fiber. Celery sticks with a cottage-cheese salsa dip, baby carrots and yummy salad dressing dip, (honey mustard is a favorite of my kids) or apple slices and peanut butter can contribute to the fruits-and-veggies quota.

Yogurt dip: this recipe has a “fresh” taste which my kids love!

yummy yogurt dip

• 1 medium hot house cucumber
• 1 cup fat-free plain yogurt
• 1 cup fat-free sour cream
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Greek seasoning, divided
• salt
• freshly ground black pepper

Cut cucumber in half lengthwise and grate into a medium mixing bowl. Add yogurt, sour cream, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon Greek seasoning. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

2. Skewer it.

children love veggies and cheese kabobs

Eating the same old sandwich over and over again is boring. So mix it up a bit! You can put all the essentials of a sandwich on wood skewers. Thread alternating small chunks of turkey, ham, cheese and bread (add cherry tomatoes for fun) on skewers for a new dimension. This trick also works well with fruit. The following fruit make wonderful kabobs: Fresh or canned Pineapple, Bananas, Star fruit, Peaches, Nectarines, Mango, Papaya, Kiwi fruit, Cantaloupe, and Melons Cherries, Pitted Grapes Apples and Pears.

fruit kabobs with raspberry sauce

Colorful fruit skewers
12 wooden skewers
1 large ripe mango, peeled
2 large oranges, peeled
2 large bananas, peeled
250 small strawberries, hulled

Soak skewers in cold water for 20-30 minutes. Cut mango and oranges into 3cm chunks. Cut bananas into 3cm slices. Thread fruit onto skewers, alternating the varieties. Serves 12

3. Wrap it.

Add some pizazz with colored tortillas. Smear red and green ones with a ranch dip or cream cheese and layer in cold cuts. They're tasty, colorful and easy. I have even made a wrap of the traditional peanut butter and jelly with bananas and boy did my kids love them!

turkey and cheese wrap filled with veggies

4. Cut it out.

Make your kids favorite sandwich and make it just a bit more jazzy but cutting it with a cookie cutter, something this simple makes it feel that much more special to your kids, and you will be surprised how fast they eat it!

kids love fun shapes!

5. Fun Desserts
There are so many wonderful brownies and baked bars that kids love but this is a favorite of my kids which I got from Parents Magazine.

Blueberry-Banana Stacks

6 mini chocolate, caramel, or berry-flavored popcorn cakes
1 to 2 Tbs. strawberry-flavored cream cheese
6 banana slices
6 fresh blueberries

Spread cakes with cream cheese and top with banana slices. If desired, dollop with additional cream cheese and top with a blueberry. Serves 2.

Now go on take some time and visit a playground with your kids, one day you will look back and smile on the memories! Do you have a playground story you would like to share with us?
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Monday, August 17, 2009

What a "Special" Woman the world has lost.

Last week we lost one of the greatest women I believe this country has ever known, Eunice Kennedy Shiver. I think it serendipitous that her mother Rose Kennedy was born on July 22 the same day as me and she on July 10th the same day as my daughter Sarah. I believe Eunice and Rose had a special mother-daughter relationship. Rose Kennedy instilled a belief in family, faith, tradition and community involvement in her children which was passed on to Eunice and her to her own children.

For those of you who do not know who Eunice Kennedy Shriver was she was the fifth of nine children born to Rose and Joseph Kennedy, sister to President John F Kennedy. In May of 1953 Eunice married Sargent Shriver and they had five children.

Eunice grew up like Sarah with a disabled sister, Rosemary, and was influenced to change the world due to Rosemary’s disability. In the 1960’s she co-founded Special Olympics, so that all children could play. A motto I have shared through my work.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Shriver several times, as her son Mark became a member of our Board of Director’s for Hadley’s Park, and invited her to several events. I can remember one event in particular which was for Mark, who was running for Congress at the time, when she shared the story with me; a story most people don’t know, I’m not even sure if Mark knew this. But Mrs. Shriver had told me that when she was thinking of starting Special Olympics, she was contemplating starting an organization to build fully inclusive playgrounds. I thought how serendipitous, that she thought to do this in the 1960’s and I had gone to seek help from her son in 1996 with the same dream. I am glad that I could share this vision with her and carry it out to help improve the lives of children.

