Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Kansas City with Kids - Frugal Edition

Our trip to Kansas City was derailed before it began.

Instead of spending Fall Break with our family, we were waiting in the car shop. That, coupled with some unexpected expenses, meant we were going to have to tighten down on the trip to Kansas City.

I'd lived in KC for a decade, but we found great ways to enjoy the days with Grandma and Grandpa even on a budget. We weren't completely perfect - we did eat a few meals out and did stock up on some local foods to take home for the year - but these were great budget extenders, and even better activities to do!

Getting Crafty At Kaleidoscope

I'd heard of Kaleidoscope in Crown Center but had never been, as we were childless when we lived in the Kansas City area. An afternoon at Kaleidoscope was just the trick for creative types with a big case of the wiggles.

Kaleidoscope is basically a huge kids craft playground, filled with the leftovers from Hallmark's projects. Paper crafting with glow-in-the-dark paints, making cards, designing your own puzzles. It was the fastest hour spent all week. Everyone from my rambuncious 5 year old son to his preteen cousin and grandfather enjoyed experimenting and creating their own works of art. Best of all, it was free to the public - just requires a timed ticket.

(As an aside, Girl Scout leaders and educators take note: Kaleidoscope offers themed packs that you can take home - for 50 cents per child. For frugal troops, this is a great idea, and they do ship!)

Betting on Basketball in Lawrence

One bet failed, but the other was a hit.

We had hoped to attend the (free!) open scrimmage for the basketball team, but weather and a sick cousin derailed our plans. Luckily, our little jock had the chance to enjoy some KU basketball earlier in the week.

The Booth Family Hall of Athletics at Allen Fieldhouse has a stuffy name, it's far from a boring monument to basketball. Sure, there's 100 years worth of sports memorabilia to peruse, but the kids loved the interactive exhibits. Their favorites? Pretending to call some classic basketball games - from the tie-breaker game against Memphis in the Final Four to a game from Wilt Chamberlain's days. They also loved checking out their wingspan and attempting to palm as many balls as they can in 10 second's time. Mostly, they loved wandering the stands around the hallowed basketball court - site of many a memory for their mom and dad.

Other Free Things to Check Out In and Around KC

Family time is just that, so while we had a lot of ideas on our list, we also kept things simple: a lot of time with Grandma and Grandpa, with ample time at the local park.

On our list to do this fall but didn't get accomplished:

Kansas City natives: What are your favorite ways to spend a week with the kids?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Quinoa with Butternut Squash and Pecans Recipe

This quinoa dish is another meal derived from my need to eat cheaply. This recipe for Quinoa with Butternut Squash and Pecans was inspired by a recipe I found on the Whole Foods site.

Quinoa with Butternut Squash and Pecans
Quinoa with Butternut Squash and Pecans | Meatless Meals | Lent | Fall Recipes | Seasonal Eating | Meatless Monday
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
4 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
salt and pepper
1/2 cup pecans, toasted

Heat over to 400. Toss butternut squash with olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes.
In saucepan, boil chicken broth and add quinoa. Reduce heat to low, and cover and cook until broth is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Let stand.

Toss together cinnamon, quinoa, pecans and squash in a bowl.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

Wild Mushroom and Yellow Potato Pizza Recipe

This Potato Mushroom Pizza recipe was adapted from a recipe in "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking in a moment of panic this week. We were counting the days until payday, and the house was admittedly quite bare. I had made bread for the kids' sandwiches as I had the ingredients, and was looking at the contents of the kitchen counter: a pound of bread dough, four meager yellow potatoes, some garlic. The fridge was even less promising, as we had just returned from nearly a week at our in-laws.

Fortunately I had stumbled on a recipe for Rustic Wild Mushroom and Potato Pizza Provencal. With a few herb changes, some reconstituted dried oyster mushrooms, a cheese swap and omission of sun-dried tomatoes, we had a winner in our house. Adding a drizzle of white truffle oil, a gift from a friend that's been far too long unused, made it even better.

Wild Mushroom and Yellow Potato Pizza
1 pound pizza dough
4 yellow potatoes, thinly sliced
1 cup oyster mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oils
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried basil
red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
3 oz. Parmesan cheese
white truffle oil (optional)

Preheat oven to 500. Saute mushrooms and potatoes in olive oil. Add minced garlic, salt and pepper.

Roll out dough and add toppings and herbs. Sprinkle cheese on. Bake at 500 for 10-15 minutes.* Cool and drizzle with white truffle oil before serving.

