Summer Break, Day 1

I did not have a huge organized list of things to do this summer, no bucket lists to prevent boredom, 101 things to make this summer the best.  All of the cleaning out and packing to move has me in a much more minimalist mood this year.  Or I’m just pooped and completely over Pinterest.  Whatever.

We headed out for the orthodontist this morning, so since we were all clean, dressed, and out of the house we decided to complete what I like to think of as the summer reading circuit.  I have at least one child who is extrinsically motivated, so these programs are wonderful!

  • local library – read aloud dates, parties, rewards for books read…FREE! Love it!  Mom’s Favorite for sure.
  • Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Triathlon – the kids complete a journal about their reading, return it to the store and get to choose a FREE featured book.  The journal is not bad…answer 3 out of 4 questions.  Thank you!!!
  • Half Price Books Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program – my children’s favorite = they read 300 minutes, they get a store credit.  HPB trips are a major motivator at my house.

We rewarded our stellar bookstore/library behavior with some lunch and play (thanks to the Chick-Fil-A calendar card) and headed home.  What a great start for a “rainstorm looming just to the west” kind of day.

If you have a favorite summer reading rewards program, please – leave it in the comments below! 

If you NEED a list

  • Take kids to eat at Chick-Fil-A.  Let them play in the play area.
  • join summer reading program
  • go on a library trip

P.S. I am totally in the wrong field.  I found my old retainers…for $100, the doctor will look at them and develop a plan.  I’m a mom.  I plan all the time.  No one has ever paid me $100 for my plan.  I do like teeth…just saying.

An Old Fashioned 4th of July:  Summertime Classics Remodeled

Happy America Day! I must admit, I love seeing all the red, white, and blue, watching fireworks, and spending a long summer day with my family. Over our brief history, The USA has undergone many changes, and this week has left me a bit nastaglic about the pride, honor, and dedication of so many Americans in that history. We are so thankful for our military and their families, and so blessed to live in a country that offers so many freedoms and liberties. Let us never lose sight of that.

Speaking of patriotism, try this amazing cute & informative book out with the kids.

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Now…on to food. Cause we all know that’s most important. Wink, wink. Sometimes even the classics need a little tune up.

Blueberry Thyme Lemonade
My basic lemonade recipe with bouncing berries floating along side thyme sprigs.

Watermelon Cooler
Gather:
3 cups watermelon, puréed in blender and ran through seive
Bunch of clean mint, leaves torn from stems & stems discarded
2 large scoops of ice
optional: splash of ginger ale, sparkling water, your fave vodka or rum.
Blend, pour into glass & sip lazily.

Roasted Potato Salad With Crispy Garlic and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
20140510-213334.jpgI fiddled with this version from The Cozy Apron and oh, goodness it’s good. In family of Germans, warm potato salad with a vinegary kick is nothing new, but the crispy garlic and lack of sometimes overpowering mustard make this version stellar.
Gather:
6 red skinned potatoes, medium dice
6 strips uncured bacon, ribboned, fried until crisp & 3T drippings reserved
1 medium red onion, quartered & thinly sliced
4 substantial cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 heaping Tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 Tablespoon finely chopped chives
Olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

20140525-005815.jpgRoasted Broccoli Salad

A healthy spin on a BBQ favorite.  Roasting the ingredients offers a super punch of taste in this simple recipe.
Gather:
1 bunch of seedless red grapes, removed from stem
1 large crown of broccoli, cleaned and trimmed into florets
4-6 slices of bacon
1/4 red onion, diced
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled
olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste
To Make:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line two sheet pans with foil.  On one, line up four to six slices of bacon.  On the other, mound broccoli and grapes, drizzle olive oil, salt & pepper. For extra flavor, toss on some garlic and chopped red onion to roast with broccoli.  Roast for about 20 min, turning bacon about halfway through cooking.  Remove bacon, drain, and crumble. Cool other components briefly on pan, toss all together, and add shards of sharp white cheddar or parmesan cheese.  Dress with additional oil and s&p if desired. Serve hot, cold, or at room temperature.20140525-005854.jpg

Macaroni Salad
A hold over from my younger days, this macaroni salad is made without mayonnaise — making it pleasing to almost everyone.
Gather:
1 # uncooked small elbow macaroni
3/4 cup small curd cottage cheese
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt and pepper grill seasoning
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1 1/2 cups whole kernel corn (if you have time, roast or grill for added flavor)
1 cup diced sharp cheddar cheese
3 whole green onions, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon fresh basil, chiffonade
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
small bunch fresh chives, thinly sliced
plash spicy pickle juice
To Make:
Prepare macaroni according to package directions; drain and rinse briefly.
Puree the cottage cheese until smooth. Add in the vinegar, yogurt, oil, herbs (except basil), salt and pepper, and pickle juice and mix thoroughly.
In a large bowl, combine macaroni with dressing. Allow to refrigerate a couple of hours. Add in corn, tomatoes, green onion, basil, and cubed cheese before serving.

Round out the meal with a summer classic, the cherry pie. We made mini ones so everyone could grab & go.

