A Nest for All Seasons A Nest for All Seasons: July 2013

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31 July 2013

The 6 Biggest Problems with Kid's Birthday Problems and How to Fix Them

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When you have three kids, you start to realize that you will be hosting an awful lot of birthday parties.  After getting a few under my belt, I realize that there are some basic "problems" that show up whenever kids and party combine.  No matter what the "theme" of the party is, there are some ways to solve the problems.  Join me today as I take you step-by-step through the 7 biggest problems with kid's parties and how we avoided them at our Star Wars party!


PROBLEM: Kids Wandering Around Aimlessly 

1st on the TO-DO list for kid parties is to have some sort of sit down craft that can take 2 minutes of 10, depending on when kiddos arrive.  If they are early they can make it intricate -- if they are late, they can still do the craft.  This way, nobody misses out on any fun games and such and everybody is occupied from second one inside the door.  For the Star Wars party, I had two basic crafts:



1.  Popsicle Light Sabre Holders (Idea Found HERE)
2. Gift Wrap Roll "Light Sabres" (see photos below)

Both required minimal supplies:


Foam Sheets (for popsicle holders)
Gift Wrap in Bright Green (on clearance, keep wrapped and use for gift wrap later)
Yellow Duct Tape (Grey would work too!)
Pipe Cleaners in Various Colors
Wrapping Ribbon in Silver, Black, Yellow, White

PROBLEM: GRUMPY KIDS

Once the crafting is over, it is time to EAT!  No use having grumpy, hungry kids wanting to eat, right?


We had a VERY basic meal consisting of Yoda Soda and hot dogs (with Carbonite mustard) that can be rounded out with fresh veggies and fruit.  There are a million recipes online for "Yoda Soda", but mine is very simply:

- 1 Part Lemonade
- 1 Part Ginger Ale (so it gets foamy!)
-  Tiny bit of green and blue food coloring

Basically, any foaming blue/green soda/liquid will work and impress the kiddos to no end :)

To make the carbonite mustard, simply add a little green gel food coloring to an almost empty bottle of mustard, add 1 Tablespoon of water (to get things loosened up!) and SHAKE!  Add tiny bits of water to get the mustard off the edges of the bottle, but don't add too much or you will have REALLY runny mustard.

PROBLEM: Kids Piled in the Kitchen Waiting for Food

One of my absolute pet peeves is a bunch of kiddos (typically MINE) in the kitchen when I am rushing around trying to get a meal on the table.  I love having them in there to bake or do projects, but when I am on a timeline and hustling around with boiling water and hot pans -- kids in the kitchen are a no-go.  What to do?

BUST OUT HANS SOLO!



I originally saw this idea at Lemon Squeezy Home and it is a brilliant one!  Talk about an easy activity that takes up boatloads of time!  You basically print out a photo of Hans, laminate him (or put several layers of packaging tape over him), then cover him with dyed water.  Easy yes?  


A couple minor changes I made were:

  • Using gel coloring for a stronger color.  Regular food coloring works, but these Wilton Gels work better.
  • Adding a scoop of vanilla pudding for a more opaque looks and "cracks" (aren't they cool?)
  • Gluing  laminated Hans to the bottom of the pan -- pulls right off when you are done and he doesn't float



The best part about the project?  It took the kids FOREVER to free him from his icy Carbonite with good old dinner forks.  
By the time they were done, the food was ready and there were no kitchen disasters.

PROBLEM: Party Supplies Cost an ARM and a LEG

PROBLEM 2:  Crafting Your Own Party Games Takes Forever

I hear you -- on both counts.  So here is the solution for at least ONE basic party supply -- the pinata.  My son asked for one in the store and I was about to just buy one, but there was NOTHING remotely Star Wars, so I started thinking and came up with a VERY basic "asteroid" pinata.  Basically, I took small balloons, filled them with as much candy as possible and wrapped the whole shebang in tinfoil.  Quick - Easy - Cheap and they LOVED it.


Note the smaller "asteroids" all over the ground...the extra balloons with candy were all around the yard as were small packages of candy wrapped in tinfoil.  The kids popped the balloons with their light sabres (some we had already and some they made in the craft -- see above)


Another VERY simple game was to see how long they could keep a balloon in the air with their light sabres.  
This didn't last long, as popping them is MUCH more fun.


PROBLEM:  It Starts to Rain

I always try to plan at least 1 or 2 games that can be done indoors OR out and it turns out this time we needed them!  
It started raining (downpouring) right after the asteroid pinata, so we came indoors to knock out storm troopers.

Side Note:  When we asked T who he wanted to come to the party, he said "Boys".  
When we asked about the girls he knew his response was:  "OK, they can be the storm troopers".  Nice, eh?