* In the book, the authors warn you to turn on your exhaust because of smoking. Since I had omitted the cornmeal as originally called for, I figured I was home free. No such luck. Do turn on your exhaust fan!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Yes to restful Sundays - even as a working mom

I don’t think it’d be possible for me to stay home on Saturday and Sunday…that’s when I get everything done around my house that I’m not able to do during the week when I’m working. And I so wish I had some margin in my days, but again, it’s just not possible with a full time job. 

When I saw this quote from Allison on the Money Saving Mom blog this morning, I just felt sad. Yes, working moms can make the impossible happen: Making Sunday a day of rest.

Finding the balance between work, home, chores and faith is always a struggle. My husband works odd hours and most weekends, and I confess many weekends I feel behind and ever-ragged. But building out a bit of down time into your weekend - which in theory is a time of rest but in practice often is not - can be a gift from God.

Has my family evolved into one from "Little House on the Prairie," where the kids sit sullenly on the chairs while their father reads from Scripture? No. But we are quietly working in ways to enlist a little more rest into our weekends.

Here is how we're making the juggle happen.

1) On Sundays when dad is off work, it's family day. It may mean listening to the Chiefs game on the radio, snuggling watching cooking shows or going for a hike, but family is together.

2) Homework gets done before Sunday night. It gets squeaked in before Friday dinner or early Saturday morning. (We even did it before we left town for fall break at Grandma's.) Getting homework done early sets the tone for a positive start for the week.

3) Church is family time. Whenever possible we attend as a family. It may mean attending at unusual hours but the kids know that unless someone is sick, we worship as a family.

4) Sunday morning is quiet time. The kids may quietly play, catch up on "Cat Chat" recordings or read books. We enjoy a home-cooked breakfast and stay in our PJs as late as we can.

5) Laundry doesn't stack up for Sunday. I'm blessed to have a washer with a timer, so I get my laundry loaded before the kids wake up in the mornings and set it to wash about an hour before I get home. (OK, I do confess, the folding may accumulate, but at least no one has dirty clothes.)

6) Errands are reserved for Saturdays when possible. It might be a trip to the farmers market or pharmacy, but I try to group them all together.

7) I try to begin my day with a quiet reflection or prayer before the kids wake up. Somehow it sets the right tone.

8) I use my late Sunday mornings or early afternoons as a time to cook meals or things that might not otherwise get done. Cooking is a form of relaxation to me, and I'll admit, the smell of the bread dough rising is calling!

While my Sundays may not be completely quiet, I feel just by carving some of my time for rest has made a huge difference in our home life.

How to you make the juggle? What works for you in trying to create  a sense of rest in a hectic weekend?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Honey peanut butter popcorn with essential oils

Sneak in a little essential oils into your snacktime!

This honey peanut butter popcorn recipe came out of a sick-day request from my daughter, who loves her grandma's peanut butter popcorn recipe. Sadly, we were out of brown sugar, but a little creativity allowed me to sneak in some essential oils and wildflower honey to help with her sinus congestion!

Honey peanut butter popcorn with essential oils
1/2 cup popcorn, unpopped
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/6 cup wildflower honey
2 T. butter
2-3 drops On Guard essential oil blend

Pop popcorn in your popper according to directions. In microwave, melt butter and peanut butter. Add honey and On Guard essential oil and stir; toss over popped corn.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Juliette Low Birthday Party for Brownies and Daisies

My purpose... to go on with my heart and soul, devoting all my energies to Girl Scouts, and heart and hand with them, we will make our lives and the lives of the future girls happy, healthy and holy.
Celebrating Juliette Gordon Low's birthday was the theme of our October Brownie meeting. Our girls invited the first-grade Daisy troop to celebrate with us as we worked on our Brownie Girl Scout Way badge and started working on bridging requirements. As with all birthdays, we celebrated with songs, games, candles, cupcakes and cards.

brownie girl scout way badge ideasToday, I thought I'd share with leaders ideas on how to celebrate Juliette Low's birthday with younger girls and impart a sense of history for them.

Game on: Celebrate Juliette Low’s Birthday
The girls loved this little story, and it was a great way to introduce a story about a real person who lived long ago. I don't remember the original source, but I do remember this from when I was a child.

1. Divide the girls into eight groups. Each group will represent one of the people, places or groups listed below. When they hear the name of their assigned person, place or group, they should stand up and make their sound and action.
Little girls Giggle with hand over mouth
Juliette Low Curtsy and say, “Be my friend.”
Georgia Wave and say, “Hi, y’all!”
Horses Stamp your feet and say, “Neighhhhhh!”
Lord Baden-Powell Bow formally and say, “How d’ya do?”
London Sing “London Bridge is Falling Down.”
Boy Scouts Make Boy Scout sign (same as the Girl Scout sign) and say “Be Prepared.”
Girl Scouts Make the Girl Scout sign and say, “On My Honor.”

