Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Why Summer Boredom Rocks

Remember those last two weeks of school, where you laid around the house complaining about how BORED you were? Remember how much you annoyed your mother, your babysitter because there was NOTHING TO DO?

I worry today's kids don't have that problem.

Even in the summer, I'm shocked about how overscheduled some of my kids' friends are. Summer should be about taking life a bit easier and reveling in the slowness. 

On top of that, kids don't have the 12-week summer vacations we were treated to when we were kids. That down time is why we were bored. Not because we ran out of things to do, but because we just needed to be stretched a bit.

Here's our little secret: Summer boredom rocks.

Being bored in the summer means you might be open to new activities. Like visiting a farm just because or working on a home improvement project with mom or  trying a new craft you wouldn't dream of normally.

Being bored in the summer means you're open to new friendships. Suddenly the neighbor's sibling isn't an annoyance; he's a playmate.

Being bored in the summer means you find out that your brother or sister isn't so bad after all, and you make caves and tents indoors for "sleepovers."

Being bored in the summer means you begin thinking outside the box. Like finding ways to brighten your life with a little face paint. On your feet.

why summer boredom is good

Being bored in the summer is why I didn't do a babysitter this year; instead I did a series of camps. But I purposely decided that rather than force that last week before school - when local camps were closed and the daily drive to a camp would be 45 minutes each way - that I would enlist some friends to babysit for a few days. So the kids can be bored. Together.

Frankly, there's nothing wrong with being bored. Let the brain cells bubble up and come up with a creative way to spend the day!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Down on the Farm: Exploring Diselrath Farms

Co-op farms in Indianapolis: I had no idea these were actively being done. But I was pleasantly surprised to learn about Diselrath Farms on the Indianapolis south side.
diselrath farms indianapolis

Tucked inside the 465 loop, Diselrath offers both co-op farming and a farm store open on Saturdays. Members pay a small fee (about $5 per week) and work three hours a week for a share of produce or discount on meats such as chicken or pork.
farm co-op in indianapolis

On this Saturday morning, the Diselraths opened their farm to several local bloggers and "Future Farmers."farm co-op in indianapolis
The children - from toddlers through pre-teens - loved the opportunity to learn about what goes into the farm, from a simple lesson on crop rotation to what it takes to raise chickens and harvest eggs.

diselrath farms co op

Sarah Diselrath showed the Future Farmers about how they rotate crops each year. If you look closely, these are all the rows of tomatoes, but those furthest to the left were the rows that weren't quite in last year's pig pen! (Hence the power of compost.)

diselrath farms indianapolis indiana
Checking out the baby animals was a highlight for the kids, though this little goat didn't get nearly as much love as the baby chicks.
farm co op in indianapolis

The kids went to hunt for eggs as well. I think the biggest excitement of the morning was the children stumbling on a hen trying to lay an egg - though I think their shouts of surprise stopped her in action.

There is something to be said about growing your own food. Too many kids are complacent and think their green beans come from a can you get from a store; munching on a green bean freshly picked (as in seconds) is an entirely different experience. Future farmers feeding the future bacon really helps kids connect the dots about where our food comes from.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Roasted Garlic Three Ways

Roasted garlic may be one of my favorite smells of all. Sure, it may not make me a fan of vampires or co-workers, but roasting garlic makes the flavor sweeter and is a yummy addition to a meal.

When I worked at a newspaper in Kansas City, the writers and I would enjoy roasted garlic as an appetizer at a local Italian restaurant. We loved to squeeze the golden garlic onto bread, or even just eat the cloves as-is.

How to Roast Garlic

If you have not roasted garlic, you are in for a treat. The hardest part is the wait!

Simply cut off the pointed end of the garlic and set into a pan, cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with cracked pepper. Bake at 425 for about 40 minutes. When cooked, the cloves will squeeze out of their papers like a gooey, amazing mess.

I prefer to roast an 8x8 pan of garlic at once (I know...) so any leftover garlic is covered in olive oil and stored in the refrigerator. I should note we use it quickly, as you do run the slight risk of developing botulism if it sits too long. As a whole, if you finish it in a matter of days, you should be ok.

If you haven't tried roasted garlic on Italian bread, do it. Tonight. If you're interested in some other ways to prepare it, read on. 

Roasted Garlic Butter

This may be the easiest thing to do. Take some softened butter (please use the real thing). Mix in roasted garlic to taste. Enjoy.