Again, Lemon Squeezy Home was the inspiration for the storm trooper game, but I substituted styrofoam balls ("stars" that I had on hand from a previous craft project), while she used Nerf guns.

PROBLEM:  Too Many Birthdays -- TOO MUCH CAKE!

I know, i know, this is rarely a problem, but sometimes you just get SICK of cake if you have been to a lot of weddings, birthdays, etc.  The solution?  Something else sweet!   Pies work -- so do crumbles or ice cream cakes.  In this case, we went with a brownie cake and it was QUITE good if I do say so myself!



I went with our oldest son to a discount grocery store and we allowed ourselves to be "inspired" by whatever they had that screamed "STAR WARS" to us.  I started out with some Halloween Brownies (brownie mix and the orange frosting -- 2 boxes -- 50 cents), added a box of graham cracker, chocolate coated stars, mini marshmallows and some silver sprinkles.  We have lots of the latter 3 left over and the cake was actually an unanticipated mixture of smores and brownie -- YUM.


The 6 Biggest Problems with Kid's Birthday Problems and How to Fix Them

Pin It

When you have three kids, you start to realize that you will be hosting an awful lot of birthday parties.  After getting a few under my belt, I realize that there are some basic "problems" that show up whenever kids and party combine.  No matter what the "theme" of the party is, there are some ways to solve the problems.  Join me today as I take you step-by-step through the 7 biggest problems with kid's parties and how we avoided them at our Star Wars party!


PROBLEM: Kids Wandering Around Aimlessly 

1st on the TO-DO list for kid parties is to have some sort of sit down craft that can take 2 minutes of 10, depending on when kiddos arrive.  If they are early they can make it intricate -- if they are late, they can still do the craft.  This way, nobody misses out on any fun games and such and everybody is occupied from second one inside the door.  For the Star Wars party, I had two basic crafts:



1.  Popsicle Light Sabre Holders (Idea Found HERE)
2. Gift Wrap Roll "Light Sabres" (see photos below)

Both required minimal supplies:


Foam Sheets (for popsicle holders)
Gift Wrap in Bright Green (on clearance, keep wrapped and use for gift wrap later)
Yellow Duct Tape (Grey would work too!)
Pipe Cleaners in Various Colors
Wrapping Ribbon in Silver, Black, Yellow, White

PROBLEM: GRUMPY KIDS

Once the crafting is over, it is time to EAT!  No use having grumpy, hungry kids wanting to eat, right?


We had a VERY basic meal consisting of Yoda Soda and hot dogs (with Carbonite mustard) that can be rounded out with fresh veggies and fruit.  There are a million recipes online for "Yoda Soda", but mine is very simply:

- 1 Part Lemonade
- 1 Part Ginger Ale (so it gets foamy!)
-  Tiny bit of green and blue food coloring

Basically, any foaming blue/green soda/liquid will work and impress the kiddos to no end :)

To make the carbonite mustard, simply add a little green gel food coloring to an almost empty bottle of mustard, add 1 Tablespoon of water (to get things loosened up!) and SHAKE!  Add tiny bits of water to get the mustard off the edges of the bottle, but don't add too much or you will have REALLY runny mustard.

PROBLEM: Kids Piled in the Kitchen Waiting for Food

One of my absolute pet peeves is a bunch of kiddos (typically MINE) in the kitchen when I am rushing around trying to get a meal on the table.  I love having them in there to bake or do projects, but when I am on a timeline and hustling around with boiling water and hot pans -- kids in the kitchen are a no-go.  What to do?

BUST OUT HANS SOLO!



I originally saw this idea at Lemon Squeezy Home and it is a brilliant one!  Talk about an easy activity that takes up boatloads of time!  You basically print out a photo of Hans, laminate him (or put several layers of packaging tape over him), then cover him with dyed water.  Easy yes?  


A couple minor changes I made were:

  • Using gel coloring for a stronger color.  Regular food coloring works, but these Wilton Gels work better.
  • Adding a scoop of vanilla pudding for a more opaque looks and "cracks" (aren't they cool?)
  • Gluing  laminated Hans to the bottom of the pan -- pulls right off when you are done and he doesn't float



The best part about the project?  It took the kids FOREVER to free him from his icy Carbonite with good old dinner forks.  
By the time they were done, the food was ready and there were no kitchen disasters.

PROBLEM: Party Supplies Cost an ARM and a LEG

PROBLEM 2:  Crafting Your Own Party Games Takes Forever

I hear you -- on both counts.  So here is the solution for at least ONE basic party supply -- the pinata.  My son asked for one in the store and I was about to just buy one, but there was NOTHING remotely Star Wars, so I started thinking and came up with a VERY basic "asteroid" pinata.  Basically, I took small balloons, filled them with as much candy as possible and wrapped the whole shebang in tinfoil.  Quick - Easy - Cheap and they LOVED it.