2. Read the story below to the girls.
Once upon a time there was a little girl named Juliette Low who lived in Georgia and loved
to ride horses. After she grew up, she went to London where she met Lord Baden-Powell, who
founded the Boy Scouts. She was fascinated by the work he was doing. She studied with him for a while and decided to found a troop of Girl Scouts for the little girls who liked to ride horses in
Georgia. So, Juliette Low said goodbye to the Boy Scouts in London and came home with the ideas that Lord Baden-Powell gave her. She formed a group of little girls who liked to ride horses and be together into a troop of Girl Scouts. The girls loved it so much that the idea spread and now there are Girl Scout troops all over the world. Aren't we glad that a little girl named Juliette Low, from Georgia, who liked horses went to London and met Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts, and came to start the wonderful world of Girl Scouts?


Juliette Low believed not only that girls could do anything boys could do but also in learning and serving others. Our girls took a moment to celebrate her day by creating birthday cards for children at the Holy Name Shelter in Indianapolis.

Candles and Cupcakes
I know what you may be thinking: first-graders, fire and sugar? Potentially a bad combination. But the girls loved the idea of doing something like the older girls do and loved the candle lighting ceremony. (Needless to say cupcakes were the last thing to do!)
Juliette Gordon Low Candle Ceremony
Materials Needed:
• Candle (1 per girl)
• Matches/lighter
• Bucket with water in it
1. Have girls stand in a circle and give each girl one unlit candle. Explain you are doing a special Girl Scout ceremony. Ask girls to be respectful and quiet.

2. Have the narrator read the introduction below.
Long ago a special ceremony was formed. Juliette Low wanted the girls of her original troop
to carry a special spark with them as their Girl Scout group broke up. Some from the girls were
moving away, some working to help their families and some wanted to help a group of girls a
little younger than themselves. Whatever their reasons, Juliette knew no other group would
ever quite be the same. As the girls stood in a circle holding candles they had made, Juliette
knew what spark it was that she wanted to pass on. She lit her candle and spoke.

3. Have the adult reading Juliette Low’s part read the passage below.
With this candle I, Juliette Low, give you each something very special to pass on. As I light the
candle on my right I ask each of you to light the candle to your right and pass it on. I want you
to carry this thought with you wherever you go. This is the ETERNAL FLAME of Girl Scouts.

4. Light the candles, starting with the adult reading the Juliette Low part and going around the circle to the right.

5. Have the adult reading Juliette Low’s part read the passage below.
Now that we all have the ETERNAL FLAME, let’s say the Girl Scout Promise. Then we will think
about and share our favorite memories from our time together in Girl Scouts.

6. Recite the Girl Scout Promise and give girls time to share their favorite memories.

7. Have the adult reading Juliette Low’s part read the passage below.

I will hold my candle up and as I do, you will all raise yours and we will blow them out together.

Leaders: What ways have you celebrated Juliette Low's birthday or the history of Girl Scouts? What worked well and didn't?

Looking for more Girl Scout ideas? Visit my new scout leader resource site, Use Resources Wisely. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Jessica Alba's essential oil chest rub

An essential oil chest rub for allergies or cold season - tried and touted by Jessica Alba in her new book The Honest Life: Living Naturally and True to You. I am putting this to work this week!

Chest Rub Recipe
Blend a few drops of euchalyptus, ginger, peppermint and tea tree (melaleuca) essential oils with a body oil (ie fractionated cocoonut oil) or balm. Rub on chest back, under nose and on bottoms of the feet.

I love, love, love that someone who has so many resources at her disposal chooses simple home remedies to help heal her children at home!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Honest: A review of Jessica Alba's "The Honest Life"

honest life jessica albaTrying to do the right thing for your kids is pressure enough. But sometimes you do the best you can.

That's the overriding theme of Jessica Alba's recent book, The Honest Life: Living Naturally and True to You Being natural shouldn't come at the expense of insanity. It can come in small steps and simple ways.

Unlike a lot of green living books, "The Honest Life" has a very conversational, non-doomsday approach. I appreciate Alba's honesty in the fact that trying to live a green and organic lifestyle can lead a parent to questioning and requestioning whether they are making the right choices for their child. But that decisions can be made in little ways: from choosing hand-me-down clothes or seasonal foods or making your homemade body scrub.

Alba's book is a quick read and a great starter resource for a number of affordable choices for healthy, organic living - from pregnancy and early motherhood to cooking, clothing and home decor. I appreciated that many of these options were achievable for the everyday person who was concerned about natural living without sacrificing your budget in the process.