Roasted Garlic Rolls

These rolls, made and hand-shaped by my nine-year-old, were incredible as buns for turkey burgers and turned into garlic cheese bread!
roasted garlic recipes and roasted garlic rolls


  • 2 packages Rapid-rise Yeast
  • 2 cups Warm Water
  • ¼ cup Sugar
  • ½ cup Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Salt 
  • 2 teaspoons Garlic Powder
  • 5-½ cups Flour
  • 2 heads Roasted Garlic, Peeled
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter, Melted
  • 2 pinches Kosher Salt

  • Instructions
    Mix water and yeast, stir until yeast dissolves. Add sugar, oil, salt and garlic powder. Stir in flour and let rise once. Knead the dough and fold garlic cloves into it.

    Spray a pan with cooking spray, and shape dough into equal-sized balls and place them on the pan, leaving equal space between them. Let rise again (cover with a moist towel if you’d like, to prevent the dough from drying out). Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

    After rising, brush rolls with melted butter. Sprinkle on a little kosher salt and brush with additional butter. Sprinkle more garlic powder on top and bake for 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown.

    Roasted Garlic & Green Beans

    1 pound green beans
    Leftover roasted garlic in olive oil
    Salt and pepper

    This recipe is a deceptively simple one, but absolutely amazing. Drain the oil into a skillet and warm over medium heat. Sautee the green beans. When the green beans are close to completely cooked, add the leftover roasted garlic, stirring, until garlic is warmed. Toss with salt and pepper.

    Thursday, July 24, 2014

    Amazing Two-Ingredient Tub Scrub

    A wonderful bathtub scrub I stumbled upon and adapted. The original recipe called for plain castile soap but I really enjoyed the addition the peppermint oil added to this. I also added rosemary essential oil to this, and it made a yummy smell that filled my house.

    Peppermint Tub Scrub
    1/2 cup baking soda
    1/2 cup Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Castile Soap

    optional: 15 drops rosemary essential oil

    Mix until you have a pasty consistency. Use to scrub bathtubs, sinks and tile surfaces. Rinse with water.

    Sunday, July 20, 2014

    A Year of No Sugar: a Recap

    a year of no sugar book: a recap. book review
    There is something wrong with me reading a book about A Year of No Sugar while munching on frozen yogurt complete with chocolate topping that's left over from my child's party. But Eve Schaub's book shows just how prevalent sucrose and its cousins can be.

    I was initially intrigued by the the book, as I had actually attempted a day off no sugar on several months back and I was shocked by the sheer amount of sugar that was an everyday things I didn't think of. But as I'm a working  mom and a diabetic who's working to improve her health, I approached at A Year of No Sugar with the idea was there a lesson that I can learn and take to improve my children's and my family's health for the future. While I'm not certain the level that sugar is linked to other health conditions, other than the strain on your pancreas and increasing the risk of obesity and diabetes is never a good thing.

    Lately I've taken more attempts at reducing sugar in my own life, whether it's watching the carbohydrates that I use in my breakfast or simply counting carbohydrates to match my insulin. It's so surprising how quickly the sugar in any form  -- honey, sucrose, etc. -- adds up. Even things that I might otherwise ignore, like ketchup and pasta sauce, have extra added sugar in it.

    After my one-day, frustrating experience, the idea of a family with giving it up for an entire year blew me away. It wasn't easy by any course; in fact the family enabled "cheat days," which probably helped their sanity and saved the project. Most interesting to me was when Schaub detailed her family's trip to Italy and how vastly different other countries see the use of sweet treats and sugar within processed foods.

    What did I learn from her Year of No Sugar? The book reinforced what I learn time and time again from registered dietitians: Moderation is key. You don't have to completely remove sugar from your diet - but any reduction in it will have a positive impact on your health. I'm encouraged by the fact the kids were healthier during that year-long experiment.

    Saturday, July 19, 2014

    Removing letters from a shirt - Easy way to revive old school spirit shirts

    Not long ago we attended our church's annual children's clothing sale, and my daughter found a volleyball sweatshirt for the school's team that was to die for. She begged for it.

    It was cute, I admit.

    And 50 cents. I couldn't argue much. So I said yes.

    And then I got home and realized. The sweatshirt was personalized.

    Luckily it had vinyl lettering, which is typically heat transferred, so I wondered if the vinyl letters could be removed with heat too.

