Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Blue Food

I remember at some point making a comment that blue food is just wrong. There are no foods in nature that are really and truly blue.

Then a few weeks ago, Sprout and I were reading The Lighting Thief (an excellent book for kids who liked Harry Potter) and the mother in the story likes to make blue food as a rebellious move. And Sprout loved that idea.

So on the way home from karate today, we were talking about what we were going to have for dinner. And Tater, as always, wanted Macaroni and Cheese (more specifically Easy Mac...and yes, I know it is just barely even real food...but kids can not live on only whole grain healthy things, or at least mine apparently can't). And he thought maybe it should be blue.

So for dinner tonight we had blue mac & cheese. Actually it was sort of neon green since the blue food coloring blended with the neon orange "cheese". The kids found this terribly amusing. It seemed kind of wrong to me, but I am a grown-up and frequently feel guilty about eating "fun" foods anyway.

Mike asked if it counted as our vegetable since it looked vaguely like green beans. No, it did not. We had carrots and cucumbers, too.

The point here is, that it is fairly easy to make dinner more entertaining to your kids. Add a little unexpected color. Even if it seems sort of counterproductive, I am fairly sure a little blue food never hurt anyone.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Krazy Village/Jungle Wonder

On Saturday afternoon, all fired up from many weeks of Wii Bowling, Tater asked if we could go "real" bowling.

So I called the famous Downingtown Bowling Palace and, not all that surprisingly, all of their lanes were booked until 8PM. Too late for kid bowling.

So I used the handy-dandy Google search feature and put in "Bowling 19425" to find nearby bowling venues. There were a few lanes on there, but more interestingly, the search turned up a place called
Jungle Wonder.

And when you see Jungle Wonder on the search results, you have to check that out, right?

So I clicked through and saw that Jungle Wonder, in Limerick, PA boasts and impressive 25,000 square feet of fun things like Black Light Mini Golf, Laser Tag, and "Mini Bowling".

Clicking through on their site there is a related place called
Krazy Village, at the same address, offering exactly the same things. Odd.

Of course Saturday passed by in a blur. We had a new DVD of the Muppet Show that had to be watched, and then there was some reading and some playing with the dog. So we decided that Sunday would be the day to check out Jungle Wonder/Krazy Village.

It took just about 40 minutes to get there from our place - if you have an concept of where the new Philadelphia Premium Outlets are (and you should find them if you don't!) KV/JW is a few miles down the other direction on Ridge Pike (if you take a Left from 422 to go to the outlets, turn Right to go to KV/JW).

After a fruitless attempt to find a McDonald's for lunch (is there seriously not one right in Collegeville?) we had a quick introduction to Sonic before heading in to play.

It is a little confusing because there is a big sign on the upstairs of the one side of the building that says "Krazy Village", but no indication of where to go in. On the opposite side of the building is a smaller sign for the entrance to "Jungle Wonder". They are really pretty much the same facility - I am not sure why they don't just pick a name and go with it. Free marketing tip there.

Not knowing how long everything would take we decided to do the Black Light Mini Golf and the Mini Bowling.

Black Light Mini Golf was very cool. The room that the course is in is dark, and the edges of the "greens" and the scenery are all painted in neon so they glow in the black light.

It is very hard to judge distance in black light, but the kids enjoyed it and we didn't actually keep score. That little white stripe on the left side of the picture is Sprout's shirt...hard to take pictures with a camera phone in the dark...

There are only 9 holes on the course, so - cool as it was, Black Light Mini Golf took about 10 minutes to complete. I think we could have easily held onto our balls for another round, but that probably wouldn't be sending the right message to the kids...right?

So we moved on to Mini Bowling. It is essentially arcade bowling. The balls are smallish - kind of like Ski Ball balls. The pins are also smallish, and hanging on strings. The dynamics are quite different from regular bowling and WAY different from the Wii Bowling that we have all gotten used to. So we kind of sucked at this. But it was still fun.

And that took about another 20 minutes.

So we went back and signed up for the Balladium and Laser Tag. If I had realized ahead of time that we were going to be burning through activities I would have gotten the "Fun Pack" which essentially lets the kids do everything for $19.95. Our total tab was right around there and they didn't get to climb on the big "Jungle Gym". Live and learn.

Anyway - Balladium. This was a room full of air-shooter things. There were balls all over the floor and the kids had to gather up the balls, put them in the shooters and shoot at targets on the other side of the room. They loved this.

