Friday, June 29, 2007

Watermelon Treats

My toddler is obsessed with watermelon and asks for it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So I love these fun and healthy treats found on A Readable Feast. The recipes are simple enough for a toddler, but I could also make them during nap time and blow Sabrina and her playdate (not to mention the playdate's mom!) away.

Watermelon Banana Split
A healthy twist to an old favorite - serves four

Watermelon_banana_split_2Ingredients:

  1. 2 bananas
  2. 1 medium watermelon
  3. 1 cup fresh blueberries
  4. 1 cup diced fresh pineapple
  5. 1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
  6. 1/4 cup caramel fruit dip
  7. 1/4 cup honey roasted almonds

Instructions:

Peel bananas and cut in half lengthwise then cut each piece in half. For each serving, lay 2 banana pieces against sides of shallow dish. Using an ice cream scooper, place three watermelon "scoops" in between each banana in each dish. Remove seeds if necessary. Top each watermelon "scoop" with a different fruit topping. Drizzle caramel fruit dip over all. Sprinkle with almonds.

Watermelon_kebabsWatermelon Kebabs
Easy, fast, and healthy, too!

Ingredients:

  1. 1-inch cubes of seedless watermelon
  2. Smoked turkey breast
  3. Cheddar cheese
  4. Skewers, coffee stirrers or beverage straws

Instructions:

Cut watermelon, turkey and cheese in cubes and string on skewers, stirrers or straws. Enjoy!

Watermelon_dippersWatermelon Dippers
Kids love to dip! (The original recipe's dip was made out of sour cream, vanilla extract and sugar. But flavored yogurt sounds so much easier, don't you think?)

Ingredients:

  1. 8 ounces vanilla, fruit or berry flavored yogurt
  2. Watermelon

Instructions:

Slice watermelon into sticks or small wedges. Place yogurt in a bowl as a dip for the watermelon. Dip away!

(All watermelon pictures from National Watermelon Promotion Board website.)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Another Reason to Sign

Yes, we did sign language with Sabrina and plan to do it again with Cassandra. I have great memories of Sabrina signing her first words ("milk" and "more") and learning to communicate way before she was able to speak. We had lots of serious books on the subject, but the most useful turned out to be a series of board books designed for kids by language experts Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn. The books cover basic signs and feature colorful photographs of babies signing each word, which appeals to young children. Another signing product we liked was this neat chart that helped us, our nanny and anyone visiting sign.

After Sabrina started speaking we dropped the signing and put away the books. I pulled them out again when preparing for Cassandra's birth, and to my surprise Sabrina was very interested in re-learning sign language. She is now able to sign words and phrases that she could not at 18 months and I think will be excited to sign with Cassandra when the time comes. Her favorite sign by far is "I love you," which she flashes me with throughout the day. Sometimes I even get her version of "I love you very much": two "I love you" signs with both hands in the air.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Art of Giving


Is it just me or are there really more spring and summer babies than autumn and winter ones? We've been on a roll of birthday parties, including Sabrina's, since early April, and the partying continues through July. At this point we're making weekly trips to get birthday presents, and I've been trying as much as possible to make the giving fun and meaningful for Sabrina. Gifts that create an experience for the recepient and require a little bit of thought on our part are my first choice. I also try to avoid hundred-piece toys that just add to the clutter of the playroom. Here are some ideas:
  • Original and personalized craft kits with everything a parent needs to work on a memorable project with their child. For example, start with a wood box, wood letters spelling out the child's name, a terracotta piggy bank or a ceramic plate. Add acrylic paints in assorted colors, paintbrushes in various sizes and a kid-size apron. Put it all in a bag, add a note with some simple instructions and wishes for a happy birthday.
  • This is a favorite gift Sabrina got for her birthday. Buy a large plastic measuring bowl and fill with a few plastic kitchen utensils such as measuring cups and spoons, a spatula and mixing spoon. Type up an easy baking recipe and give it a fun title like "Sabrina's Brilliant Banana Bread." Add one or two key ingredients (preferably non-perishable ones) and you've created a fabulous cooking and eating experience the child will surely remember. Of course, Martha Stewart has a great recipe for Banana Bread.
  • Books are always good gifts, and they can be the start of a nice experience kit. For example, Eric Carle's The Tiny Seed can be given with a pot and packet of easy to grow seeds. Or, the very inspiring I Love to Collage by Jennifer Lipsey Edwards given with some child-safe scissors, a pack of construction paper and some glitter glue are sure to be a hit with parents and children.
  • I love giving copies of Sabrina's favorite books as gifts so she and her friends can know the same stories. A nice idea is to buy a second copy to donate in the birthday child's name. Let the family and child know you've done this.
  • A subscription to a magazine. Hive Five, by the publishers of Highlights, is wonderful for toddlers and contains no advertising. Sabrina enjoys every new issue immensely and loves getting something in the mail. Since the subscription takes about 6 weeks to kick-in, you can buy a current issue to wrap and explain in a note that new issues will keep coming all year long.
  • This is my husband's great idea: the gift of food. You could have a lot of fun with this one! How about a fruit basket? Pick one each of some of the more exotic varieties of fruit families don't usually buy and label each fruit with its name. Or, put together a selection of healthy treats from a health food store. eco child's play recently reviewed natural lollipops that you could also include.
  • Whatever the gift, we always include a special piece of art created by Sabrina for her friend.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My name is...