    I went basic-basic and started with my hair dryer, heating the letters on high.

    And it worked...After I heated the letters, I was able to peal the letters off the shirt! Now we have a low-budget way for my daughter to wear a team sweatshirt this winter.

    easy way to remove letters from a shirt

    Wednesday, July 16, 2014

    Summer is for slowing down

    Where did the summer go?

    As our school inches closer to the balanced calendar, we parents are finding that question to be more urgent than ever: Where did the summer go?

    While we can't lengthen our calendar, we can lengthen our days: simply, by slowing down. Unplug and just soak in all that's around us.

    Summer shouldn't be about families racing from competition to competition.

    Summer should be about splashing in the pool and playing at the park.

    Summer shouldn't be about cramming every experience in while you can.

    Summer should be about enjoying the moment and realizing it's OK to say when it's enough.

    We are just two weeks from our first day of school. And we plan to enjoy it. At our pace.

    If it means the kids are too tired after camp to play at the park when I get home, that's OK.

    If it means my 6-year-old just wants to decompress with his John Deere trucks or Legos, that' OK.

    If it means my fourth grader tucks away with a book or her art supplies, that's OK.

    Because at the end of the day, we - kids included - just need to slow down.

    How do you slow down in the summer?

    Monday, July 14, 2014

    Prayer Kneelers for Kids

    Helping my children learn to pray is once of the greatest joys - and challenges - I have had as a parent.

    While perusing the garden clearance, I was inspired to make prayer kneelers for my kids. I had seen this idea last summer on Catholic Icing, initially considering this as part of our Brownie troop's Family of God religious award journey, but would think about gathering supplies for the project when it was definitely out of season.

    Lately I've noticed that my youngest has created a "prayer spot," completely unprovoked, in his room. There is an "Our Father" poster he made in kindergarten, as well as a cross and the various crafts he's made during Vacation Bible School. I thought a prayer kneeler would be a great addition.

    I found these apple-shaped garden kneelers on clearance at Walgreens for $2 each, and I used marker to decorate them with a rosary and children's names to create portable prayer kneelers for my godchild and for my children. 

    (Why portable? Of course the kids are going to carry things around. Everywhere...)

    The kids' prayer kneelers will be packaged with some inspirational reading for Christmas gifts. (I can also see it as a gift for First Communion, or a craft project for Vacation Bible School or Sunday school class.)

    prayer kneelers for kids - easy craft idea for Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Little Flowers, Blue Knights, American Heritage Girls

    On the back, it says "When life gets too hard to stand, kneel." I hope the kids take it to heart.

    Sunday, July 13, 2014

    Ice Age Exhibit: Only a few weeks before you'll be frozen out

    While scientists and weathermen are discussing this week's polar vortex, hearken back to a time where a just a dozen degrees cooler temperatures would have been a blessing.

    The Indiana State Museum's exhibit Ice Age Giants: The Mystery of Mammoths and Mastodons will be in Indianapolis only a few more weeks, so be sure to stop in and check out the Midwest back in time.

    Our family visited the mastadons, mamoths and other Ice Age animals earlier this year, and it was a great treat for our paleontologist wannabe.
    This exhibit gives your fossil-hunting, all-things-prehistoric-obsessed kids plenty of Pleistocene points of interest - regardless of their age.

    The kindergartener loved digging for bones (no surprise, as he loves doing the same in the Children's Museum archaeology area).

    His older sister loved exploring the exhibits
    And there were opportunities to get hands-on!

    Don't be frozen out of this experience. The exhibit closes Aug. 17, 2014.
    You still have a few more weeks. The Ice Age exhibit is included with admission to the Indiana State Museum.

    And don't forget to follow Fred the Mastodon on Twitter. Who knew a Mastodon could have a Twitter account! He has a great sense of humor - you won't want to miss his tweets! #IceAgeISM @FredIndiana

    Friday, July 11, 2014

    How apps are saving me on back to school shopping

    apps to save on school shoppingSchool supply shopping: You'd think that after five years of this, I'd be a pro. But every year is a struggle. What did I forget on the school supply list? Where did I put the school supply list? What did I buy extra of? Did I get two packs of markers or not?

    Each summer I found myself scouring and rescouring bags of supplies just to make sure whether I actually did pick up a certain school supply.

    This year will be different.