It would have been more fun with a bigger crowd of kids so they could have teams and compete. But my two guys just were right next to each other shooting away. Still fun though.

There were safety glasses in there, but we didn't see them until they were almost done. Safety glasses would have been good.

Finally, the kids went and played Laser Tag, which they say was fun, but I have to take their word for it because there was no way to observe. They went in happy and came out happy, so I have to assume they had a good time.

Krazy Village/Jungle Wonder seems to be quite the birthday party destination and in addition to the attractions that we enjoyed, they also have an extensive arcade, a big climber/Jungle Gym and pool tables. There are about 10 party rooms and they have only one entrance/exit so it is fairly easy to make sure no children escape (and yet again, I would have to ask, why 2 names and only one entrance? Confusing!)

We were happy with our little discovery and will have to go back again sometime soon. But I already promised Tater, next weekend we will do REAL bowling!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Gotta Know When to Fold 'em

Just for the record, I am not a huge fan of origami. Or, to be more accurate, I am not generally any good at doing origami. And I am not a huge fan of being bad at things.

Something about the precision and the patience required makes it a not-great fit for me.

My mother-in-law is an origami master. She made me a beautiful box that I still can't believe didn't come from a fancy store somewhere. And she has frequently given us books of origami paper and the instructions to make animals and bugs and things. And after yet another confidence-draining session attempting to make elephants and crickets, I generally give up.

But today, faced with a long afternoon with Zach and Cody or getting ourselves together to do some sort of activity, I found this super easy idea that results in a origami "frisbee".

We gathered up all of the pretty papers we had given up on and made these. I made one myself to confirm that it was, in fact, as simple as it appeared. And then each of the kids made their own, with very little intervention.
Sprout's is pictured at the top, Tater's at the bottom. Quite fab, I think!

To make your own, get 8 square pieces of paper. I think these are 5 x 5 or 6 x 6. The pretty ones make it more fun, but anything would work.

Put a piece of paper on the table and fold it in half to make a rectangle shape. Put the folded edge at the top.
Take the left top corner and fold it down diagonally so that the edges are lined up. Then fold the right bottom corner up the same way. This will result in a parallelogram shape.
If you look, the right side will have a little "pocket" where the corner was folded up, while the left side will have an open-edge.

See the little pocket there? The other side isn't hooked together...

Do exactly the same folds with the other pieces of paper. So you have 8 little parallelograms.

Take one of the folded papers, folded side in the back and the "pocket" side facing to the right. Take the "un-pocket" side of a second piece and tuck it into the "pocket" of the first - they should fit right together.

Then take the next piece and tuck it in...go in a clockwise direction - pocket to un-pocket until the 8th one hooks the whole thing together. You can put a little glue to hold each piece together if you are actually going to try to throw it like a frisbee. They would also be pretty mounted on another piece of paper as a piece of artwork.

These would even fit my "kids art as real art" decorating theme. I like to take the more abstract pieces of kids art and frame them for my house.

They are not particularly aerodynamic. But they are pretty!
Give it a try!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Snow Painting

I can't even begin to claim this idea...but I will tell you about it.

My brave and creative neighbor (Hi Deb!) gave her kids spray bottles with water and food coloring yesterday and let them paint the snow.

They loved it!

As did my kids who immediately grabbed the bottles and proceeded to spray everything in sight, including their coats, get the idea. Luckily they were convinced not to spray their faces or they would have been little snow smurfs.

Which would be cute, sure. But hard to explain when they went to school.

Everything easily came clean in the wash. And it was far less heart wrenching than the part of the program where the kids sledded into the woods...dodging trees and deck supports.

I am SO not a fun snow mommy. Brrrr...YIKES!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mall Scavenger Hunt - Part II

My Mom made up another hunt for the kids today. We took our lists and clipboards to the Exton Mall and the kids found everything in under 15 minutes. Might want to make it harder next time!

A good, free thing to do when it is cold outside!

Our List:

1. Blue Hat
2. Silver Shoes
3. Ice Cream Cone
4. Red Candle
5. Teddy Bear
6. Cell Phone Case
7. Butterfly
8. Backpack
9. Sunglasses
10. Diamond Necklace

BONUS (which earned an ice cream treat!) A horse

Thanks Nana/Mom!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Special Snack

Kids enjoy snacks. My kids REALLY enjoy snacks. Especially sweet and junky ones, which I keep trying to explain to them are "treats", while "snacks" would be more like mini-meals with foods in them that actually make you less hungry (in the way a fruit roll-up never will).