God Bless you Eunice, God has a great angel among him now!

“You are the stars and the world is watching you,
By your presence you send a message to
Every village, every city, every nation
A message of hope, A message of victory.”
“The right to play on any playing field?
You have earned it.
The right to study at any school?
You have earned it.
The right to hold a job?
You have earned it
The right to be anyone’s neighbor?
You have earned it.”
Eunice Kennedy Shriver 1987 Special Olympics World Games, South Bend, Indiana
What a "Special" Woman the world has lost.SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, August 10, 2009

True colors of friendship are beautiful like a rainbow

In the spirit of International Friendship day which I missed last week, I would like to thank each of you for becoming a friend of mine and for letting me share my colors of the rainbow with you!

You with the sad eyes
Don't be discouraged
Oh I realize
It's hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small

But I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful Like a rainbow

Show me a smile then
Don't be unhappy, can't remember
When I last saw you laughing
If this world makes you crazy
And you've taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I'll be there

And I'll see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow

In the spirit of friendship I would like to ask if you might help my friends at Shane's Inspiration with their annual 5/10K Walk and Roll Event. If you are in the LA area please join the cast of The Witches of Waverly Place Sunday, August 30th at 7:00am at Shane's Inspiration in Griffith Park. Even if you are not in LA if you would be so kind to donate to this wonderful organization what you can to support Shane's Inspiration's mission to create inclusive playgrounds and programs for children of ALL abilities! Thank you my friends!
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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Clemyjontri is more than initials, it's a wonderful playground for all

After working with me as one of first benefactors for Hadley’s Park, Adele Lebowitz decided she wanted to do something more with her estate, she decided that the joy she understood that came from the children playing at Hadley’s Park would be a wonderful legacy to leave on her property. So she decided to donate her 10 acre estate to Fairfax County Park Department with the understanding that they would create a fully inclusive playground like Hadley’s Park. Thus the birth of "Clemyjontri." You might wonder where this odd name came from or what it stands for. Wanting to commemorate her family the name Clemyjontri is made up of the initials of Mrs. Lebowitz children. Fairfax County authorities worked hand in hand with Grace Fielder and Associates to create a joyous and fully inclusive playground complete with a merry go round! Grace and her staff used many similar elements that we used at Hadley’s Park after learning from us the importance each play piece or element had.

To the casual observer, the playground at Clemyjontri Park looks like an ordinary playground, with swings, slides and play equipment fun to climb on, under and around. A closer look will reveal that some of those swings have high backs for children who need extra support. Instead of standard transfer platforms there are ramps to the elevated play components. Pathways between equipment are wide and colorful, and the ground surfaces are non-slip and porous designed to provide a greater level of access for children.

There is something for everyone - children will be able to find something to climb on, touch, read, do or create. Children will enjoy the challenges of balance and depth perception on the playground's balance beams. A mini-track can be used to race, playhouses and cubbies offer pleasant spaces for social interaction while also allowing children seeking quiet or separate areas to play in smaller groups. Tent sails provide areas of shade in the playground and benches are located throughout the play area. The playground is open daily from 7 a.m. to dusk, year-round.The Two Acre Playground Consists of 4 Outdoor "Areas" Surrounding a Centerpiece Carousel.

The Rainbow Room - With rainbow archway, surface with colors of the rainbow and a variety of swings:
Accommodates all physical levels
Integrates sign, Braille, pictures and language
Teaches colors of the rainbow

The Schoolhouse & Maze - With learning panels forming a maze that may be reconfigured:
Focuses on educational learning games
Teaches where am I reading, maps and a globe
Teaches what time it is using time zones and clocks

The Movin and Groovin Transportation Area Designed with transportation themed equipment such as a race track, motorcycles, planes, and trains:
Stimulates imagination
Teaches balance and special skills
Mimics true roadway situations

Fitness & Fun - Includes the largest piece of play equipment along with various jungle gym components:
Stimulates imagination
Progressive challenges for physical strength
Energy burner
Builds confidence

If you are in the Northern Virginia area or want to make a little day trip while visiting the Metro DC area I would strongly recommend this your children will thank you for it!

*i'd like to thank everyone who posted these wonderful photo's on flickr!
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