    As soon as the school posted the school supply list for the upcoming school year, I created a ZipList (free app) shopping list of all the kids' school supplies needed for the coming year. There, I'm able to check off items as I go without having to question myself later.

    I've also been using Target's Cartwheel and iBotta to save money on routine shopping, and the back-to-school sales are popping up there too.

    What tips do you have for saving money or sanity during school supply shopping?

    Wednesday, July 9, 2014

    Letterboxing Love: Clue into this old-fashioned outdoor activity

    Get a clue. Take a hike. And discover letterboxing on a sunny summer afternoon.

    What is Letterboxing?

    Letterboxing is kind of a live-version Clue. (Think geo-caching without the technology.)This English game date backs to the 1800s but came to North America only recently, boosted in part by an article in Smithsonian magazine.

    I love this description tucked inside a letterbox in a local park:
    letterboxing with girl scouts
    "Letterboxing is an intriguing past time combining artistic ability with delightful "treasure hunts" in beautiful, scenic places. Participants seek out hidden letterboxes by following clues, and then recording their discovery in their personal journal with the help of a rubber stamp that's part of the letterbox. In addition, letterboxers have their own personal stamps that they use to stamp into the letterbox's logbook."

    earn brownie girl scout letterboxing badge
    Brownie Girl Scout letterboxing badge
    I first learned about letterboxing when I was a Brownie leader and stumbled on a Letterboxing Badge. My first instinct was "What the heck is letterboxing?" And I'll admit to being hesitant when my co-leader suggested we explore the badge.

    As I'm the type of Girl Scout leader who tests everything out before she inflicts it on her scout troop, I did some digging and took my children on a letterboxing hunt in one of our local parks.

    I had researched clues online for a couple of locations that were within one park, and printed them off for our reference. Some were very much a treasure-hunt kind of feel (Take 10 steps north, then 350 steps west along the trail.)

    Other clues included QR codes posted online or narratives that were much more descriptive in nature, like this one:

    There once were some ponies who were great friends. They used to all live close together but one pony moved far away. Due to distance and busy schedules, the ponies don't get to see each other very often. Sadly, the Ponies only get to spend one weekend each year together on Mackinac Island where they frolic and play all around the island gathering letterboxes near and faaarrrrr. Whew, their pony legs get tired walking around and have you ever seen a pony ride a bike?? Now there's a site! :) This summer, two Michigan ponies decided to road-trip down to "Indy" to see thier far off friend. The Ponies spent one whole day letterboxing in Crown Hill Cemetary there. (The third largest non-government cemetary in the country and home to some wonderful letterboxes.) Any time spent together is great, letterboxing together is amazing. Well, before they knew it, it was time for the Michigan ponies to head north again but before they left..... They decided to leave a box near their far-away friend to remind them of the great time they had together. Constructed in 2000, Independence Park is the 13.5 acre home to Indiana's first all-accessible playground area for persons with disabilities. The ponies loved the idea that at this park everyone can play together! (And take time out to find their box!)
    From the Parking area, follow the paved path East until you come to the Welcome area. (A sign is posted noting it as such.) Going straight in from the path as far as you can, check behind the shrub just to your left. The Ponies left some math for you to do!

    What we discovered - when we were able to find the letterbox (there were admittedly a few duds) were stamps and a log book for past visitors to mark their trail. My daughter took her ink pad and made a copy of the stamp in the letterbox in her letterboxing journal.

    letterboxing activities

    For kids who normally take long hikes at a set pace, it was definitely a different feel but made for an enjoyable and unique family afternoon!

    Ready to get started on a letterboxing adventure? What you need:

    • Time.
    • Clues. Two sites to check out letterboxing locations in your city are and
    • A rubber stamp.
    • A small notebook or journal to mark where you've been along the way!

    Monday, July 7, 2014

    Indy Reads: Indianapolis' best independent bookstore

    The Indy Reads bookstore, nestled downtown on Massachusetts Avenue, is a treasure chest of used books, new books and community resources for those dedicated to adult literacy.

    I learned about Indy Reads some time ago but had not had an opportunity to head to Massachusetts Avenue to check out the bookstore.

    The inside reminded me of an old bookstore I frequented during my college years in Lawrence-- high wooden bookshelf with books tall to the ceiling, cozy chairs to snuggle in and read a good book, hot coffee at the ready, and little nooks to nestle in for reading or discussion. The store even had an area on this rainy night for children learning to play chess.