Note the smaller "asteroids" all over the ground...the extra balloons with candy were all around the yard as were small packages of candy wrapped in tinfoil.  The kids popped the balloons with their light sabres (some we had already and some they made in the craft -- see above)


Another VERY simple game was to see how long they could keep a balloon in the air with their light sabres.  
This didn't last long, as popping them is MUCH more fun.


PROBLEM:  It Starts to Rain

I always try to plan at least 1 or 2 games that can be done indoors OR out and it turns out this time we needed them!  
It started raining (downpouring) right after the asteroid pinata, so we came indoors to knock out storm troopers.

Side Note:  When we asked T who he wanted to come to the party, he said "Boys".  
When we asked about the girls he knew his response was:  "OK, they can be the storm troopers".  Nice, eh?



Again, Lemon Squeezy Home was the inspiration for the storm trooper game, but I substituted styrofoam balls ("stars" that I had on hand from a previous craft project), while she used Nerf guns.

PROBLEM:  Too Many Birthdays -- TOO MUCH CAKE!

I know, i know, this is rarely a problem, but sometimes you just get SICK of cake if you have been to a lot of weddings, birthdays, etc.  The solution?  Something else sweet!   Pies work -- so do crumbles or ice cream cakes.  In this case, we went with a brownie cake and it was QUITE good if I do say so myself!



I went with our oldest son to a discount grocery store and we allowed ourselves to be "inspired" by whatever they had that screamed "STAR WARS" to us.  I started out with some Halloween Brownies (brownie mix and the orange frosting -- 2 boxes -- 50 cents), added a box of graham cracker, chocolate coated stars, mini marshmallows and some silver sprinkles.  We have lots of the latter 3 left over and the cake was actually an unanticipated mixture of smores and brownie -- YUM.


29 July 2013

THE LOFT Play Zones for Organized Kid Play

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Do you have a play area in your house?  Is it always a mess?
Don't worry -- everyone has this problem.  It is NOT just you mama.
Today, we are going to help you take a few steps towards sanity.  (TOY sanity at least).

Ready?  Let's enter "THE LOFT".


When we first purchased our home, we LOVED this huge open space above our living room.  It had nice wood (laminate) floors, fresh (green) paint, WONDERFUL light-filled windows on three sides and was just perfect for...

A.  A Master Bedroom
B. A Photo-studio
C. A Bedroom for ALL THREE boys
D.  A Guest Room
E.  A Playroom

Guess which option won?

With this space up a set of stairs and completely out of sight, the playroom was the obvious choice (though I DID attempt to use it for photoshoots for a short while AND it DOES double as a guest room).  For a few years, the kids had total free reign of the space.  Do you know what happens when you give total free reign to 3 little boys?  Yes, well, if you don't, let's just say you COULD NOT WALK through this giant space.  Literally.  We needed a change.  We needed zones.


We will come back to this photo, but I wanted to give you an idea of the entire space before diving into each individual zone.  The idea of the zones is simply to break up a large space into "centers" or areas where certain activities are done.  The kids can go wherever they want in the loft, whenever they want, but each zone has particular toys/supplies and they have to stay in that zone.  The result (hypothetically with perfect children) is that crayons no longer end up in the bedsheets (and subsequently in the dryer), trains no longer trip their pregnant mama going up the stairs and YOU CAN WALK across the floor.  Better, yes?

The first section or zone is the "library".  One small bookshelf, seating, our beat up STAR CHARTS, a little desk and a rug to define the space.  This little cutout of the loft was perfect for creating a semi-enclosed space for whichever kiddo decides he wants a little bit of quiet and peace (typically the cute one pictured below).



The "trick" to making a library section work for our boys is threefold.

1.  Comfy seating that is ONLY available for those hanging out in the library is a big draw for them.
2.  Adding a desk for writing and drawing makes the library a LOT more fun, but still calm.
3.  Adjacent to the library is a free play area, so they are not restrained into being calm everywhere -- just in the library.  
They have OPTIONS. (see below)


See that five letter word up there?

Yes, SLEEP.

That was a biggie when defining the areas of the loft.  Our boys kept breaking beds by jumping, flipping and otherwise abusing them and then there was never anywhere for someone to relax and lay down in the loft when it WAS time to sleep.  The new rule?  Jumping is reserved for hotel beds (sorry hotels) and the beds can be piled high with anything SOFT, but HARD toys stay in their zones.



We have a king sized and queen sized bed in the loft that the boys can use for naps, but that we also use for guests.  To keep them in the same "zone", I laid the king bed out straight from the wall and turned the queen sideways for a "daybed".  There is just enough room to walk freely, yet the "bed zone" is clearly defined.