Mom Central hooked me up with these Special K crackers, which come in convenient 90 calorie packs. They have whole grainy goodness going on, but do not taste like cardboard. The kids even enjoy them with a bowl of tomato soup or with a little PB to dip them in. Quite yummy, they also come in a Tomato and Herb flavor.

These are a good mainstream alternative to the Kashi TLC crackers that I really love. But I do have two (minor) gripes.

1) Why a 90 calorie pack? Couldn't we have 3 more crackers and make it 100? 90 seems like starvation to me...makes me want to eat 2 packs!
2) Not sure about the Special K branding. I guess they are rounding out the Special K diet brand...but I wouldn't really think of these as a diet food. More of a good all-around snack. Making it Special K seems too narrow...but maybe that's just me.

Anyway - they are yummy, they are good for you, they are out there...go get some!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Cookie Drama

OK - I took about 50 pictures and there is nothing I can do to make these look at irresistibly yummy as they really are.

Anyway - I am jumping way ahead in my story.

I guess we should start back in 1985...back before the dawn of time...when my mother, bless her, wanted to send me a care package at college. She made cookies from scratch (Yay, Mom!) and, because she wanted to be a good mother and send me healthy things, she used whole wheat flour in her regular chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Um, yuck.

And I gave her a ridiculously hard time about it. If you were making cookies, why did they have to be healthy??

Sorry, Mom. I now understand. And yet. Yuck.

So when we were (sort of) snowed in this weekend, I decided to bake some cookies (the idea was planted by my neighbor, but I was open to the suggestion!) Neither of my children will eat oatmeal cookies, and Tater doesn't like chocolate chips in his cookies (so many kinds of weird going on with that boy and food). So, of course I decided that the best choice would be oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips in them. Obviously!

I started with the recipe under the lid of the Quaker Oats container, but of course I changed things around attempting to make them healthier (as mothers apparently do). And strangely enough, they are FABULOUS! And BOTH of the kids like them. Amazing.

And then I realized...Mike made a New Year's resolution that he would eat no cookies in 2009. (I know!) And this is a man who can keep a resolution.

I remembered this as the first tray was coming out of the oven and he was pulling into the driveway after helping his folks all weekend. Hi Honey! Look at this delicious treat I made that you can't have! Welcome home!!


But - assuming there are cookie eating people at your house. And you wouldn't mind making those cookies at least a tad bit healthier (if not a tad bit less un-healthy, which is sort of the same thing). You should make some of these.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 pound margarine or butter, softened - I used Smart-Balance Butter Blend Sticks
1 cup brown sugar - I did not pack it...and probably used a little less than a cup since we ran out
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup egg replacement (Egg Beaters/Better N Eggs)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour*
1/4 cup brown rice flour*
1/4 cup spelt flour*
1/4 cup barley flour*
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups Quaker Oats (old fashioned, uncooked)
1 cup chocolate chips - the healthiest would probably be dark chocolate, but of course we didn't have any so I used milk chocolate

Pre-heat the oven to 350 F.

In large bowl, beat margarine and sugars until blended and creamy looking.
Add egg stuff and vanilla; beat well.
Add flours, baking soda, and cinnamon and mix until well blended.
Mix in oats and chocolate chips.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets (ungreased).
Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown.
Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets. They are really crumbly when they are hot, but firm up once cooled.
Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

Enjoy. Lots.

* I know these flours sound exotic and scary, but I seriously got them at Giant. I keep the non-wheat ones in the freezer so they'll last longer. They all have a lighter texture than regular whole wheat - less brick-like results.

Friday, January 9, 2009


It is cold outside.

Like, I am driving the kids to school because I don't want to stand at the bus stop and freeze (and it also gives me an excuse to go to Dunkin' Donuts for my iced coffee...but that isn't the main reason...really).

Like, I wish I was allowed to put a jacket on the dog.

Like, I am thinking it wasn't such a fantastic idea to cut my hair so my neck is hanging out.

And yet, I am not putting gloves and scarves and things on my children. Bad Mommy, right?

But when I try to put gloves in Tater's pockets (just in case, I say) he refuses them on the basis that if he HAS them, his teacher will make him WEAR them. Bad teacher? Isn't that what they are for??