    The best part? There is a section for pay what you can afford so that nobody can go without a good book.

    I appreciate the fact that not only it's an independent bookstore in Indianapolis but also that all the proceeds benefit programs for adult literacy. I had no idea the extent of literacy problems in our city -- one in five adults struggle to read a basic billboard -- before I talked to the staff.  You will be bet I'll be back not only to shop but to "return" my finished books to go toward the cause. (They take donations.)

    Indy Reads is located at 911 Massachusetts Avenue Indianapolis, IN 46202. For more information, call 317.384.1496 or visit its Facebook page.

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

    Feeling hot, hot, hot: Enjoying the great indoors

    I am not normally the type of parent who says to their children, "Stay indoors." But high heat and humidity can be a recipe for disaster.

    As I write this post, I'm sitting in a hotel in St. Louis, where the forecasted temperature is 96 - with a projected heat index of 110. Nevermind that I usually begin wilting when the temperatures approach 90.

    So what can you do when the kids when the weathermen and health professionals profess that it's a good day to stay inside to avoid heat illnesses?

    At the City Museum in St. Louis
    Here are some of the ways we survive extreme temps and inject a little fun into our days:

    1. Family game day. I think we all have board games that too often collect dust; hot-weather days are a great opportunity to turn on a fan, pop some popcorn, drink some lemonade and have some fun interactions and memories. I don't care if your child is too young according to the rules. Let them take part on their terms - even if it's just being on your team and picking up the cards.
    2. Hit the museums. I know, many museums may charge $10, $20 or more, and for a larger family that quickly adds up. But when the temperature rises, consider enjoying the air conditioning and learning something new at a local museum. Find the quirky free-admission ones too for a new experience. 
    3. Hold a sprinkler party in the evening. Once the temperature cools somewhat, toss the kids outside in the sprinkler to burn off some energy and cool off.
    4. Keep a boredom binder on hand. What? Nothing to do? There's math worksheets, Cars and Greek mythology worksheets, Girl Scout badge activities and more at their fingertips.
    5. Inject a little mystery. We've been having "Super Surprise Saturdays" lately. The surprise may be as simple as getting ice cream, attending a summer library program or seeing a free movie preview but it's the anticipation that makes a difference.
    6. Embrace book day. Take a morning (or afternoon) to lounge in your pjs with your favorite book. That goes for mom and ad too.
    7. Have the kids cook. Let them prepare sandwiches, fruit salads, fruit soups or other meals that don't require long time in front of the stove or with the oven on. Even better, let them choose what they're cooking!
    8. Embrace the popsicle. Whether you buy them or make them, the cold, dripping goodness is a treat on a hot summer day.
    9. Have a pool in your tub. More than once I've run cool water in our bath and let the kids "swim" in it in their swimsuits.
    10. Dig out those art supplies and leftover school supplies. Tell them they aren't allowed to watch TV or play a game until they've created something.
    11. Build a fort, even if it means tearing up your couch cushions.
    What are your favorite ways to entertain your kids during hot summer days (and nights?) Leave a comment below or link up your post in our #summerfamilyfunparty linky.

    Tuesday, July 1, 2014

    Missouri Botanical Garden Photo Tour

    When my sister suggested an afternoon at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St.Louis, I had to admit I was skeptical. After all, we had a 3, 6 and 8 year old in tow; not to mention the summer heat. I expected wilted kids and wilted plants.

    Was I wrong. 

    The Missouri Botanical Garden - one of the oldest botanical gardens in the United States - was a wonderful place to stop for the afternoon. All of us enjoyed wandering the grounds, seeing the statues and stopping to smell the flowers. For those needing to be a little more hands-on, there was a "smelling garden" (herb garden) as well as a Children's Garden to enjoy.

    Here are some of the late June moments we enjoyed at the garden:

    The Linnean House, a conservatory and greenhouse that dates to Henry Shaw's time. (Shaw founded the botanical garden in 1859.)

     I loved the looks of many of these gardens and would love to copycat this!
     The ponds and fountains were a huge attraction for my 6 year old.
    The iris and daylily gardens gave me much to add to my wish list. More than 1,500 irises and 1,800 daylilies are thriving in the botanical garden.

    Want to visit? Children are free; adults are $8. The children's garden has an additional $5 fee; however, our children had a great time without visiting the area. Learn more at