Moving on to the next zone:

My boys are still into trains, tracks, cars and anything that rolls.  The problem is that these toys end up EVERYWHERE and while ok most of the time, when mommy is pregnant and cannot see her feet -- they really become a hazard, so we needed a solution.  fast.  


It looks simple, but here are the basic concepts behind this little play area.

A. The trains and track table is set vertically out from the wall, defining the space clearly along with the corner of the wall.
B.  That new vinyl decal on the wall makes this space "supercool" to the kids.  They WANT to play here.
C.  The rug defines the space and the rule is that ALL rugs in the loft must be clear when playing is complete.

That rug rule applies for all three of the rugs seen in the loft. (1 cheap car rug, a $3 yard sale find and 2 $20 rugs from IKEA that define the free play and library areas).  It seems so simple, but for the kids, the understanding that the rug needs to be COMPLETELY CLEAR when they are finished playing is a big visual cue for them when taking care of their spaces.


All in all, in the loft we have six basic zones.  Here are the keys to making these types of spaces work!

A. LIBRARY - Quiet, set apart, clearly defined, just a FEW books/supplies that rotate.
B. FREE PLAY - Big box of toys, rug to define space and aid cleanup, OPEN SPACE.
C. SLEEP - An area kept clear of hard toys at all times, reserved for rest and sleep.
D. IMAGINATIVE PLAY -- Clearly set aside areas (Corners), clear activities available.
E. BLOCKS -- ONE area where they can build forts and be creative adjacent to free play.
F. TRAINS AND TRACKS -- Rolling things are clearly in one area, space defined.

I think they are happy, don't you?


One more note about creating the zones...
THE KIDS HELPED!

Though I had very clearly defined ideas about how I was going to set up the zones, the kids were part of the massive cleanup and helped to make smaller decisions about the spaces (Where should we put the desk in the library?  Which corner should the firehouse go in?)  Helping in the creation of the space gave them a lot of ownership over the space which results in a cleaner and more efficiently running space overall.



Curious about the decal?  
More details on the Shutterfly Blog about avoiding those terrible TBALL posed pictures!!




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THE LOFT Play Zones for Organized Kid Play

Pin It

Do you have a play area in your house?  Is it always a mess?
Don't worry -- everyone has this problem.  It is NOT just you mama.
Today, we are going to help you take a few steps towards sanity.  (TOY sanity at least).

Ready?  Let's enter "THE LOFT".

25 July 2013

Rocky Road Bars...from our NEW!!! Foodie Contributor Mia!

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You guys are in for a SERIOUS treat today -- like SERIOUS serious.  I am literally drooling over here!! 
 Give a warm, warm welcome to our newest contributor here at the Nest - MIA!  
She is a foodie extraordinaire and is ready to help YOU become one too! .....and without further adieu...

image

Hey everyone! I'm Mia from Meels on Wheels and I'm so excited to be here posting on the Nest.

I thought we'd start with a really simple (but incredibly yummy) recipe which I'm obsessed with making at the moment- rocky road!  From parties to little 'thank yous,' I've found that they're the go-to offering for any occasion, especially if you need something quick and on a budget.

I've tried making the rocky road with milky ways and mars bars before, but I think crunchie is definitely my favourite choice at the moment, however that could be because it's my favourite chocolate bar anyway...

Ingredients:

- 100g butter, chopped
- 300g dark chocolate (I always use 2/3 cheap chocolate and 1/3 good quality to bulk it out and it still tastes great), broken up into squares
- 3 tbsp golden syrup
- 14 chocolate digestive biscuits, broken up into smaller pieces
- 14 big marshmallows, quartered
- 6 milky ways/ 4 crunchies/ 4 mars bars, broken up

image

Method:

First things first, find a tray about 20cm by 30cm in size and grease with butter or oil, line it with greaseproof paper and grease on top of that. It doesn't have to look great, just needs to stop all the gooey loveliness from sticking to the tin!

image

Next we need to gently melt the butter, dark chocolate, and golden syrup in a pan and stir until smooth.
Remove from the heat and cool while you make the next bit.

image

In a bowl break up the digestives, marshmallows, and chocolate bars and mix them around with your hands.

image

Add the liquid chocolatey goodness into the sweetie mixture and stir them together. 
Scoop the mix out of the bowl and into the tin. Spread out the mix.

image

Leave the rocky road in the fridge for 2 hours or more until it is hard and set, then chop into desired sizes.

image

Hopefully even as a coffee-break treat, they'll be the personal and homemade touch you need.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!
Mia :-)

-

Isn't she just the sweetest??  ...and how DIVINE do those Rocky Road bars look?  
I think I just gained four pounds by LOOKING at them!!!    Can't wait to see what Mia whips up next month!! 

Now show Mia a little love and click the photo below to visit HER BLOG, check her out on  TWITTER or PINTEREST




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