  

Spark Some Summer Fun

A year ago, I left a teaching job to stay at home full-time with my three little bambinos.  I started writing about our little adventures, big ideas, and family meals.  Then, in the fall, my oldest went off to kindergarten.  We survived!  Summer officially begins this week, so I am taking some time to turn off the electronics, shuttle kids to swim lessons, find a campfire to roast some marshmallows, and relish some time with our party of five.  Before I grab my swimsuit and stock up on water balloons, here are some things that might help spark some summer fun.  Happy June!  And, Happy Summer!

Create a summer bucket list, wish list, checklist…Call it what you want, but actually writing down family outings, fun food, and quick trips helps you actually get them done.  Use small post-its for a flexible calendar (items are easily moved if weather or budget don’t cooperate), get the kids to create a summer checklist a poster their first day out of school, or make it family affair and brainstorm together one night during dinner.

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For our list, each person was given their own colored note card.  Each picked three things they wanted us to do as a family this summer (we keep it simple – that’s still 12-15 activities).  I hole punched them and put them in my meal planning binder so when I make a menu for the week, I can keep an eye on each person’s list and add things to the family calendar.

Head to the clearance aisle or dollar store and stock up on fun summer goodies you can hide back and spring on the kids during a hot lazy afternoon.  I tucked away birthday party candy for reading time, beach inspired paper plates, dive sticks for the pool, new sidewalk chalk, Velcro catch mits, and a handful of new kid-friendly snack & drink recipes.

Surprise a friend with a Summer’s Here!  Basket.  The boys brainstormed for our fave mother-daughter duo.  We grabbed a dollar store bucket and filled it with sunscreen, beach towels, nail polish, bubbles, a beach ball, water balloons, a kite, a water gun, gummy bears (my kids think gummy bears MAKE any gift or occasion), a special Minnie-Mouse cup, sidewalk chalk, and glow sticks.  We will leave it for them to find when they come home from their last day of school.  Most of the items in ours were right around $1, so we were able to give a lot for just a little out of our weekly budget.

Throw a Welcome to Summer Party the last day of school.  Break out the slip and slide or sprinkler, water balloons, hop scotch, bean bag toss or any other DIY backyard fun to let your brood know you’re glad as glad as they are that summer has begun.  I’m going to try Valerie’s  water sponge bombs – she has so much great stuff! Check out my Summer Pinterest board for more ideas than I have time to make!

Pick them up from school the last day and go on an impromptu family vacation or outing.

Complete a Mom Challenge.  I like this one from iMOM.  It is 30 days, so it’s perfect for June.

Prepare to keep your sanity.  Read about some of these parent tactics (this mom’s creative gounding, his get along shirt, and their creative consequences), assemble your own incentive program (my kids chose a marble jar model – Super Summer Jar), make or order a cute chore chart, and plan out some scheduled activities.

Super Summer Jar

Find local lessons, camps, or classes to enroll the kids for some away from the house fun.  Check into summer reading programs at your library and easy games you can play with them to help retain all the academic strides they made this school year.  Avoid that famous line, “I’m bored!” with these free printables (I’m Bored and I’m Bored too).  Just post them somewhere easy for the kids to find and when they come find you, point them to the idea sheet.

I'm Bored too  I'm_Bored!

The main thing is to be present with your kids.  Big or small, they will just remember they enjoyed hanging with mom & dad (or grandma!).  How do you create sparkle in your summer?

SUMMER PRODUCE UPDATE

As June draws to a close, enjoy the last bit of the season for blueberries & strawberries.  People will tell you blackberries are ready, but I disagree, see ya next year!  The best time of year is here!  Tomatoes, zucchini , green beans and corn are coming into full swing.  Word to the wise:  the 4th is not complete without cherries & peaches! July finishes sweet with big ripe melons (Get your mind out of the gutter). For you smoothie makers & juicers – greens are always in fashion.

Great national link list for all your seasonal needs:  http://www.fieldtoplate.com/guide.php

Infused Water

With every afternoon climbing into the 90’s you need something quick and refreshing. Fill a pitcher with ice and water. Add thin slices from 1/2 of an English cucumber. Chill for an hour or two and you have a spa worthy sip. Make it in the morning and you’ll be ready when the mercury rises!

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Check out my H2O Pinterest board, full of infused water ideas.

Bikini or Brazilian? Do you prefer rum or Cachaca?

I’m getting ready for those lazy evenings by the pool. Lounging in my deck chair, sipping on a cool minty mojito with no schedule to keep. In reality, it will be inside, well after dark, and dishes, because the mosquitos are so bad down here and who with kids gets to lounge by the pool alone? But, a girl can dream.

The other night I did a little pre-prep by making some mint simple syrup. It’s so easy to make simple syrup, I take for granted that this is something everyone does on a regular basis. “No, just me”?

Take 2c water and 1 cup sugar and heat until sugar dissolves. Add flavorings (this time i used 1 bunch of fresh mint). Cool to room temperate and either store in a jar or use.

I like to use simple syrups for drinks because the sugar is already dissolved so it mixes beautifully. From iced tea to lemonade and whiskey sours…syrups infused with lemon, orange, ginger…the possibilities are endless! I’ve always had good results. Another sweetener I plan to try is agave, but more on that later.

All that’s left is to stock up on club soda, limes, clip some mint from the garden, and I’m ready to muddle my way into June!

How do you get ready for that much celebrated first official day of summer? Bikini or Brazilian? Do you prefer the Cuban original with rum or the Brazilian version made with Cachaca?