Three years into motherhood I'm pretty much over personalizing things since each of my girls owns at least 10 items bearing their names or initials. But I cannot resist meyamo's very neat onsies. The company's name means "My name is" in Spanish, and the 100% cotton tees come with a peel and stick alphabet in a great font so you can do the personalizing and designing yourself. For now the tee is only available in baby sizes up to 18 months, and it occurs to me this could be a nice little project to do with Sabrina, letting her design something for her new little sister.

Monday, June 25, 2007

It's All in the Packaging


Lately we've been a little uninspired by our art supplies. Markers are just so uncontrollable, crayons so common. Coloring pencils can be hard work and there's only so much you can do with five colored sticks of chalk. Watercolors are always a favorite, but we were craving something new. I pulled out a box of 50 mini colored pencils by RoseArt, hoping that the fact that they were "mini" and new would appeal to Sabrina. Not interested. But, when I dumped the contents of the box into a shallow ceramic bowl, they took on a new life, shiny and promising as a dish of candies. She dug right in and found inspiration all morning.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Head in the Clouds


Sometimes the simplest of pleasures go forgotten. I could not remember the last time I lay on my back outdoors looking for images in the clouds. So this afternoon Sabrina and I did just that for a little while. I saw nothing at first, but slowly the pictures revealed themselves, so accurate they seemed painted by a very practiced hand and not the result of random wind. We saw several faces (can you spot the baby face in the photograph?), a bunny's head, a giant flower and a bus (well, only Sabrina saw the bus... but I pretended I did too!). We talked about the clouds and sky always changing and all the different colors and shapes one could see in them. Inspired by the re-discovery of this classic pastime, I did a quick search and came across wolcen, a blog that features nothing but pictures of the sky from different locations of the world. I also found weatherscapes, a website dedicated to photography of many weather phenomena that features beautiful pictures of all kinds of clouds. Something to look at on a rainy day...


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bookish Baby



Because my two-month old Cassandra is only awake and not nursing for about 15 minutes every three hours, I feel we should be extra selective about what we expose her to during that little bit of time. Aside from cuddles, kisses and massages, the biggest hit with her have been books with contrasting patterns and pictures. Photographer Tana Hoban's Black & White unfolds into a several-foot-long series of images, black on white on one side and white on black on the other. Cassandra loves the pictures and looks at them very intently while reaching out to touch the pages. Spots and Dots by Chez Picthall is another favorite. She also loves looking at the amazing Nikki McClure's beautiful Awake to Nap alphabet book (also a favorite of Sabrina's), available at buyolympia.com.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Little Stylist



Three-year-old Sabrina brought the leaves in from her trip to the park and immediately wanted them in the gray vase that was previously empty. Later in the day she reached up and placed the little gray plastic knight from her vintage Fisher Price Family Play Castle exactly where it is. I especially like how the the knight echos the figure in the black and white photograph.

She also moved the orange gerbera daisies that I had put in her room, insisting that they belonged on the toilet tank. I've never put flowers in our tiny bathroom, but they do look great.

Next time I'm at a loss for where to hang a print or place a vase, I'll know who to ask. I'm also going to be more mindful when I'm "picking up" after her... some of what at first sight looks to be out of place might be deliberate and better than anything an adult could come up with!


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Digital Art


My three-year-old daughter Sabrina loves this website that lets her paint in the style of Jackson Pollock. She has created some pretty amazing digital paintings with the program. It's easy for kids to use: just move the mouse to create splotches of color and click to change them. It's a great way to learn about color and be creative without making a mess. You can start over as often as you want, or save the painting by hitting Print Screen on your keyboard and then pasting the screen capture into a document.


It's Summer!


Nothing says summer like children blowing soap bubbles. And nothing will frustrate a toddler faster than trying to blow bubbles with thin soap and a flimsy wand. Sons and Daughters sells the German brand of bubbles Pustefix, a thick liquid soap that yields big shiny bubbles filled with rainbows. The wand is attached to the top, so no more slippery fingers to add to the frustration. And that colorful tube and yellow bear are adorable.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Have a Good + Happy Day

This blog is for modern parents of young children who want to create good + happy days for their families. Since becoming mom to Sabrina three years ago and Cassandra just two months ago, I've developed a parenting philosophy based on these principles:

1. Children are the ultimate artists: uninhibited, creative, interested in process not product, unattached to results. A good + happy day will include lots of opportunity for artistic expression.

2. A bored child is a child about to get in trouble. So keeping those days good + happy means coming up with lots of fun and interesting things to do.

3. Everything is more enjoyable with children when we focus on the child and task at hand exclusively. Multitasking leads to stress and trouble. A good + happy day will be filled with things fun and interesting for kids and their parents so neither loses interest.

4. Environment matters. Being selective about what we bring into your homes shapes our children's days as much as what we say to them and do with them. A simple, clean, uncluttered home filled with carefully chosen furniture, art, toys and books provides the perfect environment for good + happy days.

5. Not all activities are created equal. Hands-on, open-ended, creative, messy, and slightly challenging, seem to make for a good + happy day. Television shows, most dvds, craft kits that are too limiting or difficult, projects that take too long, and places that are too crowded or loud just make for cranky children and frustrated parents. Not good + happy.

So, what is a good + happy day? For me, it's one filled with creativity, exploration, art, books, laughter, simple healthy food, a tidy and uncluttered home, time in nature, spirituality, storytelling, cuddles, songs... as well as good naps and a reasonably early bedtime for the children. Ever on the quest for ideas on the elements that make my day good + happy, I've decided to record and share my finds in
Good + Happy Day
. Welcome! I hope you find my good + happy days inspiring.