BUT...he can't jump rope with gloves on. And the boy is a jump roping maniac. He and his friend have been jump roping during every recess since they discovered their mutual interest way back in September - which is like 10 years in kid time. They take their own ropes and everything.

So, I am letting him go to school when it is 30 degrees out, gloveless. And since he isn't being forced to take them, Sprout doesn't want any either. Although she will wear her funky hat.

So far everyone still has their fingers. And there are always pockets, right?

Of course, I don't wear gloves either. Can't text with them on...

So, am I being supportive of their interests? Or irresponsible? Or is it conflict-avoidance?
Not sure.

I just know I will be very happy when things warm up and I can find something else to stress about!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Anyone can knit...yes, I am talking to you...

Behold the "Nifty Knitter"! I got a set of 4 of these for $7.50 (yes, under $10!) at Michael's before Christmas and they are completely AWESOME.

To fully understand the awesomeness, let me take you back a little over a year...(this is where I wish I could create that Wayne's World sound effect...bodooboop...we are going back...)

Sprout asks me to teach her to knit. Or crochet.
I sort of (barely) know how to do both. But not well.

And surely not well enough to explain it to anyone. Much less an 8-year-old...and her 5-year-old brother who can not STAND for her to know anything he doesn't also know.

So I got a DVD and I tried very very very very hard to be patient.

And I tried very very very hard to be clear in my instruction...and not rip everything out of her hands and do it myself.

And she would do a row or two and be terribly proud and then everything would fall off the needles and the world would come crumbling down. And all I could do was tell her that that has been my exact knitting experience, too. Promising start...ending in calamity...and, best case, crooked embarrassing creations.

Enter the Nifty Knitter. All you have to do is loop the yarn around the little pegs and hook one row over the other. Practically impossible to drop a stitch. Seriously.

I was so inspired that I made an entire scarf (!) in under a week (!) for my dad for Christmas. With stripes. Straight ones. Unbelievable!
I did some funky crocheting improvisation to get it off of the Nifty Knitter aparatus...but it was quite respectable!

Sprout made the partial scarf in the picture up there...practically on her own. It is almost twice that long now and very impressive.
She worked very diligently on it for many days - defying any and all expectations for how long she could focus on a single repetitive task. Yay, Sprout!

Tater is working on this sweater. Or he has high hopes that I am going to turn this huge tube into a sweater. I looked up instructions to do so and they have lots of abbreviations that I completely don't we'll see how that goes.

Maybe he would like a big white sweater-y tube top. That's what all the 6-year-old boys are wearing these days, right?

But he has been doing it himself. He doesn't like the looping part, he wants me to do that. But he has become quite adept hooking one row over the other. And again - 6-year-old boy. Knitting. Cool, right?

It would be super easy to do a hat (instructions come with the loom-y things) and there are fairly easy directions for a dog sweater (which apparently I am not allowed to make as there is a strict no-clothing-on-the-dog policy around here.) There are directions online to do fancy things like ribbing and pearling and other knitting things that are beyond my comprehension and motivation level.

Anyway - if you like the idea of knitting something - but the actuality has always been way to scary, this could be the way to go.

Or maybe if you are super nice to me I'll make you a scarf!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Did you do it?

Did anyone try any (or all) of the activities in the Barrel of Chipmunks Holiday Newsletter?

Was it fun? Did it help keep boredom at bay? Were your kids entertained? Do you love us??

Please let me know if you have ANY feedback at all on what your experience was...we are all ears!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Fun with Kitchen Ingredients

The kids did this at school...and I have seen it in a number of books. We were reminded by The Ultimate Book of Kid Concoctions, which Tater received from his Grandma for Christmas. (Santa had coincidentally also stashed a copy aside, but will be returning it to Amazon, since that is where Santa enjoys purchasing books.)

The very complicated instructions:
1. Mix 3/4 cup of cornstarch with 1/3 cup of water in a bowl.

2. Let the kids stick their hands in it.

It feels strangely dry and solid if you scoop out a handful, but as soon as you let it sit for a second it turns liquidy and oozes right through your fingers.

Liquid? Solid? Not sure. But it feels weirdly fun.

Tater played with this for over 30 minutes...and of course since he was so quiet and content I sort of stopped paying attention and turned back to find most of him and much of the entire kitchen counter covered with this stuff. Luckily it wipes up with a damp paper towel.

Try it. Cheap. Easy. Natural. Weird. And very entertaining.